Chicken soup for the virus-ridden body

Saturday, August 16th, 2014

Tedster has a bad cold, and I’m still getting over one. So for lunch today I made a chicken, barley and vegetable soup, packed with all the things I crave when I’m feeling like this (garlic, ginger, a little chilli, green leaves, chicken stock). The soup is quite thick, densely flecked with green, and smells and tastes like comfort.

A good part of the deliciousness of this soup derives from the chicken stock. There is no way that I would have the energy to make my own chicken stock when I am snotty and streaming-eyed and feel like crap. But thanks to my smug devotion to making gigantic cauldrons of stock once every couple of months and freezing it, I don’t have to. I can just snuffle my way over to the freezer, extract as many ziplocks of stock as I need, and prop myself up against the counter while I chop vegetables and throw things in a saucepan.

The recipe for the soup is immediately below. For full smugness, see the recipe for cauldron-sized quantities of chicken stock further down.


Chicken, barley and vegetable soup

1/2 cup pearled barley
500 g chicken thigh fillets
olive oil
1 large golden shallot, chopped
1 leek, quartered and finely sliced
2 carrots, diced
1 stick of celery, diced
1 thumb of ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 head of garlic, peeled and very finely minced (or put through a crusher)
glass of white wine
~3 cups of home-made chicken stock
zest of a lemon
a pinch of chili flakes
a smallish bunch of English spinach, stemmed and chopped
a bunch of parsley, stemmed and finely chopped
salt and pepper

Bring a couple of cups of water to the boil in a medium saucepan, and add the barley. Simmer until soft, skimming off any foam during cooking.

Unroll the thigh fillets and cut each into a couple of pieces. Heat a good glug of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, then add half the chicken pieces. Let them cook on one side until they’re becoming golden and they unstick themselves from the pan, then turn them and repeat. Remove them from the pan and set aside to cool. Repeat with the rest of the chicken. Don’t worry that the chicken isn’t cooked through; that’ll be taken care of later.

In the same large pan, add more olive oil if needed (I didn’t), then add the shallot, leek, carrot, celery, ginger and garlic. Sweat them all over a low-medium heat for 7-10 minutes, until they’re softened and starting to get a slight touch of colour.

While the vegetables are sweating, shred the cooled chicken with your fingers into bite-sized pieces.

Deglaze the large saucepan with the white wine (or use water if you’d prefer). Let the wine reduce, then add the chicken stock and a pinch of chili flakes. Zest a lemon into the pan. Add the shredded chicken, then bring it all to a simmer.

The barley should be tender by now. If there’s lots of water left in the barley pan, drain it then add the barley to the soup; if there’s only a cup or so of water left I just tip it all straight into the big pan.

Simmer the soup for 5-10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked, the carrot is tender, and all is well. Add a little more water if things get too thick for you. Stir through the spinach and parsley, and let them wilt. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Eat.

Serves 4-6.





Chicken stock

Depending on how much water you add, how long you simmer, etc, this makes about a couple of litres of stock.

1 kg chicken necks
1 kg chicken frames, hacked up with a cleaver to break the bones
Any chicken carcasses you’ve saved from roast chicken, also hacked up
3 large onions, peeled and roughy chopped
4 carrots, each cut into a few pieces
half a bunch of celery, roughly chopped
2 fresh bay leaves
a dozen black peppercorns
a good handful of parsley from the garden

Add everything to a very large pot, and cover with cold water. Slowly bring it to a low simmer. Keep it only just simmering for 4-5 hours, stirring every now and then.

Let the stock cool a little for ease of handling, then strain it through a colander into a large bowl. Discard the bones etc.

Line a sieve with cheesecloth like a normal person, or be like me and never think to buy cheesecloth and just use a linen handkerchief instead. Wet the handkerchief/cheesecloth with water, then use it to line a sieve. The handkerchief should stick up over the top of the sieve – you don’t want stock to sneak over the edges of it. Place the lined sieve over a clean large bowl, and slowly tip the stock through it. You may need to stop and rinse off the handkerchief halfway through the process if there’s a lot of sediment in your stock.

