Many years ago I had an office in Lonsdale St. On one cold day I ventured into a Chinese restaurant near China town to grab some lunch. I stood at the counter and looked at the colourful pictures of the meals on the wall behind it and ordered something called a laksa because the colours looked so good. I'd never had a laksa before that day and my (taste bud) world changed. Since that lunchtime surprise, I have been on the hunt for really good laksas and mostly end up being disappointed. The bar was set pretty high by that first encounter. Early on in my quest I bought one of those laksa packs you get from the supermarket. A mistake, say no more. I'd glanced at recipes every now and again but never really had the inclination to try a proper one having convinced myself I'd be disappointed. And they all looked so complicated.  For my birthday, Maria bought me a wonderful cookbook from a great little book and gift shop in Bangalow; The Chicken Soup Manifesto . It has authentic

Roasting rack hack

Earlier today I say, "Babe, how about we do that chickpea and spinach curry?" "I feel like roast chicken" she says. When we did a roast (yeah I know, 2 roasts in a week) last time I just threw everything in the roasting dish. Today, because we were in the shops in Lismore, I decided to look for a roasting rack. Two major problems, (i) size and weight: its gotta fit in the smallish roasting dish we've got in the van, and (ii) they don't sell them separately.  After poking around for a while I started looking for things I could use instead of the real thing, and found myself pondering the utility of a vegetable steamer. We gave it a crack and it worked great. Nice and light (for the van) and fitted nicely in our square oven dish. Not perfect, I'd say, but it did what I wanted, lifted the food above the base and the juices in the dish.

Fish soup (with miso)

We had a fillet of deep sea bream which I was going to use last night for dinner but we went out and had burgers instead (!) so had to use for lunch today. It's been raining constantly this morning, so we felt like bunkering down and having something nourishing and warm. Servings 2 Ingredients sesame oil (couple of glugs) dollop of minced ginger decent handful of finely sliced red cabbage decent handful of finely sliced kale 1 litre of miso stock (about a dessert spoon of miso paste) few glugs of soy sauce few dashes of fish oil about 300g of fish (bream), cubed Method sauté the ginger, cabbage and kale in the sesame oil for a few mins add the stock, soy sauce and fish sauce and bring to a simmer add the fish and cook for few mins until the fish is cooked but still tender garnish with sesame seeds and dried shallots

Old school roast

No recipe necessary. Get a roasting dish. Toss the chopped veggies in olive oil, pepper and salt. Bung it all in the oven including the meat with some unpeeled garlic until its cooked.  Make the gravy just like your nanna did at the last minute.  Then, when you thought you were full, mash the left over veggies in the left over gravy and eat some more ...

Fettuccini with fresh tomatoes and pork sausage

We were going to make risotto last night with some sausage we had in the freezer, but when it cam time to cook we felt like something lighter, so tonight we had to use the sausage. We paired it with some fresh tomatoes to give us a hearty and good feed. Servings 2 Time about 30 mins  Equipment Saucepan for boiling the pasta Pan to make the sauce knife and chopping board colander Ingredients oil (decent glug) ½  onion (diced) 3 cloves garlic, crushed 500g fresh tomatoes, chopped 2 x pork sausages, cut into pieces ½ bunch flat leaf parsley pepper and salt 200g fettuccini Method bring saucepan of salted water to the boil Sauté onions in the oil until translucent Add sausage pieces and brown Add garlic and tomatoes and simmer until tomatoes break down and form a start to form a sauce Add the pasta to the saucepan and cook until al dente Drain pasta and add to pan (with sauce) along with parsley, stir through and serve

Paella with seafood and chorizo

I read somewhere once that paella was party food. Not in the same way party pies and frankfurters are, but in the sense that when you put a paella dish on the table, its invites a celebratory mood. Indeed it does. I've got my good mate Gavan to thank for getting me onto paella, and the sofrito he shared with me is the key to this recipe ... magic juice. Some recipes integrate the sofrito into the dish. I like this approach because we make enough of it to store in small containers in the freezer (sometimes twice the recipe below), so when the the occasion calls for paella, the preparation effort is drastically reduced. We keep a paella dish in the van, so when we leave home for a decent stint, the sofrito from the freezer comes with us. Perhaps like no other dish, I was determined to figure out how to cook paella properly, and in particular, how to end up with socarrat, one of the most important parts of an authentic paella, and for me, an indicator that I was getting the hang of it

penne with greens

One evening, and long time ago at home, Maria decided she wanted pasta, but something fresh and light ... so what we refer to as 'pasta with greens' was born. At home we eat it almost weekly, but until tonight, it hasn't been done in our little kitchen in the van. It's uncomplicated. Green veggies, with the classic flavours of olive oil, garlic, pepper and lemon, and then we break up some Meredith  marinated goat cheese over the top. Easy, quick, tasty ... what's not to like? Servings 2  Time about 30mins  Equipment saucepan for boiling pasta pan for sautéing greens knife and chopping board colander for draining pasta Ingredients Oil 2x garlic cloves, diced chopped green veggies: we used 5x kale leaves, 1 x zucchini, 1 flower of broccoli  juice of ½ lemon  Pepper 2 squares of goats cheese 200g penne pasta Method Bring (at least) 1½ litre of water to the boil Heat oil a few glugs of oil in the pan and add the garlic (careful not to burn it) Add the veggies, the chunk

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