Monday, 7 October 2013

Baked Ratatouille

Baked Ratatouille

Long weekend lunch! Today I have a helper in the kitchen. Which is just as well given the amount of chopping up required for this dish!
This is super tasty, super healthy, uses up a whole heap of vegetables and gives you the energy to get back to work (or school!) tomorrow. The reason it's called baked ratatouille is we're first cooking it on the stove, then when it's almost cooked through, placing in the oven with some cheese and breadcrumbs. The crust and flavour from all the veges mixed together makes it even tastier.

Start with a pile (literally) of vegetables. 2 Eggplants, 2 big zucchinis, 2.5 red capsicums, lots of tomatoes (we used 10 small ones. A few tinned tomatoes will also work if they're not in season). 1 onion, 3 cloves of garlic, and some fresh herbs from the garden - basil, parsley and sage. Oh and a little lemon zest. 
Start with the marathon chopping. Slice the eggplant into rounds, and then cut again into cubes. 
 Dice up the onion, nice and finely. Along with the garlic.
First round over. Time to fry it up.
 Start with the garlic and onion, in a large pan, or wok, over medium heat, with a little olive oil. Stir while it cooks until it becomes translucent.
Then add your enormous amount of eggplant. Fold into the onions, so the onion doesn't burn at the bottom of the pan. Let this cook away for 5-10 minutes, until it starts to reduce in size as the eggplant breaks down. 
 I added half a cup of vegetable stock to help with this process. You can also place a lid on the pot to help it cook.
 Go on an expedition to the garden. Find all your nice fresh herbs and grab a handful. We found parsley, sage and basil. Wash and chop finely.
 Keep stirring your eggplant! It will start to brown. 
 Add your herbs and fold them in. I also added a little lemon zest at this stage (but no photo, sorry). Using a microplane, zest in about a quarter of a lemon- always brings some nice flavours out.
 So while your first batch of veges are happily cooking away, time to get started cutting up round 2. Like I said, very glad I had a helper!
Dice up your capsicum- I had 2.5 large ones, along with 2 large zucchinis. Slice these into long strips, then you can cut them into smaller pieces.
The eggplant will have been going for about 20 minutes by now. Take it out and place in a deep lasagne pan. 
In the wok, add a little more olive oil, and pour your capsicum and zucchini in. Stir away.
Now time to dice your tomatoes. Unless you have 2 400g tins, you can throw these in with the capsicum and zucchini after they have been cooking for 5 minutes.
Chopping into small pieces. 
 As above, add your tomatoes after the zucchini and capsicum have been cooking for 5 minutes.
 Stir away and let it simmer for another 5-10 minutes.
Once the vegetables are soft and tomatoes have started breaking down, pour into the lasagne dish with the eggplant mix.  
 Fold it around to combine.
Like so. 
If you would like a nice crust when you're baking this, grate some cheese, and sprinkle about 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs on top.
Bake at 180 degrees c for 40 minutes. 
It will start to bubble away, the crust will brown off nicely so you'll know when it's done.
Dish it up into bowls, and serve either on it's own, or with some bread. Or you could use it as a pasta sauce. Or if it's still uneaten in your fridge in a few days, add a little water and blend it up to make soup.
We added a little chilli when eating too!

 Baked Ratatouille

2 Eggplants (Aubergine)
2 large zucchinis
2.5 red capsicums
10 small tomatoes (or 2 400g tins) 
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
Fresh herbs - we used basil, parsley and sage
Zest from 1/4 lemon
1/2 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup grated cheese
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Chilli flakes to serve

1. Heat oven to 180c. In a large pan, heat up 1 tablespoon olive oil. Dice onion and garlic. Saute for 2-3 minutes over medium heat until soft.
2. Dice up Eggplant. Add to the pan. Cook for 10 minutes, keep stirring. 
3. Chop up the herbs, add this to eggplant along with the stock and lemon zest. Cover with a lid and let eggplant simmer for a further 10 minutes.
4. Dice zucchinis and capsicums. When eggplant is done, (soft all the way through and reduced), place in a large lasagne baking tray.
5. In the empty pan, place remaining oil, and saute zucchinis and capsicum for 5 minutes. Dice up tomato and add to pan. Let simmer for a further 5-10 minutes.
6. Add tomato/zucchini/Capsicum mix to the lasagne tray, and fold into eggplant mix. Add some pepper.
7. Sprinkle cheese and breadcrumbs on top. Bake in oven for 40 minutes.

