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Bean Soup-3

You know that guilty feeling you get when you uncover an ingredient that’s on its last legs?

Well a few weeks ago I had a case of it. Big time.

The ingredient in question was a bunch of bok choy (why is it always a vegetable?).

For almost a week, every time I’d see it lurking in the crisper drawer, I’d think ‘Man, I really need to use that bok choy’.

And promptly forget about it.

Then one day I noticed the outer leaves were starting to turn yellow. Which made me feel guilty enough to take my sorry-looking bok choy out of the fridge.

With dinner already organized, I couldn’t think of a way to use the bok choy then. So I decided to ‘prep it’ so my future self would be able to find it a home before the yellow took over…

It only took a few minutes to wash, discard the incriminating yellowish leaves and finely chop the rest. But the best part? I instantly felt better.

Then I popped my prepped bok choy in the most visible place in the fridge. Done.

And you know what?

The next day I used my bok choy with some canned tuna in a quick salad for lunch. It was delicious, fresh and crunchy. A happy end to the story.

So what is the secret to using that ingredient you’ve been procrastinating about?

There are two basic steps…

1. Prep your ingredient
This can be as simple as washing and chopping a bunch of bok choy. Or more complicated like soaking and cooking a pot of beans. The key is to get your ingredient to a state where it’s ready to be used with minimal effort.

Chefs call this ‘mise en place’. It’s critical for enabling a restaurant to get your meal on the table ASAP.

Of course, this chef ‘trick’ is something that we home cooks can really benefit from as well. Especially when we come home from a long hard day and need to get something delicious and nutritious on the table right when we have no energy left.

2. Make it visible
You can’t ‘decide’ to use an ingredient if you’re not thinking about it. And if you’re anything like me, your probably not going to remember its there unless it’s staring you in the face.

It’s a simple idea but I can’t tell you how much it’s helped me avoid waste!

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Rainbow Veg

Rainbow Veg

This is really more of an idea than an actual recipe. The possibilities are endless not only for the types of veg you use but how you incorporate them into your cooking. This is without a doubt the number one habit I’ve developed which has helped me eat more veg across all my meals, especially breakfast and lunch.

enough for: 2
takes: 10 minutes

1 carrot, peeled
1 beetroot, scrubbed and peeled
1/4 cauliflower

1. Grate veg using your food processor or a box grater. Toss together. 

2. Use as per one of the suggestions below or store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Usage Suggestions

breakfast – serve with poached egg or two and a good dollop of homemade mayo (one of my all time favourite breakkies).

side salad – toss in a little lemon juice and olive oil and season generously. Lovely with BBQ or pan fried fish or chicken.

quick n’ easy lunch – toss in a drained can of tuna, salmon or sardines and serve with lashings of lemon juice.

another lunch salad – make a quick dressing of 1 part vinegar and 2 parts olive oil. Toss in the grated veg and crumble over some marinated or regular feta. Finish with toasted almonds, hazelnuts or pine nuts.

rice / couscous alternative – serve grated raw veg as an alternative to steamed rice or couscous. I just serve my hot curry or Tajine on a bed of the cold raw veg and enjoy the temperature and textural contrast.

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Variations

different veg – also good with broccoli but for some reason grated broccoli goes slimy after a couple of days so I only make enough to eat in the next 24hours if I’m using broc. Zucchini or other summer squash are brilliant as is fennel. 

don’t grate – asparagus unless you want asparagus soup!

hand chopped veg – great with capsicum (bell peppers), snow peas, sugarsnap peas, green beans, bok choy, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, asparagus.

herby – toss in fresh herbs such as parsley, basil, mint or coriander (cilantro).

Big love,
Jules x

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Fish & Fennel

A few months ago I was really excited about discovering frozen edamame (soy beans) in my local supermarket. So I wrote a blog post about my new love.

As you do.

What really surprised me was the amount of people leaving comments and emails warning that edamame were soy beans which are GM. Something I hadn’t even thought of.

Anyway after doing some investigation, (aka reading the label!) I realised my edamame were from China. So probably were GM. So I decided to stop buying them and made a mental note to write a followup blog post about my thoughts on genetic modification of food…

So here we are!

My Experience with GM Foods

Back when I was studying Food Science in the 90s, ‘Biotechnology’ was a relatively new field. I found it fascinating and elected to take a subject on Food Biotechnology in my final year of university.

So what did I learn?

Firstly that there’s potential for genetic modification to be helpful.

For example, enabling bacteria to produce the ‘rennet’ required for some cheese making rather than getting it from the traditional source of calves stomachs.

But there was also a lot of potential for harm.

To my mind there are 3 main aspects to this…

1. The Testing.
When we go inserting genetic material from one species into another, we’re doing something that cannot happen in nature. The effects can be difficult to predict.

So rigorous testing is really critical to ensuring no unwanted side effects. Which is relatively easy in a tank of bacteria but more difficult when we’re talking about releasing or even trialling GM crops out in nature.

2. The Politics.
The best way to explain this is with an example. Lets look at the humble soy bean.

The genetic manipulation with soy was to make soybeans resistant to a particular herbicide, namely Round-Up.

The ‘benefit’ here is that weeds can easily be controlled in a soy crop by spraying with said herbicide.

Then farmers have to buy their seeds from the same company that sells them the Round-Up.

And they can’t ‘save’ the seeds to use for next years crop. They must buy fresh seeds (and herbicide) every year from the one company and no one else. Sounds like a brilliant marketing strategy to me.

3. Biodiversity.
If everyone is growing genetically identical crops, regardless of whether they’re genetically modified or not, all our proverbial eggs are in the one basket.

Seems a risky move to me.

So Am I Afraid of GM Foods?

Afraid? No. Wary? yes. Pro-labelling? Absolutely.

And do I personally choose to eat GM foods? Yes and No. It depends.

I’m happy to eat parmesan made with GM rennet but ‘Round-Up-Ready Soybeans?’ No thank you Monsanto. I’d rather have frozen Australian broad beans.

What About You?

How do you feel about GM foods?
I’d love to hear in the comments below.

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Fish & Fennel

Double Fennel Fish

I have a goal to eat fish at least once a week for dinner this year. And while my Irishman is still pretty fish-phobic, I’ve really been enjoying the change. This ‘double fennel’ dish with fennel seeds as a crust and then fresh fennel as a salad has been one of my favourites this year. I should mention the idea to grind fennel seeds and use them on fish came from a David Tanis recipe I made for the Jules & David Project.

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes

2 teaspoons fennel seeds
450g (1lb) fish fillets
2 tablespoons lemon juice + 1 lemon, halved
1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked

1. Grind fennel seeds with a spice or coffee grinder. Or bash with a mortar and pestle. Rub fish with a little oil on both sides and sprinkle over ground fennel and lots of sea salt and pepper.

2. Heat a frying pan large enough to hold the fish in a single layer on a medium high heat. Cook fish for 3-4 minutes on each side or until just cooked through and golden on the outsides.

3. While the fish is cooking combine 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a salad bowl with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Season.

4. Trim and discard fennel stalks then finely slice the bulbs using a mandoline or sharp knife. Toss sliced fennel and parsley leaves in the dressing.

5. Serve fish hot with the fennel salad and half a lemon on the side.

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Variations

carnivore – replace fish with pork chops or chicken thigh fillets and adjust the cooking time as needed.

vegetarian – serve fennel salad with marinated feta and roast almonds.

vegan – toss cooked chickpeas or lentils in with the salad and serve with a tahini sauce drizzled over (2 tablespoons each tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and water).

more veg – toss any crunchy salad veg in such as red capsicum (bell peppers), grated carrot, grated beets, sliced snow peas.

carb lovers / more substantial – toss torn rustic sourdough in with the salad or serve with roast or pan fried potatoes or home made fries.

no fennel seeds – just skip it or try coriander or cumin seeds instead. Or serve cooked fish with sumac sprinkled over.

no fennel – my fave alternative is white cabbage or Brussels sprouts but you could use finely sliced snow peas or shaved zucchini.

And if you’re following the Jules & David Project, the latest installment is called menu fifteen: THE BEAN SOUP LUNCH

Big love,
Jules x

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Chinkiang Beef-2

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to no longer feel stressed about getting dinner on the table night after night?

Imagine actually looking forward to cooking dinner at the end of the day.

Imagine preparing dinner being a time for you to relax and unwind rather than another chore.

Imagine having your meal planning done for you so you wouldn’t have to think, you could just get cooking.

Imagine how much more often you’d eat a home cooked meal?

And how much better you’d look and feel…

Well I have good new for you!

All this imagining doesn’t have to be left to your dreams. It could be your new reality.

How do I know this?

I know because I’ve had feedback from hundreds of people who have used my done-for-you meal planning service since I started it early last year. Hundreds of people who are finding it much easier (not to mention more fun!) to get dinner ready.

So why am I talking about it today?

Well I’ve added a new feature to Soupstones Meal Plans.

Yes! It just got better.

A few months ago, I signed up for a monthly membership program with Gabby Bernstein that focuses on teaching how to live a happier, more fulfilled life. I’m totally loving it. The best part is the monthly podcast which I download on my phone and listen to when Fergal and I are out walking or when I’m in the garden.

I just love the little monthly audio update where Gabby shares the tools and principles that have helped in her own life along with her personal stories of what she’s exploring.

It’s brilliant for keeping me inspired and motivated.

Which got me thinking…

Inspiration and motivation things that many people struggle with when it comes to getting dinner on the table. And I love trying new things in the kitchen and pretty much always feel inspired when I cook.

Maybe I could include a monthly podcast for the Soupstones Meal Plans members? Soupstones Square Logo NEW

So I asked my existing members and they gave the idea the thumbs up.

