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One thing I find really annoying are recipes that call for using small amounts of perishable ingredients. You know the type I mean. Recipes that leave you with half a bunch of parsley, a few tablespoons of goats cheese or half an avocado…

Apart from being annoying, these leftover bits tend to end up getting wasted as they hide in the fridge.

When I was a young food scientist, learning how to develop new breakfast cereals, I learned an important lesson. Always try to round the ingredients on your formula (I always found it funny that in food factories there were ‘formulas’ not ‘recipes’) to the nearest lot or pack size.

This made it much easier and quicker for the factory workers to just use say, 3 bags of flour, rather than fiddling around with measuring 86.335kg flour. It also meant there wouldn’t be random partially used bags floating around the factory.

This practical lesson stayed with me.

It followed me around the world as I dabbled in the dark arts of becoming a wine maker. And of course continued on into my food blogging hobby that has since become my funnest and most rewarding career to date.

Anyway, you may not have noticed, but for my recipes on Stonesoup and my online cooking classes I try to keep leftover ingredients to a minimum. It’s just a natural part of my simple cooking philosophy.

But when you’re following someone else’s recipes (It’s OK. I’ll try not to take it personally ;) and you need help reducing leftover ingredients and waste in your kitchen, here are my 3 favourite tricks for leftover ingredients…

1. Avoid leftover ingredients.
My first port of call is to avoid leftover ingredients all together. Often the easiest way is to just skip the ingredient, like the green onions in my soup recipe below.

If skipping it isn’t an option, I look to use up all of the ingredient at once. So I’d use the whole bunch of herbs instead of the 1/2 bunch called for in the recipe. You get the idea.

2. Store the leftovers correctly.
We go into the best way to store fresh produce in my classes at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School. But the general rule of thumb is cooler temperatures are best for most fresh ingredients.

So keep them in the fridge for starters. After temperature, moisture loss is the next biggest destroyer of fresh ingredients, so make sure they’re protected. I tend to store my produce in plastic bags in the crisper section.

The real trick is to keep them somewhere you’re likely see them again to remember to use them. See here for tips on avoiding ‘refrigerator blindness’.

3. Try some ‘mise en place’.
If you haven’t heard of ‘mise en place’ you can get up to speed on it over here. But the short story is… if you know you aren’t going to be able to use an ingredient, there’s always a way to treat it so it will last.

For example, a half bunch of basil can be turned into a tasty Sicilian nut pesto. Or if you don’t have much time, just pop the leaves in a jar and cover with olive oil for a quick basil oil that will last for weeks rather than days.

chickpea egg drop soup-3

Egg ‘Flower’ Soup

One of the first things we made in my home science class at school was the Chinese restaurant classic egg drop soup – crab and sweet corn. I remember at the time being super impressed with how adding the thin steam of beaten egg at the end gave the soup such an exotic texture. I then pretty much forgot about trying to make it myself until a few months ago, which is a long time between soups. I can’t remember what inspired me to make a soup with egg in it, but I’m so glad I did!

If you’re wondering, the ‘flower’ in the title just refers to the beautiful and unique appearance the egg gives our soup.

I just realised that this recipe leaves you with leftover green onions. Just when I’ve been telling you that I usually try and avoid them… Whoops. If you used the whole bunch they would completely overpower everything. To avoid leftovers, either just omit them or replace with a bunch of chives chopped.

Enough for 2
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 can chickpeas(400g / 14oz), drained
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
3-4 eggs, whisked
4 green onions, optional

1. Bring chickpeas and stock to the boil in a medium saucepan. Simmer for a few minutes. Season with soy sauce.

2. Turn the heat as low as possible. Slowly pour eggs into the soup in a fine stream, while stirring the soup constantly so you get lovely fine ribbons of egg.

3. Remove from the heat and serve.

VARIATIONS
leftover-free – omit the green onions or replace with a bunch of chives chopped.

vegan / egg-free – replace eggs with an extra can of chickpeas. To thicken the soup puree with a stick blender so that some of the chickpeas are smooth and others still whole.

chickpea-free – replace chickpeas with a drained can of sweet corn. Or remove the kernels from 2 cobs of corn and simmer until cooked before adding the egg.

carnivore – for a chicken soup replace chickpeas with finely sliced 2 chicken breasts. Simmer until just cooked before adding the egg.

fancy – toss in a few handfuls of cooked crab meat.

Video version of the recipe.

5 Ingredients 10 Minutes Update!

5 ingredients 10 minutes cover image

It’s been a while since I mentioned my print book which was published back in March this year. The good news is the Kindle version is now available!

I downloaded it onto my iPad and phone recently and gave myself a ‘5 Ingredients 10 Minutes’ challenge to cook dinner from the book most nights last week.

Let me tell you, as a new Mum, it was such a lovely to be able to browse the recipes on my phone while breast feeding. But it was even better to have dinner ready so soon after putting little ‘F’ to bed. I’m not sure what I was doing before that, but I definitely need to go back to using my own quick, healthy recipes!

For more details, including some free sample recipes go to:
www.5ingredients10minutes.com/sample-recipes/

With love,
Jules x

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You know when you haven’t thought of something in ages. Or perhaps there’s something that you haven’t heard of before. And all of a sudden you’re hearing about it everywhere…

Well that’s been happening to me a lot lately. And the topic ‘du jour’ is fasting. My obstetrician, my Irishman’s boss, even one of my favourite fashion bloggers have all mentioned they’ve been dabbling with different forms of fasting.

So when I saw this request come in on my Stonesoup by request survey, I decided it was time for a blog post about ‘not eating’ for a change.

Hi Jules.

I would be interested in your opinion on intermittent fasting.

I know it seems like a “new” craze/fad diet/whatever, but it is something I have practiced on and off for a while after reading Brad Pilon’s Eat, Stop, Eat, and more frequently since watching the BBC’s Horizon documentary last August.

Your recipes fit very well in my non-fasting days, as they’re not “too” Paleo and they’re tasty, healthy and filling. Would you consider commenting on this way of eating?

Claudine

My experience with fasting

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to practice fasting. When we decided it was time to start a family, I stopped fasting because I was worried it might not be conducive to fertility. Then once I was pregnant I was too hungry to even think about it.

But back to my experience of actually fasting…

I first heard about the concept, from Leo over at Zen Habits back in about 2009 when he mentioned the concept of intermittent fasting and recommended an ebook called ‘Eat Stop Eat‘.

