Quick Olive Bread

This recipe is an adaptation of Irish Soda Bread. Made in the time it takes the oven to heat up, you can whip this up between morning coffee and Sunday lunch.

Served with home-made Gravlax and pickled vegetables (see below) it was delicious. Spread the bread with butter or mayonnaise, before topping with the gravlax or smoked salmon.

2 cups plain flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbs lemon juice or vinegar
1½ cups plain yoghurt
1 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup sliced olives (black or green or a mix)
1-2 tsp salt, to taste
1 Tbs each sunflower seeds and pepitas

Preheat oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Mix all the ingredients together, except the seeds, in a mixing bowl. Mix until all the dry bits have been incorporated. With floured hands, form into a ball and place on the baking tray. Use hands to shape into a low flattish round as shown in photo. Sprinkle with the seeds and pat them on.

Bake for 45 minutes or until evenly browned. Cool then serve immediately. Any leftovers can be served next day, toasted.

Makes 1 loaf

Variation: use chopped sun dried tomatoes instead of olives or some of each.

Japanese Pickled vegetables: cut vegetables into two-bite pieces and pack into a clean large jar or 2-3 smaller ones – cauliflower florets, red capsicum strips, cucumber sticks, carrot sticks, chunks of fennel etc. Heat 1 cup each of sugar, water and cider or white wine vinegar in a saucepan. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then bring to the boil and pour over the vegetables. If liked add one or two whole red chillies, then cover with the lid. If you don’t have enough liquid to cover the vegetables, make a bit more, using equal quantities of sugar, water and vinegar. Keep for a few days before using. Store in the fridge.

Baked Pears with Blue Cheese, Walnuts & Honey

This year we have our first crop of pears. A delicious way to use pears when you can’t eat any more fresh is to bake them. This savoury baked dish makes a great starter or light meal, served with a rocket salad.

3 pears (some of mine were smaller so I used 4)
2-3 tsp olive oil
50g creamy blue cheese (e.g. Gorgonzola)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
3-4 stalks fresh thyme, leaves removed and roughly chopped
1-2 Tbs honey
½ tsp Aleppo pepper (available from specialty shops)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Thyme sprigs to garnish

Preheat oven to 200°C. Cut pears in half lengthwise and remove core and seeds with a melon baller. Place in a baking dish in one layer, cut sides up. Drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, then turn them over. Bake for 15 minutes.

Turn the pears over, so they are cut side up and stuff with the blue cheese, walnuts and thyme. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Drizzle with the honey and sprinkle with the Aleppo pepper. The Aleppo pepper is not essential, but it adds a bit of extra colour and flavour. Garnish with thyme sprigs and serve with a lightly dressed rocket salad.

Serves 3

Scotch Eggs in the Air Fryer

A hard boiled egg, wrapped in sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried becomes a Scotch egg.

There are various explanations regarding the origin of the name of these traditional British snacks. They were first mentioned in Britain in publications from the early 1800s, so they have been around for quite some time.

The advent of the air fryer makes cooking them so much easier and healthier. Instead of deep frying, just give them a quick spray with a can of oil before they go into the air fryer.

Served at room temperature they make a perfect addition to lunch boxes, summer buffets and picnics.

Serve with Spicy Tomato Sauce (recipe below) for dipping.

6 large eggs, hardboiled and peeled
600g pork sausages
1 very small onion, grated (optional)
1 tsp mixed dried herbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup (or maybe a bit more) panko breadcrumbs (or ordinary breadcrumbs)
Fresh herbs or thinly sliced spring onion to garnish
Spicy Tomato Dipping Sauce:
½ cup tomato ketchup
1 Tbs Worcestershire Sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbs vinegar
1 small onion, grated
1½ Tbs honey
½ tsp hot English mustard
2 tsp grated fresh ginger

While the eggs are boiling, remove the casings from the sausages and discard them. Mix the sausage meat with the onion, herbs, salt and pepper. Divide the mixture into six and flatten each portion into a circle about four inches (10cm) in diameter. Place an egg on each, wrap the sausage meat around the egg and pinch to close any holes an make a nice oval ball. Roll each one in beaten egg then breadcrumbs, patting them in to cover evenly. Can be made ahead to this point and kept refrigerated for up to several hours. My eggs were not very big so I hardboiled 7 rather than 6.

