Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Courgette Souffle

Another entry from Delia's Frugal Food that at first I skipped straight over, then went back to, thinking 'Aaactually, courgettes ARE really cheap, and it has been years since I made a souffle...' With my lack of recent experience in mind, I followed the instructions almost to the letter, including barely half a courgette between four people. So I'm slightly upping the quantity in the recipe below. I also messed around with the herbs since I didn't have any parsley or chives - I think almost anything works, even a very mild herb like marjoram, as the flavours are well-preserved and aromatic in the beautiful fluffy matrix. I served this with just a salad of pears, toasted walnuts (used the oven as it was already on, energy-saving score!) and avocado, dressed with honey and balsamic vinegar. If you were very hungry you could also have a bit of crusty bread or mashed potatoes. Oh and we ate all of this between two of us. I disagree with Delia that anyone would be excited to receive a single egg and some air for lunch.


  • 1 medium courgette
  • 90g butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 200ml milk
  • 40g cheddar
  • 25g Parmesan
  • a handful of herbs; I used thyme and marjoram
  • 4 eggs

Preheat the oven to 200 C and butter five 0.28L ramekins (or equivalent volume souffle dish). Wash, top, tail and slice the courgette lengthwise. Scoop out all the fluffy seeds and chuck, eat or feed to the worms. Very finely slice or mandolin the remaining flesh, and fry it in half the butter until soft and just beginning to colour, then turn off the heat, season and set aside to cool a little. Meanwhile, melt the rest of the butter in a pyrex jug or bowl in the microwave, combine well with the flour and then stir in the milk. Microwave for another minute and stir thoroughly, then grate in the two cheeses and stir in the herbs. Separate the eggs; when the white sauce is cool enough (<57C), stir in the yolks. Beat the whites until they stand up in stiff peaks, then pour over the cheesy white sauce and fold together; don't overmix it, some inhomogeneity is fine.

Dollop half of the mixture into the bottoms of the ramekins or souffle dish, top with fried courgettes, and cover with the remaining mixture. Stand in a roasting tin and pour in boiling water until it comes a third the way up the side of the ramekins or dish. Pop in the oven and reduce the heat to 170C; bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and risen.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Paellish and Cabbage & Apple Salad

Tonight I follow some extremely vague instructions from Nigel Slater's 'Tender' to make a 'sort-of paellish thing' which works really well, and has maybe 90% of the flavour with none of the hassle. I go for some fusion cuisine and serve with a traditional English cabbage & apple salad as both ingredients are super-cheap and super-tasty at the moment. A dressing of cider vinegar, dijon mustard and olive oil elevates the simple flavours to crisp perfection.


  • a white (brown) onion
  • a couple of chorizo sausages
  • a couple of sticks of celery or stalks of fennel
  • 1 tsp vegetable stock powder
  • a ladleful of rice (I accidentally used Thai white and it was fine)
  • twice as much water as rice
  • a handful of parsley

Peel and finely chop the onion and fry in a little olive oil for a couple of minutes. Cut the chorizo into fat coins and add to the onion; fry for another minute or so. Dice the celery or fennel and add, along with the stock powder and rice. If you like, you could deglaze with a little white wine at this stage but I didn't bother. Add the boiling water; cover and simmer for 10 minutes or so, until the rice is just done. Wash, finely chop and stir through the parsely; taste, season and serve.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Oyster Mushrooms and Chinese Greens in Peanut Sauce

There were big boxes of Chinese greens at the grocers' market at the weekend, and because it's spring, some still had beautiful little yellow flowers on them. I couldn't resist, and bought a tray of oyster mushrooms to go with, since I'd enjoyed the ones I ate at Greenhouse so much. Most stir-fry recipes just tell you to throw them in with everything else, but I can't argue against this strongly enough. The best way to cook them is to lay them all out in a large flat pan with a drizzle of oil, and fry until golden, then flip and repeat - it only takes a couple of minutes and you simply have to be strong and leave them alone. The rest of the veg can be stir-fried normally and then you can put it all together at the end. The result has far better flavour than stir-frying everything together.

  • a large bunch of Chinese greens (we used flowering choy sum)
  • a carrot
  • 3 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 tsp Chinese five-spice
  • knife-point of cayenne or chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 5 tbsp boiling water
  • 300g oyster mushrooms

Cut the choy sum bunches widthways in half to separate the thick stalks from the thin stalks with leaves. Slice the thick stalks diagonally into bite-sized pieces, and roughly chop the leafy ends. Reserve any flowers. Peel and mandolin or julienne the carrot. Combine the peanut butter, five-spice, cayenne, sugar, soy sauce, mirin and lemon juice in a small bowl.