After reading the ebook, I decided to give this fasting thing a go. The idea is to take 1-2 days per week when you don’t eat anything in a 24 hour period.

The first few times I tried it I was amazed that it wasn’t anywhere near as difficult as you’d think. I’d have breakfast in the morning and then skip lunch and dinner and have breakfast a little later the next day. This way I’d get in my 24 hours but I wouldn’t actually have to go a day without eating something.

And I really liked the way I felt.

My head felt clearer and sharper. My body felt lighter. And man did I enjoy my breakfast when the fast ended.

The other thing I liked was the extra time that suddenly became available on fasting days when I didn’t have to plan, prepare, cook and clean up. A nice little side benefit.

But then I did a fast when I was travelling for work. It didn’t go so well. I found myself getting super irritable. So after that I gave the fasting a rest.

A few years later my Irishman and I decided to try fasting again. This time we just did a mini fast and skipped dinner and sometimes breakfast the next day. We found we got the good fast feelings of clarity and lightness, without me becoming a cranky-pants.

I don’t remember either of us seeing any amazing results to our actual weight. But we both enjoyed feeling lighter and clearer enough that we’re planning on getting back into fasting soon.

Benefits of fasting

According to Brad Pilon in Eat Stop Eat, the scientifically proven benefits of intermittent fasting include:

– Decreased body weight (and body fat)
– Increased insulin sensitivity
– Increased growth hormone levels
– Decreased food related stress
– And 6 more benefits.

As I mentioned before, I loved feeling cleaner, clearer and leaner. I also really noticed how much extra time I had on fasting days when I wasn’t preparing, eating and cleaning up after dinner.

The downside to fasting

As I discovered, there’s the potential to become irritable.

Pilon admits that some people experience headaches, similar to caffeine withdrawal headaches. But he also mentions that most people get over these after their first few fasts.

To see any benefits from a weight loss perspective, it’s important to keep eating normally on your non-fasting days. And it can be tough not to have a few little ‘rewards’. I also suspect that you need to be fasting twice a week for weight loss, not the once a week ‘mini’ fast we were doing.

But that being said, I’m keen to get back into experimenting with fasting when Little F no longer needs my milk-making services.

So is this fasting thing a fad?

Its a good question. In one sense it probably is. I’m sure there are lots of people will try it out now that its topical and then move onto the next shiny new diet craze that comes along.

But the thing is, fasting or going without food for long periods of time, would have been a part of life for our paleo ancestors. And as Pillon mentions in his ebook, fasting has been an integral part of many religions for centuries.

One thing I found interesting was that according to Pillon the original research study that found the Mediterranean diet to be beneficial for heart disease was conducted on people living in Crete. What the study didn’t mention was that these people use a combination of dietary restrictions and fasting for religious purposes for 180 to 200 days a year.

So if you’re a Greek Orthodox Christian person or follow one of the other religions that recommends it, fasting is probably not anything new or faddish at all.

Like to learn more?

eatstopeat2012

If you think fasting might be something you’d benefit from, I highly recommend picking up a copy of the ebook Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon.

Brad Pilon has a degree in nutrition and worked in the sports supplement industry. He’s also a body builder and is super passionate about discovering what works for weight loss. He loves reading scientific journals for fun. So he’s done all the research ‘heavy lifting’ for you.

If you do decide to buy Eat Stop Eat using the Stonesoup affiliate links on this page, you’ll be supporting the Stonesoup business too. THANK YOU!

blat salad

The ‘BLAT’ Salad

There’s a cafe my Irishman and I have been going to quite a bit recently that has a ‘BLAT’ sandwich on the breakfast menu. While it doesn’t sound as appealing as a BLT, the addition of avocado far outweighs the dodgy sounding name.

The other day I was inspired to turn said sandwich into a lunch time salad. To be honest I prefer this lighter ‘paleo’ salad to the sandwich version. I love when that happens.

Enough for 2
4-6 slices bacon, chopped
1 tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar
3-4 handfuls lettuce leaves
1 avocado
large handful semi dried tomatoes

1. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and cook bacon on a medium high heat until crispy.

2. Combine vinegar with 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large bowl. Season.

3. Toss leaves in the dressing. Sprinkle over chunks of avocado, tomatoes and the hot crunchy bacon.

VARIATIONS
vegan – replace bacon with sliced grilled or roast mushrooms.

vegetarian – skip the bacon and serve with a poached egg on top.

more substantial – toss in a drained can of white beans such as cannellini or butter beans in to warm up in the bacon fat and add to the salad.

don’t have semi dried tomatoes? – replace with halved fresh cherry tomatoes instead.

Video version of the recipe.

What about you?

Have you experimented with fasting? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…

With Love,
Jules x

eatstopeat2012ps. The links to ‘Eat Stop Eat‘ are affiliate links. So if you decide to buy you’ll be supporting Stonesoup!

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The Announcement!

I’m super excited to announce that I’m working on a new online cooking course! I’ll have more details soon but in the mean time I want to make sure I’ve covered everything. That’s where you come in…

The Favour

I have a couple of questions. Any chance you could help out? Great! Just share your thoughts below…

THANK YOU!
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your help.

If you want me to contact you as soon as the new course is ready, just leave your name and email address below:

With love,
Jules x

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As you’ve probably guessed from the ‘variations’ I include at the bottom of my recipes, I’m a huge fan of ‘tweaking’. Unless I’m testing recipes for a book or my online cooking school, I rarely cook the same thing twice.

There are many benefits to being a chronic ‘tweaker’. The biggest is I rarely feel bored with my cooking, or like I’m ‘stuck in a rut’. Tweaking keeps thing tasting fresh and interesting.

The other plus is that it allows me to use the ingredients I have in the house. Which minimizes waste and also cuts down on trips to the store.

Recently I got a lovely email from a Stonesoup reader who had purchased one of my ebooks, that made me realize there are people who struggle when it comes to substituting meat…

“There are some great recipes in the book, and I’ve been enjoying it, but I was disappointed that very few recipes use pork. I enjoy beef and chicken, but both are very expensive, and I often can get pork for a much better price. Even to just include some adaptations for substituting pork would be helpful.”
Thank you,
Susan

As I explained to Susan, just because a recipe calls for a certain type of meat, it doesn’t mean you can’t use something else. Sure the end result will be different, but there aren’t many occasions that a little substitution will lead to something that doesn’t taste as good as the original.