I’m happy to announce that from this month I’ll be releasing a new monthly podcast to accompany the meal plans. An extra bonus where I share the tools and stories from my kitchen that help to keep me excited about cooking, even when I’m tired at the end of a long day.

podcast icon

To get all the details, just go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/soupstones/
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Chinkiang Beef-2

Chinese Chinkiang Beef

Inspired by a recipe by Emma Knowles in Australian Gourmet Traveller. Chinkiang vinegar is one of my favourite ingredients at the moment. You’ll probably need to go to an Asian grocery store or search online to find it. If you do make the effort, I also use it in my Kung Pao Chicken. If you can’t be bothered, no probs, just use a cheap balsamic instead.

enough for: 2
takes: 20 minutes

1 onion, peeled & chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
450g (1lb) ground (minced) beef
2-6 fresh chillies, chopped
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinkiang vinegar
1 bunch coriander (cilantro), leaves picked, to serve
steamed rice or cauliflower ‘rice’, to serve

1. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan or wok. Add onion and cook over a medium heat until onion is soft but not very browned.

2. Add cumin, fennel and beef. Increase the heat to medium high and cook, stirring often until the beef is really well browned.

3. Add the chillies and stir fry for another minute.

4. Remove from the heat and add the soy and vinegar. Taste and season with extra soy and/or vinegar as needed.

5. Serve beef on a bed of rice or cauliflower ‘rice’ with coriander (cilantro) leaves on top.

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Variations

5 ingredients – Just use the fennel seeds, beef, chilli, soy and chinkiang vinegar.

no chinkiang vinegar? – replace with balsamic – a cheaper one that isn’t too sweet.

vegetarian / vegan – replace beef with crumbled firm tofu or cooked lentils and consider adding a little more soy and vinegar (best to taste before adding more).

more veg – stir fry chopped broccoli, chinese broccoli, green beans or bok choy in a little oil. Remove from the pan then add back in once the beef is cooked.

no coriander (cilantro) – just skip it or replace with mint or basil.

different meat – lovely with pork or lamb. You could also use beef strips instead of minced meat. And will also work with chicken or turkey.

for cauli rice – just grate raw cauli in the food processor. I usually just serve it cold and let the hot meat warm it but you could stir fry it in the pan.

Big love,
Jules x

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ps. Not sure if a done for you meal plan would work for you?

Soupstones Square Logo NEW

It’s not for everyone but I’ll let you in on a secret…

There are plenty of people who use their membership to just stay inspired and try new things. As part of your membership you get access to every single one of my recipes (from all my classes, books and the blog) all on the one searchable website. And from May you’ll also get a monthly podcast to keep you inspired and motivated.

Here’s what Laurie said about her experience…

“I’m really enjoying this service. I’ve used other online meal planning services in the past. What I really like about this one is the ability to search the catalog for other recipes and mark my favorites. I confess I rarely use more than two of the featured recipes per week but I definitely repeat my favorites and search for other based on the ingredients I have. I like that your recipes rarely call for obscure ingredients. Or, if they do you give other options. Speaking of the options, I do love all the variations you give for each recipe. Especially since my husband has a nut allergy.”
Laurie – Soupstones Meal Plans & Dinner Inspiration Member

Sound good?

For more details ,
go to:

www.thestonesoupshop.com/soupstones/

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berry crumbles-3

Normally I love flying. But late last year I had one of those trips where I started to worry whether we were going to make it.

I’m not sure if it was because I’d had a big night out with the girls in Melbourne, or if it was being at the very back of the plane, or the rough storm we were flying through or a combination of all three.

Fortunately I survived, but the experience did make me think about what I would want to pass on to Fergal if something were to happen to me.

I realised it’s an easy one to answer. I hope my boy inherits my love of books and reading.

The fact that he’s constantly asking me to read the Gruffalo, Spot, Dr Seuss or Thomas the Tank Engine looks like we’re heading in the right direction…

With Mother’s Day around the corner, I thought I’d do something a bit different to celebrate and share a list of books I hope he reads one day.

10 Books I Hope Fergal Reads One Day

1. The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris
I love all of Tim Ferriss’ books but this is his first and I think the most helpful. This was the one book that took me from dreaming about starting my own business, to actually quitting my job and doing it. 5 years later I haven’t looked back. Thank you Tim!

2. The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz
Love, love, love this for inspiring possibilities.

3. May Cause Miracles by Gabrielle Bernstein
I love Gabby’s philosophy that happiness is a choice we can all make.

4. Goals! by Brian Tracy
I’m a big believer in setting goals and this is the best book I’ve read on helping be as effective as possible.

5. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
An oldie but a goodie.

6. Money, Master the Game by Tony Robbins
One of those topics that isn’t great to talk about but is super important. Of all the personal finances books I’ve read, this is the most comprehensive.

7. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Another classic that I re-read every few years.

8. Focus by Leo Babauta
Actually I hope Fergal starts following Leo’s brilliant blog, Zen Habits which introduced me to the principles of minimalism and the joy of living a simple life. But since we’re talking books, I’ve included Leo’s brilliant print book here.

9. Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy
The key to getting over procrastination and getting things done. Enough said.

10. The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater
It might surprise you that there is only one cookbook in this list but I feel like there’s enough here on Stonesoup for Fergal to get a sense of my philosophy of cooking. However, in terms of food writing inspiration, I can’t go past my favourite, St. Nigel.

A Mother’s Day Celebration!

3D old cover
I still have mixed feelings about mothers day. Now that I’m a mum, I do enjoy getting spoiled but it’s also a time when I really miss my own mum more than usual.

Over the years I’ve developed a bit of a Mother’s Day tradition on Stonesoup to do something special with my first print book, ‘And the Love if Free‘, which is a collection of my mum’s recipes. And another book I should add to Fergal’s reading list so he can know what his ‘grandmama’ was like.

This year you can get FREE SHIPPING anywhere in the world if you order before 10th May.

For all the details go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/and-the-love-is-free-a-tribute-to-my-mum/

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berry crumbles-3

David’s Berry Crumbles

It’s funny, I always associate crumbles with apple or rhubarb and had never played around with other fruit. But when I made these berry crumbles for one of my ‘Jules & David Project‘ meals, they instantly became my favourite Summer dessert. I know my mum would have adored them which is why I chose to share the recipe today.

enough for: 2
takes: 40 minutes

2 cups berries
100g (2/3 cup) plain (all purpose) flour
50g (1/3 cup) sugar
50g (1/3 cup) grated butter
60g (2/3 cup) almond flakes (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Divide berries between 2 x 1 cup baking dishes or ramekins.

2. Combine flour and sugar in a bowl. Toss in the grated butter and use a fork or your fingers to smash the butter into the flour mixture.

3. When the butter and flour looks like lumpy bread crumbs stir in the almonds (if using). Scatter the mixture to cover the berries leaving it fairly loose.

4. Bake for 30 minutes or until the crumble topping is golden brown.

5. Serve warm with cream or ice cream or both.

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Variations

gluten-free – replace flour with 50g (1/3 cup) each rice flour and chickpea flour or use your favourite GF flour combo.

budget – replace some or all of the berries with finely diced apple.

not berry season – use frozen berries or play around with whatever fruit you have on hand. Stone fruit are lovely – just chop small enough so they will cook at in same time as the topping.

sugar-free – replace sugar with granulated stevia to taste… A few tablespoons should do the trick.

dairy-free / vegan – replace butter with 3-4 tablespoons neutral flavoured oil. Macadamia oil would be perfect.

nut-free – just skip the almonds.

paleo – skip the crumble topping and just scatter almonds over the berries and roast until almonds are golden. Serve with coconut cream or coconut yoghurt.

And if you’re following the Jules & David Project, the latest installment is now available!

Hope you have some lovely plans for Mother’s Day!

Big love,
Jules x

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Hassel Back Spuds-3

My husband is Irish. So you probably won’t be surprised that the humble spud is the vegetable that raises the most excitement around here.

Yes, we take our potatoes very seriously.

So much so that GB and I have often talked about writing a book dedicated to all things potato. We’ve come up with a name, ‘Potato Love’ and a rough list of recipes. But that’s as far as we’ve gotten.

As you can imagine, I’m always on the lookout for interesting potato recipes to keep my boys happy.

When I saw these Hasselbacks by Nigel Slater, I knew they were going to be a winner.

Oh boy, are they a winner. Even worthy of our ‘new favourite spud’ title.

And I don’t make such claims lightly…

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Hassel Back Spuds-3

Hasselback Potatoes

Inspired by my favourite food writer, Nigel Slater. I’m not really sure why they’re called Hasselback but if that’s what St. Nigel calls them, that’s reason enough for me. The thing I really love about them is you get the crisp lovely outer and fluffy middle similar to a classic roast spud but without the hassle of having to boil the spuds first. Maybe they should be renamed hassle-free spuds?

enough for: 2
takes: about an hour

4 or more spuds
4 tablespoons duck fat (melted) or oil
2 sprigs thyme or rosemary (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F). Scrub potatoes. Finely slice each spud about 2/3 of the way through. Repeat all the way along the spud making the cuts as close together as you can. But don’t stress about it.

2. Place the potatoes with the cut side up in a baking pan. Drizzle over a tablespoon of duck fat or oil on each spud and sprinkle with sea salt flakes.

3. Bake for 45 minutes. Spoon some of the hot fat over each potato and add the herbs (if using).

4. Bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. Serve hot.

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Variations

which variety of potato? – you can use anything you’d normally roast. I used dutch creams in the picture above. Just try and make sure they’re all about the same size so they cook in the same amount of time.

vegetarian / vegan – don’t use duck fat. Use whatever oil you normally use for roasting spuds.

classic roast spuds – if you don’t like the idea of cutting through the spuds so many times, here’s my tried and tested recipe for the ultimate roast spud.

complete meal – serve anywhere you’d normally serve roast potatoes. Nigel Slater serves his with a whole baked camembert and some jamon. Not such a bad idea!

garlicky – add some whole unpeeled garlic cloves about 1/2 way through cooking.

Video version of the recipe.

What about you?

Got a favourite potato recipe in your house? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Big love,
Jules x

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Sweet Potato Hummus-2

Is meal planning something you struggle with? Well you’re definitely not alone!

Whenever I talk to Stonesoup readers about their biggest cooking problems, meal planning it always near the top of the list.

