Hummus

Hummus is available in every supermarket, but when I first learnt to make it, while we were living in Israel in the late 1970s, that wasn’t the case.

This recipe is quick and easy and, like anything homemade, much cheaper than the bought variety. With tahini and canned chickpeas in the pantry you can whip up a batch any time, as the other ingredients such as lemon juice, garlic and olive oil are part of most people’s everyday supplies. I’ve been using canned chickpeas for quite some time. They’re so convenient but, if preferred, by all means soak and cook some dried ones.

While hummus makes a delicious dip to serve with drinks, it’s also good as a spread in sandwiches, instead of butter, or as a component in several of the recipes on this blog, such as Roasted Veggies with Hummus or Baked Eggplant with Hummus Lentils and Pine Nuts.

Hummus keeps in the fridge for up to a week, but if preferred why not make half the recipe first time.

2 cans chickpeas, drained
1 tsp salt
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2/3 cup tahini paste, stirred
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
Garnish: (optional)
Chopped parsley
Toasted pine nuts
Extra virgin olive oil
Paprika

Place chickpeas in food processor with remaining ingredients. Process, adding enough water to give the consistency of a dip. Keep in the fridge, covered, until needed.

To serve, add a little water if Hummus has become too stiff, then spread in a swirl onto a shallow dish and decorate with chopped parsley, toasted pine nuts, paprika and a drizzle of olive oil. The garnish is optional, but it looks and tastes great. Serve at room temperature with pita bread, crackers or raw vegetables such as carrots, cucumber and cauliflower.

 

Makes about 3 cups

Chili con Carne

Chili con Carne (pronounced Carnay) means Chili with Meat and was invented by working class Mexicans living in southern Texas. Often referred to simply as Chili this dish has lots of variations, a bit like Spag Bol which we’re all familiar with.

In this version, the sun-dried tomatoes give extra tomato flavour to the sauce. If preferred use tomato paste instead, or some of each. This recipe is enough to serve a big family, or a smaller family with some leftovers, which go down well for lunch on toast or in a wrap.

500g minced beef
2 medium onions
1 clove garlic
1 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp chilli powder or flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
200g sun-dried tomatoes, drained (or 4 Tbs tomato paste)
1 fresh red chilli, seeded & finely chopped (more if you like it hot!)
2 tins tomatoes
2 cups water and more as required
2 tins red kidney beans, drained (or white beans or a mix)
Stick cinnamon or 1 tsp of powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 beef stock cube
3 tsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To serve:
Sour cream (or thick Greek yoghurt)
2 finely sliced spring onions or 1 small red onion, chopped
Grated cheese
Corn chips or corn tortillas
Shredded iceberg lettuce
1 ripe avocado, roughly mashed and seasoned (optional)

Chop onions and garlic and fry in olive oil in a large deep frying pan until softened. Add the chilli powder and cumin with the meat and cook, stirring, until browned. Place the sun dried tomatoes, water and the chilli in a food processor and blend to form a paste. Add to the beef with the tomatoes, cinnamon, sugar, stock cubes and another cup of water.

Bring to the boil, cover then turn the heat down to simmer and cook for 1½ hours. Stir often and add more water as necessary. Add the red kidney beans 30 minutes before the end of cooking time. Check for seasoning. This meat sauce will keep for several days in the fridge and can be frozen. When reheating add a little water.

Serve with corn chips or tortillas, shredded lettuce, grated cheese and sour cream mixed with spring onions. Put all the elements in individual bowls and let everyone help themselves.

Serves 8

Low Carb Variation: use whole iceberg lettuce leaves to wrap instead of corn Tortillas.

Stir Crazy Chocolate Cake

Since the start of the coronavirus lockdown I participated in an online recipe exchange from which you are supposed to receive lots of recipes. I only received two and this is one of them, from another Linda who lives in Chile. Appropriately named for when you’re going stir crazy while in isolation.

This quick and easy chocolate cake surprisingly doesn’t contain any eggs. Delicious on its own or with a dollop of sour cream, as shown in the photo.

