Category Archives: food

Katherine Browne (the character), tomato stracciatella and ricotta gnocchi

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Well my reading year is off to a smashing start thanks to the truly delightful, “Brother of the More Famous Jack” written by Barbara Trapido (you can grab it here).  Also, I’ve ticked one off the reading challenge list….this one I chose almost solely on it’s cover (you can see it by clicking the link above), 1 down, 51 to go.

Katherine Browne is one of the best drawn female characters I’ve read in a very long time and spending time with her was a joy.  Katherine falls in love, loses love, loses herself, tries out different ways of being in the world, moves to Rome, falls in lust, loses everything and eventually she comes home to her kindred spirits by way of the Goldman family.  She falls in love again, this time it’s the real thing and she finds happiness.  It’s a coming of age story in a way – perhaps more of a coming in to herself story.  Jacob Goldman is Kath’s Professor and she is drawn in to his personal orbit where he and his wife Jane are a formidable duo. She is accepted as a member of their family almost instantly and it is clear these people are her tribe.  This family is so unlike her own…where beauty is appreciated, verbal sparring is the everyday and intelligence is respected above all else.  But there is kindness, respect and love here too. Roger Goldman, the oldest son, reminded me so of someone I used to know….and I winced with Katherine’s heartbreak and fawning as I saw echoes of my own past behaviour. The writing is light and clever and for me a highlight is the genuine friendship between Jane and Katherine. One borne of shared values, respect.  They are the type of friends who see each other for who they really are and don’t expect otherwise. A fun, beautiful, heartfelt book and one I wholeheartedly recommend.

Back when I hosted a Book Club at my house I tempted my pals over by cooking a meal for them too…always inspired by the book we read and so I thought I would do the same here.  And this book, like many I enjoy, talks food throughout but none more so than a tomato stracciatella which is referenced twice throughout the book.

The first time it’s made in the Goldman kitchen by John Millet when Katherine first visits them – an outtake from his life in Rome.  The second, by Michele, the fascist scoundrel lover who asks Katherine how stracciatella would be translated in English.

And this is a truly delicious soup!  At the outset let me say this is my kind of food – simple to cook, pretty quick, based on good ingredients and though it’s a soup, it tastes of summer to me. Can I also mention that this is a really cheap meal?  It would make a great cold soup too though I think it would be best without the semolina if you’re going to do that.  It would be almost gazpacho like.  I think it’s fancy enough to serve to friends for a light lunch and as a starter too.

I made the soup itself in the morning, knowing we were having a busy day and then made the egg mixture and added that to the reheated soup at dinner time.  It’s great midweek fare and I will actually freeze small portions of the soup and do a quarter of the egg mixture to it as we reheat it for an after work meal.  Sadly, my kiddos don’t like soup much so it’s a meal for the grown people only.

I based my soup on this recipe in the New York Times but of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone so did it with a Cat twist and served it up with some ricotta gnocchi which is one of my favourite things to eat.

 Tomato Stracciatella (via NY Times)

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  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can tomatoes, + 1 grated tomato – if I had more fresh tomatoes I would have used those but I didn’t and the canned ones, if you buy the good ones, are super good I think
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 basil sprig
  • 1.5 litres vegetable or chicken stock – we had homemade chicken stock on hand so that’s what I used
  • a little grate of nutmeg
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup semolina
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • A good handful of fresh herbs – I used a combination of parsley, chives and basil freshly picked from the garden…chop them up pretty finely but don’t worry too much about it, truly

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large, solid bottom saucepan. Add minced/chopped (whatever you like to do in your preparation) garlic, cooking for around 30 seconds. Don’t let the garlic burn – keep the heat lower rather than higher. Add the tomatoes and basil sprig. Cook, stirring, until the tomatoes have cooked down – the original recipe said 10 minutes but mine was done much more quickly. Add the stock. Bring to a simmer, cover with lid and simmer 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  The soup is essentially done.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, semolina, Parmesan, herbs and a dash of nutmeg. Beat until frothy.

Bring the soup to a boil, and slowly drizzle in a thin stream of the egg mixture, stirring constantly.  This slow pour is actually what gives it a lovely swirly cloud situation. Then reduce heat and simmer five minutes.

Ricotta Gnocchi002

I do my gnocchi mostly by feel rather than recipe now as it’s not at all tricky so please go with the instructions rather than the quantities of the flour lovely people.

