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Jackaroo Pie (aka Shepherd’s Pie)

5 Feb

I grew up in a traditional Australian household in the 80’s and so we ate a lot of British-influenced dishes, such as stews, roast dinners, and Shepherd’s Pie. If you haven’t had Shepherd’s Pie before, it is a combination of veggies and meat in one hearty dish and it is similar to a pie but with no pastry crust.

Whilst I am now more adventurous in my food choices, I still enjoy those dishes that I was raised on. I was recently flicking through my brand new delicious magazine (thanks Mum and Dad for the subscription!) when I stumbled upon a recipe for Jackaroo Pie (a lamb version of Shepherd’s Pie). When I saw that the second ingredient was Vegemite a wave of nostalgia (and Aussie pride) washed over me and I vowed to make that recipe.

The pie had a great depth of flavour, mostly due to the combination of ketchup, Vegemite, Worcestershire sauce, and stock. I did, however, find the mixture too wet. I had to drain some of the mixture out of the stock before putting it into the pie dish and yet it was still wet. Next time, I’d try only 1 cup of stock first and see how that goes. Also, my mashed potato top didn’t brown up as much as I’d hoped so next time I will finish it under the broiler. Besides those minor changes, the pie was the perfect comfort dish for a cold and wet winter’s day.

*If you are wanting to try this recipe and you live in Vancouver, you can get Vegemite at some IGA stores and Nester’s Markets.

Jackaroo Pie by Matt Preston – Serves 4

1/4 cup olive oil
500g lamb mince
2 teaspoon Vegemite
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 springs onions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
1 1/4 cups frozen peas
2 tablespoons tomato sauce (ketchup)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups (500ml) chicken stock
1 1/2 cups warm mashed potato
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Butter for putting on the top

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the lamb mince and cook, breaking up any lumps with a wooden spoon, for 3 to 4 minutes until browned. Stir in the Vegemite. Transfer the lamb to a bowl and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the onion and the white part of the spring onion. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until softened. Mix in the peas, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce, and stir thoroughly to combine. Return the lamb to the pan and add the stock. Stir to combine and season. Mix the green spring onions through the warmed mashed potato.

Divide the lamb mixture among four 2 cup (500ml) ramekins or place in a 2 L pie dish, then top with the mashed potato and parmesan. Pattern mash with a fork and top with little dabs of butter. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is nicely browned. Serve immediately.Recipe from February 2013 issue of delicious. magazine.

Roasted Cauliflower and Aged White Cheddar Soup

26 Jan

Do you ever find yourself staring into the fridge wondering “What the hell am I going to do with that“? I do. Although I love cooking I’m not very innovative – I am much better at following recipes than creating my own. I had a whole head of cauliflower in my fridge this week and was at a loss as to what to do with it. As if she could read my mind, a friend of mine randomly emailed me a link to a site with many different cauliflower recipes, called The site is similar to Pinterest but entirely focused on food.

It took me no time to find a use for my head of cauliflower; Roasted Cauliflower and Aged White Cheddar Soup from Closet Cooking would be dinner! The final product was an incredibly delicious soup with a velvety smooth texture and cheesy, rich flavour. It had a lot more flavour than I was expecting. Although the recipe is vegetarian (if you opt to use vegetable broth), the amount of cheese and cream/milk added probably nudge this tasty dish out of the “healthy” category but enjoy it for what it is; a yummy, filling way to get some more veggies into your diet.

Roasted Cauliflower & Aged White Cheddar Soup – Serves 4

1 small head of cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
3 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
1 1/2 cups of grated aged white cheddar
1 cup of milk or cream (I used half and half)
Salt and pepper to taste

Toss the cauliflower florets into the two tablespoons of oil, along with the salt and pepper, and arrange them in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Roast the cauliflower in a preheated 400F oven until lightly golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and saute until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the garlic and thyme and saute until fragrant, about a minute. Add the broth, deglaze the pan, add the roasted cauliflower, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Puree the soup in a blender or with a stick blender until it reaches your desired consistency.

Mix in the cheese, let it melt without bringing it to boil again. Mix in the milk (or cream), season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Recipe from Closet Cooking.

