Warm lamb salad with lentils and salsa verde

Even though I enjoy cooking, sometimes after a busy day at work, it can be too easy or tempting to succumb to picking up takeaway on the way home. Especially as I have so many great restaurants (Indian, Italian, Japanese and many more) within five minutes of my house. Alternately, I fall back on a few tried and tested favourite recipes, which if cooked too often will no longer be favourites. So finding new quick and easy recipes that I can add to my repertoire and save the takeaway for an occasional treat is something I am actively trying to do.

The other day I was looking through a new cooking magazine and I came across a warm beef and salsa verde salad that sparked my interest. It looked like a great spring dinner, but although I liked the look of it and the idea, I didn’t feel like beef so I went with lamb instead. Then because I was cooking with lamb, I thought mint would be a great addition to the salsa verde rather than just the parsley they used. And how about some basil as well given I’m adding tomatoes to the salad, and some lemon to freshen it up? Next thing you know the recipe below was created and the result delivered was just what I was after. A quick (all up around 30 minutes), light and tasty dinner perfect, in my opinion, for a spring night in Perth. Next time I might try cooking the lamb on the bbq instead of the stove.

It’s nice when cooking ‘experiments’ work out. And as I’d never used anchovies or capers in any of my cooking before, this really was an experiment for me. Don’t be scared of the anchovies, they don’t make the dish taste of fish. The leftovers were great for lunch the next day, the flavours had intensified and I thought it was delicious.

Quick lamb salad with salsa verde and lentils click here for the recipe

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My spaghetti bolognaise

After years of making spaghetti bolognaise from a jar, I recently started making my own at home. I make a big batch and freeze the leftovers. It is certainly not a traditional or authentic recipe. Doing what I often do when I want to try a new dish, I looked at different recipes for inspiration and then went of and started cooking and adding things myself, such as mushrooms and Worcestershire sauce. Neither are traditional ingredients, however I love mushrooms in this sauce, and for me the Worcestershire sauce just adds something. I always add it to my home made hamburgers and just added it automatically the first time I made this.

This recipe is something I taste as I go and make adjustments to at the end if needed (salt/pepper, maybe some more vinegar). Depending on the tomatoes you use or the sweetness of the red wine, you may need to add a small amount of sugar at the end to overcome some lingering tartness/bitterness. However I have only needed to do this one and only needed to add a small pinch. While it does have around 3 hour cooking time, most of that is taken up with the sauce slowly simmering away on the stove top, with the most you need to do is stir and taste occasionally. It’s certainly not something you want to make on a busy work night, but it’s a great one for an afternoon of cooking on the weekend. You can chop the vegetables quite small or keep them a bit larger if you prefer a chunkier sauce. It’s really up to you. click here for the recipe

Cauliflower soup

For me blended vegetable soups are not just a winter staple. If I’m rehearsing or performing in a musical, a pot of soup ready to go is a must for me, whatever time of year. It makes a great quick nutritious meal on the go between work and rehearsals/performances when I don’t want anything too heavy for dinner. It also makes a great quick and easy lunch to take to work.

A few years back I was experimenting with different types of vegetable soups and I stumbled across a recipe for cauliflower soup. I looked up a few other recipes, got some ideas and then went and made this one. I was surprised with the result and it’s now one of my favourites. It’s not for everyone. If you don’t like cauliflower then you aren’t going to like this soup. But the basic principles can be used with a lot of other  vegetables for a quick easy meal.

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click here for the recipe

Cake decorating classes – Week 1

Last night I did something new for me and went to my very first cake decorating class with Julia at Cupid’s Delight. I really enjoy going to cooking classes and baking, so thought I’d give cake decorating a try. There are 11 of us in the class, with experience ranging from me with no experience with this kind of cake decorating, others who have tried it at home, a few who have done other classes as well as two chefs. It will be interesting to see how I keep up. Most of the class seem to be hoping to set up a home business in cake decorating, which was interesting. That certainly isn’t my aim. I am happy to do it for fun, and blog about it of course.

No photos yet as the first lesson was all theory (health, food and safety, how to line a tin). I am happy to report that I passed the quiz that followed with flying colours, so I am safe to be released into the kitchen! I had a great time and am looking forward to next week when we do get into the kitchen and also get our kit of tools.

I’ve never done any cake decorating with fondant, so I am really looking forward to learning some new skills. My homework for the week is to soak my fruit for the fruit cake we will be decorating (I’m currently trying to decide what fruit and alcohol to use to make mine different – I’m currently thinking of dates and pineapple for the additional fruit, possibly some coconut as well, but not sure about the alcohol at this stage. The recipe uses brandy). I also have to find a good on-line cake decorating resource to share with the class. If anyone has any recommendations please share them with me.

More recipes to come soon. But for now, it’s off to work I go.

Berry and Almond Pies

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I freely admit I am addicted to buying cookbooks and magazines. I read them like novels. And even though I have hundreds, it doesn’t take much to have me reaching for my money to buy more. With magazines, it’s the cover photo that gets me. Usually if it’s anything to do with baking or desserts, I’m hooked and have to buy it. It doesn’t always follow that I then make the recipe however.

The latest to tempt me was the cover of the November edition of Australian Good Food with Berry & Almond Picnic Pies. I had to have them. Above is a photo of my first attempt at the recipe. I’m pretty happy with the result and they taste quite nice too. click here for the recipe

Lazy Sunday cooking

The other week I discovered that my small freezer, which was full of lots of frozen meals I’d cooked for nights when I didn’t have time to cook, wasn’t working. The power plug had come out. All of the food had to be thrown out. What a waste! I often have nights where I am home from work with only a short time to spare before I have to head out to a rehearsal (or performance), dance class, singing lesson or, starting tomorrow, cake decorating class.

So my mission today is to start filling it up again. On the menu, cauliflower soup, my spaghetti bolognaise and I’m going to try some mini berry and almond pies.

I’ll post the recipes and photos once my day of cooking is done.