  • 250 grams ricotta cheese (please don’t by the stuff from the supermarket labelled smooth – it’s just not right!)
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • just under a cup of plain flour
  • a dash of salt

Drain the ricotta in a sieve until most of the liquid has dripped out. Meanwhile, put a large pot of water on to boil. By the time it’s boiling your gnocchi will be ready.

Gently mix ricotta, salt and parmesan in a large bowl and add only as much flour as you need to bring the dough together. The best way to do this is to do it by hand – it should be sticky but not so much it sticks to your hands.  Try not to overmix it as that makes the gnocchi tough.

Invert on to a lightly floured board and make sausage like shapes out of the dough – around the 2cm diameter is best. Then cut them in around 2cm intervals.

Drop the gnocchi carefully in the boiling water – this is tricky cos you have to be gentle and don’t want to splash yourself with boiling water!  The gnocchi cook in a few minutes maximum but when they’re ready they float to the top which is indeed very kind of them. Fish them out with a slotted spoon, I prefer to put them in to a colander to drain the last of the water off.

You can cook them in advance and rewarm them or even pan-fry them to give a nice crunch to the outside of it and they do freeze well.  Tor freeze, lay them flat and put baking paper between the layers to make sure they don’t stick together.

Loverly food: broccoli, fetta and parsley mini scones

173The lovely Reem tweeted Amy and th3litteredhen and me on Saturday asking for some kiddo inclusive baking recipes. By the time I got back to her with ideas (I was at my much loved weekly Pilates session) she’d already made fruit scones and then, of course, I had to make scones too.

We still have a LOT of broccoli to use up and I went savoury cos lunchboxes and two birds with one stone and all that!

Now this recipe is one of my favourite kinds – using lots of good, healthy ingredients that are needing using up from the fridge and it is a one bowl mix situation plus created very few dishes. The kiddos even ate them happily so WIN!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups plain flour – if you want to use wholemeal then please do – they will just need a bit more yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 and a half cups plain yoghurt
  • 1/2 small head broccoli, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup fetta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • salt to taste
  • milk to “wash” the scones with

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix….don’t overmix as scones aren’t very forgiving with that.

Put mix on lightly floured benchtop and gently press the mix down until it’s about 2.5cm thick but truly, this doesn’t matter too much as long as the size you go with is consistent and you adjust cooking time accordingly.

Cut out the scones with an espresso cup or something of that ilk and place on a lined baking tray. When you’ve cut out as many as you can, lightly bring together dough and press it out again.

Brush the scones with a bit of milk – this makes them go a lovely golden brown on top – and bake for around 15 minutes but check at the 10 minute mark to see how they’re faring.

Allow to cool on an cooling rack and place in air tight container. They’ll last a few days in a container but as with all scones will freeze really well too.

 

Loverly food: Ricotta, broccoli & carrot fritole

149Given the sheer number of ricotta based recipes I’ve blogged over the years it’s hardly surprising for you to hear I rather love the stuff.  The only thing is that it is best served as fresh as possible so after I’ve gobbled some up fresh on my toast with honey I start looking to what I can cook with it.

I spied some sweet fritoles on a facebook page I follow and knew I had to try making some. My Nonna makes them sweet and I remember eating them as a child….but I wanted, as always, to try and veggie smuggle for the kiddos, especially Mr 2 and we have so much broccoli to use up that I thought I’d give that a go.  I found lots of recipes for fritters but none for these puffy looking morsels so I rang my Dad to ask his advice.

I did mine all in the food processor initially (cos I’m lazy!) and then, as I had already been using the little deep frier machine we have, I used that. But usually, when I fry something I do it in tiny batches in a very small saucepan so I don’t use heaps of oil.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 orange, zested and a little of the juice from half of the orange – use lemon if you like but I went with orange because we have so many to use up too!
  • Half a small broccoli, chopped roughly
  • 2 carrots, chopped roughly
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt to taste (I like salt in my food but I know some of you aren’t fans)
  • A dash of dried coriander/cumin/fennel or whatsoever you like
  • Oil of your preferred type to fry in

Method:

  • Set your oil to heat – bringing it up to the 180ish degree mark
  • Put all the ingredients in the food processor and whizz until it’s all mixed up nicely. If you don’t have one grate the veggies and pop it all in a bowl together.
  • When oil is to temperature spoon tablespoons of the mixture carefully in to the oil and fry for around 3-5 minutes until golden brown. If they’re not cooking on the top you may have to spin them over to cook evenly.
  • Drain well on paper towel.

