Zucchini Fritters with Corn and Bacon

This recipe, from one of my favourite recipe websites called Mind Food, makes a delicious light lunch or dinner.

400g zucchini, washed and coarsely grated
½ cup self-raising flour
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
50g feta cheese, crumbled
1 egg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 rashers bacon, rinds removed
1 Tbs olive oil
1 cob fresh corn, kernels removed (or substitute frozen)
1 Tbs snipped chives
1/3 cup sour cream
Extra virgin olive oil to garnish

Sprinkle a good pinch of salt over the zucchini, mix through then leave to drain in a colander for 20 minutes or so. Squeeze out as much moisture as you can then place in a large mixing bowl with the flour, two cheeses, egg and seasoning to taste. You probably won’t need any salt having salted the grated zucchini.

In a large non-stick frying pan fry the bacon until crispy on both sides then drain on paper towels and keep warm. Place the corn in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Wipe out the frying pan then heat the tablespoonful of oil and fry the fritters for about 3 minutes each side, using about a quarter of the mixture for each fritter. Just scoop it out using two or three big spoonfuls for each. If the pan is large enough make all four at the same time. If not make two and keep them warm while you make another two. Drain well on paper towels, then arrange one on each of 4 warmed serving plates.

Drain corn and mix it with the chives, then divide amongst the four fritters. Top each with a dollop of sour cream and a folded slice of crispy bacon. Drizzle a little olive oil around each serving.

Serves 4

Variation: top with a slice of smoked salmon or trout instead of the bacon.

Unbaked Granola Bars

These quick and easy granola bars are a welcome, healthy addition to children’s lunch boxes and provide a delicious snack for the rest of the family. They don’t require any baking and are perfect for kids to make themselves.

Both recipes are fairly flexible, so feel free to substitute different seeds or nuts or to leave out something you don’t like or don’t have, such as coconut. The second recipe has honey as a sweetener, while the first one relies on dates for sweetness. Both contain chocolate chips, but leave them out if you prefer. If you don’t have all the seeds, double up on the ones you have.

Superfood Granola Bars
1 cup peanut butter (or another nut butter)
2 cups pitted dates, pureed in food processor
3 Tbs cocoa powder (optional)
1 cup porridge oats
¼ cup coconut flakes or desiccated coconut
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt (optional)
2 Tbs sesame seeds
2 Tbs flax seeds
2 Tbs hemp seeds
2 Tbs chia seeds
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup almonds (or walnuts, peanuts, pecans, hazelnuts or macadamias)
½ cup chocolate chips

Place peanut butter in a small bowl and zap in the microwave for 20 seconds, or until softened. Add the pureed dates and, if using, the cocoa powder and mix well. Place remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl, add the date mixture and mix thoroughly.

Grease a shallow square or oblong dish or container. This can be metal, glass, silicone, ceramic or plastic. Mine was 20cm or 9″ square dish and I sprayed it with oil. If the container is too big the muesli bars will be too thin.

Tip mixture into the container and use your hand or the bottom of a glass to flatten it evenly. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours, then cut into bars. Stored in an airtight tin they will keep for a week or more, though I doubt they will last that long.

Makes 12-16

Rice Krispie Granola Bars
2 cups Rice Krispies or another brand of puffed rice breakfast cereal
1½ cups porridge oats
¼ cup coconut flakes or desiccated coconut
¾ cup honey
1 cup peanut butter (or another nut butter)
1 tsp vanilla essence
¼ cup chocolate chips (dark, milk, white, your choice)

Place Rice Krispies, porridge oats and coconut in a large mixing bowl. Heat honey in a saucepan or in the microwave, just enough to make it liquid, then mix in the peanut butter and vanilla till smooth. Mix into the dry ingredients and lastly add the chocolate chips.

Grease a shallow square or oblong container. This can be made of metal, glass, silicone, ceramic or plastic. Mine was 20cm or 9″ square and I sprayed it with oil. If the container is too big the granola bars will be too thin.

