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 Falafel

When we lived in Israel in the late 1970s, we loved the street food called falafel. Crispy chickpea patties served in a warm pita bread pocket with humus, tomatoes, cucumber, and onion.

Falafel are traditionally made with chickpeas. Using a can doesn’t work – they end up mushy. This recipe uses red lentils instead of chickpeas which you just soak for an hour. The photo shows the falafel ready to fry – which is why they look a bit insipid. Next time I think I’ll make them a little bit smaller.

1 bunch parsley
2 cloves garlic
1 onion
1 cup red lentils soaked one hour in cold water then drained
1 tsp each ground cumin, coriander and salt
4 tbs chickpea flour (besan flour)
¼ cup olive oil + extra for frying the felafel
To serve:
4 pita bread pockets
Hummus (bought or home-made)
1 small cucumber, diced
2-3 tomatoes diced (or 8-10 cocktail tomatoes)
½ red onion, diced
Coriander or parsley, chopped
Avocado diced (optional)
Olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients for the felafel. I use the food processor to finely chop the parsley and onion, then add the drained lentils, spices, salt, chickpea flour and olive oil. Process just enough to get a chunky mixture. You don’t want it smooth. Form into 2cm flattened balls with damp hands.

Deep fry or shallow fry the falafel or spray both sides with oil and cook them in an air fryer for about 10 minutes, turning once about halfway through.

Meanwhile warm or toast the felafel pockets. Mix the cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, coriander or parsley and avocado if using. Add a little olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, fill each pita pocket with some hummus, cucumber and tomato mix and two or three crispy warm felafel.

Serves 4

Lemon Slice

There’s a recipe on Cafe Cat called Valli’s Amazing Lemon Tart which uses a whole lemon – peel, pith and all.

This is a recipe for a very lemony slice which does the same. I used a standard Australian 250ml cup for this recipe.

1 cup plain flour
¼ cup suar
¼ tsp salt
125g butter, melted
Lemon Topping:
1 lemon washed, dried, cut up, seeds removed
2/3 cup sugar
1 rounded Tbs cornflour
3 Tbs lemon juice
50g butter
3 eggs
To serve:
Icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a 20cm square cake pan with baking paper. Place ingredients for crust in a food processor. Process until you have a smooth paste, then scrape it into the cake pan and  press it all over to an even thickness. Bake for 20-25 mins or until golden brown.

Place all the ingredients for the lemon topping in food processor – there’s no need to wash it after mixing the base. Process until fairly smooth then tip onto the base and spread out. Bake for 20-25 minute or until set – it should feel firm to the touch in the middle. Cut into squares or rectangles when cool.

Keeps several days in the fridge and can be frozen.

Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Cuts into 12-16 squares or rectangles.

Chicken and Zucchini Burgers

I made these tasty little burgers – rissoles, patties, frikadelle or whatever you like to call them – in the Air Fryer. If you don’t have one, cook them in a frying pan in a tiny bit of oil.

This is a good way to get kids to eat more vegetables as they probably won’t notice the grated zucchini in the mix.

To add a bit more zing add some chopped ham, salami or bacon. The sauce is optional.

500g chicken mince
1 large or 2 small zucchini (courgettes)
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1-2 Tbs finely chopped fresh tarragon (optional) or parsley
1 egg
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup breadcrumbs (I used Panko)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbs mayonnaise
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp honey

Grate the zucchini coarsely then mix with the rest of the ingredients. Form into patties – I made 10 but you could make less by making them larger.

Spray with cooking oil on both sides, then cook in an Air Fryer at 180°C for 20-25 minutes, turning once. Or fry in a little oil in a frying pan on both sides. Garnish with chives.

Sauce: mix ingredients together and serve with the burgers.

Serve with a salad or coleslaw. I made a coleslaw with shredded cabbage, grated carrot, pine nuts, sultanas and a little shredded red onion, with a dressing of mayonnaise, sour cream and lemon juice.

Serves 4


Black Bean Chocolate Brownie

This is an interesting recipe for deliciously moist and chocolatey brownies which uses a can of black beans instead of flour and eggs.

It’s gluten-free and, if you want to cut down on the sugar, use a sugar-free fake maple syrup, stevia or another artificial sweetener. I used honey. You could leave the chocolate chips out.

