Monthly Archives: April 2012

ANZAC day family dinner

Today being ANZAC day was a great opportunity to spend some time with the family. After a busy, but fantastic morning singing at two services (complete with 180 Australian sailors- what a rendition of ‘Advance Australia Fair’!), I was rewarded with brunch cooked by Dad. I had called up Mum the day before and told her I would like to make them dinner on the Wednesday and I told her that I would like to make pasta from scratch.

Mum said “Oooo, that’s a big undertaking, Claire, are you sure?” to which I replied yahuh…. She may have been kinda right because we didn’t eat until about 9.30pm, BUT it was so much fun making the pasta and the satisfaction of knowing that I had made the pasta (yay meeeeeee) was very much worth it.

My flatmate made this cannelloni recipe last week and it was so good I just had to make it again. I used Jamie Oliver recipes for both the pasta and cannelloni, because we love Jamie very much and because he makes making pasta look easy as seen here. I thought “piece of cake!” I shall take photos of the process while I experience for myself this delightful easy process….


First bit= incredible amounts of fun!

Look at that! You get to make a mess (especially because I was practicing cracking eggs with one hand, a technique I have yet to master… explode-o eggs) and you get to play with your food eee! So, you take your eggs and flour and mix them together into a dough, then you knead the dough for a few minutes until it’s smooth and lovely, then stick it in the fridge for a bit et voilà!

There, you have your pasta ready to go into the machine. Then, the calm and lovely attitude goes out the window. Then you develop a really bad relationship with pasta machine. You are both behaving unreasonably and it’s not pretty. Basically, the pasta machine we have does not attach to the bench well and it slips around while you are trying your darndest to roll out pasta which requires THREE hands anyway, yup three, not two. This lead to difficulties, because I, like most humans, have but two hands.

Pretty much you need one hand to feed the dough in, one hand to turn the handle and one to catch the pasta as it comes out so that it doesn’t fold in on itself and stick to itself. I would sorta get the hang of it and then the pasta would stick to itself, or the handle would fall out of the machine onto my ready, waiting foot or I would run out of bench space for the long, elastic lengths of pasta. Not a happy bunny and I wished for the thousandth, hungry time that I had just bought some pre-made lasagne sheets. Look what happened though.

Wee cannelloni, just waiting to be joined with sauces and baked! What really helped with the pasta making was dusting it after each pass through the machine with semolina flour and lots of it. Would have been handy if i had dusted the bench as well before laying down my fat, filled cannelloni, made getting them off the bench unpleasant and bugger my new favourite word.

After all this unpleasantness, I was able to swan into the living room circa. 9pm and say “Dinner is in the oven!”.

Boy, was the wait worth it. There is cheese everywhere, which should be recommendation enough for any dish, but here the combination with the rich, deep tomato sauce and the delicate marjoram that went in with the spinach was to die for. If you don’t make the pasta, this is most definitely a recipe worth trying. There are lots of parts to it, but all simple enough. Dear Jamie, you have once again outdone yourself.

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni Adapted from this recipe from Jamie’s Dinners

4-ish Tbsp olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

a handful of marjoram, chopped

about 8 bunches of spinach, washed

1/2-1 tsp grated nutmeg

salt and pepper

400g ricotta

2 handfuls of parmesan

2 400g cans of chopped tomatoes

splodge of red wine

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 heaped tsp dried oregano

1 tsp sugar

200g mozarella

12 squares of fresh pasta about the size of a postcard

250g tub of crème fraîche

3-5 anchovy fillets, finely chopped

Take a large roasting tin, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and put on a moderate heat. Add one of the sliced garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, nutmeg and the marjoram. Then add the spinach and cook, stirring for about 5 minutes until the spinach is wilted, but still green and vibrant. Place the cooked spinach in a bowl with all the contents of the pan, including juices and allow to cool.

Place the pan back on the heat and add another tablespoon of olive oil if you need it. Add the other sliced garlic clove and cook over a moderate heat until the garlic is soft. Then add the cans of tomatoes, half of one of those cans filled up with water, red wine, tomato paste, oregano, salt and sugar. Cook for 10-15 minutes until the sauce is reduced, but still sloppy. Remove from the heat. Preheat your oven at this point to 180°C.

Take your cooled spinach and roughly chop it, then return to the bowl with ricotta and parmesan, mix together. Take your pasta squares and dollop a couple of tablespoons of the spinach and ricotta mix into the middle and nudge it into a niceish, fat line. Brush one of the edges with water and roll up towards that edge to seal. Once you have done this with all 12, place them in the pan with the tomato sauce, mix up the crème fraîche, anchovies and other handful of parmesan with a wee bit of water to make a pouring consistency and pour over the top. Sprinkle the cannelloni liberally with mozarella, parmesan and a good drizzle of olive oil. Bake for 20-30mins or until bubbling and starting to brown.

Oooo, also, if you haven’t already, you should definitely go and see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I nearly skipped out of the movie theatre afterwards.

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Banana Bread

Also, in other news, my search for the best ever banana bread is officially over. This recipe in the best ever series on A Cup of Jo from Joy the Baker officially takes the cake (‘scuse the pun). For goodness sake, click the link and make it this week, I mean, it has bourbon and chocolate chips, do you need any other reason?

Oh yead, and y’all can now subscribe to receive blog posts by email if you fill in the box at the bottom of the page- thanks!

