Sweet Potato Nachos

Not going to lie, sweet potato is on permanent rotation in my kitchen. Fries, mash, accompaniment to salad… you name it. Substitute base for corn chips in your nachos? Heck yes!

This is a great light meal option or something for entertaining (small gatherings only people, keep safe).

Sweet Potato Nachos (serves 2)

What you’re going to need

1 large sweet potato, evenly sliced into circles

150g mince (whatever type suits your fancy)

1 clove garlic

1/2-1 teaspoon cumin

1/2-1 teaspoon paprika

1/2-1 teaspoon oregano

1/2-1 teaspoon onion powder

salt and pepper to season

50g grated cheese

handful cherry tomatoes, chopped

sour cream to serve

Method

  1. On a lined baking tray, lay out the sweet potato, drizzle with oil and lightly salt. Bake in the oven at 180 c for 20 mins or until cooking through
  2. Whilst the potato is baking, prep the mince mixture. In a fry pan, heat up some olive oil on a high heat. Once hot, add the mince to brown off.
  3. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the garlic, herbs and spices (cumin, paprika, oregano, onion powder, salt and pepper). Also add 1/2 cup water. Stir well and leave to simmer.
  4. Once potatoes are cooked through, place in a oven proof tray/dish. Top with the cooked mince and cheese. Place back in the oven until the cheese has melted.
  5. Serve with sour cream and fresh tomatoes. Splurge and get some guac too if you’re feeling it, why not.

Lamb Stew

Winter is well and truly here now folks. To add to that, it’s been pretty rainy and grim generally. One way to warm things up a bit is to tuck into a warm comforting meal such as my lamb stew!

I got inspired to create a stew after visiting Harris Farm supermarket for the first time ever and discovering their discounted meat and veggie shelves. Picked up a “soup mix”* for $2 which has just enough of everything to make a good base for usually a soup but I adapted a bit and made a stew instead. They also had some heavily discounted lamb about to reach its expiry date (passed the smell test when I cooked it, don’t worry).

Alas, I now had majority of the things I needed to make a warm bowl of delish. There is a little bit of prep in the beginning but this is very much a set and forget dish.

Lamb Stew (serves 3-4)

What you’re going to need

500 g diced lamb (shoulder cut)

2 small potatoes/1 large potato, chopped into medium sized pieces

1 large carrot, cut into 1cm thick pieces

1 stalk celery, roughly chopped

1 tin tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup chicken stock

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 large clove garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon oregano powder

cracked salt and pepper to season

Method

  1. In a large fry pan with a lid, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once the pan is hot, add in the lamb and onions to brown off.
  2. Once browned, reduce the heat to low and add all other ingredients.
  3. Stir well and then allow to simmer on a low heat for at least 2 hours.
  4. Serve with your choice of sides e.g. grains (rice, quinoa, couscous), greens (beans, broccolini) or on its own with some fresh bread.

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*Soup mix packs generally contains the following ingredients – potato, onion, celery, carrot, parsnip, suede, parsley. I opted to use the parsnip and suede for other dishes as their flavour can be quite overpowering in a dish if used in incorrect quantities.

Pan Fried Chicken in Tomato Sauce

All about comfort food at the moment. Even better if I can make something that tastes awesome with barely any washing up. I’ve made this with ingredients that most people would probably have at home (understanding at the moment, you could have quite an assortment of things based on availability in the shops). Alright it’s a Monday night, long day at work, enough rambling. Straight into the recipe!

Pan Fried Chicken in Tomato Sauce (2 portions)

What you’re going to need

1 chicken breast, chopped into small even pieces

1 medium potato, chopped into small even pieces

1/3 cup kalamata olives

1 tin crushed tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 clove garlic, sliced into large pieces

1 teaspoon sweet paprika (to taste)

1 teaspoon onion powder (to taste)

1/2 tablespoon dried basil (use fresh basil if you have it)

cracked salt and pepper

olive oil for frying

Method

  1. Place the potatoes in a pot of water and bring to the boil.
  2. Whilst the potatoes are coming to the boil, heat up some olive oil in a large fry pan. Once the pan is hot, add the chicken and lightly brown it. Once it has changed colour, take out of the pan and set aside.
  3. Back to the fry pan, turn down the heat and add the tin tomato, tomato paste, garlic and spices. Stir until well combined.
  4. Add the chicken back in and olives. By this point the potatoes should be boiling or close to it. Once they have reached boiling point, strain them and then add them to the tomato sauce. Let the tomato sauce simmer on the stove for about 10 minutes.
  5. Serve hot. You could have this with rice, couscous or veg.

