Store cupboard curry

Hiya,

I spent most of the day elsewhere. First I made a couple of pizzas with this guy.

Masterchef Kai

Masterchef Kai.

We were at my weekly lunch with the Intercultural Womens Network of Ballarat (free plug!) and they were my contribution. He was the only three-year old there and scatters toppings really well. 😉

Then it was off to replace my blood glucose monitor – which I appear to have left in the car from the driving assessment yesterday.

Dinner was never going to be complicated. Ever.

I hadn’t got anything out of the freezer and I couldn’t be bothered doing so when I got home. I just opened the pantry and pretended I was a teenager doing a survey of the refrigerator – you know exactly what I mean, don’t you?

I spotted a jar of Tikka Masala simmer sauce and thought, “Well, that’s a start.” That was emptied it into the baby slow cooker and followed with a tin of lite coconut cream.

Tikka Masala simmer sauce.

Tikka Masala simmer sauce.

I chopped up half a red capsicum, then peeled and chopped up the seed end of half a butternut pumpkin and stirred that through. The crock was getting a little full, and I’d realised that I’d left my run a little late for using the slow cooker, so I transferred it to a Dutch oven on the stove top, where I added a tin of drained and rinsed cannellini beans.

I realised I'd made a strategic error and transferred it to the stove top at this point.

I realised I’d made a strategic error and transferred it to the stove top at this point.

It really only needed to simmer long enough to cook the pumpkin through so, while it did that, I put some rice on to steam and added some millet to the pot for something different. That came out looking like this.

Jasmine rice and millet.

Jasmine rice and millet.

The curry was looking a little ‘samey’ so the freezer was raided and a bag of mixed frozen vegies was used to add some more texture and colour to the curry.

Frozen vegies make life easier.

Frozen vegies make life easier.

When they were heated through, the curry was spooned over the rice and served.

Store cupboard curry

Store cupboard curry.

A meatless dinner with minimal effort and plenty of leftovers. That last point is important because we’ve got a long day in Geelong tomorrow, starting at stupid o’clock, and it was likely to end with takeaway if we weren’t careful.  Now that’s not so likely.

Advertisement

Caraway and Lemon Biscotti

Grind the caraway seeds in a pestle and mortar.

These are among my personal favourite biscotti. (If you would like a primer on biscotti, then please click here: Biscotti 101)

I created these by adapting a recipe I found in a book compellingly entitled Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favourites, which I believe I bought in a Barnes and Noble store in Baltimore, Maryland, sometime in 2006.

It was originally a recipe for Anise and Lemon Biscotti, but I didn’t have any Aniseeds, and didn’t want to go buy some, so I substituted caraway seeds instead.

I also found the dough was too dry at the end of mixing it. However I’d had to zest a lemon for the recipe, so I juiced that and mixed the juice into the dough.

It was a triumph. A little piece of citrusy heaven. Trust me. If you like lemon-flavoured anything, then you’ll love these.

They are among the most requested in my Christmas Collection and now I share them with you.

They are the perfect thing to enjoy a quiet moment with a cuppa before going back to being an adult.

Start by sifting the plain flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together into a bowl.

Sift the dry ingredients together.

Sift the dry ingredients together.

Then add the zest of a lemon or two. You’ll need around 2 tablespoonfuls.

Now you’ll need to grind your caraway seeds the best that you can. Use either a pestle and mortar or a small electric coffee grinder you use solely for this purpose.

Grind the caraway seeds in a pestle and mortar.

Grind the caraway seeds in a pestle and mortar.

Add them to your flour mix, stir through and set aside.

Add your zest and seeds and stir together.

Add your zest and seeds and stir together.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat together 2 whole eggs and 1 egg white.

eggs!

Eggs!

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir to achieve a smooth dough.

If you manage to do that with just the eggs, then you have my congratulations.

If not, then juice the lemons that you have zested and add the strained juice to your dough – little by little – until it all comes together.