Tangy Lemon Smashed Chickpea Salad

24 Jan

Whilst recently searching the internet for some new and healthy recipes, I decided to start by searching for some local inspiration. Vancouver has some great local healthy food bloggers, including Foodess, The Bounty Hunter, and Everybody Likes Sandwiches (to name a few).

Whilst deep in the rabbit hole of Everybody Likes Sandwiches, I found many bean and legume recipes, and this particular dish, Tangy Lemon Smashed Chickpea Salad, stood out as a “must-try”. The writer of the blog, Jeannette, recommends using this salad as a sandwich filler. As I’m currently trying to avoid wheat I had to come up with another way to get this delicious salad into my face. I opted for; 1/ Heaped onto gluten-free crackers, and 2/ Sprinkled over a salad of mixed greens. Both ways work a treat!

As with the Tomato, Basil, Chickpea Salad that I made this week, this recipe can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for easy lunch-grabbing. This recipe comes together fast and takes about 5 to 10 minutes to make, depending on how fast you can chop your onions and pepper.

Tangy Lemon Smashed Chickpea Salad – Serves 4
1 cup of chickpeas, drained
1/4 of a cup finely diced red onion
1/2 green pepper, finely diced
1 lemon, juiced (though you might just want to use half a lemon if you aren’t so into the tangy like I am)
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon of good mayo (vegan mayo if that’s your thing)
1 teaspoon of capers, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon of flakey sea salt
A few shakes of your favorite hot sauce

In a medium bowl, dump in your chickpeas and use a potato masher to smash your chickpeas. This shouldn’t be hummus texture here – just smashed with some whole chickpeas and a lot of roughly chopped ones. Stir in the red onion, pepper, parsley, capers, lemon juice and the remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve on toasted bread or crusty rolls or just eat as is, salad-style.

Recipe from Everybody Loves Sandwiches.

Tomato, Basil, and Chickpea Salad

23 Jan

I must admit that I’m feeling pretty happy with myself at the moment. As we near the final week of January, I’ve not only managed to stick to my resolution of limiting my consumption of sugar, wheat, and meat (albeit there have been some permitted indulgences), but more importantly I’ve been eating waaaaay more beans and legumes than I’ve ever eaten in my life. I’ve really been making an effort to cook more recipes that include beans and I’ve been rewarded with some wonderfully tasty dishes, such as this one. As a bonus of cooking with beans, I’ve been finding that most of the recipes come together quite quickly (this one took about 10 minutes), meaning that I’m spending less time in the kitchen – always a plus!

I don’t know about you but I’m always looking for new dishes to take to work for lunch. This recipe is perfect for lunch (pack some gum!) as you can make it in advance and it doesn’t leave you sluggish, but fills you up more than a regular salad would. This dish would also be absolutely perfect in the summer. The tomatoes, basil, and garlic give it a Mediterranean taste, and it is quite tangy and light. Served at a BBQ, or taken to a picnic, this is a fast, tasty, healthy salad, with fairly few ingredients. It is certainly worth adding to your recipe collection if you are wanting to add a few more bean dishes to your diet.

Tomato, Basil, and Chickpea Salad

1 can (410ml) of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved
A large handful of basil leaves
3 cloves of garlic, minced (lessen this amount if you don’t like a lot of garlic)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon honey
Pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Allow to chill for 20 minutes before serving.

Recipe credit unknown, but I don’t claim to have created this recipe.

Creamy Tomato-Bean Soup

4 Jan

Winter is well and truly here on the West Coast of Canada. Chilly days quickly turn into even colder nights, folks are retreating indoors, and out comes the soup pot! Whilst I can appreciate the benefits of soup (warming, quick to reheat, fairly healthy), I really don’t make it, nor crave it, that often. However, as I’m trying to keep to my resolutions I thought I’d give this recipe a go and found it surprisingly tasty. As a bonus, the soup contains beans but you’d hardly know it as they are blended so well into the soup (this might be a good way to get fussy kids to eat some beans). The recipe took hardly any time to come together (most of the work is just in chopping the onions and garlic) and the ingredients are quite cheap – extra bonus!

