Sunday, August 5, 2012

before the macaron was the alfajor…


alfajores stack

Seems we’ve been under the spell of the macaron in this house for a little while. But this weekend I was reminded of how simple it is to make up a batch or two of alfajores. You just need to have a tin of boiled sweetened condensed milk at hand. Alfajores in this form are typical in Argentina but there the caramel or dulce de leche is readily available by the aisle full at the supermarket!

The original alfajor or alaju from Spain bears little resemblance to this shortbread filled with caramel and rolled in coconut. Alaju apparently comes from the Arabic word for ‘luxury”. Which they are, little luxuries to have with your afternoon macchiato.

Alfajores de Maizena


85 grams butter, at room temperature

½ cup caster sugar

1 teaspoon lemon rind

½ teaspoon vanilla essence

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 ¼cup plain flour

1 ¼ cup cornflour

1 tablespoon baking powder

extra cornflour for rolling pastry

1 cup desiccated coconut

1 ½ cups Dulce de Leche (a tin of sweetened condensed milk, boiled for 3 ½ hours always covered with water)


1.Cream the butter, sugar, lemon rind and vanilla essence with an electric mixer until smooth, 1-2 minutes

2.Beat in the whole egg till combined

3.Mix through ¼ cup of plain flour and then the egg yolk

4.Scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir mixture to combine

5.Sift the rest of the flour, cornflour and baking powder into the mixing bowl

6.Stir with a wooden spoon till a dough forms, be careful not to overmix

7.Scrape dough out and cover with cling wrap, chill for at least 2 hours in the fridge

8.Grease two baking trays and heat oven to 180C

9.Dust the bench and a rolling pin with a little cornflour

10.Roll out the dough till ½ cm thin and press out discs using a 4cm biscuit cutter

11.Gather scraps of dough, roll out again and cut as many discs as possible from the dough

12.Lay biscuits 3cm apart on greased baking trays and place in the preheated oven

13.Cook for 8-10 minutes till the bottoms are cooked but the tops are still a creamy white

14.Allow to cool on the baking trays for 5 minutes and then cool completely on a wire rack

To Assemble

15.Top one biscuit with a small teaspoon of cooled dulce de leche and top with another biscuit

16.Squeeze together till a little caramel oozes from the sides, smooth dulce de leche along the outside of the biscuit

17.Place desiccated coconut in a bowl and roll around the edges of the alfajores to cover with coconut

tapas de alfajoresdulce de lechealfajores stack

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Vegetarian Essentials

My weekly World Vegetarian classes have started up again and we had a wonderful Chinese spread on Tuesday night. You can get the recipes for the Mushroom & Tofu Pot Sticker Dumplings, Fried Rice, Stir Fried Eggplant W/ Snow Peas in this earlier post.

pot stickers cookingeggplant & snowpeas

But what I’ve been meaning to share with my friends for a while is a very handy and basic recipe that’s the base of many of our family meals.

I call it my Shepherd{less} Pie mix. But you can also use this mix to make yummy traditional pies and delicious veggie burgers. Even Empanadas, which I’m sure would shock and horrify some of my family back home. Until they tried them…

Empanadas de HumitaLentil Burger

It’s a very flexible mix too, you can substitute the lentils and vegetables for a different texture and colour so no one will ever know you can only cook one dish. Ha!

I hope you give this recipe a try and add it to your repertoire.

And if you’d like to learn more recipes like this maybe you’d like to enrol in my one day Cooking Essentials: Vegetarian Class at Rose Bay on 11th August? Get more info from the City East Community College website.

shepherdless pie wholeshepherdless pie


A vegetarian version of the perennial family favourite. Easily make this a vegan dish but substituting with non dairy options.

Serves: 6

Preparation: 15 minutes (+ 20 minutes lentil cooking)

Cooking Time: 1 hr


knife, chopping board, large saucepan, measuring cup, wooden spoon, grater, potato masher, vegetable peeler, ovenproof dish or foil tray.