Be careful not to make it too wet...

Be careful not to make it too wet…

Line an oven tray with baking paper. Using a spatula and floured hands, scoop half the dough out of the bowl and onto one side of the baking sheet. Repeat on the other side.

Shape as best you can into logs. Remember that they will spread as they bake, so try to keep the inner edges at least 6 inches apart.

It's a messy job, but someone has to do it.

It’s a messy job, but someone has to do it.

Bake at 180°C/350°F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top of each log is firm.

(This is the perfect time to wash your mixing bowl and other utensils.)

Remove to a wire rack until cool enough to handle – around 15 mins. Reduce your oven to 150°C/325°F.

The lovely lemon tinge from the juice sets these biscotti apart.

The lovely lemon tinge from the juice sets these biscotti apart.

Now is the time to cut them into 1.5 cm/œ inch thick slices with a serrated knife.

Then, place them back onto the baking sheet, cut side down.

Traditionally biscotti are cut on the diagonal.

Traditionally biscotti are cut on the diagonal.

Bake for a further 15 minutes. Remove to cool on racks.

They will firm up on standing, so don’t be concerned if they still seem soft in the middle.

Ah. Bliss.

Caraway and Lemon Biscotti

  • Servings: approx 36 biscotti
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

2 cups plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

Πtsp salt

1 cup sugar

2 whole eggs

1 egg white

1 tbsp caraway seeds, ground

1 tbsp freshly grated lemon peel (zest)

Strained juice of lemon (reserved)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F. Line a baking sheet with paper and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.

Add the lemon zest and ground caraway seeds.

In a small bowl, lightly beat together the whole eggs and egg white.

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir to form a smooth dough. Add lemon juice as required to achieve the correct consistency.

Using floured hands and a spatula, scoop half the dough into a log shape on one side of the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough on the other side – spacing the logs at least 6 inches apart.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top of each log is firm.

Remove with a long spatula to a wire rack and cool for 10 to 15 mins.

Reduce the heat of the oven to 150°C/325°F.

Using a serrated knife, cut each log on the diagonal into œ inch slices.

Place slices back onto the lined baking trays, cut side down and bake for a further 15 minutes.

Remove and cool on racks.

These biscotti will continue to harden as they cool.

Will keep for several weeks, stored in an airtight container.

Bean Burrito mix

Today I made some Hidden Treasure Muffins for The Boy to take to an afternoon tea tomorrow. He hasn’t eaten all of them himself yet – but he’s working on it!

A veritable treasure trove.

A veritable treasure trove.

Dinner tonight was made by The Boy (yay!) He put together his Bean Burrito mix and we ate it with some wraps from the fridge.

Years ago, when he was at Uni in another state and not looking after himself at all, I texted him instructions for making this dish. The idea being that he would at least have one meal a week that would feed his brain. Little did I know that he simply quadrupled it and ate the same thing every night, for months!

The Boy's Beans

The Boy’s Beans

We always refer to it as his Burrito beans. It takes about 15 mins, tops, and costs $4 for two. No jokes.

I’ll post the recipe up soon. I promise. Probably in the next day or so…

In other news, today more bread was made. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this already, but we enrich ours by adding a few spoonfuls of ground, golden flaxseed to every loaf. Omega 3s donchaknow!

I also tidied up the freezer and realised there’s some things in there that really should just be used. I’ve got a collection of frozen bananas, for example. So, sometime in the next few days, I think the frozen banana, soft serve ice cream will be made (and probably eaten).

Pasta a la Sharon

Today we had Loaded Hot Potato Chips for lunch, because it’s still extremely cold here and the visiting Telstra contractor kept leaving all the doors open. *grumble*

It also finished the packet, so I’ll pop those on the list.

I made a new batch of the Instant Hot Chocolate mix for The Boy. I’m told I’ve nailed the mix of spices. However, we are reaching the end of the powdered milk, so that has also been added to the list.

