Archive for Fish

Can’t cook? Or too tired to cook? Try this.

Now where is this year going? And how did this term slip by so quickly! I don’t know about you, but for us this last week or two of term is a bit fraught. Possibly the cupboards are empty, the kids are tired and motivation is low. But there’s no need to hang up the healthy food towel. Before you dial a takeaway, make the most of your pantry stash. This shakshouska, is way cool and is more compiling than cooking. Served with a bit of bread, it keeps everyone in my house pretty happy.

A nice alternative to toasties or baked beans.

A nice alternative to toasties or baked beans – and just as easy.

Pantry tuna shakshouka

Younger kids might like a version of this with just a few spoonfuls of tomato, an egg and scattered ham.

800g crushed tomatoes
180g tuna in oil (with chilli, too, if your family like it)
4 spring onions (I’ve usually got some hiding in the bottom of the crisper drawer)
1/3 cup roasted capsicums (also tip in a bit of the flavoured oil)
Sprinkling of capers (if you like them)
4 eggs

To serve: parsley (from the garden), salt, pepper, sourdough (for dipping).

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Place your individual dishes or ramekins on a baking tray (to make handling easier).

Divide the ingredients between your dishes, in quantities that will suit each diner. Finally, scoop a bit of a dent in the mix and quickly crack in an egg.

Bake for 15-25 minutes until the eggs are cooked to your liking.

Serves 4

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Mysterious mummy superpowers (and some cute widdle salmon cakes)

I’ve managed to convince my kids that I have x-ray vision.

My superpower was revealed last weekend during a session of “guess what colour undies I’m wearing”. To the utter astonishment of my children I was able to correctly guess what colour undies they were both wearing AND my own AND daddy’s, too.

“How’d you do that?!” they wanted to know.

“I have x-ray vision.”

“No really! How’d you do that?!”

“I REALLY have x-ray vision.”

Nodding, they looked at me in awe, oblivious to the fact that as chief buyer, washerer and folderer of all the smalls at VSHQ I had a distinct advantage in the game and I’d simply just guessed the most common colour from their clothes pile.

It was luck that I was right every single time. But my status as the ‘undie-whisperer’ was cemented, and I’m now known for my mysterious super-powers – a fact which I’ll be sure to remind them off during their teenage years when they think I can’t see that packet of ciggies stashed in the bottom of their school bag.

Test out your superpowers by telling your kids to eat these mini salmon cakes, then you’ll practice your x-ray powers by looking into their tummies to count the number in there.

And I can see what vegies are in here, too, but the kids can't.

And I can see what vegies are in here, too, but the kids can’t.

Itsy widdle salmon cakes

2 large potatoes
1 cup cauliflower florets
180g can salmon in springwater, drained
2 spring onions, very finely sliced
Handful of green beans, very finely sliced (or pulsed in a mini food processor)
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Squeeze lemon juice, to taste (I like a big squeeze)
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
Salt & pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs (or blitz up a few slices of stale bread and leave it out to get even more stale for a couple of hours)
Spray oil

Preheat the oven to 190C. Line an oven tray with baking paper.

Cook your potatoes. It’s up to you whether you bake them, steam them or be terribly unfashionable like me and just microwave them until the insides are a mashing consistency.

Cook your cauliflower. Same as above. You want it 90% cooked, still firm enough to dice finely, so that it will disappear into the potato.

Add your cooked potatoes to a large mixing bowl. Mash with a fork and mix in the cauliflower and all of the other ingredients (except the breadcrumbs). Season and combine really well.

Roll bite-sized balls of mixture, coat in breadcrumbs and place on your tray. Spray with oil spray and bake for 20 minutes. Carefully turn the balls over, spray with extra oil and cook for a further 10 minutes until golden.

Serve as is or with a dollop of mayonaise and salad.

Serves 2 adults & 2 small kids, along with salad.

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Do your kids love each other?

Love is all around, just not easily spoken about.

