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There’s a new method of cooking vegetables I’ve been experimenting with for a while now. I use the term ‘new’ loosely because I’m sure if I googled it there would be millions of references to my new technique.

Sometimes, especially when I have a new idea when I’m cooking, I like to pretend that Google doesn’t exist so my new idea can stay ‘new’. Well at least to me.

Do you ever do that? Or is it just my craziness?

Anyway, back to this technique…

I’ve been calling it ‘steam frying’ and basically it involves rinsing your veg and leaving a lot of the moisture on. Then it’s about heating a little oil in a frying pan or pot, adding the veg and cooking with a lid on until the veg are as tender as suits your mood.

I love it for a few reasons.

First it’s pretty quick. Second it make veg taste super delicious. There’s still the bright, fresh flavours you’d normally associate with steamed veg but they’re more concentrated and have the added complexity of the pan fried notes.

I also love it because it makes an awesome one pot meal so it’s easy on the cleaning up.

Our recipe this week showcases this new technique. The thing that makes this recipe extra tasty is to add a little chilli fire and some rich cheesey goodness. Both of which stops your broccoli from being too goody-two-shoes.

Which brings me to the favour!

I’m SUPER excited to let you know I’m just putting the finishing touches on a new free video training series that’s all about revolutionizing your meal planning.

Anyway I’d love to get your feedback to make sure I’m on the right track. So I’ve created a super quick survey over here:

It will only take you 30 seconds or so and I’d really appreciate your help!

___
cheesey broccoli-2

Cheesey Broccoli

I made this the other night for a ‘batchelorette’ dinner because my Irishman was out. I was craving something healthy but also cheesey and comforting. Talk about hitting the spot! If you have coconut oil, I really recommend using it because it adds a lovely subtle coconutty sweetness which sounds weird but actually works really well. Of course if you don’t have any, butter or olive oil are just as good.

enough for 2
4-5 tablespoons coconut oil, olive oil or butter
2 heads broccoli
2-6 small red chillis chopped, optional
4 large handfuls grated cheese

1. Heat oil in a frying pan or skillet over a medium heat.

2. Rinse broccoli and don’t dry as the water will help the broccoli to steam. Slice broccoli stems finely then chop the top into bite sized chunks. I just hack through it with a knife but you’re welcome to chop into individual ‘trees’ if you like.

3. Add broccoli and chilli to the oil. Cook, covered for about 5 minutes or until the broccoli is tender. You’ll need to stir a few times. If it starts to burn add a little water.

4. Add cheese and stir until well combined and just melted.

VARIATIONS

different veg – also great with cauliflower or broccolini. And in springtime I’m planning on trying some cheesey asparagus. I’m also thinking it would work well with snow peas, green beans or kale sliced into thin ribbons.

more substantial – serve with a handful of nuts, or a little cooked quinoa or a poached egg or toss in a drained can of chickpeas and add a little more cheese.

carnivore – serve as a side to a well grilled juicy steak or chicken breast.

different cheese – I used a combo of parmesan and emmental but any melting cheese is good here. Try raclette, gruyere, cheddar or even some blue. It’s a good way to use up little scraps of cheese floating around the fridge.

tiny person-friendly – skip the chilli or serve it separately so everyone can add their own. For more ideas for feeding your family, see my other blog www.theyellowbench.com

With love,
Jules x
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A few months ago I was chatting with my sister Naomi. She had just been to a lunch with her mothers group.

She was telling me how much they were all struggling to come up with ideas for healthy dinners.

And I can see why.

As a new mum myself, I know how short on time mothers can be. Then add to the equation the need to please both the tiny people in the house and the adults. It’s definitely a tall order to fill.

So as Nao and I were talking, we began to flesh out an idea. We really wanted to come up with a way to help mums and dads walk this difficult tightrope.

I had toyed with the idea of doing something for parents myself, but given that I’m just starting on the parenting journey I didn’t feel ready to branch out yet.

Naomi, however, knows intimately the challenges of feeding a picky almost 2 1/2 year old.

And so ‘The Yellow Bench‘ was born.

We’re both super excited about our new project. And this week to celebrate the ‘birth’ of our new blog dedicated to bringing joy back to family meals, I thought I’d share my 10 favourite child-friendly meals…

10 Healthy (Child-friendly) Meals

1. Pirate Food with Sea Weed

[aka Fish Cakes with Wilted Spinach]
recipe below
fish cakes-2

2. The Magic Sausage Supper

[aka Baked Sausages with Veg]
magic sausage supper

3. ‘Dead Ant’ Salad

[aka Quinoa & Grilled Veg Salad]
quinoa grilled veg salad

4. Dinosaur Tree Stir Fry

[aka Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry]
beef & broccoli stir fry

5. Green Eggs with Ham

[aka Pesto Eggs with Ham]
green eggs & ham

6. Cheesey ‘Moon Rocks’

[aka Cheesey Chickpeas ;)]
cheesy chickpeas

7. Red Lentil ‘Risotto’

[aka Red Lentil Risotto]
red lentil risotto

8. Real Mac & Cheese

[aka Real Mac & Cheese]
mac and cheese

9. Real Kids Eat ‘Dirt’

[aka Parisian Lentils]
8177540726_910d730820_b

10. Do-Ahead Baked Meatballs

[aka Meatballs]
meatballs

Any of these sound tempting?

Why not come over to our new blog and say Hi…
www.theyellowbench.com
___________
fish cakes

Pirate Food with Sea Weed

[Fish Cakes with Wilted Spinach]

One thing we love doing at the Yellow Bench is coming up with more fun names for meals. It’s amazing how a bit of creativity can go a long way to improving the image and ‘edibility’ of a particular food.

Enough for 2 adults
1 large tin tuna in oil (425g / 15oz), drained
1 can chickpeas (400g / 14oz), drained
1 egg
1 bag baby spinach
mayonnaise, natural yoghurt or lemon juice, to serve

1. Preheat an overhead grill or broiler.

2. Mash tuna and chickpeas together in a bowl using a fork or your hands. It’s OK to leave a few chickpeas whole. Or just whizz it all together in your food processor.

3. Stir in egg and form mixture into fish cakes about the size of a golf ball.

4. Place fish cakes on a heat proof tray and drizzle with a little oil.

5. Cook under the grill (broiler) for about 5 minutes or until browned. Turn carefully, they can be partial to falling apart, and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

6. Meanwhile heat a little oil in a large pot and cook spinach, stirring, until just starting to wilt.

7. Serve ‘pirate food’ fish cakes topped with mayo / yoghurt / lemon and serve spinach ‘sea weed’ on the side.

VARIATIONS
adult-friendly – serve with your favourite hot sauce like sriracha or Tabasco.

vegetarian – replace tuna with an extra can of chickpeas.

more summery – don’t wilt the spinach!

With love,
Jules x
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A few years ago I spoke at the Melbourne writers festival. The main focus of the talk was about blogging and business. To be honest it wasn’t my greatest work. I was super nervous and stumbled over my words.

But in the end it didn’t matter because I had a great time listening to the other speakers. And I met some really inspiring people.

One of those people I’ve remained good friends with. Her name is Lesh and she blogs over at www.themindfulfoodie.com about her journey from eating most things out of a packet to being,in her words, a ‘real food nut’.

I love Lesh’s blog and really encourage you to check it out.

Today it gives me great pleasure to share an interview I recorded with the lovely Lesh. We talk about her real food journey AND her tips for you to get more whole foods in your life.

Watch interview on YouTube Here
Links mentioned in the interview:

http://endometriosis.org
http://www.bookdepository.com/Endometriosis-Michael-Vernon/9780007386420

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nourish cover

If you’re interested in picking up a copy of Nourish go to:
Lesh Karan – The Mindful Foodie.

________
And in case you’d like a taster of the type of recipes in the book, here’s my version of Lesh’s nourishing dahl for you to try…

leshs nourishing dahl

Lesh’s Nourishing Dahl

One of the things I love about Lesh is that her family background is Indian – one of my favourite cuisines that I am keen to learn more about! I’ve been looking for a good authentic dahl recipe for a long time. I’m happy to say this one ticks all the boxes.

It does have a few more ingredients than my usual Stonesoup recipes but I think in this case its worth it. Although, I’ve also included a super simple option in the variations below.

Enough for 4
300g (1 1/2cups) red lentils
1 bunch baby carrots, chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
4 cloves garlic
4 cups water or stock
4 handfuls baby spinach
2-4 tablespoons lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
natural yoghurt, to serve

1. Wash lentils thoroughly under the cold tap and drain.

2. Place lentils in a medium saucepan with the water or stock. Bring to a simmer, skimming the foam that arises.

3. Add carrots, turmeric, cumin, salt and garlic.

4. Simmer for another 15-20 mins more until the lentils and carrots are totally cooked. Make sure you stir along the way so the dahl doesn’t stick.

