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. ūüėČ

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.

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Chocolate ‘Ice Cream’ (with bananas)

Chocolate soft serve ice-cream.

You know when you buy a hand of bananas and suddenly they’re all too ripe and no-one wants to eat them and you get annoyed because you’ve spent the money and now it’s being wasted and it doesn’t matter what you do it seems like you can never get it right and why is life so unfair?

Take a breath. Calm down.

Firstly, freeze your bananas. If they’re getting past the eating-as-a-fresh-banana stage, then peel them and pop them into a ziploc bag and put them in the freezer. They can be defrosted and used in cakes and muffins and what-not at a later stage.

If you don’t want them to stick together, so you can take out one or two at a time, then freeze them separately before you place them in the bag. They will live in there quite happily for many months.

And don't they look attractive?

And don’t they look attractive?

Then you can make ice cream out of them.

Yes. I said ice cream. Frozen bananas can be used to make a soft serve ice cream which is wonderful for those with a lactose intolerance. Cold affects the performance of your taste buds, so the banana flavour fades right away and you are left with a cold, creamy substance that you can add other flavours to. Like chocolate.

This requires a food processor with a metal blade. I’m sorry, there’s really not an alternative to the use of an appliance for this.

The metal blade of a food processor is the secret ingredient here.

The metal blade of a food processor is the secret ingredient here.

Also, I had quite a few bananas I wanted to use as I wanted the freezer space. So the pictures you see here will be of about three times the quantity that will be made from the recipe provided.

Making the actual dessert is super simple. Get the kids involved (just don’t let them lick the blade…)

Cut your bananas into chunks and put them into the processor bowl.

Chunky bananas.

Chunky bananas.

Now sift in a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder. I used Dutch process cocoa because that’s what I had. If you’re an Aussie and you have some to spare, then try using Milo instead.

Add cocoa.

Add cocoa.

Now add some vanilla extract and a touch of salt. The salt will help to accent the sweetness of the bananas.

I used sea salt flakes - you don't have to.

I used sea salt flakes – you don’t have to.

Then add a dollop of sweetener if you really want to. I added a touch of honey, but it’s really not necessary. Bananas are full of natural sugars – don’t for a moment start thinking of this as a low calorie alternative to regular dairy ice-creams.

*Diabetics be warned, this will make your sugars spike.*

I added some totally unnecessary honey.

I added some totally unnecessary honey.

You may like to add a few tablespoons of a nut butter here. Peanut butter works fine, or you can try almond or sunflower butter instead. The oils in the butter give the final dessert a smoother texture and “mouth feel.” I didn’t have any, so I didn’t.

I did find that it wasn’t blending as smoothly as I would have liked, so I drizzled in some buttermilk that I had in the refrigerator. Adding yoghurt would also work – and this can be dairy, soy or coconut – or you could just add a little vegetable oil.

None of these things is absolutely vital.

Put the lid on your processor and pulse a few times to get it going.

It will form a thick paste.

It will form a thick paste.

Keep blending until you reach the desired texture. I wanted a smoother blend and added a drizzle of buttermilk to loosen it up a little. I stopped blending when it looked like this.

Chocolate soft serve Icecream

Chocolate soft serve Icecream

You may serve it immediately. If you are making it with kids, you’ll probably have to serve it immediately.

Otherwise, place it in a sealed container and re-freeze.

Put in a container and freeze. Temporarily.

Put in a container and freeze. Temporarily.

When the time comes to serve it up, remove it from the freezer at least 15 minutes beforehand to soften.  You may end up with a sprained wrist otherwise.

Enjoy.

Chocolate 'Ice-cream' (banana)

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

3 medium bananas, peeled, cut in chunks and frozen

¬Ĺ tsp vanilla extract

pinch salt

3 Tbsp cocoa powder

optional:

  • sweetener such as honey or maple syrup
  • 3-5 tbsps peanut butter or similar
  • 2-3 tbsps Greek yoghurt or buttermilk

Method

Place the metal ‘S’ blade in a food processor.

Combine the first four ingredients in the bowl and blend until smooth. Add the optional ingredients if you wish.

Serve immediately.

May be stored in a sealed container in the freezer, but remove at least 15 minutes before serving if you do so. The warmer the ice-cream the more it will resemble soft serve.