Tip mixture into the container and use your hand or the bottom of a glass to flatten it evenly. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours, then cut into bars. Stored in an airtight tin they will keep for a week or more, though I doubt they will last that long.

Makes 12-16

 

 

 

 

Minestrone

This traditional Italian soup is perfect for lunch or a light dinner in the cooler months of the year. Make a big pot at the weekend and serve it for lunch or dinner a couple of times through the week, or take some to work to reheat in the microwave.

There are as many recipes for minestrone as there are for bolognese sauce, so to a certain extent you can just use what you have on hand. Onion, garlic, carrot, tomato and celery are the basic essentials, while the other vegetables are mostly optional. If you have it in the fridge add it, but don’t make a special trip to the shops just to buy one zucchini or one potato.

In the minestrone I made for the photo I didn’t add any potato, zucchini, leek or spinach/cabbage. I did add frozen peas and the kernels from a cob of fresh corn which needed using up. The spiral pasta is bigger than the size I usually use in minestrone, but it’s what I had in the pantry. Vegetarians can just leave out the bacon.

Served topped with grated Parmesan and some crusty bread or toast, it’s guaranteed to warm the cockles of your heart, as my Irish grandmother used to say. In other words, it will give you a warm fuzzy feeling.

2 Tbs olive oil
1-2 onions, peeled and diced
1 leek, trimmed and diced (optional)
3-4 carrots, peeled and diced
2-3 celery stalks, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2-3 rashers bacon, diced (optional)
Kernels from 1 cob corn, or one zucchini, diced
2 cups frozen peas
2 cups shredded spinach or cabbage
1 large potato, peeled and diced (optional)
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried thyme
1 can cannellini beans, drained (or another bean)
2 x 400g cans tomatoes, whizzed in food processor
1 Tbs tomato paste
2 Tbs sherry (optional)
2 litres chicken or vegetable stock (or water + 2 stock cubes)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2-3 tsp sugar
200-250g small pasta
To serve:
Grated Parmesan cheese
Chopped fresh parsley

Heat olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan, then add bacon and the diced vegetables, but not the frozen peas and spinach/cabbage. Cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until vegetables are al dente.

Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to the boil, then simmer until the pasta is cooked. Add more water as required and check for seasoning.

Serve the soup topped with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley, with fresh bread or toast.

Keeps in the fridge for 4-5 days and improves in flavour. Add water as necessary on reheating, if the soup appears to be too thick.

About 8 servings

Ham and Pea Bruschetta with Mint

A perfect weekend lunch which can be made in a jiffy with ingredients you probably have on hand.

1 cup frozen peas
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 Tbs smooth ricotta or creamy goat’s cheese
A handful of mint leaves
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil + extra to serve
4 slices sourdough bread
150g smoked ham, thinly sliced
50g feta cheese, crumbled (or use goat’s cheese)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place peas and garlic in a small saucepan. Cover with water then simmer for 3 minutes. Drain and place in food processor with the ricotta, about a tablespoonful of mint leaves and 1 Tbs of the oil. Process until almost smooth then season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile heat a chargrill pan over medium-high heat, brush both sides of the bread with olive oil then cook for 2 minutes each side, or until golden and slightly charred.

To serve, place one slice of the toasted bread on each of 4 plates. Top with the pea mixture, some ham, crumbled feta and a few mint leaves. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, drizzle with extra olive oil and serve.

Serves 4

Variations: use smoked trout or smoked salmon instead of ham.

 

Potato Cakes with Smoked Salmon

Our potato crop has just started so I put these delicious potato cakes on the menu for a light lunch last weekend. They originate in Scandinavia and when we were living in Copenhagen we ordered them quite often in restaurants.

They don’t contain any flour making them gluten free, which is good news for readers who avoid eating wheat and other grains.

500g potatoes
1 small onion, grated (optional)
1 egg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive or vegetable oil to fry
To serve:
Smoked Salmon or Trout
Sour Cream
Snipped chives

Peel potatoes and coarsely grate by hand or using a 0.5cm attachment on your food processor, transferring to a large bowl of cold water as grated. Soak potatoes for a couple of minutes then drain well in a colander. Spread potatoes on a tea towel and roll up. Twist towel tightly over the sink, to remove as much liquid as possible.