5. Stir in the spinach leaves and allow them to wilt.

6. Taste and season with lemon juice and soy. Serve with yoghurt.

VARIATIONS
dairy-free / vegan – use coconut yoghurt or mashed avocado instead.

carnivore – serve as a side to a meat based curry or add in a few handfuls of cooked chicken.

different veg – feel free to play around. I love the carrots though.

budget – use water instead of the stock (i did).

5 ingredients – just use the lentils, turmeric,

different spices – use a mild curry powder instead of the spices listed.

tiny person-friendly – think about skipping the spinach.

What about you? Do you have any tips for eating more whole foods? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below…

With love,
Jules x
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ps. The links in this email are affiliate links so if you do decide to buy Lesh’s book, you’ll be supporting Stonesoup as well! We both really appreciate it.

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red wine glass & bottleYou may not know this, but in a former life I was a wine maker. From the outside it seems like such a glamorous career.

And I guess in many ways it is.

I got to live and work in some incredibly beautiful places. From the Barossa Valley to the good old Hunter in Australia. And even as far afield as the Rhone Valley in France, Sonoma and Los Gatos in California.

I got to work with some incredibly diverse personalities.

And there was the odd fancy dinner, eating and drinking in the name of ‘work’.

But like most things in life, it had a down side. Most of the time it was hard work. Really hard work. The truth is, that drinking wine is much more fun than making it.

Even though it was a pretty amazing profession, I’m glad I decided to leave that career behind. And my liver is too.

But old habits die hard. Over Christmas and the new year, I’ve found myself drinking way more than I should.

So I’ve decided to go OTP* as my brother calls it, for the whole month of Feb.

With our wedding a little over 6 weeks away (!), it’s time to give my liver a rest so I can look my best on the ‘big day’.

And why am I telling you this?

Two reasons…

First

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 4.57.01 PMTo be honest, if I was just doing it on my own, I’m sure I’d find an excuse not to stick to my pledge. So I’m using some good old public accountability to help my feeble will power.

And while I’m at it, I thought I’d help raise some money for a great cause… finding solutions for youth addiction.

I’d really appreciate it if you could help sponsor me.

All the details are over at:
www.my.febfast.org/PersonalPage.aspx?registrationID=689821

Second

I wanted to invite you to join me in getting a little healthier and kicking one of your vices in Feb.

It doesn’t have to be alcohol. You can choose to quit sugar, caffeine or whatever else happens to be your particular poison.

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 4.43.10 PM

Want to get a little healthier?

If you’d like to do it formally, all the details are over on www.febfast.org.au

I’d be really super excited to know that I’m not on my own…

So please leave a comment below and let me know if you do decide to give it a go. I’m really looking forward to hearing from you!

With love,
Jules x
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*OTP = off the ‘piss’.

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Imagine coming home after a long day. You’re tired. You’re hungry. Then imagine having dinner ready and waiting for you.

Imagine something healthy AND super tasty prepared by one of your (I’m hoping) favourite food bloggers… Me!

Well as much as I’d love to come around to your place every evening and help out with getting dinner on the table, I’d hate for little Fergal and my Irishman to feel neglected.

So I guess we’ll have to leave that scenario for another day.

Before you start feeling down there is some good news!

I’ve come up with the next best thing…

Today I’m super happy to announce the birth of a completely NEW meal planning service from Stonesoup!

So how did this all come about?

About this time last year I was talking to my friend Caroline. At the time she was getting all geared up for a weight loss program she’d signed up for. It was one of those ones that comes with an exercise schedule and meal plans for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

A few months later Caroline was looking amazing with her new, more slender figure. I asked her how she had found the whole experience.

Her answer surprised me.

While the motivation and commitment to exercise had really helped, the thing she loved the most were the meal plans. Each week she’d just print out the shopping list and buy what was on it. Or better yet, get her husband to look after procurement.

Then each night she’d walk into the kitchen, look at her notes and just start cooking. No agonizing over what to make. No having to ‘think’ at the end of a long day.

But you know what would have made it even better? Some of the recipes were a little time consuming, it would be brilliant to have meal plans using your quick, healthy Stonesoup recipes.

That got me thinking… And here we are

Introducing ‘Soupstones’ Meal Plans!

Soupstones banner logo

If you think you’re a bit like my friend Caroline and could do with some meal planning help, then you’re in luck…

The NEW ‘Soupstones’ Meal Planning service is now up and running!

If you have any interest in trying out my new ‘Soupstones’ Meal Plans, I really encourage you to be one of the first to join me.

I’m having a special ‘introductory’ trial at the moment…

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

_______

bacon sang choi bau-4

Bacon Sang Choi Bau

We love a bit of sang choi bau action for a quick week night dinner in our house. There’s something so delicious about spicy meat being wrapped in cooling lettuce leaves. We love it so much we often serve other stir fries like this instead of with cauliflower ‘rice’ (finely grated raw cauli) or steamed rice.

I can’t remember exactly why I decided to put bacon in the sang choi bau. Probably because we were going away and I didn’t want to waste it. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that bacon made this classic dish taste even more amazing. But I was. And it’s good enough to warrant a stand alone recipe, rather than just tacking on bacon to one of my ‘variations’ ;)

Enough for 2
3-4 slices bacon
450g (1lb) pork minced (ground pork)
1-4 red chillies
4-6 tablespoons oyster sauce
iceburg lettuce, washed

1. Heat a little oil in a wok or large frying pan on a very high heat.

2. Cook bacon for a few minutes or until starting to brown.

3. Add pork and chilli. Continue to stir fry until the meat is well browned.

4. Remove from the heat and add enough oyster sauce to season it well.

5. Wrap a little of the hot meat in lettuce leaves and eat with your fingers.

VARIATIONS

vegetarian / vegan – skip the bacon and try seasoning some cooked green lentils with (vegetarian) oyster sauce and chilli. Serve with lettuce. Also works with browning crumbled tofu. Expect to use more oyster sauce.

sugar-free – replace oyster sauce with soy sauce (start with much less so it’s not too salty) and a drizzle of sesame oil.

different meat – also great with minced (ground) beef or chicken. Actually most ground meat will work well.

fish – you could use finely chopped fish fillets. Expect them to cook quite quickly.

more veg – toss in some sliced water chestnuts, chopped red capsicum (bell pepper), mushrooms and/or sliced green onions.

herby – serve with torn mint, basil and/or coriander (cilantro) leaves.

Stonesoup TV

With love,
Jules x
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Soupstones Square Logo no borderps. Not sure if a meal planning service will work for you?

The only way to find out is to try it! You can cancel your membership at any time with one quick email.

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

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On the weekend I had a few ‘guilty’ fridge moments. You know the feeling. When you have a little ‘clean out’ which basically involves just tossing all the things that are now mouldy or otherwise inedible.

While I’m happy this sort of thing doesn’t happen very often, somehow over the holidays I managed to let standards slip around here. And I’m embarrassed to say I threw out quite a bit of food.

And the thing that really irks me?

It could have all been avoided.

You could say I had a massive case of ‘should have known better’. Ouch!

On a brighter note, I do have some exciting news to share with you today.

But before we get to that, I wanted to share the 3 simple steps I should have taken to avoid my needless waste. I hope it helps both of us avoid that sinking feeling from now on!

3 Steps to Avoiding Wasted Ingredients

Step 1. Rotate
This is subtle but can really make all the difference. The idea is when you put new items into the fridge, you try and position them at the back and bring the older items to the front.

I’m usually pretty good at doing this with my fresh produce. I have a larger and a smaller drawer in my crisper so before I put away my market purchases each week, I transfer the older produce to the smaller drawer and put the new into the larger. Then I make the effort to look in the small one first.

The second part of this concept is to rotate leftovers. Bring the older ones to the front and put newer ones to the back. Turns out I’m not so brilliant at this, especially over Christmas when leftovers were at an all time high.

Step 2. Really look each day
It’s funny how we can open the fridge door but not really ‘see’ what’s in there. While step 1 helps to make the looking part easier, it’s still important to have a good look each day.

Again I was a little slack with this when I was on holiday mode.

I find asking yourself ‘what needs eating up here?’ can help identify and avoid unnecessary waste.

3. Take action as needed
This is the ‘business’ end of the process. It’s one thing to know you have some chicken breast that is close to its use buy date. But unless you make a plan to cook said chicken or pop it in the freezer, it won’t be saved from the waste bin.

The three most common ways I tend to take action here are to:
1. Eat it
2. Cook it
3. Freeze it.

Not exactly rocket science, but easy to forget. The power to avoid waste is within you!

And if you need more specific tips, see the recipe below for details on how to avoid waste for each ingredient.

And what about this something NEW?

Soupstones banner logo

I’m super excited to announce that next week I’m going to be launching a completely new meal planning service.

The meal plans will include tips for preserving ingredients to help you avoid waste if your plans change (see the recipe below for an example).

There will also be variations for each meal plan to help if you have specific dietary requirements or preferences. They’ll also come with customizable shopping lists.

