Category Archives: Gluten Free

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.


Lentil and Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

Here’s some more comfort food that is nutritious as well as hearty. I love the sweet potato topping on this, it’s perfect with the earthy lentil and vegetable mixture underneath it. I like to use the French puy lentils because they hold their shape well, and look great in dishes. If you don’t fancy goat cheese, leave it out and just add more parmesan. But I urge you to try it – the combination of goat cheese and sweet potato is heavenly.

This will be enough for a medium sized baking dish (roughly 25 x 20cm) and about 4 serves.

Oh, and give yourself a good 2 hours to make this.

For the topping:

  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and sliced into thick rounds
  • 2 tablespoons soft goat cheese
  • 1/2 400g tin white beans
  • butter
  • parmesan cheese

For the bottom:

  • 2 cups French (puy) lentils – the little black ones
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage, or a small handful of fresh sage leaves
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 1 carrot, diced,
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 and a half x 400g tins organic chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • handful of chopped fresh parsley

Put the lentils in a pot of cold water, bring to the boil, and gently simmer for half an hour.

Steam the sweet potato until soft and mash until smooth with the goat cheese, beans and some butter. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 180c

Saute the onion for about five minutes until soft. Add the garlic and stir. Add the sage, carrots, celery, and bay leaf, and saute for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add the tomato paste, stir to coat, and cook for a minute. Add the red wine, and reduce it down. Tip in the drained lentils, add the tomatoes and parsley and a little water, about a third of a cup. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Tip the lentil mixture into the baking dish and spread with the sweet potato. Top with some more butter, just dabbed about here and there, and some grated parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes.

Serve with some green vegetables, or a green salad.

Corn and Saffron Chowder

This soup is so comforting you’ll feel like you’ve just slipped into a warm dressing-gown and slippers. But for comfort food, it’s also nutritious and fresh, so it won’t leave you feeling blah.

I love the combination of corn and coriander, and the saffron adds a subtle flavour and aroma. I don’t often use cream in cooking, but it’s just a small amount, and you can’t very well have chowder without it. I have to admit it does round it all out beautifully.

Serves 3-4

  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon saffron strands
  • pinch chilli flakes (optional)
  • 4 corn cobs, kernels sliced off
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 700 ml water
  • 1 veg stock cube
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • handful of fresh coriander
  • handful of grated cheddar cheese

Soak the saffron in a little white wine, or water if you don’t have any. Saute the onion in some olive oil until soft. Add the crushed coriander seeds (or coriander powder), chilli and saffron, including the liquid it was soaking in. Add the water and stock cube, corn and potatoes. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat and simmer on low for 40 minutes.

Chop the coriander and stir into the soup with the cream. Serve topped with a little grated cheese.

Baked Chai Rice Pudding

I felt pretty pleased with myself when I thought of making a chai flavoured rice pudding, then I googled it only to find someone else had already thought of it. There is nothing new under the sun. No matter. I still wanted to make it, and so I did this morning. After being up for a few hours with no breakfast on a cold Melbourne autumn morning, let me tell you this was utterly perfect. I double dare you to make this on an empty stomach and not devour at least half of it!

If you like, add some sultanas that have been softened in some warm apple juice. I prefer it without though.

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup basmati rice
  • 2 cups milk
  • 200 ml weak black tea
  • 4 pieces cinnamon bark
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 12 cardamon pods
  • 8 cloves
  • 1 thumb size piece of fresh ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • A little butter, for greasing

Preheat the oven to 180C

In a pestle & mortar, crush the pepper, cardamon pods, cloves and cinnamon a little. Don’t ground to a powder, just smash them up a bit. Place in a saucepan with the milk, and grate the ginger in. Very gently heat for 10 minutes to infuse the milk. Do not allow it to boil, you want a very low heat.

While the milk’s infusing, make the cup of tea and set aside. Whisk the egg and sugar until combined. Add the rice to this mixture.  Grease an ovenproof dish with some butter.

Remove the milk from the heat, add the tea, and stir. Strain it into the egg/sugar/rice mixture so you don’t get all the chai flotsam and jetsam in your pudding.

Pour into your greased baking dish. Gently stir to ensure the rice mixture is evenly spread across the base of the dish. Scatter a few cardamon pods and cinnamon pieces from the strained chai, grate some nutmeg over the top, and bake for 40-45 minutes.

Serve warm.

Slow Cooked Spicy Beans

This hearty and satisfying dish of kidney beans, cooked for hours in a rich, spicy tomato and cocoa (yes, cocoa!) sauce, is perfect for feeding a lot of people with varying diet needs. It is vegetarian, gluten free and dairy free, and is just the ticket for Easter visitors. And unlike a seafood feast, a big pot of this won’t break the bank.

Don’t be scared to try the cocoa in this, it turns the sauce a rich red brown, and adds a depth of flavour that is not chocolatey at all. I first tried cocoa in chilli from a Nigella recipe and I haven’t looked back.

I like to serve this with rice, and a dollop of sour cream and avocado. A scattering of crumbled fetta would also be wonderful.

You’ll need to start this the day before in order to soak the beans. If you can’t get dried beans, use organic tinned kidney beans, but they will not hold their shape anywhere near as well over a long cooking period, so halve the cooking time in that case.

