Zalatat shuwander (beet salad)

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This lovely salad is another recipe from my latest toy, the marvellous Iraqi cookbook-and-more, Delights from the Garden of Eden, by Nawal Nasrallah.

But really, it could just as easily come from any of my Italian cookbooks.

The simplicity of the seasonings lets the earthy flavour of the beets be the hero.

Nawal lists yogurt or sour cream as a garnish, but I reckon if you want to use either of them it’d be better done at table – that way leftovers will retain their dark colouring and not become a compromised pink!


3 mediums beets

extra virgin olive oil

juice of one lemon





1. Pre-heat over to 225C.

2. Wash beets but don’t trim.

3. Wrap beets well in foil and put in oven for an hour.

4. Let cool.

5. Peel beets by hand or using a peeler or knife. If you’re a little fussy about getting your hands dyed, use rubber gloves.

6. Dice beets into small cubes.

7. Toss with remaining ingredients.

8. Refrigerate for at least half an hour before eating.

Zaalouk (mashed eggplant and tomato salad)

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This zingy salad from Morocco is, of course, a close relative of baba ghanouj.

Instead of tahini and/or yogurt, the recipe uses roughly cooked-to-a-pulp tomatoes.

This is a slightly tweaked version of the dish found in Claudia Roden’s Arabesque – I throttled back some on the cumin and garlic, didn’t feel like leaving the house just to get a bunch of coriander, and didn’t think a garnish of black olives sounded that hot.

And I never peel tomatoes.


2 medium eggplants

juice 1/2 fleshy lemon

2 medium large tomatoes

2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped.

extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon paprika

chilli powder to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 cup approximately chopped flat-leaf parsley


1. Prick eggplants several times to stop ’em exploding and place in a very hot (225C) pre-heated over for about 45 minutes until wrinkly all over.

3. When they’re done, let cool.

4. When cool enough to handle comfortably, scoop pulp into a bowl and discard skins.

5. Roughly chop the tomatoes and cook in olive oil with some salt until pulpy and not quite a sauce.

6. While the tomatoes are cooking, smash up the eggplant into a rough mash. Don’t get too carried away – a rough texture is what is desired for the finished salad.

7. Into the eggplant pulp put the cumin, paprika, chilli powder, garlic and parsley.

8. Into this mix add the tomatoes and some more lemon juice and a dash more olive oil.

9. Set salad aside for at least an hour or so before  eating.

Keeps well!

Good in sandwiches!

Pasta and broccoli


This has long been a mid-week standby for us.

Of course, it’s a close relative of pasta aglio, olio e peperoncino, so the same rules apply.

As with wok cooking, everything needs to be chopped, diced and prepared before the real action starts.

And timing is everything.

I suspect we have more broccoli than you’d the ratio you’d find in an authentic Italian version. But I figure it’s a good way of getting kids – such as Bennie and myself – to eat more vegetables.

This particular batch was turbocharged – a new bottle of anchovies, four of them instead of three, heaps of garlic and chilli.

It tasted bloody amazing!

I know that various, regular CTS visitors will have their own versions of this recipe, so I’m looking forward to hearing about all the different variations.

This recipe is for two people – adjust quantities for more.

Because of the anchovies, there’s no seasoning need other than that listed below.

And of course when it comes to making your home smell grouse, this can’t be beat!


1 head of broccoli

1 packet short pasta

virgin olive oil

2-3 cloves of garlic

3-4 anchovies

chilli flakes

parsley (optional)


1. Get a big pot of water going on the stove.

2. While it’s coming to the boil, chop broccoli into bite-sized pieces.

3. The chop the garlic finely and add to the required amount of chilli flakes (fresh red chilli can be used).

4. Finely chop the anchovies and add to the garlic/chilli mix.

5. Add pasta to boiling water.

6. Put a heap of olive oil in pan and warm it up with very low heat.

7. When pasta is about 3-4 minutes from being done, throw in the broccoli, mix with pasta and turn up heat until water is boiling again.

8. Just after adding the broccoli to the pasta, turn olive oil pan up to medium high and throw in the garlic/anchovy/chilli mix.

9. Stir frequently so anchovies breaks up and all flavours integrate.

10. Drain pasta/broccoli, add to pan and turn heat to very low.

11. Mix pasta/broccoli with pasta really well. I don’t mind a bit of sizzle here, with the pasta and seasonings getting a bit crispiness going on.

12. Add parsley and mix in well.

13. Serve in bowls and drizzle each bowl with a little more virgin olive oil.

14. Inhale.

Shorbat adas


Based on numerous comments on previous posts, I know there are pulse fans among the regular visitors to Consider The Sauce.

And among those, there are those who have their favourite uses for red lentils – be they dals or soups.

Well listen up – I hope you all try this killer recipe.

It may not supplant your favourite recipe(s), but it’ll impress everyone for sure.

Like everything I’m cooking at the moment, this recipe – slightly customised – comes from Nawal Nasrallah’s awesome Irqai cookbook, Delights From The Garden Of Eden.

She calls this lentil brew “the mother of all soups”, and it’s the bestest, tastiest lentil soup recipe I’ve ever cooked.

Funny thing – I used to be a bit sniffy about using curry powder. Too many lingering memories from childhood (sausages and sultanas), I suppose.

These days, I’m much more relaxed about using good-quality curry powders sourced from any of the many Indian grocers in our world.

