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Well after a fantastic breakfast on Australia Day which was almost entirely within my rules, I have been working hard to recreate something similar which is within my rules as a bit of a change up from the cabbage. The dish I had was Heuvos Rancheros but there are a million variations on that, so this is the way that I have tried reconstructing it.

First some fresh pico de gallos which is basically fresh salsa. I make a version by taking half of a purple salad onion and chopping it super fine with a sharp knife. Then I do the same with a nice ripe tomato – be careful when cutting the tomato that you slice it rather than squishing it – you want it to retain a bit of texture rather than turn it into puree. Mix the tomato and onion together and leave to drain in a wire colander while you are preparing the other stuff (otherwise I find it ends up a bit soggy). This is where you can add some fresh herbs or maybe some finely chopped gherkins, but I don’t bother. If you wanted to you could chop some chilli, but for this dish I add my heat in other ways.

Traditionally you would put this on a taco or tortilla but for my purposes we omit this (though the one on Australia Day was lovely!). Then we take an egg or two soft dry fried without oil in my Jamie Oliver frypan (important that the egg yolks are runny and the egg whites are just set). Heat up a couple of tablespoons of refried beans in the microwave. Depending on your standards and requirements, you can add some chopped avocado, some cottage cheese, some of those sliced jalapenos, some vegies or some meat.

Tonight I am going with a small serve of lean beef with a little seasoning (some turmeric maybe?), topped with an egg and my pico de gallo alongside my dollop of re-fried beans. If I feel like I am being deprived I might add a few chopped capsicums to the meat. For seasoning, I will grab my little bottle of Red and have a good shake of it to taste – a little goes a long way though. The freshness of the onions and tomatoes is great against the nuttiness of the meat and beans, while the spicy sauce cuts through the creaminess of the egg.

If I can manage to “plate up” all masterchef-like I will see if I can give an idea of how it turns out.

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So the food adjustment has been a little interesting, particularly removing the white carbs. The results have been impressive though so I am sticking with it. I had kind of fallen into the habit of eating a carby bulk with every meal. So adjusting my eating to be basically meat and vegetables has been challenging at times. Part of it has been the fact that I like one bowl eating and typically have some rice or pasta to soak up the juices of the stir fry or curry or what have you. So as much as I am happy with the eating now that my proteins are largely fish and eggs, sometimes I feel like I am missing the texture of having a rice or pasta with my meat and veg.

And the answer seems to be cabbage. I have had so many variations on chow mein since starting this eating regime. Meat and vegies and then just stirfry down a bunch of cabbage. Texture wise it seems to mimic noodles or something so psychologically at least I am feeling like it is more filling. And it is so bloody easy. While I normally like toasting spices etc, for a quick meal after the gym or some HIIT, it is hard to go past a quick stirfry and some (good quality) curry powder thrown in. And cabbage (even a lot of it) is low calorie and high in vitamin C – particularly great if you are like me and hardly eat fruit ever.

So my basic recipe is this:

About an eighth of a head of cabbage (I tend to get the quarter head and use it for two meals).
Whatever meat you like – I use some lean mince, some chicken thighs or some tinned salmon
Other vegetables – typically onions, capsicums, carrots or whatever is to hand
Cook up the meat and other vegetables with a couple of teaspoons of curry powder, then add the cabbage as the last ingredient. When cabbage is just soft, serve it up. If you prefer, add a little water to make the curry powder more “saucy”

This is a swede:

swede.jpg

This is a parsnip:

parsnip.jpg

This is a turnip:

turnip.jpg

Why is it that every checkout attendant I have ever come across has to ask me what these vegetables are? It’s not as if they are rare or new or anything. I can sympathise with people who mix up their choys (bok, pak etc). I can sympathise with mixing up your fashionable lettuce. However. These vegetables have been common staples for generations. And they are yummy.

When they find their way into my trolley it is a sure sign that I am making either my grandmother’s award winning pasties, or a big pot of soup. And given that it is one of those cold afternoons, soup it is – this time my favourite chicken soup. Yummy and bursting with flavour. I made this for the family one time and my mum spent the meal trying to wheedle out of me what *else* I had put in the broth. She wouldn’t believe that the only additions are a little bit of salt and pepper.

Okay, like all good soups it takes a buttload of time to make properly but it is incredibly easy, freezes well and just as simple to make a big pot than a small one.

You’ll need a big soup pot with a lid (mine is about 14 litres which cost all of $10 at the market). Then you’ll need some soup vegetables – a couple of parsnips, a swede and some turnip (check photos above for reference if you aren’t sure), a couple of brown onions, some carrots and half a bunch of celery. I try to make the ingredients in roughly equal proportions. You’ll also need a whole chicken as large as will fit in your pot.

1. Put a drizzle of olive oil on the bottom of the soup pot. As much as I would like to be Jamie Oliver with my ingredients all in little bowls, it ain’t gonna happen, so I prefer to just chuck everything in as I go.

2. Peel the vegetables that need peeling and chop finely or dice. Try and make all the little bits of different stuff roughly the same size. Chuck vegies in pot.

3. Remove the skin from the chicken. This is a bit fiddly and slimy but not too difficult. If you can’t get all of it off, don’t worry about it (partic around the feet and the tail). Feed the skin to your dogs who are no doubt drooling on your shoe. Don’t put the chicken in the pot yet.

4. Put the pot on a decent heat and stir the vegies until they start to sweat evenly (it looks like what it sounds like).

5. Chuck the chicken on top of the vegies in the pot. Fill with cold water until chicken is just covered. Bring to the boil.

6. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for ages (at least an hour) stirring occasionally – until the chicken starts to fall off the bones. House fills with yummy smells. Skim any fat off the top of the soup from time to time.

7. Remove chicken from pot. The wings or legs might have fallen off so fish around and make sure you get it all out. It will be very hot so be careful (or just swear a lot as is my technique). Pop it in a baking tray or casserole dish – something with a side on it. This is the best way I have worked out not to get stuff all over the kitchen. Remove the meat from the bones, shred and return to the pot. Chuck the bones out (dogs can’t eat cooked bones).

8. Heat through, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Happy winter eating.