To find out more go to:
http://thestonesoupshop.com/soupstones/
___

chicken salad-3

Quick Warm Chicken & Parmesan Salad

I love a warm salad for a quick, healthy mid week dinner. There’s something about having something proteiny and warm that makes it feel substantial enough for a dinner. Yet all those leaves keep it light. And best of all they tend to work all year round so well worth adding to your repertoire!

Enough for 2
450g (1lb) chicken thigh fillets
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 handfuls rocket (arugula) or salad leaves, washed & dried
2 handfuls parmesan shavings

1. Heat your frying pan on a very high heat. Trim any fat from the chicken and slice into super fine strips. Drizzle with a little oil and season.

2. Cook chicken in the hot pan for about 1 minute. Then stir and keep cooking till browned on all sides.

3. Meanwhile, combine lemon juice and 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a bowl. Season.

4. When the chicken is cooked transfer to the lemon dressing.

5. Toss in rocket leaves. Serve with parmesan shaved over.

VARIATIONS
vegetarian – replace chicken with field mushrooms or eggplant slices. Cook in a little oil until soft.

vegan – skip the chicken and cheese. Warm some cooked lentils in a pan and toss in the dressing with the leaves. Add some roasted almonds for a little extra protein and crunch.

dairy-free – replace the parmesan with roasted sliced almonds. Or cook some bacon in the pan before cooking the chicken. And serve the crunchy bacon on top of the salad.

little person friendly – reduce the amount of rocket (arugula) or replace with less bitter tasting leaves such as butter lettuce or baby spinach.

different protein – lovely with steak or lamb fillets instead of the chicken. Also good with chorizo.

different leaves – any salad leaf will work well here. In the winter I’d go for red radicchio leaves or witlof (belgian endive).

WASTE AVOIDANCE STRATEGY
With my new meal planning service, I’ll be including this section with each recipe. So if something happens and you don’t make a particular meal in a given week, the ingredients won’t go to waste!

chicken – freeze or cook (either pan fry or gently simmer for 15-20 minutes). Frozen chicken will last for months. Cooked chicken will last for up to a week.

lemon – will keep in the fridge for weeks.

rocket (arugula) or salad leaves – the best option is to use in another recipe. Rocket can be used to make pesto which will keep for a few weeks (just use it instead of basil). The alternative is to wilt down the leaves in a pan with a little oil. Keep wilted leaves in a covered container in the fridge for a few weeks. Warm and serve the wilted leaves as a side.

parmesan shavings – keep wrapped in baking or parchment or waxed paper inside a plastic bag or sealed container. Will keep for months.

Stonesoup TV Video Recipe.

With love,
Jules x
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ps. For more details about my new meal planning service go to:
http://thestonesoupshop.com/soupstones/

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First things first. I just want to wish you a very Happy New Year! I hope you have some exciting things planned.

I have a heap of projects I’m super excited about including buying a little farm house. And hopefully later in the year ‘finding’ a baby brother or sister for Fergal.

So I thought we’d start the new year in a big way! I’m super excited about an idea I got from one of my students the lovely Katie Lee. Katie took my very first online cooking class, solve your dinner dilemma back in 2010. Any she had the brilliant idea to do a series of posts focusing on different ways to prepare different vegetables. Such a great idea!

So I thought I’d kick things off with one of my all time favourite veg. That also happens to be one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet.

Yes my friend today it’s all about kale!

What’s so great about kale?

As I mentioned above kale is one of the most nutrient dense foods. Apart from the obvious vitamins (A, C, B6, E) and minerals (manganese, calcium, potassium, iron) it has a relatively high level of protein (for a vegetable).

Even better, it contains a number of chemicals that are thought to reduce the risk of cancer.

And did I mention it’s delicious?

How to choose kale

There are hundreds of varieties of kale. The most common are curly kale and the darker coloured black Tuscan kale (also known as cavolo nero, lacinato kale or dinosaur kale).

Mostly sold in bunches or as loose leaves of baby kale. Pretty much you’re looking for vibrant green leaves with no signs of wilting. Smaller leaves tend to have a milder (less bitter) flavour so if you’re trying to turn a fussy eater into a kale-lover best to stick to the baby leaves.

How to store kale

It will last for 1-2 weeks in the fridge wrapped in a plastic bag.

Mise en place

To store for longer, rinse kale and slice crosswise into ribbons. You can remove the stems if you like but I don’t usually bother. Cook over a medium heat with a little oil or butter in a large pan. Keep the pan covered so the kale can steam and stir every few minutes. Will take about 5 minutes. Keep refrigerated in a container for 3-4 weeks.

9 kale recipe ideas

1. Raw in a salad
One of my favourites, just finely slice and toss in your favourite salad dressing. I particularly like this green chickpea salad if you need a recipe.

2. Wilted with lemon
See below for my latest kale-centric obsession.

3. Kale Curry
Wilt kale into your favourite curry. Or use instead of the spinach leaves in this lamb saag.

4. Soup
The Tuscans have a famous soup called ribolitta with is basically minestrone with some stale bread and kale wilted through it. I love how the kale adds its beautiful dark green colour. I also often use kale in my refrigerator soup.

5. Kale ‘chips’
Perfect for when you feel like a healthier salty snack than potato chips. Toss kale leaves in a little oil and bake on a tray for 10 minutes or until crisp. Also good with parmesan grated over.

6. Topping for pizza
A favourite in our house is this kale and onion pizza.

7. With poached eggs for breakfast
Something I have at least once a week. Just serve the kale leaves whole if small or sliced. Fergal is a fan of ‘gumming’ raw kale with a little egg yolk smeared on one end. And here’s my poached egg recipe if you need some tips.

8. Kale Stir Fry
Like this ground beef with kale. It’s also great with oyster sauce as a substitute for Chinese broccoli or bok choy.

9. Kale with chorizo
Another all time favourite dinner around here.

How to grow kale

A bonus section for garden lovers. I’ve had heaps of luck growing kale. Just plant the seeds directly in the ground in Autumn (Fall) and it will grow right through the Winter. It will withstand severe frosts and actually tastes sweeter after the first frost.

___________

lemony kale-3

Addictive Lemony Kale

Inspired by my latest favourite YouTube cooking show, Bondi Harvest.

This is the type of thing I love to make when it’s just me for dinner. If I’m not super hungry I’ll just have a heaping bowl of the kale on it’s own because (IMHO) you can never have too much kale. But if I’m ravenous I’ll add some protein in the form of a poached egg or some cheese.

Enough for 1-2
large hunk of butter
1 bunch kale
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or crushed, optional
3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
1-2 handfuls ricotta, optional

1. Heat butter on a medium heat in a largish saucepan.

2. Wash kale. Don’t dry as the water will help it steam. Cut into ribbons about 2cm (1in) or finer across the stem.

3. Add kale and garlic to the pot. Cover and cook stirring every few minutes until the kale has wilted down. Will take about 5 minutes.

4. Remove from the heat and stir in lemon juice. Season and serve with ricotta on top, if using.

VARIATIONS
dairy-PALEO free – use olive or coconut oil instead of the butter and serve the kale on its own or replace the cheese with a poached egg or some cooked chicken breast or thigh.

vegan – use olive or coconut oil instead of the butter and serve the kale on its own or replace the cheese with a huge handful of roasted nuts or chunks of avocado.

no kale? – will work with pretty much any greens such as spinach, baby spinach, chard (silverbeet), collard greens, beet tops.

different cheese – I’ve used ricotta here but most cheese will work well. Try goats cheese, parmesan, blue cheese, cottage cheese, cheddar, or some pan fried halloumi.

Video Version of the Recipe.

With love,
Jules x
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ps. What vegetable would you like to see me profile next on Stonesoup? Let me know in the comments below :)

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I‘m really not a huge fan of the term ‘superfood’. Basically because there tends to be lots of hype and a big price tag for something that may or may not taste any good.

So I was a bit hesitant to jump on the chia seed band wagon. But my curiosity got the better of me.

And you know what?

They are pretty tasty little suckers. Combined with their nutrition credentials they’re worthwhile having around.

So today I thought I’d share some chia seed facts in case you’ve been thinking about trying them yourself…

13 Things You Should Know About Chia Seeds

1. They pack a mean nutritional punch.
A look on the back of the chia seed pack says it all. They’re made up of protein, fat and dietary fibre. Plus there’s a heap of minerals including calcium, magnesium, iron, and phosphorous.

2. They’re high in fibre
So they’re going to keep you regular. And about 20% of the fiber is soluble. The beauty of soluble fiber is that it promotes a healthy digestive system by feeding the good microbes in your gut.

3. They can absorb A LOT of water.
Which means they bulk up and give you a full feeling for longer. Although if you aren’t drinking enough water, this can cause ‘blockages’ if you know what I mean… So make sure you stay well hydrated.

4. They have a crazy texture.
The seeds themselves aren’t too dissimilar to poppy seeds, nothing too crazy there. But add water and you have a completely different beast. Slimy or oozy is probably the best way to describe it. I really like it but I can see why you might be put off (don’t think about snot).

5. They come in different colours.
I’ve had black and white and apart from the visuals couldn’t really detect a difference.