While I was in the kitchen, I decided to mix together a pizza base for my step-father’s visit on Wednesday. I’ve still some BBQ chicken meat frozen and that would work well on a pizza. I decided to add some mixed Italian Herbs to the flour before adding the wet ingredients. This should add a boost of flavour and the aroma will be magnificent.

Pizza in the making

Pizza in the making

I made enough for two bases – one is currently in the refrigerator and the other is in the freezer (natch). Let me know if you guys would like me to do a post on making pizza bases.

Dinner tonight was going to be risotto, but I didn’t have enough Arborio rice. So I did a pasta dish instead, mixing up the rest of the fresh vegies in the fridge with some chorizo, penne and pesto. It was yummy, if I do say so myself.

This was dinner in the Budget Bounty household.

This was dinner in the Budget Bounty household.

And I do.

I’ve started thinking about the shopping later this week. I don’t think I can fit anything more in the freezer without it exploding. I’ve also still got most of the frozen vegies I bought last time, so I shan’t need to get any more of those.

I think it shall be a fresh vegetable and pantry dry-good shop this time around.

ttfn

Cheat’s Risotto – Basics

I've yet to figure out how to photograph cooking without getting a steam filter happening...

Risotto is a word that can send chills cascading down a beginner cook’s spine. The sheer expectation that their rice is to be done to perfection may dissuade them from even trying this dish.

Add to that the clear and certain knowledge that it requires boiling hot stock, added ladle by ladle, all while stirred ad infinitum and who’d actually bother?

I don’t. In fact I find it hard to believe that any self-respecting Italian peasant mother with many small children underfoot would be able to pull that particular feat off satisfactorily. Don’t be confused here – risotto was a peasant, or farmhouse dish, long before it was ever gourmet.

In my kitchen, risotto is a way to mix quite a few different vegetables (or bits of vegetables) and a little meat into a warm, creamy, comforting bowl of hot, moist rice.

These ingredients will make me a risotto.

These ingredients will make me a risotto.

I’m calling this cheat’s risotto, because it’s how I make a risotto-like dish. It works for me and I hope it works for you.

To make a risotto you need a short grain rice. The most common one available to shoppers in my neck of the world is Arborio rice. You can find it in most supermarkets.

You can do this with Pearled Barley too, but it will take about 45 minutes to cook.

You also need a largish saucepan and a good quality stock. In the picture above, you’ll see a mason jar in the centre. That there is my home-made chicken stock.

You don’t have to make your own. Use a stock cube if you wish, or bouillon, or a tetra pack – whatever works for you. Just make sure that whatever you use has a good flavour, because this is what your entire dish will taste of!

Bear in mind that, if you do make your own, it will contain far less salt than the processed alternatives.

You’ll need a good quality stirring implement – spatula, spurtle, wooden spoon, whatever – and, if you are anything like me, long sleeves to protect from any hot liquid stirred out of the pot…

I had a few bits and pieces I wanted to use up, so that’s what’s gone into this meal. An onion, a stick of celery, half a large red pepper and a chorizo were all pressed into service. I started by chopping them up as finely as my motor skills would allow – which wasn’t very.

Prep your vegies.

Prep your vegies.

While I was doing this, I poured the chicken stock into a microwaveable jug and heated it to boiling point.

Then I put my saucepan on the hob on lowish heat and prepared for action.

A splash of olive oil went into the pot and the onion was added and cooked until translucent, accompanied by a spoonful of garlic from a jar. Then I added the celery and, when that was soft, I added the diced sausage.

I've yet to figure out how to photograph cooking without getting a steam filter happening...

I’ve yet to figure out how to photograph actual cooking without getting a steam filter happening…

I decided to add the capsicum later for a bit of a texture contrast. The stock is brought to the cooking area now and the kettle is boiled just in case I want more liquid later.

Now is the time to add the rice. I very rarely measure it, but I guess I use about 1 cup for the two of us.

Add the rice all at once.

Add the rice all at once.