Note: when blending the mixture in a blender, make sure you have a tea-towel and your hand firmly on the blender lid to weigh it down. Yeah…that nearly happened. Your house could end up covered in soup if you forget to do this part!

Recipe from “Superfoods HealthStyle” by Steven G. Pratt and Kathy Matthews.

Creamy Tomato-Bean Soup – Serves 6

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large red onion, diced
Salt and pepper
1 quart (about 4 cups) low-sodium organic vegetable broth
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 15oz can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a soup pot. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Add the onion and salt and pepper, and sauté until the onion is tender and translucent. Add the broth, tomatoes, and beans. Allow to simmer for about 20 minutes, then stir in the tarragon and remove the soup from the heat. Cool for 15 minutes, then puree with a blender, adding a little more broth or water to thin as necessary. Reheat the soup and ladle into bowls.

Mushroom Walnut Pâté and Resolutions

1 Jan

As someone who keeps “to do” lists all year, it should be no surprise that I love making New Year’s resolutions. I find starting a new year quite therapeutic; a chance to reflect on the year that has passed, whilst looking at ways to improve myself as time marches on. Some of my food goals for the year are:

  • To cook more by attempting to make five new recipes a month.
  • Eat less sugar, wheat, and meat.
  • Eat more legumes, such as lentils and beans.

I feel confident that these are achievable, but I think the two goals that I will find the most difficult will be the limiting of wheat and sugar in my diet. If you read my blog regularly than you will have noticed that I love pizza and pastries, and I have a sweet tooth. Yikes! I figure that all I can do is give it my best shot!

With my goals in mind (eat more legumes and attempt a new recipe), I made Mushroom Walnut Pâté for the very first time. I was inspired to make pâté after eating an incredible version of Walnut and Portobello Pâté from The Acorn. I found a similar recipe through a blog called Urban Chickpea. Although the recipe is a little time-consuming, there is nothing difficult about it and the end result was pretty damn amazing, even if I do say so myself!

Advice that I can give is to really watch the amount of salt in your stock when you cook the lentils as it would be quite easy to over-season this recipe. Secondly, it really does taste better when you let it rest overnight. The sample that I tried that had only been sitting for a few hours was quite salty, but the batch that was allowed to sit overnight was a lot less salty. You can serve it with crackers, or with toasted bread or crisps. Overall, I will absolutely be making this again and serving it with a wheat-free bread. Happy New Year!

Mushroom Walnut Pate – Makes about 3 cups

1 cup Lentils de Puy (French green lentils)
3 cups vegetable stock, preferably unsalted
1 teaspoon dried Herbes de Provence
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 8-10 ounce package of cremini mushrooms (about 3 cups), thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry sherry (or 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar)
2 teaspoons of salt

Rinse the lentils until the water runs clear. Add them to a large pot with the vegetable stock and the Herbes de Provence and bay leaf. The stock should be about 2 inches above the lentils; add water if it’s not at that level. Bring up to a boil and then simmer until the lentils are fully cooked, about 45 minutes, adding water as necessary. The lentils will retain their shape, but will no longer be hard or gritty on the inside.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. On a sheet tray, spread out the walnuts and toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes, tossing occasionally. They will be slightly golden and fragrant. Set aside to cool.

Heat up a large saute pan and add the oil. Saute the onion over medium-high heat with a pinch of salt until it is soft and golden brown. Then add the minced garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add the sliced mushrooms with another pinch of salt and saute until they are brown and much of the liquid has evaporated. The whole mixture should be soft and look caramelized. Then add the dry sherry, using it to scrape off any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook until most of the sherry has evaporated. Then remove from heat.

In the food processor, pulse the walnuts until finely ground. Then add the cooked lentils (drained from their water and with the bay leaf removed), the mushroom mixture and the 2 teaspoons of salt. Puree until smooth. Taste the mixture and add salt until it tastes perfect. Then add two extra pinches of salt. It will taste too salty warm, but once it cools, it will taste perfect again. The palate perceives salt differently in hot and cold food.