Variations:

  • Mix through chopped nuts or choc chips.
  • Use another frozen fruit e.g. strawberries, blueberries, frozen mango etc., instead of the cocoa powder for a fruit flavoured dessert.

 

‘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. ūüôā 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 saut√© 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 pur√©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
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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.

 

Easy Chocolate Raspberry Pie

I’m back! ¬† Sorry it’s been so long, I’ve been unwell.

Today’s post was going to be about something else, but the ladies I made this dish for a week or so ago have been nagging me to post the recipe.

We aim to please.

This particular pie can be as sweet as you like to make it however, if you follow my example, it won’t be very sweet at all. Also, while it looks quite heavy and rich, it’s really quite light on the palate and the digestion.

What it looked like 5 minutes after I served it ...

What it looked like 5 minutes after I served it …

I’m afraid that I didn’t originally even intend to put this up here, so the photos may be a little patchy (and I really have¬†been unwell…)

I found the original recipe for this here, but I’ve fiddled with it a little since. Not much, but enough to make it suitable for my coeliac friends.

It’s a dish that is amazingly deceptive. It looks like an ultra-rich cheese or mousse cake that has taken you hours of labour to pull together.

It’s not. It has a secret ingredient.

Tofu.

Now, before any of you screw up your faces and start spitting epithets my way … if you’ve had tofu before and thought it tasted bad – that’s NOT the fault of the tofu. It’s the fault of whoever cooked it for you.

Tofu is an inexpensive protein that has essentially no flavour of its own.  Surround it with deliciousness, or marinade it in the same and that deliciousness is what you will taste.

It comes in various textures: hard, firm and silken being the most common. This recipe uses silken tofu Рand a food processor.

Now you could probably pull this one off with a stick or immersion blender, you might even manage it with an electronic beater, but a food processor will definitely do it. You need something to whiz up the raspberries.

Not fancy, but tasty.

Not fancy, but tasty.

The original recipe calls for a purchased Graham cracker pie crust, but…gluten. So, I put together my own, simply using a small packet of almond meal, some melted butter and a couple of tablespoons of dried coconut. I mixed them all together in a bowl and then pressed them into a fluted flan tin with a removable base.

Now, should you do the same, feel free just to pop it into the fridge and allow the butter to set firm. It will still be perfectly edible. I decided to blind bake mine and allow the nuts to toast a little.

So, I covered the base in parchment paper and filled the void with rice. Then I baked it at 180¬įC for around 10 mins or so.

Blind baking

Blind baking

The blind baking just helps it to keep its shape better.

Now for the pie filling.

Get thee some silken tofu. You’ll find shelf-stable versions, but you’ll also find fresh versions in the refrigerator section of the supermarket.

I found this one.

Let's just try not to notice that this company can't spell "stir fries"...

Let’s just try not to notice that this company can’t spell “stir fries”…

It’s not quite as much as the recipe called for, but I merely¬†topped up the weight with raspberries. Sue me.

So, drain away any liquid with the tofu. Be aware that it is very soft. Don’t try to pick it up out of the package, just slip it into the bowl of your food processor. Pulse for 30 seconds or so, it will look a bit like this.

Whip up your tofu.

Whip up your tofu.

Add your vanilla essence and maple syrup. The original recipe called for confectioners’ or icing sugar as well but, as they also tend to include some gluten products in the package (to stop clumping), I decided to just use more maple syrup. I added about¬†¬Ĺ a cup.

It’s possible that using the powdered sugar would give a firmer set. I don’t know.

Now melt your chocolate. I use a glass jug¬†to do this in the microwave and a mix of dark and milk chocolate. Given my own preference for the less sweet I’d actually like to use all dark chocolate. However, not everyone shares my d’ruthers, so I compromise.

You could probably even make this dish with white chocolate alone. Be aware though that the raspberries will colour the chocolate, unlike in this example where they disappear.

Heat in thirty second increments and stir between zapping.

Isn't it purdy?

Isn’t it purdy?

You can do this in a small saucepan on the stove, of course. I was trying to keep down the heat in the kitchen on an already scorching hot day. ūüôā

Using a spatula, scrape it all out into the bowl of your food processor and blend well. Watch the tofu disappear…

Now doesn't that look deliciously silky?

Now doesn’t that look deliciously silky?