3 cups plain flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
½ cup cocoa powder
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 Tbs vinegar
2 cups cold water
Chocolate Icing:
250g cream cheese at room temp
¼ cup cocoa powder
1½ cups icing sugar
Chocolate buttons to decorate (optional)

Preheat oven to 175°C. You can either mix this cake in a bowl or in a food processor. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl or food processor and mix. Add remaining ingredients and mix till smooth, stopping to scrape down any mixture stuck to the sides. Spread into a cake pan. I used a 22 cm (9 inch) square silicone pan so I didn’t need to grease and line it with baking paper. You know your pan and whether or not cakes stick. Bake for 30-40 mins or until firm to touch in the middle.

Ice with your favourite icing or this one which uses cream cheese. Place cream cheese in a bowl and mix till smooth, gradually adding the sifted cocoa and then the sifted icing sugar.  You might find one cup of icing sugar is enough. If liked decorate with chocolate buttons. Cut into 16 squares.

Serves 16

Rhubarb Tart

With everyone in coronavirus lockdown, some of us are finding more time to cook. And eat.

I highly recommend you find a sunny corner in the garden to plant some rhubarb. It doesn’t take up much room and keeps on fruiting for most of the year. Ours only dies down a bit for 2-3 months in the coldest part of winter. When there’s virtually nothing else in the veggie garden, there’s usually some rhubarb.

This pastry recipe from chez Panisse via Rick Stein is deliciously buttery, reminiscent of a Parisian croissant, fresh from the oven. The oven needs to be nice and hot to get that lovely French glaze. Serve the tart as it is or with some whipped cream or sour cream, which is my preference.

Pastry:
225g plain flour
Good pinch of salt
170g butter, cold from the fridge
About 4 Tbs cold water
Filling:
500-600g rhubarb
½ cup sugar, or more, to taste
2 Tbs fortified wine such as port, but any will do
Grated rind of an orange or lemon
To finish:
Extra sugar
About 2 Tbs butter
Apricot Jam (optional)
To serve:
Whipped cream, sour cream or creme fraiche

To make the pastry, place flour and salt in food processor. Add butter cut into large chunks. Process carefully, preferably using the pulse button, until the butter is in small pieces. You don’t want it to be completely fine like breadcrumbs. Slowly add the water through the feed chute, processing briefly with the pulse button, until just combined. You don’t want it to be too wet, but it needs to start sticking together. Tip out, form into a flat disc using floured hands, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for half an  hour or up to 2 days. It can also be frozen.

Preheat oven to 220°C. On a floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll out the pastry thinly and line a tart tin, preferably metal. Mine is rectangular, but any will do. Wash and trim the rhubarb. I had plenty, so used only the red ends. All the trimmings and greener ends were made into a compote which is great for breakfast with yoghurt or as the base of a fruit crumble. I cut the rhubarb into the exact width of the tin and lined them up in the uncooked pastry case, so I knew exactly how many I needed. If you want more fruit in the tart you could cut up all the green bits and put them in first, then arrange the bigger pieces on top.

Place rhubarb in a bowl and mix with the sugar, port and citrus zest, then arrange in the tart shell. Drizzle over any remaining sugary juice. Sprinkle with the extra sugar, then dot all over with small pieces of butter.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until pastry is golden and rhubarb is starting to blacken in places – see photo. If liked, brush the surface of the tart with some apricot jam (just the non-chunky part) when it comes out of the oven.

Serve warm or at room temperature with cream, sour cream or creme fraiche.

Serves 10

Variations: use peaches, plums, nectarines or apricots instead of rhubarb.

Black Rice Pudding with Jaggery and Toasted Nuts

On a recent trip to India we dined at a fantastic restaurant in Mumbai called Burma Burma. It serves only vegetarian food and no alcohol – a formula which is really taking off. The Maitre D said they were about to open their sixth restaurant in Calcutta. I assured him they would do well in Australia too. Vegetarianism is a growing trend worldwide.

The black rice pudding garnished with Jaggery and Toasted Almonds was superb, so I decided to try and recreate it, using macadamias. Jaggery (also known as Gur) is made from sugar cane and is a popular sweetener throughout Asia.  Dark brown in colour, it’s sold in solid blocks. Most Asian grocery stores sell Jaggery, but if you can’t find it substitute a drizzle of treacle, which will provide the sweetness and colour, without the crunch.