These are absolutely best served fresh and I dipped mine in some yoghurt. Yum! But if you want to cook them in advance, reheat them in the oven til they crisp up again. They’ll kind of deflate a bit when sitting about.

The recipe above makes LOTS so do feel free to halve. I gifted some of them to my Mum and a friend and we still had lots of them.

As always, if you give them a try I would love to know what you think!

Loverly food: Zucchini & ricotta muffins

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Our freezer stocks for lunchboxes is running low so over the next few days I’m concentrating on restocking supplies.  Mr 5 is a fabulous eater and I love having a freezer full of goodies to choose from for his lunches.  He’s really proud of his lunches too and his teacher giggles at how excited he gets about what he’s packed.

Yesterday Mr 2 was really unwell.  He napped for over two hours which he has probably never done in his life.  I think I blocked out the first year of his life as I truly can’t remember if he’s done it previously.  I decided to make him a raw coconut and cacao treat and with all that was on my mind I shoved my finger in the hand held food processor/whizzy thing.  Major cut on my index finger – gory and ick and I cried hugely.  So I’ve been cooking with an injury. Oh woe is me. 🙂  Like small children do though, he got sick quickly and has recovered quickly, waking at 4am for the day and he is very chipper indeed!

To manage some of his energy we’ve been cooking this morning.  He will eat almost anything if he’s helped cook it so there’s method in my madness.

In addition to the muffins we’ve made a batch of oat, quinoa and strawberry breakfast cookies and these chickpea and chocolate biscuits though I held the peanut butter to make them lunchbox friendly.

Anyway, these muffins are really lovely and fluffy, I think the ricotta helps with that.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • half cup milk
  • half cup coconut butter, melted
  • three quarters cup ricotta
  • 3 small zucchini, grated
  • 2 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp coriander, finely chopped – if coriander isn’t your thing use any herbs you like! And dried is ok too.
  • pepitas to put on top

Method:

Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius. If you would like to use muffin papers line a 12 cup muffin tray with them, if not, grease the muffin tin.

Combine the eggs, ricotta, milk, and coconut butter in a bowl. Grate the zucchini in to the bowl. Place chopped herbs in same bowl.

In a separate large bowl combine flour, salt and baking powder. Make a well in the centre and add the egg mixture. Mix carefully – easier said than done when a toddler is involved. The more you mix it the tougher it’ll be.

Spoon mix in to muffin tins til around 3/4 full, then scatter a few pepitas on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top.

This made around 18 muffins for us.

Loverly food: Family meals & the “Festival of Meatballs”

Sponsored post thanks to Origin Energy

20140717-081700-29820046.jpg Family meals are one of those romantic ideas I had before having children. All of “us” (whoever the us was!) gathered at the table at the end of our respective days taking it in turns sharing what interesting, unusual and funny things happened that day. Heartily enjoying the healthy, home prepared meal presented. I’m not ruling that out as a possible scenario in the future, especially the older our children are, but it’s rare for this scenario to present itself at the moment.  The reality though is that Mr 2 is at Grandma’s 3 days a week, the other week days Mr and I eat together after the boys are in bed as the boys eat dinner early – a hangry kid is in no one’s best interest!  That said, we do try to have a family dinner once a week, usually on a Sunday evening. It’s not the chilled out experience I perhaps envisaged but it is still an important time for us to connect. Increasingly, the boys pitch in – they help select our meals and Mr 2 helps with table setting and clearing up and Mr 5 “supervises” Mr 2 and helps with putting away dishes.

Food is a big deal in our house. And by big deal I mean we talk about food a lot, we prepare from scratch, get everyone involved, chat about healthy eating, good food choices and shop for seasonal food. I spend a lot of time thinking about what to cook, cooking and cleaning up. It’s important to us that the boys know that good food takes time and thought.