When the rice is added, it is very important to stir it vigorously. You are aiming to coat the rice with whatever oil and juices are already in the pan while also toasting the grains.

Stir for your life.

Stir for your life.

I added the capsicum here. I also set the kitchen timer for 15 minutes. Then I added a good amount of stock – probably about 3/4 of a cup. Basically you want enough to cover the base of the pan and to come at least half way up your ingredients. Stir as thoroughly as you can until the stock is almost completely absorbed.

Start adding your stock a bit at a time.

Start adding your stock a bit at a time.

The more you stir at this point the more the starches in your rice will be released, and the smoother and creamier your final result will be. Keep adding stock a little at a time until you’ve used about half of it.

Then you can safely just add the rest. Did you hear the sound of millions of chefs fainting just then? Seriously, just add the rest of the stock. It will look like you’ve drowned it. It’s okay. Really.

Don't panic.

Don’t panic.

Keep it simmering gently and stirring it to prevent sticking. If the rice emerges from the liquid before your kitchen timer goes off, then add some water from your previously boiled kettle. You need your rice to be cooked!

You *will* see your rice again.

You *will* see your rice again.

You want your rice to be al dente. Remember that it will continue to absorb water after you have taken it off the heat. So, while it is still on the hob, run your spatula along the middle of the bottom of the pot. You should see clear saucepan and then a sheen of liquid will appear. That is what you are after.

Serve your risotto.

Okay, rewind.

Serve this pot of yumminess.

Serve this pot of yumminess.

Traditionally, the dish is ‘velveted’ by adding cream at this point. I fear my hips would enjoy that too much, so I don’t do it. I sometimes add a tablespoon of basil pesto to change things up a little, but it isn’t necessary. You can also stir cheese through at this point, but this adds a degree of difficulty to the clean up of the saucepan.

A sprinkling of parmesan is really all that is needed.

A sprinkling of parmesan is really all that is needed.

I serve the rice, then add a sprinkling of shaved parmesan cheese and a grinding of black pepper and it is perfetto!

Perfick.

Perfick.

At some point in the future I’ll redo this post with pics of the food in white bowls and under better lighting, but until then you’ll have to trust that this is delicious.

 

I need to be elsewhere this evening, so there’s a need for one dinner that can be served at two different times without deteriorating overly.

I’m combining the leftover corned beef from the weekend with the leftover rice from last night, adding a mix of fresh and frozen vegetables and making my Almost Genuine Fried Rice.

Two bowls of fried rice

Almost Genuine Fried Rice

The instructions for this particular meal have been in the draft stage for some time now and, hopefully, I’ll have them up in the next few weeks…hopefully… maybe…

The problem is that – given how simple the dish appears – the instructions are surprisingly complex.  Oh well.

Anyway, the rice that isn’t eaten tonight will help to form lunches in the days to come or possibly even another dinner on a “shop the fridge” night.

I’m planning on making a casserole tomorrow night with some sausages that have been in my freezer for a while. So they have been taken out to defrost.

I’ve realised that I was about to run out of onions and carrots (Argh!) therefore I’ve stocked up on those today. Remember the $5 I had left at the end of my shopping, here? Well, I just used $2 of it. So there.

Loaded hot potato chips (fries)

Loaded oven fries

This is one of those quick and easy treats where you make something spectacular out of something fairly ordinary.

We have these maybe once a weekend in the Budget Bounty household. It’s a perfect dish for lunch on a cold, grey winter’s day.

Basically they’re chips with added flavour.

I’m a big fan of crinkle cut chips, because they seem to end up crunchier and the surface traps all the bits of flavour you care to add. However, we’ve been buying larger steak house cut-style fries lately, and they seem to work well too.

Remember, the thicker the fry the better they are for you.

Remember also that chips are not a health food. Manage your portion sizes on this or you will regret it eventually!

Moving on.