In this case, the small amount of powder used means the soup does not taste of curry – or curry powder.

Rather, in combination with the other seasonings, it imparts a deep, rich and rather mysterious earthiness.

The addition of flour after frying the onions is the direct opposite of what I’m used to when cooking New Orleans or cajun dishes, in which a usually very dark roux is made and the vegetables then added.

No matter – the effect is similar, although that step could be omitted entirely as not a lot of flour is used.


2 cups red lentils

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 noodle nests or equivalent amount of broken-up pasta

2 tablespoon olive oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

1 heaping teaspoon plain or wholemeal flour

1/4 cup lemon juice

chopped parsley


1. Wash lentils and place in pot with 10 cups of water. Bring to boil and cook until done – about 30-45 minutes. Don’t worry, it’s pretty much impossible to overcook them – you’ll just end up with a different texture, that’s all.

2. When lentils are close to fully cooked, heat oil to low-medium and fry onions until a deep golden brown. This should take about 10-15 minutes. Stir frequently.

3. As onions are cooking, add to the lentils the pepper, salt, tomato paste, turmeric and curry powder. Keep on a very low heat and stir gently until the paste and seasonings are well integrated.

4. Also crunch/crumble noodle nests into the soup – doing this feels really cool!

5. Cook soup for about another 15 minutes or until noodles are soft.

6. About five minutes before noodles are soft, add flour to onions and continue to cook over a low-medium heat, stirring often. Cook for about five minutes or until flour is the same golden colour as the onions.

7. Slop a couple of ladles of soup mixture into onion pan, swirl around to loosen all the flour and return pan contents to soup.

8. Cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally.

9. Add lemon juice, mix in.

10. Place soup in bowls, garnish with parsley.

11. Inhale.

Baba ghanouj


For a year or more, Bennie has been getting cranky about the tiresome state of his school lunches and more particularly the regular inclusion of rolls of various kinds stuffed with all sorts.

Can’t say I blame him – I find them tiresome, too.

So for the best part of this year, I’ve been including dips and pita bread.

I fell out of the habit of making dips a long time ago, so we’ve been shamelessly buying them. That’s down to laziness mostly, but also we’re blenderless.

Our bought dips – hummus and baba ghanouj mainly – have ranged from good to barely passable to really nasty.

Interestingly, the quality of the dip seems to have had little to do with how much or how little we pay for them.

But this pre-bought dip routine is stopping – right here, right now.

It’s ridiculous.

Besides, you don’t need a blender – in fact, in the case of baba ghanouj, you really want that chunky, unblended texture.

And getting back in to the routine of dip-making fits right in with our current fascination with Middle Eastern food.

This recipe – with a few minor tweaks – is straight from the pages of Nawal Nasrallah’s fabulous Iraqi cookbook, Delights From The Garden Of Eden.

It’s easy and hassle-free!


1 large eggplant

1/4 cup tahini

1/4 cup yogurt

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 medium garlic cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin


1. Pre-heat oven to a hot 225C.

2. Pre-heat skillet under low heat.

3. Puncture eggplant all over several times, so steam can escape and it doesn’t explode.

4. Place eggplant on a foil-lined oven tray and put in hot oven for about 45 minutes.

5. Gently roast cumin seeds in skillet until a deep tan, then grind to a fine powder in mortar and pestle.

6. When eggplant is done – it’ll be all wrinkly – turn off oven and let eggplant cool.

7. When cool enough to handle, discard skin and place pulp in a colander so it can drain.

8. Place eggplant pulp in a bowl and mash with a  fork.

9. Mix in tahini and yogurt.

10. Mix in salt and ground cumin.

11. Mix in lemon juice.

12. Finely grate garlic cloves and mix into baba ghanouj.

13. Store in fridge for at least an hour before using.

Pan-toasted ham and cheese sandwich


Because toasted sandwiches are merely an irregular snack/meal for us, when we do them we like to do them right.

That usually means a good loaf of bread – most commonly some sort of ciabatta loaf.

Good cheddar, too, and ham – but not too good of either.

We tart ours up with onion rings and Dijon mustard, but others’ mileage will vary.

We’ve tried other ingredients, such as tomato, but enough is enough. The tomato was a soggy overload.

In this case, we used a Zeally Bay hightop loaf.

So because the rectangular slices had less surface area than we’re familiar with AND because these sandwiches were going to be the mainstay of our evening meal, I sliced the bread quite thick.

The pan heat is a very variable matter and all down to the kind of bread, its thickness and the depth and number of ingredients.

You want it hot enough to cook your sangers a toasty brown and melt the cheese to goo without taking all night about it.

And without burning the bread.

It’s a balancing act.

Such is life …

Because we don’t have one of those fancy toasted-sanger machines, and we actually like doing them by hand, the layering process becomes important – cheese on last so it gets the heat treatment first.

These sandwiches were a lot more filling than they looked.


