50 new recipes

I decided not to make resolutions for the new year, and instead decided on a few projects (from small to somewhat ambitious) that I would try and complete in the next twelve months. One of those was making 50 new recipes, with the goal of making different things to my usual recipes – not just 50 cakes, for examples, although a cake has already featured.

I’m up to 9 recipes so far:

1/50: Beef Biryani – adapted from a chicken biryani recipe here. I simply used leftover steak instead of chicken, and it was lovely – I’m a fan of one pot meals.

2/50: Spicy African Chicken Stew – adapted from this recipe. I do wonder how this dish can declare itself to be from an entire continent. Presumably African cuisine varies. It also contains an entire jar of peanut butter, but it does make a rather large quantity – so possibly a bit questionable health-wise, but delicious.

3/50: Carrot Soup with Tahini & Roasted Chickpeas – from a Smitten Kitchen recipe. This was fantastic – a beautifully spiced soup, but the things I loved most about it was the lemony tang of the tahini mixture, stirred into the soup, and the crispy chickpeas. The roasted chickpeas were amazing, I’m going to make them on their own as a snack when we have guests.

4/50: Braised Pork Shoulder in Apple Cider – adapted from this recipe, using carrots instead of parsnips. Braising is my new obsession. Talk about transforming cheap cuts of meat. I don’t particularly like pork, but thought it was really transformed by the cider. The Husband: “best pork I have ever eaten”.

5/50: Pumpkin, Bean & Lentil Stew – from this recipe. This was a lovely spicy stew, and the fig raita, whilst it sounds a bit odd, goes wonderfully with the sweetness of the pumpkin.

6/50: Braised Leg of Lamb – made from this recipe. I neglected to take a photo of it (not a big loss. Braised meat is not terribly attractive). It was fantastic – sweet and fruity and falling off the bone. The Husband: “This is even better than the pork.”

7/50: Fig & Prune Bliss Balls. I looked at a few recipes for these, then hurled things into the food processor until they came together. Starting with a cup of almonds, then when they’re pretty well pulverised, adding a cup of figs, a cup of prunes, and half a cup of pepitas. Form into balls, roll in coconut, put in fridge. Tasty little healthy snacks.

8/50: Honey Cake -from a recipe in The Joy of Cooking (which someone has set out here. Dense and moist, with an intense honey flavour. I’d like to figure out if you could make it sugar free, but I imagine it would make the texture more gingerbread-like.

9/50: Lentil Salad – adapted from this recipe. It claims to be the best lentil salad ever, and it is pretty damn good. I baulked a bit at the mixture of spices, but it is lovely – spicy and slightly sweet, and the lentils and currants go beautifully together.

Carrot & Fennel Salad with Ranch Dressing

This was my first time cooking with fennel, and I had a couple of bad moments while slicing the fennel bulb and experiencing the subsequent strong smell of aniseed. I’m the sort of person who picks the black jelly beans out of the bag (Husband loves black jelly beans, that’s why we’re married). However, I quite enjoyed the flavour of the baked fennel, as the aniseed flavour wasn’t nearly as prominent – I thought it mixed very well with the other flavours in this robust roast vegetable salad. This recipe is adapted from the February 2009 delicious magazine.

ingredients:
2 bunches of baby carrots, or small carrots sliced into fours
2 baby fennel bulbs, or 1 large fennel bulb
1 red onion
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cups rocket leaves
1 bunch mint

for the dressing:
250g light sour cream
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp each of chopped chives, parsley, fennel fronds, dill & basil

Preheat the oven to 200C. Peel the carrots, and if you’re using bigger carrots, slice them into three or four lengths. Slice the fennel bulb thinly, and reserve the leafy fronds for the dressing. Chop the onion into quarters, and leave the peel on. Arrange the vegetables on a tray, sprinkle with salt and olive oil, and bake for 25-30 minutes until everything is tender.

Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by mixing all the ingredients together in the serving bowl. You may need to add a couple of tablespoons of water to have the dressing at a nice runny consistency.

When the vegetables are cooked, leave them to cool a little. Remove the skin from the onion quarters, and slice them up. Place the vegetables in a bowl with the rocket and mint, season with a little salt, lemon juice and olive oil. Serve the salad on a large platter, with a bowl of the ranch dressing to the side.

Bean & Baby Spinach Salad

I adapted this recipe from a Valli Little recipe in the September 2007 edition of delicious magazine. It’s a lovely tangy salad, with a gorgeous dressing. The original has lots of mint in it as the main leafy substance, while I used very little – I think it could have used a bit more, but I would still shy away from the original two cups full.

ingredients:

2-3 handfuls of sugar snap peas
2-3 handfuls of snow peas
A few sprigs or a handful of mint, depending on taste
Baby spinach leaves
Soft feta cheese (usually described here as Danish or Tasmanian style)

and for the dressing:

1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp honey
100 ml olive oil
1 tbs dried mint

To make the dressing, mix together the garic, lemon juice and honey in a bowl, and then whisk in the olive oil and the mint.

Rinse and top & tail the beans, breaking them in half or into thirds, before putting them in your serving bowl. Add the baby spinach, using enough eaves to fill out the bowl, and toss the beans through with your hands. Crush some feta over the top of the salad, and toss again to combine. I didn’t measure the feta I used – you’ll have to judge according to taste.

Pour the dressing over the salad, toss gently, and serve.

(The original recipe used peas as well, and cooked all the beans gently before making the salad. I love the sweet crisp taste of fresh sugar snap peas, so I left them raw.)