Once the stock is clear, leave it in a big bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a plate, and put it in the fridge overnight. The next day, the stock will have jellified and be covered with a layer of fat. Scrape the fat off, and then the stock is ready to be used or frozen.

I spoon 1-cup portions of stock into mini-sized ziplock bags, briefly submerge the bags of jellified stock in warm water to melt so they can flatten for easy storage, seal them after expelling as much air as possible, then freeze them flat.

I can pack a couple of litres of stock into a smallish section of the freezer and always have it on hand for soups, stews or risottos. I LOVE IT. Not that much effort, a billion units of satisfaction and enjoyment.


Summer stew of chicken, zucchini and fennel seed

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

I still don’t cook many meat dishes, and when I make stews they tend to be of the extremely slow-cooked variety. So I was somewhat surprised when I made this stew up, because I had a craving for several of the ingredients, and it worked out exactly as I hoped. It was also super easy and quick. I’m sure I’ll want to revisit this soon so I’m noting it down.

500 g chicken thigh fillets (get them from happy chickens, please)
olive oil
1 large onion, quartered and sliced
1 large or 3 small young carrots, cut into 7 mm cubes
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic
1 heaped teaspoon fennel seed
dry white vermouth
~600 ml home-made chicken stock
4 good sized zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 2 cm batons
half a large bunch of English spinach, stemmed and chopped
flat-leafed parsley, finely chopped

Cut each fillet into about four pieces, each piece a bit more than an inch square. Heat a little slick of olive oil in a non-stick pan and add as many pieces of chicken as can fit without crowding. Cook until the chicken is lightly golden, then turn and repeat on the other side. Remove the chicken and set aside, and repeat with the rest of the pieces.

In a large saucepan, heat a little olive oil and add the onion, carrot and celery. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are lightly coloured and softening. Add the garlic and fennelseed, and cook a further two minutes. Deglaze the pan with a small glass of vermouth and let it simmer away.

Add the chicken stock, zucchini, and chicken pieces. The stock should come within a few cm of covering the vegetables and chicken. Bring to a simmer, partly cover, and let simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the zucchini has softened. Add the spinach, stir through, and simmer another minute until it is wilted. Remove from the heat, season, and stir the parsley through.

Serve over couscous, and with green beans or other vegetable on the side.

Serves 5-6.


Claytons worth drinking

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

I’ve stopped drinking alcohol for a bit. I’m enjoying the consequences, in particular better sleep, less uneasiness about my poor liver, and realising that the reason I say endless numbers of entirely inappropriate things to my friends is not because my tongue is loosened by alcohol, but because I am a chronic over-sharer. It’s so much easier to be embarrassment-free about what came out of my mouth the night before when I realise that it’s just my personality, not the wine.

I do love good alcohol on its own merits, but I also like the “I am about to consume something more exciting than tap water” aspect of it too. For the first couple of weeks after stopping drinking I employed various substitutes for that feeling, including eating quite a lot of Frosty Fruits and downing gallons of sparkling mineral water with slices of lime.

I’ve expanded the repertoire since then, and thought I’d list some options I’ve been enjoying here, in case anyone else is in search of non-alcoholic cold drinks to satisfy themselves during this heatwave.

1. In a tall glass, combine the freshly-squeezed juice of a ruby grapefruit, a couple of dashes of citrus bitters, ice, and about 200 ml of soda water. A few mint leaves, scrunched in the hand before adding to the glass, are great but not required.

2. Fever-tree ginger beer is delicious. Much more gingery, less sugary, and in a more sensible bottle size than Bundaberg et al.

3. Tonic water with ice and a dash of elderflower cordial. Not too much cordial, or it will become sickly! Just a little tiny dash.