Turn your oven to the temperature set out on the packet. It’s usually around 230ÂșC/446ÂșF. Make sure to preheat your pan as well. I have a black one with holes in the base that I bought from Aldi years ago – it’s brilliant.

While your oven and pan are heating (about 10 minutes) it’s time to jazz up your spuds.

Place your chips into a large bowl. You want something large enough to take your chips and enable you to stir through your flavourings as well. You can use your hands for this if you wish, but a spoon or a spatula will also do the job.

Place your frozen spuds into a large bowl

Place your frozen spuds into a large bowl

I like to add a sprinkle of hot paprika or, occasionally, dried chilli flakes. I find chilli powder can be too hot. However, feel free to try any spice you’d like! Taco seasoning may do the trick for you, or try BBQ rubs. After all, if it doesn’t work, it’s only a plate of chips.

Add a touch of heat with some chilli flakes or hot paprika.

Add a touch of heat with some chilli flakes or hot paprika.

Now, get yourself a spoonful of crushed garlic from a jar and mix it through as well as you can. You don’t want great lumps of garlic in your bowl later.

Add some garlic.

Add some garlic.

Place them in a single layer on your oven tray and cook for half the required time – usually 10 minutes.

Place them on the tray and pop them in the oven.

Place them on the tray and pop them in the oven.

Now, if you wish to be truly decadent, dice up a rasher of bacon (or two, if you are doing a lot of chips). You’ll want to be stirring this through when you take your chips out at the halfway point. Don’t do it for the whole cooking time, or you’ll end up with little specks of pure charcoal in your bowl…   You’ve been warned.

Take them out and give them a shake at the halfway point. Add the bacon if you wish. Return to the oven.

Mmmmm, bbaaaaaaacooooon!

Mmmmm, baaaay-con!

By this stage your kitchen is smelling amazing. Now, while you wait the second 10 minutes, line your bowls with a piece of paper towel.

Also, grate some cheese. I buy shredded cheese, but you may not.

When the timer goes off, remove your pan from the oven, sprinkle with some sea salt flakes if you have them – you won’t need a lot – and then scatter your cheese over the top. Divide amongst your prepared bowls.

Serve 'em up!

Serve ’em up!

I waited until my chips were in the bowl before adding the cheese, but it will melt faster and distribute more easily if you do it as soon as possible after getting them out of the oven.

Add some cheese.

Add some cheese.

Note: I said a little cheese!

I often see pictures of similar dishes where you can’t actually make out the chips under the blanket of cheese they’ve been smothered with.  Don’t do that. Cheese is a condiment just as the chilli and bacon are. Got it?

Bringing home the bacon...

Bringing home the bacon…

Serve with a dollop of tomato sauce/ketchup or – my preference – a spoonful of good quality egg mayonnaise for dipping.

Enjoy.

 

The most important tool in your kitchen.

This is a post without a recipe.

Sorry.

Instead, I’m going to talk about something close to my heart. Something that makes life just that little bit easier and multi-tasking a breeze. Something that every – and I mean *EVERY* – kitchen should have and cook should use.

A timer.

Yes, I said a timer.

A kitchen timer will save your sanity.

Use the timer on your oven

Use the timer on your oven

My mother was a great cook. She also burned things regularly. This was because usually she was trying also to stop my brother and I from killing each other, trying to stop the cat from killing the dog, doing the laundry and everything else that mums do – all at once – while cooking.

It could only end badly, really. And it did. Often.

A kitchen timer means that, if you put a pot of rice on to steam and the doorbell/phone rings, then you will get a reminder when it is done.

It means that pasta can be put on to boil, a timer set to let you know when it’s cooked, and you can go about making a quick sauce without losing track of your noodles.

You can pop some biscuits into the oven, go to hang some washing out and be reminded that there is something else that you are also doing…

Delegate keeping track of time to something else that won’t mind doing the job.

You have a timer if you have a microwave. Use it.

Just between you and me, the most use my microwave timer gets is when I am cleaning my kitchen.