Place the Scotch eggs in an air fryer in one layer and preferably not quite touching. Spray lightly with oil then cook at 200°C for about 20 minutes. After 10 minutes turn them over and spray again.

Remove from air fryer when cooked and leave to cool. Serve cut in half, garnished with herbs or spring onion and with the sauce for dipping.

Makes 12 egg halves

Sauce: heat ingredients together in a saucepan, then cool. Use as a dipping sauce for Scotch eggs, sausage rolls and empanadas.

Salmon with Shaved Beetroot & Avocado

This colourful salmon dish will appeal to beetroot fans. Serve it as a light but satisfying main course for two or a starter for four. 

2 portions salmon (350-400g)
1 rounded Tbs each salt and sugar
1 medium beetroot
2 small avocados (or one large one)
Olive oil, Lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs snipped chives
Balsamic glaze

Place salmon in a plastic container with a lid. Add the salt and sugar and turn to coat. Cover with the lid and refrigerate for a day or two, turning 2 or 3 times. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Salmon can be wrapped in plastic wrap at this stage and frozen for up to a month. Thaw to use in this recipe. Remove and discard skin and cut salmon into 1cm dice. Add olive oil and lemon juice to taste.

Peel beetroot then shave thinly using a mandoline slicer, or the thin slicing attachment on a food processor. Season with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, separating the slices so each one is well-coated. Arrange beetroot on 4 individual serving plates in an overlapping circle, leaving a space in the middle for the avocado.

Peel avocado and mash with a fork, adding salt, olive oil, lemon juice and pepper to taste. Divide between the four plates, piling into the middle. Top with the salmon, then garnish with the chives, balsamic glaze and freshly ground pepper.

Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a light main dish

Salmon Poke Bowl

According to Google, poke bowls (pronounced pokee) originated in Hawaii but are now deeply-rooted in Japanese cuisine. Poke means “cut into pieces” and refers to the slices or cubes of raw fish that are served in a bowl, along with rice, vegetables, dressing and seasoning.

A poke bowl is usually an individual serving, with the various ingredients arranged in groups. In this version, which I created as part of a buffet lunch where I had been asked to bring a plate, I made one large poke bowl, with the ingredients evenly layered in the serving dish.

I have always made my own salad dressings but this roasted sesame dressing is an exception. I buy it from Woolworths and we always have a bottle in the fridge. If you have never tried it I should warn you that it’s addictive. Guaranteed to perk up any salad!

1 cup sushi rice
2 Tbs rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
300g fresh salmon
1 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 finely chopped birds-eye chilli (optional)
1 Lebanese cucumber, half  the peel removed, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and shredded into fine julienne
1 avocado, sliced
3 eggs, hardboiled and quartered
½ red onion, thinly sliced (or spring onions)
Coriander leaves
Black sesame seeds
1 Tbs pink peppercorns (optional)
Kewpie Japanese roasted sesame dressing (see note below)

Cook the rice in boiling salted water then rinse, drain thoroughly and mix in the rice wine, sugar and seasoning to taste, while it’s still warm. Spread over the base of a large serving dish. Remove skin and trim any stringy bits from the salmon, then cut it into 1cm cubes. Mix it with the olive oil, grated ginger and chilli if using.

Arrange the ingredients evenly over the rice, in the order they are listed. Finish with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds and some pink peppercorns if you have them. Lastly drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately.

If preferred serve the ingredients in 3 or 4 individual bowls.

Serves 6-10 as a side dish

Note: Kewpie Japanese roasted sesame dressing is available in Australia in the Asian aisle of most supermarkets. Here is a photo of the bottle so you know what it looks like and a recipe to make your own if you can’t buy it where you live.

Variations: add baby tomatoes, halved. Use raw tuna instead of salmon.

Asparagus with Smoked Salmon, Poached Egg & 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

This recipe 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
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

Watermelon Carpaccio

This delicious recipe makes a light, vegetarian lunch for the warmer months. It looks just like a raw beef carpaccio but in fact it’s thin slices of watermelon!

