main dish

Bulghur, bulgur, bulgar, or burghul?

bulgur

However you spell it, bulghur is delicious!

Bulghur is wheat that is parboiled, dried, and then coarsely ground. At that time, the outer layers of the bran are removed, after which the grains are cracked. It has a distinctive nutty taste, and is high in fibre and proteins and low in fat – it’s a good substitute for rice or cous cous if you’re watching your weight as it’s more nutritious. Traditionally it’s used to make tabouli and pilafs.

I like to cook bulghur in chicken stock to add extra flavour, then mix through vegetables and a dash of olive oil to make a salad. It’s great to take to work for lunch (although I wouldn’t use lettuce if I was going to let it sit overnight).

Bulghur & Tuna Salad

Serves 3-4

1 cup uncooked coarse bulghur
1 & 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 large can of tuna
Several leaves of lettuce, shredded/sliced finely
2 medium carrots, grated
2 spring onions, sliced finely
Salt & Pepper
Good quality extra-virgin olive oil

Rinse the bulgur, then place into a pot with the chicken stock (the bulghur will expand, so use a good sized pot). Cover with a lid.

Bring to the boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer until all the liquid has been soaked up. Turn off the heat, take the lid off and cover the top of the pot with a clean tea towel. Place the lid on top of the tea towel and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Fluff the bulghur up with a fork, and place into a large bowl. Drain the tuna and add this to the bowl with the lettuce, carrots and spring onions. Toss all the ingredients together, season well with salt and pepper and add a good dash of olive oil.

Jamie inspired roast lamb

Roast lamb

This (rather unattractive) roast lamb was inspired by a recipe in Jamie Oliver’s book, Cook With Jamie. In the book, he has a recipe for Mad Moroccan lamb (page 170 if you have it).

Jamie’s recipe looked wonderful, but rather involved, and it included cous cous. I adore cous cous, but the Boys are not fans. But I liked the idea of the spices, especially since we all have colds. Subtle flavours are a bit lost on us at the moment.

I served the lamb with balsamic chickpeas (adapted from Jamie’s recipe) and roast potatoes. For the potatoes, I parboiled them whole, then cut them in half and tossed in a glug of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds, coriander seeds, chilli flakes plus a good seasoning of salt and pepper. They went into the oven for half an hour.

The lamb was too well done for my liking, but it still tasted good. I’m an “bit of this, bit of that” kind of cook, so truthfully I have no idea if all the spices and stuff I put in are necessary for yumminess. Possibly not, so consider the recipe below a guide more than anything!

Roast lamb dinner


Jamie inspired roast lamb with balsamic chickpeas and roast potatoes

Serves 6-8

For the lamb

1 x 2kg shoulder of lamb
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons chilli flakes
6 large cloves of garlic
Zest from one lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons salt

For the chickpeas

1 large red onion, peeled and sliced
1 cinnamon stick
salt and pepper
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas
100ml good quality balsamic vinegar
200ml water

Preheat the oven to 220 degree C. Score the lamb in a criss cross pattern about 2.5cm apart.

In a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic cloves with the salt.

In a dry pan, toast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and black mustard seeds over a medium heat until fragrant. Tip them into the mortar and pestle and add the chilli flakes. Crush it all together, then add the lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix it all up with a spoon, it should be like a paste. Rub this all over the meat, making sure you get it into the cuts. Put the lamb on a rack in a roasting pan and put into the oven for about 1 & 1/2 hours (mine went in for 2 hours which was too long unless you like well done meat). After the lamb is cooked to your liking, take it out of the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

For the chickpeas, heat some olive oil in a large saucepan and fry your onions and cinnamon with a pinch of salt and pepper for about 15 minutes or until softened. Don’t hurry this. Add the chickpeas with the water and the vinegar. Simmer on a medium heat until nice and thick, then remove from the hob and serve with slices of the roast lamb.

Cauliflower and broccoli fritters

Roast cauli

Broccoli has been one of my favourite vegetables for several years. This winter though, I’ve been turning away from it in favour of it’s close relative, the cauliflower.

Last week, having both cauliflower and broccoli in my vegetable crisper, I wanted to find a way to eat them both. I often do stir fry, occasionally some roast vegies, and I wanted something a bit different. Something with a bit more oomph.

After mulling over it for half a day, a light bulb went on in my head. How about fritters? A google search soon threw up a couple of recipes for a very basic cauliflower fritter. I decided to sex it up by adding some roasted cumin seeds, which gave them an aromatic, peppery edge.