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Lamb and Feta Meatballs

It’s been a hot minute since I last wrote and the world has changed. Alas, all this time at home is helping bring back my creative flair. I’ve recently moved house and being home-bound for the foreseeable future, I have plenty of opportunities to cook new dishes.

I had the cravings for meatballs and I picked up some lamb mince during my last grocery shop (let’s be honest, grocery shopping at the moment is a bit of a lottery). These are easy as to make, basically just chuck everything in a bowl then cook ’em up!

Lamb and Feta Meatballs (makes 11-12)

What you’re going to need

500g lamb mince

1 egg

1 slice bread, crusts removed and torn into small pieces (less than 1cm squares)

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/3 cup tasty cheese, grated

30g feta

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1-2 tablespoons milk

salt and pepper to season

olive oil for cooking

Method

  1. In a small bowl, place the bread and milk to soak.
  2. Whilst the bread is soaking, add the mince, egg, parsley, grated cheese, garlic, salt and pepper into a bowl.  Once all the milk is absorbed/the bread is soaked, add the bread to the remaining mixture.
  3. Mix the bowl contents with your hands (I find this is the best way to mix everything and break up the mince properly. I usually wear disposable gloves for ease of cleaning my hands afterwards)
  4. Once mixed, take a portion of the mince mixture in your hands to roll into a ball shape. Press your thumb into the top to make a hole and place the feta inside. Cover the hole with mince from the other side of the ball. Repeat step until all the mince mixture and feta are gone. Mixture yields approximately 11-12 meatballs.
  5. In a large fry pan, heat the olive oil to a medium heat. Add the meatballs and cook through (~15 minutes depending on size).
  6. Serve hot with your choice of condiments. I chose to have them with hummus and salad for a light dinner.

Pasta Salad with Greens

It has been way too long since my last post. Life got busy but I am so glad to be back.

I’ve had a bit of a change with my meal prepping routine for work lunches. Have shifted from fully loading my freezer to prepping fresh food for at least 3 meals of the week and then I can delve into my freezer stash.

I’m a big believer that a salad should always have carbs (don’t @ me). These can be any carbs you want, whatever makes you feel happy. I chose pasta this week but mixed it in with plenty of other tasty stuff.

I absolutely loved this salad and I hope you do too.

Pasta Salad with Greens (makes 3 lunches)

What you’re going to need

3 cups pasta

generous handful baby spinach

100 g green beans, chopped into smaller pieces

3 slices prosciutto, chopped into smaller pieces

handful kalamata olives

20 g feta (or as much as you like…you do you)

juice of half a lemon

1 tablespoon olive oil

cracked pepper

Method

  1. Cook pasta as per packet instructions.
  2. Whilst pasta is cooking, cook the prosciutto and beans in a fry pan with a small amount of olive oil. Remove pan from the heat once cooked.
  3. Once pasta is cooked, place the pasta in the pan with the prosciutto and beans. Add in the spinach and olives and stir well.
  4. Add in the lemon, olive oil and cracked pepper to taste. Top with feta.

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Chicken Noodle Soup

‘Tis the season to get sick unfortunately. We’re fast approaching winter, it’s getting chilly in the mornings but at least it’s still warm during the day. I’m a big soup fan but they can be quite time consuming to make in order to get the depth of flavour you want. However when you’re sick, the last thing you want to be doing is cooking up a storm for hours just to get that perfect broth.

Alas, I have a possible solution. A lot of the time, simple is best. And for me when I can barely breathe through my nose and I’m coughing up a lung, all I want is a nice flavoursome broth and some carbs. So think – broth and noodles. To make this a bit more substantial, I added in some chicken. Sounds like it’d take hours right? Wrong! I made this delicious soup in 30 minutes. Here’s how you can too.

