Mediterranean Morsels

Yum.

This post could quite easily be titled “Yummy things made from bits and pieces in the fridge” but it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

It’s true, however.

I came up with this recipe to use a heap of bits that were cluttering up my refrigerator. I had some tri-colour quinoa that was left over from something else, a bit of feta cheese that needed using, a handful (literally) of shredded mozzarella and half a red capsicum that also needed to be used.

It’s also turned stinking hot here again, after a week of almost chilly weather, and I consider finger food to be the way to go at times like these. Finger food in this house means something more-ish, but not junky.

Quinoa can really be quite pretty.

Quinoa can really be quite pretty.

Anyway, I came up with these here yummies to combine all the bits into something that The Boy declared he could, “literally devour by the handful.”

You heard it here first, Folks!

So, I started off with the leftover quinoa. The amount turned out to be two cups worth (which is going to look a whole lot more professional in a recipe), so that’s what I used. If you’ve not cooked quinoa before, you’ll find instructions here. If you don’t have quinoa then cooked rice of any colour or description would also work.

I popped it into a medium sized bowl and stirred in a couple of tablespoons of plain flour to help bind it together (it also gave me time to think about what to do next). If you have a celiac in your family then gluten-free flour will work too.

I’d decided that I wanted to make it a Mediterranean flavoured …whatever… so I added a tablespoonful of an Italian Mixed Herb blend that I had and a teaspoon of minced garlic. From a jar. Sue me.

Still pretty.

Still pretty.

That was all mixed through quite thoroughly, then the red capsicum was diced and added. I was glad it was in there when I saw the finished products as it gave a pop of colour to something that might have been too beige.

Moving on. I also had one spring (green) onion so I sliced it up and added it too. Why not?

Confetti-like capsicum and scallions

Confetti-like capsicum and scallions

Next the Mozzarella went in and I contemplated the feta. I’m not a fan of feta, but The Boy loves it. However, I adore black olives, so I pitted and minced three of those and stirred them through.

Black kalamata olives rock.

Black kalamata olives rock.

Then the feta cheese. I didn’t weigh it, sorry, but I’d say I had about 3/4 of a cup when it was chopped up. That was mixed through too.

The Feta Cheese was next to be deployed.

The Feta Cheese was next to be deployed.

I thought that looked like a rather tasty little mix and stopped adding stuff. If you are a hard-core carnivore, some diced ham or bacon would be a tasty addition too. You’re welcome.

Now, in between all the dicing and mixing I had decided to make something to bake, so at this point I turned the oven on and started gazing soulfully at my baking trays.

I have one for tiny little cupcakes/muffins that I rarely use and which seemed perfect for this, so I retrieved it and then went on the hunt for the paper cases that I knew were in the pantry somewhere

They were found but I didn’t have quite enough, so I just sprayed the empty cups with oil.

The quinoa still needed something to bind it a little more, so I whisked up 2 eggs and mixed them through. Then I filled each cup with about 2 teaspoons full of the quinoa mixture, making sure that a piece of the capsicum could be seen on the top of each cup – because pretty.

Mix in a couple of eggs.

Mix in a couple of eggs.

Then the tray was placed in the oven for 20 mins, until the morsels smelled amazing and the cheese was starting to brown.

All done.

All done.

The Boy followed his nose into the kitchen as they were being retrieved from the oven and I had to stand guard until they were cool enough to eat.

These little mouthfuls of flavour will find their place in lunch boxes during the week, but they would be just as at home at a party or BBQ. They’ll keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, but try to bring them up to room temperature again before eating to allow the flavours to develop.

Hint: Get the kids to help you make them and they’ll be more likely to eat them.

Enjoy.

Mediterranean Morsels

Mediterranean Morsels

Mediterranean Morsels

  • Servings: 24 pieces
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

2 cups cooked quinoa or rice

2 tbsps plain flour

1 tsp crushed garlic

1 tbsp mixed herbs (add a few chilli flakes for a mild bite if you wish)

½ medium red capsicum (bell pepper), diced.

1 spring (green) onion, sliced finely

3 black olives, pips removed and minced finely

½ cup shredded mozzarella

¾ cup diced feta cheese

1 lean rasher of bacon, finely diced (optional)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Method

Heat oven to 180ºC/350ºF.

Line a mini cupcake tray with paper cases or oil well.

Place quinoa or rice in a medium-sized bowl and add the rest of the ingredients one at a time, stirring well between each.

Fill paper cases with quinoa mix – about 2 rounded teaspoons per case.

Bake for 20 mins.

Allow to cool in the tray before removing to a cooling rack.

Serve at room temperature.

Will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

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Yum.

Yum.

 

Tikka Masala lentils and steamed millet.

Today was much quieter in our kitchen.

We added some Hoi Sin sauce to the last of the dumpling stuffing from yesterday and opened another packet of won ton wrappers. 10 Dumplings were eaten for lunch and another 20 were added to the freezer stash.

We had a few wrappers left in the packet, so I decided to make lentils for dinner tonight and try a bit of dal in a dumpling later on.

2015-07-06 19.47.21So I made Italian Lentils – but with less Italian and more Indian. After I added the bacon to the pot at the beginning, I then added a couple of teaspoons of Tikka Masala paste from the pantry and fried it off for a few minutes before continuing on as normal.

Tikka Masala lentils.

Tikka Masala lentils.

The Boy followed his nose into the kitchen fairly soon after that. I added a small can of corn kernels, just because…

Tikka Masala lentils and steamed millet.

Tikka Masala lentils and steamed millet.

Then I served them up with the leftover millet from last night. It wasn’t too bad, considering the minimal effort expended!

I also decanted the first batch of Kombucha and started a new one. I’m still rather unsure about it all, so shan’t be blogging anything on it until I think I might know what I’m doing.

Tomorrow bread will be made and I’m off now to figure out which cookies will be baked. I have the first half of a damnable driving assessment tomorrow -*expletive deleted* – which is going to cost me a small fortune. I have a feeling some comfort eating may find itself in progress after some comfort baking tomorrow afternoon.

‘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 sauté 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 purée.  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.