We ate the fritters wrapped in flat pita bread and with home made hummus (recipe from taste.com.au here). The following day, the three of us stood around the kitchen bench and ate them cold. Gosh they were good.

Next time I make these I will skip the flour and dip them in egg and dried breadcrumbs instead. I suggest you try that rather than following my recipe and rolling in flour.

Broccoli fritters

Cauliflower and broccoli fritters

Serves 4

600g cauliflower
400g broccoli
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Fresh breadcrumbs
Flour
Salt & pepper

Wash the cauliflower and broccoli and cut into small florets. In separate pots, boil the florets until tender in well salted water. Drain the vegetables, transfer to a bowl and mash.

In a dry frying pan, lightly toast the cumin seeds over medium heat. Crush in a mortar and pestle and tip into the cauliflower and broccoli mixture.

Add the garlic and egg, and season well with salt and pepper. Work in enough breadcrumbs to obtain a fairly stiff mixture (possibly about 3/4 cup? I didn’t keep track…).

Wet your hands and form the mixture into balls then roll them in flour. Heat a frying pan on medium heat and fry the fritters until golden.

Drain them on absorbent paper and serve.

Polenta and Sumac Drumsticks with Creamy Coleslaw

Chicken drumsticks

The night I made this, I had crispy drumsticks in mind, coated with cornflakes or weetbix. Unfortunately when I got home, I realised that we didn’t have any cereal in the pantry, so I improvised instead. The Boys loved them, but then they always love it when I cook meat!

I had half a cabbage sitting in my vegetable drawer so I decided to serve the chicken with coleslaw. I started adding stuff together to make a dressing for the ‘slaw – thankfully the “bit of this, bit of that” approach worked and I didn’t have a disaster. After tasting the dressing, I wanted to eat it just by itself – it was creamy, and a bit tangy with a touch of sweetness and nuttiness.

Polenta and Sumac Drumsticks

For the Drumsticks

2 cloves of garlic
3/4 cup yogurt
3/4 cup polenta
3 teaspoons sumac
1 1/2 teaspoons chilli powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Dash of milk
8 chicken drumsticks

Preheat your oven to 200 degree C.

Crush the garlic & salt in a mortar and pestle. Mix into the yogurt, then add a dash of milk to thin.

Mix together the polenta, sumac, chilli powder and cayenne pepper in a bowl.

Pat dry the drumsticks with a paper towel.

Dip each drumstick into the yogurt, letting the excess drip off, then dip into the polenta mixture.

Place on an oiled baking tray then bake for 40 minutes or until cooked.

Creamy Coleslaw

For the dressing:

1 tablespoon honey
4 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon tahini
1 teaspoon sumac
salt and pepper

Coleslaw:

Cabbage
Carrots
Capsicum
Red onion

Melt the honey, then mix in all the other ingredients. Finely slice your vegetables and toss together with the dressing.

Homemade pizza

Pizza

Some days when I get home from work, I can’t be bothered cooking. All I want to do is sit on the couch and have dinner bought to me. So sometimes we have pizza delivered.

Then when the pizza arrives, I open the box and see that along with my pizza also came a crap load of oil. Ergh.

I’ve found one way of cutting out all that oil is to make my own pizza! Sure, I don’t get to sit on the couch and vegetate, but homemade pizza is pretty easy. The recipe listed below makes a bready base, that gets a bit crunchy on the bottom. It could possibly be more crispy if you had a baking stone.

For the tomato sauce, I use tomato paste with a couple of cloves of crushed garlic mixed in. I like making separate pizzas for everyone so we can choose our own toppings. We like things spicy in my house, so you’ll notice on my pizza that there’s salami and jalapenos (as well as capsicum, onion, mozzarella and tasty cheese). It’s by no means authentic wood fired pizza, but it satisfies my pizza cravings and it’s so much nicer than delivery pizza from a chain.

Homemade Pizza

From the Little Big Cook Book

Preparing the dough

This recipe will make about 350g of dough. This is enough to make one round or oblong pizza, sufficient for 1 or 2 people.

1 package active dry yeast
2/3 cup warm water
2 cups plain flour
1 tsp salt

Put the yeast in a small bowl. Add half of the warm water and stir with a fork until the yeast has dissolved. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Place the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Pour in the yeast mixture, and remaining water. Stir well until the flour has been absorbed.