1 loaf of good bread

2 slices of good ham per sandwich

good cheddar

onion slices (optional)

Dijon or other mustard (optional)


1. Pre-heat pan on low-medium heat.

2. Slice four slices of bread.

3. Arrange ham on two slices, then the onion slices.

4. Slather mustard on the other slices.

5. Place cheese slices on the onion.

6. Place mustard-slathered bread on the cheese.

7. Butter top of sandwiches.

8. Holding sandwiches firmly so innards don’t cascade to the floor, put them in the pre-hated pan buttered side down.

9. Toast sandwiches, checking regularly to make sure they’re not burning.

10. When nice and toasty on the bottom, butter the top slices of bread and flip the sandwiches with care.

11. Cook and check until done, giving them a blast of higher heat right at the end.

12. Cut sandwiches in half and serve with garnish such as pickled onion, pickled cucumbers or olives.

Book review: Day of Honey

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Day of Honey by Annia Ciezadlo (Simon and Schuster)

A review copy of this book was handed my way by a mate at my previous place of employment.

He figured it would tick almost all my boxes.

And why wouldn’t he?

It’s about food, it’s about writing, it’s about – more precisely – Middle Eastern food.

And it’s about international and current affairs, and the turbulence and conflicts and joy that accompany them, something I find endlessly fascinating, although I have rarely let that interest intrude on Consider The Sauce.

Truth is that while I stay on top of such things, they often leave me feeling down.

So why did Day of Honey sit around the house unloved and gathering dust for several months?

Why did I pick it up, read a few pages then discard it several times?

Why did it take only the most desperate boredom with every other available reading resource at hand before this book got its hooks into me?

A couple of reasons at least, I think …

One was the simple fear of confronting the horrors of the Middle East in a too-real account.

Reading about the Middle East’s trial and tribulations in news stories in newspaper and magazines or online is one thing.

There’s a certain dryness there that insulates us from the realities, brutal or otherwise.

Reading on-the-ground accounts of happenings in Baghdad and Beirut written by a gifted and eloquent writer is quite another.

I wasn’t at all sure I was up for it.

Another reason, one that was completely irrational given the nature of the subject, was that I feared the book would have a foodie-light veneer, making it a sort of Under The Beirut Sky.

About that, I turned out to be very wrong.

Once I started reading in earnest, this turned into a joyous page-turner.

I knew the author had me when she writes:

“The Mesopotamians baked a lot of their bread in a tinuru, a cylindrical clay oven with an open top and diabolically hot radiant heat inside. They rolled the dough into little round pats and left them for the gluten to relax. Then they flattened them into pancakes and slapped them onto the oven’s scorching inside walls, where they bubbled into chewy flatbreads.”

Hey, that sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Ciezadlo continues:

“Thousands of years later, Iraqis still make bread exactly this way at neighborhood bakeries … The Akkadian tinuru lives on as the Arabic tanoor, the Iranian tanura and the South Asian tandoor. Next time you order chicken tandoori at an Indian restaurant, chew on this: you are speaking a word that human mouths have been pronouncing, in one form or another, for at least four thousand years.”

Day of Honey follows the journey of Ciezadlo and her Lebanese husband Mohamad as they ply their journalistic/media trade in Baghdad and Beirut in the early-to-late 2000s.

If I skip going into any detail about the exact locations and conflicts they are involved in, it is simply because in many ways they are the background detail of the book’s major themes.

For this is a book, primarily, about people. Or more exactly, about people and how they deal with war.

And as Ciezadlo reveals, they do this largely through food.

There is a good deal of violence in the book, particularly towards the end.

But the author covers it in quite a dispassionate way, and always in the context of the people she loves, friends and family.

She simply lays out the absurdly sectarian nature of so much of life and politics and conflict in the Middle East without ever losing track of her focus.

That leaves her – and us – to revel in the food, its rituals and fabulous cast of characters who are by turns droll, hilarious, romantic, inspirational and more.

Particularly beguiling is her ongoing portrait of her mother-in-law, Umm Hassane. I’m tempted to describe her incredible and maddening wiles as “adorable” or some such, but then I don’t have to put up with her!

Through Day of Honey, I have had some of my beliefs about the Middle East buttressed.

But in many ways, I have had others shaken.

Mainly to the extent that what we read and hear about the region in the media is appallingly superficial or little more than window dressing and spin of various kinds.

Mostly, though, the book has emphasised for me how fortunate I am to be living in a part of the world where I am so free to participate in and enjoy food, food rituals and traditions, and the people who keep them alive.

And in one vivid account of a meal, Ciezadlo makes me believe more than ever that in the likes of Abbout Falafel House, Al-Alamy and so many more we have a genuine, life-affirming way of being part of what really is the greatest story ever told.

There are very many lovely examples of food anecdotes, recipes, lore and history.

At its end, the book includes more than a dozen recipes of food featured in its pages.

A lot of them seem sufficiently complex to deter me from attempting them.

But happily, the one that most intrigues – a simple Lebanese dish of onions, potatoes and eggs called Batata wa Bayd Mfarakeh – is the subject of a short video on the author’s website.

Unsurprisingly, what she creates there looks not at all like I imagined it would!

Day of Honey is a terrific book and I look forward to reading future posts on the author’s Facebook page for revealing and uplifting insights on Middle Eastern food, culture, people and – yes – politics.

Marinated cauliflower salad

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So I’ve bought a cauliflower from Sunshine Fresh Food Market – solely on the basis that they look so very fine, especially for “outside” produce, and the price ($1.45) is so right.

Now what?

I think about roasting chopped up cauliflower with oliveoilsaltpepper.

But then I remember there’s a sensational marinated salad recipe in one of my cajun cookbooks.

This salad is a sensation.

So zingy and colourful!

It keeps for ages and will even work super, I reckon, in a sandwich with, say, some pastrami or mortadella.