Chicken Noodle Soup (serves 1)

What you’re going to need

2 cups chicken stock (I used 1 Chicken Stock Pot )

1 cup water

1 small onion (skin on), roughly chopped

1 clove garlic (skin on), roughly chopped

1 small carrot (skin on), roughly chopped

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1 portion dried noodles (I used Chang’s Long Life Noodles but you can use any instant noodles)

a handful shredded BBQ chicken

olive oil

Method

  1. In a medium non stick saucepan on a medium heat, add the olive oil, onion, garlic and carrot. Fry until onions and garlic begin to soften and brown.
  2. Once mixture in the saucepan is fragrant, add the chicken stock, water and peppercorns and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 25 minutes.
  3. During the last 5 minutes of simmering, cook your noodles as per packet instructions (ideally have noodles that cook in a bowl of boiling water so you can set and forget)
  4. Remove the broth from the stove top and strain your liquid into a heatproof jug.
  5. Add the strained liquid back into the saucepan on a low heat. Add in the noodles and chicken and stir well. Keep on the heat for 2 minutes and then serve immediately.

Chicken Noodle Soup

 

Lamb ragu with fettucine

I am very much a Summer baby but I am enjoying the fact that it has started to cool down so I can start doing my low and slow dishes! Last time I tried doing a ragu it unfortunately didn’t turn out very well so I was put off a while… (a year or so) but I appeared to have redeemed myself with this one because the meat was succulent, pulled straight off the bone and the sauce was rich as.

I find that with a lot of good tomato based sauces you have a few staple ingredients and it’s just about alternating the ratios to switch over the dominant flavour. This time, I really wanted the tomato flavours to sing through and so you will see based on the measurements below that that is the result you will yield if you follow my recipe.

I chose to serve this dish with pasta but you could easily serve it with mash, roasted veggies or even on a burger.

Lamb ragu with fettucine (serves 6-8)

What you’re going to need

Roasting the lamb

2kg lamb shoulder (bone in)

2 cloves garlic, roughly sliced

5 sprigs rosemary

5 sprigs thyme

1 brown onion, roughly chopped

1 cup chicken stock*

1/2 cup red wine

cracked salt and pepper to season

olive oil

The sauce

2 rashers of middle bacon with fat on, sliced into small pieces

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 carrot, finely grated

500ml Passata

1/2 cup red wine

1 cup chicken stock*

handful fresh basil, roughly chopped

cracked salt and pepper to season

olive oil for frying

For serving

500g fettucine, cooked per packet instructions (I used Barilla’s Collezione range for this recipe found here)

*I used chicken stock in this instance as it was all we had at home at the time. If you have a preference to beef, lamb or vegetable stock feel free to switch it out. 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius. In a large baking tray that can hold liquid, place the lamb shoulder inside, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper and the herbs. Place the stock and wine in the tray around the meat. Throw the garlic and onion into the liquid. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes until the outside has browned.
  2. After 45 minutes, remove the tray from the oven and cover with foil (caution, tray will be very hot!). Return the tray into the oven and reduce the temperature to 120-130 degrees Celcius and cook for at least 5 hours. (if you have time to cook it longer, do so!)
  3. Once the meat has cooked in the oven for at least 5 hours, remove the tray from the oven and transfer the meat to a clean chopping board so you can begin shredding. Using two forks, begin to shred the meat (removing any excess fat) until you have collected as much of the tender meat as you can. Set aside.
  4. In a large fry pan or casserole dish, heat up some olive oil on a medium heat. Add in the bacon, garlic and carrot and fry off until fragrant and bacon has changed colour. Add the passata and shredded meat and stir well.
  5. Once the passata and shredded meat are bubbling, reduce the heat and add the wine and stock. Mix until well combined and leave on a low simmer for at least 30 minutes. (The ragu will be quite thick already so this is more about building extra flavour into the meat)
  6. With 5-6 minutes to go, cook the fettucine and add in the fresh basil into the ragu. Serve immediately to ensure best results.

