Easy friday night dinner

By the time friday night rolls around really the last thing I want to do is have to think seriously about what to cook for dinner, this was particularly the case last night as I’d had a very busy Friday.

I figured the easy thing to go with is a favourite standby which is my easy version of Pasta Marinara which includes prawns, garlic, tomato, parsley & onions. I will post my delicious gourmet Spaghetti Marinara at another stage, which is just as easy.

You will need (serves 2 adults & 2 kids)

500gms of fresh prawns that have been peeled & cleaned
1 medium onion diced
1 large clove of garlic
handful of parsley chopped
400g tin of crushed tomatoes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste.
1/2 tsp sugar – optional
Your favourite pasta. I generally use spaghetti & approx 400g

Fill a large saucepan with hot water & a pinch of salt, bring to the boil & add pasta, boil until al dente. In a large frying pan add a dash of olive oil,┬áthe onions & garlic, fry until translucent , add the tomatoes & a dash of water to loosen the tomatoes, season to taste, if the sauce is particularly sour (this will depend on the type of tomatoes you use) then you can add a small amount of sugar to adjust the taste. This more than likely wouldn’t be required if you’re using home made tomato sauce or fresh tomatoes. Add the parsley & stir to combine. Simmer for 5 or so minutes to allow the sauce to reduce slightly
Add the prawns and simmer gently until they’re just cooked through, approx 5-7 mins. Just remember that they will continue to cook in the sauce so you turn off the heat as soon as they turn pink.

Drain the pasta and add to the sauce, stir so that it’s coated in the sauce and serve with an extra sprinkling of chopped parsley.

Lamb & Cauliflower Tajine

1 Brown Onion Diced

4 Carrots, peeled, cut in half length wise and then in half width wise

handful of chopped Italian Parsley

6 Lamb Loin or forequarter chops

1/4-1/2 a Cauliflower head

1 Tomato halved

2tsp Ground cumin

2 tsp Paprika

Salt & Pepper to taste

1/3 cup water

Place the onions & spices in the base of your tajine or a cast iron pan. Add the chops and allow to brown slightly. Remove chops and place the sliced carrots on top of the onions, then layer the chops on top.

Cut the cauliflower into small flowerets and lay over the top of the chops, place the tomato on top, pour in the water and sprinkle a little extra, salt, cumin & paprika over the cauliflower. Cover and bring to a gentle simmer. Leave to cook slower for at least 2 hours or until almost all the water has evaporated. If you’re using a cast iron pan then you may need to add a little extra water and keep an eye on it as it seems to get hotter & hold the heat for longer than a tajine.

Serve with crusty bread & a garden salad or greens.

P.S. I was NEVER a fan of cauliflower but this has completely changed my mind, I even ate it by it’s self… no white sauce in sight!

Lamb & Eggplant Meat Balls

500gms Lamb Mince
400gms Eggplant finely diced
2 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup chopped italian parsley
1/3 cup chopped mint
Rind of 1 lemon grated
Sea Salt & Freshly Ground pepper
Olive oil.

Salt the egg plant for at least 10 minutes, rinse and dice, spread onto an oven tray and drizzle with olive oil, roast until golden (approx 20 mins at 180 degrees celcius) You will need to move them about a bit too.

Put all the other ingredients into a bowl, once the eggplant is ready allow it to cool slightly and add to the mix. Mix it all together and shape into balls. The recipe said to use a non stick frying pan – which is definitely a good idea as the mix is quite soft and they will stick. Pan fry gently in olive oil to colour and then transfer to an oven tray and bake to finish.

If you are planning ahead, you could pan fry them and then set aside till you need them and finish them off in the oven.

The Original recipe comes from Donna Hay Seasons cookbook, but she used beef mince & includes 200gms of Feta. We’ve found after making them several times that with the feta they’re very very salty, almost too salty to eat so I’ve decided to leave out the feta which also makes them less messy to make. If you decide to include the feta then please make sure you rinse the eggplant really well and perhaps don’t bother adding an extra salt.

If you are planning on making them to serve at a party then I would recommend rolling the mix in breadcrumbs prior to cooking as it helps to hold them together & serve them with some minted yoghart labne.

They’re a hit with everyone and great served with Rice & salad or in a bread roll.

A week until Ramadan

Which means this time next week my DH will be fasting from Sunrise to Sunset in accordance with his Muslim beliefs. It also means I will be mainly cooking Moroccan food of all kinds, each Break Fast is a bit like christmas lunch on a daily basis for a month.

Everything from Harira to Tangia, Tajines, Stews, Desserts etc. Dates feature heavily as do more traditional meals like Bessara a dried broad bean soup. I will aim to include recipes of everything I cook over the month. It’s very labour intensive, everything has to be ready dead on time and as you can imagine a starving husband who’s been at work all day isn’t always a happy husband.

