Stuffed butternut pumpkin with quinoa and goats’ cheese

Pumpkin stuffed with quinoa and goats' cheese

This was supposed to be my meat free Monday post last night, however by the time I got home from work (and the gym) and made dinner, I just didn’t feel like sitting in front of the computer. I curled up on the couch and read a book instead. So here it is, a day late.

Late last week and over the weekend I was celebrating my birthday.  After some lovely meals  (most of them at cafes and restaurants, except lunch with my family where my Mum cooked us lunch and baked me a cake) with my family and friends, not to mention a lot of baking over the past few weekends, I was in need of some simple, savoury (and hopefully a bit healthier) home cooking. A while ago I saw a recipe for stuffed butternut pumpkin with quinoa which I wanted to try, however I couldn’t find the recipe this weekend. So instead I set out to make my own. I was home alone Saturday night, so if it didn’t turn out there was only me to be disappointed and have to eat it!

I was really happy with the result. I was a bit worried about using mint and basil as I made it (they are two of my favourite herbs and it seemed like a good idea at the start), but they actually went really well in this dish. The goats’ cheese became a deliciously oozy, almost like a thick cheese sauce, and the quinoa added a nice nuttiness and texture. If you want some crunch you could add some pine nuts or breadcrumbs to the mix, but I was happy with it like this. Definitely a dish I will be making again. Jerome tried the other half the next night and enjoyed it as well.

If you are cooking quinoa, make sure you rinse it really well (until the water runs clear) before cooking. I have cooked it before without rinsing and it is very bitter. It makes a big difference to the final result! Also, while you are cooking it, why not make extra and use the rest to make a salad for lunches or light dinners? I cooked double the quinoa and to the extra I added more of the herbs and goats’ cheese, along with some roasted cauliflower and zucchini which I cooked at the same time as the pumpkin (though they didn’t take as long). It made a great lunch the next day.

Click here for the recipe

Meat free Monday – Puy lentil salad with goat’s cheese, beetroot and dill

This post is a double up, being my second recipe from ‘My Cookbook Library’ as well as a vegetarian ‘Meat Free Monday’ dish. Jerome has decided that the ‘My Cookbook Library’ posts (cooking my way through all my cookbooks, one recipe from one book at a time) should be renamed ‘Jerome’s pick’, as he quite enjoyed being given the cookbook index (on eat your books) and getting to pick what I cooked.

The second book I chose to cook from is Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen: 120 Simple But Classic French Recipes. I love this cookbook and related cooking series. After studying patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Rachel started testing recipes for a cookbook in her tiny apartment with just a mini oven and two gas rings.  She also opened the smallest restaurant in Paris in her apartment, serving just two people for dinner. This is one of those rare books where when I look through it, I want to try at least every second recipe. If you want to give French food a try, I certainly recommend this book. If Rachel can cook these recipes in her tiny apartment with limited equipment, I think most of us should be able to replicate them in our own kitchens. I certainly try to remember what Rachel cooked with whenever I start complaining about my own kitchen!

This is a very light dish, and would make a nice light lunch or side salad at dinner. Dill isn’t my favourite herb, but it went quite well against the earthiness of the beetroot and lentils and the creaminess of the cheese. We had the salad as a light dinner with some crusty baguette. Simple, only a few ingredients, but they all work well together.

Beetroot and goats cheese salad with lentils

Book recipe number: 2

Number of cookbooks owned: 198+ (198 now logged in my eat your books library, however there were quite a few that weren’t in their database that I now have to count)

New book credit: 0.4 (3 more to go before I am allowed to buy another cookbook)

Click here for the recipe

Meet free Mondays – Sweet potato and zucchini fritters

It is Monday again, so time for another meat free dish. I had half a large sweet potato sitting in my fridge, so I went looking for a healthy, vegetarian dish to use it in. I went straight to rather than my cookbook collection for this one, as I wanted to find something that I knew would be healthy and vegetarian.

Unfortunately in the end I didn’t have quite enough sweet potato (I only had 300g) for the recipe, so had to buy another on. Which meant once again I ended with half a sweet potato left, defeating the purpose of finding a recipe to use it up, but at least I had a nice healthy dinner! I’ll use the rest of the sweet potato in a roast vegetable salad, frittata or soup later in the week.

The addition of the ground coriander and cumin really added a nice depth of flavour and complimented the sweet potato, while the mint and tzatziki added some freshness. The leftovers also make a great lunch.

