Category: Comfort Food

K is for Lasagne?

Hanging around?  Nothing to do but frown?  Rainy days and Mondays getting you down?

What you need to cheer you up body and soul my friends is some comfort food.  And the best comfort food in existence is home-made lasagne. It MUST be home-made!  The horrible facsimile that is food court  / take away lasagne ( you know the one – ten layers of pasta with only a layer of a thin tomato sauce separating them, with maybe a tablespoon of meat in the entire dish, no bechamel to speak of, a glut of cheap and nasty Parmesan on top and a pool of oil at the bottom – will only further deepen your despondency and ennui with the world). 

Lasagne al forno4jpg

No, what you need to soothe your soul is a  rich meat ragu, lots of cheese, oodles of bechamel and for a really retro kick, curly lasagne noodles.  Hallelujah and praise the angels.  THAT lasagne is heaven in a baking dish.  And if it doesn’t put a glint in your eye and a spring in your step, then you’re dead already!

Lasagne al forno2I have a Garfield like love of lasagne but an equally strong aversion to making it. Here’s why

  • Usually, by the time I have made the ragu, I’m either tired or hungry (or both) so I turn it into a Bolognese.
  • Lasagne is  a mofo of a thing to make – half a day at least, and that’s if you multitask!
  • The fussiest eater in the world does not eat anything with white sauce so no bechamel for him
  • You cannot make lasagne for one.  Or two.  It’s a four person dish at an absolute minimum.
  • Even my love of lasagne does not equal eating it everyday for a week. 

Lasagne al forno3So I don’t feel I am wrong in saying that the last time I made lasagne was probably in the early noughties.  So I  was excited to see that the very first recipe in the K section of The A-Z of Cooking (1977) was for lasagne. The time had certainly come for me to make it again and even more, I was delighted to discover why it was listed under K and not L of Lasagne or P for Pasta.  Are you ready?

  • K is for Kitchen Aids
  • A freezer is a kitchen aid
  • Lasagne freezes like a dream!  Who knew?

Lasagne al fornoSo, without further ado, here’s the recipe.  I made some minor changes, instead of water in the ragu I added equal parts of beef stock and red wine. And also cooked the lasagne, then cut it into individual servings, wrapped them up and froze them.  They can then be heated in an oven or microwave for lunch or a no fuss supper.

Lasagne RecipeNow you have the recipe, why no make and freeze some lasagne –  because you know that a rainy day or Monday will come around all too soon!

Hope you are having a great week!

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Ethiopian Pumpkin Soup with Berbere Pepitas and Pinenuts

If there’s one food Australians love, it is pumpkin. 

Ethiopian Pumpkin Soup
Ethiopian Pumpkin Soup

Not like this.  This is just creepy….

Found on Modern Mechanix

But unlike our American pals who like to eat their pumpkins for dessert, for us it is sadly almost always served savoury as a vegetable.  Just incidentally though, Australia, why don’t we have pumpkin pie?  We get all the trashy American stuff – the Kardashians and ice bucket challenges to name but a few.  Why can’t we get some of the yummy delicious pumpkin pie action too?

According to this, you don;t even have to cook it.  It’s MAGIC…

Pumpkin Dream Pie

Sadly for us, Pumpkin Dream Pie remains just that…

We eat pumpkin as a side for a roast, in lasagné’s risottos, salads and scones.  But more than eating pumpkin,  we love to drink it.

How much do we love to drink it? Pumpkin soup is a, no probably the Australian ubiquitous menu item –  just about every cafe, restaurant, pub bistro and hole in the wall has their own version prominently displayed on the menu – I go to a cafe where it has been the soup du jour for at least five years. 

Out of curiosity  I had a little look on taste.com.au for pumpkin soup recipes. There are 79 of them.  Ok, so it’s not the 765 recipes they have for chocolate cake but 79 variations on a theme of pumpkin is still quite a number.  There are recipes for Classic Pumpkin Soup, Creamy Pumpkin Soup, Perfect Pumpkin Soup and Smashing Pumpkin Soup (I guess that’s the soup that despite all it’s rage is still just a rat in a cage). 

I did start to notice a trend though -not only do we love our pumpkin soup but we like it to be a bit of a international bright young thing.  There are  recipes for:

Thai, Moroccan, non – specific Asian, Tortellini (Italian), Japanese, Thai again, Thai again again, Curry x 3, South Indian, Australian (whatever that maybe…I didn’t look, possibly flavoured with beer and vegemite), two more Thai’s.  The Americas are represented by one paltry entry for Maine Pumpkin soup.  But you  know what?  If I was given a choice between that soup, (even though it looks and sounds divine) and this:

Inspiration Kitchen’s Dulce De Leche Pumpkin Cheesecake

I wouldn’t be eating Pumpkin soup either.

