Lamb Rump with Almond, Sour Currant and Cauliflower Rice

Serves: 4

After my birthday in June this year, we both agreed that after months and months of fine food and wine – at home and out – the time had come to reverse course.

There were a few strategies that worked.

One of them – calorie counting – was great. It helped eliminate snacking, put an end to my morning cappuccinos and made me make informed (and smarter) decisions about how much olive oil I should be drizzling on salads

(I.E. none at all.)

Another was the world of 300 calorie meals where I learnt of zoodles (zucchini noodles), squash pasta (substituting pasta for pumpkin), cauliflower pizza bases (amazing) and cooking with plenty of prawn and turkey.

Cauliflower rice is something I have previously written about as a genius alternative to rice and during our few months of lean cooking, I really dialled up Cauliflower rice and what we did with it. (After it is cooked, try toasting it in a wok: amazing.)

This dish cooked by Nat last night is excellent on quite a few levels.

Firstly, it is just plain delicious. It’s really tasty, it’s light, it’s aromatic.

Secondly, it’s healthy.

Thanks to the wonderful cauliflower rice.

I’ve learnt a long time ago that healthy eating didn’t mean compromising on flavour. More recently, I learnt that healthy eating didn’t mean smaller portions and being hungry.

Save your carbs and calories for the weekend and give this cracker a go.

Ingredients

1 tbsp garam masala
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 lamb rumps (about 200gm): we used lamb backstrap
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
Plain yoghurt and vinegar to serve

Cauliflower Rice

600gm cauliflower, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 eschallot, finely chopped
1cm piece ginger, finely grated
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 sprig fresh curry leaves
1 tsp ground turmeric
3 tsp nigella (cumin) seeds
1/3 cup currants
1/2 cup roasted almonds
1 cup coriander, coarsely chopped

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200c. Combine the garam masala, garlic and half the oil in a large bowl, season to taste, add lamb and massage to coat well. Heat the remaining oil up a large frying pan over a high heat, add the lamb and fry until well browned all over. Transfer the lamb to a baking tray and roast for around 10 – 12 minutes for medium-rare. Cover loosely with foil, rest for 10 minutes and then slice.
  2. For the cauliflower rice, bring vinegar to the boil, add the currants and remove from the heat.
  3. Process the cauliflower in a food processor until finely chopped. Heat oil in a large frying pan over a high heat, add the eschallot, ginger, garlic and curry leaves and sauté for 2 – 3 minutes until tender. Add the turmeric and nigella seeds, stir until fragrant and then add the cauliflower and stir until tender: 2 – 3 minutes.
  4. Strain the currants, add to the pan along with the roasted almonds and coriander and season to taste.
  5. Top cauliflower rice with lamb, scatter with coriander and serve with yoghurt.

Casarecce with Pork Sausage, Cavolo Nero and Chilli

Serves: 4 – 6

It has been a busy couple of months for us.

Moving house, overseas, work, kids, weddings, kids and more kids.

We’ve also been super calorie focused, with no meal exceeding 300 calories. No kidding!

But now we’re done.

And with a new courtyard, a new kitchen and Spring finally feeling like Spring, we’re back into cooking wonderful weekend lunches.

Like this one, which is as good as you would get in a restaurant.

It is surprisingly light, with the garlic, chilli and fennel creating a really sophisticated base. The casarecce is a great pasta (found at Harris Farm) and the cavolo nero (kale) fills the whole thing out in a really clever way.

This is definitely a pasta you should try and one that we would cook again.

