Friday, November 8, 2013

Tuna, Tomato and Caper Pasta Sauce

I didn't grow up eating tinned tuna and didn't think I really liked it until a friend cooked this for us after one of my babies was born. Now it is a regular pantry staple dish. I cooked it the other night and couldn't believe I hadn't blogged it when I was checking the recipe so here it is.

Tuna, Tomato and Caper Pasta Sauce
I find buying quality tuna makes a big difference, I like Serena. I enjoy chilli flakes in this but I am cooking for the kids I leave them out and just sprinkle into my bowl.

1 tbsp              olive oil
1                      onion
1 clove             garlic, finely chopped
800g tin           tomatoes, diced
425g tin           tuna, drained
1/4 C               capers, chopped if large
                       chilli flakes, to taste (optional)
handful            basil or whatever herbs you have handy, chopped

Pour the olive oil into a large frying pan or heavy based pan, add the onion and garlic and cook over medium to low heat until softened. Add 800g tin of tomatoes and simmer for about 10 minutes or however long you have while you cook the pasta. If you simmer for quite awhile you might like to add some water.
Blend the sauce, if I have cooked it in a large pan I bamix in the saucepan but if it is in a frypan I pour it into a heat proof jug or bowl and bamix. Return to the pan with a large tin of tuna flaked, capers, chilli flakes if using and maybe some herbs. Serve on pasta with a sprinkling of parmesan.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Trio of Banana Cakes - one for today, one for the week and dairy free

These days I have a repertoire of banana cake recipes. The first one is the old faithful, my Mums recipe cut from the pages a huge old recipe book, the Australian and New Zealand Recipe Encyclopedia or something like that. I can remember making it with her countless times as a child, I loved adding the bicarb to the warm milk and seeing it fizz. It is a great cake, delicious fresh for the first day or two then its great toasted with butter. If I know we are not going to get through the whole cake, I slice and freeze it, then I can just pop the frozen slices in the toaster for a quick snack.
The second recipe I discovered after I started this blogging thing on Paula's lovely blog Pod and Three Peas. I have mentioned her blog here before and cook from it regularly, she shares so many great recipes. So the next cake is hers, similar to my first one, but with the addition of sour cream. I have come to love sour cream cakes, they seem to stay fresh for ages. So this cake is a good one when you want it to last the week for lunch boxes and morning munchies. On the topic of sour cream cakes, Nigella has a good chocolate one and I love the lemon one also from Pod and Three Peas. I also want to try Paula's new version of a banana sour cream cake with yummy sounding brown butter icing.
Finally the latest addition to my repertoire is my own innovation, the dairy free banana cake. I created this so that my youngest daughter, who is dairy intolerant, could enjoy banana cake. At almost two, she has recently learnt the word "cake" and can't be left out of anything! This cake has the benefit of being a quick mix cake, I just mix it up by hand in one bowl.  Its a lovely moist cake, I enjoy it and don't miss the dairy.
Old Faithful Banana Cake Recipe
125g butter
3/4 C caster sugar
2 eggs
2 -3 bananas, preferable overripe
1/4 C milk, warm
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 C plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a loaf tin or deep 20 cm round tin.
Cream butter and sugar until light, white and fluffy. Add beaten eggs, gradually, beating well after each addition.
Mash the bananas, I put them on a plate and use a fork, and beat into cake mixture. Combine warm milk and bicarb, mix into cake mixture. Sift flour, baking powder and salt (if you can be bothered, I usually can't) and fold into mixture. Spread into prepared tin.
Bake at 180C for 40 - 45 minutes. Leave plain or spread with icing, see recipes below.
Pod and Three Peas Banana and Sour Cream Cake
find the original post here
115g butter
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tbsp milk
2-3 ripe mashed bananas
Preheat oven to 180.  Grease and line loaf tin.  
Cream butter and brown sugar till pale, add eggs one at a time and combine.  Sift in flour and baking soda, stir, add in banana, sour cream and milk stir till combined.  Pop in oven for 50 - 60 minutes til skewer comes out clean. Cool and ice.
Dairy Free Banana Cake
1/2 C oil, I use rice bran oil and I imagine coconut oil would work too
3/4 C caster sugar
2 eggs
2 -3 bananas, preferable overripe
1 1/2 C plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch salt
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a loaf tin or deep 20 cm round tin.
In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar and eggs until combined.
Mash the bananas, I put them on a plate and use a fork, and mix in. Sift flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt (if you can be bothered, I usually can't) and fold into mixture. Spread into prepared tin.
Bake at 180C for 40 - 45 minutes. Leave plain or spread with icing, see recipes below.
These are my two favourites. I also want to try the brown butter icing here.
Lemon Icing
1 C icing sugar
1 lemon, juiced
Place the icing sugar in a medium bowl and add sufficient juice to make a thick paste. Spread on the cake.
Cream Cheese Icing
250g cream cheese, at room temp
80g butter, at room temp
1 C icing sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
Beat the cream cheese with an electric beater for a few minutes until smooth. Add butter and beat again until smooth. Add icing sugar and lemon juice and mix fro 30 seconds until combined.
Spread over cake.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Loving Soup Minestrone