2 cups cooked lentils

¼ cup Olive Oil

2 Onion, chopped

3 Garlic, crushed

2 Carrots, grated

1 Capsicum, finely chopped

2 Celery sticks, finely chopped

2 Zucchini, grated

400gm Pumpkin grated (optional)

2 Bay leaves

1 tablespoon Oregano

2 tablespoons Tomato puree

Salt & Pepper to taste

6 Potatoes, peeled, boiled in salted water and mashed

Butter + milk for mashed potatoes (optional)


1. Drain the lentils well.

2. Gently fry the onion, garlic, carrot, celery and capsicum in olive oil till softened.

3. Add the bay leaf, oregano, zucchini and pumpkin cook a further 5 mins.

4. Add the tomato puree and stir through.

5. Add the cooked lentils and cook 10mins till flavours have combined.

6. Season well with salt and pepper and spoon into an an ovenproof dish. You should leave some room on top for the mashed potatoes.

7. Top with an even layer of mashed potato.

8. Bake at 180C for 30mins till the top is golden.


Sprinkle with grated cheese or add slices of tomatoes under the mashed potatoes.

This recipe is suitable for freezing. Bring dish to a cool temp as quickly as possible and cover well before freezing. Defrost in the fridge or microwave and bake as usual.

Here’s a big tip though. If I’m in a hurry which is most days. I chuck all the veggies into the food processor and pulse them to chop. So quick!

to chopchopped

Psst: Use that beast in your cupboard to make chopping the veggies a breeze!

And so how do I turn this mix into scrumptious burgers???

Just add some mashed sweet potatoes, cumin and sesame seeds. Shape into patties and coat with bread crumbs. Shallow fry them gently till browned. I like to add spice to my burgers and this Thai chilli jam recipe (Nahm Prik Pao) from my Thai class is just perfect!

Sweet Chilli Jam


A smoky roasted chilli paste to stir through soups, stir fries and curries.

Serves: yields 1 ½ cups

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Equipment: Chopping board, knife, wok or large fry pan, wooden spoon, food processor, grater, sterile jar for storage.


1 cup whole dried chillies

1 cup red eschallots, peeled and quartered

½ cup garlic cloves, peeled

¾ cup vegetable oil

¾ cup tamarind water

¾ cup palm sugar, grated

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon soy bean paste or red miso paste

1 teaspoon salt


1. Fry the garlic and shallots in ¼ cup oil in a wok for 4 minutes till golden, stir often.

2. Add the dry chillies and stir through till they’ve slightly changed colour. Drain oil off.

3. Puree in a food processor adding ¼ cup of fresh oil.

4. Add remaining ¼ cup oil to the wok and gently fry the paste till aromatic, watch it doesn’t burn! Turn down the heat.

5. Add in the remaining ingredients, stirring well to dissolve the sugar.

6. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

6. Pour into sterile jars, cool before sealing tightly and keep refrigerated.

Will keep for at least 1 month in the fridge.

Serve with: This condiment is widely used to stir through soups, stir fries and curries. It is also used to give variety to rice and noodle dishes. Be careful it can be quite potent!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

a Sri Lankan dessert


In our last World Vegetarian Cooking class for the term we made a very fine dessert to go with our meal. You can find the recipes for the delicious, VARAI, BEETRROT CURRY AND LENTIL DHAL in my previous post about Sri Lankan cuisine.

But here is the recipe for the sumptuous and silky WATTALAPAN, a spiced coconut custard served with chopped toasted cashews and palm sugar syrup. I based this recipe on one published by Peter Kuravita of Sydney’s Flying Fish.

Making Wattalapan

These dariole moulds are only filled halfway, you go ahead and fill yours as much as you like, it’s quite a rich dessert!

So that’s it for Term 2, next classes start on the 24th July, you can enrol online if you are interested.

I’m also teaching a one day Vegetarian Essentials class on Saturday 11th August at Rose Bay Secondary school. Enquire here for more information.


Sri Lankan Spiced Coconut Custard

Serves: 6 as part of a meal

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

+ 2hrs refrigeration

Equipment: Set oven to 150°C, saucepan, small measuring jug, whisk, 6 dariole moulds, wooden skewer


180g (⅔ cup) jaggery or palm sugar
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
5 green cardamom seeds, crushed with a heavy knife
Pinch of ground cloves
1 cinnamon quill, broken in half
6 eggs, lightly beaten
300ml coconut milk
Oil, to grease
Chopped roasted cashew nuts

palm syrup (kitul treacle)*, to serve


1. Preheat oven to 150°C. Place jaggery (or palm sugar), 100ml water and spices in a saucepan over low to medium heat and stir for 3 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Cool for 5 minutes. If time allows let mix infuse for about an hour.