Last minute changes in plans and chaotic schedules are some of the most common problems. As is the fact that meal plans often ‘fall apart’ because you don’t ‘feel like’ eating what you’d planned to cook that night.

Then there were the people who struggle to come up with new ideas and feel bored with their current meal routine. And running through all this was the costly problem of wasted ingredients and leftovers going bad and having to be thrown out.

Sound familiar?

What IS the No. 1 Meal Planning Mistake?

In a nutshell, it’s deciding what you’re going to cook in advance and then building your shopping list around that plan.

Having a list of set recipes or dishes is problematic for a number of reasons. First, it takes a lot of time to figure it all out in advance. But the biggest problem is the lack of flexibility to cope with the changes that naturally come up with modern life.

It’s nearly impossible to predict that Wednesday is going to be the coldest February day on record and you’ll be craving a comforting bowl of soup, rather than the cool & light salad you had in the meal plan.

No wonder meal plans tend to get broken.

How Do I Avoid This Mistake?

You just need to learn how to ‘reverse’ the process.

It may sound a little scary, but in practice it’s a really liberating way of approaching meal planning. And it’s actually much quicker and easier than traditional meal planning.

Shopping and cooking this way, based on what looks best, is a skill that anyone can learn which is why I wrote the ‘2-Minute Meal Plan’.

Speaking of which…

2MMP 3D Cover

2 Minute Meal Plan eCookbook

It’s actually been 3 years since I first released the 2-Minute Meal Plan eBook. It’s easily the most unusual book that I’ve ever written in that it’s all about showing you the easiest way to ‘reverse’ your meal plan and cook with the ingredients you have on hand using ‘template recipes’.

This frees you from the constraints of shopping lists and traditional recipes while providing the support you need to get healthy meals on the table with minimum fuss or effort.

For more details go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/2mmp/

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Sweet Potato Hummus-2

Sweet Potato Hummus + Lamb Cutlets

Fergal just loves sweet potato so I find myself roasting up a batch pretty much every week. A nice side effect is that we often have roast sweet potato in the fridge which I’m finding makes it way into my cooking more and more! See below for tips for the easiest way to roast sweet potato.

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes

1 teaspoon each ground cumin, chilli, coriander & smoked paprika
6-8 lamb cutlets or other chops
250g roast sweet potato
2 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, peeled
green salad, to serve
big handful cherry tomatoes, halved

1. Combine spices with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium bowl. Season generously then toss in the lamb cutlets and allow to marinate for as long as you’ve got (if more than an hour cover and refrigerate).

2. For the hummus, whizz sweet potato, tahini, lemon and garlic in a food processor until you have a smooth paste or smash everything together with a fork. Taste and season with salt and maybe extra lemon or tahini.

3. Heat a frying pan or your BBQ on a medium high heat. Add lamb and cook for 3-4 minutes.

4. Turn the lamb and add the tomatoes and cook for another 3-4 minutes or until you’re happy.

5. To serve divide sweet potato hummus between two plates. Top with lamb and tomatoes and serve salad on the side.

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Variations

to roast sweet potato – pop whole sweet potato (scrubbed but not peeled) on a baking tray. Roast in the oven 200C for about 45-60 minutes or until tender.

no roast sweet potato – use a drained can of chickpeas or white beans.

different spices
– if you don’t have all of the spices just use any combo of the above – you want about 4 teaspoons or less. Or just use 1 teaspoon of the chilli.

vegetarian – pan fry the tomatoes with the spiced oil and serve a fried egg or two with the hummus with the spicy tomatoes on top.

vegan – replace lamb with field or portabello mushrooms. Marinate and cook as per the lamb might take a little longer. Sliced eggplant steaks are another great alternative.

not tomato season – skip them or use semi dried tomatoes.

lamb alternatives – try a good old steak, pork chops or even salmon fillets. The spices are also great with good quality sausages.

Big love,
Jules x

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Roast Broccoli & Chorizo

A bit of a crazy title for a cooking blog this week, don’t you think? I know. When I started Stonesoup, I didn’t think nail polish remover was something I’d ever be writing about.

But here we are. Another ‘never say never’ moment.

So why do I keep nail polish remover in my kitchen?

No, I haven’t started giving myself a pedicure while dinner is cooking. I’m not that good at multitasking.

The reason is I’ve finally figured out a labeling system for the jars in my pantry that works a treat.

I just write on my jars with a marker (which I also keep in the kitchen). Then when each jar gets empty, I whip out my nail polish remover and the labeling is gone in seconds.

It’s a little thing but it makes me feel so much more organized.

I also use the marker to label anything I put in the freezer. Another big winner on the organization front!

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Roast Broccoli & Chorizo

Roast Broccoli & Chorizo


I hadn’t roasted broccoli for years but was inspired by a recent post from my sister on The Yellow Bench. And I’m so glad I did. Roasting broccoli like most veg, really concentrates the flavour and takes it to another level. I also love how the chorizo releases it’s spicy juices to flavour the broccoli. Soo good!

enough for: 2
takes: 30 minutes or so

2 heads broccoli, chopped into bite sized chunks
2 chorizo or other spicy sausages, chopped
1 lemon, halved
aioli or mayo, to serve

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F).

2. Place broccoli, chorizo or sausage and lemon in a roasting pan. Drizzled with oil and sprinkle with lots of salt. Cover with foil and roast for 20 minutes.

3. Stir and bake uncovered for another 10 minutes or until the broccoli is tender and the chorizo or sausage is cooked.

4. Serve with lemon squeezed over and a bit dollop of aioli or mayo on top.

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Variations

vegetarian – skip the chorizo or replace with 2 chopped red capsicum (bell peppers) and serve with a poached egg or a dollop of goats cheese or ricotta.

vegan – replace chorizo with roasted almonds (just add at the end) and serve with hummus or tahini.

egg-free – use vegan mayo or replace with a creamy ricotta or goats cheese or hummus.

herby – serve with chopped parsley.

more veg – serve on a bed of baby spinach or wilted greens. Or add other veg to the roasting pan like carrots, red peppers, parsnip or cauliflower.

different veg – cauli, asparagus, carrots (baby or chopped), small onions, red peppers, zucchini, eggplant or sweet potato.

What about you?

Got any unusual items you keep in your kitchen? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below…

Big love,
Jules x

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Stupidly Easy Banana Bread-2

One afternoon late last year, Fergal and I were out on our daily walk when a car pulled over and stopped in front of us. Given we live on a quite country road, you can imagine this made me a bit wary….

I was relieved when a super fit lady got out of the car. She didn’t look too dangerous. Anyway she ran across the road, introduced herself as Heather and asked if we knew about the local play group.

I told her we did and were planning to start going in the new year.

Fast forward a few months and I’m not sure who is loving play group more… Fergal or me.

While he get to explore the swings and sand pit and bikes and trucks, I get to chat with the other mothers about growing veggies, knitting, how to operate a chain saw and of course cooking!

So when Heather said she had the best banana bread recipe, I quickly gave her my email address. When the email came through with the title ‘Stupidly Easy Banana Bread’ I knew it would be a winner.

Trust me it lives up to its name!

But that’s not all.. I’ll let you in on another of its virtues. Yep, it’s sugar-free.

I love how the ripe bananas, cinnamon and coconut oil provide enough sweetness without needing any extra sweetener.

Since I’ve decided to make April my first ever month of going sugar-free, I’m planning on trying out a few of the variations below. Especially the carrot and ginger.

And while we’re talking sugar-free baking… Do you have any delicious sugar-free recipes? Or tips for going sugar-free? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below…

Stupidly Easy Banana Bread-2

Stupidly Easy Banana Bread

Adapted from my lovely neighbour Heather.

I love this ‘bread’ served as a cake for afternoon tea with some double cream. OR it’s also lovely toasted for breakfast smeared with butter or ricotta.

enough for 6-8
takes: 45 minutes

3 ripe bananas
100g (3.5oz) coconut oil, melted
3 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
220g (8oz) almond meal

1. Preheat your oven to 160C (320F) fan assisted. Line a loaf pan 24cm x 12cm (approx 9.5in x 5in) with baking paper.

2. Mash bananas until smoothish then add coconut oil, eggs, baking powder, cinnamon (if using) and almond meal. Thoroughly mix everything

3. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the loaf is golden and feels springy when you touch it.

4. Cool in the pan then slice and serve.

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Variations

different spices – Heather uses a combo of nutmeg and cinnamon but I didn’t have any nutmeg so skipped it. Ginger or mixed spice would also be lovely.

no coconut oil – just use melted unsalted butter. Or Heather says she sometimes skips the oil.

less oil – Heather uses 35g (1.25oz) coconut oil but I prefer more to make it super moist and help lower the GI.

coconut oil too hard – just pop your jar in the oven while it preheats. Be careful not to forget about it!

nut-free – you could try replacing the almond meal with flour, I’d probably increase the oil as well.

no fan assist on your oven? – increase the set temp to 180C (350F).

no banana – I did try this with pureed ripe figs and while it was OK, I preferred the banana version. But talking to Heather today she said she was short of bananas and substituted in some grated carrot and cloves and it was a winner. Will be trying that this weekend for some Easter baking. I’m also keen to try substituting in mashed roast sweet potato or roasted pears.

And if you’re following the Jules & David Project, you can read all about menu thirteen: feeling italian (part 2) over here.

Happy Easter!

Big love,
Jules x

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20. ketchup beans

When I was learning to cook I was a slave to recipes. While it was a good way to start learning different techniques and ingredients, it did have some frustrating limitations.

Like what happens when you can’t buy a particular ingredient? And what do you do with that leftover half bunch of herbs? Or jar of sauce?

Or worse still, what do you do when you need to eat but don’t have time to search through recipes and go shopping for exotic ingredients?

Over the years, with a lot of trial and error, I began to learn to cook more instinctively, on my own.

Without other people’s recipes.

In my head, without really being conscious of what I was doing, I started thinking of recipes in general terms rather than specific ingredients.

