Kid free, Middle Eastern feast

Yes, it was another kid free weekend….well almost kid free, we still had bubs home but he eats baby food so we could eat whatever we wanted….and boy did we PIG OUT!! I had to train extra hard at the gym this morning to work off all that chocolate and carbs!

On such weekends when the big guys are at their father’s, we often eat Asian inspired foods but this weekend I wanted something a little different. Having just had a visit from my MIL who now lives in Tunisia, I was all inspired to use some Middle Eastern flavours, and I tell you, I’ll be doing that again and again now that winter is nearly here! Funny isn’t it? The Middle East is usually thought of as being a warm, no, hot part of the world (although Tunisia does get snow in winter) but I associate Middle Eastern flavours with cooler weather. I wonder why that is. Could it be because in our western society we eat stews that are rich and strong in flavour in the colder months and when we think Moroccan we tend to think Tagine? Is it because I find the heat of the spices nice and warming on the inside, so perfect for a chilly night? Or perhaps it’s the wonderful warm colours that remind me of raging open fire. Whatever the reason, Saturday nights dinner was absolutely wonderful and dukkah (a Middle Eastern nut and spice mix) will now be a staple in my pantry.

We had quail but you really could use just about any meat with this, even fish. I thought it would be fantastic with salmon and my other half thinks whole snapper is the go…slice into the flesh and rub the spice mix in then fill the cavity with some more of the mix. Mmmm, I’m salivating as I type! But let’s not get all hung up on the meat, the vegie salad was just as amazing. In fact, I bought more ingredients to cook up a batch for my lunches this week. I had thought to do some cous cous to stir through the vegies but after seeing how much was there, decided we didn’t need it (I find it very hard to cater for just 2 people these days, there’s always enough food to sink a battle ship).

Rub for the meat

4 tbsp of dukkah

2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil (the stuff I’m using at the moment is from my mother in law’s farm in Tunisia, ground in the traditional way using a donkey and a big stone…oh it’s sooooooooooo gooooood)

good pinch of saffron

zest of 1/2 a lemon

juice of half an orange (use lemon juice if doing lamb)

1 tsp of chilli flakes

1 tsp of ground coriander

1/4 tsp of cumin

1 clove of garlic

Mix all ingredients together and marinate meat for at least half an hour. When you cook the meat, make sure it is well covered with the spice paste.

Middle Eastern vegie salad

1 medium sweet  potato cut into 1cm cubes

1 medium eggplant cut into 1 cm cubes

1 small red capsicum cut into 1 cm pieces

1 large red onion cut into quarters then quarters again.

4 cloves of garlic, bashed with the skin off

1 tsp of cumin

2 tsp of ground coriander

2 tsp of mild paprika

1/2 tsp of dried oregano

2 tsp of sesame seeds

1/2 tsp of ground ginger

1/4 tsp of cinnamon

1/2 tsp of salt

1/2 a pomegranate, jewels removed

3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

juice of half a lemon

 

Preheat oven to 180° C. Place all the vegies in a bowl then mix the herbs and spices and 2 tablespoons of the oil through until the vegies are well coated. Spread onto a baking tray, in 1 layer, and bake for about 15 minutes or until just tender. Allow to cool then stir through the pomegranate jewels and dress with the lemon juice and remaining tablespoon of oil. I guess you could serve it hot too but it was sooooo yummy cool.

 

