Cook this: 6 ingredient chestnut jam thumbprint cookies

Having grown up in a very Italian family, I love roasted chestnuts in winter. Nonno used to make them for us when we were kids, and I loved sitting at their dinner table, digging my little fingers in the split in the shell, peeling the charred layed off those golden little nuggets, and eating them until dad said I couldn’t have any more because I’d be sick. So, when I found St Dalfour at the Good Food and Wine Show a few weeks ago selling chestnut jam, I got more than a little bit excited. I only bought one jar, and have been kicking myself ever since!


I’ve been using a spoonful of it to mix through my porridge, along with a handful of blueberries and a sprinkle of cacao nibs, but I wanted to make something sweet to eat with a cup of tea as it gets colder. I also wanted something quick and easy, that I could make whenever I wanted them without having to get changed out of my PJs to go buy ingredients for. Same base recipe as the lemon cookies I posted a few weeks ago, but the secret ingredient is absolutely the jam – find a way to get your hands on some!!

Ingredients:
– 100g butter, softened
– 100g caster sugar
– 1 egg yolk
– 200g plain flour
– 1 tsp baking powder
– St Dalfour chestnut jam!

 

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 170° and line an oven tray with baking paper.

2. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until thick and creamy, followed by the egg yolk until completely smooth and combined.

3. Stir in the flour and baking powder until combined.

4. Roll the dough into balls (about tablespoon size works well) and space them out on the oven tray.

5. As the recipe might imply, press your thumb into the centre of each cookie to make space for the jam, and drop a little jam in each thumbprint.

6. Bake for 15min, or until golden brown.

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Cook this: eggplant, tomato & beef stew 

One of my best friends told me about this recipe she found on taste.com.au last week, and it sounded amazing for the cold weather hitting Melbourne at the moment. I also love eggplant and slow cooked chuck steak, but haven’t used them together before, so I was pretty keen on trying this out.

I’ve been bulk cooking a lot lately, too; making big meals of 8 – 10 servings so I can freeze extras for those mid-week dinners I can’t be bothered cooking. This is a perfect recipe for bulk cooking – it reheats really well, and you can add in whatever grains you want when you’re ready to eat, be it pasta, cous cous, rice, bread, whatever! My version is also very vegetable heavy, because they’re good for you, especially in winter when our immune systems are being put to the test and we’re prone to rely more on heavy meals and not get enough healthy stuff in.


Ingredients (10 serves):
– 1kg beef chuck steak, cut into bite-sized cubes
– a little plain flour, to coat steak in
– 2 garlic cloves, crushed – of, if you’re fructose intolerant like me, use garlic infused oil
– 2 tbsp dried oregano
– 2 tsp ground ginger
– 1 tbsp tumeric
– 1 tbsp sweet paprika
– 1 tbsp smoked paprika
– 1 tbsp cumin
– 2 tsp mustard seeds
– 10 tomatoes, roughly chopped (preferably vine-ripened)
– 3 cup vegetable stock
– 2 mild red chillis, roughly chopped
– 4 large eggplants, diced
– 3 large zucchinis, halved lengthways, then chopped

 

Method:
1. Add the steak and flour into a large mixing bowl and toss to lightly coat.

2. Heat a large saucepan and add a little olive oil (plain or garlic infused), enough to just coat the pan. Add the beef and cook, stirring, for 5 – 10 minutes, until browned.

3. Stir in the oregano, ginger, turmeric, paprika, cumin, mustard seeds, and a little salt and pepper.

4. Next, add the tomatoes, vegetable stock and chilli, stir to combine, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, covered, for an hour. After an hour, remove the lid and simmer for another 20 – 30 minutes while it thickens up, until you’re happy with it.

5. While the stew cooks, heat up the oven to 200°C and lightly spray two large baking trays with cooking oil. Add the vegetables between the two trays, spray again with a little more oil and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over them. Bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes, until cooked through.

6. Once the stew is done, stir the vegetables through and serve with grains of choice – I like cous cous, but a good piece of crusty bread to dip is a great option, too!

Cook this: coconut pumpkin soup

Remember that particular gem of a friend who I brunched with at Two Little Pigs and All Day Donuts a few weeks ago? That most brilliant lady who I’ve known for something like four years now, but somehow feels like a forever friend? Well not only does she know all the good brunch spots, she’s also pretty nifty in the kitchen – she produces wonderful food porn which frequently has me drooling over my phone, and her Bill Granger coconut pumpkin soup last week was no exception. She kindly passed on the recipe, which, as usual, I screwed around with a little to suit myself, and it turned out a damn good soup! I was really impressed at how easy it was (that’s usually a massive deterent for me making soup more often) and how much flavor it packed. I served it up with some home made Irish soda bread, and plan on making it again and again through out Melbourne’s upcoming winter. Enjoy!

 

Ingredients (serves 4):

– 1-2 tbsp garlic infused oil (I use this to keep it as FODMAPs friendly as possible – if your stomach doesn’t have issues with garlic, just use oil + 3 roughly chopped garlic cloves)
– 1 red chili, chopped
– 2 tsp ground cumin
– 1 tsp ground ginger
– 1 tbsp smoky paprika
– 1kg butternut pumpkin, peeled, de-seeded and chopped
– 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
– 400ml coconut milk
– 3 tbsp fish sauce
– squeeze of lime juice, to your taste
– fresh coriander leaves and bread to serve

Method:

1. Heat a large pot over low heat, and add the garlic oil, chili, cumin and paprika. Cook, stirring, for a minute or two, until the smells of the spices really come out.