4. San Pellegrino’s little bottles of chinotto, so bitter and satisfying.

5. Soda water with ice and a dash or two of pomegranate molasses to taste. Sorry if you like sweet drinks; my predilection for sour and bitter tastes is probably becoming rather obvious here.

6. The Australian classic, lemon, lime and bitters. This is easy to make, and the premixed versions are disgusting, so construct your own. Drizzle Angostura bitters around the inside of a glass and twist to coat it a little. Add ice, a dash of lime juice cordial, and top with clear lemonade (preferably something less sweet than the Sprite type).

7. A Gunner: equal parts ginger ale and ginger beer, with a dash of Angostura bitters and a squeeze of lemon juice to taste.

8. Lychee soda, as first encountered by us at the Vietnamese restaurant in South Brisbane we used to go to once a week with friends after climbing. In a tall glass, put a few ice cubes, four or five lychees from a tin, and a dash of the syrup from the tin. Top up the glass with cold soda water. Serve with a straw and a long-handled parfait spoon to eat the lychees.


Composed plate of spring

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

We just had the perfect spring lunch: incredibly delicious, and about 10 minutes from feeling hungry to sitting down to eat.

For two:

1 bunch of purple sprouting broccoli, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
half an avocado
a palmful of pine nuts
150 g good smoked trout
a lime

Put the broccoli and the asparagus into stacking bamboo steamer baskets, and steam over a pot of boiling water until tender – ours took around 5 minutes.

Peel the skin from the avocado half, and slice the flesh.

Toast the pine nuts in a small pan until lightly golden.

Flake the trout into large bite-size pieces.

Place the broccoli, asparagus, avocado and trout on a flat bowl in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Scatter the pine nuts over the top, and squeeze lime over everything. Eat.


Orecchiette with cauliflower, sardines, pine nuts and capers

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Sprrrrrrrrring!!!! Ted’s back in Melbourne after three and a half weeks in the US, we’ve had a weeks’ holiday together at home, and we’ve sat in the sunshine, gone walking in the Dandenongs, worked in the garden, read lots of books, and eaten the first asparagus of the season. I am so, so refreshed. (I am ignoring the results of last night’s election. La la la la, it never happened, don’t think about don’t think about it, just make lots of donations to family planning and refugee charities.)

I spent quite a bit of the last week lolling around thinking about the things I should be doing, and instead just lying on the couch reading novels. But after eight days off work I am finally full of energy, so have made kimchi and torshi left, planted out seeds for summer (nine varieties of tomatoes, lots of greens, herbs, chilis, many other things), cleaned up my bike in preparation for riding in to work tomorrow morning, and even done some of that yoga I’ve been planning to do for the last several months. Oh man I love spring in Melbourne.

We made this dish for lunch today after spending the morning out under the sunshine in the garden. I know the proportions of pasta to sauce are reversed from what they traditionally should be here, but I just really love cauliflower. Sorry, Italian grandmas.

 

Sicilian-inspired orecchiette with cauliflower, sardines, pine nuts and capers

600 g cauliflower, cut into small florets (1-2 cm)
olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
2 large golden shallots, finely sliced
4 anchovy fillets in olive oil, chopped
aged red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons pine nuts, gently toasted
2 tablespoons currants or small sultanas
1 generous tablespoon salted capers, rinsed
1 tin good sardines
100 g orecchiette
large palmful each of finely chopped dill and parsley
chili flakes, optional

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C. Toss the cauliflower with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and roast for about 20-30 minutes, until golden around the edges.

Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a small pan and saute the shallots and anchovies for 5 or 6 minutes or so, until the shallots are golden and the anchovies have melted. Add a good dash of aged red wine vinegar, and continue cooking for another minute or two. If the shallots need to soften some more (they probably will), add a slosh of water (preferably from the pasta that will be cooking, if you’ve read all the way to the end of the recipe before beginning) and let them cook further until the water has evaporated and the shallots are done.

Cook the orecchiette in boiling water until al dente, then drain, reserving a cup of the cooking water.

