Pork Sausage, Lentil, Spinach and Mushroom Stew with Soft Polenta

A ribsticking, hearty winter dish that will cure all ills.* It can be a bit of a juggling act for the novice cook, but if you time it correctly, it cooks quickly enough to be a midweek post-work meal.

*Maybe. I'm not a doctor.

Ingredients

800g good pork sausages (thick ones with a good amount of fat, from a good butcher. None of those crappy supermarket ones), peeled of their skins and sliced into meatball sized pieces
2 400g cans of brown lentils, drained
1 bunch of English Spinach (or kale, or silverbeet), washed and sliced
250g mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1 750ml bottle of tomato passata

1 cup of instant polenta
Enough water to make soft polenta, as per the packet's instructions (I used A LOT – probably about 1.5L)
1 tbs German mustard
1 tsp Vegemite
1/2 cup milk
100g butter (YES)
150g grana padano, grated

Method

1. Add olive oil to a frying pan, heat on medium. Fry garlic and onion until fragrant.
2. Add the sausage pieces. Cover the fry pan with a lid. Cook until the sausages start to brown. Shake the pan occasionally.
3. While the sausages cook, heat the water for the polenta (different brands of polenta need different amounts of water). Add the Vegemite and German mustard. Bring to the boil. You may have to whisk the mustard into the water to break it up probably.
4. Add the mushrooms to the sausage pan. Stir to get them coated in the sausage fat. Simmer to allow the mushrooms to flavour the sausage fat.
5. Once the polenta 'stock' is boiling, whisk the cup of polenta into the water. Boil for another 60 seconds, still whisking. Turn the heat down to medium, whisking occasionally.
6. Back to the sausage stew. Add the lentils and tomato passata, and some salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Simmer for a few minutes.
7. Back to the polenta. Whisk in the milk and butter. Season well with salt and pepper.
8. Back to the stew. Mix in the spinach, stir, allowing the spinach to only just wilt. Then turn the heat off, putting the lid back on to retain the heat.
9. Back to the polenta. Mix the grana padano cheese in batches, whisking in between to ensure it combines well. Once it is fully combined, the grains are properly cooked, and the consistency is like cream (there should be very soft peaks on top when you lift the whisk out), turn heat on the polenta off.
10. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, LET THE POLENTA COOL A BIT. It is like lava. It will cool down quicker in the bowls, yes, but it will also cool down really well if you have to leave it to go to hospital with 3rd degree burns.
11. To serve, spoon the polenta into the bowl first, tilting it slightly towards you. This will leave room for the stew. Spoon big served of the stew into the space on the bowls, still with the bowl slightly tilted. Once you sit the bowls upright, the polenta and stew will sit nicely together.

You can add more grana padano cheese to the top if you prefer, but I think it doesn't really need it.

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Chocolate, Zucchini, and Quinoa Mini Muffins

If you’re like me, with children like mine, your skill level at hiding vegetables in things is at boss level. I made these for my 9 year old to take to school and she not only likes them, she looks forward to them. Victory is mine.

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This recipe uses raw cacao powder mainly because I had it in the cupboard. I also like the fact that it has a high amount of protein in it. And that’s it. It’s not magic fairy dust that cures cancer, as some would have you believe.

Preheat your oven to 180C

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups self raising flour
1 tsp salt
125g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
125g butter
250g choc chips
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup plain yoghurt
2 eggs
1/2 cup (or maybe more, depending on how wet your mix is) milk
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 medium zucchini, grated

Method

1. Melt the butter in a pan on low heat. Once it is melted, add the dark chocolate pieces. Continue to cook on low heat until both are completely melted. I do this only because I cannot melt chocolate without it seizing. Alright, I’m a shit cook, shut up. Anyway, set aside the mixture to cool.

2. Add the dry ingredients to a bowl (not the quinoa, though) and mix thoroughly.

3. Mix the eggs, yoghurt, and milk together. They only need to be combined, not completely incorporated. This is more about helping the thick yoghurt and egg mix in with the dry ingredients later.

4. Like now. Mix the dry ingredients and egg mixture together. Add the honey once they are well mixed. Then add the chocolate butter mixture. Mmmm, chocolate butter mixture.

5. Once they are all incorporated, mix in your choc chips, quinoa, zucchini, and anything else I might have forgotten. Now is when you would add more milk if your mixture is a bit more like playdough than batter. It should be fairly wet, but not liquid.

6. Cut baking paper into squares and shape them into your mini muffin tray holes. I would advise against using patty pans like I have in the photo, as they kind of stick. The kids didn’t care, but it annoyed the shit out of me.

7. Bake at 180C for about 25 minutes, or until they look done. You can test them with a skewer, but as they end up being a rather moist muffin due to the choc chips, zucchini, and quinoa, the skewer will keep coming out with bits of batter on it until they are burnt rocks. Don’t do that.

8. Serve some now to shut up your whinging children (or partner) and freeze the rest in sandwich bags for school lunches. If you fail to prepare for the school day the night before, never fear – apparently they defrost by recess, even if you take them out in the morning.

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Blue cheese, apple, bacon, and caramelised onion empanadas

These are not true empanadas, but I started calling them that because of their shape. They take on the shape simply because the apple doesn’t fit in, otherwise! I made these specifically to be paired with whisky at a private whisky tasting party. The whisky it went best with was The Chita Single Malt by Suntory Whisky.