We have had a breakthrough this winter, the kids now like soup, I would go as far as saying they love soup! Even Willa, who is only 1 1/2, can feed herself a bowl full. At first I thought it was just pumpkin soup so stuck to that for a few weeks then I ventured into pea and ham and they ate that too. Then I just threw in all the vegies I had and made a sweet potato and random vegetable soup and they even loved that, in fact they requested it for the next few nights in favour of whatever else I had made. Imagine if I served them up a bowl of boiled sweet potato, zucchini, cauliflower and broccoli; there is no way they would touch it but in soup form they are going back for seconds. I have to admit that sour cream and crispy bacon bits are a pretty popular addition.

This week we had minestrone. My wonderful husband had it ready when I got home from 3 days away. We weren't sure how the kids would go with soup with chunky vegetables, so we just pureed theirs, adding some cooked pasta afterwards. Again it was a hit with them and me.
This is probably my favourite soup. You can make it with whatever vegies you have on hand, I have included my favourites in the recipe. My Mum used to include a small piece of stewing beef in the soup which she would shred into the soup before serving, I prefer the addition of chorizo but you might like to try this.

1 chorizo, diced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion
1 leek, chopped (optional)
3 sticks celery
1 carrot
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
handful fresh herbs eg. parsley, thyme, sage, marjoram, oregano; chopped
4 bacon rashes, chopped
½ C red wine
2 L stock, chicken or beef
800g tin tomatoes, chopped
1 parmesan rind
2 zucchini, diced
½ cauliflower, cut into small florets
½ bunch silverbeet, stems removed and shredded
handful soup pasta or spaghetti, broken into short pieces
handful basil leaves, chopped
parmesan, grated

Heat a drop of oil in large saucepan or stockpot. Fry chorizo until golden, turning to cook all sides, set aside.
Heat remaining oil, cook onion, leek, celery, carrot, garlic, herbs and bacon over low heat until soft, at least 10 minutes. Turn up the heat and add red wine and allow to sizzle. Add stock, tomatoes, parmesan, zucchini and cauliflower and cook until vegetables are almost cooked. Add silverbeet and pasta and cook until pasta is done.
Serve with basil and parmesan. and buttered toast for dipping.

Confession: I didn't have a photo of my soup so I borrowed this beautifully styled one from BBC Food website. I would claim my soup looks pretty similar but maybe not my presentation :)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Homemade and Homegrown Barbecue Sauce

With our bountiful crop of tomatoes this year I made a barbecue sauce. I couldn't find a recipe that I liked so I looked at about 10 and made up my own. Most of the recipes were based on bottled ketchup, not quite sure if this qualifies as making your own sauce and it wasn't what I had in mind. I started with a large colander full of my tomatoes and added a whole range of spices, sugar, herbs and other flavourings.

Lots of recipes also included Liquid Smoke. I didn't run out and buy some but I was tempted, maybe next time...
The sauce is great! it has a slight spicy kick so if you want to share it with your kids leave out the chilli (we are quite happy to be selfish and keep it to ourselves). We eat it on egg and bacon rolls, lamb steaks, chicken burritos, pulled pork... Know I think about it I don't think I made enough.

Homemade and Homegrown Barbecue Sauce
5 C tomatoes that have been peeled, seeded and chopped (I started with a large colander full of whole tomatoes)
dash vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 chillies with seeds, chopped (optional)
3 tsp paprika (2 tsp smoked, 1 tsp hot)
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp cumin
5 thyme sprigs
2 tbsp coriander leaves
1/2 C brown sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 C cider vinegar
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
In a large heavy based pan sauté the onion, garlic and chilli in the oil until soft. Add dry spices and continue to fry for about a minute, until fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients including the tomatoes and stir over heat until the sugar is dissolved then simmer for an hour or two until thickened.
Puree in your best pureeing appliance. I am a big fan of the stick blender but this is a time to pull out the blender from the cupboard and wear the washing up. Puree as well as you can then return to the pan through a sieve.
Taste! Adjust for sugar, salt, flavour and spice.
Return to the boil and pour into sterilised bottles. Store in the fridge.

