Showing posts from August, 2020

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 sautĂ©ing 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

new go-to

My Japanese style chicken broth has fast become a favourite. Tonight I reckon the broth was the best I've done, so this to note the formula. 4 x chicken thighs browned in sesame oil simmered (slightly uncovered) for 2 hours in 1 litre of miso stock (~ desert spoon of paste) and about ¼ cup soy sauce added 500ml of chicken stock at the end (the kale and purple cabbage were great, and the pickled ginger is the X factor.

instant noodles post and vans style

So I go on about real food and all that ... so where do instant noodles fit into that??? Truth is we often keep a couple of tubs of instant noodles in the cupboard: post exercise carb load or 'can't be bothered lunch or snack. They usually get spiced up with veggies, cold meat, eggs ... We got home late tonight, not much in the fridge. We were tried (can't be bothered cooking) so we swung past the IGA and picked up some salmon. Maria made a salad, and me ... with some soft poached eggs and celery leaves ... voilĂ .

cheat's saag with beef

Picked up some curry paste from the fellas from Church Farm , added some coconut milk and loads of spinach to make a saag, and cooked some diced beef in it for four hours. Good. ... but the plated dish, even with carrots looks rubbish.

Fettuccini with Maria's sauce

Pasta with a tomato based sauce can be comfort food, but for us it is more. It is more like centring food. We don't have pasta when we can't think of anything else, we have it when we need it. Maria will say, "I think I feel like pasta tonight," which is code for saying, let's have food that reminds us who we are. When we left Barwon Heads over two months ago we loaded the van freezer with some goodies from our chest freezer at home, which included some pork mince from Koallah Farm  from where we regularly order meat. Yesterday at the Mullum Farmers' Market, Maria spotted a stall with some good looking fresh tomatoes, so the pieces came together ... In our delineation of duties in our relationship, tomato based pasta is Maria's portfolio :-). Servings 6 (for the sauce, 2 for now and 4 to freeze or give away) Time about 2 hours.  Equipment I used (main) Pan Chopping boards and knife Saucepan for pasta Wooden spoon, tongs for serving Grater (for parmesan) In

Baked cauliflower and potato soup with Italian sausage (or Sicilian olives for veg option)

It's hard to make a pureed soup look inviting, but this was yum. Soup. When we are wondering what to make up for dinner, putting together a soup with what's in the cupboard or fridge is always an option. Today it was potatoes and cauliflower, but we cranked it up with some Italian sausage and some trusty spices. The Sicilian olives worked well too ... I pulled a bottle out of the cupboard for my second helping! Servings 4  Time about 1 hour.  Equipment I used (main) Saucepan Pan (for sausages) baking dish Chopping boards and knife Wooden spoon, tongs for turning sausages and ladle for serving Measuring 'cup' for stock Bowl (for chopped cauliflower) Blender Grater Ingredients Oil 1 onion, diced (I would have preferred a leek if I had one on the fridge) 2x garlic cloves, diced 1 tbs cumin 1 tbs ground coriander 1 x cinnamon stick  3 x small potatoes 1 x small cauliflower Chicken stock (1 litre) 2 x Italian sausages (or small bottle of pitted Sicilian olives) Pepper and sa


I had a pizza base in the cupboard that needed using. Luckily we had some fresh basil in the fridge and some cherry tomatoes, so with some passata, mozzarella, pepper and salt I was good to go. To top it off, I drizzled some olive oil from Maria's family in Abruzzo. We keep a bottle of it in the van pantry for occasions just like this.  (One of the pieces of 'specialist equipment' we keep in the van is a pizza stone ... first time we've pulled it from under the seat on this trip.)

a plate of veggies

We were out and about today, and our lunchtime toasties were a bit average, so we were keen for something wholesome. One of the things in the fridge was a bag of gourmet mushrooms from the farmers market; we were keen to use them so we ended up building the meal around them. Potatoes and carrots (both also from the farmers market) baked with onion, garlic and some mixed herbs. The kale and mushroom, and some char grilled brussel sprouts) were pan fried in butter, oil and a drizzle of white balsamic glaze. So good and satisfying.

Slow cooked lamb shanks, Italian style

Up the hill from Ballina is a little town called Alstonville that is home to a great little deli and butcher . When we called in recently one of the things that caught my eye were a couple of the plumpest looking lamb shanks I'd ever seen. We don't cook red meat that often but these shanks were calling out to me, so here we go.  Slow cooked meat is pretty simple really, some fry-able veggies, some liquid and some flavour enhancers and you're good to go. This recipe, as is typical for me, gleans ideas from a few sources and is constrained by what we've got in the fridge or what we can buy easily. Servings 2 (Normally I'd say 1 shank per serve, but these were huge, so we cooked both and plan to share one, and use the other for a pasta sauce tomorrow :-)) Time Time to chop and prepare ingredients, then at least hours 2½ cooking time. (2½ hours is the magic number if you want soft tender meat.) Equipment (main) Cast iron enamel pot Saucepan (for potatoes) Tongs (for bro


Boring and really important. One of the critical decisions to make when setting up your little kitchen is which pots to include. Over many years, we find this set serves us really well. Surprisingly, I have never 'wished' for another style pot, these have done the trick for the two of us. I'll divide the pots into two sections, everyday and specialist (occasional use). One of the considerations is the small stove top. Large pans or standard woks for example, are too big to position so the heat is under the centre. And, you will need to be able to put dishes beside each other, so anything too big will limit the number of pots in use at anyone time. So what do we use?: Three everyday pots 1. 24cm wide, deep heavy base fry pan (with lid). We use this for frying (obviously) but also for risottos, pasta sauces etc.  2. 20cm saucepan, also with a heavy enough base to be able to fry off onions etc if needed. (with lid) 3. 22cm cast iron enamel pot for soups, slow cooking etc. Can

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