Category Archives: Vegetarian

Zucchini, Mint and Yoghurt Fritters

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It’s been a long summer and a warm autumn in Melbourne and zucchinis are in abundance right now. This is a really lovely weekend breakfast that takes very little effort for maximum reward.

  • 1 medium sized zucchini, grated or processed in food processor
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 cup plain yoghurt (please, use full fat)
  • 1 egg
  • About 1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint
  • About 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil for shallow frying

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until combined.

Heat the olive oil in a frypan until hot, drop in large spoonfuls of the batter and spread a little. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side. You might need to lower the temperature a little so the oil doesn’t burn. Drain on paper towels and serve with your favourite breakfast accompaniments.

Makes 6-8 fritters, depending on the size you make them. This will be enough for 3-4 people. I freeze any leftover fritters for an after school snack.

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Savoury Polenta Cake

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This is a great recipe for Christmas entertaining. It’s as easy to make as a batch of muffins, and the batter can be baked in a cake tin and cut into squares for serving, or as little mini muffins. This recipe comes from my lovely friend Stephanie who first made it for me. It’s really versatile… you can use the basic batter (ie the ingredients below up to and including the eggs) and create any type of savoury cake you like by changing the ingredients that come after it.

  • 1.5 cups polenta
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup plain yoghurt
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for the top
  • 2 eggs
  • Two tablespoons chopped fresh mixed herbs such as chives, parsley, basil and dill (use a single herb or a mixture of at least two).
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons black pitted olives, sliced
  • 1 cup mixed small diced vegetables, such as zucchini, capsicum, cherry tomatoes, corn kernels (I like to use one red and one green vegetable to get some nice colours going)

Preheat the oven to 180c.

Grease and flour a square medium size cake or brownie pan, or a 24 capacity mini muffin tin (if using the muffin tin I just grease with a little olive oil). Don’t worry too much about the size of the cake tin, as long as it’s not very large or small it will be fine.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, polenta and baking powder. Add the vegetables, olives, shallots and herbs and combine. In another bowl mix the eggs, milk, yoghurt, oil and cheese and beat with a fork until combined. Add to the other ingredients and mix gently to combine. You should have a batter of muffin-type consistency but if it’s dry, add a little extra milk. Don’t overmix.

Pour into the cake tin or muffin tin and sprinkle some extra parmesan cheese on the top.

Bake for 40-45 minutes for a full cake or 15-20 minutes for mini muffins. Test by inserting a spaghetti stick or skewer into the middle.

Allow to cool a little then turn out. If making the cake, cut into squares and top with anything that takes your fancy – I like a little basil leaf and halved cherry tomatoes. You could wrap each mini muffin in a sliver of prosciutto or just scatter with some chopped herbs.

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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, sauté 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.

Cavalo Nero Omelette with Feta and Dill

Cavalo nero is in season, it’s ludicrously good for you, and it’s versatile and delicious. What’s not to like? I picked up a bunch at the market yesterday and I woke up craving it this morning.

This is a breakfast that will make you feel good all day.

If you can’t get cavalo nero, use silverbeet instead.

Serves 1

  • 2 eggs
  • 3-4 cavalo nero leaves
  • 1 small shallot (spring onion), finely sliced
  • About a teaspoon of chopped fresh dill
  • A chunk of feta – about a quarter of a cup
  • 1/4 cup water

Step 1.

Cook the cavalo nero. Wash the leaves, place in a saucepan with about an inch of water in the bottom, put a lid on, and cook over a medium for about 10 minutes. The leaves will steam soft.

Step 2.

While the leaves are steaming, in a bowl, beat the eggs, dill, shallots, feta and water to combine. Season with pepper, you shouldn’t need salt as the feta will take care of that.

Step 3.

Remove the leaves from the pot and drain. Chop and add to the egg mixture.

Step 4.

Heat some oil in a frying pan with a lid. Pour the mixture in, turn heat down to low, place a lid on the top and let it cook for about 5-7 minutes, checking to make sure it’s not burning and that it’s cooking through. You can turn it if you like, but I don’t like to risk breaking it, so I put the pan under the grill for a few minutes at the end.