Transfer grated potato to a bowl and mix in the grated onion (if using), egg, salt and pepper. Heat ¼ cup oil in a large nonstick frying pan over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of four, spoon 2 tablespoons potato mixture per potato cake into frying pan, spreading into 3-inch rounds with a fork. Reduce heat to moderate and cook for 4-5 minutes, until undersides are browned. Turn over and cook for 4-5 minutes more. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season lightly with salt. Add more oil to pan as needed. Keep potato cakes warm on a wire rack over a shallow baking pan in a low oven. Leftovers can be reheated in a low oven.

Serve potato cakes with smoked salmon or trout, sour cream and chives and cracked pepper.

Makes 6-8 cakes serving 3-4

Asparagus with Smoked Salmon, Poached Egg and Quick Hollandaise

Asparagus goes very well with smoked fish and with eggs. This recipe uses both and ties all the ingredients together with a delicious herby hollandaise sauce, which takes no time at all to make.

It’s best to be cautious on timing the first time you make the sauce. Microwave ovens vary and it may only need 10 or 12 seconds on High in yours.

10-12 spears asparagus
4 slices smoked salmon
2 large eggs
Quick Hollandaise Sauce:
2 egg yolks
3-4 tsp lemon juice
pinch of salt and cayenne pepper
60g butter, melted
1 Tbs chopped fresh tarragon (optional)
To garnish:
Pink peppercorns (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil

Trim and wash asparagus and place in a frying pan. Add cold water to cover, then turn on the heat, bring to the boil and cook for 3 minutes or until al dente. Drain on paper towels then arrange on two heated serving plates. Meanwhile poach the eggs and make the sauce.

Arrange a poached egg and two slices of smoked salmon on each serving of asparagus. Garnish with the sauce, a few pink peppercorns, if using and a drizzle of olive oil.

Quick Hollandaise Sauce: place egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a heatproof bowl and whisk with a balloon whisk to combine. Whisk in the hot melted butter, then zap in the microwave for 14-15 seconds on High (no more or the egg yolks will scramble). Whisk vigorously to combine, add the tarragon and serve.

Serves 2

Three-Cheese Semolina Gnocchi with Gremolata

My friend Meg served this delicious starter over a year ago and at my request sent me the recipe. It’s taken me ages to get around to making it, as I always have a long list of recipes I want to try.

It originally appeared on Donna Hay’s website, but it’s not there any more. The original version serves 10-12 so I halved it to serve six as a starter. The recipe uses an Italian cheese called Taleggio in the gnocchi mix, but you could also use something stronger such as Gruyere or Cheddar.

750 ml milk
1 cup semolina
3 egg yolks
100g grated Taleggio cheese (or substitute Gruyere or strong cheddar)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few sprigs of fresh marjoram
½ cup grated mozzarella
½ cup grated parmesan
Gremolata:
1 Tbs finely chopped parsley
2 tsp finely chopped fresh marjoram
2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon rind (removed with veg peeler then shredded finely)
1 small clove garlic crushed

Place milk in a non-stick saucepan and bring to the boil. Gradually mix in the semolina, using a wooden spatula. Cook for 2-3 mins or until thickened then remove from the heat. Mix in the egg yolks, the cheese and season to taste. Scrape into a lightly greased square or rectangular dish. Mine is 20 cm square. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or until firm.

Meanwhile make the gremolata by mixing all ingredients together in a bowl or a jar with a lid.

When ready to serve, turn on the grill. Cut the gnocchi into six evenly sized rectangles and place on an oven tray lined with baking paper, leaving some space between each one. Sprinkle with the marjoram, the mozzarella and the parmesan. Grill for 2-3 mins or until cheese is golden and melted. Arrange on 6 serving plates and top with the gremolata. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil around the gnocchi.