2. Whisk together eggs and jaggery mixture, then gradually whisk in coconut milk until mixture is pale and slightly thickened. Strain into a jug and discard solids.

3. Grease 8 x 125ml dariole moulds and place in a large roasting pan. Divide watalappan mixture between moulds and fill roasting pan with enough boiling water to come halfway up sides of moulds.

4. Cook for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in centre comes out clean. Set aside to cool slightly, then refrigerate for 2 hours or until chilled. If you are in a hurry you may be able to speed up the chilling process in the freezer but watch you don’t freeze the custard or you’ll have spiced coconut parfait!

To serve Carefully run a small sharp knife around the edge of the dariole moulds. Using a short sharp movement turn out watalappans onto serving plates. Scatter with cashews and drizzle over palm syrup.

* Jaggery, is available from Indian or Asian food shops, it is an unrefined sugar typically made from sugarcane or date palm sap. It is often used in Indian and Sri Lankan recipes. Substitute grated dark palm sugar if you cannot find some.

· To make palm sugar syrup: place equal quantities palm sugar and water in a saucepan, heat gently until dissolved. Cool.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Vietnamese Night

Week 4 into our World Vegetarian Cookery tour. Last night we cooked too much for for the number of people we had in the class. I quickly scoffed my dessert and regret not savouring it later. A friend just returned from a trip to Vietnam and did some cooking classes. When I looked at her list, three of her dishes were on the menu last night, what a coincidence! Or maybe they are the quintessential Vietnamese recipes.

Rice paper rolls


Filled with fresh, crunchy vegetables and a mix of mint and coriander, perfect for hot weather!

Serves: 8

Preparation: 15 minutes, plus rolling time

Cooking Time: 2 minutes


Chopping board, knife, mandolin or grater, large bowl, small plates or bowls to hold prepared ingredients, damp tea towel, clean bench space, bowl for dipping sauce


16 large rice paper sheets

100 grams rice vermicelli (cooked, rinsed and cooled)

1 small green papaya, peeled and shredded (substitute carrot if unavailable)

1 small Lebanese cucumber, cut into thin matchsticks

1 cup bean sprouts, washed and dried with paper towel

1 cup Enoki mushrooms

½ cup crushed roasted nuts (peanuts or cashews)

8 lettuce leaves (soft variety like oak leaf)

32 large mint leaves

32 coriander leaves

32 Thai basil leaves

Large bowl of hot water with to soften rice paper sheets

Dipping Sauce

½ cup tamarind paste (no seeds)

½ cup mushroom soy sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 small bird’s eye chilli (optional)

A little water to dilute to taste (optional)


1. Prepare all fillings and dipping sauce before commencing the rolls

2. Place a rice paper sheet in the bowl of hot water and rub till softened

3. Place softened rice paper on a damp tea towel

4. Place 2 mint leaves on the middle of the sheet

5. Add a lettuce leaf, a bit of rice vermicelli, papaya, cucumber, sprouts and a sprinkle of nuts

6. Top with 2 coriander and 2 Thai basil leaves

7. Starting with the bottom, fold up and over the filling

8. Fold in the two ends

9. Finally, roll over allowing the rice paper to stick to itself to close

10. Continue till you have made 16 large rice paper rolls

Serve straightaway with a bowl of dipping sauce. If you must store them line container or plate with damp tea towel. Seal well with plastic wrap or a lid so they don’t dry out.

OPTIONS: The filling can be whatever you have on hand: green beans, asparagus, marinated spicy tofu. It needs to be cut in matchsticks and be no longer than 15cm or it can tear a hole in the thin wrappers.

Eggplant Salad


Soft and luscious eggplant with a salty and tangy sauce.