From there, I developed a collection of starting point or ‘template recipes’. So whenever I walked into the kitchen and looked into the fridge to figure out what to cook, I had a head start.

I knew what had worked before to make that soup or stir fry and could use that knowledge as a springboard for a new dish or meal.

Why try ‘template recipes’?

Template recipes provide a stepping stone or ‘training wheels’ to help you take the first steps to freedom from recipes.

They’re designed to give you some support and structure while also providing plenty of ideas to get you started.

At the same time they are there to encourage you to think for yourself. To try new things. To experiment and develop your own recipes and style.

Like to see an example?

I’ve included a template recipe from my ‘Master Your Meal Plan‘ online cooking class below…

20. ketchup beans

Ketchup ‘Baked’ Legumes – Template ‘Recipe’

The idea behind using template ‘recipes’ is that the ingredients are listed in general terms to encourage you to think about recipes in a different way. Just look down at the ‘variations’ to get ideas for what to use for each different type of ingredient.

It’s all about building your confidence to start experimenting and cooking for yourself. Over time you’ll find yourself not even needing the templates but they act as ‘training wheels’ to get you started.

per person
takes: 15 minutes

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 aromatic vegetable, chopped
1/2 can legumes, drained
2 tablespoons ketchup (or ‘tomato sauce’ for the Aussies!)
1 teaspoon spice, optional

1. Heat a medium fry pan on a medium heat. Add butter and aromatic veg and cook for 5-10 minutes until the veg is soft and lightly golden.

2. Add legumes, ketchup and spice.

3. Stir and simmer for a couple of minutes to make sure everything is hot. Taste & season.

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Variations

butter alternative / dairy-free – any oil you normally cook with.

aromatic veg – onions are my favourite but celery or carrots would be good instead..

legumes – I’ve used cannellini beans in the photo but any canned or cooked legume will work. Try butter beans, borlotti beans, black beans, chickpeas or lentils. Note: a standard can is 400g (14oz).

no ketchup? – I really recommend getting a small bottle to try with this dish. I’m not really a big ketchup fan but I adore these legumes. Otherwise try tomato paste and a big pinch or three of brown sugar. A good BBQ sauce will also work.

spice – first choice smoked paprika. Next choice other paprika, dried chilli (you may like to reduce the quantity if really hot). Coriander seed or cumin would be interesting. And curry powder would work if you’re in the mood for a curry.

higher protein – Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) while the onion cooks. When the legumes are done, make a small well in the middle and crack and egg into it. Bake for about 10 minutes or until egg whites are set and yolks still runny.

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Would you like to learn to cook without recipes?

Then check out my ‘Master Your Meal Plan‘ online program which is starting at the end of this week!

For more details, go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/mymp15/

Big love
Jules x

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ps. Wondering if the template recipes in ‘Master Your Meal Plan‘ will work for you?

I’ll be honest. The program isn’t for everyone…

If you’re happy with your current meal planning system, then it’s probably not going to add much value. Unless you’d like to learn to cook more freely and creatively.

But if planning your meals each week causes you problems, then more than likely, the Master Your Meal Plan system will help you.

Just like it’s already helped these people…

Anna, Master Your Meal Plan Owner.
“The biggest change is that I don’t follow recipes to the T anymore – I am substituting different ingredients based on what I have on hand – a big change for me. I am wasting far less food.”

Karen, Master Your Meal Plan Owner.
“Everything has changed for the better. I actually cook all of my meals now. I’m able to throw together meals with simple ingredients that are healthy in a short period of time. I have learned to use the fresh vegetables that are in my refrigerator and what’s in my pantry to cook excellent meals. MYMP is just the thing I needed to get me over my fear of cooking and get me started with eating whole foods.”

Kate, Master Your Meal Plan Owner.
“The whole system was very useful to me. I learned better planning of meals for a week and, besides that, to improvise with ingredients. Preparing food ceased to be stressful factor and became a joy!

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Daphne, Master Your Meal Plan Owner.
“After MYMP I’m much more relaxed about mixing things up or using alternate ingredients when I don’t have exactly what’s called for.”

To join us go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/mymp15/

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Bangers & Beer

The most radical shift in my meal planning process happened at a very specific time in my life. I was working as a young winemaker in the beautiful Barossa Valley. It was vintage, the busiest time of the year, so my life pretty much revolved around working and sleeping.

There wasn’t much time for ‘luxuries’ like eating and bathing. So as you can imagine, sitting down to figure out a meal plan and write a shopping list was out of the question.

As luck would have it, my one ‘treat’ was a weekly pilgrimage to the Barossa farmers market. I’d grab a coffee and a bacon & egg roll and then take my time buying my produce for the week.

It was heaven.

Because I didn’t have a plan or a shopping list, I was guided to choose what looked best. Sometimes I’d know exactly what I was going to make with my bounty. But more often than not I wouldn’t. So each night I’d walk into the kitchen, open the fridge and decide what to cook then and there.

Sometimes I’d look up recipes but mostly I’d make it up as I went along. Just trusting my instincts and cooking from the heart.

I should mention that this was completely new territory for me…

Before my Barossa days, I always consulted a recipe. But my limited time circumstances meant I had to try another way.

Mostly the results were delicious, or at least edible. There were the occasional ‘disasters’ which meant, I’d use my backup plan of cheese on toast and take it as a ‘learning experience’. But over time these happened less and less frequently.

These days, I pretty much follow the same approach to meal planning.

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egg & pea fried rice

Recently there was an outbreak of Hepatitis in Australia that stemmed from people eating contaminated frozen berries.

Since I’m a bit of a hermit, I wouldn’t have known about the berry recall if it weren’t for my news-savvy Irishman.

Fortunately we didn’t have any problem berries in the freezer. Which was unusual but it’s been peak berry season here so I’ve been making the most of the abundance of fresh berries at the farmers market.

Anyway it got me thinking about my freezer and how much I love it.

I’m always teaching my online cooking students the value of a well stocked pantry. And I firmly believe your pantry isn’t just for shelf-stable ingredients. Your fridge and freezer are equally important.

So today I went and had a good poke around my freezer. Here’s what I found…

7 Things I (pretty much) Always Have in the Freezer

1. Ice Cream.
In our house we usually only have dessert on a Saturday night so we like to go all out! My favourite is vanilla ice cream because it goes so well with pretty much any dessert AND you can customize or ‘pimp’ it to suit your mood.

2. Peas.
I’m so glad that Fergal doesn’t take after his mamma when it comes to peas. I’m not the biggest fan but he LOVES them. His dinners often start with ‘parmesan peas’ – frozen peas defrosted in a frying pan with a little butter and served with some grated parmesan. I also have some corn and broad beans but these are less frequent inhabitants.

Until I read the GMO comments on my blog post about edamame, I had them on high rotation but am currently reconsidering. Am planning a blog post to fill you in on that story.

3. Cooked Rice.
I don’t always have cooked rice in the freezer but since Fergal loves the fried rice recipe below, I’m keeping it more and more. I also often have cooked beans or chickpeas frozen in zip lock bags because it’s easier to soak and cook a big batch.

4. Meat.
The biggest drawer in our freezer is usually full of different meat because I like to shop less frequently. There’s usually some sausages, steaks, a larger piece of meat like brisket or ribs and some sort of chicken.

I also keep a ziplock bag for bones for stock that I fill as we go. I used to think it was too much hassle but every time I make the stock, I feel so virtuous for not wasting all those bones that it’s become a habit.

5. Bread.
We don’t eat much bread. It’s usually a Saturday treat for my Irishman. So I slice his sourdough and keep it in a ziplock bag. For Fergal and me I keep a sliced loaf of Deek’s gluten-free bread made from quinoa.

6. Egg Whites.
I love love love home made mayo on my poached eggs in the morning so I make a batch about once a fortnight. Which generates a lot of egg whites. Sometime I eat them as an egg white omelet but usually I pop them in the freezer in a ziplock bag. Apart from these potato rosti and my mum’s pavlova, I’m a bit short on egg white recipes, so if you have one, please share!

7. Yoghurt Starter Culture.
It’s hard to beat home made yoghurt! Most times I use the previous batch to ‘seed’ my new yoghurt but I keep my freeze dried starter culture in the freezer for when I forget to save some. I’ve had it for almost 2 years and it’s still going strong.

What about you?

Anything you always keep a stash of in your freezer? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below…

egg & pea fried rice

Fergal’s Egg & Pea Fried Rice

Like a lot of toddlers, Fergal has a healthy distrust of anything green. Fortunately he’s a fan of peas so I’ve been keeping a stash in the freezer. I also keep some cooked rice so I can whip up this dish when I need a quick dinner for him. I should mention it’s one of my Irishman’s faves as well so a good one for keeping the whole family happy!

Enough for: 2-3
Takes: 15 minutes

3 eggs
3 cups (360g / 12oz) cooked rice
2 handfuls peas
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 green onions (scallions), chopped (optional)

1. Heat a large frying pan on a medium high heat. Whisk eggs in a bowl.

2. Add a splash of oil to the pan and then the eggs. Cook for about 30 seconds and then stir. Cook for another 30 seconds and stir again. Keep cooking and stirring until the eggs are almost set. Put egg on a clean plate.

3. Return the pan to the heat and add more oil. Stir fry the rice and peas until everything is hot and the rice is just starting to brown a little.

4. Remove from the heat and add the soy sauce. Taste and add more soy if needed.

5. Stir in the egg and green onion (if using) and serve hot.

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Variations

low GI – use basmati rice or cooked quinoa or see the paleo option.

to cook the rice – bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add rice and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain well then cool. Refrigerate or freeze until you’re ready to use.

hot – add some chopped red or green chilli with the peas or serve with chilli oil or your favourite hot sauce at the table.

more veg – feel free to add chopped red peppers (capsicum), snow peas, sugar snap peas, carrots, corn kernels, green beans, or asparagus. Anything that works in a stir fry is good.

vegan – replace egg with a few generous handful of roasted peanuts or cooked lentils or beans.

carnivore – brown some chopped bacon before adding the peas and rice. Or toss in a few handfuls of cooked chicken.

paleo – replace rice with grated raw cauliflower (about 1/2 cauli).

herby – serve with coriander (cilantro), mint or basil leaves on top.