6. They come in different forms.
You can buy whole seeds, chia bran, ground chia and chia seed oil. I’ve used whole seeds in the recipe below. And have been using the bran as my ‘go-to’ fiber source to have on yoghurt or in a smoothie because it’s gluten free and super low carb.

7. You can sprout them.
I haven’t tried it but remember the chia pet? Yes, if you decide you don’t like them you can always turn the rest of the packet into a member of the family.

8. They make a brilliant low carb breakfast.
I love them instead of oats in a bircher-style muesli. Use 1/4 cup chia seeds and 3/4 cup liquid such as milk, coconut milk or almond milk. If you like grated apple you can add that as well. Either soak overnight in the fridge or leave for 20 minutes if you’re short on time.

9. They are pretty expensive.
That ‘superfood’ label comes with a price tag. Definitely not for you if you’re cooking on a budget. But I’m sure as they become more widespread this will moderate itself.

10. They’re grown in Australia.
So if you’re in Oz you can support a local industry.

11. They’re high in Omega-3s
So if you’re not eating enough fish, they are a great alternative. Like the omega-3s in flax seeds, the chia omega-3s are a bit more difficult for our bodies to digest than fish omega-3s. So best to use ground chia seeds to make it easier on your body to get the goodies it needs.

12. They can be used as an egg replacer.
I haven’t tried this because I love eggs. But Sarah Wilson suggests combining 1 tablespoon ground chia seeds with 3 tablespoons water for each egg you’re replacing.

13. They’re not too hard to track down.
I live in a small country town and my supermarket stocks chia seeds. If yours doesn’t, try your local health food store or I’m sure you’d be able to get them online.

chia seed 'risotto'-3

Chia Seed & Mushroom ‘Risotto’

I have 2 warnings with this dish. If you’re not a fan of slimy or gooey textures, this won’t be the best recipe for you. If that hasn’t deterred you, make sure you drink lots of water to keep everything regular.

Enough for 2
3-4 tablespoons butter
4 field mushrooms, sliced
100g (3.5oz) chia seeds
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 large handfuls grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
large handful baby spinach, to serve

1. Heat half the butter in a medium saucepan. Cook mushrooms over a medium heat until well browned and soft. Remove and keep warm.

2. Add the rest of the butter, chia seeds and stock to your saucepan.

3. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes or until the texture is oozy like a good risotto.

4. Stir in parmesan and serve the ‘risotto’ with mushrooms on top and baby spinach on the side.

VARIATIONS
no chia seeds? – Make a red lentil ‘risotto’ instead. Use (200g / 7oz red lentils and 3 cups stock).

dairy-free / vegan – replace butter with extra virgin olive oil and replace parmesan with brazil nut ‘parmesan’.

no stock – like a regular risotto, we’re really relying on our stock to provide flavour. The only thing I’d consider trying is a mixture of tomato passata and water.

carnivore – cook some crumbled pork sausages with the mushrooms.

Video version of the recipe.

With love,
Jules x
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“Eat all the junk food you want
as long as you cook it yourself”

Michael Pollan

I just love this time of year. The mad dash to get everything ready for Christmas. The promise of lazy Summer holidays looming.

And of course the many opportunities to celebrate with my favourite things: good food, good company, good vino and good music.

But as you know, such celebrations can take a toll on one’s waistline. And with our wedding (!) just around the corner, I’m planning on finding the right balance between indulgence and moderation.

So today I thought I’d share my best tips for enjoying all the season has to offer without the usual regrets.

And I have a real treat of a recipe! It’s not exactly Christmassy but it’s the perfect example of what a difference tip number 1. can make.

5 Clever Ways to Indulge Guilt-Free

1. Make it yourself.
I love Michael Pollan’s quote about junk food. It’s pretty much how I get my indulgences. The beauty of making it yourself is that it limits the amount you can make (and eat).

But more importantly, by cooking at home you aren’t restricted by arbitrary profit margins, like junk food factories. This means you can usually afford to use the best quality ingredients, which are often the healthiest option. Or if you choose not to, at least you know exactly what went into your ‘junk food’ treat.

2. Minimise kitchen ‘picking’.
Don’t you hate when you spend hours in the kitchen, picking at things here and there only to sit down to your meal and not feel like eating anything because you’re so stuffed? This happens to me all the time so I’ve been experimenting with ways to avoid this cook’s treats curse.

My sister Nao gave me a brilliant idea. She always has fresh veg chopped in the fridge ready for emergency snacking. So when she walks into the kitchen to prepare dinner and is tired and super hungry, she chomps on carrots, celery or snow peas instead of filling up on tasting whatever she’s cooking.

I’ve tried it and it makes a huge difference for me when I’m tired in the evenings. So I’m planning to have some veg ready for my Christmas cooking.

My other approach this year will be to make sure I have a proper breakfast before I start cooking so I hopefully avoid having an empty stomach eroding my willpower.

3. Watch your plate sizes.
You know the old ‘dieters’ trick to use smaller plates because the same amount of food will look like a more generous serving than the same amount served on a larger plate. Well, I’ve been testing it out and this simple optical illusion does make a difference. So keep your plates small.

4. Be careful of serving ‘family style’.
When there is loads of delicious food in the middle of the table, it’s so easy to keep going back for more and completely over do it. There are two ways to avoid this old chestnut.

First is to only serve healthy things in the middle like big salads and veggies. And plate up the indulgent items individually. Leave leftovers in the kitchen so it’s more of an effort to go back for seconds.

But if you’re like me and you prefer to let everyone serve themselves, the other approach is to serve yourself everything you want to eat first. Lay it out on your place before you start eating. And then only refill your plate once that food is all gone and you’re sure you won’t be overdoing things by having more. Not as easy to master as the first strategy, but at least this way you can keep track of how much you’re actually eating.

5. Be mindful of your mouthful.
My favourite trick for eating mindfully isn’t counting how many times you chew, although that can work.

I prefer to just check in with myself as I’m eating. Each time I go to load up my fork I ask myself am I already chewing? If yes, I put the fork down and concentrate on fully enjoying my mouthful before I pick up my fork to go in for the next one.

Same goes with speaking when there’s food in my mouth (my mum was on to something!)

mac and cheese

Comforting (Yet Sophisticated) Mac & Cheese

When I was pregnant I really got into exploring the world of hard cheeses. There are so many amazing melting cheeses that really elevate the humble mac & cheese to something comforting yet tasty enough to please the most sophisticated palates.

My favourite is a combo of emmental, gruyere and raclette. But pretty much any cheese is good here. I often add a little parmesan for flavour. It’s a great way to use up any small scraps of cheese floating around your fridge. A touch of blue can be lovely but be careful it doesn’t over power.

Best served with a simple green salad to freshen things up.

enough for 2
1 onion
1/2 cup white wine
200g (7oz) cheese, grated
200g (7oz) short pasta
2 tablespoon double cream

1. Preheat oven to 180C and get a pot of water on to boil for the pasta.

2. Meanwhile cook onion in a little oil over a medium low heat until soft but not browned. Add the wine and allow to simmer and reduce for a few minutes.

3. Cook pasta until almost tender (al dente). Drain well and return to the pot.

4. Quickly stir in onion mixture, 2/3s of the cheese and the cream. Divide between two oven proof dishes. Top with remaining cheese.

5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and bubbling.

VARIATIONS

dairy-free – you’re kidding right? Get your fix for a creamy pasta by making a traditional cabonara with just egg yolks and bacon instead.

grain-free – replace pasta with cauliflower chopped into florettes – about 1/2 head cauli for 2 people. Simmer or steam until almost tender then drain well.

gluten-free – just use a good commercial GF pasta or try the grain-free option above. There are some pretty good ones out there these days. Or replace with a drained can of chickpeas.

alcohol-free / tiny person-friendly – replace the wine with verjuice (unfermented unripe grape juice) or use a small squeeze of lemon juice for freshness instead. The other option is to skip the wine and replace the cream with sour cream.

no cream? – replace with a little butter or olive oil.

onion-free – replace with finely chopped celery or carrot or both. Or just skip it along with the wine.

Video version of the recipe.


______

red christmas star

I really hope you have a lovely Christmas and wish you and your family all the best for the New Year.

Thanks so much for reading and being a big part of the Stonesoup community in 2013. I really appreciate your support!

Look forward to seeing you when Stonesoup returns on the 7th Jan.

With love,
Jules x
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steak & rocket salad-4Well, I may have just the thing for you! I’m working on a new meal planning service that I’m getting ready to release in the new year.

Of course, I want the new service to be as helpful as possible.

So before I put the finishing touches on it, I just wanted to ask you a couple of questions.

It will only take a minute or so. And they’re all ‘tick the box’ so you won’t even need to do any typing…

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This time 4 years ago, I was living in a little apartment in the beautiful city of Barcelona. I say ‘living’ but it was really only a 6 week holiday.

These days when I travel I like to rent an apartment rather than stay in hotels. I try and adopt the everyday life of the locals as much as possible. For me travel is about exploring what it like to live, shop, cook and eat out in a different place. Much more fun than visiting churches and museums.