I plane to find out with this new batch.

I have tweaked the recipe to the extent of halving the high-powered quantities of onion, garlic, black pepper and vinegar.


1 cauliflower

1 red capsicum

1 yellow capsicum

2 celery sticks

1/2 red onion

2 large cloves garlic

1/2 cup virgin olive oil

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

salt to taste


1. Bring large pot of water to the boil.

2. While waiting for water to boil, chop cauliflower – including the stalks – into bite-size pieces.

3. Put all the cauliflower in the boiling water and cook for about five minutes – until al dente is best.

4. While cauliflower cooks, chop all the other vegetables and put into bowl; garlic finely, the rest chunky.

5. When cauliflower is done, drain and then rinse in cold water. Let sit for a while so it cools down.

6. Put cauliflower in bowl with the other vegetables.

7. Add salt and pepper; mix.

8. Add olive oil; mix

9. Add red wine vinegar; mix.

10. Cover tightly with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.

The day after I knocked this batch together, I had some with my purchases from Oasis Bakery earlier in the day:

Deep Dark Chocolate Cake


We’re not really bakers in our home.

Which is probably why this recipe has become a staple – although it’s been quite a while since we’ve knocked it together.

It’s a robust, idiot-proof recipe. There’s nothing too delicate, fussy or technical going on here – just throw some stuff in a bowl and bake.

The result, using our floppy non-stick cake “tin”, is maybe not so deep but is certainly dark. Rich, too.

I love its rather austere chocolatey-ness.

I think the added sweetness of icing would spoil a perfectly fine cake.

The high moisture content means a very runny batter – and presumably ensures a really moist product despite the unrefined nature of the recipe.

This recipe comes from a dandy and slim community cookbook from Canvastown, an area in the northern South Island province of Marlborough.

Deep Dark Chocolate Cake was contributed by Shontell Green, to whom we are very thankful. I suspect this Shontell Green is the one and the same.


1 3/4 cups unsifted flour

3/4 cup cocoa

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 eggs

1/2 cup oil

1 cup boiling water

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla essence


1. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.

2. Add all remaining ingredients, except boiling water, and beat together.

3. Add boiling water, stirring gently until a thin, consistent batter is formed.

4. Pour into greased cake tin.

5. Bake at 180C for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

6. Eat, enjoy.

Tandoori chicken

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One of the many pleasures of eating out for us is taking the opportunity to peruse copies of the immigrant community street press that may otherwise not come our way.

Far more often than not this means reading one or more of the many of the variety of rags that issue forth from the Indian community.

What an idiosyncratic treat they are … charmingly quirky use of English, heaps of Bollywood news and interviews, sport, politics, astrology, adverts seeking marriage partners and, of course, food stuff, recipes, ads for restaurants and producers that may be the next pot of gold.

It was while reading a copy of Indian Times – I forget exactly which Indian estebalishment was involved – that I came across this recipe for tandoori chicken.

I’d never thought of attempting this dish at home before, though we do eat it sometimes.

Bennie and I enjoy the affordable tandoori chook available from Classic Curry in Sunshine, for instance.

Though much like a lot of other people, I’m guessing, we wonder about the health aspects of that lurid colouring.

But why not give it a crack at home?

For starters, the skin-off chicken used has to be at least a little bit more righteous than the deep-fried and barbecue chicken of Filipino, Malaysian and Japanese derivation we often enjoy.

As well, I was beyond doubt that cooking this would fill our home with the most amazing aromas.

Instead of a whole chook, I used three marylands cut into leg and thigh pieces.

I pan-toasted the appropriate spices, though I didn’t get so gung ho as to do them separately.

I omitted the chilli powder, which no doubt accounts for the mild tan colouring.

Indeed, this ended up looking unlike any restaurant tandoori chook I’ve ever seen.

But I didn’t let that worry me – I was far more interested in the taste.

To that end, it tasted very fine – and Bennie dug it, too.

I used a single teaspoon of salt instead of the two stipulated in the Indian Times recipe.

Finally, I chose to not brush the pieces with oil before putting them in the oven, figuring the marinade and chicken fat combined would ensure a moist and juicy result.


1 chicken cut into bits, or equivalent in chicken pieces, skin off.

1/2 cup plain yogurt

juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh garlic

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon green cardamom pods

1/4 teaspoon whole cloves

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon salt


1. Heat fry pan over low medium-heat. When hot, throw in cumin and coriander seeds and cardamom pods. Stir/shake frequently until the spices are tanned – but be careful not to burn them.

2. Throw roasted spices in mortar and pestle.

3. Crack open cardamom pods, return seeds to vessel and discard the pods.

4. Add peppercorns and cloves.

5. Hand grind spices until a fine powder is formed.

6. Throw in grated ginger and chopped garlic, and pound/grind with spices until a dryish paste is formed.

7. Add paste to a large bowl, add yogurt, lemon juice and salt, and mix until well blended.

8. Add chicken pieces to yogurt blend and ensure all the chook is well coated.

9. Cover and place in refrigerator for at least eight hours or overnight.

10. Pre-heat oven to 220-230C.

11. Shake off excess marinade from chicken pieces and place on a rack placed over a baking tray with a tin foil lining.

12. Cook, turning once, for about half an hour or until cooked.

13. Eat, enjoy.

We had our tandoori chicken in the simple style in which it is most often served in restaurants – with tomato and cucumber slices.