Mosaic pie

Since my mock spinach quiche was such a hit last week and I had some left over pastry  in the freezer, I decided to make another quiche. After the recent discovery that peeled zucchinis are only moderate in salycilates, and my middle son seems ok with most moderate fruits and vegies, I thought I would make a zucchini quiche for something different. I popped into the supermarket to grab a couple of things, zucchinis included, only to discover that due to a “warehouse accident” zucchinis were unavailable. Oh imagine my dismay!! I had to come up with something quick smart. I whipped around the vegie section with my brain in overdrive and spotted some sweet potatoes. I grabbed one and then thought about what to put with it. I drew a blank. I thought a little harder and all I could come up with was swede. *Yawn* boring! Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers. I left the supermarket feeling somewhat defeated and rather annoyed, but at least we were going to have something for dinner, even if it was a little bland, uninspired and boring! Well, let me tell you a thing or two about this “bland, uninspired, boring” quiche….it was simply delicious! I got rave reviews from everyone and I’m here to tell you that real men DO eat quiche….my other half LOVED it and said it was one of the best quiches he had ever had. He did, however, admit that he was dreading eating it because it sounded so….shall we say “Yuk” but he was amazed. I suggested it would have been really yum with a little fresh rosemary, to which he replied, “nope, it was perfect just as it was”. What a triumph!

Ok, so the name you ask. When I cut into the quiche, it looked so pretty, kind of like a stained glass, mosaic window. Even the kids thought so. After a little dinner table deliberation, we decided that it had to be called a mosaic pie….makes it sound so much more appetising that “sweet potato and swede quiche”.

Pastry dough

The dough looking like thick batter

This recipe makes enough pastry for 2 pies

1 quantity of savoury flour blend

1 tsp of finely ground salt

350 g of cold nuttelex or butter

180 ml of iced soda water

In an electric mixer, using the dough kneading attachments, mix the flour, salt and non dairy spread or butter until well combined and resembling very rough bread crumbs. Add the soda water and mix until smooth. If using butter, remove the dough from the bowl and form into a ball, wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for half an hour. If using non dairy spread, leave the “batter” in the bowl, cover with cling film and refrigerate for no less than 1 hour. If you’re in a hurry, you could pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes. Remove from the fridge and, working quickly, turn out onto a floured board and form into a ball then cut it in half. Place on some baking paper (for easier handling) and roll out to about 2 to 3 mm thick. Pick up the dough using the baking paper and turn onto a greased  pie or flan dish. Peel the paper off carefully then gently press the dough into the edges. If using non dairy spread, you’ll find that the dough is very fragile but also very pliable so it is easy to fix any holes that may form by pressing a little extra dough over it. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes before adding the filling. Any left over pastry freezes well.

Filling

1 medium sweet potato cut into cubes a little smaller than 1 cm

1 large swede cut the same as the sweet potato

2 large shallots, diced

salt

garlic powder

oil

8 eggs

125 g of ricotta

Preheat the oven to about 200° C. Line a baking tray with some baking paper and spread the swede and sweet potato in 1 layer on the tray. Sprinkle with enough oil to coat and then season with a little salt and garlic powder. Bake in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, until just tender. In a large fry pan, heat a little extra oil over high heat and sautee the shallots until just tender. Mix the swede and sweet potato with the shallot and allow to cool slightly. In a bowl, whisk the eggs with a little salt until well combined. Crumble the ricotta into the bowl and whisk a little more. Carefully spoon the vegies into the pastry shell then pour over the egg mix. Bake at 180° C for an hour or until the quiche is set in the centre.

Pear and vanilla sago

So many people think of sago pudding and go “YUK!”. Clearly they haven’t eaten mine before. My kids just adore it, even bubs. They are amazed at the little clear balls that have little white dots in them and I reckon they could eat the stuff every day. Bubs had some for lunch today and he couldn’t get it into him quick enough. He was smacking his lips and demanding I feed him quicker…and then the bowl ran dry. The look on his face was priceless. I guess that means I’ll have to cook it for him more often but that’s ok because I really enjoy it too….a big call from someone who hates pear!

2 1/2 cups of pear juice

1 tsp of vanilla (I use the vanilla paste)

3/4 cup of sago (tapioca)

tiny pinch of salt

good pinch of citric acid (a little less than 1/4 teaspoon)

Bring the juice and vanilla to the boil in a saucepan then stir in the sago, salt and citric acid. Return to the boil then reduce heat and simmer, stirring regularly to stop sticking, for about 30 minutes.As it cools, it thickens and sets like jelly. To make it more interesting, you could pour it into a mould and allow it to cool fully and serve as a jelly. Ooh, now there’s an idea for the kids’ birthday parties that are fast approaching!