One of my favourite indulgent tapas discoveries was a dish called ‘patatas bravas’. It’s basically fried potatoes with a hot tomato based sauce that’s sometimes also served with a garlicky mayo. Soo good.

So when I spied the recipe for potato with ‘brava’ sauce in the latest Movida book I had to try it.

Fergal’s cousin Dan (aka ‘Dan the man’) and his parents were over for a BBQ. The plan was to have BBQ chicken with some salad and the potato with the sauce on the side.

But as so often happens, things evolved at the table. Everyone kept going back for more of the ‘brava’ sauce to have with the chicken. Definitely a winner!

____________________________

seared swordfish with 'brava' sauce-3

Quick Fish with ‘Brava’ Sauce

Inspired by Frank Cammorra’s latest book, Movida. I’ve used swordfish here but most fish will be lovely. If fish isn’t your thing see below for other ideas.

Enough for 2
2 fish fillets or steaks
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
1/2 teaspoon tabasco sauce (or more!)
2 large handfuls washed salad leaves, to serve

1. Heat a frying pan on a medium high heat. Rub fish with a little oil and sprinkle with sea salt.

2. Cook fish for 3-4 minutes on each side or until you’re happy.

3. While the fish is cooking stir together the mayo, ketchup & Tabasco. Taste and add more Tabasco if needed. Or if too hot add more mayo.

4. Serve fish with sauce spooned over and leaves on the side.

VARIATIONS
sugar-free – replace ketchup (tomato sauce) with tomato paste – add to taste but I’d start with 1-2 teaspoons. And make sure you’re using a sugar-free mayo.

vegetarian – serve with pan fried halloumi or a couple of fried eggs.

vegan – use vegan mayo and serve with roast potatoes or sweet potato, or try it with pan fried eggplant ‘steaks’.

egg-free – use a vegan mayo.

carnivore
– replace fish with chicken thigh fillet or breast, pork fillet, pork chops, pork sausages or even a thick juicy steak. Also lovely with a simple roast chicken.

different fish – most fish fillets or steaks are good here or you could serve with smoked or canned fish such as tuna or sardines.

no tabasco?
– replace with a splash of sherry vinegar and some dried chilli powder or chilli flakes. Fresh chilli finely chopped will also work.

Video version of the recipe.

With love,
Jules x
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boiled eggs & curried chickpeasI have big news today!

My gorgeous sister Nao and I are working on a new blog dedicated to taking the stress out of family meal times.

It won’t be ready until the new year. In the mean time we’d love to get your opinion to make sure we’re on the right track!

Share your thoughts in our quick survey below…

With love,
Jules x

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Looking back the Summer holidays around Christmas 2008 were a huge turning point in my life.

I’d been blogging as a hobby for a few years and loving it more and more.

My mum had died suddenly a bit over a year before and I was finally ready to start writing a cookbook of her recipes as a gastronomic memoir.

The project had been banging around in my head for a while. I was super excited to have some time to focus on the writing, cooking and photography needed to bring the it to life.

Those two weeks of holiday were some of the best in my life. I just loved my days pottering in the kitchen or over the keyboard. I was hooked. A tiny idea began to grow… How much fun would it be to write cookbooks for a living?

The dream was born to make the career transition from chocolate biscuit (cookie) designer to full time blogger and author.

I enlisted the help of my dear friend, Jo ‘Rabbit’ who had experience with career coaching. She encouraged me to set some concrete goals and timings. So I bravely gave myself until the end of 2010 to make the momentous move.

At the same time I’d discovered Leo Babauta’s fabulous blog, Zen Habits and was getting deeply interested in the concept of minimalism and simplicity in life. As I read about Leo’s own transition from a job he hated to becoming an entrepreneur and full time blogger, it dawned on me.

I didn’t need to instantly match my 6 figure corporate salary with my new career. If I put my mind to it, and really simplified my life, I could live on a fraction of the amount.

All of a sudden the change seemed within my reach and in January 2010 I left the corporate world.

I haven’t looked back.

These days I feel incredibly blessed. I get to help people all over the world discover that healthy eating doesn’t need to be complicated. I only work on projects that I love. I have the freedom to fit in my work around taking care of my almost-6 month old baby.

Oh yeah, and I’m making way more money than I ever did as a corporate slave.

The thing is, I’m not sure if I ever would have made it here if I hadn’t gotten serious about simplifying my life. That really was the key.

I wonder. What opportunities might open up if you started to simplify YOUR life?

You’re probably wondering why I’m talking about this instead of giving you a new recipe. Well I just wanted to share with you a really exciting project that I’m a part of.

It’s called ‘A Simple Year’ and basically it’s a year long program of guided simplicity that focuses on simplifying a different area of your life each month.

If it sounds like something you might benefit from go to:
www.simpleyear.co/

Registration is only open for another week or so.

With love,
Jules x

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My Dad has never been much of a cook. Tea, toast and the odd batch of porridge (oatmeal) on a frosty winter morning is all I can ever remember him preparing in the kitchen.

So after my Mum died, needless to say, I was worried about him on many levels. How was he going to cook for himself?

To make sure he didn’t fade away to a shadow, I’d drive down to the farm from Sydney every few weeks. I really enjoyed those weekends pottering about in our big country kitchen cooking up soups and stews, tajines and curries. Basically anything I could freeze in single servings.

Dad would sit in the kitchen with me mostly just chatting but sometimes asking questions about what I was doing. I took his interest as a positive sign and tried to get him involved in the chopping and stirring.

We had a few attempts at teaching him to make things he loved to eat. Like lamb shanks or how to roast a leg of lamb and some veggies. But looking back now, I realise our lack of success was more my fault.

Basically, I was trying to teach Dad things that were too complicated…

You see, I hadn’t discovered the joys of minimalism and it would be another year or so before I developed my 5 ingredients philosophy. If only.

Fast forward 5 years. Dad has sold the farm and moved into Canberra. He has lunch in a cafe or the local club most days. I suspect that the rest of his meals are pretty random (he mentioned having 4 oranges for dinner the other day). But he’s healthy and happy and hasn’t wasted away.

Even though I stopped worrying about him, I have still harboured the hope that he might give this cooking thing another try.

So when I gave him an advance copy of my print book ‘5 Ingredients 10 Minutes‘ back in January I was like…

‘Dad, this is about as easy as cooking can get, I’m sure you’d be able to make most things in the book. How about you surprise me and cook one?’

And Dad would reply ‘Yes Jul, I should be able to do that’.

As the months passed, I occasionally inquired as to whether Dad had had any luck with trying something from my book.

‘No not yet, but you’re right I should do that’

So you can imagine my surprise when I got a call from my Dad early one Monday morning…

‘I made one of the recipes from your book Jul… The butter chicken curry.

I cooked it. I ate it and I’m still alive. I even enjoyed the experience

It was just so damn simple.

I mean you’ve just got the shopping list there. It’s only 5 things. you go to the supermarket and get what you need… No wandering around aimlessly.

Then bring them home, follow the instructions and before you know it it’s done!

I might try another one soon…’

8. mild & creamy indian curry

Dad’s Butter Chicken Curry

From ‘5 Ingredients 10 Minutes’.

My first casual job at university was waitressing at a local Indian restaurant. It taught me two very important life lessons. First, I am hopeless when it comes to waiting tables. And second, that Indian food is delicious.

‘Butter chicken’ or ‘Chicken Tikka Masala’ was my first Indian food love. In restaurants, butter chicken can be super greasy. So it’s much better to enjoy it at home when you can control the amount of cream you add. I also like having the freedom to turn up the chilli heat.

For a vegetarian version, butter tofu would be great or even butter chickpeas.

Enough for 2
450g chicken thighs
2 tablespoons garam marsala
1 – 2 teaspoons chilli flakes
1 can tomatoes (400g / 14oz), chopped
2 – 3 tablespoons whipping cream (35% milk fat)

1. Bash out thighs a little with a saucepan to tenderise. Chop into chunks.

2. Heat a few tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan (skillet) over a medium high heat.

3. Brown chicken for few minutes each side.

4. Add garam marsala and chilli. Stir for a few seconds.

5. Add tomatoes and their juices. Simmer for about 5 minutes.

6. Stir in cream and bring back to a simmer.

7. Taste and season with salt, pepper and a little sugar if you like it sweet.

VARIATIONS

dairy-free – Replace cream with coconut milk.

vegan – Replace chicken with tofu, or a drained can of chickpeas or 1/2 head of cauliflower and replace cream with coconut milk.

vegetarian – Replace chicken with tofu, or a drained can of chickpeas, lentils, 1/2 head of cauliflower, or even some button mushrooms.

change the spicing – Garam marsala is lovely here but for a different take, try a different curry powder or think about making your own spice blend.

try real butter – I like the slight milkiness that cream brings, but you could always do super decadent and use butter instead.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Looking for Christmas gift ideas?