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Brown rice pilaf with olives, spinach and lemon

This is what I made for dinner tonight from this wonderful blog Lottie+Doof. I changed it a bit to use leeks, because I really, really love leeks (sweet and oniony and fantastic) and I upped the veggie content with some beautiful spinach. It’s warm, it’s healthy as and it’s downright delicious. Essentially this dish is kind of like risotto without all the stirring and cheese. The olives give a really moreish saltiness and the brown rice gives a wonderful nuttiness. Good comfort food and super super easy.

I love leeks!

Brown Rice Pilaf with olives, spinach and lemon Adapted from this recipe from

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

1 leek, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 1/2 Cups chicken or vegetable stock

3 1/2 Cups water

1 1/2 Cups brown rice

1 bay leaf

1 heaped tsp dried thyme (or a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme)

1 tsp salt

a couple of bunches of spinach, chopped

3/4 green olives, pitted and chopped

zest and juice of one lemon

basil and shaved parmesan to garnish

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large pan and add leek, garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook over a moderate heat, stirring occasionally until the leeks are soft about 6-8 minutes. Add the rice, stock, water, thyme, bay leaf and bring to the boil for 1 minute, then remove from the heat, cover and leave for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, stir in 1 tsp salt, return to the heat and simmer, stirring from time to time for about another 30 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed. In the last 5 minutes of cooking stir in the spinach. When cooking is complete, remove from the heat and stir in the olives, lemon zest and juice. To serve, ladle into bowls and top with basil and shaved parmesan.




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Tomato Soup

How great are tomatoes? If you would like to leave an answer in the form of an ode to tomatoes, please do. I love tomatoes in all forms, all shapes, colours and sizes and I really think that I would die on my student budget without canned tomatoes. This meant that I was very excited when I saw a recipe for the best ever tomato soup as part of A Cup of Jo’s basic food series. I’m not gonna lie, I have rather fond memories of Tomato Cup-a-Soup, but I thought that it was high time I tried the real deal.

I like to organise things in pretty rows, yes I do! Anywho, this recipe looked super and Mum had quite a few tomatoes left from the garden that needed using up, so away I went. If anyone thinks that using beautiful veggies in soups is a waste, come at me bro! I think that it is a lovely way to showcase vegetables and this is no exception.Rich and full of flavour, brimming with tomatoeyness! Just like eating a whole lot of tomatoes (something, coincidentally, that I quite like to do, with a sprinkling of sea salt). If you have tomatoes around, do make this soup, it’s the just the trick for these colder nights.


Best Ever Tomato Soup Adapted slightly from this recipe on A Cup of Jo


Serves 4

2 pounds/900g of fresh tomatoes

4 garlic cloves (skins on)

2 onions cut in half

2 Tbs olive oil

2 tsp dried basil

1 Tbs balsamic vinegar

1/4 Cup of red wine

2 tsp honey

3 Cups water

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Slice the tomatoes in half and place them on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Drizzle with 1 Tbs olive oil

Place halved onions and garlic cloves (with skins on) on another oven tray lined with baking paper. Drizzle with the other half of the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Place both trays of vegetables in the oven and roast until tender, about 20-30 minutes.

Remove trays from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Place tomatoes and onions in a blender (or in a saucepan if you use a stick blender like I do), squeeze out the garlic from its skin and add that too with the dried basil, water, honey, red wine and balsamic. Blend to your desired consistency. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Warm soup in a saucepan over medium heat, ladle into bowls and serve with cheese on toast.




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Carrot Cake Pancakes

So, pancakes are awesome and so is carrot cake. This is a truth-fact. Deb of Smitten Kitchen fame has posted a recipe from the Joy The Baker Cookbook (most definitely on my wishlist) which magically combines the two. My family were skeptical at first, well, very skeptical but first bites changed everything. And the cream cheese ‘frosting’? Amazeballs. You must make these this weekend and revel in the fact that these are semi-healthy (so much carrot!) dessert breakfasts- nom nom nom! Not writing out the recipe, but here is the link.

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Sunday Dinner For One

A few weekends ago I was housesitting for Mum and Dad. Mum said that she would leave me something nice to cook up for my dinner and pay me in gingercrunch, now that’s a good deal! When I got to their house there was a lovely piece of salmon waiting in the fridge for me. I am a huge fan of salmon- the beautiful colour, the richness, packed full of omega-3 goodness- brillo! In fact I think someone needs to write an ode to salmon.

Usually I just fry the salmon until just cooked (hopefully!) but I wanted to try something different this time and something that would perfume the salmon with lots of flavour.

These are the flavours that took my fancy. I’m obsessed with thyme and wanted to know whether it would work with salmon, lemons are an obvious choice with fish and I chose spring onions for a delicate onion flavour.I decided to try baking the salmon in foil, something I’ve wanted to try for a long time. I love the idea of wrapping up little flavour filled parcels and getting to open them at the end of cooking time. This did not disappoint at all. The salmon was imbued with sweet thyme, a very subtle onion flavour and some tang from the lemon. It was so good, I can’t wait to cook salmon this way again.

To go with the salmon I wanted something along the lines of mashed potato. I’ve wanted to try mashed broadbeans for aaaages and they are damn fine!

Oven baked Salmon with Broadbean mash

Preheat oven to 180°C. Take a piece of foil large enough to wrap up your salmon, drizzle some olive oil on it then place your  salmon on it with flavourings, season well with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 20 mins, or until just cooked.

For the broadbean mash. Take frozen broadbeans and add them to a well salted pot of boiling water. Cook for a couple of minutes, drain and pod (so much fun!). Put them back in the pot with about 50g of feta and some chopped mint. Mash to your desired consistency.

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