Serve into bowls, sprinkle with some chilli flakes and more pepper, then eat!

Makes 6-8 servings.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Chicken fajitas- all natural version

Spicy Chicken Fajitas with red cabbage salad

-Version 2 with all natural flavouring

Chicken Fajitas have not dropped off the menu at the Wilkins house- they are still a strong family favourite as always. In my health kick though, I have banned the artificial flavourings that come in a sachet.

So this recipe is my own twist on the Mexican flavourings using only a spice rack (and perhaps some tomato paste).

There is a new take on the fresh salsa I have used too- spring onions and red cabbage keep it crunchy and light.

I promise this version tastes even better than the original.

As you can see, I have made the trusty homemade flour tortilla to go with it.

As always we're starting with the basics. Dice one onion up and crush and dice 2 cloves of garlic.
 Place in a large bowl, then take 2 chicken breasts, and dice them into small pieces, about 2cm long and wide.
Place these in the bowl with the onion. 
 Now for the spices.
Add 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and 1 teaspoon ground chillies. On top of this, add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, some ground black pepper and a little salt.
Add the juice of half a lemon, along with the zest of 1/4 the lemon.
Mix this all around, until your chicken and onion is coated with the mixture. 
Now time to fry it up- heat up a frypan to medium-high heat with a little oil, and place your chicken mixture in. Keep flipping it over with a spatula every minute for the first 5 minutes so the chicken cooks evenly, and doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.
Add in a little parsley if you feel like it!
It will take about 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. You can check by cutting a piece in half and making sure there are no pink bits. 
I made up some tortillas earlier, and rolled them out and cooked them while the chicken was cooking away! Recipe is here. Store bought tortillas work fine. As do large flat lettuce leaves!

While we're multitasking and waiting for the chicken to cook, it's time to make the fresh salad to go with the chicken. Today I'm using red cabbage, spring onions and tomato.
It's really quite easy... slice the cabbage up really finely- strips should not be more than half a centimetre thick.
Dice the tomato
Dice up the spring onions, both white and green parts.
Toss it all together with the juice of half a lemon and some salt and pepper.
This is about what the chicken looks like when it's finished- feel free to add as much chilli here as you like.
Now it's time to assemble- take your tortilla, place a spoonful of chicken on it and a big spoonful of salad. Serve it with some grated cheese if you like, along with sour cream and salsa. 

Spicy Chicken Fajitas with red cabbage salad
-Version 2 with all natural flavouring

Chicken mix:

2 large chicken breasts, diced into 2cm chunks
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed and diced
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
1 teaspoon ground chillies
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
ground black pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus some lemon zest
2 tablespoons parsley or fresh coriander (optional)

Mix all ingredients together, heat a little oil in a large frypan, and cook chicken mixture on medium-high heat for about 15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Stir chicken regularly to ensure it is evenly cooked and does not stick to the pan. 

Salad/ fresh salsa:
1/4 red cabbage, sliced finely
1-2 tomatos, diced
4 spring onions, white and green part chopped.
Juice 1/2 lemon
ground black pepper

Mix cabbage, tomato and spring onions together in a bowl, before drizzling lemon juice over the salad. Season with pepper.

Optional - to serve:
Grated tasty cheese
Sour cream
Tortilla wraps

Place the chicken and salad in a fresh tortilla wrap, add cheese, sour cream and salsa if you wish, wrap it up and eat!