Alchemy with tinned tomatoes


Our basic tomato sauce

We can tell you exactly how much of this stuff we have eaten over the years.

It is precisely the mid-point between lots and lots on the one hand and, on the other, heaps and heaps.

Seriously, we really have tucked away plenty, though that has been less so in recent months as our blender broke and has yet to be replaced.

However, a few weeks back – when we were having a dinner that included a rare, for us, commercial bolognese sauce – I opined that it was actually pretty good.

“Not as good as yours,” Bennie said.

“What, you mean my tomato sauce?” asked I.

“Yeah,” said Bennie.

Dead chuffed I was, but it also was a signal that it was time to fire up, blender or not.

Truth is, just chopping or otherwise smashing the tomatoes is fine.

We prefer our tomato sauce to be a sort of blank canvas, so we keep seasoning to a minimum.

So no garlic, no basil or other herbs, no meat.

We add all those and more – bacon, chorizo, polish sausage, Italian sausage meat, tuna, depending – when we unfreeze and use the individual portions.

As well as with pasta, this goes good with roast chook, fish, snags & mash and so on.

Makes the house smell sweet, too!

The vegetable quantities are negotiable, though if you use too many you’ll get a vegie stew rather than a sauce.





6-8 cans whole or chopped good-quality tomatoes

Olive oil

Bay leaf

Salt (about a teaspoon)




1. Without being too fastidious about it, chop the carrot, onion and celery as finely as you can.

2. Cook vegetables over medium-high heat with plenty of olive oil.

3. As the vegetables cook, whizz or otherwise smash the tomatoes.

4. When the vegetables are well cooked and wilted, add tomatoes, keeping the heat the same.

5. As the sauce comes to the boil, add salt, sugar, bay leaf and pepper.

6. Cook for several hours at the lowest possible simmer – at least until the oil rises to the top.

7. Eat, freeze, enjoy.

It’s really cool how the tinned tomatoes and vegetables you have at the start become something entirely different after a couple of hours.

Pasta aglio, olio e peperoncino


Of the many varied ways we use pasta in our home, this is perhaps our favourite.

It’s a spicy, salty, oily flavour explosion.

It’s also quite tricky – the timing is everything.

As with wok cooking, everything – garlic, anchovies, parsley – needs to be ready and chopped well before the pasta is cooked.

And don’t even think about making the “sauce” – if that’s what it is – until the pasta is about 95 per cent done.

I was surprised to find, on checking our various Itralian cookbooks, that none them included the anchovies.

Oh well – we do!

And all those recipes use less parsley than us.

What can I say? We love the green stuff!

I can’t imaging using short pasta with this – though we do when making the closely related version using broccoli.

Because this pasta concoction is not one that holds its heat well at all, we use the pasta water to pre-heat the bowls.

Everyone will have their own comfort levels when it comes to the chilli, garlic and anchovies.

Almost as good as the taste is the way cooking this pongs up the house!


Extra virgin olive oil



Chilli flakes


Long pasta


1. Get the water going in a really big pot.

2. Finely chop garlic and anchovies; leave on chopping board alongside your required level of chilli flakes.

3. On a separate board, chop the parsley.

4. When the pasta is about half way done, gently warm a generous amount of the oil in a pan on a very low heat.

5. When pasta is all but done, turn pan heat up to a low medium.

6. Throw in the garlic, chilli flakes and anchovies.

7. Stir frequently to break up the anchovies. The garlic should get only a light tan so some care and attention is required.

8. Drain pasta, using the water to pre-heat bowls.

9. Turn pan heat to very low and toss drained pasta into the pan, swirling it around so all the good stuff is sticking to it.

10. Throw in the parsley and swirl similarly.

11. Serve in pre-heated bowls and top with another dollop of extra virgin olive oil if desired or needed.

12. Eat.

13. Lick lips and smile.

Bennie eats smoothies, pancakes and corn (:



Hola, Bennie here.

This week at my school our class had a low GI week. The idea was to get all of us kiddos into groups and think of some low GI recipes to eat.


First we think of the recipes, which we did on Tuesday.

At first, my group’s (led by my teacher Mrs Clarke) idea was to make garlic and parmesan popcorn, buckwheat pancakes with berry sauce-like stuff and a banana and mango smoothie, and just to make it harder we were only allowed to use $30 everything we wanted.

In the end, we replaced the popcorn with corn on the cob – apart from that everything stayed the same.

On Thursday, we had to walk to Woolworths to do our shopping. I took my dad’s camera with me.

When we got there, we went into our groups and started shopping.

My group had to get skim milk, vegetable oil, vanilla yoghurt, maple syrup, plain flour, bananas, frozen berries, frozen mango, buttermilk, corn, unsalted butter, honey and frozen maggots – just kidding!

When we went to go get the bananas, they were so green. So my group had to go get some bananas from the greengrocer.  Then the whole class got together again and we all went back to school.

When we got back, everyone was really excited about cooking.

One group went to the hall, another group went to the staff room and my group stayed in the classroom. First we started off with making the mango and banana smoothie.

1. We peeled some bananas and put them in the blender with the skim milk and the vanilla yoghurt, put the frozen mango in and blended it.

2. Um … Kind of fitted it all in to step 1.

3. Let’s continue.

Then we did the corn on the cob.