Tip the drained pasta back into the pot in which it was cooked, then add the shallots, cauliflower, pine nuts, currants and capers (and chili if you want it), and mix together. Break up the sardines very slightly, and add these and the herbs to the pot, and mix through gently so as not to turn the sardines to paste. Serve at once.

Serves two.

 


Excellent things from the last few weeks

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

I’ve been running a bit ragged recently, so it’s a perfect time to have a pot of tea, take stock, and list a bunch of good things.

 

1. I recently learned to add a star anise when making a long-cooked beef stew. Transformative!

 

2. I give thanks for dumplings, and that it is so easy for me to get good ones here. Recent standouts have been the steamed wontons with chili oil at Hutong (tender skins, good filling, perfect chili), xiao long bao at Shanghai Street Dumpling, and everything in general at my beloved Gourmet Dumpling.

 

3. The midwinter arrival of citrus and avocado season. I made this salad for dinner one night last week. So good and refreshing.

Salad of hot-smoked salmon, avocado, blood orange and watercress

80 g hot-smoked salmon, flaked
a small palmful of pine nuts, toasted
1 large blood orange, supremed
half a smallish avocado, peeled and cut into 1-2 cm pieces
the leaves of a decent bunch of watercress
good olive oil
wholegrain mustard

Combine the salmon, pine nuts, orange, avocado and watercress.

Make a dressing by whisking together the juice that escaped from the orange, a dash of olive oil, a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard, and a pinch of sea salt. Toss with the salad.

Serves 1.

 

4. Having watercress growing in the garden at last after a couple of failed attempts. Such a great winter salad green.

 

5. The Egyptian eggs (poached, rolled in dukkah, then lightly fried) on a potato and pumpkin rosti, with rocket and chili jam, at Dood328 in Brunswick. So good, and the staff there are lovely too. Also, not having to queue for brunch = a good, good thing.

 

6. Dainty Sichuan in the city. This place gets a bit of hate but I love it. Went there for dinner last night with the lab and ate 10 fantastic dishes. Fish-fragrant eggplant, chinese leeks with tofu threads, chili chicken wok, ultra-spicy black fungus, many other things I can’t remember.

 

7. This morning’s breakfast, which was delicious but, even I recognize, slightly crazytown. Man I love savoury breakfasts with greens and asian flavours though.

For the steel-cut oats, I use this recipe and make enough for four days at one time. I also usually make two or three serves of the greens and use them for multiple breakfasts, or add them to lunches.

Steel-cut oats with asian greens and a runny fried egg

dash of olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 small thumb of ginger, finely minced
chili flakes
150 g of mixed greens – I used a mix of what looked good in the garden: sprouting broccoli, cavolo nero, purple kale, a couple of broccoli leaves and red mustard leaf

1 serve cooked steel-cut oats

1 egg

tamari
sesame oil
sesame seeds

Chop the greens into smallish pieces. For broccoli and kales, I blanch them until they’re becoming tender, then drain. The softer greens I just chop.

Heat a dash of olive oil in a large pan, then add the shallot and cook a few minutes until golden. Add the garlic, ginger, and chili flakes to taste, and cook a further two minutes, then add the greens. Stir well, add a slosh of tamari and another of water if necessary, and cook until everything is tender.

Fry the egg. I do this by heating a pan over low heat, adding a dash of olive oil, cracking in the eggs, and putting a lid on top. Cook until the white is just set and the yolk is still liquid.

Put the oats into the middle of a flat bowl. Spoon the cooked greens around the oats. Slide the egg on top. Over all of this, sprinkle drops of tamari and sesame oil, more chili flakes, and sesame seeds. Eat at once.

Serves 1.


Three weeks in a row makes it a thing

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

Have a random list of recent food-related doings:

We have hardly cooked this week, through a combination of being busy, lazy and tired. So not too much to report on the home cooking front. I do want to give a shout out to the delicious frittata I made last weekend, with leek, cavolo nero, chard, sorrel, mint, pine nuts, a bit of brown rice, feta and fennelseed. Thank you, frittata, you made several meals very satisfying.