You just need to know the 2 golden rules…

Golden Rule 1. It must ‘sound’ good in your imagination.

There can be the odd ‘surprise’ in cooking. That thing you thought was going to be amazing that doesn’t quite work and vice versa. But these ‘surprises’ happen less often than you’d imagine.

So the first test is to ‘imagine’ the dish in your mind. If you think it’s going to taste great, then odds are you’ll be right!

Golden Rule 2. Keep the ‘type’ of cut consistent.

There are two types of meat:
i. Tender cuts like steak, which are best for cooking quickly at high temperatures.
ii. Less tender cuts like beef short ribs, which will be tough if cooked like a steak, but will turn into something melting and tender if left to simmer for long periods of time.

My rule of thumb is that you need to keep the ‘type’ of cut consistent. So the ‘tender’ cuts can be used pretty much interchangeably. And same with the less tender meats.

So when you’re substituting stick to one of the columns below and you’ll be fine.

More Tender Cuts

BEEF: Fillet / Tenderloin / Sirloin / New York Cut / Porterhouse / Entrecote / Striploin / Ribeye Steak / Rib Fillet / Scotch Fillet / Cube Roll / Minced (ground) Beef.

CHICKEN: Breast / Tenderloin / Whole chicken / Thigh Fillets / Minced (Ground) Chicken.

PORK: – Fillet / Tenderloin / Pork Cutlets / Loin Chops / Pork Chops / Pork Belly (Side Pork).

LAMB: Fillet / Tenderloin / Lamb Cutlets / Rack of Lamb / Lamb Loin Chops / Leg (Gigot) / Minced (Ground) Lamb.

FISH: All Fish Fillets / All Whole Fish.

SEAFOOD: Prawns / Lobster / Shrimp / Crab / Oysters / Calamari.

OTHER: Sausages.

Less Tender Cuts

BEEF: Chuck / Brisket / Beef Cheeks / Beef Shin / Osso Buco / Ox Tail / Beef Short Ribs.

CHICKEN: Drumsticks / Legs with the bone in / Thighs / Marylands.

PORK: Ribs / Spareribs / Shoulder.

LAMB: Lamb Shanks / Shoulder / Ribs / Neck chops / Minced (Ground) Lamb.

FISH: NA.

SEAFOOD: Octopus / Large Squid.

OTHER: NA.

pirri pirri chicken with carrot tabbouleh-2

Pirri Pirri Chicken

It’s hard not to love the fresh heat of Pirri Pirri sauce. While it’s traditionally paired with chicken, like I’ve done here, it’s equally delicious with pork or fish. I’d even be happy serving it with beef and lamb. Just remember to stick to the ‘tender’ cuts.

Enough for 2:
1 red capsicum (bell pepper)
1 teaspoon chilli
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 chicken thigh fillets

1. For the sauce, whizz the capsicum (pepper) with the chilli, smoked paprika, lemon juice and 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a food processor or blender. When smooth, taste and season.

2. Trim the chicken thighs and bash out using the palm of your hand until the thighs are roughly even in thickness.

3. Place thighs in a bowl and cover with half the sauce. Marinate for a few minutes or up to 48 hours (if marinating for more than an hour keep refrigerated).

4. Heat a little oil in a pan and cook the thighs for 3-4 minutes on each side or until no longer pink in the middle. Serve thighs with the other half of the sauce.

VARIATIONS
carnivore – any tender cuts of meat or fish will work well here.

can’t find smoked paprika? – just skip it or use regular paprika.

vegetarian – replace chicken thighs with thick slices of halloumi. Skip the marinating and pan fry halloumi until golden on both sides and serve with the sauce.

vegan – replace the chicken thighs with thick slices of firm tofu or seitan. Sliced eggplant would also be lovely – just cook until tender.

grilled peppers – make the pirri even more intense and smoky by using 2 grilled and peeled red peppers instead of the fresh capsicum.

Video Version of the Recipe.

pirri pirri chicken with carrot tabbouleh-3

Carrot ‘Tabbouleh’

Using carrot instead of bulger wheat makes for a much fresher and crunchier version of tabbouleh. The carrot also give a sweetness that I love. I’ve kept it super simple here to use as a side but you could dress it up to work as a meal in its own right… See below for ideas. As with regular tabbouleh, this salad will keep in the fridge without wilting too much. So you can make it ahead of time if needed.

Enough for 2 as a side:
2 carrots, grated
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Combine lemon juice with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Season.

2. Toss in carrot and parsley.

VARIATIONS
herby – replace some or all of the parsley with other leafy herbs such as mint, coriander (cilantro) or basil.

crunchy – toss in a handful of almonds or pine nuts.

more substantial – serve with a big chunk of feta.

tomatoey – a handful of cherry tomatoes will also work well here either as well as or instead of the carrot.

With love,
Jules x

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If you’ve been following Stonesoup for a while or if you’ve read my print book 5 Ingredients 10 Minutes, you’ve probably noticed that I use a lot of canned legumes in my cooking.

What can I say…

I’m a huge fan of lentils, beans and especially chickpeas. And while I often used dried legumes and cook them from scratch, I’m equally as likely to turn to the super convenient canned option.

I’ve noticed in the last few weeks, with a newborn in the house, that as the amount of time I have available to spend in the kitchen has dramatically decreased, the number of times I’ve been turning to canned legumes for quick, nutritious meals has increased.

The thing I often get asked about canned foods is ‘are they safe to eat?’ And the biggest concern tends to be around the presence of BPA.

What is BPA?

The short answer is that BPA or ‘Bisphenol A’ is a chemical that has been used to make plastics since the 1950s. If you’re into heavy organic chemistry, it’s all over here on Wikipedia.

Should I be concerned about it?

To my mind, yes. It’s not worth the risk. Especially if you’re an infant or are pregnant or breast feeding.

It’s known that BPA can ‘mimic’ the action of the hormone estrogen in our bodies, and has been linked with obesity and problems with brain development.

My policy is that the less plastic comes in contact with my food, especially when it’s heated, the better.

How do I make sure my canned foods don’t contain BPA?

There are 2 options here.

1. Look for cans that claim ‘BPA Free’ on the label.
In my local supermarket there aren’t any cans that make this claim (yet). So I rely on option 2 below.

