Coriander/Cilantro Pesto

DSC_9914I think that it may have been a bumper coriander harvest back at home in Sydney that prompted playing with this recipe. It is a riff off the recipe, and is a zingy, fresh version of traditional pesto. We are harvesting the greens from our tiny, very-late-fall garden now, trying to make sure we do not lose the lovely leaves to the creeping cold. Once again, Asher’s coriander thrived and there was just enough to make a batch of this. We tossed it through pasta, kale, zucchini and broccoli for a quick dinner this week, topped with a touch more parmesan. Hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

2 cups fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/3 cup (approx 55g) toasted cashew nuts
1/3 cup (approx 35g) finely grated parmesan
1/4 cup (60ml) light olive or peanut oil, plus extra as needed for desired consistency
zest and juice of a small lemon
salt to taste

1. Add the coriander, garlic, nuts and parmesan to the bowl of the food processor, blend till just combined, still a little chunky is good.
2. Add in the lemon, turn on the machine and gradually add the oil till the you reach a glossy, spoonable consistency.
3. Taste and adjust seasoning.
4. Store in a glass jar, top with oil to seal the pesto off from the air.
5. Enjoy through salad and pasta, or perhaps spread over a pizza base!


Black Rice Salad


Our biblestudy group gathered last Monday to celebrate the Passover. A meal rich with symbolism for Jews and Christians alike, it was a lovely time of slowing down and hallowing a moment, a memory. The lamb slain to spare the son, bitter herbs and bread eaten in a hurry because freedom was in the air. The Passover is a story of desperation and death, liberation and life.

As ours was a merging of Jewish and Christian stories and traditions, we didn’t follow either the Exodus menu or modern Jewish dictates strictly. Our host asked for a non-green salad and we had black rice in the cupboard and so this salad was born. Feel free to vary ingredients to suit your tastes – I was quite pleased with the overall effect though!

225g black rice
1 1/2 large kumera
1 large egg plant
a little olive oil and some salt
1/2 bunch of watercress
1 big handful of baby spinach leaves
1 big handful of mixed lettuce leaves
2 spring onions
1 bunch of broccolini
1 bunch of asparagus
1 handful of parsley

1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2-1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic

1. Cook the black rice as per the instructions on the packet or using a rice cooker (I used the ‘brown rice’ setting which worked quite well).
2. Chop the kumera into rough 2-3cm cubes, toss in olive oil and lay out on a baking-paper-lined-tray, bake at  200oC for 25-35 mins or till golden brown. Allow to cool.
3. Slice the eggplant and layout on another baking-paper-lined-tray, sprinkle with salt and allow to sit for 15-20mins (allowing the water to begin being drawn out). Bake at 200oC for 20-30 minutes, or till soft with golden edges. Allow to cool.
4. Snap the ends off the asparagus (holding the base, ‘snap’ it off, this means that the tough bottom part of the stem will be removed, the rest of the stem is more tender, and nicer to eat) and chop off the base of the broccolini and slice each ‘branch’ into three portions. Steam both till tender. Refrigerate to cool the vegetables quickly.
5. Chop the watercress and toss with the spinach and lettuce.
6. Finely chop the spring onion (or shallots) and parsley.
7. Assemble the salad; layer the tossed leaves with cooled rice, potato and eggplant, asparagus and broccolini. Top with shallots and parsley.
8. Make the dressing by mixing all ingredients together; altering the seasoning to taste. Dress just before serving.

Shake-up (mexican?) salad


Flicking through a Womankind magazine dad bought as a treat for mum and I, one of the authors shared about a mexican salad with grilled corn and radishes she’d started making. It sounded good. Inspired, I decided to come up with a variation on the green salad that graced the table at my growing-up house most nights. Asher took the photo, isn’t it beautiful? The white and pink of the radishes and feta cheese find their colour-wheel balance in the deep green of the baby spinach. As much as I realise that when you take the trouble to upload a recipe it should be complete I find it hard to keep really detailed notes, salad recipes particularly seem to evolve as I chop and add and mix. I hope there is enough information to tempt you to try something similar and that it turns out just as beautifully for you.