Big love,
Jules x

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ps. Have you seen my print book, ‘5-Ingredients 10-Minutes’?

For all the details go to:
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sorrel pesto-3

Almost a year ago, my little family made the big leap to life in the country when we bought our tiny farm.

As I shared when we first moved in, it’s been a dream of mine for the longest time to have a little house and some land to grow veggies, raise chooks, plant a little orchard and hopefully some sort of vineyard so my wine making skills don’t lay dormant forever.

As with any good dream there have been some surprises along the way…

Like having not one but two tiger snakes in two days turn up on my kitchen step… Like having to catch a cute little green tree frog in our bedroom one night… Like getting used to waking up and seeing kangaroos just outside our bedroom window most mornings… Like planting my fruit trees in the boggiest patch of clay on the whole farm and having half of them decide to die…

All part of the fun of country life!

Anyway I’ve had a few requests to share what’s growing in my edible garden. Something a little different!

But before I do there’s a disclaimer. I’m new to this whole big garden thing. While I love spending time in the garden, especially picking things for dinner, I’m definitely a long way from being a green thumbed expert. So I’m not sure how helpful this will be…

garden tour

My Herb Garden

This is the closest to my back kitchen door and I just love being able to pop out and get a sprig of rosemary or a handful of basil whenever I need them. This year I’ve had the most amazing basil so we’ve been eating a lot of pesto. And for the first time ever I’ve even got extra pesto stashed away in my freezer.

I’ve also got flat leaf parsley, curly parsley, Greek basil (not as good as the regular stuff), tarragon, coriander (cilantro), chives, chervil, sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme, sorrel and stevia. One of the biggest attractions for me is being able to grow things like sorrel and stevia that I never see in the shops or farmers market.

I love having a few leaves of super lemony fresh sorrel to enliven a green salad. And it’s amazing in pesto (recipe below). The stevia I’m not so sure what to do with so if you have any ideas please share them in the comments below!

garden tour-2

My Salad Garden

This garden bed is slightly larger and had been pretty good at keeping us in salad leaves most of the year. I love not having to buy bagged salad any more because it’s so expensive and perishable.

When I’m rushed for time, I do sometimes lament the fact that I have to go outside and spend a few minutes picking leaves. But as soon as I’m in the garden, I’m always thankful for those little moments of peace.

Rocket (arugula) is my all time favourite salad because I love the peppery flavour and the fact that it’s so easy to grow. I also have a new found respect for good old butter lettuce and cos which I just pick a few leaves at a time and they keep on growing.

I do have some radishes which I’m still trying to love. If they weren’t so easy to grow I wouldn’t bother. But I strongly believe that it’s just a matter of finding the best way to prepare them!

Silverbeet or chard is something I’ve come to love because of its easy-to-grow nature. Mostly I sauté it in butter and garlic in a covered pot until it’s just wilted down and finish it with a squeeze of lemon and a generous pinch of sea salt.

I was late planting tomatoes this year so we have lots of green tomatoes and nothing ripe. Yet. Fingers crossed we’ll get something before the first frosts come.

garden tour-3

My Salad Garden Part2

This bed contains my most recent plantings. A mix of lettuces and Asian greens like tatsoi and mizuna. They’re mostly new to me so I’m excited about finding new ways to use them.

I should also report that since I’ve stopped being a ‘slacker’ on the salad washing front, there haven’t been any more incidents of diners finding caterpillars at my table!

garden tour-4

My Raised Veggie Beds

I had these in our old rental house in Cooma. And while I did have to bribe my brother to help me move them, I’m so glad they didn’t get left behind. If you’re renting (like we used to) or if you have poor soil (like we do now) raised veggie beds are the way forward!

At the moment these have carrots, beets, loads of garlic (just planted so won’t be harvested until next Summer), zucchini and some self-sown parsley. I did plant some spaghetti squash seeds and delicata pumpkin both which I’ve read about but haven’t ever seen or eaten. Only one plant has survived and because Fergal loves to play with my labels, I’m not sure which one it is. Looking forward to having that puzzle solved later in Autumn!

sorrel pesto-3

Fish with Sorrel Pesto

Sorrel is one of those annoying ingredients I see referred to in cookbooks from time to time but never see in the shops. It wasn’t until I planted some seeds and grew my own that I was able to experiment with this super lemony fresh-tasting herb. Don’t worry if you don’t have a herb garden full of sorrel. There are plenty of substitutes in the variations below!

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes

2 fish fillets
2 handfuls sorrel leaves
2 handfuls grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic
1 handful pine nuts
extra virgin olive oil
green salad, to serve

1. Heat a medium frying pan on a medium high heat. Rub fish with a little oil and season with lots of salt. Cook fish for 3-4 minutes on each side or until cooked to your liking.

2. Meanwhile, for the pesto, whizz sorrel, Parmesan, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor until finely chopped. Add a good pinch of salt and add some olive oil with the motor running until you have a saucer paste. Taste and season with more salt if needed and some pepper.

3. Serve fish with a big dollop of pesto on top and salad on the side.

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Variations

no sorrel? – basil or flat leaf parsley are the best substitutes or try mint or coriander (cilantro) for something a bit different. A big squeeze of lemon can make the pesto taste more fresh and lemony.

dairy-free – replace Parmesan with an extra handful of pine nuts or different nuts like almonds, cashews or Brazil nuts.

vegetarian – serve pesto with pan fried eggplant ‘steaks’ or some cooked quinoa or other grains. It’s also really lovely with poached or fried eggs or as a fresh topping for a simple omelette dinner.

carnivore – replace fish with chicken thigh or breast fillets or a good quality pork chop.

more substantial – serve with mashed or roast potatoes. Or serve fish on a bed of cooked grains such as quinoa, brown rice or farro.

What about you?

Are you into growing your own food? Got any tips on veggie growing or veggie garden design you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you! Just pop a comment below…

And I recently made my last David Tanis meal for the Summer! You can read all about the latest installment in the Jules & David Project OVER HERE.

Big love,
Jules x

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corn & miso salad-2

Don’t you hate it when you buy a new ingredient to use in a recipe only to end up with a big jar of ingredient cluttering your fridge? Me too.

I’m a little obsessive about keeping the random jars in my fridge to a minimum… Or at least keeping them ‘quarantined’ in the fridge door.

When I get a new ingredient, I go on a ‘mission’ to find ways to use it in other meals, easily, and with lots of tasty discoveries… my type of mission.

So when I got the following ‘request‘ from Beth last year, it reminded me that I had been neglecting a rather large tub of miso paste myself…

Hey! I was wondering if you had any dinner recipe ideas for Miso paste. I have tried putting it is a pot with tonnes of vegetables and making a stir fry, then serving it with some rice noodles – it is totally delicious. However I have had this meal a lot (and still have a giant pot of miso paste in my fridge), and I can’t think what else to do with it. Your recipes are always so creative and simple, I was wondering if you had any ideas?
Thanks, Beth

What is miso?

It’s a fermented paste made from soybeans. I read somewhere that miso and soy sauce were invented by Japanese monks to add savoury (also called ‘umami’) flavours to vegetarian food. So it’s a super useful ingredient for adding loads of flavour.

7 Delicious Ideas for Miso Paste

1. Salad dressings.
Miso adds a lovely savoury complexity to a vinaigrette. For a salad for two, whisk together 1 tablespoon sherry or wine vinegar, 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and 1 scant teaspoon of miso paste. Or try the recipe below!

2. Onions for burgers.
A super tasty way to take your burgers to the next level. I pinched this idea from fab Sydney chef Dan Hong.

Cook your onions in a little butter until soft then remove from the heat and stir in a little miso to season. About a teaspoon or 2 is usually enough… Let your tastebuds guide you.

3. Main course soup.
Miso soup is probably the first thing you think of when it comes to miso. The traditional form is a light broth usually with some seaweed and a few cubes of tofu. But miso soups can also be lovely meals in their own right…

Heat 3 cups stock to a simmer then stir in 1-2 tablespoons white miso. Then add veg, protein and/or noodles to make it more substantial. Enough for 2.

4. In marinades.
To get all those savoury flavours really embedded, use miso in a marinade. Don’t feel like this needs to be an overnight affair. Even 5 minutes can make a difference.

A good place to start is to combine 6 tablespoons white wine or mirin or Chinese Shaoxing wine with 2 tablespoons miso. Marinate enough chicken, beef or lamb for 2 people. Pan fry it or BBQ.

5. As a seasoning alternative to salt or soy sauce.
Because miso is salty it can be a great way to season and add even more flavour than you’d get from just salt.

6. In a sauce to serve with pan fried meat or fish.
I got this idea from Nigel Slater’s latest (brilliant) book called Eat. Cook the meat or fish in a little oil. Remove the pan from the heat and place protein on serving plates to rest. Stir in a tablespoon of wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons white miso and a tablespoon of hot water in with the pan juices and drizzle over your meat / fish to serve.

7. In stir frys.
As Beth mentioned, miso is super tasty in stir frys. Because it’s a bit of a delicate flower, best to cook your stir fry and remove from the heat before adding the miso.

Which miso should I buy?

There are loads of different types and to be honest I haven’t tried them all. I find that the paler the colour, the milder the flavour so I usually buy the whitest one. Also called ‘Shiro’ miso. But any miso can be used in the ideas above, you just may need less if using a darker or red paste.

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corn & miso salad-2

Corn & Miso Salad

If you’re in Oz, make sure you make this before corn season ends! It’s lovely on its own but also super tasty as a side to some BBQ salmon or other fish. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, frozen corn will also work but you may need a little more miso to tone down that super sweetness.

Inspired by the Lovely Emma Knowles from my favourite food mag – Australian Gourmet Traveller.