Years ago when I was still working, my energy levels were pretty much nil when I got home from work, because MS fatigue. I would have just enough energy to go to work but none for anything else. One day, I came home to find my front door open. It took about 30 mins before I could tell if I had been burgled or not as my home was in such disarray!

This is just between us…right?

Anyway, I came upon a link to the Flylady.net site and slowly started getting on top of everything again. I did this 15 minutes at a time, using my kitchen timer. I haven’t visited the site for many years now, but when any part of my home looks like it’s going to take several days to get habitable, I set a timer for 15 mins and just do what I can. Then I have permission to stop.

Try this at your place. You don’t have to get it all done, but you’ll have more done than you would have otherwise. I’ll often have the kitchen spotless in that quarter hour.

In the same vein, I often find that when I’m gardening I’ll overdo things (good old MS again!) and end up paying for it for many days after. So, I manage my energy by taking a portable timer into the garden. I work for 15 mins, rest for 15 mins and repeat.

It works.

If you have small children, a timer can help you with kid-wrangling. Tell them they have to pick up their toys for 15 mins and then they get to stop. Stick to your word. They may drag their feet and muck around a bit at first, but after you’ve repeated the exercise on several days and they know you’ll keep your word (no fair setting the timer again immediately after!) they’ll start to play nice. Trust me.

Your timer can follow you into your bathroom in the morning. I always lost time in the mornings and found myself suddenly running 5 minutes late after a leisurely warm shower…you know what I mean, right? It’s not just me, is it?

A timer set for 5 mins when I got into the water kept me on track. Try it yourself, try it on your kids. Save your sanity while saving water.

If your teenagers have their own mobile/cell phones then they have a timer

Use the tools available on your phone

Use the tools available on your phone

If you have a tablet, you have a timer. If you have neither, then they can be bought quite cheaply at dollar stores, in supermarkets, pretty much anywhere – really truly.

Change your life, use your timers.

I suspect that I may be required to buy one of these. Sigh.

 

‘Italian’ Lentils

"Italian" lentils

I first made this dish several aeons ago when I was a poor, struggling university student. I’ve made it many, many more times since and have had a lot of fun coming up with variations for it.

"Italian" lentils

“Italian” lentils

It’s simple, incredibly affordable and very tasty.

And it has lentils in it.

Deal with it.

Way back then, I had made this dish one evening as my brother came home from work, pronounced it to smell “good” and asked for some. I served him up a bowl (while refusing to tell him what it was), which he then inhaled – followed by another two more bowls. When I finally revealed that he’d been eating red lentils, he snarled something about “disgusting hippy food” and refused to come near it again.

His loss.

Honestly, this is the perfect dish for those times when you have very little money/ have very little time/ don’t feel well but really-should-eat-something/ have no idea what to make for dinner/ are just too gosh darned tired to cook.

I found this recipe in this little book, which is now out of print (so I shan’t feel bad about reproducing it here!)

Start by dicing an onion, you don’t want it too fine as it will add texture to the finished dish.

Roughly dice an onion

Roughly dice an onion

Then a rasher (or two) of streaky bacon. The smokiness of the cured meat really adds to the flavour.

Cut up some streaky bacon

Cut up some streaky bacon

Then make up 600 ml (a pint) of chicken stock from powder or use your own. 🙂 The stock will be responsible for the flavour of your finished dish, so choose well.

chicken stock (2)

Home-made stock

If you don’t have any cooked rice in your refrigerator ready to be reheated, then you might want to put some on to steam at this point. Your rice and your lentils will finish pretty much simultaneously.

Now, set a smallish saucepan over a medium heat and add your bacon. You are aiming to render the fat from the meat before adding anything else. There is no need to oil the pan. I’ve made this dish quite successfully using pancetta instead of bacon as well. As you can see from the picture, the fat from the meat is sufficient to lightly fry or sautĂ© the onion.

Pancetta, or prosciutto, also work quite well in this dish and add a touch of the gourmet.