Serves 4.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Stuffed Capsicum - spiced mince beef

Stuffed Capsicum - spiced mince beef

I'm back! Did you miss me? I was off on holidays sharpening my culinary skills through a trip to Italy and France. Most of the sharpening happened by merely eating out at some fantastic restaurants, however I was lucky enough to partake in a week long cooking school in a tiny village in the South West of France.  It was fantastic. The people were fantastic. The food was fabulous. The sunflowers were in full bloom.
And now I am on a diet.
Welcome back to reality where foie gras cannot be eaten daily for canap├ęs.
I've decided to stick to a diet full of veges and protein, with fewer grains and carbs. Stuffing and baking capsicum was one of the first things I made once home, and it was good.

It's quite meaty, so feel free to substitute half of the mince with either cooked brown rice, quinoa, cracked wheat- or anything else you like! I also made a double batch of mince stuffing for the photos, but the recipe is one batch.

For the mince stuffing- you will need 3 cloves garlic, 500g premium beef mince (the leaner the better, less fat), one large leek, a carrot, one red onion, 2 cloves garlic, some tomato paste, half a lemon and a small bunch of coriander. (And lots of spices and chilli).

First up- turn the oven on to 180 degrees.

Crush the garlic with the side of the knife and dice it up. Peel the red onion and dice it up too (as you can see in the back bowl).
Cut off the green end of the leek- wash, slice it longways down the middle then chop it up.
 Heat up a big pan (or wok) and splash in some olive oil
On a low to moderate heat, slowly saute the onion, garlic and leek
for about 5 minutes until it starts to soften. Then take the leek mixture out of the pan, and turn the heat up.

Ready for the mince to go in the pan, break it up with a wooden spoon, stir around and add all the tasty spices. 

Ready for the spice list? 
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander 
1 teaspoon ground chilli
Some chilli flakes if you're keen
And some ground black pepper.

Now take out your small bunch of fresh coriander, save the leaves, and chop the stalks up really finely.
 Add the coriander stalks to the mince. Don't forget to keep stirring it so it doesn't stick to the bottom.
 When the mince is about 3/4 done
Add the leek and onion mix back into the pan and fold it in. 
Along with one tablespoon of tomato paste.
Now for some extra veges. Peel a carrot and grate it up
Fold it in, for another vege kick! 
Finally add the juice and zest of half a lemon.
 And there we have it. Ready to go in the capsicum. If you were only using half of the mince, now is the time to add in your brown rice or other grain.
 But first, we need to make some capsicum boats! I'm using 5 capsicums to give us some dinner and lunch tomorrow. Hold it on the side, and slice down the side to the core.
 Cut around the green top and through to the other side
This should slice it perfectly in 2. 
Pull the seeds out from the middle 
and lay them in a baking pan with a little olive oil. 
 That's all of them!
 Spoon the mince mixture into the half capsicum cups- you can pack it in. 
 Bake in the oven for 35 minutes and they'll still keep their shape, but be nice and soft.
Once they're out of the oven, top them off with the coriander, and if you like, some natural yoghurt mixed with a little lemon juice. 

Stuffed capsicum - spiced minced beef

5 Capsicums, halved (red peppers)

1 red onion - diced
2 cloves garlic - crushed
1 large leek -chopped
500g premium beef mince (or 300g mince, and 1 cup cooked brown rice or other grain)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Small bunch coriander- stems and leaves
1 carrot - grated
1/2 lemon- juice and zest
Olive oil

1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander 
1 teaspoon ground chilli
Chilli flakes - optional
Ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
2. Heat a little olive oil in a large frypan, over medium-low heat, saute onion, leek and garlic for 5 minutes or until just soft.
3. Remove leek mixture from pan, increase heat and add mince and spices. Cook mince until 3/4 cooked, when there is still a little pink left, then add the leek mixture back in to the pan.
4. Add tomato paste, grated carrot, finely sliced stems of the fresh coriander, lemon juice and zest. If using the rice, add this now and stir in.
5. Slice the capsicums in half so they form half cups- discard the seeds and stems and place on a baking tray with a little olive oil.
6. Spoon the mince mixture into the capsicum cups, pack it in and bake for 35 minutes, or until the capsicums are soft.
7. Serve with the coriander leaves on top, and if you like, mix some natural yoghurt with a little lemon juice to serve. 

Serves 4.