Category Archives: Dinners/Mains

Puy Lentil, Pork & Fennel Sausage Stew with Juniper Berries

Last winter I visited some friends who live in country Victoria and they made this delicious stew for me – a simmered sausage and lentil dish with juniper berries. I never got the recipe from them, but I came up with my own and I’ve been making this ever since. This is an incredibly tasty dish – the flavours are intense and piquant, and the combination of sausages and lentils is one I find irresistable.

It’s really important to get good quality sausages for this. You don’t have to use pork and fennel, but I’ve made it with other types of sausages and I can tell you it won’t be quite as good. Whatever type you choose, just make it is the best quality you can find.

Don’t be tempted to cut corners by using tinned lentils, or substituting the Puy lentils for red or green ones – you won’t get the same result unless you use the little black dried lentils that hold their shape when cooked.

Serves 5-6

  • 500 g good quality pork & fennel sausages (from a continental butcher, if you have one near you)
  • 2 cups Puy (French) lentils
  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (use malt vinegar if you can’t get sherry vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries, crushed a bit to release their flavour
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • water

Wash the lentils in cold water, place in a large pot of cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for ten minutes, strain and set aside.

While the lentils are simmering, slice the sausages into approx 10cm pieces and set aside. Chop the onion and saute with olive oil in a large heavy based saucepan or casserole dish for about 5 minutes. Dice the celery and carrot, and add to the onions with the garlic clove, finely chopped and the rosemary. Cook for a few minutes until the vegetables are just softening.

Add the sausages cook, turning, for approx 5 minutes until the sausages are just browning on all sides. Add the vinegar and cook until it’s slightly evaporated – just half a minute or so –  then add the red wine and do the same. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, lentils, chilli, juniper berries, and bay leaves. Swish the water around in the tomato cans and add. Season with salt and pepper.

Simmer the stew on a low heat for approx 45 minutes – checking frequently to ensure it’s not catching on the bottom, and to add more water if required.

I like to serve this with big hunks of sourdough bread and steamed silverbeet chopped and tossed in lemon juice and olive oil. And a glass of red wine, of course 🙂

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Coconut Dahl With Spinach

This is a super easy dahl that everyone will love. I’ve adapted it from a much loved Indian cookbook. It’s healthy and tasty, and makes a lovely meal on its own with rice and accompaniments, as a side to meat or fish, or as part of a curry banquet.

Most of the dahl ingredients all go into the pot at the same time to simmer. The dish is then tempered at the end with a spicy onion mix.

  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 250 ml coconut milk
  • 1 x 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 green chillis sliced, or chilli powder or flakes to taste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cummin seeds
  • about 2 cups or handfuls of english spinach leaves

Wash and rinse the lentils and place in a heavy based saucepan with the tomatoes, coconut milk, half the onion, the cumin powder, turmeric, garam masala, chilli and water. Stir and heat, then let simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring as you go, and adding more water if necessary.

While it’s cooking, sautĂ© the remaining onion in some oil until soft and golden. Add the garlic, cumin and mustard seeds and stir for a minute. Add to the lentil mix after 20 minutes, then simmer for another 10 minutes. Stir the washed spinach leaves through at the end and serve with rice and your favourite accompaniments, such as raita, mango or lime chutney, or banana tossed in coconut.

Tip: If you want to speed this up for a fast mid-week meal, keep a jar of caramelised onions, or caramelised onion relish, in the fridge and add a tablespoon at the end instead of sautéing the second half of the onion. Then just pop the cumin and mustard seeds in the microwave for 30 seconds in a dish with some oil. If you do this, just use a small onion for the first part.

Chorizo Meatballs

I am not a big fan of chorizo. I like the flavour, but it always makes me feel a little ill. I think it’s the combination of cured meat and the rich spices and flavours.

I thought if I took the basic chorizo ingredients – pork, garlic, paprika – and made meatballs I’d end up with a fresher take on it. I was right. These are delicious and contain far fewer nasties than your favourite chorizo sausage. Barbecuing or grilling them is a healthier option than pan frying too.

You could serve them in many ways: as part of tapas, in a paella, in a pasta sauce, with grilled prawns and salad, or make very small ones and serve with toothpicks as finger food. I like them with fresh ingredients to balance out the richness – pureed peas or broad beans for example.

Makes about 12 meatballs.

  • 500 grams pork mince
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 teaspoons good quality smoky paprika (get some from a market or specialty food store, it will be much better than the supermarket option)
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Form into balls of your desired size and cook on a hot barbecue, turning to cook on all sides. Drain on paper towel. I like a squeeze of lemon juice over them when done.

 

 

Chicken and Potato Curry with Coconut, Lime and Cinnamon

When it comes to curries, I find it hard to stick to the rule book. This curry is really a hybrid: southern Indian, Malay, Thai. Who cares. It’s easy to make (in spite of the long list of ingredients), aromatic and utterly delicious.