Serves: 6 as part of a meal

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Equipment: large pot of boiling water, chopping board, knife, large bowl, medium bowl, colander, whisk


3 eggplants, smallish

½ cup coriander leaves


2 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons white vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons sesame oil


1. Boil a large pot of water and add the whole eggplants, return to the boil and then lower heat

2. Simmer for around 10 minutes till softened and skin has turned brown

3. Remove eggplants and drain in a colander

4. Cut eggplants in half lengthwise and cut each half into 3cm pieces, place in large mixing bowl

5. Place all dressing ingredients in a medium bowl, mix well with a whisk till emulsified

6. Pour dressing over the eggplant and toss to combine well

7. Garnish with coriander leaves, serve warm with steamed rice.

Tofu tomato and chili


Serves: 6

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Equipment: chopping board, knife, garlic press, wok, slotted spoon, bowl,


200ml vegetable oil
500g silken tofu, drained and cut into 5cm cubes
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped red Asian shallots (or red onion)
1 birds eye chilli, finely sliced
4 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

100 ml water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons mushroom soy sauce
3 spring onions cut into 5cm lengths
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 coriander sprigs, to garnish


1. Pour the oil into a wok and heat to 180°C, or until a wooden chopstick dipped into the oil bubbles rapidly.

2. Carefully add the tofu, cooking it in two batches to ensure the oil stays hot, and deep-fry until crisp.

3. Turn the tofu to brown other side and then remove with a slotted spoon onto kitchen paper to drain.

4. Transfer the deep-frying oil into a deep bowl to cool, leaving about 1 tablespoon of oil in the wok.

5. Add the garlic, Asian shallots and chilli to the wok, and stir-fry for 1 minute or until fragrant.

6. Add the tomatoes, salt, sugar and mushroom soy sauce.

7. Stir and allow the tomatoes to break down.

8. Add 100ml water to the wok, bring to the boil.

9. Reduce the heat to a low simmer for 10 minutes.

10. Add the crisp tofu, spring onions and black pepper, folding it all together, and simmer for no longer than 1 minute as you want to keep the crisp texture of the tofu.

11. Garnish with coriander and serve immediately.

coconut cream caramel 2


A French influenced Crème Caramel, serve warm or cold.

Serves: 6 as part of a meal

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Equipment: saucepan, wooden spoon, wok with steamer and lid, 6 x moulds, zester, whisk, serving plates or bowls, sharp knife or palette knife to turn custards out.


420 gram tin coconut cream

420 grams caster sugar

100 ml water

200 ml full cream milk

6 eggs


1 tablespoon lime zest for garnish

2 ½ tablespoon toasted shredded coconut for


1. Place 250 grams caster sugar into a medium size saucepan, add 100 ml water. Stir briefly.

2. Bring to a boil and cook till golden, do not stir caramel at this stage!

3. Pour caramel into 6 moulds, swirling to coat the base and sides evenly. Allow to cool

4. Heat a water in bottom of a wok with a steamer basket set inside

5. Break eggs into a mixing bowl and lightly whisk eggs

6. Add 170 grams caster sugar and mix well till frothy

7. Stir in the coconut cream and milk

8. Pour the mixture into the moulds, place into steamer

9. Cover the steamer and steam for 40 minutes at low temperature

10. Remove from steamer and cool before serving

11. Using a palette knife turn out custards onto serving plate/ bowl

12. Garnish with lime zest and toasted coconut

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

All Thai’d Up and other fun puns

Pad Thaipumpkin and zucchini stir fryRed Curry VegSweet Sticky Rice with Mango

What is it with Thai restaurants and their corny names? I’ve heard of En Thai Sing, Thai Riffic, Thai One On and many more wittily named Thai places. It seems so much at odds with a cuisine that is so finely balanced and steeped in culinary tradition. Thai people do have a great sense of humour though especially in the local restaurant industry. Are the corny names just a Sydney phenomenon, will have to do some research…

So our last class for this term and the fourth of our foray into the Asian cuisines is the delicious food of Thailand. One of the students had been away to Thailand for two weeks and requested we wait for her to return to try these dishes. I always enjoy the comparisons between authentic cooking and my adjusted recipes that cater for vegetarians. It has taken a long time to develop recipes that have the depth of flavour and variety that is achieved when including fish sauce and other meat products.

I usually substitute fish sauce with Healthy Boy Thai Mushroom Soy Sauce (there’s that Thai humour again!). It has a similar salty and earthy flavour to fish sauce. It’s made with fermented soy beans and dried Chinese black mushrooms. You can find the pretty bottles at the Asian grocery store.

