Sticky Lamb with Loaded Sweet Potatoes

Lamb forequarter chops are about half the price of lamb cutlets. If you’re on a budget with a large family, you might want to try this recipe. Forequarter chops contain more fat than cutlets, but in this recipe it mostly dissolves during the cooking.

The sweet potatoes go well with the lamb. If preferred leave out the bacon. You think this recipe is going to serve more people, but the lamb is so tasty everyone comes back for a second helping! A green salad goes well with this family meal.

1 kg or up to 1.5kg lamb forequarter chops
Sticky Glaze:
2 Tbs honey
4 Tbs soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 Tbs chilli paste
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs rice wine vinegar
Fresh coriander to garnish
Sweet Potatoes:
1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes
1 onion cut into 8ths
3 Tbs olive oil
3 tsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
2 rashers bacon, diced
1 cob fresh corn
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cut the chops into 2 or 3 smaller chops by cutting lengthwise and avoiding the bones. Mix the glaze and use it to marinate the chops.  Put aside.

Peel sweet potatoes and cut into chunky chips. Place in a bowl with the onion, olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper and mix well. Tip into a large oven-proof baking dish and spread evenly. Put aside.

Dinner can be prepared ahead to this stage.

Preheat oven to 170°C. Arrange the drained lamb in a single layer on a baking tray and cook for an hour or until well-cooked and sticky as shown in the photo. Keep the glaze. Depending on your oven they might take a bit longer. Halfway through cooking time, turn them over, brush with remaining glaze.

Put the sweet potatoes in the oven at the same time as the lamb and cook for about an hour or until cooked through. Meanwhile cook the bacon for a few minutes in a frying pan. Add the corn kernels removed from the cob and continue to cook, stirring for a couple of minutes. About 10 minutes before the sweet potatoes are ready, top with the bacon and corn mixture, sprinkle with Parmesan (if using) and put back in the oven for the remaining 10 minutes or so.

Serves 4

Quick & Easy Italian Chicken

Chicken Parmigiano is one of my favourite chicken dishes and the rest of the family like it too. However, it takes a bit of preparation and while it’s not complicated it doesn’t fall into the quick and easy category.

This recipe is similar, but without the tomato sauce and it can be prepared in a jiffy. Serve with a salad and crusty bread or rice. A real crowd pleaser which is easy to double.

4 or 5 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/3 cup olive oil
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp Oregano
3 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup grated Parmesan
2 tsp crushed chilli (optional)
½ tsp salt
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs or home-made stale breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan, extra
2 Tbs finely chopped parsley
3 Tbs melted butter (optional)

Place the olive oil, lemon juice and rind, oregano, garlic, Parmesan, chilli and salt in a large rectangular lasagne-type dish and mix well. Slice the chicken breasts in half horizontally so you end up with 8-10 thinner pieces. Place them in the dish, one by one, turning them to coat them evenly with the oil mixture, then arranging them to cover the whole dish.

Mix the breadcrumbs, extra Parmesan, parsley and melted butter and sprinkle evenly over the chicken. You can leave out the butter if preferred. Bake for about 30 mins at 180°C or until golden brown and cooked through.

Serve with a green salad or a tomato, red onion and basil salad dressed with a simple olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing and crusty bread or rice, or both.

Serves 6

Note: crushed chilli is sold in jars in most supermarkets

Cumquat and Almond Cake

When a dessert comes into fashion you see it everywhere – in food magazines, on restaurant menus and served up by friends who entertain. A few years ago chocolate fondants – those tricky little puddings which are all about timing – were very much in vogue. A pool of delectable melted chocolate pours out when you stick your spoon into the middle – well that’s the theory. If you’ve managed to over-cook them, as I’ve done on more than one occasion, they’re still delicious. One of my all-time favourite desserts.

Turn the clock back even further to the 1970s and 80s and everyone was making Orange and Almond cake, where you boil two whole oranges until soft, whizz them to a purée, then add them to the cake mixture. I believe this cake made its debut in Australia in Claudia Roden’s Book of Middle Eastern Food, but recipes were soon popping up everywhere. Some versions don’t use any flour, making them good for celiacs.

