Monday, 22 September 2014

Mushroom Pies

Looking into the fridge the other day, contemplating what to cook for dinner. Mushrooms! I had 4 large brown, gorgeous looking mushrooms which caught my eye.  One of my all time favourite summer mushroom recipes is a sort of mushroom Streudel made with phyllo pastry, but because it involves sour cream I don't cook it too often. I am still wanting to throw off a few kilos, so I am trying to be a bit careful.
I did a search in the fridge to see what else was lurking there that needed to be used immediately and what I came up with lead me to this -  Mushroom Pies. Mushrooms are great for vegetarians because they contain essential vitamins and minerals and are a good source of protein; And are low calorie,

I use mushrooms almost every week. If they are not being chopped into a salad, then I am adding them to eggs for omelette, into casseroles, blended to make dips and on their own, lightly cooked with lots of black pepper.

Incidentally over the past week I have been reading about raw foods. I was interested in seeing how a mix of water and cashew nuts blended together would make a creamy sauce; one that could be added to any casserole or stew to give it a nice creamy consistency. Time to add this to my mushrooms to make a pie filling. I also had a little bought puff pastry that I was desperate to use up and this helped enormously as I was in a screaming hurry to get some food on the table.

I used a combination of the beautiful large brown mushrooms, and a mixture of things I had in the fridge; you can use whatever you have but this combination worked really well. You could add cooked broccoli, frozen or fresh peas, finely chopped carrot etc etc.

This is what I made and it was pretty delicious. I made enough for 4 servings, but it would be easy to add extra ingredients or less, depending on how many people you want to serve. My little pie tins took 1 whole sheet of puff pastry each. Depending on the size of yours, you will have to calculate how many you need.

Little Mushroom Pies (with whatever)


5 large brown mushrooms chopped
1 brown onion finely chopped
1 stick of celery finely chopped
1/2 a leek finely slice
2 cloves garlic minced
1 cup raw cashew nuts
1/2 cup water
1 tbls olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh thyme and parsley chopped finely
4 sheets of ready made puff pastry (I used Pampas)
a little butter for greasing the pie dishes
a little water for the pastry edges
  • Take pastry out of the freezer and defrost ready for making pies.
  • Place the cashew nuts and water into a blender or if you are using a hand held stick, into a bowl and blitz until smooth and creamy. Set aside.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a frying pan and cook onions until soft, add garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes.
  • Add leek, celery, salt and pepper and cook for a further 3 minutes. Turn the heat up a little and add chopped mushrooms and cook for 6 minutes.
  • Cut out your pastry for a top and a bottom to suit your pie tins. Grease pie dishes while you are waiting.
  • Add the creamed cashew and water mixture and stir until all is coated. Adjust seasoning and add chopped parsley and thyme and stir in well. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool.
  • Heat oven to 200ºc Fan forced.
  • Line pie tins with pastry, add filling. Using a pastry brush, brush the edges of the pastry with water and add the pastry tops, pressing down along the edge to seal or pinch them to make a scalloped pattern. When all pies are completed, take a sharp knife and add a small v shape in the middle of the pastry to allow steam to escape.
  • Place in the oven and cook for 20 -25 minutes, until pastry is nicely brown and has risen well.
Serving 4 people: estimated cost $8, that is $2 per head, add more if you serve with extra vegetables or salad.

Monday, 15 September 2014

The Humble Cabbage

Here is another stinker! Cabbage! It's had a slip in popularity lately. Many people have decided to use Cavalo Nero and Kale and are slipping these into their blenders to make smoothies. Now that is something I can't quite fathom. And you must have noticed that in many films and TV programs when there is a block of flat/units there is always some reference to the stench of boiled cabbage. So cabbage has got a really bad name of late.

It is sad because cabbage is so underestimated! There are many ways to use cabbage and different varieties, each of them needing a different treatment ; Red Cabbage, Savoy Cabbage, Chinese Cabbage, plain smooth leaf white cabbage and not forgetting Spring Greens. (Do we have spring greens in Australia?)

And there are much better ways to treat a cabbage other than boiling it to death? So if you have experienced eating what began as a handsome, crisp green cabbage dished up into a pale, limp, lifeless mess or finely chopped and smothered in insipid mayonnaise, then I suppose you can't be blamed for hating it.

Looking at any 'old masters' paintings of still life - you will often see a cabbage in full display alongside the rabbit, apples and pewter goblet of wine, because it was a prized possession, something to be adored. I have read in some medieval recipes that cabbage should be cooked for many hours in a big pot on the fire with leeks, onions and lots of herbs.  But I think cabbage needs to be cooked for a short time with a few other ingredients to retain its flavour and colour.

