Speedy Ragu with Creamy Polenta

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In hindsight, knowing what I now know, I was a touch naive when I plucked the packet of polenta from the supermarket shelves. I had thought I could simply Google how to prepare it, as I had Googled so many food preparation mysteries before. I was feeling adventurous; and I was completely unprepared for how contentious the whole business was.

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Food Makeover: Chang’s Crispy Noodle Salad.

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I’m willing to wager that if you’re Australian, you’ve probably encountered Chang’s Crispy Noodle Salad.  The recipe is featured on the back of the fried noodle packet, and it’s long been the salad of choice for those tasked with toting salads to barbecues and work lunches. – And with good reason; it’s delicious.

The heady combination of sesame oil and soy sauce has made this one of my favourite salads, and something of a summer go-to meal. The sugar content of the dressing has always given me pause though, and the noodles are fried in cottonseed oil; a hydrogenated oil which retains pesticide residue after processing. I decided the recipe was crying out for a healthy makeover.

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Dinner & a Movie – Cuban Sandwiches & ‘Chef’

Cuban Sandwich

Pairing a film with related meal is a great, inexpensive way to have a classy date night at home. In this post I review Jon Favreau’s 2014 indie film release ‘Chef’ and cook up the film’s signature dish; Cubanos, or Cuban sandwiches.

While traditional Cubanos are very much meat-eater fare, I’ve also included a vego alternative because for me, the cheese and pickle combination was almost as much of a revelation as the pork.

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Moroccan Inspired Chicken Soup

 

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In the summer of 2012, during the peak of the December party season I was spectacularly sidelined by an ugly spell of Glandular Fever. In the mornings I would wake, summon the energy to peel myself from my linens, make the short commute from bed to couch and from there I would indulge the fancies of my fever with warm blankets, or air conditioner blasts and icepacks. In between naps on these long days in isolation my television worked overtime. When the Game of Thrones ran out and my craving for a return to routine could no longer be ignored, I began alternating between Ross Kemp and Louis Theroux documentaries, followed by episodes of Twin Peaks to take the edge off. After three weeks on this regimen of hard-hitting investigative journalism and even-far-out-for-art-house television I was completely despairing, wholly morose and utterly freaked out. On Day 22, following a particularly hard to watch hour with Louis and The Most Hated Family in America, I couldn’t take anymore. Louis (or more specifically, his subject matter) had left me with a pervasive sense of dread and disgust, and I feared another confronting hour with Kemp, or a weird-out session with Special Agent Dale Cooper might just do me in. Something had to give. With no small effort, I drove myself boldly in the direction of my kitchen where I set about reclaiming my will to live. Unsurprisingly after three weeks of illness, the contents of my fridge were limited and uninspiring. There were two tomatoes, some wilted spinach, eggs and a packet of chicken thighs Joel had generously brought over the night before. Downtrodden but not yet entirely disheartened I dug my recipe notebook out of a kitchen drawer and scanned it for inspiration – and I found it, in a scribbled recipe for Moroccan Chicken Soup.

My energy levels held out for a full thirty minutes while I chopped and sweated onions and garlic, cubed and browned chicken, peeled, deseeded, grated and simmered tomatoes, peppered everything with spices and covered it all with water.  An hour of slow cooking later and my tiny apartment was filled with the mouth watering smell of paprika infused chicken broth, and a faint feeling of warmth and contentment was tugging at the edges of my being. It is probably owed to the strange and trying circumstances leading up to that bowl of soup, but I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had a more satisfying meal before or since. Eighteen months and many bowls of soup later, I have continued to adapt and refine this recipe to deliver the comforting, warming flavours that first endeared me to it, while doing away with the tomato-based tedium of the original formula.  Without further fuss or ado I present you with my favourite chicken soup recipe; a proven antidote to melancholy induced by prolonged isolation and uncomfortable television.

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Ulta-Quick Palak Paneer

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As easy on your wallet as it is to make at home, paneer is the perfect cheese to share with vegetarian friends. This soft, fresh cheese is made by using food acid to separate milk curds from whey, instead of the much grizzlier process of setting the cheese with animal rennet. I feel paneer is at its most delicious when simmered in a spicy spinach sauce, like this one.

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Butternut and Caraway Soup

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Budget friendly root veggies are transformed into a warming, hunger-busting puree in this ultra-easy recipe. What’s best is that it yields a whopping 1o-serve batch that will keep you out of the kitchen for nights at a time, freeing you up to binge-watch Orange is the New Black from beneath a blanket on your sofa – hooray!

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Slow Cooker Shawarma Style Chicken Kebab Bowls

 

With an average temperature of 16 degrees for the past few days and winter turning on its’ iciest winds, my woolliest, bobbliest jumpers are doing little to fend off the shivers this week!

This afternoon I needed warming from the inside out and so set about returning our lovely retro Slow Cooker to its’ seasonally rightful place on our kitchen counter.  With an abundance of iceberg lettuce languishing in our crisper, and with few foods being more comforting than a kebab, I felt inspired to try my hand at a low carb, fuss-free stand-in for the greasy chip-shop delicacy, and this is what I came up with.

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Eggplant Raita

A work lunch in the city recently saw me dining on a fish curry at an Indian restaurant. While the curry was fairly standard and unspectacular, the smokey eggplant raita I ordered with it on a last minute whim saw me eating in silent appreciation while my colleagues chatted around me. Lacking the budget to lunch at restaurants everyday I set out to recreate the raita at home, and I am quite happy with the results!

This is a very thick, chunky, scoop-able raita – not the runny, pureed variety that runs right off your papadum!

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Quick & Easy Chicken Curry

My love of cooking began with my love of cookbooks. A recommendation from a seasoned home cook in my first office job saw me purchasing Stephanie Alexander’s A Cook’s Companion and after that first rainy saturday of pouring through the pages I was hooked. I loved everything about it; the exhaustive preparation and storage instructions, the encyclopaedic glossary, the pairing and variation notes in the margins that so encouraged experimentation –  and the way the chapters were set out by ingredient for easy “what shall I do with what’s in the fridge?” cooking. As a novice cook I remember feeling a rising excitement about all the possibilities as I perused the pages; my fish-finger sandwich days were over.

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Thai Chicken Soup

Chilly Autumn afternoons call for warming soups, and I favour those with arresting flavours. This Thai inspired soup delivers the much loved combination of chicken and garlic, while also offering a touch of extra heat and Eastern elegance courtesy of the ginger and chilli. Finished off with a generous pouring of creamy coconut milk, this dish is every bit as sumptuous and comforting as it sounds; you won’t be disappointed.

Thai Coconut Soup

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Cashew Nut Butter

It was a happy, happy day when I arrived at this recipe, but a word of warning before you try it out: do it with people around. I’m quite convinced it was only Joels’ presence when I was taste-testing the final product that kept me from sinking to my knees on the kitchen floor and devouring half the tub.  

If you are following a ketogenic or low carbohydrate diet you may wish to make this with almonds, hazelnuts or macadamia nuts instead, as cashews are actually legumes and thus, sadly, quite carbohydrate dense.

Cashew nut butter

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