The setting you can see above was for our family dinner on Sunday. At the outset let me say that Mr 5 is a great eater. He eats widely and is willing to try new things. He went through a fussy period and there are foods he doesn’t like much (soup) but we just avoid those. Mr 2 on the other hand would snack all day and never sit down to a proper meal if allowed to do so. He will generally not try new things, especially if cajoled. I’ve learned that leaving him to decide from several options on the table is the best approach. Always putting something on the table that I know he likes helps too – fresh cucumber or corn on the cob – and he may just take a nibble of something new. Mr 5 is the best salesperson when it comes to getting him to try his food even if it’s something he’s eaten and liked before.  It absolutely does get me down sometimes when I have spent so much time thinking and preparing a meal only to have it rejected for a banana or piece of bread.

When asked by the folks at Origin if I could try one of their Winter Warmers recipes I knew I had to try these Stove-top Greek Meatballs. I paired them with a second set of turkey meatballs as I had an opportunity to batch cook, what I call “quick chips” (thinly sliced potato that is oven roasted with a bit of oil and salt) and a bunch of fresh salad veggies. Mr 5 dubbed our meal, the “Festival of Meatballs” and pleasingly, Mr 2 tried everything you can see pictured before you.  The recipe is a really easy one and as I doubled up we have two more meals in the freezer awaiting a busier time. It’s also a really diverse meal to prepare and though I served them plain this time I will do them with some creamy semolina or polenta next time. I have had requests for this meal again from all the boys so it’s a winner in my books. You can find the recipe for the Stove-top Greek Meatballs here but the process goes a little something like this:

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In preparing family meals I look for healthy, cost-effective, something I know is likely to appeal to Mr 2’s fussy pants nature and is big enough on flavour to please the rest of us too. These meatballs tick all the boxes and I heartily recommend them.

How are family meal times at your place?  Do you have a fussy eater too? How do you cope with it all?

Loverly food: Parmesan, sesame & chia seed crackers

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I spied this cute cracker recipe on Facebook yesterday and thought they’d be a hit here but as usual I couldn’t leave well enough alone so I mixed it up a bit.

As much as possible I do home made. Yes, it is work. Yes, it means I spend time organising and cooking and cleaning up but I think it’s important to know what’s going in my kids mouths.

I posted the pic on Instagram and received requests for the recipe so here tis, due to popular demand.

Mr 5 helped me make these and chose the cookie cutters we would use.

1 cup wholemeal flour
3 tablespoons cold butter, chopped
A good handful of Parmesan cheese – maybe two thirds of a cup but hey, whatever!
1 good shake from the packet of sesame seeds – maybe a tablespoon and a bit
1 good shake from the packet of chia seeds – about same as sesame seeds
2 tablespoons cold water

Blitz flour and butter in food processor until it becomes bread-crumb like. Add Parmesan and seeds and give a quick blitz. Add water and process until it becomes a ball, add more water little by little if needed.

Flatten by hand between two pieces of baking paper and refrigerate for 10 mins or so.

Roll out between paper until a few millimetres thick and cut with cookie cutters of your choice. The thinner they are the crunchier but don’t go too thin or they’ll burn.

Bake in a 170 degree oven for around 12 – 15 minutes and try not to eat the whole lot at once! Half have already been consumed here!

Loverly food: Ricotta, orange and cranberry cake

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I’ve made this cake twice now and it’s a hit with all four of us. So, I thought I better blog it before I forget how I actually did it!!

I LOVE ricotta. It’s actually one of my favourite foods. Yes, I know it’s a bit bland but it’s just so much about what you put it with and it’s very versatile. Plus, I love that once upon a time someone thought to make something so delicious with the “waste product” from making other cheeses.

• half a cup of honey
• 3/4 cup softened butter – you could try with coconut oil if you want though I haven’t yet
• a heaped cup of ricotta cheese – the fresher the better though I don’t recommend you buy the mass produced supermarket stuff it is not at all the same
• 3 eggs
• juice and zest of one orange
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 2 cups plain flour
• half cup dried cranberries (add more if you like)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
Cream the honey, butter and ricotta in a bowl – I did mine in my electric mixer but you don’t need to.
When nicely combined – the ricotta will still be lumpy – incorporate one egg at a time.
Add the orange juice, zest and vanilla extract and combine.
Lastly add the flour, baking powder and cranberries and try not to over mix.
Cook in a loaf tin for around 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. A round or square pan may take a bit longer to cook through.
Leave to cool in the tin for around 10 minutes and invert on a cake rack.

I am actually thinking of making this cake in to mini-cakes with some chocolate chips and in it for Easter gifts!

This cake also keeps in the fridge really well in an air tight container.
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