My favourite cabbage is blanched for a few minutes in boiling water, or steamed,  drained, put back in a saucepan with a knob of butter and some freshly grated nutmeg. OK, so this is a great veg to eat in winter and you can serve it with just about anything and to be honest, it is a cheap vegetable. One whole cabbage can feed 6 - 8 people or more.

So let me help you renew your love of cabbage! A simple recipe or two will surely bring back the love and we all need a little more of that in our lives. Here is a great soup, fast and easy to cook and being budget conscious, you know it will be a cheap eat - but not a cheap flavour.

Keeping in mind that I am still trying to give you food that is really value for money, food that tastes good, is good for you, then I am sure you will enjoy this Cabbage Soup. I am making cabbage rolls later in the week so I will post you that recipe in the next couple of days.

Cabbage Soup

Don't be fooled by these basic ingredients. This is a very tasty and filling soup.


1/2  Savoy cabbage, roughly chopped (the one with wrinkly leaves)
1 tbls olive oil
2 stalks celery chopped
2 carrots finely chopped
1 onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 leek finely chopped
1/2 sweet potato chopped
1 400g tin crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
bunch of herbs; oregano, parsley, thyme or whatever you have chopped
1 litre vegetable stock
Grated parmesan (optional)
Few herbs to garnish

Heat olive oil in large pot and add onion. Cook until soft then add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add celery, carrots, leek, sweet potato and allow to sweat for 5 minutes or so. Keep stirring and when the carrot is almost done add the cabbage, herbs, stock, tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for approximately 30 minutes until all the vegetables are soft but not falling apart. Check seasoning.
Serve piping hot in a bowl with chopped herbs for garnish and some grated parmesan if desired.

Serves 6 and cost calculated to $1.25 per person.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Cauliflower - Make it Your Hero.

 This vegetable can either smell wonderfully fresh or like a room full of dirty feet. Incredible then, that it is been given 'hero' status by many famous chefs. And we follow suit. Embracing this weird looking vegetable which can be transformed into  'rice',  'mashed potato', 'pizza pastry', and anything else you can think of.

Despite it's odd look, cauliflower, when treated respectfully, can be a rather charming vegetable. Different varieties can be white, creamy yellow or purple. When it is in season it is incredibly cheap - a big one I bought the other day cost just $3.00 and there is rarely a time when cauliflower is out of season because it grows in so many places

I am celebrating the cauliflower this week - yes, you are my hero because you are  - low in calories, high fibre, high vitamin C, B6, B1, B3, calcium, iron, manganese, copper and a plethera of other good things. Budget wise, it's cheap and a little goes a long way. So what is there not to like about the Brassica oleracea? 

This soup is so much better when you grate your own nutmeg . I have a small nutmeg grater which was very inexpensive and so easy to use, however just using a normal grater is fine.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Croutons


1 large cauliflower (about 1kg)
1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 shallot, chopped or 3 spring onions chopped
1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
600ml of vegetable stock
1/2 cup of cream
1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of verjuice
fresh thyme for garnish
shaved Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 190ºC/375 degrees.
Take a large roasting pan and line base with baking paper.
Chop the cauliflower into bite sized florets and place in a single layer on the baking

Add a tablespoon of olive oil and coat the cauliflower. Grate some nutmeg on the cauliflower, using about 1/2 teaspoon. 

Bake in the oven until the cauliflower is cooked and starting to brown on the top. This will give it a lovely caramelized flavour. Half way through baking, take the cauliflower out of the oven and turn the cauliflower over. Bake in total for around 40 minutes.

While you are waiting for the cauliflower to cook, take a large saucepan and add a tablespoon of olive oil, heat on a low heat, add the chopped onion and garlic, cook for 4-5 minutes until the onion starts to soften. Add the stock, thyme, vinegar and verjuice and heat through.

When the cauliflower is cooked allow it to cool a little in a bowl. Add  the cooled cauliflower to the stock and using a stick blender or a  conventional blender, blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you are serving immediately, stir in the half cup of cream and put it back on the heat to warm through.

Serve with some shaved parmesan and fresh sprigs of thyme. If you wish to serve some bread with this, either make some home made croutons or slice up a Baguette.

If you prefer a thinner soup, just add extra stock before blending.

Serves 4 people. Total cost $5.00 making it just over $1.00 per person.