2. Buy cans that don’t contain white plastic lining.
Canning is an old and very effective method of preserving food. The thing is, the original cans didn’t contain any plastic linings and really you don’t need them. Even for acidic food like tomatoes, plain cans are fine. And the best thing about using cans without any plastic lining is that you can be sure there isn’t any BPA or any other plastic nasties that we don’t really know much about.

The only downside to this method is that the only way to tell if the can contains BPA is to buy one and open it. So it does take a little experimentation. If you’re in Australia, I’ve done the hard work for you. But if you’re elsewhere in the world, you’ll have to do this yourself (sorry!).

So for the Aussies, I’ve been buying the Macro brand of canned chickpeas, cannellini beans and lentils, which are organic and don’t contain plastic lining.

For canned tomatoes, I buy the Annalisa brand – the tricky thing here is that some cans contain plastic lining and some don’t. How do you tell? I’ve found that the cans with the date code on the bottom of the can in a single line are plastic lining free. Whereas the cans with the date code written over 2 lines contain plastic lining.

Easy.

chilli con tuna-2

Chilli Con ‘Tuna’

The idea for this recipe came from one of my Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School students. It’s funny I would never have thought to replace the beef in chilli con carne with fish. But canned tuna works really well here.

This is a great ‘pantry’ recipe to have in your repertoire. Although it does benefit greatly from some fresh herbs and a little sour cream, from both a taste and appearance perspective, it’s delicious (if not quite so pretty) on its own.

Enough for 3-4
2 large onions, peeled & chopped
400g (14oz) can tuna in spring water, not drained
2 cans tomatoes (400g / 14oz each)
2 cans beans (400g / 14oz each), drained
1-2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes

1. Heat a good glug of olive oil in a large pan. Add onion and cook over a medium heat until soft. About 10 minutes.

2. Add tuna and canning liquid, tomatoes, drained beans and chilli.

3. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until everything is hot.

4. Taste and season with salt and pepper and more chilli, if needed.

VARIATIONS
prettier & tastier – serve with a generous dollop of sour cream and a few handfuls fresh coriander (cilantro) or flat leaf parsley leaves.

paleo – replace beans with a head of cauliflower, finely chopped into little trees. Make sure you simmer until the cauli is tender.

carnivore – replace tuna with 450g (1lb) ground or minced beef. Brown beef in the pan with the onion before adding the remaining ingredients and continuing from step 3.

vegetarian / vegan – replace tuna with 2 cans drained lentils or 450g (1lb) cooked lentils (boil like pasta until tender).

budget – use and extra can of beans and half as much tuna.

different beans – red kidney beans are traditional in chilli but feel free to use chickpeas or white beans such as cannellini or butter beans instead. Black beans will also work.

different chilli – if you can’t find chilli flakes, feel free to use any other fresh or dried chillies.

Video version of the recipe.

______

budget class logo

Mastering the Art of Cooking in a Budget…

On a completely unrelated topic, I recently donated to the profits from the last 12 months of my ‘Mastering the Art of Cooking on a Budget’ class at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School (SVCS) to two different charities: Oz Harvest and Feeding America.

Which reminded me to let you know…

The doors to the rest of the SVCS classes are closed at the moment but the budget class is still open to new students.

So if you’re keen to learn how to cook healthy, delicious meals while sticking to your budget, I recommend checking out the class.

It’s ‘pay what you can afford‘ so you can access the class for as little as $1.

And as I mentioned earlier, the profits are donated to charity. A chance for Stonesoup to help others.

For more details go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/budget/

With love,
Jules x

ps. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to keep offering the class as a ‘pay what you can afford’ so signup today to make sure you don’t miss out!

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At the risk of sounding a bit nerdy here, one of the habits I’ve developed over the last few years is to choose an area in my life to focus on or experiment with each month. Sometimes it’s something I do on my own but often I’m able to convince my Irishman to join me.

For example there was vegetarian month a few years ago and then alcohol-free month (aka ‘Famine February’). We’ve also done exercise every day month and of course the current focus is all about parenting.

Recently we experimented with going gluten-free for a month.

Since adopting a ‘mostly’ paleo approach to eating a few years ago, gluten products haven’t really featured heavily for us. Except for our weekly ‘cheat day‘ where anything goes.

The interesting thing is that even only having gluten once a week or so, my Irishman had been having some ‘digestive’ problems. Which sparked the idea to experiment with going completely gluten-free.

The good news is that it made a huge difference to the digestion problems. And really it wasn’t as difficult as you’d think.

By approaching it from a ‘let’s focus on what we can eat’ mindset there are so many options that don’t include gluten or rely on expensive commercial ‘gluten-free’ substitutes.

Here are 16 15 of my favourite GF ideas.

BREAKFAST

1. eggs not toast
While there are some surprisingly good gluten-free breads available these days, they tend to be very expensive. A better and even healthier alternative is to switch to having a hot breakfast a few days a week. Fried eggs are my Irishman’s favourite where as I prefer mine poached (and am very much enjoying my post-pregnancy runny poached eggs).

2. gluten-free granola and yoghurt
Feel free to use a commercial granola or muesli. But if you’re up for making your own, I recommend this lentil granola or this decadent chocolate option.

3. quinoa porridge (oatmeal)
My local supermarket now stocks rolled quinoa in the health food section. I’ve been loving using it to make a gluten-free porridge or oatmeal, pretty much just cook it the same way you’d cook oats.

4. gluten-free oats
Oats themselves don’t contain gluten but are often produced on equipment that also processes wheat so there can be gluten present from cross contamination. These days you can find oats that have been kept gluten-free but they do tend to come with a hefty price tag.

UPDATE: Thanks to the Stonesoup readers who emailed and commented to let me know I was wrong here. (I should know better than just using Wikipedia for my research!). I’ve since learned that gluten is the name for a group of proteins. Oats do contain a protein that is classed as a ‘gluten’, although it’s a different protein to the one in wheat which is also classed as a gluten. So oats can be wheat free, if handled and processed on separate equipment. But they can’t be gluten free. So if you’re coeliac oats can still cause problems.

Interestingly it’s apparently illegal in Australia to label oats as being gluten free but not so in other countries.

5. chia seed bran, psyllium, gluten-free oat bran instead of wheat based bran.
If you love your wheat bran based cereal, try using one of the above options instead. I particularly love chia seed bran because it isn’t as gloopy as psyllium and is quite high in protein.