It's been awhile

It's been 11 months since I posted. How did that happen? It wasn't a deliberate break I just got caught up in the busyness of life and lost a bit of motivation in the kitchen. My middle daughter Ava was on the Failsafe elimination diet all last year so that took all the head space I had for cooking. Thankfully she is done with it so we have been enjoying eating family favourites altogether this year but I haven't been very adventurous.

During this time my youngest daughter Willa has doubled in age! She is now an adorab1e 20 month old who runs around, demands "bickies" and" nanas" and loves her big sisters. Here is a photo of her, just because she is cute and a post can't have no photo!

So I will be back shortly to share some new and old favourites...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Claypot Chicken Rice

I seem to be on an eternal search for the perfect way to organise my recipes. I used to have hand written books - one for sweet, one for savoury and I filled the back with sticky notes of lists of recipes I wanted to cook from magazines. These days I don't have time for handwriting and so many of my favourite recipes come from blogs and websites. I also end up with so many cuttings. These days so many of my recipes are on my blog, or someone elses, so I cook dinner with the laptop up on the kitchen bench (oh for an ipad!). I have folders of recipes which end up over full so now I am starting a folder of favourite recipes - those we cook over and over, the recipe below will be in this folder!

I cut this recipe out from Good Weekend in the Sydney Morning Herald a couple of years ago but only just started making it, I rediscovered it in one of my sort outs! This yummy and easy chicken is perfect asian comfort food and is loved by everyone in this house. Serve with stir fried greens or a cucumber salad.

Clay Pot Chicken Rice
serves 4
The flovour from th chinese sausage and dried mushrooms really make this dish, both are available in the asian aisle of my local Woolworths.
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp cornflour
1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely sliced 
300g chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite sized pieces
2 Chinese sausages (lup cheong), finely sliced diagonally
2 tbsp vegetable oil
100 ml light chicken stock
1 red finger chili, sliced diagonally (optional)
300 g jasmine rice, well-rinsed and drained
550ml light chicken stock

Soak the shiitake mushrooms in hot water for about 30 minutes. Drain, cut the stems off and slice the tops.

Mix the soy sauce, sesame oil, Chinese rice wine, sugar, cornflour, ginger, onion and half the spring onions, I do this in a large freezer bag sitting in a bowl. Add the chicken, sausage and mushrooms to the marinade, tightly twist the bag closed to squeeze the marinade arounda ll teh chicken and refrigerate for an hour.

Place the rice in a heavy lidded pot with 550ml stock. Bring to the boil, stirring, then put the lid on and cook over the lowest possible heat fo 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wok or frypan and cook the chicken mixture and its marinade for about 3 - 4 minutes until almost cooked. Add the remaining 100 ml stock and bring to the boil, stirring.

Spoon the chicken mixture on top of the rice, cover tightly and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Serve scattered with remaining spring onions.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Isabele's Lime Poppyseed Syrup Cake

I ate this cake at my friend Isabele's recently and couldn't get enough of it; its a sour cream cake, a syrup cake, a lime cake - a great combination! I have since made it myself and it wasn't as good as Isabele's, because when someone else cooks for you it always tastes better!

Lime and Poppyseed Syrup Cake
You could replace the lime with lemon or orange or some citrus combination!

¼ cup (40g) poppy seeds
½ cup (125ml) milk
250g butter, softened
1 tablespoon finely grated lime rind
juice of 1 or 2 limes
1¼ cups (275g) caster sugar
4 eggs
2¼ cups (335g) self-raising flour
¾ cup (110g) plain flour
1 cup (240g) sour cream
Lime Syrup
½ cup (125ml) lime juice
1 cup (250ml) water
1 cup (220g) caster sugar

Preheat oven to moderate (180°C/160°C fan-forced). Grease base and sides of deep 23cm-square cake pan.

Combine poppy seeds and milk and soak for 10 minutes.

Beat butter, rind and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined between additions. Stir in sifted flours, cream and poppy seed mixture and lime juice, in two batches.

Spread mixture into pan and bake for about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, combine ingredients for lime syrup in small saucepan. Stir over heat, without boiling, until sugar dissolves. Simmer, uncovered, without stirring, 5 minutes.