Love is all around, just not easily spoken about.


Possibly suffering from an overactive fourth (heart) chakra the other night, I decided it was time for the kids to express their love for each other.

Earlier in the day it had occurred to me that while I am effusive in my gushing love for them both, they never tell each other any of their feelings other than “you’re hurting me,” or even the odd “I hate you.”

Cosied up on my bed after bathtime, we snuggled away and I listed through my usual love chatter. It goes like this….
“Do you know how much I love you?”
“No” they say in unison.
“I love you more than all the trees in the world.”
“Aaawwww” they say.
“No! Wait! I love you more than all the leaves on all the trees in the world.”
“Awwwww” they say.
“No! Wait! I love you more than all the trees and leaves and bugs on those leaves and bits of dirt that those trees grow in.”
“Awwwww” they say. And it doesn’t matter the area we’re covering (we’ve quantity surveyed most areas of matter over the years), their answer is always the same… “I love you all that PLUS infinity.”
And I say, “I love you all that PLUS infinity PLUS one.”

And then we skew off into a discussion of theoretical mathematics and things descend into general confusion.

But the other night I finished up by saying, “Miss Fruitarian. Do you love Mr Meat & Potatoes?”
Pause.
“Yes” she said.
“Well then, you should tell him.”
Groan.
“I love you sometimes… Mr M&P”.

Mr M&P smirked his way through that exchange, but then it was his turn.

“Mr Meat & Potatoes, do you love Miss Fruitarian?”
“Yes”.
“So you should tell her. It’s important to tell people that you love them.”
He actually giggled before spitting out, “I love you Miss F, when you’re not being annoying.”

Being a MASSIVE tell-people-you-love-them type (don’t come too close after I’ve had a few wines), I was slightly appalled at how difficult they found this simple task.

I’m vowing to enforce more of a love-in so that they can share positive feelings naturally and without me around.

So now I’m curious. Do you tell your siblings that you love them? And do your kids comfortably express love for each other?

Here’s something else they do both love…

Full of love (and tuna, egg & vegies)

Full of love (and tuna, egg & vegies)

Tuna, egg & vegie pastry pockets

180g can tuna in springwater, drained, flaked
2 boiled eggs, peeled, mashed
1 small carrot, grated
Handful green beans, ends removed and finely sliced
1/2 cup spinach leaves (english spinach or silverbeet), very finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh herbs, finely chopped (dill, chives, parsley are all good), optional
1 cup firmly packed grated cheese
5 sheets store-bought puff pastry
1 egg, whisked, for sticking and glazing

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line two oven trays with baking paper.

Separate out your sheets of frozen pastry and leave to thaw.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the tuna, eggs, carrot, beans, spinach, herbs and cheese.

Either cut each of your pastry sheets into four squares, or go all fancy and use a small saucer to help you cut out four circles. Divide the tuna mix between each of the 20 bits of pastry (ends up being about 2 tbsp per piece).

Use a pastry brush to spread some egg mix over half the circle edge. Ease over the pastry. Seal with your fingers then press down on the edges with a fork to secure them. Pop onto your baking trays. Brush with extra egg.

Bake for 25 minutes until golden.

Makes 20

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Oh so cool as you nibble down on those Mexican shacks

It would appear that my eyesight is on the way out. I’d been warned that it would happen after I turned 40, but pompously I dismissed such negative jibber jabber until the other day when I read a crossword clue out loud to my family. “What’s a Mexican shack, four letters, T then A then something then O”?

Mr VS looked at me incredulously. Miss F was perplexed. Not put off, I continued. “You would know, Mr VS, after all that backpacking you did in central America. Is there a fancy name for a Mexican shack?”

But then of course I looked harder at the clue and had to concede that possibly, just maybe, it was asking me the name of a Mexican SNACK. Which made much more sense and caused large amounts of merriment for my nearest and dearests. Miss F patted me comfortingly and reassured me, “it IS very small writing, mama.”