LUNCH

6. lettuce leaf wraps
Instead of regular wraps or sandwiches wrap your filling in iceberg lettuce leaves. You’ll need more filling to make up for the lack of bread.

7. lunchbox salad
Make a composed salad to take to work with you. I’ve been doing this for years without thinking too much about it but Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall brought the idea to life in his book River Cottage Everyday.

Here’s how you do it…

i. Choose a protein.
Think leftover cooked meat or fish, canned tuna, boiled eggs.

ii. Choose something to bulk it out.
Starchy foods work well here such as canned chickpeas or beans, leftover cooked potatoes, roast vegetables or cooked quinoa. Or try some vegetables like finely chopped raw or steamed broccoli, grated raw vegetables, salad leaves or avocado.

iii. Add a highlight ingredient.
Like goats cheese, other cheese, roast nuts, fresh herbs (basil, mint or parsley are best) olives or cherry tomatoes.

iv. Add a ‘dressing’.
It could be just a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon or lime. Or a big dollop of pesto, hummus or olive tapenade.

8. legume salads
Toss your favourite sandwich filling with a drained can of chickpeas, beans or lentils and a little olive oil for a quick lunch salad. In Winter you can warm the legumes first in a pan with a little oil.

DINNER

9. skip the crackers or bread
If you’re in the habit of having cheese and crackers / bread or dips and crackers to start a meal, either skip the crackers or replace with raw veg such as carrots or celery.

10. vegetable ‘pasta’ or ‘noodles’
There are so many options to replace your pasta with vegetables. My favourites are zucchini ‘fettuccini’ (see varations below for cooking instructions), carrot ‘spaghetti’ (shave with a vegetable peeler to get ribbons then cut into ‘spaghetti’. Simmer in boiling water until just tender) or zucchini ‘orechetti’ (slice zucchini into coins and pan fry in a little oil until just tender).

All can be used in Italian style dishes or to replace wheat based noodles in Asian cooking.

11. a bed of greens
Serve your favourite bolognese or other hearty pasta sauce on a bed of greens. Baby spinach is great or try wilting greens such as kale, spinach, collards, chard or silver beet in a pan with a little olive oil.

12. almond meal ‘bread crumbs’
Replace bread crumbs in meatballs or meat loaf with almond meal. Same goes for bread crumbs used as a coating.

13. cauliflower ‘couscous’
Whizz raw cauliflower in a food processor until you have instant ‘couscous’. No need to cook but if you’d prefer it warm you can heat it through in a pan with a little oil before using.

14. red lentil ‘couscous’ or ‘risoni’
Just boil red lentils until tender. Drain and use anywhere you’d use couscous or risoni (little rice shaped pasta).

BAKING

15. almond meal ‘flour’
The problem with most commercial gluten-free flours is that they’re very low in protein whereas wheat flour contains gluten so has a higher protein level. So I’ve found that just substituting ‘gluten-free’ flour doesn’t give good results.

Almond or other nut meal or ‘flour’ tends to give better, if heavier results. In general I’d recommend looking for a recipe that is designed to use almond meal rather than experimenting yourself. Most of the recent sweet treats on Stonesoup are either gluten-free or contain a GF variation.

I’ve been experimenting with flour from higher protein sources like chickpeas and quinoa but haven’t found anything I’m super happy with yet.

16. GF ‘pastry’ for tarts
My favourite ‘cheat’ way to make GF tarts is to crumble commercial GF cookies or biscuits like shortbread and combine with a little melted butter. Then spread the mixture in your tart shell and chill until set.

mung bean pasta-3

GF Mung Bean Pasta with Rocket & Chilli


Mung bean pasta is something I discovered in a health food shop. While it sounds a bit to ‘healthy’ tasting and is quite green in colour, it’s actually surprisingly delicious and hits the spot when you’re in need of some pasta ‘comfort’. It’s gluten free but the best part is that it’s very high in protein and fiber and much lower in carbs than regular pasta. Win win!

I don’t normally like to recommend brands because the Stonesoup readership is global, but the one I’ve been using is called ‘Explore Asian’.

Enough for 2
150g (5oz) mung bean fettuccini or other pasta
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 large handfuls rocket (arugula) leaves
2 large handfuls grated ricotta salata or parmesan

1. Cook pasta in a pot of salted boiling water as per the packet directions.

2. Drain pasta and return to the pot.

3. Toss in 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, chilli, lemon juice, rocket (arugula) and about half the cheese.

4. Taste and season. Serve in bowls with remaining cheese sprinkled over.

VARIATIONS
different pasta – Just use your favourite gluten-free pasta. Of course it will also work with regular pasta as well. I prefer long pasta like fettuccini, linguine or spaghetti for this for some reason. But short pasta will be fine too.

paleo / pasta-free – replace cheese with finely sliced prosuitto or ham and replace pasta with zucchini ‘noodles’. For zucchini noodles, shave 2-3 zucchini (courgettes) into ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Layer onto a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and bake (200C / 400F) until tender, about 10 minutes.

no pasta – replace pasta with a drained can of chickpeas or white beans. Heat the beans in a little oil in a frying pan then remove from the heat and continue from step 3.

vegan / dairy-free – replace cheese with chopped or finely grated brazil nuts (use a microplane).

carnivore – toss in some torn, finely sliced ham or proscuitto as well as or instead of the cheese.

different leaves – replace the rocket (arugula) with basil, flat leaf parsley, baby spinach or finely shredded raw cabbage.

less heat – just skip the chilli.

Video version of the recipe.

With love,
Jules x

ps. What about you? Do you struggle with food allergies? Got any favourite Gluten-Free ideas? I’d love you to share your thoughts in the comments below…

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One of the biggest sources of inspiration for my musings on Stonesoup is the Stonesoup-by-Request Survey I setup earlier in the year. Or questions that come in via email.

The thing is, I’ve been blogging for 7 1/2 years so there’s a whole heap of tips and recipes that if you’re a new reader, you won’t have seen. And of course there are many questions that have already been answered over the years…

So today I thought I’d take you on a ‘tour of the Stonesoup archives’ and go through 10 questions that have come in recently that already have answers on Stonesoup…

1. REFRIGERATOR BLINDNESS

Q. I would love to hear your favorite way to clean out the fridge…what do you make out of those odds and ends when you need to go to the grocery but haven’t, or are headed out of town, and would like to leave the ice box empty?
Juliana

A. This is one of my favourite topics of all time! I like to think of it as ‘refrigerator blindness’, something we all suffer from time to time. Here are 4 steps to cure refrigerator blindness including some general ideas to turn the bits and pieces into actual meals.