We put the corn in boiling water for 12 minutes. While we were waiting, we started the buckwheat pancakes. We made the batter. The recipe would take to long to write so I made a simpler version.

1. Search it on the internet.

Then the corn was done. YAY!

We got the biggest piece of corn we could get smothered it with butter and ate it.

Then we were making another batch of pancakes.

My friend Gabriel cut up the banana.

While we were eating the corn, Mrs Clarke put the berries in a small pot put with a couple of teaspoons of sugar and water on top, then she went off and put them in the microwave.

She came with this really nice berry sauce like stuff.

We finished making the pancakes, put the berry sauce on, the yoghurt on, ate it all.

There was no more pancakes so we all pigged out on the berry sauce.

While we were, the bell rang for snack break and we all went outside with the berry sauce still on our plates with us trying to eat it with forks.

Confucius say man who eat soup with fork starve.

We went outside and ate it while being watched by jealous the 3/4 class.

Then I had an idea put some berry sauce on my finger and pretend I was bleeding, yelling at everyone: “I CUT MYSELF AHHH! THE PAIN!”

They actually believed me and all ran up to me, then I told them it was a joke.


Chick pea salad


Like most folks, I’d normally use chorizo sausage when making this sort of salad.

But I just happened to have a segment of the superb Polish sausage available at Slavonija Continental Butchers in St Albans, so …

As with so many dishes, this can be made ahead of time. In fact, it needs some time – a few hours at least – for the flavours to combine properly.

But avoid refrigerating unless saving leftovers for the next day.


About half a cup of dried chick peas, soaked overnight

Sausage – chorizo or Polish

Two small tomatoes

Small Lebanese cucumber

About a quarter of a small red onion

Flat-leaf parsley

Small amount of lemon zest

Lemon juice

Olive oil




1. Boil chick peas until soft; drain and let cool at least a bit.

2. Slice and fry sausage in a little olive oil. Later use pan juices to fry pita bread for eating with salad.

3. Put sausage in with chick peas in a bowl.

4. Slice and chop cucumber, chop tomatoes, add both to the salad. Best to find a balance in which the pieces are a bit bigger than the chick peas – but not too much bigger.

5. Slice slivers of red onion and place in salad.

6. Roughly chop about a quarter of a cup of parsley and throw in salad.

7. Season with salt, pepper, lemon zest.

8. Dress with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. This salad requires a lot of dressing.

9. Let stand for at least a couple of hours.

10. Eat with pan-fried pita bread.

11. Try to avoid getting sausage grease on computer keyboard.

A working week of meals



Tub Oraganic Indulgence hommus

Pan-browned pita bread from Gerry’s Pittes

Kalamata olives

Pickled cucumber, sliced

biscotti from Pace Biscuits





Roll with pastrami, red capsicum, dijon mustard

Chocolate/almond nougat from Pace Biscuits





Lunch pack from Khan Curry Hut in Ryrie St – chicken, vegetables, rice and a can of that Coca Cola stuff ($7)

(In Geelong this scores a 5. If it was being scored in the western suburbs it would be a 2  – or 3 with the lamb curry.)

Serve of papadams ($1)






Irrewarra sourdough ciabatta roll



Biscotti from Pace Biscuits



It’s winter for sure.

The freezer is more or less empty.

It’s time for a great big pot of goodness called minestrone.

Bennie’s not a fan, but I sure am.

Oddly, this Italian soup’s ingredients overlap with a variety of other dishes we make at home, but it is quite different from them all.

Minestrone is minestrone and they’re not.

I’m sometimes tempted to order minestrone when out and about.

But mine is better.

If there’s one Italian dish I do that could be called authentic, this is it.

Anyone who makes this soup knows that it’s better allowed to cool and then reheated. It’s even better the next day.

And, somewhat surprisingly, it does freeze well. Just leave out the pasta and be gentle in the reheating and it’s fine.

Many recipes tell cooks to use stock. Go ahead. I don’t bother with it these days – unless there’s some already at hand. Certainly, don’t buy stock. Water is fine!

Flicking through the various Italian cookbooks I use, pondering which minestrone recipe to follow, I finally say to myself: “This is ridiculous – I know how to cook this!”

So I do!


Olive oil

1 large onion

1 large carrot

2 celery sticks, leaves and all

flat-leaf parsley for cooking

2 courgettes (I have decided to use this term from here on in, because I can never remember how to spell zuch … whatever …)

1 good handful of green beans

1/2 small savoy cabbage

2 medium spuds

1/2 can cannellini beans, or 1/2 cup dry beans soaked overnight.

1 can tinned tomatoes

1 stubby dried-up heel of grana padano or parmesan



1 small handful of short pasta or broken up bits of long pasta

Parsley for serving

Extra virgin olive oil for serving

Padano/parmesan cheese for serving

Good bread for serving


1. Chop onion, carrot, celery and parsley – not too big, not too small. Throw in pot with plenty of olive oil and cook on medium heat until wilted.

2. Add spuds, courgettes, green beans – chopped likewise.

3. Add beans and chopped up tin tomatoes and their juices. These beans had been soaked overnight but not cooked before being added to the soup. They cook fine and tender in the time it takes for the whole soup to come together.

4. Add cheese heel.

5. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Add enough water/stock to cover by about an inch.