A box of baby spinach
2 red capsicum
1 green capsicum
2 cucumbers
1 punnet of grape tomatoes
2 cobs of corn
1 pkt of feta cheese
1/2 bunch radish
2-3 spring onions (or shallots)

1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

1. Chop the capsicum into a rough dice (squares 1.5-2cm), halve the grape tomatoes, slice the cucumber into quarters lengthways, then across-ways into small pieces. Halve and slice the radishes. Slice the spring onion finely and the feta into small squares.
2. Grill the corn cobs on the bbq or on a char grill plate. The quick and sneaky way that I discovered works quite well is the bench top contact grill/sandwich press! Slice kernels off carefully, trying to keep some pieces honey-combed together.
3. Toss the salad ingredients well.
4. Make up the dressing, feel free to add seasonings slowly and adjust to taste.

Japanese inspired Salad (with sprinkle onigiri on the side!)




Trying to include more protein into a diet that also features carbohydrates and lots of vegetables in a creative way was the challenge for this evening. Conscious of both environmental and health concerns, I try to balance our need for protein-rich food with health concerns regarding the consumption of too much meat. Add to this issue the price of meat – both the monetary cost (which affects us), the environmental cost (which affects the larger world: it takes far more energy to raise animals that it does grain crops), and the concerns about food equity and distribution (which affects others: poorer people tending not to be able to access enough food, while richer ones have energy dense animal food at their finger tips) and shopping and planning for food can become somewhat overwhelming! This dinner has a little of everything, and, to top it all off, was very tasty!

Salad ~
lettuce leaves (ideally small iceberg or something that ‘cups’)
English/baby spinach leaves (finely sliced)
red capsicum (chopped into a smallish dice)
Lebanese cucumber (chopped in half lengthways and then into little semi-circles)
fresh beetroot (grated)
broccoli or brocolini (blanched and refreshed very briefly)
coriander (roughly chopped)
shallots or green onions (finely chopped)
canned pink salmon (mashed with a fork)

Dressing ~
2-3 tbsp soy sauce (30-45ml)
2-3 tbsp rice wine vinegar (30-45ml)
1 tbsp light flavoured oil (e.g. peanut, sunflower) (15ml)
1 tsp sugar
1-2 tbsp finely chopped shallots or green onions

Onigiri ~
equal parts medium grain Japanese rice and water
your favourite rice sprinkle (found in Asian groceries)
a tiny bit of salt

1. Layer the vegetables inside the lettuce leaves, finishing off with salmon, onion and coriander – try to be conscious of making the salad look attractive as you arrange this!
2. Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a small jar, shake to combine and check for taste, adjust as desired. Pour over the lettuce salad cups.
3. Cook the rice as per the instructions for the rice cooker, when its done allow to cool slightly before beginning to make the onigiri. Add the sprinkle to the rice and fluff the rice. Wet your hands just a little, salt them lightly and then shape the rice using the palm of your hands and your fingers to create the triangle shape.
4. Enjoy this fresh and delicious dish!


Bento Boxes


A Japanese pantry


Starting the vegetable and cheese prep!



Making onigiri




Asher’s Bento (with extra rice and flavoured with sprinkle)


Ange’s Bento




With a friend who is half-Japanese to guide us, Asher and I spent a happy afternoon exploring the world of bento boxes in the holidays. Bento boxes are probably one of the best examples of playing with your food I’ve ever come across and they seem to delight people of all ages! Bento boxes are Japanese inspired lunch boxes filled with vegetables, eggs, a little cheese and ham along with sea weed and rice dishes. More elaborate ones include cooked dishes and oven are carefully arranged and constructed to mimic animals and characters or cute shapes and landscapes. With help from the expert we learned to make onigiri filled with salmon (or shaped creatively), experimented with rolling ingredients in nori and used cutters to make decorative salads. The experience was so fun (and tasty) that we decided to invest in a rice maker for ourselves which arrived a few weeks ago and has been used several times since! Stay tuned for more creative rice adventures!