Another vegetarian substitute is Mushroom Oyster Sauce. Use this in place of the regular Oyster Sauce for stir fries and vegetable dishes because “oyster sauce” in not a euphemism, it actually is made from oysters.

As with Indonesian cuisine I substitute Shrimp Paste/ Terasi with Fermented Black Beans. Check the labels of the jars or tins in the grocery store carefully as some do contain fish sauce or dried shrimp.

Apart from that almost any Thai recipe can be converted to a vegetarian meal using tofu, saitan or mushrooms. Though I’ve never tried to make a veggie Massaman Curry, that dish really is all about the meat, maybe big field mushrooms would work?

So this week’s recipes are Pad Thai, Red Curry Vegetables w/ Tofu, Pumpkin and Zuchini Stir Fry and Sweet Sticky Rice with Pineapple (though in the photo I served it with mango).

I’ve posted most of these recipes before:

Pad Thai

Pumpkin & Zucchini Stir Fry

Red Curry Vegetables with Tofu

Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango and Coconut

Hope you have a chance to try them before next term starts again. The next course runs from 1 May to 26 June. You can enrol online here: 


Lorena xx

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sri Lankan Cuisine

Sri Lankan plate

Sri Lankan food has always been one of those experiences where I could never quite put my finger on the flavours and aromas. Until a dear friend shared her secrets with me. Seems that this cuisine owes a lot of it’s lingering sweetness and complexity to coconuts. Coconut milk, grated coconut flesh and jaggery (made from palm sugar). As well as the refreshing use of vegetables and spices.

I hope you enjoy these recipes:

Beetroot Curry


A popular vegetable curry, one of the many colourful dishes at a Sri Lankan meal

Serves: 4 as part of a meal

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 30 minutes


1 bunch Beetroot
1 tablespoon oil
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
½ onion chopped fine
2 green chillies (slit in the middle)
¼ teaspoon chilli powder (Babas)
¼ cup milk
¼ cup water
1 ¼ teaspoon salt


1. Wash the beetroot. Peel and cut the beetroot into small thick matchsticks and set aside.

2. Heat the oil and fry the mustard seeds and the fenugreek seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the curry leaves, and chopped onions and the green chillies and stir. Lower the temperature and add the chilli powder and stir quickly, so that the chilli does not get burnt.

3. Add the beetroot pieces and stir well and then add the salt. Add the water, cover the pan with a lid and cook the beetroot for about 10 minutes.

4. Once the beetroot is cooked add the milk and cook for a further 10 minutes. Stir well and take the pan off the stove and serve onto a dish.

Varai_ fried greens

VARAI: Fried Greens

This recipe can be made using a variety of greens; silverbeet; collard greens, kale, cabbage and even leeks.

Serves: 4 as part of a meal

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes


Colander, knife, chopping board, medium saucepan with lid, frypan, wooden spoon, serving platter


1 bunch fresh silverbeet, collard greens or kale (about 250 grams chopped)

1 leek, washed well and thinly sliced

¾ cup water

1 teaspoon chilli powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon shredded unsweetened coconut

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 cup red onion, peeled and chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 dried red chillies, broken into 2 pieces


1. Wash greens thoroughly and remove any tough stems

2. Finely chop the leaves and the leek

3. Add the chopped greens, water, salt, chilli powder to a saucepan and cook for 5 minutes

4. Add coconut, mix well and cook a further minute or two

5. Set aside

6. Add oil to frypan, when oil is hot; add the onion and the garlic. Fry till golden

7. Add the cooked greens to the fry pan and mix well.

8. Serve as part of a meal with rice.

Sri Lankan Dhal w_ Pandan Leaf

Sri Lankan Dhal Curry

Serves: 4 as part of a meal

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 40 minutes


1 cup red lentils

1 onion, chopped fine

½ teaspoon turmeric

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3 red dried chilies

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 sprig curry leaves

½ cup coconut milk

2 pandan leaves*, cut into 10cm lengths


1. Soak lentils in water for an hour.

2. Wash + drain a few times until water is clear.

3. Put in pan + cover with water.

4. Add 1/4 teaspoon turmeric and pandan leaves + boil medium heat, until they just open up.

5. Add coconut milk + salt. Turn off heat and set aside.

6. Heat oil in frypan, add curry leaf + onion + garlic and fry for a while.

7. Add turmeric, mustard seed + dried chillies. Fry until onions golden.

8. Add this mix into lentil curry, bring to boil.

Serve with rice and vegetable curry.