Pancetta, or prosciutto, also work quite well in this dish and add a touch of the gourmet.

So, add your onion! You’re wanting to fry it gently without it colouring up. Cook , stirring constantly, until it becomes translucent (clearish). You may also wish to add some crushed garlic at this point, but it’s not necessary.

Split red lentils - aren't they pretty?

Split red lentils – aren’t they pretty?

Next add your split red lentils and stir them well. You’re aiming to coat them with the fat from the meat. This step helps to disperse the smoky flavour throughout the dish.

Add your lentils and stir well, with the pan still on the heat.

Add your lentils and stir well, with the pan still on the heat.

The recipe calls for 100g (4oz) of lentils. However, after you have made this a few times and seen the simplicity of it, you’ll stop measuring stuff and just do it all by eye.

You know who I’m talking to, you peeps who insist on measurements for everything, you! *sigh*

Anyway, once this is done, add your stock all in one go. It will look as though you have drowned it.  Stir well and bring to the boil.

Don't panic!!!

Don’t panic!!!

Reduce to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes or so, stirring frequently. Do not walk away!  This cooks very quickly. Your lentils will start to break down and form a paste.

Almost done...

Almost done…

It is up to you how liquid your finished dish is. I like mine to be on the firmer side, my partner prefers a more “soupy” dish. Your choice. Take it off the heat when it meets your preference – or experiment.

At this stage, stir through a tablespoon of tomato paste or purĂ©e.  As far as I can figure out, this is where the “Italian” in the recipe title comes from. The last time I made this, I used pancetta and stirred in some basil pesto instead.

Add some tomato paste or pesto

Add some tomato paste or pesto

Mix thoroughly and serve.  This is quite filling and more than enough for two people. I like it in a bowl, served on plain rice.

For another variation, try adding some curry paste at the onion stage and frying it a little to release the flavours before adding the lentils. There will be no need to add anything more than the stock for the dish to be complete.

If you wish to make the texture a little more interesting, then try stirring through some rinsed tinned chickpeas with the tomato paste.

Have fun playing with the dish, or stick to the recipe – it’s delicious either way.

It will also cost about AUD $2 to make. Total. Even betterer.

Italian Lentils

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

2 rashers fatty smoked bacon

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 small onion, chopped

100g (4 oz) split red lentils

600ml chicken stock (may be from a stock cube)

1 tbsp tomato paste (purée)

Method

Fry the bacon over a medium heat until the fat begins to run, then add the garlic and onion and fry until translucent.

Add the lentils and stir to distribute the fat evenly throughout the dish.

Add the chicken stock, stir well and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 mins, stirring frequently.

When lentils have reached desired consistency, add tomato paste and mix through thoroughly.

Serve with steamed rice.

 

Pizza Pull Apart (Scrolls)

Pizza pull-aparts or scrolls

Okay. This is one of those recipes that builds on one you’ve seen here previously.

It’s not difficult, but can be fiddly. It’s certainly tasty and it can be as inexpensive as you want it to be.

Pizza pull-aparts or scrolls

Pizza pull-aparts or scrolls

It starts with a basic scone dough (biscuits for Americans) and gets creative soon after. It’s perfect for those days when you want something more substantial for lunch. It’s great for getting the kids involved if they’re underfoot too.

Also, if you have bits and bobs in the refrigerator that you want to use up, but which don’t really add up to a meal on their own…you know what I’m talking about.

Don’t you?

Moving on…

In other words this is more of a process than a recipe.

Start out by lining a cake tin with baking paper. It can be a square or round tin – it really doesn’t matter. If you find paper lining difficult, then grease it well instead. I find that paper makes it easier to remove the finished product when baked. 😉

Line a cake tin with parchment paper

Line a cake tin with parchment paper

Make yourself some scone dough but, instead of making it into scones, simply flatten it out into a vague rectangle shape. Use your hands and fingertips for this, there’s no need for a rolling pin. Try doing this on a little more silicon/baking/parchment paper sprinkled with flour. It will make rolling it up a little easier.