Serves 6 as a starter

Variations: instead of taleggio you could use goat’s cheese. Instead of fresh marjoram you could use oregano or thyme

Pumpkin and Leek Frittata

Frittata is a quiche without the pastry. Delicious straight out of the oven and leftovers make a tasty lunch the following day.

1 kg butternut pumpkin, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
2-3 leeks depending on size, white part only, sliced
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbs fresh chopped thyme
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 eggs
1½ cups cream
½ cup grated parmesan
1 cup ricotta or cream cheese (optional)
Chopped parsley to garnish

Preheat oven to 220°C. Place pumpkin, leeks, garlic, thyme, oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Spread out on a shallow baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 25-30 mins or until cooked and starting to brown. Meanwhile whisk eggs, cream and parmesan in a bowl and season.

Tip vegetable mixture into a non-stick frying pan with an oven-proof handle. Choose one measuring about 28cm in diameter. Pour the egg and cream mixture evenly over the vegetables, then if using put blobs of ricotta or cream cheese all over.

Bake for 25 minutes or until puffed and golden. Garnish with parsley.

Serves 4-6

Chorizo Stuffed Chicken Roll with White Bean Salad

A boned and stuffed whole chicken makes a great centrepiece for a buffet table. I’ve done it once, or maybe twice. But it’s not a five minute job. This quick and easy recipe from Spanish-born Australian chef Miguel Maestre achieves the same flavour profile with far less effort.

If preferred use black pudding instead of chorizo.

5 large chicken thighs, skinless and boneless
2 chorizo sausages
About 8 thin slices of jamon serrano or prosciutto
Salad:
1 can butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 small red chilli, seeds removed and finely diced (optional)
1 French shallot, finely diced
3 Tbs finely chopped chives
2 Tbs finely chopped black olives
3 Tbs roughly chopped coriander
2 Tbs mayonnaise
1 Tbs olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Extra herbs for garnish
Balsamic glaze

Preheat oven to 200°C. Remove skin from chorizo and chop very finely in food processor.  On a shallow baking tray lined with baking paper, arrange the jamon, slightly overlapping, in a rectangle about 30cm wide and the height of the slices. Trim chicken pieces and gently hammer out any which are a bit too thick, so they are more even. Lay chicken on top of the jamon, leaving no gaps, like a jigsaw puzzle.

Place the pureed chorizo down the middle of the chicken. Using the baking paper to assist, roll the chicken over itself and form into a tight cylinder. Place the baking paper back down on the tray and arrange the chicken roll on top with the seam underneath. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until juices run clear when pierced with a skewer.

In a bowl place all the ingredients for the salad. Mix and season to taste.

Serve the chicken warm or at room temperature, thickly sliced, surrounded by the salad and garnished with the extra herbs. If serving cold, garnish with some balsamic glaze.

Serves 6-8

Chargrilled Zucchini with Avocado Hummus

I recently spent a few days in hospital. As I ate the unimaginative, tasteless hospital food I watched the SBS food channel and made notes. This is one of the delicious recipes I wrote down which we had for lunch today. Why can’t hospitals do better?

6 zucchini (about 1kg) halved lengthwise
1 clove garlic, crushed
Finely grated zest and juice 1 lemon
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
3 Tbs dukkah
Lemon wedges, chopped parsley and olive oil, to serve
Avocado Hummus:
2 ripe avocados
½ cup tahini
1 clove garlic, crushed
Finely grated zest and juice 1 lemon
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Hummus, place all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth and creamy, stopping halfway to scrape down the sides. Heat a large chargrill until hot and cook the zucchini halves, without oil, for 3 minutes each side, or until charred and cooked through.

While zucchini is cooking mix garlic, lemon zest and juice, oil and seasoning in a large bowl. Add the cooked zucchini halves and toss gently. Pile onto a serving platter and scatter with the parsley. Finish with dollops of avocado hummus, a sprinkling of dukkah, a drizzle of olive oil and the lemon wedges. If liked make half the recipe which serves 2.

Serves 4