Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Vegetarian Pot Pies

I like a pie in any shape or form, and teemed with countless vegetables and topped with puff pastry, makes my heart sing. Its a beaut (good old Australian word) thing to eat with creamy mashed potato and some steamed broccoli.

Cooking doesn't have to be Masterchef quality every night; too many ingredients, too little food on the plate.  Good, wholesome, flavoursome food which is simply prepared is fine. And I want to be fed; to push my empty plate away and say "delicious", I feel like I have eaten.

Making a few short cuts when you are cooking is OK too. Yes, making your own puff pastry is truly fun, but there are moments when you are so pushed for time that having some ready made in the fridge is a perfectly acceptable option. (Actually, I must admit it's a life saver) So use it and don't feel at all guilty. 

Try these little gems (made with bought puff pastry) and tell me how good they taste.

Recipe makes enough for 8

Vegetables of your choice - this is what I used

1 zucchini diced
2 carrots diced
1 leek chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 shallot (French) chopped
2 small potatoes diced
4 mushrooms diced
handful of baby spinach
handful frozen or fresh corn
600ml stock
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons butter
few sprigs of fresh thyme and parsley
2 tablespoons Creme Fraiche
few sheets defrosted puff pastry

Add olive oil and butter to a large pan. Add leek, garlic and shallot and cook until it starts to soften. 

Add zucchini, carrot, potato, salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables start to soft. Keep stirring to avoid burning or sticking to the bottom. Season with salt and pepper, a few sprigs of thyme and parsley and the mushrooms.

Add stock or water with a vegetable stock cube.

As the vegetables soften you can throw in a handful of baby spinach and frozen or fresh sweet corn (or any other vegetables you like). Allow this to just cook together for a few minutes and then check the seasoning. 

Spoon in some creme fraiche and turn off the heat, allowing the mixture to cool.

Place your cooled mixture into ramekins and start preparing your puff pastry.

Cut a circle of pastry large enough to go on top of your ramekins. Now cut out some strips of pastry which will go directly onto the ramekins and act as a collar. You can join pieces if you need to, moistened with a little water.

Using a pastry brush, lightly wet the edges of the pastry collar with water and press down the pastry topping. Give a tweek with thumb and finger to adhere the pastry together. 

Lastly, cut a small V with the point of a sharp knife in the centre of the pastry, to allow steam to escape. You can brush the top with milk if you wish, but usually I don't bother.

Bake in a preheated oven 200/400Fº for 15 - 20 minutes, depending on your oven. Keep a check on them so the pastry does not burn. Remove when the pastry is golden brown. Happy eating!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Rhubarb and Lavender

There is a reliability with Lavender. You can guarantee that no matter what time of year, there will always be at least one lavender flower in the garden. I like to grow it next to a path so you when you brush past it you get that heavenly scent. And the foliage, just seems to brighten up even the dullest parts of the garden in winter.
I'm sure everyone has their own lavender story, there's a certain something about it that evokes memories and stories in all of us, no matter how old we are or where we live.

When I was a kid growing up in the middle of England my mum would polish the furniture using a tin of Lavender Furniture Polish. The smell was heavenly and of course the polish itself a lavender colour. Mum told me that once I tried to eat it because it looked so creamy. Of this I have no memory, thank goodness. Whenever I smell lavender, I'm transported back to my mum, its a lovely memory and since she died a few years ago, its a nice way to remember her. 

But Lavender is not only useful in polish and soap and little bags you put in your underwear drawers. It's great for cooking with too - but only use a little because it has a very strong flavour and too much makes it unpalatable.

Today, when I was buying vegetables I saw some delicious looking rhubarb. Must have been grown somewhere a little warmer than Adelaide, because in my garden the rhubarb hasn't shaken off winter. These were long slender stalks of brilliant red and they looked so tempting that I had to buy some. And then I remembered Lavender; a great combination with rhubarb.

Combining rhubarb with a hint of culinary Lavender, adding a crunchy oat and almond crust was all the inspiration I needed to get in the kitchen.

Here's my recipe if you want to try out this combination - it may surprise you. Its not a crumble and its not a pie, but something in between and the texture is lovely.

Rhubarb and Lavender Oat Crunch


large bunch of rhubarb, stalks only chopped into small pieces

1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup of sugar
pinch of salt
3/4 teaspoon culinary lavender
2 tbls butter

For the topping

11/2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup soft brown sugar
1/2 cup plain flour
1 1/2 cup rolled oats 
1/2 cup toasted almond flakes
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon,
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 cup packed light brown sugar 
3/4 cup soft butter

  • Wash the rhubarb and cut the stalks into small pieces and place into an oven proof dish. I used a pie dish because I wanted to spread the topping thinly across the rhubarb.
  • Add lavender, honey, sugar, salt and mix thoroughly. 
  • Dot the rhubarb with 2 tablespoons of butter.
  • To make the topping - mix all ingredients together (except the almond flakes) and spread this over the rhubarb mixture. Now sprinkle the top with toasted flaked almonds.
  • Don't worry if you haven't completely covered the fruit. It will all work in the end.
  • Now bake in a preheated oven 180/350º for around 30 minutes or until the topping is golden. Allow to cool a little before serving either by itself, a quenelle of ice cream or a dob of cream. Your choice!

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

It's one of those days! Wake up, look out of the window and it's misty and drizzling with rain and you know that its going to be an indoor sort of day and you want warmth, cosy and comfort food.

I bought a basket load of red capsicums the other day with the very thought of making soup. Today is the day to crank up the oven and get some peppers roasting.

Once that got started the kitchen began to warm and the aroma was pretty terrific - onions and garlic all sweating out in the oven and the skin of the peppers turning a lovely charcoal. I love the smell of onions roasting, they so make me drool.

If I had time, I 'd like to grab a paintbrush and record the beautiful colours on a canvas, but alas that won't happen today.

I'm going to enjoy the soup for lunch with French stick, a chunk of Brie and an orange for sweetness.

Come and join me.



3 large red capsicum (peppers)
1 large onion peel and quartered
3 cloves of garlic peeled
Olive oil
1 cup water
440g Tin of chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper
handful of parsley or oregano finely chopped

This recipe is so easy to make and requires very little preparation but take into account the roasting time in the oven.

  • Cut capsicums in half length ways and remove seeds, stalk and pith. Chop onion into quarters.
  • In a large baking tray, lay the peppers cut side down, add onion and garlic and a good slug of olive oil.
  • Roast in a preheated oven 180/350º for about 30 minutes or until the skin of the peppers is nicely charred.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly, then take the skin off the peppers.
  • Transfer the onions, garlic and peppers into a big bowl, add a tin of tomatoes, 1 cup of water and puree using a hand held blender or other kitchen appliance. If it is too thick add a little more water.
  • Check seasoning.
  • Now transfer to a pan and re heat. Add some fresh herbs and serve.