2. Add the pumpkin and carrot, cooking for another few minutes, still stirring.

3. Add 6 cups of water (or vegetable stock – I prefer a stronger coconut flavour so I just used water), turn the heat up and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30min, until the veggies are soft and you can easily stick a fork into them. 

4. Take the pot off the heat to cool for 10 minutes, then purée (I like my Big Foot, which you can see below; a food processor or blender will do the job perfectly well, too) until smooth.

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5. Stir in the coconut milk, fish sauce, and as much salt, pepper and lime juice as you like the taste of.

6. Re-heat over low heat to bring it back up to a warm enough temperature to enjoy, sprinkle with a little fresh coriander and serve with toasted bread.

Cook this: lamb, mushroom & barley soup

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I’ll be honest, I found this recipe in a food magazine and I can’t for the life of me remember which one – I have a pile on my coffee table and I just rip out the recipes I like. Anyway, I played around with it a little and made it for dinner last week and it was amazing, especially seeing as I’m not usually a big soup lover! Really tasty, the lamb was so soft and tender, and the barley made it a more substantial meal. The little squeeze of lemon juice and fresh parsley just topped it off. It was also really quick and easy to throw together – you just need to allow enough time for it to simmer away. Best part was that it was pretty cheap, and it made 6 serves, so we’ve got left overs for the week!

Ingredients (to make 6 serves):
– 650g diced lamb
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 50g butter
– 2 brown onions, diced
– 500g button mushrooms, sliced
– 2 carrots, diced
– 5 celery sticks, chopped
– 5 garlic cloves, peeled, roughly chopped and crushed (mortar & pestle works best)
– 5 bay leaves
– 2 tsp smoked paprika
– 2 tsp dried thyme
– salt and pepper
– 2.5lt vegetable stock
– 1 cup barley, rinsed and strained

Method:
1. Heat a large pot over medium heat and spray with cooking oil. Cook the lamb until just browned, remove from the pot and set aside.
2. Re-heat the pot with the olive oil and butter, and add the onion and mushroom. Cook, stirring constantly, until softened and browned.
3. Add the carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaves, paprika and thyme, as well as a little salt and pepper – combine and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
4. Return the lamb to the pot, stir it all together, and pour in the vegetable stock and barley. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer. Check your soup after 60 minutes to see how the barley is going; if it’s not quite cooked through, add a little more water if needed and simmer for a little longer. I found mine was done by the 60 minute mark.
5. Divide your soup up into bowls and/or plastic tubs to refrigerate or freeze, and serve with a little squeeze of lemon juice stirred through and some fresh parsley sprinkled on top!

Cook this: easy lamb & sweet potato tagine

I noticed my Michelle Bridges’ Crunch Time Cookbook sitting amongst my cookbook collection around the same time I noticed my jeans getting a little tighter, a few weeks ago. Husband and I decided to make some changes, which should be easy considering we both have university degrees in exercise science, he’s a high school PE teacher, I’m an ex-personal trainer, and we’re both athletically inclined. We’re also foodies, so actually, it makes it harder. We decided to commit to a month worth of eating from the book, hoping the pre-calculated calorie allowances would mean less work for us. As you can see by some of my other posts like this one and this one, we’re also still allowing treats, because we’re humans and we like food, and we don’t believe in depriving ourselves of donuts and hamburgers and what not.

Anyway, we weren’t completely sold on this recipe but thought we’d give it a go anyway; it looked pretty hearty and warming for the current cold winter nights we’re getting, and it’s turned out to be our new favourite dinner meal. Added bonus is that the recipe below makes 6 serves, so left overs are making life hella easier at the moment!

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To make 6 serves (don’t worry, it freezes/re-heats really well):
– 650g diced lamb
– 2 tsp olive oil
– 1 brown onion, diced
– 3 garlic cloves, crushed
– 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
– 2 tbsp Moroccan seasoning
– 1 cup vegetable stock
– 400g tin diced tomatoes
– 850g sweet potato, peeled and diced in 3cm chunks
– 1½ cups frozen peas
– juice of 1 lemon
– coriander leaves, to serve

Method:
1. Spray a larger pot with cooking oil and heat on medium-high.

2. Add the lamb (in batches, if needed) and cook for a few minutes, until browned. Remove from the pot and set aside.

3. Heave the 2 tsp olive oil in the same pot over medium heat, and add the onion, stirring until softened. Then add in the garlic, ginger and Moroccan seasoning and stir to combine.

4. Return the lamb back to the pot and stir it through the onion mixture to coat.

5. Pour the stock and tomatoes into the pot, bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 50 minutes with the lid on.

6. Add in the sweet potato, replace the lid, and simmer for another 20 minutes.

7. Stir in the peas, cooking for another 2 – 3 minutes.

8. Just before serving, stir through the lemon juice, ladle into your bowls and top with coriander to serve. Enjoy!