Enough for: 4 as a side
Takes: 30-40 minutes

3 cobs corn
1 bunch radishes
2 tablespoons miso, preferably white
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon tahini
1 bunch coriander (cilantro), torn

1. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F). Pop unpeeled corn on a tray and bake whole for 20-30 minutes or until corn kernels are hot and cooked.

2. While the corn is cooling, scrub radishes and finely slice into coin shapes using a mandoline if you have one or a sharp knife and a steady hand.

3. Mix miso, vinegar, tahini and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large bowl. Taste and season with salt or extra miso as needed.

4. When the corn is cool enough to touch, peel away the husks and ribbony silks. Cut kernels from the cob and toss in the dressing. Discard the husks.

5. Toss in the radishes and serve with coriander on top.

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Variations

different vinegar – use sherry vinegar, white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar. Apple cider vinegar will also work.

frozen corn – pan fry about 2.5 cups corn kernels in a little butter until warm then toss into the dressing.

different veg – frozen peas or broad beans will also work. Sliced snow peas make a crunchy alternative to the radishes.

carnivore – toss in some crunchy bacon or serve with roast or grilled chicken.

different herbs – if you hate coriander try mint, basil or flat leaf parsley or any combo of these.

more substantial – you could toss in some cooked noodles to make it more of a meal or try adding some steamed basmati or brown rice or cooked quinoa.

no tahini – you could use almond butter or another nut butter or leave it out of the dressing and serve the salad sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Big love,
Jules x

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vinegar

Have you ever ended up with lots of odds and ends of leftover wine and thought to yourself ‘I really should make some vinegar?’

Well until recently, I hadn’t either. I was happy keeping our little leftovers in the pantry to use in risottos and stews.

I think my lack of enthusiasm for home made vinegar stemmed from the fact that back in my wine making days, one of our biggest fears was accidentally turning a barrel of delicious wine into vinegar.

But when I was pregnant and there was only one wine drinker left in the house, we started to accumulate a reasonable stash of ‘cooking wine’ that was too past it to drink. And since I didn’t have a barrel shed of wine to risk spoiling, why not give home made vinegar a try?

And so I did.

It took a while but most of that time I had forgotten about my vinegar project until last year when we were moving house. Without much hope, I took a tiny sample from my jar to taste.

What a surprise!

Delicious, winey and vinegary – in a good way. More along the lines of sherry vinegar (which I adore) rather than commercial red wine vinegar (which I find way too harsh).

It’s now my favourite vinegar. And I’m actually finding myself happy not to finish the bottle at the end of the evening and save the leftovers for my vinegar stash.

So making vinegar can be good for ones liver as well! Who would have thought?

vinegar

Wine Vinegar

I’m giving you a recipe here but really it’s just a rough suggestion to get you going. This isn’t the only way so I really encourage you to experiment and do whatever works for you. Remember the acetic acid bacteria naturally want to do their job so you have nature on your side.

If you’re not a wine drinker you could buy some wine for the sole purpose of making the vinegar. Since we’re going to be oxidizing the wine and basically spoiling it, no need to get anything fancy.

makes: 1 bottle
takes: about 6 months

wine
1 large bottle or jar to store

1. Collect your wine. It’s fine to just designate a bottle and pour your leftovers in as they accumulate over the weeks or months. I think a mix of white, red and champagne makes things more interesting but just one type will still be amazing. The more air that goes into it the better so feel free to shake it as often as you think about it. I keep a lid on so I don’t end up with any flies. But keeping it open to the air with a cloth on top will speed things along.

2. When you’d got enough wine to fill your chosen storage bottle or jar about 3/4s full, it’s time to get serious!

3. The aim is to add enough air to the wine to ‘use up’ any sulfur dioxide remaining in the wine because this preservative will prevent our acetic acid bacteria from doing their job of turning the alcohol into vinegar (acetic acid). The best way to do this is to pour the wine from one vessel to another as many times as your patience allows. A funnel or a jug can make things easier but you could just use two wine bottles.

4. When you’ve had enough (try to do at least 5 pours), pour the wine into your large jar or bottle (the wider the neck the better for air transfer). Cover with some cloth or something that will keep flies out but allow air in.

5. Leave in a dark place until it tastes like vinegar. You can stir every few months (or transfer it out of the jar and back again a few times) to add more air and speed things along if you think about it. Or just do what I did and completely forget about it for 6 months.

6. When you’re happy with the flavour, transfer most of the vinegar to a clean bottle with a lid and start using it! I like to keep some to ‘seed’ my next vinegar batch.

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Video Version of the Recipe

Watch on YouTube

Variations

different alcohol – technically you can make vinegar from anything that contains alcohol such as beer or cider and the method is pretty much the same. The only thing is with high alcohol beverages like vodka, you would need to dilute to get the alcohol content below about 15% because otherwise the bacteria won’t be able to grow.

wine aerator – if you have one of those wine aerators like I do, they are great for helping to get the air into your wine. And the more air, the quicker you get rid of your sulphur and the quicker your acetic acid bacteria can grow. See the video for a demo of mine.

faster – the best way to speed up the bacteria is to get more air into the wine. Warmer temperatures will also help.

using a mother – The first time I made vinegar I just used wine, so no mother like I’ve described above. But using a ‘starter’ or a vinegar that has little floaty bits in it, also called the ‘mother’ to ‘seed’ your new batch of vinegar can help get things happening quicker…

organic – if you use organic or low sulphur wine, you won’t need to aerate as much. But you can’t really over-aerate so err on the side of more.

What do you think?

Did you enjoy this post about making vinegar? Would you like to see more on home made ingredients or do you prefer recipes for meals? I’d really love to know what you think so please share your thoughts in the comments below.

And while I’ve got you, I recently completed another menu in the ‘Jules & David Project‘. You can read all about ‘Menu Nine: Yellow Hunger’ over here.

Big love,
Jules x

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baked lentilotto-2

So I’m going to let you in on a little secret… Before I started Soupstones, my done-for-you meal planning service, I thought there was absolutely no way I would enjoy following a meal plan.

You see, I like to think of myself as a ‘free spirit’, someone who hates being told what to do. I was worried about stifling my creativity.

But you know what?

Over the last year I’ve found myself following my meal plans more and more.

The thing I love about the weeks when I use Soupstones meal plans is that I don’t have to think. I just download the plan, buy what’s on the shopping list. And then walk into the kitchen each night and cook. It really is so easy (if I do say so myself!)

Anyway over the last few weeks I’ve been spending a lot of time on the phone and skype talking to the wonderful people from around the world who have been using the meal plans.

My main aim was to find improvements. But I’ve also been hearing how the meal plans are helping people.

There were the things you’d expect to hear like…

“I’m saving money because I’m only buying what we need”

“We’re eating so many more home cooked meals”

“I’m wasting so much less because I actually use the ingredients I buy”

“Everything is so quick and easy to prepare”

“I’m eating much more healthfully”

“We’re trying new and tasty recipes all the time. It’s helped me break out of my food rut!”

But there were a few surprises too!

2 Surprising benefits of using a meal plan

1. Better tasting meals.

I’m a food lover. The most important thing for me is that my recipes taste good.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that many people mentioned their meals have been tastier and getting more compliments since joining Soupstones. But I was surprised. And very happy at the same time!

2. Learning how to substitute ingredients.

As with all the recipes here on my blog, the meal plans include options to help you customize the meals to suit your tastes and dietary requirements. There’s a side benefit to this…

The variations have actually taught people how to substitute ingredients and given them confidence to go ‘off the recipe’ when they want to. I really wasn’t expecting this but how cool is that?

Want to know how it works?

There’s a ‘how it works’ video tour (you’ll need to scroll down a bit) along with all the details about the meal plans on my website over here:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/soupstones/

And as I mentioned last week, I’m having a 1st a Birthday Sale on monthly membership. To lock in the 50% off price for as long as you are a member you’ll need to be quick!

The sale ends in less than 48 hours!

To make sure you don’t miss out go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/soupstones/

UPDATE: THE SALE IS NOW OVER
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baked lentilotto-2

Baked ‘Lentilotto’

I’ve been a fan of using red lentils to make a healthier and much easier (hello no constant stirring!) spin on risotto for a few years now. Normally I just cook on the stove top, stirring from time to time, but I recently had the (I like to think) brilliant idea of doing a baked version with no stirring at all. It takes a few minutes longer to cook but it is just as oozy and comforting AND you can pretty much forget about it while it cooks itself. Winner!

This is my basic or ‘template’ recipe. Feel free to add whatever other ingredients you feel like. Anything that would work in a risotto is a great place to start. Although I am a huge fan of this super simple version.

enough for: 2
takes: 25 minutes

1 large onion, chopped
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups chicken or veg stock
200g (7oz) red lentils
2 handfuls grated parmesan

1. Heat an oven proof pot on the stove top and preheat your oven to 200C (400F).

2. Add butter and onion and cook stirring every now and then until the onion is soft, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the stock and lentils. Season and cover with a lid or some foil. Bake for 15 minutes or until the lentils are super soft.

4. Stir in the parmesan and serve with a green salad on the side.

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Variations

dairy-free / vegan – use olive oil instead of the butter and replace parmesan with some finely grated brazil nuts. Or just serve with some extra olive oil drizzled over for richness.

herby – add a few sprigs of thyme or rosemary or sage in with the onions.

mushroom – brown some chopped mushrooms in with the onion.

no oven – just simmer the lentils in the stock on the stove top stirring every few minutes. Add an extra 1/2 cup of stock or more because you’re going to get much more evaporation with the pot uncovered.

carnivore – brown some crumbled sausages, bacon or sliced chorizo in the pan after cooking the onions.

more veg – add chopped carrot and celery with the onion. And feel free to stir in your favourite cooked veg before serving.

Thank you so much for reading! I really appreciate you taking the time to drop by.

With big love,
Jules x

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ps. Not sure if meal plans would work for you?