9 out of 10.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
6 thick pork and fennel sausages, skins removed, broken into bite-sized pieces
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
4 cups (firmly packed) roughly torn cavolo nero (1 bunch)
500gm dried casarecce (or penne or rigatoni)
50gm finely grated Parmesan plus extra to serve
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley

Method

  1. Heat olive oil in a large casserole over a high heat, add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally until well browned. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  2. Add the garlic, rosemary and spices to the pan, season to taste and stir for a minute or two until fragrant. Deglaze with the wine and reduce until almost evaporated, then return the sausage to the pan together with the stock and cavolo nero. Cover with a lid and cook until the the cavolo nero is just wilted.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente. Toss with with the sausage sauce, Parmesan and parsley, season to taste and serve, topped with extra Parmesan.
  4. And wine.

Mietta’s Rigatoni with Cauliflower

Serves: 6

Mietta (O’Donnell) was a bit ahead of my time.

She was one of those 80s and 90s doyens that drove food and fine dining in Australia out of the dowdy 70s and much closer to the amazing foodie place we have now; first by opening an Italian restaurant of the kind Australia had never seen: then, by starting Australia’s first serious review of restaurants.

Her contribution to Australian food cannot be overstated, certainly by everything I have read.

Sadly, Mietta was killed in a car accident in 2001.

Last Mother’s Day, I purchased Mietta’s book for Nat and gave her the back story.

We have been meaning to cook something from it since then and geez, I wish we had done so earlier.

I’ve said that unique, restaurant-quality pastas really excite me.

This is one of them.

The quality of food – at home and out – is remarkable in Australia. My mother occasionally talks about how expensive chicken was 30 years back.

It was people like Mietta that laid the foundations for such extraordinary change in the culinary scene in Australia over the last 20 years and this pasta really sums up how the simple things she introduced us to led to the amazing foodie place we live in today.

Ingredients

1 medium onion, sliced and soaked in milk
30ml olive oil
1 medium cauliflower, cut into flowerets
100gm pancetta or bacon, julienned
A little chilli
90ml tomato sauce
500g rigatoni
Parmesan, grated

Tomato sauce

300ml olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
80gm ham, chopped
12gm flour mixed with 5ml oil
800gm canned Italian plum tomatoes, drained
Pinch of sugar
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper

Method

  1. For the tomato sauce: Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and add the chopped onion and ham and brown over a fairly high heat for 5 minutes. Add the flour and mix well; turn down the heat to moderate and add the canned tomatoes.
  2. Season with the salt, pepper and sugar; add the thyme and bay leaf.
  3. Cook for about 45 minutes, stirring from time to time.
  4. For the rigatoni: fry the onions in oil and add the cauliflower flowerets.
  5. Put the lid on the pan so that the cauliflower can cook through the add the pancetta or bacon and then a little chilli. When the cauliflower is just cooked, add the tomato sauce.
  6. Boil the rigatoni until cooked and strain. Toss the cauliflower mixture through the pasta and serve, sprinkled with plenty of grated Parmesan.

Jamie Oliver’s Sesame Butterflied Chicken

Serves: 2

This is a magic dish and sans the chicken, it would make an amazing, healthy salad.

The magic is the sauce: yoghurt, peanut butter, ginger and lime juice. Plus more lime and soy for the slaw.

We were really surprised at just how tasty this dish was and I commend it to your run sheet for next week’s dinners.

Ingredients

100gm fine rice noodles
2 skinless chicken breasts
Vegetable oil
4 spring onions, finely sliced
1/2 Chinese cabbage, finely shredded
200gm sugar snap peas, finely sliced
1 red chilli, finely sliced
2 limes
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp yoghurt
2 cm piece of ginger, finely grated
2 tsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted

Method

  1. In a bowl, cover the noodles with boiling water until they are rehydrated. Drain and set aside, ensuring they do not stick.
  2. Slice into the chicken breasts and open them out like a book. Rub with 1 tsp of vegetable oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Heat a pan over a medium-heat and cook the chicken. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Combine the spring onions, Chinese cabbage, sugar snap peas and chilli in a bowl. Dress with the juice of 1 lime and the soy sauce.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the peanut butter with the yoghurt, grated ginger and the juice of the remaining lime. Season.
  5. Slice the chicken and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
  6. Divide the noodles between bowls, add the slaw, the sliced chicken and the peanut sauce.