Layered Mexican Salad with Chicken and Wraps




Friday night movie and dinner with Asher, Mum and Dad. Mexican inspired fare and Frozen to entertain us. Good fun and company all around. One of my students made a Mexican salad a few weeks ago and I really enjoyed it. I thought I would have a go at making a creamy dressing with a lower fat content than sour cream (despite the cries of the sour-cream lover in my family!). After a little Google research I ad-libbed a bit and in the end, everyone was happy – and we were all glad of it the next day for lunch too!

Chicken –
Chicken thighs
warm and spicy flavouring (your choice of paprika, turmeric, garlic powder, chili powder and salt …)
Oil for frying

Salad –
1 x 400g can of beans of choice
1 x 400g can of corn kernels
carrots (we grated them and I would recommend this!)
low-fat cream cheese and greek yoghurt in a 2:1 ratio
corn chips

1. Slice the chicken and allow to marinade in chosen spices (these are really only a guide but I think they were the ones I used – all were happily received!)
2. Make the salad by preparing the vegetables and layering them with alternating colours attractively front the base of the bowl up. Again, those listed are a guide but they did work well.
3. Combine the yoghurt and cream cheese and spread over the top of the salad. Top with crushed chips. Refrigerate till serving time (2-3 hours allows the dressing to soak down into the salad a little, yum!).
4. Pan fry the chicken pieces and serve in wraps with salsa!

Chicken Caesar Salad


This is the Chicken Caesar Salad that we make at home … it was conceived by Fast Ed and was demonstrated by him on Better Homes & Gardens 27.11.05, although since using it to teach my Year 9 students about hygienic preparation of both raw chicken and salad ingredients for several years, the method has been slightly adapted! I particularly adapted it this time as I needed to use up some of my not-so-successful sourdough (see a few posts back!). At home we sometimes made it with rye bread and that was also tasty. Turns out it made quite delicious croutons (as did the almost-failed-pumpkin-scones, but they were used in another salad!). Hope you enjoy it as much as the Year 9s and I do!

1 chicken breast
1-2 small cos lettuce (1/2 a large one)
1/2 baguette bread stick (however I used the sourdough I made a little while ago toasted as croutons!)
vegetable oil (eg. olive or grapeseed)
veggie salt
Chili, salt and garlic spice mix
4 rashers bacon
Parmesan cheese to sprinkle

Dressing Ingredients:
4 eggs
2 tsp Dijon mustard
10 capers
4 anchovies
4 Tbs olive oils
2 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper

1. Slice chicken breast into strips approximately 1.5cm by 3cm.
2. Heat a little oil in a fry pan, pan fry the chicken pieces slowly till golden and cooked though.
3. Drain on plate covered with kitchen towel, cover with a plate till ready to serve.
4. Soft boil the eggs, see instructions below.
5. Chop the cos lettuce leaves roughly, place in a large serving bowl.
6. Defrost the sourdough after removing from its hiding place in the freezer. Paint with a little oil and sprinkle with spices and salt. Bake in a moderate oven till golden and crispy.
7. Slice up the bacon 5mm thick, and then dice.
8. Fry the bacon in a fry pan with a little oil till browned and crispy (if using bread that is less deep and meaningful than very heavy sourdough, this can be fried off in the fry pan before the bacon instead of being oven toasted).
9. Drain the bacon (and bread) on greaseproof paper.
10. Make the dressing: mash the eggs using a fork in a medium bowl, add other dressing ingredients to the eggs, combine.
11. Add the baguette slices/croutons, chicken and ham to the lettuce. Add the salad dressing and toss to combine all ingredients.
12. Shave cheese and sprinkle over the top of the salad.

How to soft boil an egg –
1. Fill the saucepan with enough cold water to cover the eggs
2. Fill a bowl with cold, iced water and set aside
3. Bring it to boil over high heat. When boiling, add the eggs gently.
4. Boil for 4:30-5 mins (start timing the cooking once the water starts to boil)
5. Remove eggs gently from saucepan and gently place in chilled water
*Variation: boil for 8-9 mins for hard boiled eggs.