 

Impostor ANZAC biscuits

Since tomorrow is ANZAC day, it’s cold and wet outside and my plans for today fell through, I decided to make some ANZAC biscuits that my kids can eat. I have made these a few times and each time I have tried a different cereal but I think this is the best batch so far. Admittedly they do taste a little different to the traditional Aussie favourite but these are a pretty good alternative for those who can’t have gluten, dairy or coconut.

I always find that my biscuits don’t spread, but that’s ok because I like the crunchy outside and chewy centre. I guess it makes them even less traditional but who cares if they taste good, right?

1 cup of quinoa flakes

1 cup of gluten free plain flour

3/4 cup of rice puffs

1/2 cup of brown sugar (you could use white if you prefer, I just love the rich flavour brown sugar gives)

2 tbsps of golden syrup

125 g of Nuttelex

1 tbsp of boiling water

1/2 tsp of bicarb soda

Preheat oven to 150 ° C. Place all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix well. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and golden syrup together, over low heat. Mix the water and bicarb together and quickly stir into the Nuttelex and golden syrup then add to the dry ingredients and mix well. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper then place tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto the trays and bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly on the trays before removing. You may find that the mixture is a little crumbly so just press into shape as you place spoonfuls on the trays.

My afternoon tea

Quinotto

It’s kind of like risotto but with quinoa. Well, it’s really not totally like a risotto either, perhaps more like a cheats risotto. I’m a slight puritan when it comes to a true risotto….it must be cooked slowly, stirred almost constantly (I call this loving the risotto) and has loads of dairy in it. Well, that’s not going to happen in this house….with 3 little boys demanding my attention and a house full of people with dairy intolerance, a true risotto is a thing of the past now so if I am going to make anything risottoesque, it must be a cheats version without dairy. So about the quinotto, chicken with quinoa sounds a little boring, if not unappetising, so after tasting this dish I decided it really did deserve its own special name.

This is now going to be yet another regular in this house and of course it will be altered many times depending on what ingredients I have in the house at the time. You could easily do the same, just add whatever vegies you like, cooking them accordingly.

 

1 kg of chicken mince (I always use a mix of half breast and half thigh so it’s not too fatty or dry)

1 large shallot roughly diced

1 leek sliced

3 medium carrots diced

2 buk choys roughly chopped

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 1/2 cups of quinoa

1 litre of chicken stock

1 1/2 tsps of salt

2 tbsp of water

1 tbsp of potato starch

oil for sauteeing

In a large saucepan, heat a little oil over high heat then add the shallot, leek, carrot and 2 cloves of garlic. Sautee for about 5 minutes then add the chicken and last clove of garlic (you could add all the garlic at the beginning but I like the extra flavour the chicken gets when I add some garlic with it). Cook until browned then add the quinoa, the stalks of the buk choy, stock and salt. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes )or until the quinoa is tender), adding the buk choy leaves for about the last 5 minutes. Stir the potato starch into the water then add to the quinotto, stirring continuously to thicken (this gives it a little “creaminess”).

 

 

Rice paper rolls, the perfect family meal!

Every time we have these, I wonder why we don’t have them more often. They are so easy and so delicious and the kids get a real kick out of rolling their own. Not to mention that they are perfect for adapting to different tastes and dietary requirements. In this house, we all have different intolerances. The one common one is dairy, we all have issues with that, but as far as salycilates and amines go, there is only one who is highly sensitive and when I cook the family meal everyday, I have to cater for him, so we all eat “his” food. I’m forever trying to think of ways to adapt meals for the rest of us but it often means too much work so I don’t bother, plus the food I cook is really very tasty, if I do say so myself. I do love my Asian flavours though, a bit of chilli, coriander, sesame oil, etc, etc so I like to be able to add these flavours to my meals when I can and I really miss that flavour punch and crave it from time to time, that’s why this would have to be the perfect family meal.