Then check out my two PRINT BOOKS.
Perfect for wrapping and popping under the tree!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

5 ingredients 10 minutes cover image

5 INGREDIENTS 10 MINUTES.
Delicious, healthy meals for tired & hungry cooks…

’5 Ingredients 10 minutes’ is designed to come to the rescue when the ‘What’s for dinner?’ question crosses your mind. It’s about fresh, healthy delicious food that also happens to be fast.

To LEARN MORE: (including FREE sample recipes) click here.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

3D cover2

AND THE LOVE IS FREE.
Mum, a life with recipes…

A celebration of the Mums who bring so much joy to our lives, ‘And the Love is Free’ is a collection of stories and reliable no-fuss Australian family recipes.

To LEARN MORE: click here.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

With love,
Jules x
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* Thanks to my no-so-little brother Dom for inspiring this title with a text message he sent to my Dad’s new iPad.

5|10 online classes logops. To say THANK YOU to those of you who purchase extra copies of ‘5 Ingredients 10 Minutes’ to give as gifts, I’ve created different packages of ‘bonuses’.

These will only be available for a limited time to help encourage you to get your Christmas shopping done early!

All the details are over here:
www.5ingredients10minutes.com/bonus510/

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One of the most common questions I get asked from Stonesoup readers is to include measurements for cups and spoons with my recipes.

My response is always to politely suggest that they invest in a set of kitchen scales.

If you’re already one of the kitchen scale ‘enlightened’ then skip on down to this week’s recipe. I have an unusual and super delicious cake for you. And the star ingredient?

Yep. It’s parsnips.

But if you’re yet to start baking with grams or ounces, here are 3 reasons to invest.

1. Quicker and easier.
Just pop your container on the scales, hit the zero button and add your chosen ingredient. Too easy.

2. Less mess!
No need to get all your cups dirty. Just weigh directly into your bowl / saucepan / food processor.

3. Weight is much more accurate.
For baking it’s important to get your measurements right. Using cups (volume) can be really variable especially for flours which can lead to variable baking results. And not in a good way!

Are you with me?

And best of all they don’t take up much space. Plus these days they aren’t very expensive. Just go for digital scales that are easy to ‘zero’ and a design that’s easy to wipe clean.

Happy baking!

parsnip cake

Spiced Parsnip & Chocolate Chunk Cake

Inspired by the boys from Three Blue Ducks in Bronte. Love their new cookbook!

I know parsnip in a cake sounds a little bit weird, but it works just like carrot to keep everything moist. And there’s something about the spices, parsnip and chocolate together that makes me keep finding excuses to bake this.

300g (10.5oz) parsnips
200g (7oz) oil or melted butter
200g (7oz) brown sugar
250g (9oz) almond meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 eggs
100g (3.5oz) dark chocolate smashed into chunks

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Line a loaf pan with baking paper.

2. Grate the parsnip using your food processor (or a grater). Remove the food processor blade and add the oil or butter, sugar, almond meal, baking powder, cinnamon, cumin, eggs and chocolate.

3. Stir until everything is mixed. Transfer the mixture to your prepared tin.

4. Bake for 1 hour or until the cake is deeply golden and feels springy in the middle when you touch it.

5. Cool in the tin or serve warm.

VARIATIONS
different veg – if parsnip in a cake is a bit too weird for you try carrot or zucchini (courgette) instead.

nut-free – replace almond meal with plain (all purpose) flour. Be prepared to reduce the baking time to make sure the cake doesn’t dry out.

chocolate-free – replace the chocolate with roasted nuts. Pecans, almonds or walnuts are all good.

vegan – replace eggs with a large ripe banana and increase the oil a little. I haven’t tried it for this recipe, so if you do please let me know how you get on.

sugar-free – I really love brown sugar here so if you’re using a sugar replacer like stevia or xylitol I would add in 1-2 tablespoons molasses for the flavour.

Video version of the recipe.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Looking for Christmas gift ideas?

Then check out my two PRINT BOOKS.
Perfect for wrapping and popping under the tree!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

5 ingredients 10 minutes cover image

5 INGREDIENTS 10 MINUTES.
Delicious, healthy meals for tired & hungry cooks…

’5 Ingredients 10 minutes’ is designed to come to the rescue when the ‘What’s for dinner?’ question crosses your mind. It’s about fresh, healthy delicious food that also happens to be fast.

To LEARN MORE: (including FREE sample recipes) click here.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

3D cover2

AND THE LOVE IS FREE.
Mum, a life with recipes…

A celebration of the Mums who bring so much joy to our lives, ‘And the Love is Free’ is a collection of stories and reliable no-fuss Australian family recipes.

To LEARN MORE: click here.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

With love,
Jules x

5|10 online classes logops. To say THANK YOU to those of you who purchase extra copies of ‘5 Ingredients 10 Minutes’ to give as gifts, I’ve created different packages of ‘bonuses’.

These will only be available for a limited time to help encourage you to get your Christmas shopping done early!

All the details are over here:
www.5ingredients10minutes.com/bonus510/

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{ 16 comments }

About a month before Fergal was born we decided to have a few friends around for dinner. And even though it was a lovely evening I was kicking myself, metaphorically, for most of the night.

You see, I’d broken my own cardinal rule of entertaining. And boy did it come back to bite me!

I found myself 8-ish months pregnant, trying to rush to get everything prepared in time. And failing miserably. I’m afraid to admit I was stressed out and frazzled.

It was all my fault.

So what is this Number 1. rule of Stress-free entertaining?

KEEP. IT. SIMPLE.

Where did I go wrong?

I’m sharing this so you can learn from my mistakes AND as a reminder to myself not to fall into the same trap this silly season…

1. Serving a hot starter
(potato rosti) that had to be pan fried at the last minute.Especially problematic for 10 people.

2. Last minute changes.
Choosing a dish for our one vegetarian (spiced fried halloumi) that needed to be pan fried at the last minute.

3. Having two meat based main courses.
For some reason I got it in my head there wouldn’t be enough food so I decided to cook some chorizo at the last minute to go with the slow roast lamb.

4. Too many sides!
I couldn’t decide between a cauliflower and pomegranate salad, good old potato salad (to showcase our freshly picked home grown spuds), and some sort of leafy salad. So I decided to serve all three. Crazy.

5. Too many condiments.
Not only were there all those salads, I also went overboard with the condiments. Serving a red onion and coriander (cilantro) chutney as well as hummus.

Where did I go right?

It wasn’t all bad. And it’s a good reminder that you can still enjoy yourself even if you do get stressed along the way…

1. Enlisting help.
When the guests arrived, I admitted I was behind schedule and accepted all offers to help. Someone set the table. Someone squeezed lemons for the hummus.

2. Serving everything in the middle.
Much faster than plating up individual serves.

3. Relaxing as soon as all the food was on the table.
I had to remind myself that it was about the company and to forget about the food and focus on my guests.

4. Not pointing out the problems.
As a cook it’s easy to see every little mistake, but as I learned when I was designing chocolate biscuits (cookies) and running taste tests, if you tell someone about a flaw, they will notice it. But if ya don’t, they won’t.

5. Do-ahead dessert.
I’d made a lovely pear and chocolate tart that just needed to be sliced and served. Which I got one of our guests to do at the table so there was no need for me to disappear into the kitchen.

——

A stress-free entertaining menu

A big bowl of Roast Pistachios
Succulent Slow Roast Lamb with Spicy Beet Sauce
Moorish Baby Spinach & Pine Nut Salad
Fudgy Chocolate Cake recipe here

——

slow roasted lamb shoulder-5

Succulent Slow Roast Lamb

Lamb shoulder is my favourite cut for this because it’s less expensive and tends to be fattier so it stays super moist. Don’t be put off by the long cooking time, as you really don’t need to actually do anything 95% of the time.

Enough for 3-4
1 lamb shoulder (also called forequarter) bone in
A few dried chilli flakes, optional

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

2. Sprinkle lamb with chilli, if using, and a good few pinches of sea salt flakes. Wrap lamb in two layers foil, sealing well. Place on a roasting tray.

3. Pop lamb in the oven and set your timer for 1 hour.

4. After the first hour, reduce the heat to 150C (300F). Continue to cook for another 4 hours or longer until the lamb is so tender you can cut it with a spoon (literally). You can cool and refrigerate.

5. Remove foil from the lamb and cook at 180C (350F) to brown. Carve and serve warm.

VARIATIONS
short on time – fast roast at 180C for about 2 hours total.

vegetarian / vegan – slow roast some field mushrooms instead. About 1 hour at 150C / 350F.

extra flavours – 2 tablespoons ground coriander seed, or finely slice 2 lemons and pop in the foil or a big bunch of thyme or rosemary.

VIDEO VERSION OF THE RECIPE.

slow roasted lamb shoulder-4

Spicy Beet Sauce

Roast beets are one of my all time favourite veg and so I just adore this sauce. If beets aren’t your thing serve the lamb with hummus instead.

This was inspired by the fabulous book ‘Jerusalem’ by Yotam Ottolenghi.