Once again we have a huge crop of cumquats, so I decided to make this cake using cumquats instead of oranges and it was a great success. If preferred use two oranges or even mandarins.

Cumquat and Almond Cake

About 300g cumquats (or 2 oranges)
2 cups ground almonds (or grind your own from whole or slivered blanched almonds)
125g butter at room temperature
1 cup caster sugar
5 eggs
½ cup self-raising flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
2 Tbs cumquat juice (or orange juice)
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup water
2 Tbs whisky (optional)
To serve:
Icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180ºC and line the base of a 22cm cake pan with baking paper and grease the sides. Place cumquats in a pan and cover with water. Simmer for 10 mins or until soft then cool. If using oranges they will take 20-30 mins. Cut in half and remove seeds.

If you need to grind the almonds, do them first in the food processor, then add remaining ingredients for cake, including the cooked cumquats, skin and all. Mix until smooth, stopping once to scrape down mixture from the sides. Tip mixture into cake pan and bake for an hour or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Ovens vary so start checking after 45 mins.

Meanwhile make the syrup – place all ingredients in a small pan and simmer for 5 mins. Make holes over the top of the cake with a metal skewer and spoon the warm syrup over as soon as it comes out of the oven. The syrup will be absorbed.

Serve dusted with icing sugar, either warm or at room temperature, with a dollop of thick cream.

Serves 8-10

Variations: use macadamia nuts or pine nuts instead of almonds

Note: to make a flourless version suitable for anyone who is gluten intolerant, replace the flour with an extra half cup of ground almonds

Kien’s Dutch Apple Pie

Many years ago my Dutch friend Kien gave me this recipe for Dutch Apple Pie.

Using shortbread instead of pastry and an apple filling spiced with cinnamon and rum, this cake is delicious with a cuppa or served as a dessert, with ice cream or cream.

250g plain flour
150g self-raising flour
200g sugar
300g butter at room temperature
125 sultanas
125g currants or raisins
750g peeled and sliced green apples
¾ cup rum
125g sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
½ cup apricot jam

Soak dried fruit in rum, preferably overnight. Pre-heat oven to 160C.  Mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy in food processor or with electric beaters. Mix in flour until well mixed and sticking together.  Tip out, form into a log and refrigerate for about 30 mins wrapped in plastic wrap. Cut log into three. Cut off slices and use about one third to press all over the bottom of a buttered 30 cm spring-form pan. Bake for 20-30 mins till golden then cool.

Filling: Turn oven up to 170°C.  Mix apples with sugar and cinnamon. Line sides of cake tin with about another third of the shortbread.  It’s difficult to roll out, so the easiest way is to cut off thin slices and press them onto the sides of the tin like a jigsaw puzzle. Drain dried fruit (keep rum), mix with apples and spread evenly into tin. Use remaining shortbread to make strips and form a lattice to cover apples. You will need to roll out the dough for this. Pinch edges of the lattice onto the sides of the pie so it all joins up.  Bake for 1¼ hours or until light golden over the top. Spoon rum through holes between the lattice. Paint lattice with heated and sieved apricot jam, using a pastry brush. Cool thoroughly before removing sides of tin. Serve with whipped cream, pouring cream or vanilla ice cream.

If you make the cake the day before and want to serve it warm, don’t put the apricot glaze on. Next day reheat in a low oven for about 20 minutes and then brush with the apricot glaze. Reheating is optional – it’s perfectly nice at room temperature.

Serves 12

Aleppo Pepper & Honey Chicken

According to Wikipedia, Aleppo pepper is a variety of capsicum used as a spice, particularly in Turkish, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. Also known as Halaby pepper, its pods are ripened, semi-dried, de-seeded and crushed.

I’ve been seeing quite a few recipes which call for this spice and realised it was one which, believe it or not, I didn’t have in my collection. It’s not sold in Australia in your average supermarket selection, but I found it at The Essential Ingredient.