Stand cake 5 minutes, turn onto wire rack over tray. Pour hot lime syrup over hot cake.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Chocolate and Coconut Macaroons

I have been making these delicious little treats for years, since 2003 to be precise. Today I pulled the recipe out (from Gourmet Traveller February 2003) and there is a photo of a much younger Gary Mehigan from MasterChef, it is his recipe back from before we all knew who he was. The macaroons are fudgy chocolatey coconut mouthfuls, a simple recipe of meringue with cocoa and coconut folded through, don't let the word macaroon scare you. The magazine make theirs all professional looking with a piping bag, I just scoop spoonfuls onto the tray.
Chocolate and Coconut Macaroons
makes 40 depending on the size you make
4 egg whites
110 g (1/2 C) caster sugar
110g icing sugar
30 g cocoa (dutch cocoa gives the best flavour)
85g desiccated coconut

Preheat oven to 140C and line two baking trays with baking paper.

Using an electric mixer whisk egg whites and caster sugar until firm peaks form. Sieve icing sugar and cocoa together and fold in followed by the coconut until just combined.

Spoon tablespoons of the mixture onto the trays for rustic meringue looking macaroons, alternatively use a piping bag to pipe 2cm rounds for a more professional macaroon look.

Bakes at 140C for 15 - 20 minutes or until crisp on the outside. Cool on trays for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Failsafe Food

I am a bit cooked out at the moment. My two older daughters have been on the RPAH/Failsafe elimination diet for the past month (free of additives, low in salycalates, amines and flavour enhancers), find information here and here. I have been making everything from scratch and having to think about every bite they consume. But I had a few wins with very limited ingredients so I thought I would post my most succesful recipes here - Pasta, Chow Mein, Chicken Meat Balls, Pear Pikelets and Muesli Bars.

A few tips on how we survived the diet and made it easier for the whole family to get involved:
  • Incentives! 50 C pieces in a jar on the bench for good eating and no complaining twice a day worked for us. I took them to the shops early on so they could decide what they were saving for (Barbie dolls!).
  • Treats - milky bars, milk bottles, werthers original caramels.
  • Salt and garlic and lots of them, particularly in the meals we were eating too.
  • Lots of baked goodies on hand - white chocolate chip biscuits, pear muffins, homemade muesli bars (recipe below), vanilla cake.
  • Magic cordial - homemade citric acid cordial since regular juice and cordial are not allowed.
  • Make a list of options for every meal. For example our Breakfast list - rice bubbles, weetbix, porridge, toast (golden syrup, pear jam, cashew spread), eggs, pancakes, homemade waffles... I also included a column of NO foods to remind us of regular items they couldn't have. (This really helped my husband and enabled him to feed the kids without running everything by me).
  • Empty out a shelf of the pantry at kids height and put everything they are allowed on that one shelf. And hide all their usual favourites out of site and reach.
  • Try and eat the same food as your kids some nights - they started to check what we were having! Other nights we waited til they were in bed to eat forbidden food.
  • We explained to the kids they could only have "no numbers" food. They were very good about checking and if I they wanted something they would ask if it "had numbers".
You can find other failsafe recipes on these sites:
Fed Up Website Recipes
Fed Up Newsletters Recipes
Real Meals blog
Cooking for Oscar blog
Bambi and Bimbi blog
Search: failsafe and thermomix

Unfortunately there hasn't been the improvement in behaviour I was hoping for so after nearly 4 weeks we are stopping and seeing what happens.
Ed: turns out it was helping as things went downhill when we stopped so we are back on the diet again!
Failsafe Mince and Lentil Pasta
makes 2 family serves
The whole family enjoyed this for dinner, grown ups included (we were pleasantly surprised). I made this into a pasta bake topped with a white sauce which disguised the grey unappetising colour of the sauce! I made individual serves of the pasta bake in small ramekins and froze them for ready meals for the kids - they reheated well.

canola oil
1/2 swede, grated
4 brussel sprouts, finely chopped
1/8 white cabbage, finely chopped
1/2 tin cannelini or kidney beans, drained
500g mince beef
1 leek, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely diced
1 can lentils
1 - 2 C chicken stock (homemade to keep it failsafe)
1 tsp cornflour (optional - to thicken sauce)
White Sauce (enough for half the above sauce recipe)
60g butter
4 tbsp flour
2 C milk
1/2 C ricotta or cream cheese


Heat a splash of oil in a large frypan and fry swede, brussel sprouts and cabbage until cooked. Remove and puree with tinned beans.

In the same frypan heat a little more oil and fry the mince until browned and remove.

Finally heat a last splash of oil and gently fry the leek, garlic and celery until softened. Add the pureed vegetables, beef, lentils and stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cornflour dissolved in a little water if required to thicken the sauce. Season to taste.

To make the white sauce, melt butter in a saucepan. Add flour and stir with a whisk for a couple of minutes. Gradually add milk and continuing whisking to form a smooth paste. Continue stirring over low heat until thickened then stir in cheese. Season to taste.