* find pandan leaves at the Asian grocery store, sometimes they are in the freezer. Unfortunately you cannot substitute pandan flavouring. Sorry!

image from:


In Sri Lanka these side dishes are known as Sambol and are served fresh with rice.

Serves: 4 as part of a meal

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 40 minutes


1 cup chopped watercress

1 carrot, peeled and shredded

2 tablespoons chopped red onion

1 tablespoon lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste


1. Mix chopped watercress and shredded carrot and add chopped onion

2. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice

Serve with rice.



1 bowl, 1 microplane grater or coconut shaver

1/2 a fresh coconut
½ red onion finely diced

1 clove garlic, crushed
1 lime, juice
1 teaspoon chilli powder

1. Crack the coconut in half and pour the juice into a glass.
(Reserve the juice for flavouring a curry or salad dressing)

2. Shave or grate the coconut into your bowl.
3. Make sure your red onion is finely diced and add it to
the coconut.
4. Add the chilli powder.
5. Add the juice of 1 of the limes into the bowl.
6. Mix well. The sambol should be moist and reddish (from the chilli powder).
7. Add another half-limes worth of juice.
8. Mix a little more.
9. Serve!

Pol Sambol could be served with every Lankan meal, it has a wonderful tangy taste.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Talking Italian…

And here we are, first World Vegetarian Cooking class for 2012. I’ve had a lovely long break to recharge the batteries and come up with some new recipes and ideas. Of course most of these new recipes relied on the weather climbing above 24 degrees which today it did not. Not exactly exotic summer weather. Hmm.

Plan B was a comforting Italian menu of Crispy Eggplant and Mushroom Balls with Soft Polenta and a simple tomato sauce. A quick little salad on the side made with Shaved Fennel, Radish and Red Onion. Warm Roasted Broccoli with Lemon and Pine Nuts is a good side dish too.

Not wanting to over do it on our first evening we made yummy but quick Pistachio and Orange Biscotti. The hardest thing about making biscotti is the cutting. You need to use a sharp serrated knife. Use a gentle sawing motion, don’t press or the whole thing will crumble before your eyes and you’ll be eating delicious biscotti crumbs!

Enjoy these recipes, I’ll have some more next week x

roast broccolipolenta & eggplant ballspistachio & orange biscotti


Serve as finger food or with pasta and fresh tomato sauce as a main course.

Serves: makes around small 32 balls

Preparation: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes


Large pot of boiling water, knife, chopping board, wooden spoon, colander, large bowl, small bowl, fork, frypan, tray, paper towel


450 grams eggplant cut in 3cm cubes

1 tablespoon salt

100 grams breadcrumbs, fresh or “Panko”

25 grams pecorino or parmesan cheese, grated

50 grams kalamata or green olives, finely chopped

200 grams mushroom, finely chopped

1 large egg

2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

Freshly ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil, for frying

50 grams fine dry breadcrumbs, for frying


1.Salt 4 litres of boiling water and add the eggplant

2.Boil uncovered for 10 minutes, pushing the eggplant occasionally under the water

3.Drain eggplant in colander, cool and squeeze out excess water

4.Chop finely and place in a large bowl

5.Fry mushroom in a little olive oil till dry

6.Combine eggplant and mushroom

7.Add in parsley, fresh breadcrumbs, egg, garlic and cheese

8.Blend with a fork and season with salt & pepper

9.Cover frypan with a 2cm of olive oil and heat gently

10. Fry a little of the mix to check the seasoning, adjust if necessary

11. Roll remaining mix into 1” balls and set on a tray

12. Roll balls in dry bread crumbs till evenly coated

13. Fry the balls in hot oil, turning till golden brown all over

14. Drain on absorbent paper and cool slightly before serving


A satisfying yet gluten free alternative to pasta.

Serves: 6

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Equipment: chopping board, knife, garlic press, large pot with lid, frypan, wooden spoon, baking dish



8 cups water

2 cups polenta

1 teaspoon salt

1 quantity Simple Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)

250gm Mozzarella cheese, sliced (optional)

100 gm Parmesan cheese

6 basil leaves, torn (as a garnish)


1. Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan with a tight fitting lid and add salt.