If you look at images online you will see that Aleppo Pepper varies in colour from bright red through to a dark brownish red. I suggest you buy a bright red one, as the colour is a big part of the appeal of this spice. The flavour is somewhere between a spicy, tangy pepper and a very subtle chilli.

This recipe can be halved or doubled. If preferred, you can use chicken breasts or bone-in pieces, such as wings or drumsticks, instead of boned thighs, adjusting the cooking time accordingly. I prefer to use thighs as chicken breasts tend to be a bit dry.

This recipe is easy and absolutely delicious, with a subtle pepperiness and a very attractive colour. You will want to make it again. Perfect for a weekend BBQ, but it can also be cooked in the oven.

1 kg boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Juice of 1 lemon or 2 limes
2 Tbs Aleppo pepper
2 Tbs olive oil
Salt to taste
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbs honey
2 Tbs finely chopped parsley
To serve:

Lime wedges

Trim chicken pieces of any excess fat. Place in bowl with remaining ingredients. Mix well, then leave to marinate for at least half an hour or overnight if that suits you.

Cook the drained chicken in a preheated oven 200°C for 20-30 minutes or on a BBQ – preferably a charcoal grill. If cooking in the oven, cook in a single layer and you may want to line the baking sheet with baking paper which comes up the sides a bit, to make the washing up easier. Burnt honey is always a pain to clean!

Garnish with lime wedges to serve.

Serves 6-8


Mexican Charred Corn Salad

This fresh corn salad is a nice accompaniment to chicken, fish or beef or use it to fill some wraps, with a few slices of barbecued chicken.

Using mayonnaise in the dressing makes it creamier but leave it out if you prefer. Optional garnish is some sliced avocado.

3-4 cobs of fresh corn (or 3 cups frozen corn, thawed)
2 Tbs olive oil
2-3 spring onions, thinly sliced or diced red onion
3 Tbs mayonnaise, preferably home made (optional)
1 or 2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 Tbs chopped fresh coriander or parsley
1 small red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 small red capsicum (or ½ a larger one), diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (or substitute crumbled feta)
2 Tbs lemon or lime juice
Sliced avocado (optional)

Remove kernels from cobs using a sharp knife. Heat oil in a large frying pan and cook the corn for 10 minutes, stirring often, over medium to high heat, until it’s starting to brown a bit.

Mix all ingredients together.

Serves 4


Chickpeas with Chorizo

This is a hearty dish to tuck into before the warm weather arrives. It’s one of those dishes that improves with keeping for a day or two in the fridge. So, if there are any leftovers, serve them later in the week, on one of those nights when you’re too busy to cook. To make the leftovers go further, serve them in warm wraps. You can also freeze it.

I made this in my slow cooker, so I was able to leave it to cook while I was out for a couple of hours. If you prefer to cook it in the oven, use a heavy casserole with a lid and you may need to add a bit more water. Keep an eye on it and add as necessary.

The Clonakilty Black Pudding I used, which I bought in Woolies, completely dissolved into the sauce, making it thick and full-flavoured.

3 or 4 chorizo sausages, thickly sliced
5 cloves garlic, sliced
2 Tbs olive oil
5 large shallots or 2-3 medium onions
100g speck or pancetta, cut into chunky dice
100g black pudding (optional), sliced (you can substitute salami)
2 cans chickpeas (or 1 can chickpeas and 1 can cannellini beans), drained
2 cups beef stock
2 Tbs fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To serve:
Steamed rice
Chopped parsley

Peel and quarter the shallots or if using onions cut them into 8ths. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and cook the onions, garlic, chorizo and speck for a few minutes, stirring often, until onions and garlic are softening and speck is starting to brown and release its fat.

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a slow cooker. Cover and cook for 3-4 hours on high or longer on low. Stir from time to time. Serve with steamed rice and garnish with parsley.

Serves 4

Variations: use any other sausages instead of the chorizo. Use ordinary bacon instead of speck. Use drained lentils or black beans instead of cannellini and chickpeas.

Prawn Wontons with Pesto

These prawn wontons are quick to make using a packet of wonton wrappers from the supermarket. Thaw the packet enough to remove the number you need, then stick them back in the freezer.