Here’s what Marjorie said about her experience:

“I’ve subscribed to the Soupstone meal plans for a few months. It took me a bit to get going on it, but when I made a leap and just went and shopped from your list — Voila! It was marvelous. I made everything like you said, even if I thought, we are not going to like this recipe. It’s pretty amazing, but my husband and I have liked every single meal. I’ve heard him talk about Soupstones Meal Plans to people and he says, You read the recipe and you doubt it’s going to taste good — but it ALWAYS does! He gets very excited now to see what’s in store for the week.”
Marjorie, Soupstones Member.

The 50% OFF sale ENDS in less than 48 HOURS!.

To make sure you don’t miss out use the link below:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/soupstones/

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spanish meatballs-2

This time last year I did something I wasn’t sure would work.

It all started when my friend Caroline was telling me about her experience with one of those weight loss programs that comes with an exercise schedule and detailed meal plans.

With her new, more slender figure Caroline was looking amazing.

What surprised me was her insistence that the thing she had found most helpful was the meal plans. They made it so easy to eat really healthfully day in and day out.

Each week she’d print out the shopping list and buy what was on it. Or better yet, get her husband to do the shopping.

Then at meal times she’d walk into the kitchen, look at her notes and just start cooking. No having to ‘think’ at the end of a long day.

She told me,

“Jules you really should offer a meal planning service. Some of the recipes in the plan I was following were pretty time consuming. It would be even better to have healthy meal plans using your quick, easy Stonesoup recipes.”

That got me thinking. I wasn’t sure it would work.

But I decided to give it a shot. So this time last year, ‘Soupstones Meal Plans’ was born.

Since then there have been 917 people who have used the meal plans to eat well and be well.

And today I wanted to share the stories of how Soupstones has helped change the lives of some of its members…

Daunine, Soupstones Meal Plans Member.

Daunine lives in the US and has a family of 4 to cook for. Here’s how her life has changed since joining Soupstones Meal Plans…

Daunine, Soupstones Member.
Daunine loves the variations included for the meal plans and recipes. She loves that the meal plans focus on whole foods and ingredients she can get at the store. Since starting to use the meal plans Daunine only does one shop a week so she’s saving time.

She also finds that she’s saving money because she’s not running to the store as often and she’s wasting less because she is using what she buys. Both Daunine and her husband are food lovers and they often find themselves saying ‘I can’t believe how good this is and it’s only got a few ingredients. It’s amazing that it’s so simple and so good!

___________________________

Crystal, Soupstones Meal Plans Member.

Crystal is a Canadian living in Colombia. Here’s how her life has changed since joining Soupstones Meal Plans…

Crystal, Soupstones Member.
It was so revolutionary for me as a cook. I could not boil water, and now I make all three meals for my boyfriend and me, with confidence. I actually, GASP, go off the recipe and add my own flair with what I have in my fridge or my spice rack… something that I could have never done without your meal plans holding my hand and helping me through the hard stuff – decision making. Fun bonus, all the recipes are delish!”

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Nyssa, Soupstones Meal Plans Member.

Nyssa is a student living in Melbourne. Here’s how her life has changed since joining Soupstones Meal Plans…

Nyssa, Soupstones Member.
Nyssa is in remission for an eating disorder and was encouraged by her dietician to try out Soupstones meal plans. She was hesitant at first but she loves fresh healthy food so she decided to give it a try. Before using the meal plans Nyssa had a lot of anxiety about shopping for food so she found herself eating out or relying on meal replacement smoothies. Now she finds the Soupstones shopping list fantastic for getting her shopping done quickly without fuss. She’s eating at home much more and usually uses the second serving of each meal for lunch at uni the next day.

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Sherrill, Soupstones Meal Plans Member.

Sherrill recently turned 65 and moved from New York to Philadelphia. Here’s how her life has changed since joining Soupstones Meal Plans…

Sherrill, Soupstones Member.
“My “relationship” with Jules Clancy and Soupstones is as old as Soupstones…one year.

Prior to joining Soupstones I had determined that …once again… something needed to be done about my weight. Other than chubby, I’m quite healthy with much thanks given to the genetics that have pretty much overridden my self-abuse. And, seeing as how I recently became a member of the 65-year old community, figured this is a last hurrah to really enjoy feeling, being and looking well.

Intrigued by Soupstones and Jules’s ever-growing, non-preachy beliefs about eating [honey IS good], I initially purchased one of her e-cookbooks, eventually becoming a member of the Weekly Meal Plan “club”. Jules’s recipes, philosophy, research, weekly e-mails and general chattiness continually feed and stoke the fires of my becoming more mindful, educated/questioning and cooking creatively.

In addition, shopping with the Meal Plan lists makes cooking sooooo much easier while at the same time helping cut food and money waste way back. As a single person, I am particularly happy to move from the 20-ingredient, calorie-laden, 4-to-6 servings meal to a 5-items-or less, healthy plant-based meal for two. Having always considered myself to be a good food eater [while eating too much of that good thing!] even some of the small changes [Cauliflower Rice or Zucchini Pasta] are really satisfying substitutes.

Combining Soupstones Meal Plans and Recipes with a new, regular exercise program has had the extra added benefit of making me even healthier — and 25 pounds [1.78 stone] lighter!!! Happy Birthday Soupstones!!!”

___________________________

Sound like something you’d like to try? Well now is a brilliant time to join!

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The Soupstones 1st Birthday SALE!


To celebrate this big milestone, I’m having a quick 50% OFF sale on Soupstones monthly membership.

This the first sale on Soupstones membership in almost 6 months. It’s only for a very LIMITED TIME.

For all the details go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/soupstones/

UPDATE: The Sale is NOW OVER.

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spanish meatballs-2

Spanish Meatballs with Zucchini ‘Noodles’

I’m a big fan of meatballs in all their forms but my favourites are ones like these that you pop in the oven to bake in their sauce because they’re super low maintenance and you can do other things while dinner is cooking itself. If you don’t have an oven, they can easily be simmered on the stove top, you’ll just need to be prepared to stir more frequently.

enough for: 2-3
takes: 30-40 minutes

1 jar tomato passata or puree (700g / 24oz / 2.5 cups) 
1 red capsicum (bell pepper), chopped
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
450g (1lb) chicken mince
150g (5oz) almond meal
2-3 small zucchini
ricotta, to serve

1. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F). Place tomato passata, capsicum, butter and paprika in a baking dish and pop in the oven to get cooking.

2. While the sauce is warming, combine chicken and almond in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper and form into your preferred meatball size. Smaller ones take longer to make but will cook quicker!

3. Add the balls to the sauce and return to the oven uncovered for 15 minutes.

4. Turn and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through.

5. While the meatballs are cooking, slice zucchini into fine ribbons using a mandoline or vegetable peeler. Stack them up and slice into linguine shaped ‘noodles’ with a knife. Pop in a strainer and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and allow to stand for 10 minutes or so.

6. When the meatballs are cooked. Rinse the salt from the zucchini and pat dry with paper towel. Serve meatballs and sauce on a bed of the raw zucchini ‘noodles’ with a dollop of ricotta on top.

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Variations

vegetarian – use the recipe for these lentil balls to replace the chicken and almond meal.

vegan – replace chicken and almond meal with 2 drained cans of chickpeas. Simmer the chickpeas in the sauce until hot. Serve chickpeas and sauce with the zucchini noodles and replace ricotta with roasted sliced almonds or pine nuts.

dairy-free – replace ricotta with roasted sliced almonds or pine nuts.

carb-lovers / more substantial – serve with steamed rice, cooked couscous or cooked quinoa. Or some crusty bread and butter.

more veg – feel free to add more than just the capsicum (bell pepper) to the sauce. Mushrooms, onion, diced eggplant, sweet potato or even frozen peas will all work, you may need to adjust the cooking time to get the veg cooked through.

not-spanish – skip the capsicum and smoked paprika.

italian meatballs – skip the smoked paprika and serve with grated parmesan and basil instead of the ricotta.

With love,
Jules x

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ps. Not sure if you would enjoy following a meal plan?

Here’s what Dyann said about her experience:

“I am so glad I signed up for this, but I think my husband is even happier! Every night I’m hearing comments like, “I have been eating so good lately,” “This tastes like it came from a [Thai, Indian, etc] restaurant!” “That looks like a picture in a magazine” and “The house smells soooo gooooood.”
Dyann, Soupstones Member.

For more details use the link below:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/soupstones/

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parmesan edamame-3

Now that I have a toddler in the house, I’m very well acquainted with the degree of difficulty involved with getting said toddler to eat anything green.

Fortunately Fergal loves peas, so I always keep our freezer well stocked. But there are only so many times you can serve up peas each week. So I’ve been on the lookout for a Fergal-friendly green veg alternative.

And I’ve found a real beauty!

Yep. Edamame are our new family favourite veg.

What are edamame?

Basically they’re fresh soy beans still in their pod. I always have some when I go to Japanese restaurants. They’re usually served in their pods and you just pop out the little beans inside and discard the pods.

They’re a vibrant bright green and have a lovely sweet, mild fresh beany flavour. Fergal loves them and so do my Irishman and I. So they’re definitely for adults too!

Where can I get them?

Try your supermarket freezer near the frozen pea section. My local supermarket stocks them but it’s pretty large. The next best place to look would be an Asian or Japanese grocery store.

What can I substitute if I can’t find them?

Frozen peas or broad beans would be the closet thing. Or I guess fresh snow peas or sugar snap peas where you eat the pod as well.

Are frozen veg as good for you as fresh?

Absolutely! Freezing is pretty good for keeping most of the nutrients intact. I’ve even seen studies where the nutritional content of frozen veg was better than unfrozen veg that was getting on the ‘old’ side.

What about you?

What’s your favourite frozen veg? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

parmesan edamame-3

Parmesan Edamame

This is really more of an idea than an actual recipe. I usually make these for Fergal (and me!) to snack on while I get dinner ready.

Enough for: 1-2 as a snack
Takes: 5 minutes

1-2 handfuls frozen edamame
1 handful grated parmesan

1. Bring a small pot of water to the boil (I usually use the kettle).

2. Add edamame straight from the freezer. Simmer for 2 minutes.

3. Drain and pop in a serving dish (if you want them to cool down quickly for small hungry mouths run under the cold tap for a bit).