You can cook this in the oven, on the stove top, or in the slow cooker.

Serves 6-8

  • 500 grams dried kidney beans
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons each: sweet paprika;  cummin powder; coriander powder; chilli flakes (more if you like it really hot)
  • 6 cardamon pods, crushed just enough to release seeds
  • A few pieces of cinnamon bark
  • Piece of fresh ginger, about the size of a golf ball
  • Two tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 red capsicums, deseeded and chopped
  • 3 x 400 gram tins of organic diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Cover the kidney beans in cold water and soak overnight, or for at least 12 hours.

Preheat the oven to 160C

In a large flameproof casserole dish, saute the onions in olive oil until soft and turning golden, about 5 minutes, stirring as you go. Add the garlic, all of the spices, ginger, and stir. Add the tomato paste and stir for a minute, letting it brown a little. Add the capsicum, and saute in the mixture until it is soft, about 5 minutes.

Strain the beans and with the tomatoes. Mix well. Use a little water to rinse the tomatoes tins out and add that too. Sprinkle the cocoa powder over the top, and mix in. You’ll  notice the sauce will instantly turn a rich red brown. Put the lid on, put in the oven and cook for two and a half hours. Check it a few times to see if it needs more water  and to stir it all up and stop it from sticking.

You could also do this in a slow cooker (for longer), or on the stove top for the same time, over a low heat, but checking more frequently to ensure it’s not burning on the bottom.

It’s a good idea to warn guests about stray cardamon pods, which when cooked and plumped up bear an unfortunate resemblance to small cockroaches. 🙂

Melt in the Mouth Roast Chicken

I’ve been making roast chicken for years but last weekend I made the best – and easiest – roast chook I’ve ever made. As is often the case with achieving excellence, it came about inadvertently, and through a desire to cut corners.

My regular roast chicken is a variation of Jamie Oliver’s, with a paste of fresh herbs, lemon & garlic rubbed under the skin. It usually takes me about half an hour of prep. Last Sunday, after a busy and tiring weekend, I had completely run out of energy to cook, but I had bought the chicken and wanted a roast. So I decided it would be a no frills roast this time.

I did little to the chook other than rinse and pat, and remove excess fat around the cavities. No stuffing – I just halved a lemon and placed inside the cavity for moisture and flavour. I tied the legs and put it in a pan drizzled with olive oil, with really large chunks of unpeeled potatoes and pumpkin. Then I scattered over whole unpeeled garlic cloves, and torn fresh rosemary sprigs, drizzled a little olive oil over the lot, and seasoned with salt and pepper.

The chook went into the oven at 160c instead of the regular 180c and we went to the pub to watch the footy. Two and a half hours later we came home to the most incredible roast: the skin of the chicken was crispy like it had been deep fried, and had come away from the meat which had slowly steamed under it. You didn’t need a knife to carve this – the bones just pulled out, and the meat came away with a fork. Oh and the vegies were perfect; the lack of turning did them no harm.

I will never roast a chicken any other way.

I haven’t put a photo up as it really won’t do it justice. Besides I want you to imagine it from my description. I’ve just listed the ingredients below, you can follow the directions above.


  • 1 free range (organic if you can afford it) chicken
  • 3-4 large potatoes, washed and halved
  • 4 large crescents of kent or jap pumpkin with skin on
  • 6-8 whole garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • handful of rosemary
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • Salt & pepper
  • Olive oil

Butterflied Chicken, Barbecued Under a Brick

I’m sneaking this one in as a bit of a last hurrah to summer, as I suspect here in Melbourne we have just a few barbecuing weekends left. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, this would be a perfect spring weekend lunch.

This is how I like to cook a whole chook on the barbecue. First, butterflying it will ensure it cooks more evenly. Then placing it under a brick helps to speed up the cooking process. It takes about 45 minutes to cook this chook, almost half the time it would take you to roast it. If you rub the chicken with garlic, lemon and thyme, by the time it comes off the barbecue you’ll have your whole neighbourhood salivating.

I like to serve this with really simple things – roast potatoes and a tomato salad, a Greek salad, or a green salad and bread. It would also be fantastic with garlic mash and salsa verde drizzled over the whole lot.

  • 1 whole free range and/or organic chook, butterflied (ask them to do this where you buy it if you’re not DIY inclined)
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • zest & juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Wash the chicken, remove any excess fat from the ends, and pat dry. Butterfly the chicken by cutting down the middle on the back side of the chicken with a pair of kitchen scissors.

Spread your butterflied chicken on a board breast side up and press down firmly to flatten it out a bit.

In a bowl, mix the thyme, garlic and lemon zest with some salt and pepper. Rub it all over both sides of the chicken. Place the chicken on a clean, oiled barbecue grill, breast side up. Place a large plate on the chicken, and a brick on top of the plate. Cover, and cook on low to medium for about 20-25 minutes each side. You should only turn the chicken once.

When chicken is cooked (juices should be clear when pricked with a skewer) remove from the barbecue and squeeze over the lemon juice. Set aside for a few minutes, covered.

Serve with salad and roast potatoes or garlic bread.

The Simplicity Project ~ Jenn Pike

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