Africa too is sadly missing from that list.  Ok, yes, Morocco is there but…jeez…(eyeroll), if you must be pedantic, sub-Saharan Africa  is completely missing.  Hopefully not for much longer…because it’s time this delicious Ethiopian Pumpkin Soup adapted from Diana Henry’s Plenty  took the stage!

This is gorgeous to look at, the inclusion of tomato paste and the Berbere spices gives it a real 1970’s burnt orange colour.  It’s really tasty too – slightly sweet from the pumpkin, slightly smoky from the spices, slightly spicy from the chilli and cinnamon and ginger.  If you leave out the yoghurt garnish it is also vegan.  

Ethiopian Pumpkin Soup2
Ethiopian Pumpkin Soup 2

And, whilst I don’t want to blow my own trump….actually, no, wait, it’s my blog, I can blow whatever I damn well want! The Berbere pepitas and pinenuts which were my own invention were amazing!  They add some additional spice and salt and crunch.  The only problem with these is that they are so good you will be hard pressed to save any for the soup.  I had to make about three or four batches of them because we kept eating them before they could be used as the soup garnish.  They are seriously good!  

Berbere Roasted Pepitas and Pinenuts
Berbere Roasted Pepitas and Pinenuts

The key to this soup is the Berbere spice mix.  I bought mine but you can make your own.  There are about a thousand of these on the interwebs, each of which is slightly different. I have included the recipe for Berbere given in Diana Henry’s book below.

Berbere Spice Mix
Berbere Spice Mix

 Either way you’re going to end up with a lot more Berbere than you need to make this one recipe.  Of course you could make the soup more than once and you will surely make the Berbere Pepitas and Pinenuts more than once but if you want to experiment a bit more with this spice blend you can also try these:

Doro Wat  – Ethiopian Red Chicken Stew

Berbere Lamb Chops With Lentil Cucumber Salad

Ethiopian Ful Medames

Enjoy and Have a great week!    

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Ethiopian Pumpkin Soup with Berbere Pepitas and Pinenuts

Ethiopian Pumpkin Soup with Berbere Pepitas and Pinenuts

Ingredients

    For the berbere:
  • 2tsp cumin seeds
  • 8 cloves
  • 1 tsp cardamom seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 8 small dried red chillies
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp groundpinch of turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp paprika
  • For the soup:
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 5cm fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
  • 750g pumpkin, cut into chunks
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp salt
  • To Serve:
  • Greek yogurt (omit or substitute soy yoghurt if vegan)
  • Fresh coriander
  • For the Berbere Pepitas and Pinenuts:
  • 1 tsp Berbere spice mix
  • 1/4 cup Pepita and Pinenut mix (or other nut mix of your choice)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

    To make the berbere:
  • Toast the first seven spices in a dry frying pan over medium heat for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Shake the pan often. Cool, then grind in a pestle and mortar with the rest of the spices until you have a fine powder.
  • To make the soup:
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan and cook the onion until soft and pale gold. Add the ginger and 2 tsp of the berbere and continue to cook for a couple of minutes. Add the pumpkin and stir until well covered with the spices, then add the tomato puree, salt and 500ml water.
  • Stir, cover and bring to the boil.
  • Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the pumpkin is tender. Cool and use a stick blender or potato masher to puree the mixture until smooth. You may leave some chunks of pumpkin whole - I prefer my soup to be smooth.
  • To make the Berbere Pepitas and Pinenuts:
  • Mix the nuts with the spice mix, salt and olive oil. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Pour the mixture onto the tray and spread out. Roast for 10 minutes in a medium until the nuts are golden and fragrant.
  • To Serve:
  • Warm the soup if necessary. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  • Garnish with yoghurt, coriander and the Berbere Pepitas and Pinenuts.
http://www.retrofoodformoderntimes.com/2014/09/06/ethopian-pumpkin-soup-berbere-pepitas-pinenuts/

Molten Umami Meatball Sandwiches

 Hello, hello it’s good to be back!

Umami Meatball Sandwich
Molten Meatball Sandwich

Did you miss me? I’ve been on holidays – three weeks out of the grey Melbourne cold and into the warmth of sunny Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia. The holiday was amazing and I will fill you in on the details over the next few weeks, most particularly about the amazing food.

Here is (literally) a taster….

You know how in most supermarkets you get tasting plates?  For example, earlier today in my local supermarket I got to sample 3 kinds of dumplings (prawn, scallop and mushroom), 5 flavours of kombucha tea and some chia pudding…(yeah, my local supermarket is awesome!)  Well, in Cambodia, the taster plates consist of Bamboo Worms…and only  $2 a kilo!

Bamboo Worms
Bamboo Worms

 And these are deep fried crickets….an even better bargain at half the price of the worms…

Crickets
Crickets

 This is me about to taste one of the bamboo worms:

Cambodia Taste Testing
Cambodia Taste Testing

 But before we go there, I wanted to talk to you about meatballs. As much as we love Asian food, after three weeks of it we were craving something that wasn’t.  Funnily enough, we both had cravings for pretty much the same thing. 