Heat a wok and a large flat frying pan, each with a little vegetable oil, until shimmering. Place the oyster mushrooms in the frying pan in a single layer, and fry until golden - about two minutes - then turn and caramelise on the other side. Meanwhile, stir-fry the carrot in the wok for a minute, then add the choy sum stalks and crush in the garlic and fry for a further two minutes. Add the leaves of the choy sum and the bowl of sauce and stir until the leaves have wilted. Top up with boiling water if the sauce looks dry. Serve over rice, with the oyster mushrooms and flowers placed on top, and the sauce drizzled over.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Almond-Crusted Salmon

Once again left alone for the weekend! This time I'm a sailing-widow. Makes me less worried about leaving him for the Murchison when I go up for telescope-commissioning for a week and a half! Unfortunately we have a house inspection on Monday so the house needs to be spotless before then. So after the man returns from sailing we need to do a huge amount of cleaning - no way am I doing it all myself!

So we'd need something fast, but also filling after a day sailing and cleaning... when I popped to the supermarket to get new milk, I dropped into the fishmonger and picked up some very nice salmon fillets, oddly the cheapest fish in there despite its Tasmanian origins. I really wanted to cook them with almonds, but not just the usual flaked almonds one pairs with trout. A quick google revealed this recipe, which I was a little skeptical about, but with a small modification, worked perfectly. The salmon was moist and tender, the almonds crispy and nutty, and the meal was complete with a dollop of smooth, creme fraiche-enriched mashed potato, and a generous bunch of wilted spinach sprinkled with sea salt and lemon juice. Fantastic!


  • a couple of plump salmon fillets
  • a couple of handfuls of whole almonds
  • 2-3 tbsp parsley leaves
  • one egg (well, half an egg is enough, but where will you get half an egg??)
  • plain flour

Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Blitz the almonds and parsley together in a blender, pulsing until the almonds are a coarse kibble, but not a powder. Beat the egg with a fork on a plate. Dredge the seasoned fillets in flour, shaking off any excess. Dip the skinless side into the egg and then into the topping, pressing half of it into each fillet. Fry, topping-side down in a medium-heat plan in a glug of olive oil. (Amazingly, the topping will stick on to the salmon!) After a couple of minutes, flip to the skin-side and fry for a few more minutes, until the salmon is tender and the skin is crispy. Serve with potatoes, greens, and lemon wedges.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Hot and Sour Chicken Broth

We spent most of the day playing board games with the Western Australian Boardgames Association, who have an ENORMOUS collection of games and loads of friendly people to play with. Learned three new games: a sailing/trading/collecting game a bit like Bohnanza, a game about trading and selling tea (my favourite! But maybe because I won :) and a game about defeating Cthulu using schoolgirl powers, like a British Buffy.

The upshot for dinner was that we didn't go shopping, and I had to use all my powers of improvisation on the remaining sad vegetables in the fridge to create a decent meal. Fortunately I had also used my power of foresight and left a chicken breast defrosting in the fridge, knowing I'd need some protein after morning Zumba.

Overall this worked pretty well, even the courgette (carefully not overcooked). Not a patch on fresh Chinese greens of course. The heart of cauliflower just needed using up; you could easily sub this for something more tasty, like some broccoli or sugar-snap peas.


  • a thumb of ginger
  • a stick of lemongrass
  • a handful of coriander stalks
  • a couple of bay leaves
  • 1 tsp vegetable stock powder
  • a chilli (optional)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • a large carrot
  • a heart of cauliflower
  • a large courgette
  • a chicken breast
  • 2 x 75g bundles of dried egg noodles
Cut the ginger in half and slice perpendicular grooves into the flesh, to increase the surface area without breaking the ginger up into small pieces. Simmer with the lemongrass, coriander stalks, bay leaves, stock powder and chilli if using, in around 300ml water, for 20 minutes or until the stock is fragrant.

Meanwhile, peel and dice the carrot and cauliflower. Halve the courgette lengthwise and scoop out the soft seedy interior. Chuck, eat, or feed to the worms. Dice the remaining firm shell of courgette into the same size cubes.