 

 

Spinach, Rocket and Basil Pesto

Went a bit crazy on the weekend and cooked an entire packet of pasta for meal prep. I ended up splitting the mix into six generous sized portions. For quick and easy pasta dishes, I like doing an oil base with cherry tomatoes, basil, feta/bocconcini, olives etc. Unfortunately those items don’t freeze very well alas, pesto made an appearance once again in my kitchen.

Unfortunately due to the seasonality of basil plants, the one in our garden was looking a bit sad. There was enough on there to give me the basil flavour I was after but had to pump up the mix with something else. I had recently bought a mixed bag of baby spinach and rocket and completely forgot about it in the fridge. It had just enough life left that I could still freeze it and use it later. Figured it was a good way to get more veg into my dish so went with that.

I love the versatility of pesto. I have used it in a pasta dish but you can also use it for salad dressings, steak toppers or even on toast.

Spinach, Rocket and Basil Pesto

What you’re going to need

100g baby spinach and rocket mix

generous handful basil leaves

6 walnuts

20g grated cheese

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) – adjust if necessary

salt and pepper to season

Method

  1. In a pulse blender, add all ingredients.
  2. Blend until mix is well combined and at a desired consistency (I like mine a bit chunky)
  3. That’s it! Use immediately or freeze in portion sizes to use later on.

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Quinoa, Sweet Potato and Beetroot Salad

It’s probably too late to be saying “Happy New Year” since it’s past the Australia Day long weekend but will say it anyway. Happy New Year! Hope you are all feeling refreshed and ready to give your best in 2019. As January seems to be a time when people decide to form a list of resolutions that they will keep for two weeks, I figured there was no better time than now to share a wonderful healthy recipe for you all.

I am not a dietitian or a nutritionist but there is definitely a good balance of flavours and food groups here – protein, carbs and the good types of fat.

It is also good enough that you can eat it for lunch multiple days in a row! (where normally I strongly dislike doing this in order to avoid having FOMO when someone has a better lunch than me in the office)

The challenge I’ve had in the past with eating salad for lunch is the lack of feeling full afterwards. Turns out if you put enough grain and carby vegetables in, this issue is alleviated.

Alright, enough blabbing. For those who are feeling the whole “new year, new you” mentality or even the “new year, same you” mentality, this salad is for you.

Quinoa, Sweet Potato and Beetroot Salad (makes 3 lunches or 4 side dishes)

What you’re going to need

1/2 cup dried quinoa

1 medium sweet potato chopped into small, even pieces

3 baby beetroots (sold in a pack at the supermarket), roughly chopped

50g feta cheese, chopped into small cubes

handful walnuts, roughly chopped

6 basil leaves, sliced thinly

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

salt and pepper to season

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius. On a lined baking tray, add the sweet potato, 1 tablespoon of EVOO and salt. Bake until soft and slightly more golden in colour
  2. For the quinoa, I cooked it in the microwave as per the packet instructions. Simply rinse the quinoa in a strainer, then place in a heatproof bowl that fits in the microwave with 1 cup of water (1:2 quinoa water ratio). Cover the bowl with a lid or a plate and cook for approximately 5 minutes. Stir and then pop it back in for 2 minutes. Leave to stand with the lid/plate still on until most of the water has absorbed. Strain remaining water and set aside.
  3. Once the quinoa had cooled down a bit and the sweet potato is ready, place these plus all the other ingredients into a bowl. Mix well until all flavours are combined. Add seasoning where appropriate. Note: if you’re storing this for work lunches, keep the beetroot separated so the colour doesn’t run through the whole salad. 
  4. Serve immediately at a warm temperature or eat cold later on.

quinoa sweet potato salad

 

 

 

Japan Eats

It has been a frantic scramble to get to Christmas this year and I’m glad it’s finally here! Time to wind down, relax and spend time with family and friends. Also means time to finally write up my Japan Eats post from my trip in September!

Japan was my first real visit to Asia (besides a 13 hour lay over in Singapore a few years back). For me, it was an absolute culture shock but I loved every bit of it. The crowds, the lights, the sounds. The big cities were just a complete buzz. Then of course there were the traditional elements that keep Japan true to their ancestry – the temples, the gardens, the years of practiced respect that has been carried on from generation to generation.