Serves 3-4

  • 500g skinless chicken drumsticks (I like the chicken to simmer in the curry on the bone, which makes it tender. If you prefer, use sliced chicken fillets)
  • 3 medium sized potatoes (any variety in season will do)
  • 1-1.5 cups coconut milk
  • 1 x 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • fresh coriander
Curry paste:
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • about 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 red birdseye chilli, seeds included (1 chilli will make it mildly spicy; use more or less, depending on taste)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cummin
  • juice of one lime
Preheat oven to 180c (you can use oven or stovetop – I prefer oven as you don’t have to keep checking so often).
Peel and cut potatoes into just bigger than bite sized pieces.
Place all the curry ingredients in a food processor and process until a chunky paste.
Heat some oil in a flameproof casserole dish (or large heavy based saucepan/pot if doing on the stove).
Add the paste to the heated oil, stir for a minute or two (stand back a little, it will make your eyes water!)
Add the chicken, coat in the curry paste, and cook for about 5 minutes, turning. Add the potato pieces and coat in the mixture. Stir over heat for a minute.
Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, lime leaves, and cinnamon sticks. Stir to combine. Place in oven for at least one hour, but no more than 1.5. Check throughout to see if it needs a little water or extra coconut milk. When cooked,  the meat should come easily away from the bone.
If cooking on the stove top, reduce the heat to as low after adding the last ingredients, simmer for an hour, stirring about every 15 minutes to stop the bottom sticking, adding more liquid if needed.
When cooked, remove the meat off the bones if you want to, or serve on the bone.
Served with steamed rice and chopped coriander.

Venison and Juniper Berry Pies with Rosemary Crust

A mate of mine grumbled recently that I have too many vegetarian recipes on my blog. I’m unapologetic about this. I think most of us could do with eating less meat. And if you do eat meat, game meat is leaner and healthier. It’s not easy to come by, but most markets have a game section.

I’m lucky enough to have a farmers’ market on my doorstep, and I picked up some venison mince this morning. My mind was on food to take to the footy tonight, and I thought it would make a lovely pie. Juniper berries are a great accompaniment to game meat. If you can’t get hold of venison, use another game meat. Duck would be wonderful. You could cut corners by buying frozen shortcrust pastry at the supermarket.

I just can’t wait to have these pies with a glass of red at the footy tonight.

Makes approx 8 medium sized pies (bigger than a party pie, smaller than a footy pie)

Shortcrust pastry:

  • 2 and a half cups plain flour
  • 120 g cold, unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary salt (see below)
  • 1/3 cup ice cold water

Filling:

  • 600 g venison mince
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 inner celery stalk & inner yellow leaves, finely sliced
  • ½ teaspoon dried sage
  • 20 juniper berries, crushed in the pestle & mortar
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1.5 tablespoons cornflour, dissolved in 1 cup water
  • rosemary salt & pepper

Topping:

  • About 3 sheets frozen puff pastry
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

To make the rosemary salt:

Pound a small handful of fresh rosemary with some salt in the pestle & mortar until the salt has turned green. Sift and discard what’s left in the sieve.

To make the pastry:

Put the flour, butter and salt in a food processor and combine until a fine sandy texture. Add the egg and slowly drizzle in the water, until a ball starts to form.

Remove, form into a ball, and wrap in cling wrap. Flatten a little, and refrigerate.

To make the filling:

Saute the onion in olive oil until soft, add the celery, carrot, sage and juniper berries. Saute for about 5 minutes. Add the mince, and stir it around until brown. Add the wine and let it reduce for a minute. Add the tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, cornflour & water, and season to taste with some of the rosemary salt and some pepper. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180 c.

Remove the pastry from the fridge, and divide in two pieces. Roll out one piece on a clean floured surface, until about half a centimeter thick.

Place one of your pie dishes on the pastry and cut out around a centimeter around it. You want some to hang over so that when it shrinks there will still be enough pastry. Place in the pie dishes, pressing in to the corners. Repeat until finished.  Prick the bottoms with a fork a few times and bake for 10 minutes. (I find with small pie cases you don’t need to worry about covering with foil and weighing down with uncooked rice or pastry weights, but if you’re making a large pie, do this).

When they have cooled a little, trim any excess pastry from the edges. Spoon the filling into the pie cases.

Take your sheets of puff pastry out of the freezer and using a bowl just slightly bigger than the top of your pie, cut out the required amount of shapes.

Brush the “lids” with some egg around the edge so it will stick well to the pie bottom. Put in place, press down with your fingers onto the top of the pie crust and trim any excess.

Brush the tops with egg. Make a little pastry topping like a leaf, if you like. I happened to have a little reindeer cookie cutter from my Christmas baking, which was a happy discovery!

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is puffed and golden.