Personally, I think they and their condescending ways can an all go to hell and buggered if I’m ever going to risk the ribbing of serving them tacos ever again. Which is a shame, considering how delicious these fish ones are. They’re easy too – the only hassle being crumbing the nugget-sized bits of fish. But hey, that’s why we have children and their nimble fingers. Line them up at the counter – each in charge of part of the process and you’ll be done in no time. Just make sure you cook these on the night before you plan to mop the floor.

More sea-shanty than shack.

More sea-shanty than shack.

Fish Tacos

This is a perfect meal to serve friends and family – you can make the coleslaw a few hours ahead, and the fish can be crumbed and stored in the fridge until you’re ready to cook.

500g firm white fish fillets (cheaper fish like ling or even flake will do – obviously if you have more money, barramundi is delicious!)
1/4 cup plain flour
1 egg
1 cup panko breadcrumbs (they give much more crunch, but if you can’t find them regular breadcrumbs will do)
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp cumin powder
Spray oil

Slaw

1/4 white cabbage (about 4 cups), thinly shredded
1 large carrot, peeled, grated
1 cucumber, halved lengthwise then sliced into half moons (scrape the seeds out first if you can be bothered)
3/4 cup Greek yoghurt (about a 200g tub)
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup each coriander & parsley (add these after you’ve served the kids if green flecks will cause too much grief).

Guacamole

1 large (or 2 small) avocadoes
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 small tomato, finely diced
Juice of 1 lime

To serve: tortillas, pickled jalapenos

For the fish:
Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a baking tray with baking paper and spray with oil spray.

Slice the fish fillets into evenly sized pieces (about chicken nugget size is good)

Grab three bowls. Pop the flour into one, whisk the egg into another and mix the panko, herbs and spices in the third.

Drop the fish into the flour. Shake off any excess and dip into the egg (coat thoroughly), then drop into the breadcrumb mixture and press on a nice even coating. Place onto your oven tray.

Spray with oil spray. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and cooked through.

For the coleslaw:
Mix the vegies in a salad bowl. Whisk together the yoghurt, juice and oil and pour over. Toss the herbs in now or leave them on the side for adults to mix in once the kids have been served.

For the guacamole:
Mash the avocado in a bowl and mix in the other ingredients.

Prepare the tortillas according to packet directions. Smear over some guacamole; add some coleslaw and fish pieces. Adults might like some jalapenos. Enjoy!

Feeds 2 adults & 3 kids

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What the kids eat in… Japan

We love a bit of Japanese food here at VSHQ, whether it’s the okonomiyaki or the sushi slice or a variation on a noodle soup.

For this basic broth recipe, I’ve chosen to include udon noodles since they’re so damn FUN, but soba is also delicious. And just because I recommend tofu or salmon, don’t think for a second that you need listen to me – it would also be great with super thin slices of rump or shredded BBQ chicken. We’ve made it with the pork wontons and they went so well with these flavours that I’m expecting an invitation to the wedding any day now.

And that’s it for this week – I’m keeping it short & sweet, I’ve got a lot on my mind – one of which is the new VS cookbook which is well underway. For the last book I coerced a group of you to work as recipe testers, which worked so well and gave me some really great feedback which helped make the recipes in VS2 super reliable and easy to follow. I’m keen to repeat the process for book 3, so I’m looking for 8 people who like to cook and have time to help me out over the new few weeks. You’ll get about 6 recipes to make. You have to follow the recipes and note down feedback about each. There’s no payment for it, more a sense of glory when you receive your free copy of the new book which includes your name on the credits page. If you’re interested, email me at vegiesmugglers@gmail.com *****UPDATE! THANKS ALL, ALL PLACES NOW FULL – HUGE THANKS FOR THE LARGE RESPONSE!***

Use the basic broth and add whatever suits your family.

Use the basic broth and add whatever suits your family.



Japanese udon soup

BROTH
4 cups water
4 tbsp miso paste (use any, but at the moment I’m using a tub of organic brown rice miso- read all about the different types here)
2 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed (leave them large enough so that you can fish them out later)
4 medium-sized mushrooms, sliced (again, if your family won’t eat them, leave the pieces large enough to flavour the soup but fish them out before serving).
3 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 star anise (optional, but recommended)

Serve with…
Udon noodles (prepare according to packet directions)
Add a protein… choose from either tofu or slices of salmon fillet
And add your choice of vegies… green beans, snow peas, sugar snap peas, carrots, spring onions, brocollini.
Optional extras…. top it off with dried wakame and/or sesame seeds.

Combine all the soup ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes. If you have time, turn off the heat and leave it all to sit for an hour or so to infuse.

When you’re ready to eat, bring the soup back to boiling, remove the garlic and star anise chunks (and mushrooms if your kids won’t tolerate it).

Add in the thicker vegies and the tofu/salmon for a couple of minutes, before adding in the quick cook items like snow peas.

Serve over the noodles and top with wakame and sesame seeds. Eat it with chopsticks and a big, slurpy Asian spoon.

SERVES 2 ADULTS & 2 KIDS

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Just because

Miss F and Mr M&P were outside on the weekend, setting the ground rules for an imaginative play game. Being a Virgo, Miss F likes to have the back-story fully told, with characters thoroughly fleshed out before the playing begins. Usually she will transform herself and her brother into animals, so the species, colour, familial relationships, full names, colour preferences and purpose of journey/adventure will all be established before she get into character (and the dirt) ready to play.

Mr M&P is a less complicated fellow but happily goes along with it all. He was nodding away, agreeing to all the details and finally added his own, “and all their last names will be ‘Doodle’”. Smirk smirk snigger.
“Why?” demanded Miss F, more than a bit annoyed by his flippancy.
“Just because” said Mr M&P with such a sense of finality that I was impressed.

I loved evesdropping on perfect a moment of childhood. Just because. There is no reason. Just because doodle is a funny word and it makes him (and me) laugh.

I realised that I don’t do much ‘just because’. There doesn’t seem to be much room for ‘just because’ when you’re an adult. Everything seems to need a reason, a justification for why I’m spending energy on it. Things can be fun, but they are usually with purpose.

Perhaps this is why I love summer so much. There’s a whole lot more opportunity for ‘just because’. Sure you have a swim for the valid reason that you need to cool down, but while you’re under water it’s nice to have a glide about and pretend you’re a mermaid (if only for a few seconds). Just because it’s good for your soul to have a bit of silly fun from time to time. And I’m thinking that the pursuit of ‘just because’ might be one of my new goals for 2013.

Before that though, we’ve got the Christmas season to get through. The barrage of upcoming events is likely to cause havoc to your usual routines, which is why I’m proposing a pasta salad this week. Make a batch of it and you’ll have instant dinners and lunches ready to go whenever you need them. Should give you more ‘just because’ time.

Basic balsamic salad dressing
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
¼ cup lemon juice
¾ cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced

Combine all of these ingredients and mix well. Keeps for a couple of weeks in the fridge.

pasta salad

Ready, delicious and waiting (in the fridge)


Tuna pasta salad

500g pasta (I like orecchiette)
½ quantity basic balsamic dressing (if you like really glossy salads, you may want to use more)
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
5 spring onions, finely sliced
400g can tuna in spring water (drained) - Omit this ingredient for a vegetarian salad!
1 large carrot, peeled, grated
½ red capsicum, finely diced
400g can corn kernels, drained
Olives
Basil
Pepper

(other yum ingredients include fennel, cannelini beans, red onion, artichoke hearts, green beans and banana chillis)

Cook the pasta according to packet directions. Drain quickly and return to the hot pan. Pour over the salad dressing and toss through the tomatoes and spring onions (the residual heat of the pasta cooks them slightly).

Mix through the rest of the ingredients. Season well with pepper. Serve warm or pop straight into the fridge and enjoy later on, cold.

Serves a family of four for dinner, then enough for lunches the next day too.

I’ve got a little pop up sale going for the next couple of weeks. A special Christmas promotion for Australian customers. Buy a giftwrapped cookbook bundle for a friend, and receive one of the Vegie Smugglers e-books, free. The perfect present for your friend, and something for yourself too. Click here to find out more.

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Stronger, faster, higher, sillier

Are you catching much of the Olympics? We’re watching it constantly and I’m not sure if the kids have developed a new-found love of sport or are more excited about unrestricted access to the telly.

I enjoy the whole spectacle of it. I don’t really follow sport much at any other time, but I do like to use the games as a benchmark of where I am in life. I remember during Beijing in 2008, looking at my baby and my preschooler and thinking “WOW, by London, you guys will be BIG”, and here we are already. And big (and backchatting) they are.

Amazing how you can sit and watch nearly any sport or activity in the world if it’s being performed by the world’s best. The skill and dedication is awe-inspiring. But really, I wish the coverage would just leave it at that and not spoil it by interviewing the athletes. Not that they’re not fascinating, but you know… sometimes I don’t think we need overthink it too much. Like asking a swimmer about their race strategy. I’m guessing that they’re going to go as fast as they can for as long as they can, until the race is over and hopefully they’ve gone faster than everybody else. Usually there’s some excruciating chat full of clichés about going ‘harder, faster, performing on the night ‘or acknowledging the other competitors who also had intricate race plans that included going fast, all the way until the race was over.

For the next couple of weeks you might want to plan some make ahead dinners, so that you can drop everything to dash to the TV in time to catch that really crucial handball final, or to see the replay of the white water rafting capsize (which you can knowledgably comment on). Maybe try out this salmon mornay recipe. You can make it up at any stage during the day, refrigerate it then pop it in the oven whenever you’re ready.

Truly – salmon mornay. With a bit of paprika – delicious.



Salmon mornay

1 carrot, peeled, grated or diced finely (whatever suits your family)
1 zucchini, grated
1 ½ cups cauliflower (diced as finely as you need for your kids to not notice it)
125g can corn kernels, drained
415g can red salmon (red is much nicer than pink in this dish)
¾ cup frozen peas
Chopped chives (optional)
Pepper
Juice of half a lemon
40g butter
2 ½ tbsp plain flour
½ tsp sweet paprika
1 cup milk, warmed (I just chuck mine in the microwave on medium/high for a minute or so)
1 ½ cups grated cheddar cheese
½ cup dried breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 180C. Dig out 4 oven proof bowls or gratin dishes (one large dish will also work but doesn’t look as pretty).

If your carrot is in chunks, pop it in a bowl, add a splash of water, cover and microwave until 90% tender. Drain and add to a large mixing bowl. Repeat with the cauliflower.

Add in the rest of the vegies and the salmon – breaking up into chunks and squishing the bones (keep them in though, for the calcium hit). Season with pepper, squeeze over the juice and mix well.

Place the butter in a medium non-stick saucepan over medium heat. When starting to bubble add in the flour and paprika and stir well with a wooden spoon. Cook this mix until the smell changes from acrid to biscuity and delicious (1-2 minutes). Gradually drizzle in the warm milk, stirring briskly and constantly. At first the mixture will thicken up then it will smooth out into a sauce that coats the back of a spoon.

Remove from the heat and stir in 3/4 cup of the cheese until melted. Pour this sauce over the vegies and combine really well. Divide out into your oven dishes.

Combine the remaining cheese with the breadcrumbs, sprinkle over the top of each and bake for 20-25 minutes until bubbling and golden.

Serve with salad and crusty bread.

SERVES 2 ADULTS & 2 KIDS

NOTE – allow plenty of cooling time before letting the kids tuck in.

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