He wanted spaghetti bolognese.  I wanted spaghetti and meatballs.  I was doing  the cooking so spaghetti and meatballs it was!  As I was cooking these, I realised why this is such awesome comfort food (it’s not like either of us has Italian heritage). My meatballs are crammed full of umami flavours – parmesan, mushrooms, tomatoes, red wine….Hmmm…is red wine umami?  Well it’s pretty damn good even if it isn’t.  Also, the original recipe for this called for an anchovy fillet.  I didn’t happen to have any so I added saltiness with a dash of fish sauce…guess what?  More umami!

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Spaghetti and Meatballs (and the joys of a plate on your knee  in front of the telly…it really is good to be back)

The spaghetti and meatballs were delicious and everything I wanted – something to warm our bones in the winter cold, something that was quick and easy to cook after a day of travelling and something familiar – comfort food at it’s best!!!

They also require very little in terms of fresh ingredients so you can keep shopping to a minimum.  And, if you were super organised, you could make a batch and pop them in the freezer before you left.  (Massive sigh).  I would love to be that organised!!!!  

So, it was spaghetti and meatballs for dinner and then, (this mixture makes a lot of meatballs) I made a molten meatball mountain (i.e, a meatball sandwich ) for my lunch the next day.  The meatballs were great with the spaghetti but for my mind, even better in the sandwich the next day.  And Oscar was on hand for any leftovers.

Of which there were none!

Molten Meatball Sandwich
Molten Meatball Sandwich

 Remember these?   Bamboo Worms

 They tasted like this: Aftermath of the Bamboo Worm

I wouldn’t say this was the worst thing I have ever eaten…but it sure wasn’t good.  The outside was kind of crunchy and not so bad.  It was the inside that was gross.  It didn’t taste so much of anything, it just had an unpleasant texture – mushy and slightly gritty. Not to mention the thought that was impossible to dispel.  “That thing in your mouth?  That’s worm guts…you’re eating worm guts…that thing you just bit into, that was probably work heart….”

Not good.  

Thank goodness I found much better things to eat in Phnom Pehn.  Which I will tell you about next time…

Have a fabulous week!    

PS – Is anyone doing the kombucha thing?  I kind of want to grow my own….if you are please let me know!

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Umami Meatballs

Umami Meatballs

These delicious meatballs are crammed with umami goodness and are the prefect comfort food for a wintery night or a delicious lunch the following day

Ingredients

  • 500g lamb mince (or you can use ground beef or a mix of pork and veal)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried herbs or 1 tbsp Gourmet Garden Italian Herbs
  • 120g grated parmesan cheese
  • 8 small mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp fish sauce
  • For the Sauce:
  • 400g can Italian tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • dash fish sauce
  • 1 garlic clove finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • To Serve:
  • 200g spaghetti
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley or basil or a mixture
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese (as much or as little as you like)
  • or
  • 1 baguette
  • 4 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley or basil or both
  • Rocket (Arugula), Baby Kale or other green of your choice
  • Shaved Parmesan or melting cheese of your choice

Instructions

  • Place the minced lamb, garlic, mushrooms, onion, herbs, grated parmesan, chilli flakes and fish sauce in a bowl.
  • Season with some pepper - the fish sauce will add saltiness.
  • Using your hands shape into walnut sized balls.
  • Place in fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
  • Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large deep frying pan over medium - high heat.
  • Fry the meatballs in batches turning for 3-4 minutes until browned.
  • Set aside.
  • Heat the remaining oil in the same pan over medium heat. Saute the onion and garlic until soft and then add the sugar, fish sauce and wine.
  • Cook until the wine has reduced by half.
  • Add the tomatoes.
  • Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to low and cook for 5-6 minutes until slightly reduced.
  • Add the meatballs and simmer for 5-6 minutes until the sauce has thickened. If you like a thicker sauce (like me) simmer for longer.
  • For Spaghetti
  • If you are having your meatballs with spaghetti, cook this according to the directions on the packet.
  • To serve, place the spaghetti into bowls, top with the meatballs and sauce and sprinkle over some chopped parsley and some shaved parmesan.
  • For A Meatball Sandwich the following day
  • Split your baguette in two lengthwise and lightly toast.
  • Add the oil to a fry pan and heat, add the mushrooms and saute until soft.
  • Remove and set aside
  • Add the meatballs and sauce. Heat through.
  • Add your greens and mushrooms to the toasted baguette.
  • Load on your meatballs and sauce.
  • Sprinkle with herbs,
  • Top with Parmesan
  • Place under grill until the cheese has melted.
  • ENJOY!
http://www.retrofoodformoderntimes.com/2014/08/10/molten-umami-meatball-mountains/

 

 

 

 

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