Press your dough out lightly into a rectangle.

Press your dough out lightly into a rectangle.

The size of your rectangle will be determined by the thickness of your dough. Try to make it an even thickness all over – about 1 cm or ÂŒ inch. Try also not to make it too narrow a rectangle. You will be rolling it up and you want to fit a few turns into it!

Turn your oven on and set it to 220°C/450°F.

Spread your dough with a base flavouring. Tomato paste will work, as will pizza sauce. I find tomato-based spreads far too sweet for me and instead use a roasted capsicum spread called Ajvar that I was introduced to by some Macedonian friends (and now I’m hooked!) It’s something that is big among the former Yugoslavian nations, although I understand the Italians produce something similar – although I don’t know what it’s called.

Spread your base with something tasty.

Spread your base with something tasty.

You may use whatever you like.

Basically you are simply adding a moist base for the rest of your fillings and ensuring that there will be no dry stretches of dough in the finished product. Try using barbecue sauce, basil pesto, olive tapenade or a chutney instead.

You’ll find it much easier to spread if you use a spoon rather than a knife to spread it. Scoop it out onto the dough and then use the back of the spoon’s bowl to spread it.

Now scatter with some grated/shredded cheese.

Add some shredded cheese.

Add some shredded cheese.

Then get creative. This is where you can use the waifs and strays in your refrigerator. You won’t want to put too much on, or it will make the rolling process more difficult.

Add whatever you might add to a pizza: deli meats like salami or shredded ham, chop up a bacon rasher or two and scatter over, if you have some BBQ/rotisserie chicken in the fridge, dice it up and scatter it over. If you are vegetarian, try adding some chick peas/garbanzos or even some kidney beans.  You won’t need much.

Add whatever fillings tickle your fancy.

Add whatever fillings tickle your fancy.

Then add some diced vegetables, I’ve added capsicum/bell pepper in the photo above. Slice a mushroom or two, confetti it with sliced black olives or – and this is yummy – slowly fry some sliced onions or leeks in butter until soft and starting to caramelise, drain on paper towel and add generously.

It’s completely up to you.

If you want to, at this stage you could just place it on a tray and bake it like a standard pizza. It will take 20 minutes at least.

Or you can go on to roll it up like a Swiss Roll, lifting the long edge nearest to you and rolling away. Make it as tight as you can, but try not to put holes in the dough. If you have used a piece of paper beneath it, then use that to help you with the rolling. Some of your filling will inevitably escape from the long end or pop out the short ends. Don’t panic. Push them back in if you can, or consider them a Cook’s treat for while it all bakes.

Roll it as tightly as you can, while still being gentle with the dough.

Roll it as tightly as you can, while still being gentle with the dough.

Then slice into even pieces. I cut it in the middle, then divide each half in half, and so on. Aim for 8 to 9 pieces. Be careful to slice and not chop your roll, you don’t want to squash it beyond recognition. (If you do squash it, don’t worry too much. The taste won’t be affected.)

Divide into even-ish slices.

Divide into even-ish slices.

Now transfer the pieces into your cake tin. Start in the middle and work your way outward in a daisy formation. Be sure to grip the open edge closed as you lift it. It will end up looking a bit like this.

Ready for the oven.

Ready for the oven.

Place it in the top third of the oven and bake for 20 mins before rotating the tin and baking for another 20 mins. It will be done when a toothpick or skewer inserted in a doughy part in the centre comes out clean.

You could sprinkle more cheese over the top at the half way mark if you wish.

The finished result.

The finished result.

Lift it out and serve immediately for best results. Alternatively, wrap in a clean tea towel to cool, and it will be excellent cold for school lunches or a picnic. The cloth covering keeps the steam in and the quickbread soft.

For a slightly crunchy variation, sprinkle some polenta or cornmeal on your surface before you start to press out your scone dough.

Experiment and enjoy!