Spoon mixture into a loaf pan, mold or tupperware and cover with plastic wrap. Then place a similarly-sized container on top and weigh it down to press the pate.  Chill in the refrigerator for several hours.  Invert on a plate to serve as an hors d’oeuvre or spread on bread for your sandwich.

The original recipe can be found at Urban Chickpea. She has some great advice on using it on veggie sandwiches.

Vij’s Green Onion and Coconut Chickpea Curry

30 Dec

One of my goals for 2013 is to eat more beans. Yes, it’s a lame goal. It’s not as exciting, as say travelling to Italy for an incredible food and wine adventure, or kayaking with whales (both things I aspire to do) but it is something that is easily accomplished and good for me, so I’ll stick with it.

After some investigating, I realized that I don’t really have a lot of recipes in my knowledge bank that use beans. In an effort to expand my bean meal options, I’ve been looking at different recipes and came across this curry recipe from none other than Vikram Vij (I found it through a website,, that a friend of mine blogged about recently). I highly recommend checking out the link to as he has some helpful tips regarding less salt, more tomatoes – that kinda thing. The recipe below is the original.

The curry was really tasty and a little lighter on the traditional Indian flavours than other curry dishes that I’ve had, but with quite a bit of heat. I liked that it all came together fairly quickly and the ingredients were cheap. It ended up making a lot so I will be definitely making this curry again so that I can have the left-overs for lunches too.

By the way, another goal of mine is to make five new recipes a month so I’m cheating and getting a head-start on January. Shhhhh…

Vij’s Green Onion and Coconut Chickpea Curry – Serves 6 (estimate)

½ cup canola oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1½ tsp salt
5 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
4 tbsp finely chopped jalapeno chilies
3 cans (19 oz/540mL) chickpeas, drained
1 cup coconut milk
8 green onions, green parts only, sliced

Heat oil in a medium saucepan for 1 minute. Add cumin seeds and let sizzle about 30 seconds.

Add onion and saute 8 to 10 minutes until browned. Stir in tomatoes, salt, ginger and jalapenos. Saute 5 to 8 minutes or until oil glistens on top.

Add chickpeas and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes. Add green onions and cook 1 minute longer.

Jamie Oliver’s Humble Home-Cooked Beans

29 Dec

I enjoy attempting to make new recipes but I can also admit that I am quite lazy. Often I will tag a recipe and then not get around to making it for a long time. Sometimes it is months, other times it could be up to a year. The Christmas Mint Cupcakes that I baked this week were a recipe that I had planned on making for about a year, as was this recipe by Jamie Oliver for Home-Cooked Beans. I am currently on a nice little break from work and I have found myself in the kitchen every day, trying new recipes, or re-creating old favourites, so it seemed like as good a time as any to finally get around to making some beans!

This recipe needs to be started in advance (as in overnight) as you will need to soak your dried beans in cool water for at least 12 hours. I admit that this was a big reason why it took me so long to commit to making this recipe (I don’t usually plan breakfast that far in advance!).

Once made, I served a large spoonful of glossy beans over a base of toasted barley bread for breakfast, but unfortunately, they were not well-received by B (my guinea-pig). He deemed them as bland and, whilst I agree, I wonder whether beans are really ever that exciting? Unless they are masked by a curry or a chilli, they always tend to be quite bland in my opinion. I didn’t think they were that bad, however, whilst the dish was very filling and quite healthy, I doubt that I would make this dish again as it was a lot of work for little result (taste-wise).

Jamie Oliver’s Humble Home-Cooked Beans – Serves 4

11 ounces dried cannellini beans, soaked in cold water for at least 12 hours
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
A few sprigs fresh thyme
A sprig fresh rosemary
3 bay leaves
1 stick celery, trimmed
1 small potato, peeled and halved
2 cherry tomatoes
Extra-virgin olive oil
Red wine vinegar
A few sprigs fresh at-leaf parsley, chopped
4 slices sourdough bread (or bread of your choice)

Drain the soaked beans, then give them a good wash. Place them in a deep pot and cover them with cold water.

Throw in the garlic, herb sprigs, bay leaves, celery stick, potato and tomatoes. Place the beans on the heat and slowly bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and simmer very gently for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on whether you’re using fresh or dried, until soft and cooked nicely. Skim if necessary, topping up with boiling water from the kettle if you need to.