Cook enough pasta to serve your family (double if you want to freeze a pasta bake). Stir the sauce through the pasta and spoon into a baking dish. Top with cheese sauce and bake at 180 C to warm.

Failsafe Chow Mein
1 family serve

canola oil
500g beef mince
2 cloves garlic
1 leek, finely chopped
1 celery, diced
1/8 white cabbage, finely chopped
2 C rice vermicelli, broken into short lengths
1 C swede, boiled and pureed
1 C chicken stock (home made)
1 C beans, cut into short lengths

In a wok or large frypan, heat the oil over high heat and fry the beef until browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add a bit more oil and fry the garlic, leek and celery. Add the remaining ingredients and the cooked beef and cook a few minutes until the noodles and beans are cooked.

Serve on rice.

Failsafe Chicken Balls
These freeze well uncooked, ready for an instant meal for the kids. My 8 month old loves these and eats as many as we will give her.

Canola oil
1 leek, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 brussel sprouts, finely chopped
1/2 swede, boiled and pureed
500g chicken mince
1 egg
1/2 C homemade breadcrumbs

In a frypan over medium heat cook the leek, garlic and sprouts until softened. Remove from the heat and cool. Combine with all the other ingredients in a large bowl and mix, hands is best! Shape into small meat balls. Freeze at this stage if required.

Cook balls in a little oil in a frypan, rotating regularly.

Serve with pear ketchup (recipe on

Pear Pikelets

3/4 C self-raising flour
1 egg, beaten
2/3 C milk
1 pear, peeled and grated

Combine flour, egg and most of the milk and mix with a whisk until combined. Stir in the grated pear with a spatula or spoon. You are after a thick dropping consistency. Add the remaining milk as needed.

Cook in a frypan over medium heat in a little butter.

Serve spread with butter and/or golden syrup.

Muesli Bars
This is a failsafe version of my favourite muesli bar recipe. If not failsafe add your favourite dried fruit, nuts and seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower and sesame.

2 C rolled oats
2 C rice bubbles
1/2 C dried pear, chopped into small pieces
1/2 C cashews, chopped
1 tin sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 130 C. Grease and line a slice tin.

Heat the condensed milk in a saucepan. Pour over the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix with a spatula.

Spread mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes for soft chewy bars, longer for crispy.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Homemade Yogurt

I watched an episode of the River Cottage with my 5 year old Molly (when she should have been in bed) and they made yogurt so we decided to give it a go. I always knew you could make your own yogurt but for some reason I didn't think it would be that good... I was wrong. We made a plain sweetened yogurt and it is delicious, the kids devoured bowls of it! They enjoyed it plain and with various additions including lemon curd, pureed mango, passionfruit and jam, I have been sending it in their lunchboxes all week. I am going to have trouble paying a fortune for flavoured yogurt for the kids from now on.
Homemade yogurt
I suggest scaling the recipe to fit whatever thermos you have, mine holds about 900ml so I made a bit less than the recipe below. Most recipes suggest adding powdered milk to make the yogurt thicker, I didn't have any and it still worked but was a pouring yogurt consistency. I drained half my finished yogurt through muslin for a few hours and was left with beautifully thick yogurt, this is what greek yogurt is.

1 L milk (I used full cream but I have read that skim will work)
1/2 C natural yogurt with live cultures
Optional extras
1/4 C powdered milk (makes thicker yogurt)
3 T sugar (for sweetened yogurt)
vanilla bean or extract
thermos ~ 1 L capacity
small saucepan
heatproof spatula
strainer and muslin or new chux cloth

Fill the thermos with boiling water and leave to heat.

Heat the milk in the saucepan, stirring to prevent it scalding on the bottom, to 95C or until almost boiling, that is when bubbles are just appearing around the edges of the pan. Remove from heat and add the powdered milk, sugar and/or vanilla if using, stir to dissolve.

Cool until it reaches 43°C or when the milk is just cool enough for you to comfortably hold your finger in it for 10 seconds. Place the saucepan in a sink/bowl of cold water if you are in a hurry.

Add a slurp of warm milk to the yogurt in a bowl and mix until smooth. Return to the warm milk and combine.

Empty the water from the thermos and fill with the mixture. Seal and leave overnight. Some recipes I read said it may set in 3 hours, mine wasn't so I left it till the morning. The longer you leave it, the more tart it will become. Ours was only mildly tart after 12 hours.

Store in the fridge.

If you want thicker yogurt drain in a muslin lined strainer in the fridge.