lunch meat recipes soup

German-ish potato soup for a chilly Easter Sunday

Beautiful blood moon last night! I think that might have been the first lunar eclipse I’ve seen. Can that be true, after 40 years? But I can’t remember seeing others.

The easter break has been lovely so far. Dumplings with the lab on Thursday night. Mexican feast at Heather’s on Good Friday. Veg Out markets on Saturday morning, where I went a bit crazy buying early autumn produce. I spent the afternoon making chicken stock, cleaning and marinating beef cheeks, and roasting pepitas, poblano peppers and tomatillos to make a green mole to eat with chicken on Saturday night.

This grey and chilly Sunday morning, I read, went to the gym, then came home and made a potato soup for lunch. It’s warming and filling, and has set me up for a quiet afternoon of reading and maybe doing a little bit of editing for work. And tea. I foresee lots of cups of tea in my near future.

Vaguely germanic potato soup

olive oil
1 onion, peeled, quartered and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cubed
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
2 leeks, trimmed and chopped
3 rashers of smoked bacon from happy pigs
4 or 5 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1.5 cm cubes
a quarter of a head of cabbage, chopped
half a nutmeg, grated
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
2 cups of chicken stock
2 cups of water
1 bay leaf
sea salt and black pepper
splash of white wine vinegar
half a bunch of flat-leaf parsley, fairly finely chopped
2 dessert spoons of creme fraiche

Heat a splash of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, leeks and bacon, and cook, stirring fairly frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened and slightly coloured.

Add the potatoes, cabbage, caraway seeds, nutmeg, chicken stock, water and bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about half an hour, until the vegetables are soft. Add a splash of white wine vinegar about half way through cooking.

Take the pan off the heat, and remove the bay leaf. Use an immersion blender (or a potato masher if you don’t have one) to blend about half the soup. This should give you some body in the soup without making it a puree. Add the flat-leaf parsley and creme fraiche, and stir through over low heat for a couple of minutes to combine.

Serves 4-6, depending on hunger and presence or absence of bread.

fish lunch recipes

Composed plate of spring

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.

lunch recipes salad vegetarian

Red quinoa, cauliflower, green garlic and feta salad

We’ve made this salad twice in one week – it is that good! A delicious combination of flavours and textures, it also uses the produce available at this change of seasons: cauliflower from the end of winter, green garlic, peas and herbs from the start of spring. I think it is worth seeking out red quinoa to use here if you can – it has a little more flavour, and more resiliance to the tooth, than white quinoa. It also adds a great colour to the salad.

We have been trying lots of interesting and delicious vegetables for the first time recently – cime de rapa, chervil, new kale varieties, and now green garlic as well. I’d read that it was mild enough to use uncooked, but it was still too garlicky for me to eat raw, so I sliced it finely and briefly sauteed it before adding it to the salad. The second time we made this, I knew Begoña would be eating it and she doesn’t like garlic, so I swapped in some (uncooked) chopped chives instead and the salad was still great.


1 cup red quinoa
1 head cauliflower
olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
2 cups of frozen peas, defrosted in hot water, or similar quantity of cooked fresh peas
2 stems of green garlic
lemon olive oil (optional)
several large sprigs of mint, leaves picked and chopped
150 g feta, crumbled
Dijon mustard
hazelnut oil
white wine vinegar

Rinse the quinoa well in running water, then drain and put in a saucepan. Add two cups of boiling water, cover, and simmer over low heat for 15-20 minutes until all the water is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked. If it is ever so slightly too firm still, leave the lid on for another 5 minutes or so to let the quinoa steam before using it.

Cut the cauliflower into florets, spread them on a couple of baking trays, and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 180 C for about 20 minutes, until the cauliflower is getting golden on the edges, and starting to become tender, but still has some firmness to the bite.

Let the quinoa and cauliflower cool slightly (or to room temperature, if you prefer) before proceeding, so that the cheese doesn’t melt when you mix the salad.

Finely slice the bulbs and the lower, tender parts of the leaves of the green garlic. Heat a drizzle of lemon olive oil (if you have it, otherwise just use normal olive oil) in a small pan, and gently saute the chopped garlic until it loses its raw sharpness.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa and cauliflower, the peas, green garlic, mint and feta, and toss well. Make a dressing for the salad from hazelnut oil, white wine vinegar and mustard. I love dressings that are quite vinegary and mustardy, so I would whisk together about 2 tablespoons hazelnut oil, a dash of olive oil, two tablespoons of white wine vinegar, and a very heaped teaspoon of mustard. Make the dressing to your own taste, season it, then stir it through the salad.