Sweet potato fritters

Click here for the recipe

Meat free Mondays – Pumpkin, spinach & ricotta filo parcels

Although I’m not vegetarian, I also don’t feel like eating meat every night. So I do cook quite a few meat free dishes. Meat can get quite expensive, especially as I prefer to buy local, free range, top quality meat. I would rather eat meat less often and buy the best I can get, than eat cheaper/mass produced and imported products.

Meat free Mondays is an international campaign aimed at encouraging us to take a day off meat and raise awareness of the personal health and environmental benefits of reducing our meat consumption. A number of Australia’s celebrity chefs and cooks are involved, including Maggie Beer and Kylie Kwong. Some of the facts quoted on the campaigns website include:

  • Australians are some of the world’s biggest meat eaters, with many consuming double the global average.
  • 9 out of 10 Australian adults aren’t eating the recommended amount of vegetables.
  • Health authorities recommend against eating large amounts of meat.
  • Australian livestock industries are responsible for approximately 10% of our total greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Livestock production accounts for 70% of all agricultural land around the world.
  • Meat production is water intensive.

While I don’t limit myself to eating meat free dishes only on Mondays, I think anything that encourages people to add meat free meals to their diet and raises awareness of the benefits of a meat free meal once a week is a great initiative. With that in mind, here is the latest meat free dish I have tried. I added in a pinch of cayenne pepper to the recipe and I think the addition of the heat from the cayenne works well with the sweet and creamy pumpkin.

I also used filo pastry from the fridge rather than the freezer section for the first time, and found this so much easier to work with than frozen filo.

Filo parcels

Click here for the recipe

Sweet potato, tomato and asparagus frittata

I really like watching cooking shows and reading cookbooks. However, a lot of the food featured in these shows and books isn’t the best for everyday cooking and eating. I also love to bake, but I know I can’t eat desserts and baked goods every day. Well I could, but it wouldn’t be very good for me.

A few years back, when browsing the cooking magazine section, I discovered the Australian Healthy Food Guide magazine. This magazine is different to other cooking magazines, with half of the magazine devoted to articles on health, food and nutrition, and the other half healthy recipes. The magazine and website are now my first stop when looking for a quick, easy and healthy weeknight meal, like this frittata. A few of the recipes from the magazine are now regular weeknight favourites of mine. Reading the articles in the magazine gives me a better understanding of healthy eating and nutrition, and the recipes demonstrate that healthy food can still be exciting and tasty.


Click here for the recipe

Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals? Mushroom soup with croȗtes

Work has been very busy since I got back from my holidays, and as a result  I’ve been looking for quick meal ideas for dinner.

Jamie Oliver’s previous book and TV series, Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals (published as Jamie Oliver’s Meals in Minutes: A Revolutionary Approach to Cooking Good Food Fast
in America) received a lot of bad press after its release, with people complaining that it was impossible to cook the dishes within 30 minutes. I know the one meal I tried, with the help of two friends, took over an hour to cook. However, the recipe itself was a success flavour wise and I have cooked components of it again.

It has been reported that a lot more recipe testing went into the 15 minute meals recipes, including testing by home cooks. So I thought I’d give Jamie another chance. Plus the book was 40% off the day I was looking at it, and I can’t resist a cookbook on sale. With Perth receiving winter like weather conditions (at the start of summer) recently, the mushroom soup with stilton, apple and walnut croȗtes seemed like a good place to start. Although I replaced the stilton with goat cheese, as I don’t like blue cheese.

The catch with both the 30 and 15 minute meals “mindset” is that before you can start the timer, you have to have all your equipment and ingredients out and ready, kettle boiled and pans and oven ready and hot. But that’s okay; you can do other things while the pans warm up, like read the recipe again, check your emails…

After about 10 minutes everything was ready and I started the timer on my phone. The next 25 minutes of cooking were not very enjoyable. That’s right; it took me 25 minutes even though I thought I’d picked one of the easier recipes, read it quite a few times and know my way around the kitchen. The whole time I felt like I was sprinting in a race, and losing…and I don’t like to run. The experience was not enjoyable and I have to say that the end result was only partially a success. The soup was way too thick and I had to water it down a lot and add extra cream (photo taken before the soup was watered down). The croȗtes however were a success (and could certainly be done in 15 minutes) and I will be making them again.

All up though, I don’t think this style of cooking is for me. I would rather cook something that takes longer but can be cooked in a much more relaxed manner. In my opinion there is nothing wrong with a recipe that takes 30 minutes on the stove or in the oven, especially if you only have to spend 5-10 minutes at the beginning doing the prep and then stir it occasionally. I personally find that much more enjoyable and relaxing. I do however applaud Jamie for his ongoing efforts to get people cooking more nutritious food at home and I’m sure I will try another recipe from the book at some point in the future. Mushroom soup Click here for the recipe