 

I am keen to try making some crumpets today, since it is grey and drizzly. Thinking of using Elizabeth David’s recipe, as recounted here. (Afternoon edit: we made these, and they were extremely good. A++.)

 

Putting in some work now for eating in the future, we’ve been doing a lot in the garden this weekend. Yesterday we made a second, smaller raised bed on the east side of the garden, where I’ll plant out some soft herbs and greens. I also transplanted the rosemary from a pot to the back of the garden, and will move a couple of kinds of thyme, the oregano, and some lavender back there today (in between showers of rain). That part of the garden used to be covered by pointless ‘ground cover’ creeper, but very happily our landlords pulled it out when they came to prune the fig and lemon trees, so I want to get something useful in there before any remaining creeper has a chance to recolonise the space. I also picked up some seedlings of chicory, asian greens, spinach, celery and raddichio when we were at Bulleen Art and Garden buying a second compost bin yesterday, so they should also get planted out this afternoon.

 

And finally, last night I made some ginger biscuits, riffing slightly off this recipe. They’re very much an Australian nana-style biscuit, very simple, but delicious.

 

Ginger biscuits

115 g soft brown sugar
115 g butter, softened
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
3 tablespoons golden syrup
demerara sugar to coat

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Sift together the flour, ginger and soda. Add the flour mixture and the golden syrup to the butter and sugar, and mix all together. It will form a soft, mouldable paste.

Form small balls of the mixture, 2 or 2.5 cm in diameter, by rolling between your palms. Toss each ball in demarara sugar, then place on a lined baking tray and flatten slightly with your fingers. Leave a few cm between biscuits as they will spread a little.

Bake at 180C for about 10-12 minutes, until the biscuits are going golden around the edges. Remove from the oven, and cool on racks.

Makes about 32 biscuits.


This week’s exciting tales from the stomach

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

I appear to be completely incapable of writing proper blog posts any more, even though I’m still cooking lots of great stuff and keeping the daily eating notes. But I’ve been feeling listalicious recently, so here is another list of good food that has been happening in our household this week.

 

1. Last weekend I made a big batch of kimchi, using Zoe’s recipe. I love this kimchi – the recipe is foolproof and easy, and produces some of the tastiest kimchi I’ve ever had. Love it. I’ve been snacking on kimchi all week and incorporated it into an ultra-delicious brunch this morning.

Here, have a photo of me doing the last mixing step in the kimchi production process. I used Edwige and Jean’s old (well cleaned!) laundry tub, because I am all class. Also because none of my normal kitchen bowls are big enough to handle the kimchi. Note that grey thing in the bottom left of the photo- it’s the chainmail-esque glove I wear when using the mandoline these days, after slicing off the tip of my finger with it a couple of years ago.

 

2. We had dinner last night with Danielle at Rumi in Brunswick East, and loved everything we tried. We started with pickled vegetables and then shared oven baked baby baramundi fillet with poached onion in a tahini and almond sauce; spiced lamb shoulder roasted on the bone with sirkanjabin; persian meatballs in tomato and saffron sauce with labne; and an orange and fennel salad. Every mouthful was delicious. The lamb was particularly amazing – slow cooked until it left the bone perfectly clean, and the meat extremely tender without even glancing at sloppiness. Incredible flavour, highlighted brilliantly by the sweet mint sirkanjabin. I found this earlier review of Rumi that says that the spice mix the lamb is coated with is advieh, containing rose petals, dried limes, cumin and coriander (as well as other things, I would guess, given its complexity of flavour).