4 large beets, scrubbed
4-6 tablespoon creamy Greek style yoghurt
2 tablespoons za’atar
1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Wrap beets in foil individually and bake for about 1 hour at 180C (350F). Or until tender.

2. Cool beets and purée in your food processor with the yoghurt, za’atar, garlic and olio. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

VARIATIONS
vegan / dairy-free – replace yoghurt with 3 tablespoons each tahini and extra virgin olive oil.

can’t find za’atar – use 1 tablespoon each ground cumin and sesame seeds.

different veg – lovely with roast carrots or sweet potato instead.

VIDEO VERSION OF THE RECIPE

slow roasted lamb shoulder

Moorish Baby Spinach & Pine Nut Salad

I love to serve a salad as a side because I can get it all ready in advance and just toss at the last minute. If you’d like to stretch your lamb further and keep costs down, serving with something carby like warm flat bread or roast potatoes is a good idea.

I don’t normally use a lot of dried fruit, but love the little bursts if sweetness from the currants here.

Enough for 4
2 tablespoons sherry or rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
small currants or raisins, optional
2 packets washed baby spinach leaves (about 200g / 7oz)
2 handfuls pine nuts

1. Combine vinegar, soy sauce, currants, if using, and 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large salad bowl. Season.

2. Toss in leaves.

3. Serve with pine nuts sprinkled over.

VARIATIONS
different leaves – feel free to use any salad leaf here. Finely sliced kale is also good.

nut-free – skip the pinenuts or replace with toasted bread crumbs.

warm salad – warm the olive oil in a small saucepan before tossing in the dressing.

can’t find sherry vinegar? – use white wine vinegar or lemon juice instead.

With love,
Jules x

ps. Do you have any tips for stress-free entertaining? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below…

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For the longest time, I’ve dreamed about buying a little farm. I can see it in my mind so clearly. There will be an olive grove, a little vineyard, an orchard of nut trees and another of citrus. And pride of place will go to a big walled veggie garden.

We’ll have chickens of course. And maybe my Irishman will even get into some bee keeping. I can’t wait!

The plan is to buy a place next year but luckily I have my little veggie patch here to play with in the meantime.

Since I’ve been growing some of my own veggies, I’ve been really interested in eating as much of the plant as possible. I hate throwing food away at any time, but when it’s something you’ve nurtured from tiny seeds, the urge not to waste is even stronger.

This has made me realize just how much edible food I used to throw away because I didn’t think to eat it.

So today I wanted to share my favourite edible discoveries. And if you have any others I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

7 veg you might be wasting…

1. Carrot tops
You know when you buy baby carrots, there’s no need to waste the lovely leaves! Because they look like flat leaf parsley and taste pleasantly ‘green’, you can use them most places you’d use leafy herbs.

2. Beet leaves and stems
Baby leaves are great served raw in salads but once the leaves get larger I find they need cooking to soften the texture and flavour.

I usually chop the stems finely so they’ll cook faster. My favourite method is to wash the leaves and stems and chop. Then pan fry in a little oil with some garlic just until everything is tender.

3. Chard (silver beet) stalks
I either keep the stalks to cook separately or I chop and sauté them in oil with a little garlic until they’re almost tender and then add the leaves.

4. Broccoli & cauliflower stems

Mostly when I’m cooking broccoli or cauliflower I finely slice the stems and just treat them the same as the florettes.

5. Broccoli leaves
Sometimes you can buy broccoli with tiny leaves attached. I just treat these the same as the rest of the head.

But if you’re growing your own you’ll have access to the mature leaves. I treat them the same as I would kale.

6. Broad bean leaves
I was very late planting my broad beans this year so I doubt we’ll get any actual beans. But it won’t be the end of the world because we’ll still have some broad bean leaves. They have a super fresh broad bean flavour that I adore. The texture can be a little limp though so I generally don’t use them alone in salads but will mix with other leaves.

They are lovely cooked in a pan until just wilted with a little garlic, oil and a splash of water.

7. Skins / peels
There aren’t many vegetables I bother to peel, apart from broad beans and sweet corn. Basically because I’m lazy but I tell myself it’s because much of the flavour and nutrition is in or just under the skins.

My Irishman and I once did a taste test of potatoes roasted with and without skins. The unpeeled ones were just bursting with potato flavour and we haven’t looked back!

I also love roasting pumpkin or butternut squash with the skins on and then eating the skin. So good as long as they’re well cooked!

carrot top pesto-4

Carrot Top Pesto

Inspired by the very good looking boys from Three Blue Ducks in Bronte. Love their new cookbook which my Irishman gave me for my birthday.

1 bunch baby carrot tops
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
1 small clove garlic
2 handfuls pine nuts
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large handful grated parmesan

1. Whizz carrot tops, parsley, garlic and nuts in a food processor until finely chopped.

2. With the motor running pour in the oil. Stir in parmesan. Taste and season if needed.

VARIATIONS

different herbs – feel free to play around. Basil, mint and coriander (cilantro) are all excellent additions or replacements.

budget / different nuts – I often use cashews instead of pine nuts. Almonds are also lovely in pesto.

garlic-free – replace that garlicky sharpness with a squeeze of lemon.

vegan / dairy-free – replace the parmesan with extra pine nuts or other nuts.



Video version of the recipe

carrot top pesto-2

Roast Chicken with Carrot Top Pesto


Since the arrival of Fergal, I’m a big fan of meals you can just pop in the oven to cook while you do the laundry or catch up on emails.

Enough for 2
4 chicken thigh fillets
1 bunch baby carrots
1 head garlic, broken into individual cloves, skins still on
carrot top pesto (above) to serve

1. Preheat oven to 200C (400F).

2. Place chicken, carrots and garlic in a roasting pan. Drizzle with some oil and sea salt.

3. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink.

4. Serve hot with pesto on top.

VARIATIONS
short on time – use a commercial pesto instead.

can’t find baby carrots?
– use regular carrots and chop them in half lengthwise so they cook in the same amount of time.

different meat – you can use chicken breasts, drumsticks or thighs on the bone. Duck would be lovely as would lamb chops or sausages. You’ll just need to adjust the cooking time.

vegan – roast large field mushrooms instead of the chicken and use the dairy-free pesto version.

vegetarian – roast the carrots and garlic and serve with the pesto and a fried or poached egg.

Video version of the recipe.

With love
Jules x

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I grew up on a sheep farm. My mum was an awesome cook and definitely passed on her sense of adventure in the kitchen to me.

But all in all we were very much a meat-and-three-veg type of family.

I’d never even heard of lentils until I saw Neil from the ‘Young Ones’ talking about them. Not exactly a great endorsement.

It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I started to experiment with these delicious little legumes. It was love at first bite and since then I’ve been a dedicated lentil evangelist.

So I was super happy when I got the following request from Vicky…

Lentils!! I know that lentils are a great food that currently isn’t in my personal cooking repertoire but I know that they should be. For some reason figuring them out seems intimidating to me…

Let’s talk lentils! And make sure you check out this week’s recipe. Red lentils make an amazing ‘risotto’ style dish – it’s an idea I came up with myself… You can say you saw it on Stonesoup first!

6 reasons to love lentils

1. Lentils are delicious!
For me food has to taste good above all else. I just love the earthy flavour of lentils. The trick to remember is that they need seasoning to bring out their flavour. If you’re trying to convert a lentil-skeptic, start with red lentils because they have the mildest flavour.

2. Lentils are cheap
So cheap in fact that when I took the challenge to feed myself for $2 a day, lentils were my first choice.

3. Lentils are nutritious
They’re a great source of veggie protein, fiber and also folate, vitamin B1 and even iron.

4. Lentils don’t need soaking
Unlike beans and chickpeas, lentils don’t need soaking so you don’t need to be super organised to enjoy them.

5. Lentils are easy to cook
All you need to do is tip them into a pot of boiling water and let them simmer until they aren’t crunchy any more. Then drain and season and they’re good to go.

The only trick is to remember that they turn to mush when overcooked so it’s important to start testing early and keep an eagle eye on them. Red and brown lentils tend to have a small window between crunchy and mush. Puy (French-style green lentils) and Persian red lentils are more forgiving.

6. Lentils are quick
Most lentils cook in about 15 – 20 minutes. Red lentils require the least. Puy lentils (aka French-style green lentils), Persian red lentils and Beluga black lentils all take less than 20 minutes. Larger brown lentils can take up to 30 minutes but this is still much quicker than beans or chickpeas which can take hours!

My favourite Stonesoup lentil recipes

Parisian lentils
Lentil balls
Rice & lentils
Quick sausages & lentils
Lentil ragu with zucchini ‘noodles’
Lentil granola
Lentil tabbouleh
___

sausage & red wine lentil 'risotto'-3

Oozy Red Lentil ‘Risotto’ with Red Wine & Sausages

I love a good red lentil ‘risotto’. All the oozy goodness with lots more protein and fibre than your boring old rice risotto. And not only that, no need to stir constantly!