Drain and reserve the stock, discarding the ginger etc. Squeeze in the lemon juice. Fry the carrot in a little vegetable oil, leaving it to sear just a tad. Add the stock and simmer for a couple of minutes. Finely shred or slice the chicken and add with the courgette, cauliflower and noodles. Bring back up to the boil and simmer for a minute or so, until the noodles are soft, the chicken is cooked through and the courgette is barely done. Top up with hot water if  the noodles have absorbed too much. Serve and drizzle over with very dark soy sauce.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Massive Pasta Bake

My meatballs are great in a huge pasta bake. Nothing fancy, just a litre of tomato sauce, maybe 15 meatballs, and a 500g pack of penne cooked to al dente, all tossed together and baked in the oven. One day I will manage not to singe it!

Monday, 3 September 2012

Mushroom, Spinach and Feta Pizza

New toppings for a classic pizza! I used a slightly spicier tomato sauce by adding a pinch of chilli pepper flakes to our usual recipe at the start, so it became imbued with a lovely warmth. The sauce went straight on the base, then sliced and sauteed field mushrooms and finally cubed goat feta - the sharpest we can find in Australia. After 15 minutes, we threw on a handful of spinach for the final five minutes' baking in order to gently wilt it and bring out the earthy flavour. A quick season and it was ready for devouring.
Maybe a little bit more than a handful of spinach...

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Cauliflower and Cashew Salad (with Pork Chop)

I can't remember where I picked up this recipe but it's one of my favourite ways of eating cauliflower. By being extremely careful not to overcook it, you can preserve its earthy, mealy flavour and freshen it with a spike of lemon juice and mustard. I love to pair it with soaked raisins for sweetness, toasted cashews for a sort of smokiness, and serve it with a freshly-grilled pork chop, only just done and dripping with hot juices. A dollop of mash is purely optional (as is the chop, for vegetarians).


  • Half a head of a large or a whole small cauliflower
  • A generous handful of raisins
  • A generous handful of cashews
  • juice of a lemon
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • a small bunch of basil

Break the cauliflower into small florets and pop them in a steamer; steam for four minutes, then test every minute until just barely done, and remove from the heat immediately. They will continue to cook in their own heat. Soak the raisins in a little hot water. Toast the cashews over a low heat until brittle and crunchy. Combine the remaining ingredients and shake to form a dressing. Wash and tear the basil into a salad bowl. Drain the raisins and combine with everything else in the bowl; toss gently and serve while still warm.


Following my usual recipe, this time with pure beef mince, a little rosemary and parsley, and a fresh loaf of white bread for extra-special breadcrumbs, I make three trays of meatballs, enough for a huge pasta dish for the week and a large bag for the freezer. Nothing like the smell of fresh bread and hot meatballs on a Sunday morning :)

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Stir-fried Snapper with Sesame and Ginger

The other half is away orienteering (or 'rogaining' as they call it here) this weekend. For me a supper for one is a chance to experiment and buy an expensive ingredient :) I pick up a gorgeous snapper fillet from the fishmonget, bouncy to the touch with just the tiniest scent of the ocean. As this is a stir-fry it's important to prepare everything before you start, even if it feels slow. Everything happens at once at the end! For once, quantities are for one.


  • four tbsp sesame seeds
  • a stalk and leaves of a large broccoli, or the florets if you prefer
  • a good-sized snapper fillet
  • a 75g bundle of udon
  • an inch-long piece of ginger
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2-3 tbsp light soy sauce

Start by dry-frying the sesame seeds over a moderate heat, turning occasionally until they are golden brown and smelling gorgeous. Remove from the heat. Wash the broccoli, remove and reserve the leaves, and peel the hard skin from the stalk. Julienne the soft inside into strips. Peel and grate or finely dice the ginger. Rest the udon in some hot water to separate the noodles, or if dried, cook according to the packet instructions.

Cut the snapper fillet into bite-size pieces, and dredge in flour, shaking off the excess. Heat some vegetable oil in a shallow pan and fry the pieces of snapper for a minute or two each side, until golden brown. Meanwhile, stir-fry the broccoli with the ginger for a minute or so, until the leaves are beginning to wilt. Add the udon and the rest of the ingredients and bubble for a further minute. Stir through half of the sesame seeds, then serve, topped with the snapper and the remaining seeds, with more soy sauce to drizzle and the other half lemon to squeeze over.