The salad is great if eaten at once, but survives well if made in advance. This quantity would serve about 4 people generously by itself, or about 8-10 people as a side salad with other dishes. We ate it for dinner by itself one night after work, and made it again for a Sunday lunch with barbequed chicken thighs and a pile of roasted asparagus.


fish lunch salad vegetarian

Sunday lunch of three salads

It’s summer officially, but not quite really. We’ve had some hot days, but they’re rare interruptions in the temperate progression of 20-degree days (and 12 degree nights). But when the sun is out, as it often is, I’m starting to get to wanting crispy salads and cold beer. We had Iñaki and Begoña, and Henry and Linda, and all the kids, over for lunch today. Henry brought a fantastic roasted spatchcocked chicken, I made these three salads below, and we finished with Greek sweets from Iñaki and Begoña, and this orange and lemon poppyseed cake. The sun stayed out for us during lunch, and while Iñaki let his gardening urge take over in the back yard (gardening date next Sunday, Iñaki?), and for a walk to the Union St park. Now it’s 7 pm and the sun is still up, but I’m thiiiiiis close to turning on the heater. Doesn’t matter, summer lunch was awesome while it lasted.


Couscous, eggplant, dried fig and orange salad

185 g couscous
250 ml boiling water
2 largish eggplants
olive oil
sherry vinegar
1/3 cup pine nuts
180 g sheeps’ milk feta, crumbled
1/4 cup currants
8 dried figs, chopped into 1 cm pieces
1 large orange, zest and juice
lots of fresh mint and parsley, finely chopped

Cut the eggplants into 2 cm cubes. Divide between a couple of large baking trays or dishes. Make sure that the cubes are in one layer, not piled up, otherwise they will steam rather than roast. Toss the eggplant with a glug or two of olive oil, a splash of sherry vinegar, and sea salt and black pepper. Roast at 180 C for about 30-40 minutes, until golden and soft.

Toast the pine nuts in a fry pan over low heat, stirring often, until they are lightly golden.

Put the couscous in a large bowl, add a good pinch of salt, and pour over the boiling water. Leave for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork. I like to make the couscous early and let it dry a little before using it, but you can eat it warm if you like.

Once the couscous is cooked, add the roast eggplant, pine nuts, feta, currants, figs, the orange zest, half the juice, mint and parsley. Toss and taste. Add more juice and/or salt if needed.


Kipfler, green bean and smoked salmon

10 medium kipflers, peeled and cut into 2 cm pieces
about 40 green beans, tops trimmed
400 g hot-smoked salmon, skin removed
1 small bunch dill, leaves chopped
a couple of tablespoons olive oil
juice of half a lemon
2 teaspoons seeded mustard
sea salt and pepper

Steam the kipflers in steamer baskets over boiling water until they are tender. Boil the beans for about 4 minutes, until they’re cooked to your liking. Break the salmon into bite-sized pieces.

Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper. Put the potatoes and beans in a large bowl, and toss with the dressing. Add the salmon and dill, and toss again, gently. (You toss it in two stages so the salmon doesn’t get broken up.) Serve warm or at room temperature.


Summer salad, inspired by Jess

2 handfuls baby spinach leaves
2 handfuls rocket
2 handfuls baby cos, torn into pieces
2 cobs of corn, kernels cut off
1/2 yellow capsicum, finely sliced
1 small cucumber, halved, seeded, and sliced
8 giant cherry tomatoes, quartered
8 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
1 avocado, peeled and chopped
olive oil
vinegar (sherry, champagne, tarragon, your choice)
salt and pepper

Toss together all the vegetables. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Dress the salad and serve at once.


asian lunch recipes vegetarian

Fried rice with ginger, tofu and spring onion kimchi

Oh man, I feel like hell. I’ve got some revolting laryngitis/bronchitis combination and I haven’t been able to speak properly for a couple of days. I’m the hoarse whisperer, ha ha. I think I have produced my own body weight in phlegm in the last week. How delightful and charming I am!

Anyway, in an attempt to unblock a sinus or two, I made this excellent, ginger- and chili-heavy lunch while home sick from work yesterday. It was delicious enough to cut through my virus-induced anhedonia as soon as I took the first bite. I was asleep on the couch again 20 minutes later, but the brief interlude of enjoyment was nice.

100 g tofu, cut into 1 cm-thick slices
peanut oil
fish sauce
3 large golden shallots, peeled, halved and finely sliced
1 x 2 x 2 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into fine slivers
1 large hot red chili, chopped (including seeds)
1/2 cup left-over cooked brown rice
2/3 cup spring onion kimchi, roughly chopped (it will cook down)
toasted sesame oil

In a frypan, heat a scant splash of peanut oil over moderate heat, then add the tofu slices. Cook on one side until starting to turn golden, then flip and repeat on the other side. Close to the end of cooking, splash in a little soy sauce and fish sauce, and turn the tofu once more to coat. Remove from the pan and set aside. Cut the tofu into batons.