Enough for 2
1 onion, peeled & diced
2-3 thick pork sausages, skins removed and meat crumbled into chunks
1 cup red wine
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
200g (7oz) red lentils
2 handfuls grated parmesan + extra to serve

1. Heat a little oil in a medium saucepan and add onion. Cover and cook on a medium low heat, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes or until onion is soft.

2. When the onion is soft, increase the heat to medium high, add the sausages and cook for a few minutes until browned.

3. Add the lentils. Stir for a minute.

4. Add red wine and the stock. Stir well then simmer for 15-20 or until the stock is absorbed and the lentils are tender and oozy. If it gets too dry before the lentils are cooked, add a little water.

5. Add cheese and stir until combined. Taste and season. Serve with extra parmesan shaved over.

VARIATIONS
dairy-free / vegan – to be honest I can’t imagine risotto without the butter and cheese. But if you’re willing to give it a go use olive oil to fry the onion and finish with a tablespoon of tomato paste and more olive oil.

vegetarian – mushrooms are lovely instead of the sausages and replace the chicken stock with veggie stock.

use your imagination – pretty much any rice risotto can be adapted to the lentils. Just remember the lentils don’t need quite as much liquid as arborio rice.

different lentils – red lentils are best here because they break down to give that lovely oozy texture. Good old brown lentils will be fine but save your expensive Puy or French-style green lentils for other dishes.

onion-free
– just skip it.

short on time – skip the onion and bring the red wine and stock to the boil in a separate saucepan while the sausages are browning.

Video version of the recipe

With love,
Jules x

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When I was little, I remember being in awe of my mother’s cooking talents. And while I loved her lamingtons and her legendary lemon meringue pie, the thing that used to really amaze me was the nights we’d have meat and veg for dinner.

Getting so many parts ready so they were all cooked at the same time. The peas, the potatoes and the chops or sausages. I was sure I’d never be able to do that.

And so I didn’t. We at least not initially.

I learned to make sandwiches. I learned to make salads. I learned to bake cakes and cook pasta and make a curry with rice and roast a chicken.

But it all came from one thing. Being willing to try.

And why am I telling you this?

Because I recently got a request from Christopher asking me give him some pointers for how to get started cooking.

So here they are…

How to get started cooking for yourself

1. Decide that you can cook.
Like anything in life, if you don’t think you’ll be able to do it, it’s probably not going to happen. So this first, is deceptively simple yet all important.

And if you’re not sure, trust me. You can cook. And one day you might even be able to say you love to cook.

2. Accept that failure IS an option.
Last year, I had my birthday lunch at Noma in Denmark which was at the time, the best restaurant in the world. One of the things Rene Redzepi, the head chef, is passionate about is for his chefs to ‘fail’ or have disasters from time to time. His philosophy is that if you aren’t failing then you’re not trying hard enough.

So here’s the thing, people that love to cook (that includes you now) know that there are going to be things that don’t work out. It’s expected. Surely if it happens to the best chefs in the world, it’s OK for it to happen to you? Right.

3. Make a salad for yourself.
Now that we’ve got you in the right headspace it’s time to actually touch some food! And the good news is you don’t need to invest a small fortune in a new set of knives. You don’t even need a kitchen really. A knife and a chopping board can be helpful but aren’t essential.

Try either this tuna and chilli salad or a chickpea and parmesan salad for starters.

tuna saladchickpea salad

4. Make a salad for someone else.
One of the things I love about cooking is the opportunity to nurture my loved ones. There’s nothing as rewarding as sharing something you’ve made with your own two hands.

As one of my students in my online class, the Healthy Meal Method put it… ‘I love making someone smile with a piece of my lemon tart’.

But it doesn’t need to be anything fancy. A lovely fresh salad will suffice. And once you’ve had that feeling, it will motivate you to keep cooking. All cooks love the praise on some level.

Here are some salads that you might like to try for company:

bok choy & mustard salad-2
bok choy & mustard salad
chickpea feta & pinenut salad
chickpea & feta salad

shaved veg salads-8
shaved snowpea & ham salad

5. Try some soup.
So once we’ve got you hooked on the rewards of cooking, it’s time to actually apply some heat! Soup has to be one of the most underrated meals. And one of the most forgiving. Which makes it the perfect place to start playing with fire, so to speak.

All you need is a pot to cook in and some sort of heat source.

And the best news is a tasty soup doesn’t need to be simmering on the stove all day. In fact you can get a really lovely soup on the table in as little as 10 minutes.

I’d recommend starting with one of the following…

simple minestrone
simple minestrone soup
pea & pesto soup-2
pea & pesto soup

green curry of broccoli soup-2
addictive green curry of broccoli soup

lunches-6
white bean & tomato soup

And then…

And when you’re ready for more, explore the rest of the recipes on Stonesoup. I’ve been posting at least one recipe a week for almost 8 years so that’s over 400 recipes. Should keep you going for a while…

Like to learn more?

Let me know in the comments on Stonesoup. If there’s enough interest I’ll do a follow up post.

With love
Jules x

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There’s something I’ve been meaning to share with you for a while. It’s about my policy when it comes to freebies.

You see, as my blog readership has grown, so has the number of emails I get from PR and other companies offering to send me free samples of ingredients, books and kitchen equipment.

In the early days I’d accept on the proviso that I wouldn’t be obliged to write about the product on Stonesoup. This was OK but I found most of the time I didn’t appreciate the freebies and I would often end up donating them to charity or the garbage bin. So over the last few years I’ve changed my policy.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I want you to know that anything I recommend here on Stonesoup is something I’ve made the conscious decision to spend my hard earned cash on. Same goes for anything you see in my videos or the props I use in my photos.

OK so now I’ve got that off my chest…

Let’s talk garlic presses!

First, I’m not a fan of ‘single-tasking’ kitchen utensils. I got rid of my cheap old garlic crusher back when I was simplifying my kitchen and my life.

It wasn’t a tough decision. I’d read somewhere that crushing garlic can make the garlic taste bitter and that chopping by hand was the way forward.

Then I think it was in the Kitchen Diaries II, Nigel Slater (still my all time favourite food writer) spoke about his love for his garlic crusher. I was curious. Apparently the bitterness was a problem with old aluminium garlic crushes but not so with modern stainless steel.

I had been toying with the idea of finding a good quality garlic crusher. But hadn’t got around to it when my Irishman came back from a trip to Canberra with the beauty pictured above.

So is the ‘Dreamfarm Garject’ the best garlic press in the world?

It’s easily the best garlic press I’ve ever encountered.

My favourite feature is that there’s no need to peel the garlic. Just pop your clove in and squeeze. Garlic comes out. Skins stay inside. Brilliant!

This makes it so much quicker and easier to get garlic ready. As a result I’ve found myself adding garlic to my cooking far more often.

So yes the Dreamfarm garlic press has earned its place in my kitchen.

Here is one of my latest stir fry recipes that gives you a great chance to go a bit garlic crazy. Sorry vampires!

snowpea & chicken stir fry-3

Crunchy Snow Pea & Garlic Stir Fry

This stir fry came about because I had a bag of snow peas lurking in the fridge and had been struggling for inspiration. So I thought I’d ‘use them up’ as a side dish to the Kung Pao Chicken my Irishman was making…

We were both blown away with how delicious the sweet crunchy veg were. The next week I gave it a whirl as a main course. Here it is!

Of course, if you don’t have a garlic press, just peel and chop finely with your knife.

Enough for 2
4 chicken thigh fillets or other protein (see below), sliced
2 really large handfuls snow peas (mange tout), topped
2-4 cloves garlic
3-4 tablespoons oyster sauce
large handful cashew nuts, to serve

1. Heat a little oil in a wok or large frying pan. Cook the chicken, stirring often for about 5 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink when you cut into a piece.

2. Place chicken in a clean bowl.

3. Quickly add a little more oil to the pan. Add snow peas and cook, stirring often for about 2 minutes.

4. Crush garlic into the wok and keep cooking and stirring until the snow peas are a little charred but still crunchy.

5. Return chicken to the pan. Add oyster sauce. Taste and season with more sauce if needed.

6. Serve ASAP with cashews.

VARIATIONS

vegetarian – use vegetarian oyster sauce (it does exist) or replace with soy sauce. Skip the chicken and serve the stir fry with 2 fried eggs per person.

vegan
– as above for the oyster sauce. And replace the chicken with firm tofu or a drained can of cannellini beans.

side dish – skip the chicken.

nut-free – replace cashews with finely chopped red capsicum (bell pepper) for colour and crunch.

garlic-free – just skip it or replace with finely chopped red chilli and/or ginger.

herby
– serve with a few handfuls of coriander leaves (cilantro) or mint or basil.

hot! – add in a few chopped red chillies.

different protein – chicken breast, white fish fillets, salmon, fresh tuna, pork fillet, lamb back straps or lamb fillet, steak, beef fillet, any minced (ground) meat or poultry.

Video version of the recipe.

With love,
Jules x

photo
ps. My favourite tiny person turned 4 months on Monday!
Time sure flies.

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