Lamb Shank, Guinness, Orange Zest and Star Anise Stew

This dish is a taste sensation, and it represents what winter comfort food should be to me: hearty but nourishing and not unhealthy; comforting but never  bland. The flavours are unique but you’ll be surprised at how well they all work together. The slow cooking lets them develop intensely.

This is also very easy and quick to prepare. And once you’ve put it in the oven or slow cooker you can get on with doing something else, or even go out for the afternoon. And when you come home, ravenously hungry, the intoxicating aroma will hit you when you open your front door. God I love winter.

Serves 4

  • 2 lamb shanks
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • about a tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • zest of about half an orange, peeled in strips
  • 2 star anises
  • 250 ml Guinness
  • 1 cup red lentils, washed
  • 1 x 400 g tin diced tomatoes
  • 200 ml water

For the mint gremolata:

  • Small handful of mint, very finely chopped
  • Remaining zest of orange

Preheat the oven to 160 c.

Heat some oil in a flameproof casserole dish and saute the onions for about 5 minutes until soft and turning golden. Add the garlic, rosemary, and  orange strips, and stir around. Add the shanks, and brown on both sides for a minute or two. Pour over the Guinness, let it foam and then simmer for a few minutes until it’s reduced a bit. Add the lentils, tomatoes, water and star anise. Stir, bring to the boil, then place the lid on the dish and put into the oven. Cook for 2-2 1/2 hours, checking a few times to make sure it doesn’t need any more water.

If you intend to go out and leave it unattended, drop the temperature a little and add about half a cup more water.

Mix mint and orange zest together for the topping.

Scrape the meat off the bones and serve sprinkled with the mint gremolata and a side of your favourite greens. Steamed cavalo nero tossed in olive oil and lemon juice is perfect. Roasted brussel sprouts or broccoli would also be superb.

 

Fragrant Vegetable Curry with Cashew Nuts

Up until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t had a haircut for 15 months. I was growing out a mistake, but it was getting out of hand. During the haircut, Karen, my new hairdresser, and I got chatting about cooking (naturally). Her boyfriend is a vegetarian and she said they were struggling to come up with satisfying winter vegetarian dishes.

I don’t know why there’s not a lot of hearty vegetarian recipes around. Some of my favourite vegetables are winter ones – jerusalem artichokes, celeriac, parsnips, sweet potatoes… Anyway, even before this conversation I’d  been making a conscious effort to cook more winter meatless dishes, and this is the latest installment.

So, Karen if you do read my blog, this one’s for you, with my thanks for the best haircut I’ve ever had!

This curry is fresh, creamy without being unhealthy, and very tasty. It’s thickened with lentils, and the crushed cashew nuts and yoghurt give it a tangy creaminess and extra flavour dimension.

Give yourself an hour and a half to make this.

This makes a lot, about 6 serves.

  • 2 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into about 5cm cubes.
  • 3 other fresh vegetables of your choice: about 1-2 cups each (I used mushrooms, green beans and zucchinis)
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 piece of fresh ginger, about the size of two thumbs
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 4 cardamon pods, crushed a little
  • 1-2 teaspoons chilli flakes depending on taste (one will be mild, two medium-hot)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 cup red lentils, washed
  • 170 g organic firm tofu
  • 100 g plain yoghurt
  • 750 ml water
  • 400 g tin tomatoes
  • small bunch fresh coriander
  • 150 grams unsalted roasted cashews (never eat raw cashews, they are toxic)
  • Vegetable oil

The first step: do all your prep so it comes together quickly at the end. Prepare the sweet potato, and set aside. Wash, trim/peel and chop the other vegies. Chop the tofu into cubes and rinse the lentils. Wash and chop the coriander, and ground the cashew nuts until a fine crumb in the pestle and mortar, or food processor. If you have neither, you can put them in a strong plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin.

Make the curry paste. Put the chopped red onion, garlic cloves, and ginger in a food processor and pulse until a paste. You can add the spices here if you like. I prefer to add them to the pot, as I don’t like it when my food processor is stained yellow from the turmeric.

Heat some oil in a large heavy based pan and add the onion mixture. If you didn’t add the spices when processing, now add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, cardamon pods and chilli flakes and combine. Simmer for a minute or two to release the flavour, not too high a heat or it will burn.

Add the sweet potato, coat in the spice mixture and saute for a few minutes over a low-medium heat. Add the cinnamon stick, lentils, cashew nuts, tomatoes and 500 ml of the water, cover, and simmer for half an hour over a low heat, stirring a few times.

Add the vegetables, tofu, half the coriander, and yoghurt, and combine. Add the remaining water if it needs it. Return the lid and simmer for another 20 minutes, or longer if you want really soft vegetables.

Stir through the remaining coriander before serving. If having this for every day meals, I like it with brown rice to keep it super healthy. But if you’re making it for dinner guests, steamed basmati rice and some accompaniments like mango chutney, banana and coconut, and raita, would be lovely.

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