All my boys are real carnivores, they all love steak. Blurgh, I hate the stuff. I do eat a little bit of lamb every now and then and I love chicken. I found these fantastic “sizzle steaks” at Woolworths, very thinly sliced beef that take just 20 seconds to cook and are so versatile. We often use them as cold cuts but I have also realised that they are great on pizzas and now in rice paper rolls. Of course I wasn’t going to taint my meal with these so I cooked myself some stir fried chicken slices. The real beauty of these is that you’re only limited by your imagination. Here’s what I did……..

12 sizzle steaks, cooked for 10 seconds each side

1/2 kg of stir fried chicken slices

1 cos lettuce, shredded

1 Lebanese cucumber, peeled and cut into sticks

1 avocado, sliced

2 large shallots thinly sliced

1 bunch of asparagus, cut in half lengthways and lightly blanched

1/2 bunch of coriander

2 cups of bean sprouts

1 quantity saffron dipping sauce (basic dressing with about 4 saffron threads added)

a few tbsps of Vietnamese dipping sauce (from a bottle)

1 packet of rice paper (available in the Asian aisle of the supermarket or any Asian grocer)

I arrange the salad stuff on a platter and the meats on separate plates.

Salad platter

Stir fried chicken slices

Sizzle steaks

The full spread

I also place a large bowl of warm water on the table, with a tea towel for dipping the dry rice paper into. To assemble, place whatever fillings you desire towards one edge of the wet rice paper (don’t over saturate the rice paper as it becomes very difficult to handle, especially for the kids) then roll up. You can also spoon a small amount of dipping sauce onto the filling before rolling up or you can just dip after.

Roll up like this

Voila, the finished product!

Cereal snacks that need a catchy name….now “Nibbly no-nuts”

Yes I know, it sounds very unappetising but they taste great and have been a very popular snack in this house, even visitors get stuck in. I am appealing to you all to try and come up with a name for my creation. I’d love to be able to offer some amazing prize for the “winning entry” but I’m afraid that all I can offer is a little satisfaction and pride if I choose the name you come up with. But don’t let this put you off, I really need a little help with this one, please 🙂 Ok, stop there, I have the name.  After a few days of brain bending, I asked my Mil and our English guest to help me come up with something (the perfect people to help considering they’ve tried this “delicacy”). We threw around some ideas and eventually decided on “Nibbly No-nuts”. It made us giggle so it stuck. We even came up with a marketing slogan, “Nibbly No-nuts, the perfect no nut nibbles”.

A few years ago I made “Nuts and Bolts” which was basically “Nutrigrain” breakfast cereal seasoned with a few spices and some oil and roasted. Obviously this is where I drew inspiration from for these Failsafe versions. I have made this a few times now and used different cereal each time but they have all been “Os”, like “quinoa Os” or “millet rings” but I think they would work with a number of different types of breakfast cereal, even rice puffs. In fact, you could make little clusters with the puffs by filling little patty pans….I might try that myself!

Sweet no-nuts

2 1/2 cups of breakfast cereal

1/3 cup of pear juice

1 tsp of vanilla paste (you could use fresh vanilla or vanilla essence)

1 tbsp of maple syrup

Preheat oven to 120° C. Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix until the cereal is well coated then spread evenly in 1 layer on a baking tray. Bake for about 20 minutes or until browned. Allow to cool before storing in an airtight container.

Sweet and sour no-nuts

These can easily be made into savoury snacks by omitting the sweet ingredients.

2 1/2 cups of cereal

1 tsp of citric acid

2 tbsps of pear juice

1 tbsp of oil

1 tsp of salt

1 clove of crushed garlic

1 tbsp of maple syrup

Preheat oven to 120° C. Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix until the cereal is well coated then spread evenly in 1 layer on a baking tray. Bake for about 20 minutes or until browned. Allow to cool before storing in an airtight container.