During my trip I visited four cities – Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima. All of these places had their own unique style both aesthetically and culturally. This included an array of different foods to try – both weird and wonderful.

Unfortunately as most places had their signage in Japanese, I was unable to capture names of most places I ate at. However, I will try my best to give a ballpark location (but rest assured, pretty much every place you go in Japan you will have a great feed). Instead of categorising by restaurant, I will categorise by food type.

Ramen

I feel like even if you visited Japan and hated noodles, you would leave loving them because ramen in Japan is as as far as the eye can see. The set up of a ramen is pretty standard but depending on what area you go and what place you choose, the toppings will vary. I’m definitely a pork fan, softish noodles, loads of toppings and that soft yolked egg. However the best part of a ramen and ultimately the deal breaker of the dish is the broth. Also known colloquially (by me) as “the elixir of life”. A good broth is a chef’s staple so I can appreciate when one is made well and is a flavour bomb. My preferred broth is a pork bone or salt based broth but you can also have miso or soy as well.

Gyoza (dumplings)

I must admit I ordered a plate of gyoza with almost every meal I had in Japan. No regrets. Crispy outside and soft flavoursome filling on the inside, how could you resist. They are cheap as too with most places serving a plate of 6-8 for less than $6. What I did want to call out was a gyoza place in Kyoto which i LOVED. There was a queue out the door of this place every night, they had awesome music playing and really chilled out staff. Felt a bit like a backpackers bar but with dumplings. They also had Asahi beer on tap. Win! The name of this place is “Gyoza Chaochao”. The signage is majority Japanese but I believe they had a romanised Japanese sign as well.

Okonomiyaki (omelette pancake)

Okonomiyaki is a layered pancake style dish filled with meat, cabbage, sprouts and an assortment of other bits and pieces of delish and served like an omelette. You can find them all around Japan but they are most prominent in Hiroshima. Just a heads up, they are quite big so would share one between two if you can. They are made fresh to order and it’s quite fascinating to watch them being made because you realise just how much cabbage shrinks when you cook it!

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Takoyaki (octopus filled balls)

Takoyaki is a dough ball filled with octopus that is cooked in a purpose built pan and is absolutely everywhere in Osaka! For those heading to Osaka and wanting a foodie slice of heaven, head to Dotonburi Arcade which is the main strip of quirky street food, music and where you will find pretty much all the tourists. Pretty much anywhere along this strip is a safe bet so make sure you’re hungry when you visit so you can try as many things as possible.

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Tonkatsu

Tonkatsu is the Japanese equivalent of fried crumbed meat. Most times when you come across tonkatsu, it’s pork meat. It is usually served with rice. It’s a good safe meal if you’re getting sick of noodles and want something filling for lunch or dinner. I took a leap of faith with the place I visited by heading up some stairs to a restaurant with a closed door where you couldn’t see in. It ended up being delicious, cheap and the staff were very friendly.

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Tempura

It’s 2018 and let’s just say you can pretty much tempura anything. My favourite tempura dish was the eggplant with miso sauce. Absolutely delicious. There isn’t really much else to say about tempura, it’s relatively easy to make, it tastes good and it’s a real satisfying comfort food.

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Dessert

What would a foodie adventure be without dessert? Pretty much my two main sources of sugar in Japan were matcha ice creams and cream filled crepes. What’s not to love! Most places will sell matcha ice cream and a fair few also sell the matcha swirled with vanilla (if you’d rather a subtle matcha hit, i’d suggest this option). For the crepes, they have about 50 options which are all variations of a few staple ingredients – cream, chocolate, bananas, strawberries and other summery fruit. Take a sweet trip down Takeshita Dori when you’re in Tokyo.

Other food items to mention

As I said earlier in the piece, Japan was filled with weird and wonderful food options. I’m sure you’ve noticed that sushi is missing from the above list. That’s not to say it’s not worth eating in Japan but I didn’t eat a lot of it unfortunately so can’t provide any recommendations. Instead, I opted for sashimi and ordered from a menu instead of taking from the sushi train.

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And that just about sums up my foodie experience in Japan. That’s not to say that there isn’t more to try, there most certainly is. I hope this inspires you to start planning your trip to Japan because it is 100% worth it in every way, shape or form.