2. DIABETIC FRIENDLY

Q. If you could post some diabetic-friendly recipes, that’d be great! My dad was just diagnosed and I have a very strong family history of the disease so it’s time for me to start eating healthy, preventatively.
Melissa

A. Love that you’re being proactive Melissa! Basically most of the recipes on Stonesoup for the last 2-3 years are diabetic friendly, except for the sweet treats. Basically my eating style is mostly low GI, perfect for diabetics. And if a recipe doesn’t fit, look at the variations, usually there will be a ‘paleo’, ‘slow carb’ or ‘low carb’ option that will be suitable for your situation.

3. COCONUT YOGHURT

Q. What is coconut yoghurt, can you make it?
Olga

A. It’s dairy-free yoghurt made from coconut milk. There’s recipes for both coconut and regular yoghurt included in ‘What you should never do when making yoghurt at home‘.

4. RECIPES FOR 1 PERSON

Q. I’d love some recipes for one person – or enough for 2 portions with one suitable to freeze.
Marje

A. Most of the recipes on Stonesoup are written to serve 2 people. I do this because that’s how many I’m usually cooking for. But it also makes it super easy to halve recipes if you’re cooking for 1. They’re also easy to double or triple if you have more mouths to feed. So you can pretty much just browse through the recipe index to find something suitable.

5. MAKING SOUP THICKER

Q. I made a really yummy soup that was supposed to get thick because you added half & half. I was trying to be good so I bought fat free half & half that still used milk and cream. The soup was kind of watery even though it tasted really good. We froze some of it. How can I make it thicker? There are potato slices in the soup and they didn’t help it get any thicker.
Gail

A. Firstly, we really need to get you away from thinking that fat is bad! Please please pop over and read The Truth about Fat. And then promise me you’re going to stop buying ‘fat-free’ or ‘low fat’ products. They are NOT healthier options.

(Sorry about the little rant there). Back to the question of thickening soup. There are basically 3 options.

1. If you don’t want to change the soup you can simmer it until it reduces and thickens. But this can take hours.

2. My preferred option is to add more solid ingredients to the soup. If you’re short on time, a drained can of beans, chickpeas or lentils will instantly thicken things up. OR if you’ve got longer you could add a few handfuls of couscous or quinoa or rice and then simmer until they are cooked and thickened.

3. If the soup has solids in it – like your potato slices, you could puree some or all of the soup and return to the pan. Be careful with pureeing potato though because the starch can end up making your soup thick and ‘gluey’.

6 KEEPING LEFTOVERS SAFE

Q. I would like to know more about keeping food for longer and just how long certain things can be kept in the fridge, etc. You touched on it a while back and I became more confident at using leftover bits and pieces together in a dish. If you could provide some recipes and hints and tips on leftover bits and pieces that would be great. I hate throwing out leftovers, but there’s never enough for another meal and I never know what to do with all the bits! Thanks for the great site… I look forward to your emails when they come… they inspire me…
Heather

A. Great topics Heather! In terms of maximising the life of your leftovers see The Dos and Don’ts of Keeping Leftovers Safe. And then for tips on what to do with leftover bits and pieces, the best article is 4 steps to cure refrigerator blindness which has 4 different ‘types’ of meals or I use the bits and pieces to make whole meals.

7. COOKING QUINOA

Q. What’s the best way to cook quinoa? I’ve heard you have to soak it first to remove the bitter taste. I tried this, soaking overnight, but then because it had swollen I wasn’t sure how much water to add to cook it, or for how long. I ended up with quinoa porridge! I’d love to know how I should be doing this!
Isobel

A. I LOVE quinoa Isobel. And it’s actually super easy to prepare. No need to soak quinoa. But you should rinse it thoroughly because the surface of quinoa contains a chemical called saponin that has a bitter soapy taste. Most commercial quinoa will already be washed and have the saponin removed but it’s a good idea to rinse it just before you use it in case there are residues.

Once it’s rinsed, just cook it like pasta in a pot of boiling water for 10-15 minutes (I usually set my timer for 12 minutes) until it’s tender. Then drain and it’s ready.

For more info see 12 things you should know about quinoa.

8. RECIPE ORGANISATION

Q. How do you organise your recipes?? We are dairy-free and sugar-free and I’m trying out gluten-free at the moment too! So when I come across a great recipe, I will make some sugar or dairy substitutions. If it’s really great, my ideal scenario would be to write this recipe out and file it somewhere in a really great filing system! The reality is that I’ve got heaps of cookbooks, with some recipes that are great in each of them. And then a few different folders of trying to collect ‘favourite’ recipes that never quite come together to serve the purpose. Any suggestions?
Nadia

A. One of the reasons I started Stonesoup was to keep track of my favourite recipes. My trusty assistant, Sarah, is working on a project at the moment to make sure all my recipes from my blog, online cooking school and all my books (both print and ebooks) are all included on my cooking school website so my students (and me!) will have access to ALL my recipes on the one searchable site.

Of course, if starting a blog is a bit extreme, I highly recommend getting an account with Evernote to keep track of everything. For more details on how to make the most of Evernote for recipe organisation see The Art of Recipe Organisation.

9. RSS FEATURE

Q. Great site and content. Keep it up. Would love to see an RSS feature in addition to the email service.

A. For my RSS reader you can just search for the feed for a particular website and add it to your feed. Or go to www.feeds.feedburner.com/stonesoup/zQie

10. COOKING ON A BUDGET

Q. How to eat well on a poor uni student budget!

A. I’m so glad you asked this question because it’s a topic close to my heart. We all go through times when we don’t have as much money as we’d like and healthy eating can be one of the first things to slip… Just when you need it most!

To get you started, check out 18 Tips for Minimising Your Food Costs.

But if you’d like to learn more, I highly recommend taking the ‘Mastering the Art of Cooking on a Budget‘ program at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School.

budget class logo

Like to learn more about Cooking on a Budget?

The program is ‘pay what you can afford’ and I created it as a chance to help people who can’t afford my other programs.

While cooking real healthy food on a budget may seem difficult, it’s not impossible and in this class I’ll show you exactly how to do it.