2 cups black rice, rinsed
4 cups water
pinch salt
2-4 Tbs sugar, to taste
1 can coconut cream
To serve:
Lightly toasted slivered almonds or coarsely chopped macadamias
2-3 Tbs Jaggery, chopped
Fresh mango (optional)
Extra coconut cream or thick cream or sour cream (see note below)

Place all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pan. Bring to the boil, then simmer, covered for 45 minutes or until tender, adding more water as necessary and stirring often to prevent sticking, especially towards the end. The rice pudding should be thick and the grains should be tender, but with a slight bite. Cool then chill.

Serve the rice pudding chilled, garnished with the toasted nuts and the Jaggery, in one large dish or individual dishes. If liked, serve with a bowl of fresh cubed mango and some cream.

Note: traditionally served with extra coconut cream. I prefer it with a dollop of thick fresh or sour cream. It’s also perfectly nice on its own.

Roasted Cauliflower and Prawn Salad

This delicious salad was served by friends who have a house in Mittagong. It’s from Janelle Bloom, guest cook at The Cook’s Cooking School in Bowral and was published in the Oct/Nov 2018 edition of the Southern Highlands of Australia magazine Highlife.  A perfect lunch on its own or as part of a buffet.

¼ cup skinned hazelnuts
2 cauliflowers
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp fennel seeds, bruised
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
1kg king prawns, peeled and deveined
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dressing:
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Small clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp caster sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200°C. Place hazelnuts in a dry frying pan and stir over moderate heat until lightly toasted. Roughly chop. Slice cauliflowers about 2 cm thick and place in a large bowl. Add the oil and spices, salt and pepper and mix to coat well. Arrange in one layer in a roasting pan lined with baking paper. Bake for 15-20 mins or until golden brown and just tender, turning once during cooking time.

Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar with a lid and shake well. Cut the cauliflower slices into smaller fork-sized pieces and arrange in serving dish. Scatter with the spring onions and hazelnuts. Drizzle with the dressing, then toss gently to combine. Top with the prawns and parsley and sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper.

Serves 4

Mexican Chicken Lasagne

My Chilean friend Pia made this for one of our Spanish conversation monthly lunches. It’s similar to an Italian lasagne, but with Mexican flavours.

1 large onion diced
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 red capsicum, deseeded and cut into strips (optional)
250g mushrooms, sliced (optional)
2 Tbs butter or oil
500ml cream
1 packet soft tortillas
Meat from 1 cooked chicken, diced
2-3 Tbs chopped fresh herbs of choice
2 cobs fresh corn (or use canned or frozen kernels)
1 tin tomatoes, chopped
1 small red chilli, finely chopped, or 1 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2-3 cups grated cheese e.g. cheddar

Preheat oven to 180°C. In a large frying pan gently fry onion and garlic with mushrooms or capsicum, or both, in oil or butter until softened, but not browned. Remove kernels from fresh corn, or drain off the liquid if using canned. Add to pan with cream, herbs, chicken and tomatoes. Add chilli if using and season to taste. Cook, stirring for a few minutes to thicken a bit, but not too much as you need the liquid which will soak into the tortillas.

Cover the base of a greased lasagne-type rectangular, oval or round dish with one layer of tortillas, cutting to fit. Spoon half the chicken sauce over and sprinkle with a third of the cheese. Then arrange another single layer of tortillas, followed by the other half of the sauce and another third of cheese. Finally arrange a third layer of tortillas over the top. The top can get a bit dry and crunchy so I suggest you dip the final layer of tortillas in water or milk to moisten them before arranging on top, then top with remaining cheese.

Bake for 30-40 mins or until golden and bubbly. Stand for 10 minutes then cut into squares or wedges and serve with a salad.

Serves 6-8

Marti’s Smoked Salmon Lunch

My friend Marti who lives in Paris served a delicious cold lunch when we were visiting, the centrepiece of which was smoked salmon.

It was such a good combination I made a note of what she served, so I could repeat it for one of my Spanish conversation lunches. It’s a great way to serve a crowd with minimum fuss. Marti managed to fit everything apart from the potatoes and the cottage cheese on one fish platter. I have a similar dish, but unfortunately mine is smaller so I had to put the salad, eggs, avocado and tomatoes in another dish.

Quantities will vary according to how many people you’re serving.