Pop in your defrosted raspberries (or use fresh!) and blend again.

These will give a light, refreshing raspberry tang to your pie.

These will give a light, refreshing raspberry tang to your pie.

That was hard, wasn’t it? Such drudgery.

I’m sorry.

Only a little way to go.

Retrieve your pie crust from the refrigerator and fill it with this chocolately lusciousness.

And you're done.

And you’re done.

And then refrigerate until firm – at least 2 hours. If you can leave it overnight then that will be just spiffy.

Garnish it with raspberries before serving. I forgot to take a picture of that bit. Sorry.

However, here it is before I transported it. I cut half into slices when it was straight out of the refrigerator and placed a handful of raspberries in a separate container to decorate it with at the other end. You may do whatever you like, but I just put a raspberry at the fat end of each slice and piled the remainder in the centre to cover the jagged points….

The finished pie, before garnishing.

The finished pie, before garnishing.

It must have worked because this was how it looked 5 minutes after serving and I had to actually ask a lady to wait while I took this pic.

What it looked like 5 minutes after I served it ...

What it looked like 5 minutes after I served it …

Honestly, the hardest thing you’ll have to do with this dish is to convince people that it’s made with tofu.

Really truly.

Chocolate Raspberry Pie

  • Servings: 10
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

345g silken tofu

1¬Ĺ cups (300g) chocolate chips (dark, milk or mixed)

¬Ĺ cup maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup frozen raspberries, thawed

1 x 23cm pie crust.

Method

Place your choice of chocolate in a microwavable bowl or jug. Heat on Medium for 1 minute. Stir, then continue microwaving on Medium, stirring with a non-wooden implement every 20 seconds, until melted.

Be aware that chocolate in a microwave may melt (and possibly burn) without changing shape – stir between zaps!

Drain the tofu and pulse in a food processor or blender until smooth.

Add the melted chocolate, maple syrup and vanilla. Process again until smooth.

Add raspberries and process until very smooth; scraping down the sides as necessary.

Spread the mixture into your prepared pie crust.

Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours or overnight if possible.

Garnish with fresh raspberries, if you wish.

Cranberry-Almond Quinoa Pilaf

Cranberry Almond Pilaf

I’m posting this particular recipe in response to a request from my Dad, although I do hope everyone else likes it too.

It’s not really a pilaf in the strictest sense of the word – rice cooked¬†in broth with other things then added – but it does resemble it and I’ll settle for that.

Cranberry Almond Pilaf

Cranberry Almond Pilaf

It contains an ingredient that seems to be one of the trendiest on the planet at this point in time, but I first learned about it in the early 1990s.

Not that I could find it anywhere, of course. Now it’s on the supermarket shelves. How times change.

I’m talking about Quinoa, an ancient South American grain that is unique in its nutritional profile.

Quinoa in the raw

Quinoa in the raw

But before I go on, let’s address a matter of some importance…how to pronounce it.

Keen-wa.

Ok? Got it? Good.

If I hear anyone saying kwin-oh-ah, I’ll slap them.

Quinoa, as I was saying, is a little famous at the moment. It is a seed that has been in cultivation for thousands of years, but only commercially so for a very short time. Which explains its cost (more on that later).

Remarkably it is a source of complete protein, which makes it extremely valuable to vegans and vegetarians. It is gluten-free and rich in dietary fibre, magnesium and iron as well as being a good source of calcium – very handy for the lactose-intolerant.

It comes in white, black and red versions. I prefer the white, but that’s just me.

Teeny, tiny seeds

Teeny, tiny seeds

It also tastes good, is easily digested, low GI and incredibly easy to prepare.

It’s not a large commercial crop though, and is on the pricey side. At my local supermarket it comes in at $2 per 100g or $10 for a half kilo (500g) bag. Bear in mind that it behaves somewhat like rice in that it swells when cooked, so one cup of quinoa will yield 2¬Ĺ – 3 cups of it cooked. It can also be used in recipes that call for rice and I have made several quite successful risottos with it.

Please note that, even at that price, this entire recipe will still only cost you around AUD 4.50.

Cooked Quinoa.

Cooked Quinoa.

Unlike rice, it will give a large nutritional bang for your buck (see above) and not give you just calories and carbohydrates.