2. Whilst stirring the water, pour in the polenta in a thin stream.

3. Simmer and continue to stir with a long handled wooden spoon for 5 minutes.

4. Place on lid and sit at the back of the stove top whilst you prepare the sauce.

Simple Tomato Sauce


¼ cup olive oil

1 brown onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

400gm tin Italian tomatoes, whole

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Salt & black pepper


1. In a frypan, gently heat oil and fry the onion and the garlic till translucent and without colour

2. Add tinned tomatoes squishing them with your (clean) fingers.

3. Add oregano and cook for 10 minutes.

4. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

To serve:

Stir polenta well and pour into an oven proof serving dish.

If using mozzarella, place slices on top and place under grill to melt till golden and bubbly.

Serve spoonfuls onto plates topped with tomato sauce, a sprinkle of parmesan and garnish with torn basil leaves.

Variations: Polenta goes very well with roasted vegetables such as mushrooms, zucchini and eggplant.


This dish elevates humble broccoli to a delicious zesty dish.

Serves: 6

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes


Chopping board, sharp knife, large bowl, large shallow baking tray, lemon zester

Oven 180C


2 large heads of broccoli (c. 1 kilo)

1/3 cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic

Salt and Pepper

¼ cup pine nuts

1 lemon

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated (optional)


1.Cut the broccoli into medium size florets

2.In a large bowl toss broccoli, olive oil, garlic and pine nuts

3.Spread evenly on baking tray and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper

4.Roast for 20 minutes till stems are tender

5.Just before serving, sprinkle with cheese (optional), lemon zest and lemon juice.

The cooked broccoli is great tossed through penne pasta.


Broccolini or cauliflower can also be cooked this way.


A simple recipe, perfect for coffee or to serve with dessert.

Serves: makes about 36 thin biscotti

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Equipment: large bowl, 2 baking trays, baking paper, grater, electric mixer, sharp serrated knife.

Oven at 170C.


1 cup caster sugar

2 eggs

2 cups plain flour, sifted

1 teaspoon baking powder

120 grams pistachios, peeled and raw

4 slices candied orange slices (make your own* or buy them from a good deli)

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

¼ cup extra flour for kneading on bench


1. Line baking tray with baking paper.

2. Place sugar, eggs, and grated lemon rind in a large bowl.

3. Beat with electric mixer till pale and thick

4. Fold in sifted flour, baking powder and almonds.

5. Using your hands, lightly knead the dough on a floured surface till smooth.

6. Divide the mixture in half and form 2 long logs about 25 cm long and 5 cm wide.

7. Place on prepared baking tray and bake for 20 -25 minutes till golden.

8. Remove from the oven and cool. Reduce oven temperature to 140C.

9. Using a sharp serrated knife gently cut on a slight angle into ½ cm thin slices.

10. Place slices flat on paper lined trays and bake for 15- 20 minutes turning once.

11. Remove from oven and allow biscuits to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Serving suggestions:

Traditionally served with coffee, wine (especially Vin Santo) or liqueur.

An easy dessert is a dollop of mascarpone with a little glass of Vin Santo and a few biscotti.

Can also add some crunch to creamy desserts and poached fruit.

Candied orange slices


1 orange

1 ½ cups water

½ cup white sugar


1. Slice the orange with a sharp knife into ½ cm thick rounds.

2. Boil sugar and water in a thick based pot or pan big enough to hold the orange slices without crowding. You may need more sugar syrup if your pan is big. The slices need to be covered in syrup to cook.

3. Add the orange slices and boil for around 5 minutes, turning a few times

4. Turn the heat down to a low simmer and cook a further 30 minutes

5. Stir occasionally and make sure the oranges aren’t burning or catching

6. Take the pan off the heat and set aside to cool for 10 minutes

7. Remove orange slices from the syrup and dry on baking paper or a cake rack

8. For harder glazed fruit, dry on a cake rack on the very lowest heat in the oven till dry and then allow to cool completely before storing in an air tight container.

Fruit glazed or candied this way lasts indefinitely, at least 2 months.

You can also use the slices to decorate cakes and desserts.

Any leftover syrup can be used to drizzle over your cakes or serve with a dessert.