lazy braised lentils, ham hock, mozzarella & pesto

hocklentils

This is comfort food in its purest form.  A humble pork hock is slowly cooked in a hearty tomato sauce and finished with lentils and herbs.  Unchallenging to cook and soothing to eat, this simple dish offers delicious variations to enjoy for a warming breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Honestly, the only non-negotiables here are a daggy bag of dried lentils, a bacon or ham hock and tinned tomatoes. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. I had mushrooms and half a bunch of parsley in my fridge but you could just as easily use carrot, celery, thyme, bay or basil. Don’t have a leftover fennel stalk like I did? Don’t worry. Simply throw whatever you have in a pot and let this delicious braise become oh-so-much-greater than the sum of its parts.

Lazy lentils, tomato, fennel & pork hock

  • 2tb olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, diced finely
  • 10-12 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, diced finely
  • 1 fennel stalk, sliced finely
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2t smoked paprika
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 bacon or ham hock
  • 2 tins diced tomato
  • 4 tins water
  • 500g dry lentils (I used the pretty French-style lentils)
  • 1/4 bunch parsley, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a large deep pot that has a lid. Saute the onion, mushrooms, fennel and garlic until soft and fragrant. Add the spices and cook, while stirring, until they are also smelling fantastic. Add the hock and the tinned tomatoes. Using one of the empty tomato tins, add 4 tins of water. Cover with a lid. Simmer very gently until the pork meat is falling off the bone, roughly 2 hours. Remove the hock from the sauce and pull the meat from the bone into bite-size pieces. Add back into the sauce with the lentils and herbs and simmer for 20-30 minutes until lentils are cooked.

Note that I haven’t mentioned adding salt – don’t. The hock is sufficiently salty that you will want to taste the final product before adjusting the seasoning.

What I did next: this dish yields 6-8 hearty serves. I froze 2 serves for a future awesome easy meal. I divided the remaining cooled pork and lentils in half. I put one half into an oven-proof dish and sliced a 125g ball of mozzarella on top. I baked this @ 180’C for 15-20 minutes until the lentils were hot and the mozzarella was gooey. I drizzled pesto on top and served it with a green salad for dinner. We had the other half for breakfast a couple of days later – baked for the same amount of time but topped with 2 eggs, fresh chilli and herbs and served with bread. Delicious!

Instead of finishing the pork and lentils in the oven, you could quite easily heat them in a pot and serve them scattered with toasted breadcrumbs and crumbled parmesan or fresh ricotta and gremolata.

Kate xx

 

spice essentials and chicken with yoghurt, prunes and coriander

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

I had a huge spring clean recently and culled my pantry with all the zeal of Martha Stewart on steroids. Amongst some forgotten treasures (ooh, chestnut cream!) and some obscure, barely used ingredients (asafoetida, anyone?), I was appalled by my stockpile of unused spices. Little jars and bags accumulated through the discovery of new dishes but which had sadly lost their magic and fragrance. So I threw out my dusty little collection and replaced them with fresh jars of the spices I use again and again.

My favourite ones are…

fennel seeds, cumin seeds, cardamom pods, black pepper, smoked paprika, coriander seeds, star anise, ground cinnamon, whole nutmeg and cloves.

With these little lovelies, I can flavour Moroccan or Indian dishes, brew a pot of chai tea, make a Chinese master stock or enhance my baking.

Making use of 3 of my essentials, tonight’s dinner was deliciously spiced chicken in a fragrant broth.

Spiced Chicken, Yoghurt, Prunes, Coriander

  • 6 chicken thighs, preferably bone in, skin optional
  • ½ lemon, zest and juice of
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • a thumb-size piece of ginger, peeled
  • ½ bunch coriander, chopped
  • 1 tb olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced finely
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • a knob of butter
  • 1/3 c prunes or dates, chopped
  • 1 red capsicum, sliced into strips
  • 1 sweet potato, chopped
  • 2c chicken or vegetable stock
  • ½-1c yoghurt (or coconut cream)
  • 1/4 c toasted almonds or pine nuts

Blend the lemon, garlic, ginger and coriander to a paste in a food processor. Set aside. Heat the olive oil in a deep pot on medium heat. Add the onions, cover with a lid and cook until soft (about 10 minutes).

Add the butter, spices and a big pinch of salt and cook while stirring until fragrant. Push the onions to one side and add the chicken, skin side down. Cook the chicken thighs until golden brown. Turn over, season with salt and pepper and add the coriander paste and the stock. Stir well. Add the prunes (or dates), the capsicum and sweet potato. Simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes or until the sweet potato is cooked through and the chicken is tender. Turn the heat off and stir through the yoghurt.

Serve with fresh coriander, the toasted nuts and an extra dollop of yoghurt if desired.

Make it your own: add a tin of chickpeas when you add the yoghurt for a more robust meal and great leftovers.  I particularly like this dish with wholemeal couscous and wilted spinach but steamed brown rice, barley or quinoa would also be delicious. If you can’t find chicken thighs with the bone in, use marylands, drumsticks or a mix of thighs and drumsticks.