Wipe out the pan, add a dash more oil, and cook the shallots until they are golden and softened. Add the ginger and chili and cook a further three minutes. Add the rice, kimchi, tofu batons, a few drops of tamari and a good drizzle of sesame oil. Keep cooking, stirring all together, for another couple of minutes until everything is warm and toasted. Eat at once.

asian lunch recipes soup

Miso soup with soba, tofu and vegetables

I’m writing this up not because I think it is anything novel or authentic (it’s not), but for two other quite different reasons. First, I want to remind myself how easy this kind of soup is, given the usual contents of my pantry and fridge. The only things here that I don’t always have on hand are the steamed butternut and the silken tofu, both left over from the laksa we made last night.

Secondly, I was struck by how thoroughly this soup held my attention while I was eating it. Many of the soups I eat are pureed or at least relatively homogeneous. This one is very different. It’s full of bits and pieces of things of varied sizes, shapes and textures, that must be handled in different ways – the broth is spooned up, the tofu nudged onto the spoon and brought to the mouth, the noodles fished for with chopsticks and slurped, the pumpkin and mushrooms held between the chopsticks while bites are taken. When I eat this kind of soup, my mind doesn’t drift, but stays focussed on the food and the action and sensations of eating. This is something that I think is worth cultivating.

3 cups water or light stock
2 heaped dessert spoons miso paste, or to taste
a dash of tamari

Things to go in the soup
120 g soba noodles, cooked, drained and rinsed
6 small pieces butternut squash, steamed till tender
10 small cubes silken tofu
6 dried shiitake, rehydrated in hot water
4 pieces dried black fungus, rehydrated in hot water
2 handfuls baby spinach leaves

coriander leaves
sesame oil
chili flakes

First make the broth. Bring the water or stock to a boil, then remove from heat. In a small bowl, mix a little of the hot water with the miso until it thins out, then add this to the rest of the water. Mix, taste, and add more miso if necessary. The broth is often improved by a scant dash of tamari at this point, too.

Into each of two large bowls, put half the cooked noodles, pumpkin, tofu, shiitake, black fungus and spinach leaves. Gently pour the miso broth over, half into each bowl.  Sprinkle with coriander leaves, a few spots of sesame oil, and a pinch of chili flakes. Eat at once.

Serves 2.

chitchat lunch pasta recipes vegetarian

Our apparently regular weekend chat

I went to the Powerhouse markets with my mum this morning. She likes markets; Ted doesn’t; why didn’t I think of this obvious pairing-up before? Good call mum.

I brought back a lovely wintery haul: cavolo nero, young kale, parsley and dill, a bunch of plumping-up dutch carrots, a potkin pumpkin, Tenterfield apples, a German rye loaf, a boudin noir (plus a couple for Jean and Edwige), and two very large and meaty smoked ham hocks.

I bought the potkin in hopes that it would be something like a kabocha, the pumpkin that stole my heart away from butternut squash when I lived in Dublin. Kabocha (at least in Ireland) have dark green thick but edible skin, and intensely orange flesh that is firm and sweet. The middle-aged couple selling these pumpkins at the Powerhouse markets had two kinds on offer: “These ones are potkins, and these other ones, we don’t know what variety they are so we call them bobkins, after Bob here”. They’d never heard of kabocha but the potkins looked a plausible match so I bought one. (“How much for this little one Bob?” “Oh, about two dollars.”) Once home I checked the interwebs: many sites claim that potkins are a kabocha hybrid. Hurrah, perhaps! But alas, when I split mine, its flesh was much paler than a kabocha’s, and when I quartered, seeded and roasted it the flavour was fine but nothing spectacular. So as you can tell it’s been an emotional whirlwind of a day, pumpkin-wise, and maybe I need to have a sit down and have a glass of wine to settle myself.

Fortunately, lunch gave me something else to think about, which was emptying out various bits and pieces from the fridge so that new bits and pieces could go in. Not that much in the crisper – a few zucchini and some herbs. In the big tupperware that holds the cheese stash, there were several scraps and rinds and forgotten last chunks of various cheeses each wrapped up in paper, one of which was a small piece of Roaring Forties blue cheese that had seen better days. It was very mildly suspicious-looking on one edge, but as regular readers will know, this blog sometimes ought to be subtitled Slightly Dodgy Things I Have Eaten, so after submitting it to the taste-a-tiny-bit-it-won’t-kill-you test, I passed it as edible but for immediate consumption only. Hence this pasta, variants of which we make pretty frequently. I love the way that the zucchini cook down to a sweet, luscious softness, losing about 70% of their original volume. Even after making it a dozen times, I still doubt myself when I see the towering pile of raw zucchini. Don’t – you will regret not having more if you skimp.