I like to serve this with something fresh and contrasting, like a tomato, basil and balsamic salad.

 

White Soup

I complain about my small kitchen all the time, but the reality is it forces me to be creative and practical in many ways. For example, I need to constantly make room in my cupboards for new ingredients.

I don’t remember why I had a large jar of white beans, but I needed the jar so the beans had to go. I thought they would make a lovely white winter vegetable soup… and they did. Parsnip and cauliflower go so beautifully with beans, I think, and the garlic, cheese and herbs added all the right flavour dimensions.

You need to plan ahead if you want to make this as the beans have to soak overnight. Also, if you can wait, this soup will be even better after a day in the fridge, as the flavours develop and intensify.

Serves 4

  • 2.5 cups dried white beans, such as lima beans
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled, woody centre removed, and diced
  • 3 cups cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • olive oil
  • 3-4 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1.2 litres water
  • vegetable stock cube
  • salt & pepper

Put the beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water. The next day, rub them to slip the skins off. Don’t worry if you don’t get them all, they’ll come off when cooking. Drain and set aside.

Saute the onion in olive oil until soft. Add the garlic and parsnip, and sauté for a few minutes to soften the parsnip a little. Add the water, stock cube, thyme, bay leaves, beans, cauliflower and some salt and pepper.

Bring to the boil, reduce to a low simmer and skim any foam off the top that has accumulated. Simmer for 1.5 hours. Check a few times to see if it needs more water.

Remove the bay leaves and puree the soup in a blender or with a bamix stick. Season to taste.

Serve with some extra grated cheese, a swirl of cream, or some prosciutto, crisped up in the microwave and crumbled over the top. And I know it’s a daggy 80’s café thing to do, but I like mine with snipped chives.

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.

Gnocchi Topped Mushroom and Red Wine “Pies”

Food like this is why I love winter. These little individual “pies” are rich, nourishing and satisfying. They’re also quick to make if you buy the gnocchi, although if you want something a little more special for a dinner party, you could make your own.

To not serve this with a rocket and parmesan salad and a dirty big glass of shiraz would be a crying shame.

Serves 4

  • 1 x 375 g packet gnocchi – buy the best quality you can find
  • 500 g fresh mixed mushrooms eg swiss browns, portobello
  • 10 g dried porcini mushrooms (or any dried mushrooms if you can’t find porcinis)
  • 3 french shallots, peeled and sliced (the little brown onions, not the long green shallots)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1 garlic clove, finely diced
  • 50 g butter
  • 350 ml red wine
  • 100 ml water
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • salt & pepper
  • extra butter
  • nutmeg
  • parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 200 c.

Wipe the mushrooms with a damp clean cloth – don’t wash them in water because they will absorb water and not cook well. Chop or break the mushrooms up into small pieces and set aside.

Put the porcini mushrooms in a small heatproof dish in the oven, and let them cook for 10 minutes. Remove and pound in the pestle and mortar until powdered. (If you are pressed for time or can’t get dried mushrooms, you could just use some mushroom stock powder or cube and omit this step.)

Heat some olive oil in a heavy based pan or casserole dish and saute the shallots until soft. Add the rosemary, garlic, butter, and mushrooms and cook, stirring around a little, until the mushrooms are soft and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Pour over the red wine and let simmer just a little, then add the water and tomato paste. Sprinkle over 3 teaspoons of the porcini powder, mix through and let simmer gently for about 10 minutes, adding more water if necessary. You should have a thick red/brown sauce.

Meanwhile bring a pot of water to the boil, add a little salt, and cook the gnocchi for a few minutes, until they rise to the top. Remove and toss in a bowl with a little butter and some grated nutmeg.

Spoon the mushroom mixture into individual ramekins, leaving just a little room at the top. Spread the gnocchi over the top, sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Place the ramekins on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes.

If you find this too mushroomy, you could use fewer mushrooms and add some other vegetables. Parsnip would be wonderful. Add when sauteeing the onions.

 

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