Friday, October 29, 2010

Italian Sausage and Red Lentil Stew

Anyone who knows me knows that I love food from countries starting with the letter 'I' - India, Italy and Indonesia (Ireland, you have yet to prove yourself to me.) So here is a recipe for a gorgeously fragrant, simple and hearty Italian sausage stew.

Italian Sausage and Red Lentil Stew
(Serves 4)

2 tbsp olive oil
8 Italian pork sausages
1 large onion, finely diced
1 celery stick, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 tspn toasted and crushed fennel seeds
5 sprigs of rosemary
1 tin of diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
2/3 cup red wine
2 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
120g red lentils

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and brown the sausages (they don't need to be cooked through). Remove them from the pan then gently saute the onion and celery for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, fennel seeds and rosemary and saute for 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, red wine, stock and some freshly cracked black pepper and bring the sauce to a boil. Add the lentils and stir the mixture well. Return the sausages, turn the heat right down to low, cover then leave the stew to cook for one hour. Stir it often to make sure the lentils don't stick to the bottom of the saucepan. If the lentils look like they're drying out, add a touch of water.

Remove the sprigs of rosemary then serve the stew with fresh crusty bread and a simple green salad.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Satay Chicken

Nobody could ever accuse me of being a food snob. Especially not after they've read this recipe! Any cook worth their MasterChef apron will cringe, possibly even hyperventilate, when they read that my satay chicken is made with peanut butter. Yep, classy aren't I?! ;p But let's face it, tell the kids that dinner is made with peanut butter and they'll scoff it down - veggies and all (well, maybe not - I can't work miracles!)

Satay Chicken
(Serves 4)

1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup sweet chilli sauce
1/4 cup honey
Vegetable oil
3 chicken breasts (or 2 if they're big), halved lengthways then sliced thinly
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2-3 handfuls of fresh veggies, chopped into chunks
Sesame oil

To make the sauce, put the stock, peanut butter, sweet chilli sauce and honey in a microwave-safe jug. Heat for 30 seconds in the microwave (medium power) then stir it well. Heat for a further 60-90 seconds or until the sauce has just begun to thicken.

In a wok, heat the vegetable oil over high heat and stir-fry the chicken until it's begun to change colour. Add the garlic and vegetables and stir-fry for one minute.

Add the satay sauce and let it simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thick. Add a few drops of sesame oil then serve the stir-fry over hot noodles or steamed rice.

Note: For the vegetables, I use slices of onion, carrots, sugar snap peas, capsicum and baby corn but you can use almost anything - broccoli, cauliflower, Asian greens, spring onions, snow peas, birds-eye chilli, mushrooms, etc.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kitchen Basics - Vegetable Stock Concentrate

Recently I had dinner at the home of my darling Aunty and she made a lovely soup using homemade stock concentrate (frozen into cubes) which I thought was a great idea! Because I know that the little containers of powdered stock from the supermarket are packed full of preservatives and sodium. Even the liquid stocks now available aren't exactly good for you. So the thought that stock was easy to make got me very interested!

After looking through scores of recipes on the internet and doing a bit of experimenting, I've come to the conclusion that I'll never buy stock again because it is so easy-peasy to make! Not to mention healthy and convenient.

Many recipes for stock concentrate include between 100g-200g of salt to preserve the stock (for storage in the fridge) but my Aunty recommends making it without the salt and simply freezing it.

So this is a simple recipe to make vegetable stock concentrate (so no need to fuss about with chicken carcasses and beef marrow bones!) which is suitable for the freezer.

Vegetable Stock Concentrate
Makes 36 ice cubes

2 tspn oil (any type!)
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 large sticks of celery, finely diced
3 small carrots, grated
1 large zucchini, grated
1 tomato, diced
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 sage leaves
1 small handful of fresh parsley (stalks and leaves), chopped (or I prefer to snip mine with kitchen scissors)

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add all the veggies and herbs, stir it well, then clamp the lid on the saucepan and let the mixture stew for about 20 minutes (you may need to stir it occassionally to stop it from sticking on the bottom of the saucepan) or until everything is very soft and pulpy.

Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes then throw it all into a blender and blitz until it becomes a smooth paste.

Spoon tablespoons of stock into ice cube trays and freeze! When you need some stock, simply take a cube out of the freezer and dissolve it in the required amount of water.

Note 1: Use one stock cube per cup (250mL) of water.

Note 2: You should be able to use any veggies you have knocking about the veggie crisper - a few florets of broccoli or cauliflower, parsnips, leeks, etc. The only thing I'd steer clear of are starchy vegetables like potatoes.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Kitchen Basics - Pikelets and Pancakes

In this day and age, it can be an embarrassing thing to admit that someone doesn't know how to cook. On TV, there are 9-year-olds cooking complicated things like rabbit and mushroom ragu, ricotta gnocchi (from scratch) and gout de la mer. It's easy to feel a tad inadequate.

But not everyone has a childhood filled with memories of Mum teaching you the right way to shave a truffle or cook chicken in a water bath. When I moved out of home I could cook (from scratch) scrambled eggs, mashed potato and pancakes. Everything else I taught myself (or with the help of a few choice books.)

So this is a basic recipe that even the "I can burn water" brigade can master. (And yes, S, I'm looking at you!)


1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
A pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg
Oil spray

Sift the flour into a bowl with the salt then add the milk and egg and beat well until the mixture is smooth. (But don't worry if there are a few lumps in it!)

Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat and spray the pan with a light coating of oil.

Drop tablespoons of mixture onto the pan. When they are ready to flip, the top uncooked surface of the pikelet will look like the moon, ie: full of craters.

Flip the pikelet and cook the second side briefly (until it turns golden). Remove the pikelets from the pan and repeat with the rest of the mixture.

Eat the pikelets hot and smothered with maple syrup! Or pack cold pikelets into the kids lunchboxes.

Note: This mixture is perfect for adding in a handful of chocolate chips of raisins, however I think I'll leave the caramlized apple recipe for another day!


1 cup plain flour
A pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg

Sift the flour into a bowl with the salt then add the milk and egg and beat well until the mixture is smooth.

Melt a dollop of butter in a non-stick pan over medium heat.

Add a quarter of a cup of mixture (or more if your pan is quite big) to the pan and swirl it around so it spreads evenly. Cook the pancake for a minute or two until the top looks set and the under-side is golden. Flip the pancake and cook the other side briefly.

Eat the pancakes hot! I like mine with a bit of fresh lemon juice and sugar, although you can spread them with jam or nutella or you can even use the pancake as a wrap and fill it with bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.