Strozzapreti with zucchini, thyme and blue cheese

8 slender zucchini (why bother buying fat, watery zucchini?)
3 large brown shallots
olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
leaves from quite a few sprigs of thyme
a palmful of leaves of flat-leaf parsley
150 g strozzapreti
smallish piece of blue cheese, about 10 x 2 x 2 cm

Slice the zucchini into rounds about 2-3 mm thick. Peel and halve the shallots, and slice very finely. Heat a small glug of olive oil in a non-stick pan over moderate heat, add the zucchini, shallots, thyme, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring more or less frequently, for about 20 minutes. The zucchini will cook down until they are very, very soft. They shouldn’t pick up much, if any, colour though – turn the heat down if they start to brown more than the tiniest bit.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta, then drain it, reserving a cup of the cooking water. Toss the pasta in with the zucchini, loosening the sauce with drizzles of cooking water if needed. Toss through some chopped parsley, then serve with more parsley and crumbled cheese sprinkled on top. Stir through the cheese before eating.

Serves 2.

chitchat links lunch recipes

Lunch and linkitude

I just ate an awesome lunch of broccoli rabe and sourdough with grilled goats cheese. Let me tell you about it!

I’ve been going to one or other of the farmers’ markets around town every weekend for the last couple of months, having rediscovered how much happiness they bring me. My instinctive Saturday morning laziness has so far been regularly trumped by getting all enthused about vegetables and getting a bit of fresh air. At the West End markets yesterday I gathered a back-strainingly heavy load of fresh vegetables, including this bunch of I-think-it’s-broccoli-rabe. Not sure of the ID as the seller didn’t have a lot of English, but it looked and tasted like the internet tells me broccoli rabe should.

To cook it, I first cut off the leaves and chopped the stems into 2 cm pieces. I simmered the stems for a couple of minutes, added the leaves and continued cooking for another two minutes, then drained it all and set aside. In a separate pan, I slow-cooked a quartered and finely sliced onion in a dash of olive oil until soft and silky; added 4 jarred anchovies and cooked until they dissolved; then added 5 finely minced cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of chili flakes, gave them a minute, and finally threw in the drained broccoli rabe. I let it cook down on the stove for another five minutes or so, until everything was combined and the stems were tender. While that was happening, I toasted a couple of slices of sourdough, then topped them with thin slices of aged goat cheese (from the Gympie cheese stall at the markets) and toasted under the grill until the cheese was slightly melty and touched with gold. I ate a pile of the broccoli with the cheesy toast on the side.

Oh yeah. Man, what a delicious combination. The slow-cooked onions and anchovies added a sweetness to the very slight remaining bitterness of the leaves, with the goat cheese giving a bit of savoury bite. I’m so glad I stopped and bought the mystery broccoli-like greens even though my bags were already bulging.
And now, a few other fascinating food-related things!

◊  Why were my market bags so heavy? Because I have a stack of recipes lined up to try this week, including savoury pumpkin cakefarro salad with roasted red grapes and greens, and beetroot and lime soup.

◊  I am also planning a scientific assault on the question of why my poached quinces sometimes turn pink and sometimes stay the colour of bandaids. My current theory is that a squeeze of lemon juice is required for the colour change, and I will be testing this (and if necessary other theories) by cooking halves of single quinces in different ways and observing the outcomes. Yeah science.

◊  I have been totally rocking the cooking recently, at least in terms of variety and enjoyment. Check out the Eating notes for details. Recent highlights: Molly Wizenberg’s leek confit, which is spectacularly good when slightly warm and eaten piled onto toasted sourdough spread with soft goat cheese; a parsnip, pear and thyme soup; boudin noir with apples; pear and gruyere toasted sandwiches; lentil, roast tomato and rosemary soup; and smoked salmon with roasted potato, parsnip, shallots and horseradish.

◊  The boudin noir of the previous paragraph came from the Eumundi Smokehouse, which has a stall at the West End market and Powerhouse market. It’s been too long since I ate a proper French boudin to be able to say exactly how authentic it was, but it tasted pretty damn good to me. Air-dried saucisson from there was also good.

◊  We’ve had a couple of great dinners recently with Ian and Lisa at China Kitchen (High St Toowong) – the chili soup, dry-fried intestines, and chili and sour potato have been standouts. Recommended.