7. Cover and cook on a slow simmer for about an hour or an hour and a half.

8. Turn heat off and let soup cool for several hours if you have them available.

9. Reheat gently.

10. Add pasta 10 minutes or so before serving.

11. When pasta is cooked, ladle into bowls.

12. Garnish with more chopped parsley, drizzle with virgin olive oil and grate cheese over all if using.

13. Serve with some great bread on the side, grilled/toasted if you prefer.

Chick pea stew

1 Comment

This unusual dish is a slightly tweaked version of the recipe found in Michele Sicolone’s 1,000 Italian Recipes.

Sadly, she doesn’t say where it comes from – it has all the hallmarks of some sort of regional food.

You could call such a dish homely or rustic.

You could also call it unappealing or even ugly.

I’ve found with such dishes that the trimmings – some chopped parsley, grated Italian cheese, VOO drizzled when the stew is in the bowl, good bread on the side – make all the difference.

Of course, it tastes better than it looks.

Plain but yummy …


2 cups chick peas,

1 head silverbeet

1 onion

1 clove garlic



virgin olive oil



1. Soak chick peas over night

2. Next day, boil chick peas in enough water to cover until cooked, drain but keep cooking water.

3. Strip silverbeet leaves from stems.

At this point, the recipe is unclear whether, when it comes time to cooking the silverbeet,  it should be dry or still holding water from being rinsed.

In this case, the silverbeet is definitely gritty and in need of a wash, so … water it is.

4. Chop onion semi-finely. Peel garlic but do not chop.

5. Fry onion and garlic until golden – about 10 minutes.

6. Add shredded silverbeet and cook for 10 minutes until wilted.

7. Add chick peas and enough of the cooking to cover and then a bit more.

8. Add salt, pepper.

9. Cook and cover for 30 minutes.

10. By this time, some of the chick peas will have started to disintegrate. Mash some more of them with your wooden spoon against the side of the pot.

10. Throw in chopped parsley, turn off the heat and let the stew rest for five minutes

11. Place in bowls and drizzle with olive oil.

12. Eat.

Sadly, unlike many of the other pulse dishes we cook, this one doesn’t freeze well at all.

As we eat, I can tell Bennie isn’t digging on this – I presume because it isn’t the most kid-friendly stew going around.

“In actual fact,” he says, “it’s because I’m not exactly keen on chick peas …”

Sheesh – and here’s me thinking I know my own kid!

I dunno – maybe he did and now he doesn’t.

He does, however, dig on the fact it doesn’t freeze well!

Country style beans


This is a straight rendition – with a few tweaks, noted below – of the foundation bean recipe found in Michelle Sicolone’s fabulous book, 1,000 Italian Recipes.

It’s also something of a departure for me.

I am so used to finely dicing aromatic vegetables and making them an integral part of my pot dishes that leaving them unchopped, using them for, um, aromatic purposes and then discarding them feels a little weird.

But I’m prepared to give it a shot.

Truth is, despite cooking a variety of pulse dishes drawing on South Louisiana, Indian and Italian traditions, I often find the textures, look and flavours do end up with a certain degree of same-iness because of the way I habitually use the vegetables.

This will be something different.

And if the beans end up as creamy and smooth as advertised, they may be a hit with Bennie.


500g cannellini beans

1 carrot, trimmed

1 celery rib with leaves

1 onion

2 garlic cloves

2 tbsp olive oil



1. Soaks beans overnight

2 Drain beans, place in pot and cover by at least an inch with water.

3. Bring to boil.

4. Reduce heat to low and skim off foam.

5. Add vegetables and olive.

6. Cover pot and simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours, adding more water of needed, until beans are very tender and creamy.

7. Add salt.

8. Discard vegetables.

This is a batch of beans that is started before noon yet not destined for eating until our evening meal, so there is no rush and I can let things unfold naturally and observe with interest.

It seems to take a while for any great degree of assimilation to start taking place, but when it kicks in, it is comprehensive. What seems for a long time to be too watery by far ends up being just right.

When it comes time to discard the vegetables, I simply can’t go whole hog.

I finely dice the carrot and back in it goes, joining the obliterated celery leaves in providing some colour.

These are, indeed, by far the smoothest, creamiest beans I have EVER cooked – I only wish I could do so well with black eyed peas and, especially, red beans ‘n’ rice.

They are very plain, though, to the point of austerity – and that’s with the salt and a couple of non-recipe-mandated shakes of freshly ground black pepper.

As such, they’d be sensational as a side dish to, say, sausages or pork chops.

The second bean recipe in 1,000 Italian Recipes is Tuscan beans, in which the garlic is used but the other vegetables are replaced with rosemary or sage.

I like the idea of combining both recipes.

We have these beans with toasted Zeally Bay sourdough casalinga rubbed with garlic and brushed with virgin olive oil.

Cajun black eyed peas


There’s an old joke regarding cajun cooking: “First you chop up the onion, green pepper and celery – then you decide what you gonna cook!”

This is the “trinity” at the heart of so much cajun and creole cooking from South Louisiana and New Orleans.

This differs quite significantly from the aromatic base of so much Italian cooking – the carrot (and sometimes leak) is replaced by the capsicum.

This is all quite odd, and I don’t really understand the science of it.

Some Italian recipes and cookbooks I’ve come across specifically warn against using capsicum in pot-on-stove recipes and stock spots lest it make the dish/stock bitter.

Yet in New Orleans and South Louisiana, the trinity is used incredibly widely – and not just in downhome food like red beans ‘n’ rice and these black eyed peas, but also in fancier fare and restaurant dishes.