Sliced Smoked salmon formed into rolls
Garnish such as onion rings, capers, pink peppercorns
Lemons cut into wedges
Avocados cut into quarters
Mache or rocket or other small lettuce leaves
Soft hard boiled eggs, cut into halves
Cherry tomatoes
Baby new potatoes
Knob of butter, snipped chives
Cottage cheese
1 small onion, finely chopped or spring onions
Baguettes (home made or bought) or any nice crusty loaf and butter

Cook the potatoes and mix with butter and chives. Place in a serving bowl. Mix cottage cheese with onion or spring onions, finely chopped and place in a small bowl. Slice bread. Arrange everything on serving platters.

 

Tandoori Marinade & Tandoori Chicken Salad

This marinade is great for chicken, fish or lamb you are going to cook on the barbecue. It’s also a main ingredient in Tandoori Chicken Salad. The marinade keeps for up to a week in the fridge.

Buy a cooked chicken and the remaining ingredients at the supermarket and you have a quick and easy meal for the warmer weather. Quantities are flexible.

300ml plain Greek-style yoghurt
1 knob fresh ginger, size of a walnut
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
2 Tbs oil
1 tsp hot English mustard
1 Tbs lemon or lime juice
1 tsp turmeric
2 Tbs peanuts, cashews or pine nuts
1 tsp Garam Masala
2 Tbs fresh coriander
2 Tbs sweet chilli sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed

Place all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth. Keeps in the fridge for about a week.

Makes about 2 cups

Tandoori Chicken Salad

3 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup thinly sliced spring onions
3 cups bean sprouts
1½ cups finely sliced celery
1 cup roughly chopped coriander
1-2 cups cooked small pasta (optional)
1-2 cups Tandoori marinade (see recipe above)
To serve:
Lettuce leaves
Thin slivers of red capsicum or red chillies

Mix all together, adding more salt if necessary. Use as much marinade as you need to moisten everything. Serve in a mound on lettuce leaves, garnished with red capsicum or chilli.

Serves 4

Five Favourite Sandwich Fillings

Everyone likes a good sandwich made with good quality bread and a tasty filling. When offered a mediocre sandwich – the sort you get in hospitals or on planes – I would sooner say no thanks.

I don’t eat a lot of bread, so when I do it has to be worth it. While I’m usually a grainy bread kind of person, I think some sandwich fillings go better with white bread. Egg sandwiches for example. For those who are gluten-intolerant there are quite a few gluten-free options available in supermarkets and bakeries.

These are my five favourite sandwich fillings. They’re not OMG, amazing, wow recipes. Just old-fashioned  fillings I’ve been making for decades to serve at weddings, christenings, funerals, birthdays and other gatherings. Put a plate down at a party and see how fast they disappear. I haven’t put quantities because it depends on how many sandwiches you’re making.

The salami sandwich is a bit more rustic and harder to eat delicately while continuing to make polite conversation, so it’s probably best reserved for family lunches. I have a few more favourite fillings – rare roast beef with cold roasted veggies, smoked salmon with cream cheese, capers and onion and prawns with mayo and lettuce. But these five are the ones I make the most. For the family leave the crusts on the bread. To make them daintier for entertaining cut them off and cut the sandwiches into fingers, triangles or squares.

Homemade mayonnaise is a staple in our fridge.  I use it instead of butter when making sandwiches and it forms the base of other delicious sauces such as Seafood and Tartare. But if preferred, butter the bread before filling the sandwiches. All the fillings are mixed except for the Salami and Cheese, which is layered. Garnish the plates with some fresh herbs or nuts. In the tuna photo the bread has been lightly toasted.

Tuna
Canned tuna, drained
Finely chopped celery
Finely chopped red onion
Enough mayonnaise to bind (preferably homemade)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Salami and Cheese
Sliced salami
Sliced Swiss cheese
Rocket Leaves
Sun dried tomatoes
Red onion, thinly sliced (optional)
Mayonnaise to “butter” the bread

Curried Chicken
Cold roast chicken, diced
Fruit chutney, chopped a bit if too chunky, bought or homemade
Finely chopped spring onion or chives
Enough mayonnaise to bind (preferably homemade)
Curry paste or powder to taste (mix into the mayo)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Chicken and Walnut
Cold roast chicken, diced
Finely chopped celery
Finely chopped walnuts
Finely chopped spring onion
Enough mayonnaise to bind (preferably homemade)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Egg and Chive
Hard boiled eggs, roughly mashed with a fork
Finely snipped chives (lots) – use scissors
Enough mayonnaise to bind (preferably homemade)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste