Posts tagged brunch

Even Goldilocks would just sit down, shut up and eat this dinner

Most nights I can sit at the dinner table, close my eyes and instantly be transported to a fairy tale. Oh! I hear you exclaim with envy, ‘SHE HAS THE PERFECT LIFE!’.

But you’d be wrong, because unfortunately I’m not in the midst of a good Cinderella-type tale, with romance, makeovers and awesome frocks (have you seen the rude Tinderella version? Very funny.) No, I get taken straight to the story with the most annoying of annoying characters around – Goldilocks and the 3 bears. With eyes shut, my dinner companions all suddenly morph into Goldilockses, all criticism and complaints about the meal before them.

“This is too hot!”
“This is too spicy!”
“This doesn’t have enough flavour!”
“I think I saw a speck of pepper!”
“This sauce doesn’t match my underpants!”

Etc, etc, etc.

But every now and then a recipe comes along that has my entire family gushing with praise, declaring it, ‘Just right’. And thankfully, this is one of those recipes. It is a gorgeous bit of kitchen alchemy. My fairy godmother tip to you is to bake the kumura to give you a rich, sweet base.

Abracadabra. Enjoy.

Serve this on rice for a more substantial meal.

Serve this on rice for a more substantial meal.

Goldilocks chickpea patties

Feeds: 2 adults & 2 small kids, served on rice with salad
Allergy info: Vegan. Free from gluten, egg, dairy.
Substitutions?: I think this recipe is pretty perfect as is.
Freeze?: No.
Prep ahead?: Kumura mash can store in the fridge for 2-3 days. Prepared patties can be refrigerated until it’s time to cook.
Why I like it: Simple, vegie-packed, delicious. A perfect meat-free Monday recipe.
Smuggling rating: 9/10 – vegies hidden in vegies, all fried up a bit crispy.

1 1/2 cups mashed kumura (orange sweet potato)
400g tin chickpeas, rinsed, drained
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp sumac (available on the spice stand at good fruit markets) OR use the zest of half a lemon
1/4 cup besan (chickpea flour) – for rolling.
Oil for frying (I like about 1/4 cup of olive oil)

To get the kumura mash, chuck a whole kumura into your oven at 180C for 50-60 minutes until squishy. (Any leftovers are great added to spag bol, or mixed into sweet muffins).

In a large bowl, mash the chickpeas and mix through the vegies and spices. Form golf ball size patties and dunk in the chickpea flour.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the oil (be generous) and once hot, add a few patties to the pan. Turn when golden (you’ll probably need to cook them for about 3 minutes either side.)

Serve with salad, lemon & a dollop of Greek yoghurt.

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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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I’ve gone all food PC with these gluten-free, vegetarian fritters

As you may or may not know, I have a very strict food regime here at VSHQ. This is it…


Yep, that’s right. It’s pretty complicated. I buy good stuff and I cook yummy things. I guess COOKING is the important word though, to me it seems like the logical key to good health. Dieters in different food camps get caught up in ingredient wars and fighting to prove that their system of eating is best, but for me that’s all a personal choice. What’s really important is that you’re taking responsibility for your ingredients and creating nourishing meals at home. And it doesn’t have to be hard – here’s a great recipe for the whole family that uses one mixing bowl and one frying pan.

Included on the ingredient list is besan flour. Also known as chickpea flour, you can find it in the larger supermarkets and health food stores. I don’t often make you seek out an ingredient, but I think this one is worth while since it’s tasty and nutritious and it just so happens that it’s also gluten-free. This recipe also happens to be vegetarian, since a bit of meat-free eating is good for the environment and it gives the little cutie creatures a night off from worry.

Toddlers might like to have a bit of mango chutney spread over their fritters, adults might like some fresh herbs and a chutney with a bit of punch, along with some salad.

Great finger food for toddlers.

Great finger food for toddlers.

Corn & carrot fritters

1 cup besan (chickpea) flour – available in larger supermarkets and health food stores
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1 carrot, grated
1 small red onion, really finely sliced (or grated, but if you do this, drain it a little)
400g can corn kernels
2-3 tbsp fresh herbs (optional) – try parsley, chives or coriander, depending on the tastebuds of your family
Oil of your choice for frying. Use as much as you’re comfortable with – I like quite a lot for this recipe!

Tip the flour and garam masala into a mixing bowl.

Whisk together the eggs and milk then tip into the flour, whisking as you go to avoid lumps. Add in the carrot, onion, corn and herbs. Combine well.

Heat a large frying pan over medium/low heat. Add the oil and when hot, use a 1/4 cup measure to dollop in some fritter mix. Once the edges set, you can gently spread the chunkier filling out so that it’s an even thickness. Cook for 3 minutes or so on each side until the onion is cooked through.

Serve with chutney of your choice and some salad.

Feeds 2 adults & 2 smaller kids, with a side of salad & pappodums.


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Dad’s turn to slack off (and be feted)

Back in May, I was quite vocal about what it was that I was looking for in my Mother’s Day. Now, as September dawns, it pains me to admit that it’s now Dad’s turn to pop the feet up, be reminded of his awesomeness and generally made to feel as though he’s king of his domain (one day won’t hurt us, will it?)

So possibly you’ve got a big brunch planned. And of course there’ll be bacon, a bit more bacon. Maybe a few chippolatas and a bit more bacon. To go with it, chuck together this brunch frittata. The best bit of it is that you can actually make it up the night before, store it in the fridge and then bake it in time for when your family descends the next morning. Handy!

See ladies, quietly, I’m still looking out for us, even though it’s not exactly our turn.

Impressive and easy - my favourite combo.

Impressive and easy – my favourite combo.

Make-ahead Brunch Frittata

2 potatoes
4 spring onions, finely sliced (use some of the green bits too)
½ punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
6 mushrooms, sliced (about 1 cup)
1 cup bread cut into a 1cm dice (this is a great way to use up day old sourdough)
1½ cups grated cheese
5 eggs
½ cup milk
Salt and pepper

Cook the potatoes. You could bake them, boil, steam or microwave them until just tender (I use the microwave as I find it the quickest and easiest way).

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line an 18x28cm slice tin with baking paper.

Once cool enough to handle, peel away the potato skins and chop into a rough dice. Add to a large mixing bowl.

Tip in the vegies, bread and cheese. Combine well.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs and milk. Season well. Pour onto the vegies and mix. Tip the mixture into your slice tin and fiddle bits around so that the mix is evenly distributed and firmly packed. Leave a few cherry tomatoes on top for presentation.

Bake for 40 minutes until set and golden on top.

Cut into 8 brunch-sized slices. Serve alone or with chipolatas and bacon.

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Eau de Vegie Smugglers

I’m thinking of launching a Vegie Smugglers fragrance. If it’s good enough for Kylie, then it’s good enough for me.

The scent will be based on all my favourite smells – toasted coconut, topped up with freshly toasted flaked almonds. Round it off with freshly ground coffee, meringue and a touch of gin with lime and I’m shoving all my best wafts into one, saleable potion.

I suppose the bottle will have to be lime green, and possibly shaped into an artistic impression of a zucchini. If I make it out of flexible plastic and add some batteries, I can offer mothers both a good smell and a happy day.

But I’m having trouble with the name. I’m trawling all the celebrity scents to find inspiration. I could go atmospheric, like Antonio Banderas’s ‘Mediterraneo’, or try to entice you, like Cher’s ‘Uninhibited’ or Britney’s ‘Hidden Fantasy’ (excuse me while I vomit a little in my mouth). Or even onamatapeic like Katy Perry’s ‘Meow’.

What do you think? Do you have any other enticing ingredients that need to be considered? Or good name suggestions? Possibly I’ll stick to simple. Maybe just ‘Delish’, just like these dairy-free coconut muffins.



Coconut mini-muffins (Dairy-free)

These are delicately flavoured treats that freeze really well – perfect for lunchboxes. After a couple of days they dry out a little but will revive after a quite zap in the microwave.

1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly whisked
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
270ml can coconut milk (full fat)
Desiccated or shredded coconut to sprinkle on top

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line mini-muffin trays with paper cases.

In a large bowl, combine the flour (no need to sift), oats, coconut & brown sugar.

Whisk together the eggs, oil and coconut milk in a separate bowl or jug. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Stir until just combined, then divide into your muffin cases until full (the mix doesn’t rise overly much). Sprinkle a thick layer of extra coconut over the top and bake for 13-15 minutes until golden and a skewer comes out clean.

Makes 36ish mini-muffins.

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June giveaway (and why I love bread)

Wasn’t there a lot of pressure a while back to give up bread? I was still working in magazine-land at the time and naught a model nor stylist nor photographer would DARE have it pass their lips (but then joyously they discovered QUINOA and were saved from the evil rampaging of processed carbs).

Me? I’ve always loved bread and have never had issues with it. A warm crusty baguette is pretty much as good as life gets. Sourdough downright seduces me and I find it IMPOSSIBLE to walk through Townhall station without grabbing a Luneburger loaf.

In the burbs I’ve always been happy with Bakers Delight bread, particularly the cape seed and the hi-fibre, low-GI white, which is a great option for the kids. So when they got in touch and asked to team up I was more than happy. You can see my recipes on their website here

In return, they’ve given me a bunch of prizes for my June giveaway. Up for grabs are two vouchers for $40 each and 5 kids merchandise packs which include a ruler, pencil case, pencils & lunch bag.

To enter you must be in Australia and you must be a Vegie Smugglers subscriber. Check out the Bakers Delight website and then comment below about which of their products is your favourite and what you like to do with it (stay nice!).

I’ll start… this is what I do with a slice of low-GI white…

Bread tart cases.

Bread tart cases.

Easy egg tarts

Cut a big round of bread from a slice, push it into a greased muffin tin, spray with oil and grill until a bit golden. Then pop in some prosciutto and cherry tomato before cracking in an egg (in a smaller muffin hole, you won’t fit all the egg-white). Then bake until set to your liking and sprinkle over salt, pepper, parmesan and parsley.

And there you have it, a gorgeous, quite posh looking egg tart, done with the minimum of fuss. Your turn…


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Finding winter time joy (in sugar)

A couple of weeks ago I slipped on my wooden stairs and slammed down on my arse. It was a graceful, elegant move designed to demonstrate to the children exactly why we don’t run on the stairs in our socks. After a couple of visits to a lovely (medically trained) young man with strong hands I’m now feeling alot better and am knowledgeable about C8, T3 and S4. After giving myself a fair whack, I have several ongoing symptoms, one of which is chronic GRUMPINESS, no doubt helped along by continued cold weather and the fact we’ve not had a decent holiday since this trip, which I sadly see is nearly two years ago.

How are you other Southern Hemisphere folks all travelling? Over it? What measures do you put in place to survive winter? I like to think that I combine a noble combination of exercise, interesting projects and a Zen attitude about the ebb and flow of nature to get me through, but actually I just tend to eat more sugar, wear ridiculous amounts of clothing and whinge. A lot. I whinge about the cold. About how unfit I am. About how much my children whinge. About the consistent stream of people telling me I need to read Sarah Wilson’s “I quit sugar” in order to pick myself up a little. Don’t they understand that sugar is my winter lifeline?

In defiance, here’s a cakey-bread loaf that I highly recommend for a little shot of food pleasure. As with most of my sweet stuff, there’s a silver lining of nutrition to ease your conscience and make that second piece seem more acceptable. It’s delicious straight from the oven, or do the classic banana bread thing, of toasting slices and spreading your sugar with lard.


See! Smiling already.

Ricotta, nut & currant bread

250g tub ricotta cheese
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1¼ cups self-raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
Rind of 1 orange
1¼ cups nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts & almonds are good), roughly chopped
¾ cup currants

Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 14x20cm loaf tin.

In a large bowl, mix together the cheese and sugar.

Sift over the flour and baking powder. Pop the zest, nuts and currants on top and fold it all in together.

Bake in the oven for an hour or an hour and 10, until the top bounces slightly and a skewer comes out clean. While warm brush the top with warmed honey.

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Living dangerously (with added nuts)

Every now and again I feel the need to live dangerously. Like last night, when I ate carbs (processed and white) at 8.15pm. Or last week, when I exited out of the carpark through the ENTRY driveway. Talk about crazy times. Not quite on par with some of the stunts from my earlier days but you know how it is – a couple of kids come along and suddenly life is being lived a little differently.

Pre-children I never gave nut allergies a care nor realised how dangerous they are (there’s a great info page here). Equipped with my new knowledge (and surrounded by my kid’s friends with these allergies) it’s hard to use nuts in a recipe without feeling like you’re being the most irresponsible parent in the world. Nuts in the hands of the wrong kids can be life-threatening. Although nuclear weapons in the hands of legendary nutter, George Bush, was also life-threatening, and yet we’ve all managed to live through that one.

Every now and then though, I break free and have a nut off. The thing is you see, that if you are in the 99% of us who are allergy free, then nuts are awesome. They offer you nutrition (lots of relevant info here) and flavour that just can’t be substituted with any other ‘safer’ ingredient. And this recipe (whilst not as full on ‘out there’ as my nut puff recipe) uses almonds in a really good way.

While not all schools are nut-free, the majority of them maintain a pretty strict policy on food. It was refreshing at our old school – which was small and had no anaphylactic kids – we could still pack peanut butter sandwiches. But I totally get that most schools are larger, and need to impose blanket bans to cover their own bums. It is interesting to note though, on this NSW Government policy PDF that ‘Banning of foods or food products is not recommended. There is a lack of evidence to suggest that banning a food from a school is helpful in reducing the risk of anaphylaxis.”

So while these muffins would be perfect in lunchboxes, you may need to pay heed to your school’s policy and most likely keep these for afternoon tea instead.

vegie smugglers choc chip almond and banana muffin

Mmmmm, I fancy one right now!

Choc chip, almond & banana muffins

Even better than the taste of these muffins is that you can measure out the whole recipe with one half cup measure! Ah the joys of no fuss baking.

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup choc chips
1/2 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup grape seed oil
2 eggs
3 overripe bananas

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 12 hole regular muffin tin.

In a large bowl combine the sifted flour, sugar, choc chips and almonds.

In a jug or smaller bowl, mix together the oil and eggs. Pour into the dry ingredients. Mix a bit then add the mashed bananas. Stir everything well but don’t overwork.

Divide evenly into the muffin holes. Bake for 25 minutes or so, until golden and cooked through.

Makes 12

Leftovers freeze well!

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Because ANZAC biscuits solve everything

Thank you to my Queensland friends who have brought it to my attention that you all started back into Term 2 this week.

And where is the long-promised term 2 planner? Ummmmm… well… creative differences with my team (i.e. I’ve been a bit lazy, but arguing strenuously with myself about the ongoing procrastination) have seen a slight delay. I’m hoping that it will be available from Thursday. You’d think I’d be super keen to complete the set, but alas, I do find thinking about 50 lunchboxes all at once to be a challenge. I’m sure you can feel my pain and appreciate the measures I go to, to keep your lives running smoothly.

While I tinker away, getting my mezze plate looking just so, I’m keen to get you all started, so below is the recipe and here is the link to download the menu planner for week 1.

Forging an even greater respect for one of our most meaningful of holidays, these ANZAC biscuits are guaranteed to grab the kid’s attention and imprint a childhood memory that links respect for the past with autumnal leaves, crisp days and compulsive urges to eat way too many biscuits in one go.