When the beans are cooked, drain them in a colander, reserving enough of the cooking water to cover them halfway up when put back in the pot. Remove the garlic, herbs, celery, potato, and tomatoes from the beans.

Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins and pinch the skin off the tomatoes. Put the garlic, tomatoes and potato onto a plate, mash them with a fork and stir back into the beans. Season well with salt and pepper, and pour in 3 generous glugs of extra-virgin olive oil and a few splashes of vinegar. Stir in the parsley and serve on some toasted sourdough bread.

Christmas Mint Cupcakes

27 Dec

DSC_0023One sure-fire way to get myself into the Christmas spirit is to retreat to the kitchen, put on some Christmas carols, and bake something festive. This year I tried a new recipe that I had been meaning to attempt for more than a year (seriously). I decided to finally unveil it for Christmas as I felt that the mint flavour of the cupcakes would pair well with a sprinkling of festive candy cane.

The recipe created a lot of batter so I divided it up to make some mini-cupcakes (perfect to take to parties, or for kids) and some bigger sized cupcakes to snack on over the next few days before I have to return to work. I will absolutely be making these again next Christmas (or whenever the need arises for mint chocolate cupcakes). I was impressed with the cake, which was very moist, the butter-cream was dangerously good, and the candy cane pieces add a nice bit of texture. Happy Holidays!

Christmas Mint Cupcakes – Makes about 36 large cupcakes

1 ½  cups all-purpose flour
¾  cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 ½  cups sugar
1 ½  teaspoons baking soda
¾  teaspoon baking powder
¾  teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
¾  cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
¾  cup warm water
1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add eggs, buttermilk, oil, water, and peppermint extract, and beat with a mixer on low speed until smooth.

Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes (For mini cupcakes 10-14 minutes). Let cupcakes cool in tins on wire racks for 10 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to racks, and let cool. Undecorated cupcakes will keep, covered, for 1 day, or frozen for up to 2 months.

Spoon butter-cream into a pastry bag fitted with a large, plain tip. Pipe small mounds on tops of cupcakes. Flatten mounds with an offset spatula, then top with chocolate-mint leaves.

Butter-cream Icing:

1 cup butter, softened
5 cups sifted icing sugar
½ cup whipping cream
½ tsp vanilla

In a large bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. Alternately beat in sugar and cream, making 2 additions of sugar. Beat in vanilla and frost cupcakes once they have cooled.

* I did not create this recipe. It was given to me by a friend (after I devoured a few of her cupcakes) so I do not have an author to credit this recipe to. Whoever they are, they sure are awesome.*

Health Loaf

25 Nov

After being away from my kitchen for almost two weeks, I was desperate to get back in there for some serious chill time. The kitchen is my happy place. A place where I can gather and sieve through my thoughts, whilst also creating delicious treats from scratch.

Today I baked this “Health Loaf” from a recipe that my Mum shared with me. I grew up eating this loaf and, whilst I can now see that claiming it to be a “health” loaf is probably a bit of a stretch, I still find it a healthier option to most of the other baked treats that I make. And by healthier I mean that there is a lot of fibre in this loaf. Enough said.

Slices are best enjoyed when the loaf is slightly warm and with a thin spread of butter. I made a slight amendment and halved the amount of sugar in the recipe (taking it down to just 1/4 cup) so that it wouldn’t be overly sweet, as the apricots and sultanas (raisins) add a sweetness of their own. This recipe was handed down to me by my Mum so I have no-one to credit the recipe to but her, although she doesn’t claim to have created the recipe.

Health Loaf
1 cup of bran buds (I used Nature’s Path “Smart Bran”)
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup sugar (can decrease amount to 1/4 cup for less sweetness)
1/2 cup dried apricots, diced
1/2 cup sultanas/raisins
1 cup milk
1 cup self-raising flour


In a bowl, soak all of the ingredients, except for the self-raising flour, for 1 hour. After the hour, add the 1 cup of self-raising flour and mix in to the wet mixture. Bake in a well-greased and floured loaf tin for one hour at 350 F (or 180 C). Allow to cool on a baking rack.


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