For more details go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/budget/

With love,
Jules x

ps. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to keep offering the class as a ‘pay what you can afford’ so sign up today to make sure you don’t miss out.

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[NOTE: The images are some of my favourite recipes at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School. Click HERE to find out more about my online classes.]

I often get emails asking for recommendations for blogs similar to Stonesoup. Without trying to be arrogant, I haven’t really come across anyone else focusing on super simple, healthy 5 ingredient recipes that can be made in minutes.

But there are plenty of blogs and books I admire and love so I thought I’d share a few of my favourites here today.

And of course I’d love to hear if you have any sources of inspiration that you’d like to recommend. Please share in the comments!

Food Blogs

The Mindful Foodie. I met Lesh, the brains behind The Mindful Foodie when I was speaking in Melbourne a year or so ago. As a health coach, Lesh is super passionate about helping people get healthy and happy by eating real food.

Chocolate & Zucchini. One of the first blogs I ever discovered and still a favourite when I’m in the mood for some Parisian food insights.

My New Roots. A relatively new discovery for me, I haven’t ever cooked anything from this beautifully photographed blog… it’s not exactly ‘minimalist’. But I’ve gleaned plenty of great ideas to help make my cooking healthier and more veg focused.

Orangette. Still my favourite food blogger when it comes to her writing skills. There’s something so welcoming about the way Molly writes about food and life. If you’re ever in the Seattle area, I highly recommend visiting Delancey – the fabulous pizza mecca run my Molly and her husband Brandon. I just hope for your sake they have Molly’s chocolate chip cookies on the menu for dessert.

101 Cookbooks. Another oldie but a goodie, especially if you’re looking for creative vegetarian recipes. Love Heidi’s travel tips as well.

Non-Food Blogs

Wearing It Today. I get super excited every time I get and email in my inbox from the lovely Laura, a London based stylist. She’s been on maternity leave for the past 9 months but has started posting again, all be it infrequently.

Style Notes by Maggie Alderson. I’ve been following Maggie for over a decade since discovering her column in the Sydney Morning Herald ‘Good Weekend’ section. These days I devour her (fiction) books as soon as they are released and in the meantime enjoy her observations on fashion and life via her blog.

Zen Habits. It’s hard not to love Leo’s minimalist approach to life. And I always feel a little bit happier when there’s a new post from Zen Habits in my email inbox. I was lucky enough to have coffee with Leo last time I was in San Francisco which was awesome fun but I did walk away on a massive caffeine high.

Tim Ferriss. As I mentioned recently, I’m a huge fan of Ferriss’ books, especially the 4-Hour Work Week. Love the blog too.

I Love Marketing. Dean Jackson and Joe Polish know a lot about marketing. If it’s something you’re interested in I recommend subscribing to their weekly podcast and start listening from the first episode.

Marie Forleo. A business blog geared towards female entrepreneurs (I love that word!). Love Forleo’s simple approach to life and business success.

Cookbooks

I’m limiting this to my current Top 3, otherwise I could be here all day.

The Kitchen Diaries Volumes I & II by Nigel Slater. Still my favourite food writer of all time. I could happily just keep starting from the beginning every time I finish one of Slater’s books.

Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi. This is the 3rd book from Ottolenghi and head and shoulders my favourite. The recipes aren’t very minimalist but I love the way he combines flavours and textures.

Cumulus Inc. by Andrew McConnell. This is the book I turn to when I want inspiration for a dinner party or something new and different for my Irishman and me. Definitely more ‘weekend’ cooking when you have loads of time. I’m slowly working my way through the whole book and have loved everything so far except for a couple of the desserts. If you’re ever in Melbourne, make sure you schedule a visit to the restaurant of the same name.

Non-Food Books

Goals! by Bryan Tracy. I’ve been setting goals and not achieving them for years. I still have a long way to go but this little book pulled together the missing pieces for me in my goal setting and how to actually get results. I also love Tracy’s ‘Eat Your Frog’. As an added bonus my brother and I have laughed over many unintentionally ‘comic’ moments with Tracy’s delivery.

Start Late, Finish Rich by David Bach. A very practical, down-to-earth guide to personal finances which also manages to inspire you to take control and start saving.

The Magic of Thinking BIG by David Schwartz. I love this book. It inspired me to dedicate 2011 as the Year of Thinking Big. For the record 2013 is the Year of Family for me, but I’m thinking it’s about time I gave Thinking BIG a re-read.

Productivity Tools

Trello. If you love lists and keeping yourself organized like I do, then you’ll love Trello. I have their apps on my phone and iPad and it’s by far the best tool I’ve used for organizing my ‘to do’ lists and projects.

Evernote. I’ve been using Evernote for years now but it wasn’t until I went ‘all in’ and spent a few hours setting up my Evernote to capture ALL my notes, that I really realized how useful and powerful this tool is. The best thing is that I can create notes in many different ways, writing text, forwarding email and clipping web pages. You can also save pdf documents into Evernote so I keep any ebooks I buy (or write) in there too. Everything ends up in the one place, which is also searchable.

Moleskine Notebooks. While I love all things digital, there’s something about writing in a notebook, even if your handwriting is illegible as mine. I use my Moleskine for my daily ‘to do’ list and keeping track of random things like new recipes and ideas.

iPhone Apps

Audible. I don’t know where I’d be without audio books. I certainly wouldn’t be able to average reading 1 book a week like I have for the last few years. Their membership pricing model makes audio books super affordable. Great for when you’re out running (or walking as I am these days), car trips or even when you’re hanging out in the garden or doing things around the house.

Instagram. Of all the social media, I find I spend the most time on Instagram. I’m @jules_stonesoup if you want to pop over and say ‘Hi’.

Shopping List. The creators of this app obviously thought long and hard about its name. Super helpful to have your shopping list with you at all times! I love that in the ‘shopping’ mode your items are organised by aisle (you setup the categories) and that I can text or email my list to a certain Irishman.

Evernote & Trello. Part of what makes these ‘productivity tools’ so useful is that you can access them from wherever. Both have iPad apps as well.

Gratitude365. This year I’ve started writing a list of things I’m ‘thankful’ for before I go to bed. You don’t really need an app for it, but I do find the little calendar which notes which days I skip does motivate me to make sure I do it every night.

Shake It Photo. Still my favourite camera app. It’s hard to go past the ‘old school’ polaroid noises and images.