1 can black beans, drained
3 Tbs cocoa powder
½ cup nut meal (ground almonds, walnuts or whatever)
1/3 cup olive or coconut oil
½ cup honey or maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp baking powder
¾ cup chocolate chips (optional)
Extra: ¼ cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 180°C. Place all ingredients except chocolate chips in food processor. Process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides. Add chocolate chips if using, then scrape into a small square cake pan. Mine was 7 inches or 18cm. You will need to grease and line a metal pan with baking paper. I used a silicone pan which doesn’t need lining.

Sprinkle the extra chocolate chips over the top then bake for 25 minutes, or until firm to the touch in the middle. Cool then cut into squares. If preferred, make the brownies in muffin pans – it will make about 6 big ones.

Nice served as dessert with a blob of cream and some berries.

Makes 9-12 pieces

Substitutes and variations: use rolled oats instead of ground nuts; add some chopped nuts such as walnuts instead of or as well as the chocolate chips. Use 1½ cups cooked mashed sweet potato instead of the black beans.

Chicken with New Potatoes, Bacon and Herbs

This recipe is quick to prepare and good when you only have one chicken breast to feed two people.

2 Tbs olive oil
1 large chicken breast or equivalent in tenderloin pieces
200-300g new potatoes
100g chunky bacon, speck or lardons, cut into small thick pieces
1 red onion, halved, then cut into wedges
3 Tbs fresh oregano or marjoram, roughly chopped
A few fresh herbs to garnish

Cut chicken into chunks about 2.5cm (one inch) square. Scrub potatoes, cut into quarters, then cook in boiling salted water. When cooked drain well.

Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan and cook bacon and onion, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Add chicken and potatoes and continue to cook for 5-7 minutes over moderate heat, turning the chicken pieces and the potatoes so they brown evenly. Lastly add the herbs and season to taste. Save a few fresh herbs to garnish.

Serves 2

Pasta with Peas

This quick and easy vegetarian pasta recipe with its crunchy crumb topping will appeal to fans of frozen peas.

500g pasta of your choice (I used penne)
2 cups frozen peas
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
Juice of ½ a lemon
Good pinch of chilli flakes
Small handful of fresh basil (keep a couple of sprigs to serve)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To serve:
1 Tbs olive oil or butter
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup breadcrumbs (stale bread blitzed in food processor)
¼ cup pine nuts

Cook pasta until al dente in boiling, salted water, then drain. Cook peas in boiling salted water until tender then drain. Place half the peas, the ricotta, lemon juice, basil, garlic, chilli flakes and seasoning in food processor and process until smooth. Mix into the cooked pasta with the remaining peas, saving a few to garnish.

While pasta and peas are cooking make the topping. Heat the olive oil or butter and add the Panko crumbs and pine nuts. Stir fry until golden. Remove from the heat and mix in the Parmesan.

Serve pasta topped with the crumbs and remaining peas, garnished with a basil sprig. If liked, drizzle with some Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Serves 4

Variations: use a mixture of ricotta and goat cheese or feta cheese to give the sauce a bit more punch. Add some asparagus spears, cut into lengths and steamed.


When I started cooking, any recipe using eggplants involved salting the slices and leaving them to drain, in order to remove any bitterness. You then had to pat them dry and fry them in oil. Eggplants are a bit like blotting paper and will soak up as much oil as you give them. More recent varieties of eggplant seem to have eliminated the bitterness and browning the slices in the oven means you don’t need to use too much oil.

This recipe was given to me by my friend Margaret when we were all posted to Tel Aviv, many moons ago. Like a big lasagne, it’s a great choice for feeding a crowd. All the preparation can be done ahead and with a big salad and some crusty bread you’re all set.

1kg eggplants, sliced 1cm thick
1kg minced lamb or beef
2 chopped onions
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 Tbs olive oil
1 400g tin tomatoes, chopped (or equivalent in fresh tomatoes)
500g mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 Tbs chopped parsley
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 heaped Tbs tomato paste
½ cup water + 1 beef stock cube
Olive oil for brushing or spraying
Grated Parmesan cheese
30g butter
30g plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1½ cups milk
2 beaten eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200°C. Arrange eggplant slices on two large oven trays lined with baking paper. Spray on both sides with olive oil, or use a brush. Cook for 20 minutes, turning once, or until golden brown on both sides.