Chilled Peanut Noodle Salad

I was entranced by the description and pictures of this gorgeous chilled Szechuan peanut noodle salad at Passionate Eater. I adore peanut flavoured noodly things, and this versatile salad looked like the perfect thing for easily portable weekday lunches. And it’s delicious – a lovely savoury/sweet peanut flavour, the crunchiness of the grated carrot and other raw vegetables contrasting beautifully with the soft rice noodles. A perfect picnic salad, it’s also quite lovely eaten warm.

I had plenty of sauce left over, due to a little misreading of the ingredients in which I accidentally doubled the recipe. Woops! But now I have a little container of sauce so that I can easily whip up another bowlful next weekend, with some different vegetables for variety.

ingredients:

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons of honey or 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 – 1 & 1/4 cup of commercial crunchy peanut butter
about 500g of noodles
(the original suggested dried wheat noodles – I wasn’t sure what they were, so used clear rice noodles, which worked very well)
3 tablespoons of sesame oil
2 cloves of garlic
(the original includes a whole bulb – I am not so brave)
a mixture of chopped raw vegetables, including several spring onions, 4 grated carrots, thinly sliced red capsicum, chopped cucumber, etc.

Put the noodles in a saucepan to boil while you are making the sauce. Whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, honey or sugar and peanut butter in a largish bowl, to allow for plenty of sloshing – I just whisked with a fork until it was nicely combined. It should be fairly thick and creamy. The noodles should be soft now – take them off the stove, and strain.

Put the noodles in a large bowl, and pour over sesame oil and finely chopped garlic – stir until combined. Mix the sauce through (or as much of the sauce as you like), until it’s all well combined. Add your chopped vegetables, and you can be as crazy as you like here – I used fresh corn, grated carrots, and slivers of red capsicum. Other nice additions would be bean sprouts, snow peas, cucumber, slices of boiled egg – endless possibilities, really.

Mix the vegetables through well with a pair of tongs, and serve either warm or cold, perhaps with some of the vegetables scattered on top.

Fruit Salad

Now the weather is becoming rather warm, fruit salad seems the perfect way to end an alfresco lunch or light dinner. Despite the lack of bananas in the shops, there’s lots of other gorgeous fruits which will combine into a delicious salad.

I peeled some oranges and chopped them into small segments. Peeling kiwifruit is a little difficult, I find – I use a potato peeler, and do it over the bin so the excess juice has somewhere to run. (I’m now wondering if you can juice kiwifruit, and what it tastes like.)

Strawberries are easy – hull and chop into nice large chunks. They’re beautiful against the acidic tastes of the oranges and kiwifruit.

I ate this with a beautiful Jalna yoghurt – their biodynamic Bush Honey flavour, which is a delicately scented, thick, honey yoghurt. I was a little confused about the meaning of biodynamic – from their website, I gather that they mean organic principles, and so I wonder why it isn’t marketed as organic yoghurt. I guess it doesn’t meet the criteria? It sounds like it does from their website, though. Puzzling.

Sweet Potato and Couscous Salad

This is a light, warm, lemony salad. I had a slightly different version at a friend’s house, and have since adapted it for taste, and to suit what I’ve had in the fridge. The roast sweet potato goes well with a green crunch – here I’ve used green capsicum, but baby spinach is lovely as well. I’ve always eaten this on its own, or with other salads, but I think it would go beautifully with lamb or chicken.

1 reasonably large sweet potato
2 carrots
1 green capsicum
1 cup couscous
half a lemon
olive oil
ground cumin

Preheat the oven to 200C. Peel the sweet potato, slice it in half lengthwise, and cut it into fairly thin slices. You’re aiming for a crisp outside and soft inside – no tiny slivers, but no huge chunks either. Slice the carrots into short strips.

Layer the sweet potato slices and carrot strips onto an oiled tray – you may need to use two, as you don’t want the vegetables piled on top of each other. Grind some pepper over them, and then cook for about 20 minutes. Turn up the oven to 250C, and bake for another 10 minutes to make them crisp.

While the sweet potato is baking, chop the capsicum into small pieces. Cook one cup of couscous according to the instructions on the pack.

When the vegetables are out of the oven, make the dressing. Lightly squeeze half a lemon into a small bottle, add 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil, a teaspoon of cumin powder, and shake the mixture until well combined. The amounts in the dressing depend very much on personal taste – this is quite lemony, and you may want to increase the cumin and the oil.

In a large bowl, combine the couscous, roasted vegies and capsicum with your hands. Pour the dressing over, and stir in with a fork. Turn the salad into the serving bowl, and enjoy.

Variations: baby spinach, roasted mushrooms, chilli, roasted or grilled chicken, canned artichoke hearts, grilled red capsicum, or grilled eggplant.

Roast Pumpkin and Feta Salad

This is more of an idea than a strict recipe. I like it during the week, as it’s the sort of thing you can start, wander off and do something else, and then return to the kitchen, and put the salad together. It’s a delicious light dinner, although it can easily be made more filling.

half a butternut pumpkin
feta cheese
cashew nuts
avocado
tinned artichoke hearts
mixed leaves or baby spinach

Chop the pumpkin into small triangles, and bake at 180C for 30-40 minutes. Leave the skin on – it’s soft, edible and delicious.

Once the pumpkin is baked, and cooled a little, put together the salad. Put the mixed leaves or spinach in a bowl, and top with the pumpkin, slices of avacado, crumbled feta cheese, sliced artichoke hearts and a scattering of cashew nuts across the top. Dress with a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing.

Other variations – slices of roasted chicken, baked mushrooms, grilled zucchini slices, semi-dried tomatoes – the possibilities are endless.