Avocado Chicken Salad

Serves: 4

There was debate about whether this recipe should be typed up.

Not because it isn’t great or super healthy, though because it is just a bit too simple. It’s almost not a recipe.

(Plus Natalie had never had bacon and coriander and wasn’t sure if they went together, not withstanding that they obviously do because the whole salad tastes amazing.)

Anyway, it was the boys – Oliver and Tom – that pushed me to type this up. They loved the salad and wanted it somewhere so they could make it for their kids one day.

Make it fun like we did and put the ingredients in separate bowls: let people make their own unique salad, toss with the lime juice and olive oil and enjoy.

How good is healthy!

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts, grilled and shredded
2 ripe avocados, pitted and diced
1/2 cup corn, grilled and hulled
1/4 cup red onion, minced
4 rasher of bacon, chopped and fried
2 tbsp coriander leaves
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. In a large bowl, add the shredded chicken, avocado, onion, corn, bacon and coriander.
  2. Drizzle with the lime juice, olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss gently to combine.

(Tomato, cucumber and black beans would also compliment this salad.)

Delia Smith’s Asparagus with Quick Hollandaise

Serves: 4

Nat’s parents come over every few weeks for a meal (and several bottles of wine) and it is something I always look forward to.

I am always told by Nat’s mother – Deb – to keep it simple.

Which this easy little starter I served at our most recent meal, certainly is.

It is really elegant, super classic and foolproof if you pressed for time.

Which means more time for drinking champagne and catching up.

Ingredients

2 bunches asparagus, woody ends trimmed
1 bunch rocket

Hollandaise Sauce

1/4 cup creme fraiche
1 tsp cornflour
2 egg yolks
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp lemon juice
40gm unsalted butter, softened

Method

  1. For the Hollandaise Sauce, place the creme fraiche, cornflour, egg yolks, white wine vinegar and lemon juice in a saucepan over a low heat. Cook, whisking gently for 1 – 2 minutes until thickened and combined.
  2. Remove from the heat and set aside. Whisk in the butter until combined, then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Steam the asparagus for 2 – 3 minutes until tender.
  4. Divide the asparagus and rocket among serving plates, then drizzle with Hollandaise Sauce and serve.

Peking Noodles

Serves: 4

Ding Tai Fung is a Taiwanese noodle and dumpling chain.

The food is outstanding and they won a Michelin Star in Hong Kong for one of their outlets. The food is clean, cooked with consistent precision and always two steps ahead of what you’d expect from what is after all, a chain restaurant.

They do this wonderful dish of freshly made egg noodles and minced pork. It is saucy with a hint of spice and I order it every time.

Well, these Peking Noodles reminded me of that dish.

It is super clean. Hot. Saucy. Completely moorish.

As with all these sorts of dishes, the hotter you can get the wok, the better. Also, I have varied the sauces and oil in the ingredients below; I dialled it up, though once the vegetables are cooked and as you are adding the noodles, have a taste and adjust.

Enjoy.

Ingredients

200gm egg noodles
1 – 2 tsp sesame oil
500gm pork mince
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp finely grated ginger
1 bunch baby choy sum, finely shredded (or other leafy Chinese green)
4 green onions, sliced diagonally
1 – 2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 – 2 tbsp Sambal Oelek
Good handful of coriander leaves to serve

Method

  1. Cook the noodles in a saucepan of boiling water for 1 – 2 minutes or until tender. Drain and refresh.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a wok over a high heat. Add the pork and stir-fry, breaking up the mince for 5 minutes or until mince starts to brown.
  3. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 1 minute or until aromatic.
  4. Add the choy sum, green onion, soy sauce and sambal and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until the choy sum begins to wilt. Taste and adjust accordingly.
  5. Add noodles and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until well combined and heated through. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with coriander leaves.