This dish is one I like to take to gatherings that require one to “bring a plate.” It’s simple, it has only three and a bit ingredients, it travels well, it caters for the gluten and lactose intolerant as well as vegetarians, it’s served cold and can often provide a talking point as everyone tries to work out (a) what it is and (b) how to pronounce it. ¬†HINT: Keen – Wa

Ahem. Moving on.

This dish is great for Christmas gatherings in Australia too as the colours of the craisins are very much of the season and the coolness of the dish is wonderful on stinking hot days.

Enough. Let’s cook.

The first, and most important, step is to wash your quinoa. It’s also the trickiest. Quinoa seeds have a chemical in their coating called saponin. It is quite bitter and may not all be removed on the way from the field to your kitchen. Wash it.

This can be difficult to do as the seeds themselves are tiny. Really small.  Think the tip-of-a-ball-point-pen small.

The quinoa is only a little larger than the holes in my finest mesh sifter.

The quinoa is only a little larger than the holes in my finest mesh strainer.

They are easily washed through the holes of any sieves you may own. I have found myself a strainer with a very fine mesh that saves me from dumping the lot down the drain with the water. You may find that your current strainer works with the addition of a lining piece of paper towel, cheesecloth or a clean Chux.

Line your sieve so you don't lose your quinoa.

Line your sieve so you don’t lose your quinoa.

Place your quinoa in a bowl and cover with water, agitating gently. The water will turn cloudy, like this:

First rinse.

First rinse.

Drain through your sieve, return to the bowl and continue the process until the rinse water looks clear, like this:

The same bowl, two rinses later.

The same bowl, two rinses later.

It will only take two or three turns.

While you are doing this, three-quarter fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to the boil. By the time the boiling point is reached, your quinoa will be clean and can be added all in one go to the pot. There is no need to add salt.

Set a timer for 15 minutes and just let it cook, stirring occasionally.

Let it cook at a roiling boil.

Let it cook at a roiling boil.

At the end of the 15 mins, drain it. You’ll notice that the seed has separated from its husk. Don’t panic, those aren’t worms through it. And yes, I have actually been asked this!

Cooked quinoa

Cooked quinoa.

Run a fork through the seeds in order to facilitate proper draining as quite a bit of water can become caught. Leave it to cool thoroughly.

Now place your quinoa in a bowl and drizzle with a good glug of olive oil – as much or as little as you want.

Add your craisins (dried cranberries) and stir through.

Add the cranberries.

Add the cranberries.

Now heat a small frypan and gently toast your slivered almonds. Toss or stir them constantly as they will burn quite easily. You will know when they are done when they are a gorgeous tanned colour and the smell is simply mouth-watering…

I use a little egg pan for toasting my nuts.

I use a little egg pan for toasting my nuts.

Add to your bowl, mix through and serve.

Isn't it purty?

Isn’t it purdy?

This will keep happily in the refrigerator for at least three days. You’ll find the colour of the dried cranberries will ‘bleed’ into the quinoa, which just makes it look even prettier for my money.

Apart from being ideal for gatherings, it’s also a great packed lunch option. Make up a batch on the weekend to be taken to work or school during the week to come.

Whatever you do, resist the urge to add anything more to this dish. It looks as though it needs something, but it really doesn’t. I added some parsley to it once and regretted it immensely. If you really can’t help yourself, then I would suggest some very finely grated lemon or orange zest. Then stop.

Cranberry-Almond Quinoa Pilaf

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 cup (185g) quinoa

¬Ĺ cup dried cranberries (craisins)

¬ľ cup slivered almonds

olive oil.

Method

Rinse the quinoa well until the water is clear. This will remove any bitterness.

Fill a large saucepan¬†¬ĺ full with water and bring to the boil. Add the rinsed quinoa and cook at a rolling boil for 15 minutes.

Drain the quinoa thoroughly and cool. It is helpful to stir the draining seeds with a fork to release any trapped pockets of liquid.

Place the cold quinoa in a large bowl and add a glug of olive oil to taste. Stir through.

Add the craisins and mix through.

Toast the slivered almonds until lightly brown, either in a frypan or in the oven on low heat. Watch them carefully as nuts burn easily. Toasted nuts smell fragrant.

Add the nuts to the pilaf and serve.

Will keep for several days in the refrigerator.