I haven’t put quantities in the ingredient list because they will vary according to how thick you cut the watermelon and the number of servings. The photo shows a lunch size. As a starter make them smaller.

Thin slices of watermelon
Crumbled feta cheese
Thinly sliced red onion
Lightly toasted pistachios, roughly chopped
Chopped fresh mint
Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
Extra Virgin olive oil
Juice from ½ a lemon
To serve:
Balsamic glaze (optional)

Arrange overlapping slices of watermelon on serving plates. Sprinkle over the cheese, onion, capers, pistachios and mint. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.

Serve with balsamic glaze, if liked.

Substitutes: use pine nuts instead of pistachios; creamy goat cheese instead of feta, rockmelon instead of watermelon.



Smashed Avocado on Toast with Pesto and Poached Eggs

Australian restaurateur Bill Granger served his first plate of smashed avocado in 1993 at his informal café Bill’s, located in the Sydney suburb of Surrey Hills.

Roughly mashed and seasoned with lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper he served the avocado on toasted sourdough bread. The dish took off to become a global phenomenon, indicative of the rising popularity of Australian-style breakfasts and brunches.

In this recipe I have added some pesto and poached eggs, to create a more substantial dish for lunch. If liked, serve two poached eggs per person.

1 large ripe avocado
2 Tbs pesto (preferably home-made)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Lemon or lime juice, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil, to taste
2 poached eggs
2 thick slices sourdough bread, toasted

Remove flesh from avocado onto a plate and mash roughly with a fork. Leave it nice and chunky. Roughly mix in the pesto and season to taste with salt, pepper, lemon or lime juice and olive oil.

Arrange toast on two serving plates. Top with the avocado, then the poached eggs. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and some cracked pepper.

Serves 2

Note: make pesto at the end of summer when basil is cheap and plentiful – you may even have some in your garden. Freeze in ice cube trays, then tip into a container or plastic bag and keep in the freezer to add a taste of summer to your winter recipes. Spread over pizza bases instead of the usual tomato paste. Use in pasta dishes such as this one.

Prawn Scramble with Crispy Shallots

Looking for a quick and easy lunch or light supper?

This is my variation on a dish I have ordered several times at my favourite lunch-time café, Deakin and Me. It’s basically scrambled eggs with prawns and salad served on toasted sourdough. Sometimes I ask them to skip the toast and serve mine on a large piece of roasted pumpkin with the skin on. Either way it’s delicious.

I got distracted and overcooked the crispy shallots but they still tasted good. If preferred, buy some crispy shallots sold in Asian stores and some supermarkets, in a packet.

I think they use raw prawns, but I used cooked ones. The photo is of my serving, which I had without the toast.

4 eggs
2 Tbs milk
2 Tbs butter or oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g cooked prawns (about 125g shelled weight)
¾ cup beansprouts, trimmed if necessary
½ cup each coriander leaves and flat parsley leaves
Green part of a spring onion, thinly sliced on the diagonal
3 Tbs mayonnaise
1 Tbs Sriracha sauce (or another chilli sauce, such as harissa)
2 slices sourdough bread, toasted (& buttered if you like)
1 Tbs lime juice
2 wedges lime (optional)
Crispy shallots:
3-4 shallots
Vegetable oil

Peel prawns, cut into chunks and season. Mix mayonnaise with sriracha sauce and lime juice.

Beat eggs and milk with a fork and season. Heat butter or oil, add prawns and stir fry until hot (if using raw prawns this will take a little longer). Remove prawns and keep warm. Add the eggs and gently scramble them, stopping when they are still quite soft. Gently fold in the prawns.

Place toasted sourdough on two warmed plates. Arrange scrambled eggs and prawns on the toast, buttered if you like. Top each serving with some beansprouts, spring onions and herbs. Drizzle some spicy mayo around the edge and sprinkle with crispy shallots. Garnish with lime wedges, if using, and serve immediately.

For the crispy shallots, place the peeled and chopped shallots in a small frying pan. Cover with cold vegetable oil. Cook over medium heat until they are golden and crunchy. Drain and leave on paper towels to cool.

Serves 2