Heat oil in a large frying pan and cook onion and garlic until soft. Turn up heat and add meat and mushrooms and cook stirring until meat has browned. Add chopped tomatoes (skinned if fresh), herbs, tomato paste, cumin, stock cube and water and season to taste. If the frying pan isn’t big enough put everything into a deeper pan. Simmer 10-15 minutes, adding a little more water if necessary.

This recipe is enough to make two large moussakas or one extra large one, as shown in the photo. If preferred, make half the recipe. Fill each dish with layers – meat sauce sprinkled with a little grated Parmesan, eggplant slices, then meat sauce and more Parmesan, then remaining eggplant slices.

For the sauce, melt butter in a non-stick pan, add flour and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes. Gradually add the milk, stirring until thick before you add more. Season to taste. Remove from the heat and add the beaten eggs last. Pour sauce over the top of the moussaka and spread out evenly. If you’re making it early in the day, refrigerate at this stage until you’re ready to bake. Bake for 40-50 minutes at 200°C, or until browned and bubbly. Stand for 10 minutes before cutting. Can be completely cooked a day ahead, kept in the fridge, then just reheated.

Serves 10-12

Chicken Fajitas

I’ve been writing this blog since 2011 and this is the first Mexican dish. Fajitas make a quick and easy mid-week dinner which even some fussy kids might enjoy.

It’s a good option for those trying to cut down on carbs, so I had mine without the tortilla, Serving with tortillas makes it go further, so double the recipe will serve a family of six.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 onion, sliced or cut in wedges
1 red or yellow capsicum, or half of each, sliced
2 Tbs olive oil
½ lime, juiced
1 tsp each chilli powder, ground cumin and garlic powder
½ tsp each paprika, oregano and salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To serve:
Tortillas, warmed
Sour cream
1 avocado, sliced

Mix seasoning in a bowl. Trim chicken breasts and cut each into 3 or 4 thick lengthwise strips. Add to the bowl of seasoning and mix to coat well.

In a large frying pan, heat half the oil, add chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and add the other tablespoonful of oil with the onion and pepper strips. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes until cooked and starting to brown. Slice chicken and return to the pan. Stir fry for a couple of minutes, then drizzle with the lime juice. Serve with tortillas, sour cream, avocado and coriander.

Serves 2-3

Chocolate Cakes

Just back from six weeks travelling in Europe. Spent time in the UK, France and Poland, with a week in Thailand on the way back, to recover. Caught up with 27 close friends and family, ate too much, drank too much, but had a great time. It was our first trip to Europe since September 2019, before the dreaded Coronavirus became a part of our lives.

Before we left we heard all sorts of dreadful stories about cancelled flights and lost suitcases. But considering we flew on a total of 11 flights – from Canberra to Sydney to Bangkok to Paris to Krakow to Toulouse via Amsterdam to Nice to London to Bangkok to Phuket to Sydney – I have to say we had a pretty good run, getting through all airports in less than an hour.

The only exception was our flight from Krakow to Toulouse with Easyjet, which was delayed when we transited through Amsterdam. A strike by French air traffic controllers meant they were limiting the number of planes which could land in France, so we sat in the plane on the tarmac in Schiphol airport for three hours. Our pilot told us we were lucky ours wasn’t one of 500 flights which had been cancelled that day. He sent us a bottle of water and a biscuit to keep us quiet.

There’s a terrible sinking feeling when you’re standing by the baggage carousel, there are no more suitcases going round and a sign appears saying “Baggage delivery completed” or words to that effect. Due to the strike there was literally nobody in arrivals to speak to, with all the help desks unattended. We went to the departure lounge where we found a member of staff who showed us how to complete a form online, on one of those machines you normally use to get a boarding pass, with details of the two lost bags. Twenty-four hours later they were delivered to our friends’ house in the French countryside, miles from anywhere, by a little man with a van full of suitcases. He said he had delivered 150 that day.

I’ve been too busy unpacking, washing and getting things organised to cook something new, so here are a few suggestions for anyone who feels like baking a chocolate cake.

Chocolate Fudge Cake  is the Rolls Royce of chocolate cakes and our family’s celebration cake. We make for birthdays, anniversaries and even weddings. Fiona’s Gluten Free Chocolate Cake is great for anyone who is gluten intolerant. And this Stir Crazy Chocolate Cake (photo above) contains no eggs and is quick and easy to whip up.