 

3. It was the Veg Out markets at St Kilda yesterday and I stocked up big on lots of winter vegetables, astringent persimmons, multiple kilos of chicken and beef bones to make stock, and some other cow bits as well from the Warialda Beef stall. These guys are so great. Super friendly and very happy to give advice, share knowledge, and recommend different cuts and recipes. I ended up carrying away quite a few pieces of beef to cook up this month- short ribs, stewing beef, a pack of tendon and sinew to go in the stock pot with some Flintsones-sized vertebrae and joint bones, and finally a pack of very tender little trimmings from blade steak that I will use for a couple of stir fries this week – I’m thinking one with kimchi (something like this) and another with piles of chinese broccoli and pak choy.

 

4. And today’s breakfast, which made me exclaim multiple times, with lots of enthusiastic profanities, about how great it was: fried rice and kimchi with fried egg. My god it was so good.

This is really the perfect winter breakfast – spicy and flavoursome, chewy brown rice for that texture hit, and runny egg yolk melding everything together.

Breakfast rice, kimchi and fried egg

1 large handful cooked brown rice
2 scallions, green parts chopped
kimchi, a bit more than the volume of rice, roughly chopped
fresh coriander leaves
1 or 2 eggs
toasted sesame oil
tamari

Heat a large saucepan, add a dash of sesame oil, and sautee the rice until it is hot. Add the scallions and kimchi, and cook a further 5-10 minutes, until everything is warm and the mixture is catching a little on the bottom of the pan.

Meanwhile, fry the eggs. I like to do this in a little non-stick pan – a dash of oil, crack the eggs in, cook over low heat with a lid on the pan until the whites are cooked but the yolks are still very runny.

Put the rice and kimchi in a bowl, slide the just-cooked eggs on top, and sprinkle with coriander and a few drops of sesame oil and tamari. Eat at once.


Awesome things I have eaten recently

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

1. This quince, almond and rum cake, from a recipe at Chocolate and Zucchini. I used a little more quince than called for, macadamia oil in place of the vegetable oil, and a really good rum. It was delicious, aromatic, and all gone within three days.

2. Ruth Bruten’s very good, very quick and very easy haloumi, spinach and nigella seed gozleme. We ate this with roasted sweet potato on the side.

3. Chicken with swede, cider and creme fraiche, with a salad of mixed leaves and apple. We only used a big spoonful of creme fraiche rather than the 150 g called for, and I think more would have made it a bit sickly. For the cider, we used Aspell dry Suffolk. Perfect dinner for a cold and wet winter evening.

4. Ox cheek braised with Pedro Ximinez at Livingroom. Always like it here.

5. Fantastic hotpot at Hot Pot Paradise in Clayton, for lab Friday dinner. $25 each for two soup bases (pork bone white soup and hot chili red soup), and approximately a million things to cook in them, including fresh and frozen tofu, mushrooms, tofu skins, rice cake, fish fillets and balls, pork blood jelly, taro balls, shrimp balls, pork and beef slices, bok choy, and numerous other things I have forgotten. Their 100% approval rating on Urbanspoon is not unwarranted.

6. And this morning’s breakfast, which made me laugh at how clearly my tastes and Ted’s have diverged over the years. Lucky we love each other so much. We were sitting reading on the couches this morning before breakfast, when Ted said, “I’ve been thinking about getting some breakfast… we have some bacon left in the fridge!”. I’d been thinking about breakfast myself, but my thought process had been slightly different: I’d been getting excited about the fact that we still had some Brussels sprouts left over. So Ted made himself eggs and bacon, and I made myself the delicious dish that follows:

6 decent size Brussels sprouts
2 scallions
2 eggs
soy sauce
sesame oil
chili flakes

Trim, halve, and slice the Brussels sprouts. Chop the scallions into 1 cm pieces. Heat a little oil (or bacon fat, if your husband has been cooking right before you) in a pan, add the sprouts and scallions, and saute over moderate heat until they are wilted and starting to catch and go golden in places. Whisk together the eggs, a dash each of soy sauce and sesame oil and a big pinch of chili flakes. Pour into the pan, stir the egg through the vegetables, and as soon as it is just cooked, take off the heat and serve. I ate it with a toasted slice of darkish seedy bread.