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Ingredients

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large granny smith apple
150g blue cheese
3 rashers of bacon, diced

Caramelised Onion
1 red onion, sliced thinly
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs apple cider vinegar (or any vinegar, really)
Salt to taste

Method

Preheat your oven to 180C

1. Peel the apple and slice thinly – 5mm thick or less. You don’t want it to be very thick at all. Put into acidulated water (a splash of vinegar will do) and set aside.
2. Put a small fry pan onto low heat and add a splash of olive oil. Add the onion, sugar, vinegar, and a sprinkling of salt. Cook the onion down over low heat, stirring occasionally. It will take about 15 minutes, but you should eventually get that ‘caramelised’ smell. Take care not to burn it, as it will turn bitter. Set aside to cool.
3. Roll out your block of puff pastry to about 3mm thick. You may need to sprinkle some plain flour on it first. I used Careme Puff Pastry, which is a bit expensive, but so worth it.
4. Using a 12cm round pastry cutter, or bowl of a similar size and a knife (that’s what I used), cut your rounds from the pastry. If you are short of space, to prevent them from sticking together, place a square of baking paper between each round. If you have offcuts, roll them back together and roll them out to 3mm thick again, using the same process to cut the rounds out.
5. Assemble your pastries by placing two slices of apple across the centre of the pastry, slightly closer to one side than the other. Pile approximately 5 cubes of bacon, a wad of blue cheese, and half a teaspoon or so of caramelised onion on top.
6. Fold the pastry over the top of the filling, so that it meets the opposite edge and completely covers the filling.
7. Crimp the edges of the pastry together with your fingers, empanada style. Ensure there are no holes (the filling will explode out of the holes, otherwise).
8. Bake the empanadas at 180C for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown and puffed. Ensure they cool before eating – the filling is HOT!

Makes approximately 16 empanadas

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Beetroot and Blue Cheese Brown Rice Risotto

This is definitely a cheat’s risotto. Brown rice doesn’t cook down properly with the usual stock-ladling method, so you have to use the absorption method. Still tastes just as good.

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Ingredients

3 whole beetroot, grated
2 cups of brown rice
1 medium brown onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced finely
150g blue cheese (the stronger, the better)
50g butter (or to taste)
100g parmigiano reggiano (or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

1. Cook the onion on medium heat until translucent in a wide, heavy based fry pan. Add the garlic and fry until fragrant.
2. Add the rice to the pan and coat it with the olive oil. Allow it to toast slightly, without burning. Add some salt at this stage.
3. Add 6 cups of water to the pan and cover. Bring to the boil, then simmer for approximately 30 minutes or until the rice is cooked. If it ends up slightly overcooked, that’s fine – risotto is meant to be slightly gluggy.
4. Once the rice is cooked, add the beetroot. If there is still water left in the pan, this is a good thing. You might need to add a splash of water to get the whole thing moving, if not.
5. Once the beetroot is incorporated, cover the pan again and cook on low heat for about 5-10 minutes, until the beetroot loses its rawness.
6. Add the blue cheese and stir thoroughly. The blue cheese should melt into the risotto and help make it more moist.
7. Add the butter and parmigiano reggiano. Stir until mixed through. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper accordingly.
8. Serve in bowls, topped with more parmigiano reggiano to taste.

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Picky Eater Friendly Tuna Fritters with Hidden Veg

I made these for my picky eaters, aged 8 and almost 2. They gobbled them up and asked for more. I can’t guarantee the same success, but they are also very satisfying for grown ups, too.


Ingredients

400g tin of tuna in brine
1 small zucchini, grated
1 small carrot, grated
1 cup self raising flour
1 egg
1/2 cup yoghurt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon mild german mustard
Salt to taste (don’t be afraid of salt)
Sunflower oil for cooking

Method

1. Mix together the tuna, zucchini, and carrot in a large bowl.
2. Mix the wet ingredients together in a bowl.
3. Sift the flour in. If you don’t have the time to sift, sprinkle it in a bit at a time, mixing in between each sprinkle.
4. Heat about 1-2cm of oil in a medium heat in a wide fry pan.
5. Mix the wet ingredients into the tuna flour mix. Mix well.
6. Test the oil with a tiny amount of tuna batter. It should sizzle around the edges.
7. Fry fritter-sized portions of batter (about a large tablespoon’s worth) until the bottom is browned. It will be tempting to fiddle with it to make sure it’s cooking. Don’t do that. After a few minutes, you’ll see brown edges.
8. Flip over and fry on the other side.
9. Repeat until the batter is used up.
10. Serve with any veggies your picky eaters will consume. Mine will eat it with mashed potato (occasionally with cauliflower added in).

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The Best Mulled White Wine Ever


Who needs red wine? Mulled white wine is where it’s at.

Ingredients

1 bottle of cheap (but not nasty) white wine
1 litre cloudy apple juice
1 large granny smith apple, cored and sliced thickly
1 large pear, cored and sliced thickly
6 fresh figs, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
6 cloves
6 cardamom pods

Method

1. Chuck everything into a large pot.
2. Simmer on super low heat for about 30 minutes.
3. Pour into glasses using a soup ladle and drink away those winter chills.
4. When you get to the end and have more fruit than mulled wine, strain and put in a smaller pot.

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Blue cheese sauce

I’m Australian. I know fuck all about blue cheese sauce. But this is one I cobbled together after scouring the Internet and putting together what tastes good.

Please bear in mind this recipe makes fuckloads. I love this sauce. Halve or quarter the recipe if you do not want gallons and gallons of this delicious sauce (what is wrong with you).


Ingredients

300mL sour cream
300mL pouring cream
200mL buttermilk (you are probably using the rest for something like deep fried pickles)
100g blue cheese
1 tbs mild German mustard
1 tbs Cholula hot sauce (use Cholula. Trust me on this)

Method

1. Dump it all in a saucepan.
2. Put the saucepan on low.
3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Stir occasionally until you have the best sauce imaginable.

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