I used frozen green (raw) prawns from Aldi which are peeled and deveined and you just have to remove the tails. Remove the number you need from the packet and then stick it back in the freezer.

I used pesto I had frozen in ice cube trays last summer. We grow lots of basil which is an annual. I always make several batches of pesto just before the first frosts arrive, because frost invariably kills the plants. If I had used freshly-made pesto it would had been a brighter green but the taste was still good. Then I used ginger which I also freeze in ice cube trays and keep in my freezer, so I always have it on hand.

Adjust the recipe to serve more people. Three makes a nice starter or light lunch, four makes a light main course, which we ate accompanied by a substantial side salad.

16 wonton wrappers, thawed
8 very large or 16 medium green (raw) prawns, thawed if frozen and dried
Pesto preferably home-made
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger, optional
2 cups baby spinach leaves
2 tsp butter or oil
Extra virgin olive oil

Arrange half the prawns on half the wonton wrappers. If using two prawns, place them like two moons facing inwards so they make a neat circle in the middle. If using ginger, mix it into the pesto. Top the prawns with a teaspoon of pesto. Moisten the bottom wonton wrapper with a little water around the edge, then press another wonton wrapper on top. Pinch well to seal.

Heat a large pan of water and when boiling, turn down a bit so it’s simmering. Add the wontons one at a time and simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the wonton wrappers are translucent. Meanwhile place spinach in a small frying pan with butter or oil. Cook for a minute or two, until wilted.

Arrange drained spinach on 2 serving plates. Top with the wontons, drained then dried on kitchen paper. Mix a little oil into the remaining pesto and drop it over the top. Drizzle a little oil around the edge of the plates and serve.

Serves 2

Ten Super Quick Dinners

We all have our favourite quick and easy recipes that we make regularly. The recipe you think of as you take the main ingredient out of the freezer.

Tried and tested, easy no-brainers.

What are your favourite go-to recipes you can make with your eyes closed? Here are some of mine.

Salmon with Ginger and Sweet Chilli Sauce
Crispy Skinned Fish with Tomato Salsa
Lamb chops with Dijon, Rosemary and Honey
Steak Diane
Smoked Haddock with Tomatoes and Cream
Eggplants with Labneh and Spicy Cashews
Sticky Chilli Chicken
Pasta with Broad Beans and Pesto
Chicken with Spinach, Pine Nuts and Raisins

Crispy Pork Belly with Sticky Sherry Sauce

This easy recipe for pork belly comes from

Making it in an air fryer is the easiest way to ensure crunchy crackling with no oven cleaning. Roasting pork in the oven inevitably creates a lot of spattering. An air fryer is a dream to clean. Well mine is.

Aldi sell pork belly in one kilo packs which are perfect for this recipe.

1 kg (approx) pork belly with skin
2 tsp garlic salt (or ordinary salt)
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Sticky Sherry Sauce:
¼ cup sweet chilli sauce
¼ cup sherry
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs wholegrain mustard
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce

With a sharp knife, make cuts parallel to the edge on the meaty side of the pork, 1 cm apart. Don’t cut all the way through – less than halfway. Make similar cuts in a diagonal direction on the skin side of the pork, also about 1cm apart and just cutting through the skin, not right through. Mix the salt and spices and use the mixture to coat both sides of the pork, rubbing it into all the cuts.

Place pork on the tray of an air fryer, skin side up, and cook at 200°C for 25 minutes then at 160°C for a further 30 minutes. By this time the pork should be cooked through and the crackling crunchy.

Meanwhile place all ingredients for sauce in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil then simmer for 3-4 minutes until reduced and sticky.

Slice pork and serve with the sauce underneath or spooned over. Garnish with some fresh herbs such as coriander leaves.

Serve with rice and a steamed green vegetable or a simple coleslaw.

Serves 4-6

Note: if you don’t have an air fryer, cook in the oven in a roasting pan for half an hour at 220°C then turn the oven down to 160°C for a further 10 minutes or until pork is tender and crackling is crunchy.