This would be even better with shiitake or enoki mushrooms, and some fresh coriander. (Crap! I just remembered that I now have coriander growing in the garden. Next time, Gadget, next time.)


After work dinner: roast vegetable frittata and salad

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Helen and Heather came over straight from work for dinner tonight, and we had a lovely time cooking, eating and chatting. I went a little crazy with the vegetable-buying at the St Kilda markets on Saturday, so we took this opportunity to cook up loads of veggies and get them consumed (not that the consumption was much of a chore). I’d done a bit of the preparation last night by roasting the pumpkin and beetroot, but everything else was easy to get done this evening while we drank a glass or two of pinot noir.

Heather was keeping a close eye on the frittata making, because she said she always forgets how I do it when she goes to make one herself. Heather, here are instructions as precise as I can get when it comes to frittatas!

These two dishes together fed all four of us very well, with enough leftovers for a lunch or two.

 

Pumpkin, cauliflower and silverbeet frittata

750 g pumpkin, peeled (I used a combination of Kent and trombone)
olive oil
cider vinegar
half a large head of cauliflower
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
1 large bunch silverbeet/chard
275 g marinated goat cheese (e.g. Yarra Valley Cardi or Meredith Dairy)
6 eggs
salt and pepper

Cut the pumpkin into pieces about 1.5 cm square. Spread the pieces out in a baking dish, making sure they’re not piled up on one another, and toss with olive oil, a good splash of apple cider vinegar, sea salt and black pepper. Roast at 180 C until soft and golden at the edges – this could take between 25 and 45 minutes, depending on the pumpkin.

Cut the cauliflower into florets a couple of cm in size. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast until somewhat softened and golden brown at the edges, around 20 minutes.

Saute the onion in a frypan until golden and soft (I am seeing a bit of a trend here with the goldening and softening).

Remove the stems from the silverbeet, and roughly chop the leaves. Blanch in boiling water for a minute or two, until soft but still bright green. Drain and gently press the water out of the leaves.

In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, cauliflower, onion and chard and mix together. Remove the feta from its oil and crumble roughly, and mix through the vegetables. Whisk five or six eggs with a little salt and pepper, then mix into the veggies. There should be enough egg to hold them together, but not much more than that – if you press a spoon into the mix, you should see a little egg appear, but not pools of it. Add another egg if there isn’t enough.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large non-stick frypan over low heat, using a heat diffuser if you have one. Tip the mixture into the pan and smooth it out. Cook over that lowish heat for 15 minutes or so, until almost cooked through. Place the pan close under a grill to cook the top. Check that it is cooked through by pressing a knife or a spatula into the middle of the frittata. If it is still raw in the middle, put it back on the low heat and keep cooking until it’s done. It’s best if it’s cooked slowly and taken off the heat as soon as it’s done – if you cook it over too high a heat or for too long it can become tough.

 

Beetroot and avocado salad

3 beetroots
1 avocado
1 large handful pine nuts, toasted
several sprigs of dill, chopped
several sprigs of mint, chopped
3 or 4 large handfuls of baby spinach
1 cup of frozen peas, defrosted in hot water
good olive oil
aged red wine vinegar
wholegrain mustard

Scrub the beetroot and cut off the stems. Place in a baking dish, cover with alfoil, and bake at 180 C until they are completely soft and a butter knife goes into them easily. This takes ages – lots of recipes claim that it only takes half an hour but this is nonsense – it always takes closer to a couple of hours for me. When they’re done, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely (I usually do this step a day or more in advance). When they’re cool, peel the skins off with a knife, and cut them into 1.5 cm pieces.

Cut the avocado in half, remove the seed and the skin, and cut into slices.

Toss together the beets, avocado, herbs, spinach, peas and pine nuts. Make a dressing by whisking together the olive oil, vinegar and mustard. Dress the salad and toss well. Serve at once.