This recipe is lifted, with a few tweaks here and there, from John Folse’s The Evolution of Cajun & Creole Cuisine.

Specifically, I use less meat than him – he calls for a pound of “heavy smoked sausage” and “half a pound of smoked ham”.

I use whatever is handy or easy to get hold of – in this case some smoked Polish sausage from Slavonija Continental Butchers.

Truth is, though, even a couple of bacon bones or a couple of crispy-fried rashers of bacon will do.

It’s not about the meat – it’s about the flavour.

And because the black eyed peas have a sort of built-in smokiness anyhow, you can go full-on vegetarian and still have a fine meal.

As with, I suspect, a lot of people, we don’t use a lot of dried basil in our cooking, but it gives this a nice sweetness and helps elevate the household cooking aromas to giddy heights!

Black eyed peas are eaten a whole less than ubiquitous red beans in South Louisiana, but for some reason I have much more success with the former than the latter in making an authentic gravy with the pulses available to me here in Melbourne.

These freeze really well – just thaw out and reheat nice and gentle.


500g black eyed peas

olive oil

meat – smoked sausage, ham, bacon bones, bacon rashers or even bacon fat.

1 cup each approximately of onion, green capsicum and celery

3-4 finely chopped garlic cloves

1 tsp dried basil

bay leaves


freshly ground black pepper




1. Soak peas overnight or for the afternoon. Truth is though, black eyed peas cook pretty easily, so at a pinch you can get away without soaking them at all. It’ll just take a bit longer. These particular unsoaked pulses went on the boil at 4.30pm and were ready about an hour and a half later. But even though the peas were cooked through, generally things were still a bit runny and unintegrated, so I kept them going for another hour or so.

2. Put some primo cajun, zydeco or New Orleans R&B or gutbucket jazz on the sound system.

3. Turn up loud.

4. Heat oil and brown off meat or sausage, if you’re using any, at medium-high heat.

5. Finely chop – as finely as your knife skills will allow – the onion, capsicum and celery.

6. When meat is browned, turn down heat to medium and throw in the vegetables and garlic; cook and stir until wilted.

7. Add basil, salt, pepper.

8. Add black eyed peas.

9. Add water so the peas and vegetables are covered at least by an inch. As with dal, it’s important to keep this brew soup-like and watery in the pot so it doesn’t end up claggy and dry on the table.

10. Your black eyed peas are done when some of them start to break up and begin to form a gravy. You can hasten this process by crushing some against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon, but with these particular pulses it shouldn’t be necessary.

11. Cook a while longer to make a really fine and smooth gravy.

12. Just before serving, throw in and mix in a handful of reasonably well chopped parsley.

13. Serve over rice.

14. Add Tabasco or hot sauce of your choice to taste (optional).

Another perfect meal …


Roast vegetables with rosemary and garlic: Hot out of the oven, warm/cold as a salad, or the next day (or two) for lunch on toast – makes no difference; all great!


Spud, sweet spud, eggplant, largish onion, red capsicum, carrot, parsnip, zucchini, one long twig fresh rosemary, four garlic cloves, salt, pepper, olive oil, red wine vinegar.


1. Pre-heat oven to high heat – 200C in convection oven for me.

2. Chop all vegetables into smallish bite-size pieces, put in large bowl.

I usually throw ’em all in at once, even if the eggplant and zucchini break down more than their compatriots. This time I held them back for about 15 minutes before letting them join their pals in the oven.

Chop onion into quarters – it all falls apart in cooking.

Slice red capsicum after de-seeding and removing the membrane bits.

3. Lightly crush garlic cloves, but don’t peel. Add to vegetables.

These can be eaten with the rest but it’s optional. I don’t mind roast garlic, but I’m no big fan either – so I mostly use these for seasoning/perfuming.

4. Throw in rosemary.

Some variants I’ve seen of this recipe say to strip the rosemary to individual leaves, but I find that too messy and actually rather unpleasant, as the rosemary covers each and every vegetable chunk. Sprigs about 5cm long is the go. It falls apart plenty under cooking anyway.

3. Liberally douse with salt to taste and freshly ground pepper.

4. Use a heavy hand with the olive oil.

5. THIS IS THE BEST BIT – well, apart from eating your work anyway! Mix vegies, olive oil and seasonings thoroughly BY HAND!

6. Place all on as many foil-lined trays as you need, distributing rosemary and garlic evenly and leaving as much space between the vegetable chunks as you can.

7. Place in oven. After 15 minutes, put zucchini and eggplant bits in with the rest.

8. Gleelfully inhale cooking aromas.

9. Cook for a total of about an hour or until well done.

Some of the thinner parts of the onion an capsicum should be fairly well charred.

10. Place back in same bowl from whence they came.

11. Splash with red wine vinegar. I like quite a lot, actually, and more is good if you’re planning to keep the leftovers in the fridge.

12. Serve.

13. Sprinkle with fetta cheese (optional). Ricotta or cottage cheese may work, too

14. Eat.

15. Stash leftovers in a plastic container in the fridge.

Can taste even better the next day!

Another sooper-dooper thing about this recipe is that it makes your house smell freaking amazing – even better than chicken stock and much, much better than incense of even the highest quality.

Any bloggers and/or cooks out there have any tips on how to pour olive oil AND take a photograph at the same time?