Thankfully Sophia is 1 now and I am hoping things will run more smoothly than they did last year when I was feeding a newborn baby & trying to cook up a feast every day for a month.. No mean feat I have to tell you, so while I am not necessarily looking forward to the next month I am looking forward to mastering some of the more challenging recipes that come from a Moroccan kitchen, try as I might I have yet to be able to make 1000 hole pancakes as they do in Marrakech.

My Tangia however is something out of this world. By the end of the month we (Zachie & I – Hafid will be in heaven as he’d much prefer I dish up the food he’s eaten all his life instead of continuously trying to get him to taste new things) will be so over Moroccan food it won’t be funny, but by then I think I say that’s it – we’re having Italian, French or Aussie month!

To get the ball rolling yesterday I preserved Lemons & was most amused to see in ‘The Sunday Life’ a recipe for doing the same, however traditionally we use salt, water & lemons & don’t remove the flesh when using them in dishes.

You will need: Clean glass jars with tight-fitting lids, Lemons, Salt & Water

You simply cut the lemons into quarters without cutting all the way through the lemon, pack them into the jars and add about a cup of salt to a litre size jar and fill with water. I used smaller jars and added 3 heaped tablespoons of salt to each one.

Ensure the lemons are tightly packed and covered with water, put in a dark cupboard for at least a month before you use them. If you have a lemon tree then we need to become friends as we use preserved lemons at least 2 or 3 times a week.

Ricotta Cannoli

Yum! Really this is something that falls into the once in a while category of food, because they’re just so yummy and once you make your own I don’t know why you’d bother buying them. I do cheat however and buy the shells from a fantastic bakery at the Preston Market. You get 16 shells for $5 add some ricotta, cream mixed peel & cinnamon and you have a dessert that will knock peoples socks off and make a fantastic impression!
You will need: 300g fresh Ricotta, 1/4 cup mixed peel, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 300mls cream & 1/4 cup caster sugar & cannoli shells.
Combine all ingredients into the bowl of your mix master. Beat until thick and check the sweetness, if you have a very sweet tooth you can add more sugar, but they really shouldn’t be too sweet.
Fill a piping bag and squeeze the mix into the shells. Dust with icing sugar and serve, you can make these a few hours ahead of time. Enjoy!

FYI

Parsley is always the Italian flat leaf variety.
Chicken stock powder is either Vegeta or Massel.
Olive oil is always extra virgin unless otherwise stated.
Food is always cooked with love xx

Chicken, Mushroom & Tomato Risotto

This is always a winner in our house and despite what you may hear on Masterchef its really not that hard to make & unless you have the time you don’t need to stand there and stir it constantly, you do however have to keep an eye on it, so for busy Mums & Dads, it might be worthwhile making this while the kids are at the table doing their homework or playing underfoot.
Now because I have made this recipe over and over again I don’t measure the ingredients and go by taste, last night that all changed and I measured especially for you.
You will need:
2 cups aborio rice, 1 large onion diced, 2 cloves garlic minced or diced, 1 400g tin crushed tomatoes, 2 chicken thighs, 1 large open mushroom or 6 small mushrooms diced, 3 tsp powdered chicken stock, 5 1/2 cups boiling water, Pepper to taste, handful chopped parsley, lug of extra virgin olive oil, Freshly grated Parmesan cheese & knob of butter.

You need to keep in mind that the stock, parmesan & butter all contain salt so there really isn’t any need to add extra, but the best way to monitor this is to keep on tasting.
In either a large saucepan or deep frying pan add the oil, onions, garlic, pepper & mushrooms, gently fry everything until you start to get colour on the onions & mushrooms.
Add the diced chicken and saute until it’s just starting to brown. Add the stock powder & rice and stir until its all coated in the oils & juices. Then just as it’s starting to stick deglaze the pan with 2 cups of the boiling water. Stir gently & add the tinned tomatoes, you should have enough liquid in the pan to be able to move the rice around without stirring it.
Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and keep adding the water as required, you want the rice to keep its shape but be al dente, It’s better to add boiling water as that way you don’t have to wait for the risotto to get back up to simmering point after each addition.
After about 30 mins you should start to see everything coming together and the rice should be almost done, stir in a knob of butter and turn off the heat. Add the grated parmesan & chopped parsley, you need to ensure that you only add the parmesan at the end as you don’t want to cook it as it goes stringy.
Serve with as much extra parmesan as you like.
This recipe would serve 2 adults & 2 kids, but provides us with enough for dinner for 2 adults, 1 small child & a baby plus enough for hubby’s lunch the next day.