Shape the dough into a compact ball and place on a lightly floured surface. Press down with your knuckles to spread it a little. Take the far end of the dough, fold it a short distance toward you, then push it away with the heel of your palm. Flexing your wrist, fold it toward you again, give it a quarter turn, then push it away. Repeat until the dough is well kneaded (about 5 minutes).

Place the dough in a large clean bowl and cover with a cloth. Let rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk. To test whether it has risen sufficiently, poke your finger gently into the dough; if the impression remains, then it is ready.

Shaping the pizza

Preheat the oven to 230 degree C.

When the rising time has elapsed, knead the dough for 1 minute on a lightly floured work surface. If making more than one pizza, divide the dough into the number of pizzas you wish to make. Roll each piece of dough into a ball and flatten the dough out into a disk. Place on an oiled baking sheet. To finish, use your fingertips to make a rim around the edge of the pizza so that the topping won’t drip out during cooking.

When the pizza dough has been shaped and is in the pizza pan or on the baking sheet, set it aside for 10 minutes before adding the topping. This will give the dough time to regain some volume and will make the crust lighter and more appetizing.

Place your desired toppings on the pizza and bake for about 12 minutes.

Sausage and lentil casserole

Sausage and lentil casserole

It is a good thing I have a large pantry. If I had to list items that one could always find in my pantry, we would be here for quite a while.

But despite the fact that my pantry is chockablock, once I started cooking lentils, I knew that here was an item that I would always have in stock. It’s safe to say that I am quite fond of the humble lentil.

However, that fondness does have a line. The week I made this casserole, I was eating lentils for FOUR DAYS afterwards. And while they tasted even better the day after, as they had soaked up all the flavour from the sausages, four days is a bit much. Therefore, the recipe below is the recipe I should have cooked. The original had 2 cups of lentils, which is just insane. Unless you enjoy eating lentils for four days in a row.

I think this was adapted from a recipe on taste.com.au.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 tablespoon olive oil
8 beef sausages
1 large brown onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup dried brown lentils, rinsed
2 dried bay leaves
3 cups chicken stock (or enough to cover)
Can of tomatoes
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
Small bunch of dutch carrots

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook sausages, turning, for 5 minutes or until browned. Remove to an ovenproof casserole dish. Wash the dutch carrots and chop off the tops. Place them into the casserole dish with the sausages.
2. Add onion, and garlic to pan. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft. Add lentils. Stir to coat in onion mixture. Add bay leaves and stock. Bring to the boil. Pour lentil mixture over sausages. Cover and cook for 1 hour.
3. Add tomatoes to casserole. Cover. Cook for 30 minutes or until lentils are tender. Remove from oven. Discard bay leaves. Stir in parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

Poulpe provencal

Octopus

This was the second dish I made for the French FFOF. I wasn’t wowed by this – I wasn’t impressed with the flavours. I just thought something was lacking.

If I made it again, it would need a bit of tweaking.

Poulpe Provcencal

From Cooking French

500g ripe tomatoes
1 kg baby octopus
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
350 ml dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
2 sprigs thyme
2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

Score a cross in the base of each tomato. Place the tomatoes into boiling water for 20 seconds, then plunge into cold water and peel the skin away from the cross. Cut each tomato in half and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon and discard. Chop the flesh.

To clean the octopus, use a small sharp knife and cut each head from the tentacles. Remove the eyes by cutting a round of flesh from the base of each head. To clean the heads, carefully slit them open and remove the gut. Rinse thoroughly. Cut the heads in half. Push out the beaks from the centre of the tentacles from the cut side. Cut the tentacles into sets of four or two, depending on the size of the octopus.

Blanch all the octopus in boilding water for 2 minutes, then drain and allow to cool slightly. Pat dry with paper towels.

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the onion and cook for 7-8 minutes over medium heat until lightly golden. Add the octopus and garlic to the pan and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato, wine, saffron and thyme. Add just enough water to cover the octopus.

Simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Uncover and cook for a further 15 minutes, or until the octopus is tender and the sauce has thickened a little. Season to taste. Serve sprinkled with parsley.

Corn fritters with avocado salsa

Corn fritters with avocado salsa

This was dinner on a night when I had to use an avocado before it softened into mush. At the market vegie stall at the market, they tend to sell 3 avocados for $x, and so I always buy 3 avocados at a time. Even when it only saves me 40 cents or other teensy amount, I cannot resist a bulk deal. Must be my asian genes. 😉

My Bro and I have debated whether the avocado “salsa” is actually a salsa. Technically it’s not a sauce, so probably not… I call it that anyway.