Most recipes for ANZACs are similar. No need to meddle with perfection. However for my batch, I’ve used treacle instead of golden syrup. I like the sharper flavour – and besides, I’ve a massive tub of it clogging up my fridge ever since I made ginger bread biscuits at Christmas. Feel free to use whichever is lurking at your place. Both are spectacular. In fact I think these are my favourite biscuits of all time. Yours too?

These biscuits are history – all eaten within hours of leaving the oven.

ANZAC biscuits

1 cup plain flour
1 cup traditional oats
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup desiccated coconut
2 tbsp treacle (or golden syrup)
125g butter
1 tsp bicarb soda + 1 tbsp water

Preheat oven to 170C. Line two biscuits trays with baking paper.

In a large bowl sift the flour and mix in the oats, sugar and coconut.

In a small saucepan melt the butter and stir in the treacle. Mix in the combined bicarb & water. Stir well (mix might froth slightly). Pour into the dry ingredients. Combine well, roll into balls, place on trays and bake for 12-15 minutes until as chewy or crunchy as you like.

MAKES 32ish.


April 2013 update: Since this post, I’ve gotten it together and you can now buy the Complete Lunchbox Planner here.


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Hot, happy buns this Easter

The other day Miss F asked me why it is that Hot Cross buns are so cranky.

Fair comment really. And not one that reflects on my poor teachings of Bible fundamentals (I send them to scripture each week, after all). No, I’m going to cut myself a bit of slack here and blame the supermarkets for the collapse of Christian teachings in our society.

So maybe I never did mention the significance of the whole ‘cross’ thing on hot cross buns, but how on earth are my kids supposed to link these treats just to Easter when they’ve been on sale since last New Year’s Eve?

Still, I do like the idea of a fruit bun with attitude, don’t you? Just sitting with friends in a plastic bag, being angry and dour.

Of course I promised to rectify the situation and create some hot happy buns to balance out the emotional quid pro quo.

The cheeriest (and most secular) hot cross buns.

The cheeriest (and most secular) hot cross buns.

Hot Happy Buns

Don’t be afraid of cooking these – they actually really easy and fun. A nice thing to do throughout a weekend day with the kids.

1¼ cups warm milk
2 x 7g dry yeast sachets
¼ cup caster sugar
4 cups plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp salt
60g butter, melted
1 egg, lightly whisked
1 cup sultanas
¾ cup other dried fruit (I like a mix of currants and dried apple)

2 tbsp plain flour
1½ tbsp water

1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp boiling water

In a small glass bowl or jug, whisk together the warm milk, yeast and sugar. Leave for 10 minutes somewhere warm and draught-free.

In a large bowl, sift the flour and mix in the spices and salt.

After 10 minutes the milk mixture should be frothy (if it isn’t your yeast may be too old). Mix in the butter and egg. Pour this into the dry ingredients and mix to form a dough.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Sprinkle over the fruit as you go, until it is evenly distributed throughout the dough. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm and draught-free place for 45 minutes – 1 hour or until doubled.

All puffed up and gorgeous.

Grease a large rectangular baking tin. Punch the dough (yes, truly, punch it) to deflate it. Knead for another 2-3 minutes. Divide into 15 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and pop it into the tin.

Give them a bit of breathing space – they’ll rise more.

Cover, return to your warm spot and leave for 30-40 minutes until they’ve plumped up again. Preheat your oven to 200C.

In a small bowl or mug, stir the flour paste with water. Scoop into a plastic bag, snip off a tiny hole in the corner and pipe a face onto each bun.

So yes, the paste is basically glue… papermache with leftovers?

Cook for 10 minutes at 200C then reduce to 180C and cook for another 15 minutes.

Turn them out after cooking and immediately glaze by brushing them with the combined caster sugar & boiling water.

MAKES 15 delicious, gorgeously home-made buns.


If you like my food philosophy, you’ll love my digital cookbook full of essential family recipes!

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