4. Remove edamame from their pods and discard pods. Sprinkle with parmesan and enjoy!

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Variations

different veg / no edamame – broad beans are great (remove from the pods, simmer 2 mins and peel papery skins before eating). Or try parmesan peas (I just heat in a pan with a little butter until no longer frozen).

dairy-free / vegan – serve edamame with sea salt flakes instead of the parmesan.

more substantial – you can use the podded edamame anywhere you’d normally use frozen peas such as in soups or salads or fried rice. But since they’re a bit labour intensive I just stick to using them as a snack.

herby – add a few torn mint or basil leaves.

short on attention span – I often just cover the frozen edamame with boiling water from the kettle and leave to stand while I do other things.

More Stonesoup:

For the next update in the Jules & David project:
Menu 8. Slightly All-American

And on ‘The Yellow Bench’ What I Eat, by Fergal 18 months old.

With love,
Jules x

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kung pao chicken

About this time two years ago my Irishman and I had a lovely holiday in Sydney staying in our friends Walsh Bay apartment with killer views of the Sydney harbour bridge.

One night we had an especially delicious dinner at Mr Wong. A seriously great Chinese restaurant in the CBD.

To cut a long story short, My Irishman was blown away by their Kung Pao Chicken.

As soon as we were home, he was in the kitchen trying to replicate Mr Wong’s KPC.

Now my Irishman is pretty handy in the kitchen but he doesn’t cook that often because I tend to hog the stove.

I love to be cooked for as much as the next girl, so I was thrilled to be the ‘guinea pig’ for his experiments.

Months later, when KPC was still on high rotation, I wasn’t quite so appreciative of being cooked for. So I took matters into my own hands and sent an email to Australian Gourmet Traveller, my favourite food magazine. I explained my predicament and asked if they could request the recipe from the chef.

A few months later my prayers were answered.

We had the official recipe! My Irishman was finally happy with his kung pao efforts. Life was good.

I’ve been wanting to tell you this story for a while now but I figured it needed a fitting occasion. And this week we have such an event!

This Friday my Irishman, aka GB, turns 40. So to celebrate I have the recipe for my (simple) version of kung pao chicken below plus a little sale…

The GB40 Sale!

GB40 sale new

When I was trying to decide how to celebrate such a milestone occasion, it didn’t take me long to figure it out.

I only have one product priced in the $40s… The ebook bundle deal where you can save $10 if you buy ‘The Tired & Hungry Cooks Companion’ and ‘Healthy & Tasty’ together.

Normally it’s $44 but for the next 40 hours you can get it for an extra 40% OFF!

To make sure you don’t miss out on the 40-hour 40% OFF price go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/bundle/

The sale is strictly limited to 40 hours, so don’t delay!

UPDATE: THE SALE IS NOW OVER.

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kung pao chicken

My Simple Kung Pao


There have been many dinner table discussions at out house on which ingredients could be left out of kung pao. I must point out that this is my simple interpretation and if my Irishman was cooking, he would stick to the original Mr Wong recipe.

Chinese black ‘Chinkiang’ vinegar is a really lovely ingredient but if you don’t have it already, use rice vinegar, sherry or red wine vinegar instead. It’s not worth buying a bottle especially for this recipe.

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes + marinating

450g (1lb) chicken
1 tablespoon soy sauce + 2 tablespoons for sauce
4-6 fresh or dried red chillies 
1 tablespoon Chinkiang black vinegar
2 green onions (scallions), chopped
steamed rice or cauliflower ‘rice’, to serve

 
1. Slice chicken into bite sized strips and place in a bowl with 1 tablespoon soy. Cover and stand for a few minutes or if possible refrigerate for a few hours but no longer than 24.

2. Heat a little oil in a frying pan or wok. Add half the chicken and cook, stirring until the chicken is browned and cooked through. Place cooked chicken in a clean bowl and add the remaining chicken and the chilli. Continue to stir fry

3. When the second batch of chicken is browned and cooked through. Return the first batch of chicken to the pan. Stir.

4. Remove from the heat and add the additional 2 tablespoons soy sauce and the vinegar and stir well. Taste and add more soy or vinegar if you think it needs it.

5. Serve chicken on a bed of rice (or cauliflower ‘rice’ – raw cauliflower grated in the food processor) with green onions sprinkled on top.

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Variations

optional extras – handful roast peanuts, 1 clove garlic, 1/2 tsp ground Sichuan pepper, 1 teaspoon sugar to marinate the chicken and another to finish the sauce.

vegetarian / vegan – replace chicken with firm tofu or use diced eggplant (add a little water and allow extra time for the eggplant to cook).

more veg – serve with steamed or stir fried Asian greens such as bok choy or Chinese broccoli on the side. I usually dress the greens with a little sesame oil. Steamed broccoli or broccolini is another lovely accompaniment. Or in Spring time consider asaparagus.

no Chinkiang vinegar – use rice vinegar, sherry or red wine vinegar instead. It’s not worth buying a bottle especially for this recipe unless you are a vinegar-ophile like me and are keen to add something new to your collection.

less hot – 6 chillies should make it pretty punchy, like ‘pao’! If you prefer less heat, use less chillies and remove the seeds. Or just skip the chilli.

With love,
Jules x

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bas vin-4

Last year I read a great little book by Chris Guillebeau who fulfilled his dream of visiting every country in the world.

With the title, ‘The Happiness of Pursuit’, Chris’ latest book is all about quests. It chronicles the adventures of not only Chris’s globe trotting but a heap of other people with quests as diverse as cooking a meal from every country in the world to watching a baseball game in every major league stadium in the US.

Being a Virgo who loves writing (and crossing things off) lists, I found the whole ‘quest’ idea super inspiring.

Not only did it motivate me to finally start my ‘bucket list’, it also gave me the idea for a few mini quests that I’m working on this year.

My Quests for 2015

1. Cook every meal from David Tanis’ ‘Platter of Figs and Other Recipes’.

2. Post one photo on Instagram every day for a year.

3. Eat at every restaurant in Canberra on the Good Food Top 20 list.

4. Have a conversation in French in Paris.

The David Tanis Project

My best Christmas pressie this year was a copy of ‘A Platter of Figs ‘. I fell in love instantly with Tanis’ writing but even more so with the sound of his food.

I just love the way he tells a story about a meal and then gives the menu and recipes.

I also love that even though he is a chef, his favourite way to spend time with family and friends is to cook at home. A man after my own heart.

After reading the book cover to cover, an idea struck.

Maybe I should try and cook every meal from the book over the next year?

And the ‘Jules & David Project’ was born.

The story so far

I made our first meal last week on a suitably hot Summer’s day. If you’d like more detail on the actual menu, I’ve created a separate page over here (excuse the crappy iphone pics).

Overall I just LOVED the meal.

Of course there were many Stonesoup simplifications because sometimes I can’t help it.

I also loved the process of following someone else’s well planned idea. And the chance to try some new tricks that I wouldn’t thought of on my own.

The menus

menu seven: TOO DARNED HOT. ALORS!
menu eight: SLIGHTLY ALL-AMERICAN
menu nine: YELLOW HUNGER
menu ten: FEELING ITALIAN, PART 1
menu thirteen: FEELING ITALIAN, PART 2
menu fourteen: IN CATALONIA
menu fifteen: THE BEAN SOUP LUNCH
menu sixteen: ANOTHER EARLY AUTUMN
menu seventeen: DINNER FOR A TUSCAN
menu eighteen: A SIMPLE MOROCCAN SUPPER
menu nineteen: TAPAS PARTY (coming soon)

Plus! Watch this space for more to be added during the year…

bas vin-4

Versatile Basil Vinaigrette

As an Australian I love shortening words wherever possible. For example the dishwasher is called the ‘dish’ and this basil vinaigrette becomes ‘bas vin’. I’m not sure how David would feel about that but I think it has a nice ring to it.

I’ve simplified the recipe because I can’t help myself! David uses shallots and he uses much more oil than me. See the ‘variations’ for the original quantities and ideas for uses. He also lets the dressing sit for 1/2 hour before using and instructs that it’s best used within a few hours.

makes: a bit over 1/2 cup
takes: 15 minutes or less

1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
small handful basil leaves, torn
1/2 cup olive oil

1. Smash garlic with a generous pinch of salt to form a paste. I use the side of my knife on a chopping board but you’re welcome to use a mortar and pestle.

2. Macerate garlic, vinegar salt and basil leaves in a small bowl or bottle. 10-15 minutes or less if that’s all you’ve got.

3. Whisk in the olive oil. See below for serving ideas.

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Variations

david’s version – 2 shallots finely diced, 2 cloves garlic smashed with salt to a paste, 3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar, small handful basil leaves, 1.5 cups olive oil. Remove basil before serving (I missed this step and left it in… extra fiber!).

more wintery – if it’s not basil season where you are try rosemary leaves or thyme. Remove these before serving.

different vinegar – sherry or a sharp cheapish balsamic would also work. Or try white wine vinegar.

with tuna – crush 1 teaspoon fennel seeds and rub onto two tuna steaks or other fish fillets that have been rubbed with oil. Season and grill or cook in a pan on a medium high heat for 3-4 minutes each side. Serve fish drizzled with the ‘bas vin’.

tomato & pepper salad – drizzle over sliced super ripe tomatoes tossed with finely sliced red capsicum (bell pepper).

green bean salad – simmer green beans in salted boiling water until tender – about 5 minutes. Drain and cool. Toss in the ‘bas vin’ and serve as a side or top with a couple of sliced hard boiled eggs.

potato salad – simmer unpeeled whole new or other small waxy potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and cool a little. Slice thickly and toss in the ‘bas vin’.

drizzled on soup – I had some from the fridge drizzled on a minestrone-ish soup for lunch the other day. Divine!

lively green salad – brings a surprising depth of flavour to a simple green salad.

What do you think?

Would you like to see more blog posts on my David Tanis project this year? Let me know in the comments below. I’d also love to hear if you have a project or quest you’re working on.

With love,
Jules x

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