With the corn fritters, I have a couple of recipes sitting in my email (whenever I find a recipe I like the look of, I email it to myself). This has been adapted from one of those recipes, and I think the original came from one of the companies who produce canned corn.

Corn Fritters
Serves 4

440g can corn kernels
2 cups self raising flour
1 finely diced onion
2 eggs
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 rashers of bacon
1 ¾ cups milk
1 teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Avocado salsa
1 ripe avocado
½ red onion
½ Lebanese cucumber
Juice of ½ a lemon
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

To make the salsa:

Chop the avocado flesh into small chunks.
Toss with the lemon juice.
Finely dice the red onion and chop the cucumber into small chunks.
Gently mix the avocado, onion and cucumber together, toss with a dash of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. (You may be able to see in the photo that I also diced up some red radish and threw it in there. It was good for a bit of crunch.)
Set aside until the corn fritters are ready.

To make the fritters:

Heat a frying pan and cook bacon until done to your liking.
Roughly chop into pieces. (If you don’t like strong tasting onion and garlic, cook them before mixing into the batter below. I never bother.)
Sift all dry ingredients together.
Mix together the eggs, milk, onion, bacon and garlic, then stir in the dry ingredients and mix lightly until combined.
Allow to stand for 10 minutes.
Heat a non-stick frying pan on medium, spray with oil.
Drop tablespoons of mixture on to the pan, allowing room for spreading.
Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes, turning when bubbles come to the surface.
Cook for another 2 minutes or until cooked.
Keep fritters warm then assemble with the salsa on top.

I like to have corn fritters with a bit of chilli jam (the orange stuff in the photo) but then I am a chilli fiend!

Salmon with wasabi and soy glaze

Salmon with wasabi and soy glaze

I hardly ever buy fish. It’s not something that is in my cooking repertoire because it always seemed so difficult. What kind of fish do I buy? How do I cook it? What if I overcook it?

Recently though, I’ve been making an effort to eat more fish. Last week I bought some fillets and cooked them with a garam masala marinade. Last night (hooray for market days!), I bought some salmon fillets from the market. I tell ya, if fish can be beautiful, these fillets were supermodels. Most of the salmon made it into the pan to be cooked, but I did cut some slices off to gobble while the fish cooked. Delish.

Now that I’ve realised how easy it is to cook fish, I think I’ll be buying it more often!

Salmon with soy and wasabi glaze

Salmon fillets
2 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon of wasabi paste (more or less to taste)

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Put the honey, mirin, and soy sauce in a pot and simmer until it reduces down a little and becomes thick and sticky. Stir in the wasabi paste until it’s dissolved. (Add more of anything if you feel it needs it.)
Heat some oil in a frying pan over a high heat until hot. Sear the salmon on both sides and pop it into the oven for 5 minutes or until cooked to your liking.
Pour the soy and wasabi glaze over the salmon and enjoy!

Meatloaf

Meatloaf

This is a fairly quick and easy meatloaf. It tastes great, however, I’ve had difficulties with it staying in slices. Maybe I’m not cooking it long enough or I’m too keen with the vegetables. If it doesn’t stay together, you could always do what I do and serve it up as meat-mince. It’s still delicious!

Meatloaf

Adapted from a recipe from Taste.com.au (known as Healthy Meatloaf on the site).

Cooking Time 40 minutes

Ingredients (serves 4)

250g beef mince
250g pork mince
1 cup fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs
1 small brown onion
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
3 small carrots, peeled (or more… I go a bit crazy with the carrots)
½ cup corn kernels (or more if you like)
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
A dash of Worchester sauce
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
salt & pepper

Method

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray or baking tin with baking paper.

Pulse the onion and garlic cloves in a food processor until they are finely chopped taking care not to over process. Then pulse the carrots until they are finely chopped (again, don’t over process).

Place mince, breadcrumbs, onion, carrot, corn tomato sauce, Worchester sauce, and egg in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Using clean hands, mix until well combined.

Shape mince into a 10cm x 18cm rectangle or place it into a baking tin. Place on prepared tray. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until firm to touch. Remove from oven. Drain excess fat and invert (if you’ve used a baking tin) on a tray lined with baking paper.

Spoon barbecue sauce over top of meatloaf. Return to oven and cook for a further 10 minutes or until top is glazed.

Stand on tray for 5 minutes and slice.