 

 

zucchini buckwheat bread

 

zuccbread2

Once or twice a week I like to bake something with my 2 year old son. He loves mixing, cracking eggs and, of course, licking the bowl. We originally baked this gorgeous buckwheat loaf to have with breakfast one weekend.  This delicious bread is so good it is now the only bread we eat! We bake a loaf every Sunday.

It is absolutely divine…                                                                                                                                                            spread with avocado or sunflower seed butter.                                                                                                                     with poached eggs and smoked salmon.                                                                                                                                   with leg ham and chutney.                                                                                                                                                          with sliced tomato and ricotta.

I am keen to experiment with this recipe. I am sure that this loaf could become a beautiful Spiced Carrot and Raisin loaf, more suited to a sweet but nourishing morning tea loaf. This recipe is free of gluten and dairy.

Zucchini buckwheat bread

  • 2 c buckwheat flour
  • 1 c almond meal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarb soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 c walnuts, toasted, crushed to coarse breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 c rice malt syrup, honey or maple syrup
  • scant 1/3 c coconut oil or olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 medium-large zucchini, grated

Whisk the syrup, oil, eggs and zucchini together. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into a lined loaf tin and bake for 45-60 minutes at 170’C.

Shopping the pantry?  The buckwheat flour imparts a lovely earthy, nutty flavour to this loaf but you could use wholemeal flour (spelt would be perfect) as a substitute. I have used other nuts instead of walnuts – and they were sorely missed. The walnuts give such a beautiful depth of flavour that I haven’t found in other nuts.

 

roast cauliflower with satay sauce

photo-24

The recipes on this blog truly reflect how I like to cook and eat at home. Simple, one pan creations that don’t require half the day in the kitchen or leave you with a pile of pots to wash when you would rather be sitting on the lounge with a glass of wine cup of tea.

This is in such contrast to my years working as a chef. In a commercial kitchen, you spend hours preparing individual components for dishes, stacking the resulting dirty trays and pots in the sink for the kitchen hand to wash. So while I have NOT brought that workload into my home kitchen,  there are certainly some chef habits that just make my life easier. So each week I write our menu, shopping and prep lists and spend some time organising my mise en place.

At home, my mise equates to having a few things in the fridge that will help bulk out leftovers or turn a tin of tuna into a lovely lunch. Each Sunday night I try to make a loaf of buckwheat zucchini bread, a robust salad and a lovely sauce or puree to get me through the week.

Here I share the simple salad I made this week. Caramelised cauliflower dressed with the easiest satay sauce. Make double the amount of satay sauce and keep some in the fridge. Toss it through rice noodles with some chicken or tofu and mushrooms or use it as a dipping sauce for sweet potato chips.

Satay sauce

  • 1/3 c coconut cream
  • 1/4 c peanut butter (or a mix of any nut or seed butter)
  • 1 tb soy sauce
  • 1 tb rice malt syrup or honey
  • 1/2 lemon, juice of (or the juice of a lime)
  • 3 garlic cloves, roasted and crushed to a paste*

Heat the coconut cream and whisk in the remaining ingredients. Adjust the salt, sweetness and acidity to your liking and maybe add some chilli if that suits you.                                                                                                       *I roast the unpeeled garlic cloves with the cauliflower.

Roast cauliflower satay salad

  • 1 cauliflower, sliced or broken into florets
  • olive oil
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1/4 spanish onion, finely sliced
  • 1/4 bunch coriander, chopped
  • satay sauce from above recipe
  • OPTIONAL: toasted coconut, almonds or crushed peanuts, bean sprouts, chickpeas.

While the cauliflower is cooling, mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Add the cauliflower and toss well.

spelt chocolate chip cookies

speltbiscuits

The only thing my husband loves more than biscuits, is cake. So when I create healthier versions of baked treats I am always mindful of his reaction to a taste test. If he opines that a recipe “tastes good for something healthy” then it goes back to the kitchen for revision. A less-than-satisfying pseudo-indulgence shouldn’t be washed down with a glass of martyrdom because it’s good for you.

Happily, these soft, slightly chewy cookies taste insanely good and are good for you. Bake them this weekend, eat them with tea, take them to the park or just take time out.

Spelt Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • ¼ c tahini
  • ¼ c rice malt syrup
  • 30ml olive oil
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 small egg
  • ½ tsp bicarb soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ c oats (I used quick, because that’s what I had)
  • 1/3 c heaped wholemeal spelt flour
  • 100g dark chocolate, 60-70%, chopped
  •          excellent salt flakes, to finish

Combine the tahini, syrup, oil, vanilla and egg in a bowl and whisk until combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix to combine. Stir through the chopped chocolate. Drop 9 or 10 spoonfuls onto a lined baking tray and sprinkle with salt flakes. Bake at 175’C for 10-12 minutes or until a pale golden brown.

 

Shop your pantry? Use any nut butter instead of tahini and honey or maple syrup instead of rice malt syrup. I have also successfully made these with a sugar-free dark chocolate.