What about you?

Have some favourites you’d like to share? Please let me know in the comments.

w3 roast veg salad-2

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I‘m not a huge fan of celebrity chefs. Although I do love a bit of Heston and Jamie and of course Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, I find the whole chef tendency to over complicate cooking a bit off-putting.

But there is one cheffy technique that I do love and embrace frequently.

I’ve written about it before but basically it’s the concept of ‘mise en place’ or preparing ingredients / components for a dish so that they can be used during service.

There’s actually a whole program I teach at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School on how this concept can be applied to make your life as a home cook as easy as possible.

Anyway today I want to talk about legumes in general and dried beans in particular.

In my own cooking, I’ve been finding myself cooking up a big batch of beans or lentils each week. I’ve come to think of it as ‘legume of the week’ and I’ve been having heaps of fun with it.

So when I got this question from Juliette, I had another reason to talk beans…

“I know it might sound lame, but can you talk about easy ways to deal with dried beans and lentils? The whole pre-soaking thing drives me away from them, thinking it’s too much planning/commitment in advance.”

I know the whole world of pre-soaking can sound a little intimidating but really it’s not that tricky. You just need to know a few things…

What needs pre-soaking?

My rule of thumb is simple:
1. Lentils DON’T need soaking
2. Larger legumes like beans and chickpeas do.

Why pre-soak?

1. It speeds up the cooking process by partially re-hydrating the beans.

2. It helps avoid gas by ‘pre-digesting’ the beans.
This is the more important reason for me. Basically beans contain complex carbohydrates that are difficult for our bodies to digest and often cause the ‘toots’ associated with the ‘musical fruit’. Soaking allows enzymes in the beans to become active and start breaking down or ‘pre-digesting’ these carbs, so we avoid the whole gas thing.

How long do I need to pre-soak?

Ideally somewhere between 8 and 48 hours. Which is a pretty big window, really.

And if you are short on time, remember that some soaking is better than no soaking. So if you only have 2 hours or 6 hours that’s better than nothing.

Longer than 48 hours isn’t the end of the world either. But if you leave them too long the beans will start to rot. But you’ll know if that happens. So don’t stress about it.

What happens if I change my mind?

Totally no problems. You can drain the soaked legumes and keep them in the fridge for a week or so before cooking. Or if you need longer they can be frozen to cook whenever you’re ready.

And how do I cook them?

Easy. And it’s the same for all legumes. Put them in a big pot and cover generously with water. Then bring to the boil and simmer until the legumes are tender.

For lentils this will be in the 15-30 minutes range.

For beans and chickpeas you’re looking at usually 1-2 hours. But I have known some beans to take longer so be prepared to keep on cooking and testing for doneness.

It wasn’t that scary, right?

bean bowl with poached egg-3

Bean Bowl with a Poached Egg

Don’t you love the idea of a ‘bean bowl’? I think it just sounds so comforting and warming. I wish I could say I thought up the idea on my own but it was inspired by a photo on Instagram by the lovely Sarah from My New Roots.

This is one of those recipes you could take in any direction depending on your mood and what you happen to have in the house. So please just use this as a springboard for ideas.

Enough for 3-4
2 onions, peeled & diced
500g (1lb) cooked or canned beans
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock or bean cooking liquid
1 bunch cavalo nero, kale or other greens, sliced crosswise
poached eggs, to serve

1. Heat a little oil in a saucepan. Add onions and cook over a medium heat until soft.

2. Add beans and liquid or stock and cavalo nero or greens.

3. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes or until the greens are cooked and everything is hot.

4. Taste. Season and serve with a poached egg on top.

VARIATIONS
paleo – replace cooked beans with a head of cauliflower or 2 heads broccoli cut into florettes and change the name to ‘veg bowl’. Serve with extra poached eggs to make it more substantial.

vegan – replace poached eggs with a few good handfuls of cashew or other nuts.

carnivore – after the onion has cooked, fry some pancetta or bacon or crumble some sausages in and cook until browned then continue as per the recipe.

egg-free – if poached eggs aren’t your thing replace them with some cheese. Shaved parmesan is lovely or you could use any soft cheese like buffalo mozzarella, goats cheese, ricotta or even blue.

other greens – collards, spinach, silver beet, chard, kale, baby spinach.

different legumes – feel free to use any cooked bean or lentil here. You could also use ‘non-legumes’ like brown rice or quinoa or millet.

Video version of the recipe.

With love,
Jules x

ps. A huge THANK YOU for all the lovely emails, comments and well wishes for Fergal! We really appreciate it and couldn’t be happier.

I always thought newborns were boring with the sleeping all day. Happy to report I was wrong. They are so much fun!

And if you were wondering, I will post some photos. Just give me a chance to figure out how to photograph a wriggling body. Definitely a whole lever more complex than photographing food!

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It’s a …

So Stonesoup is coming to you a little bit late this week. But I have a very good reason…

Yes. It’s a BOY!

Fergal St. John Brennan was born on the 21st June.

If you’re into the baby stats he was 4.5kg or 10lb and 53cm long. Yes a BIG boy. I seem to have been feeding him very well already.

And to celebrate we have cake!

Fergal seems completely happy for now to stick to milk, although if he’s anything like his father I’m sure one day he’ll be asking me to make this cake for him.

fergal cake-6

Little F’s Steamed Caramel Cake

You know how some cakes tend to cook and be dry on the edges but moist in the middle? The original versions of this cake kept doing that to me until I stumbled across the idea to ‘steam’ the cake by putting a plate on it to capture the steam as it cools. This keeps everything super moist and lovely. Thanks to Margot Henderson via a steamed chocolate cake recipe in Australian Gourmet Traveller for the idea.

The other secret to success with this cake is to make sure you use real white chocolate. Check the ingredients list to make sure your white chocolate is made with real cocoa butter rather than crappy vegetable oil.

Enough for about 10
100g (3.5oz) butter
250g (9oz) white chocolate (made with real cocoa butter), broken into chunks
6 eggs, separated
200g (7oz) brown sugar
250g (9oz) almond meal

1. Preheat your oven to 160C (320F). Grease a 24cm (9in) springform pan.

2. Melt butter in small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add chocolate chunks. Allow to stand while the chocolate melts.

3. Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites until super light and foamy. Gradually beat in brown sugar until well combined.

4. When the chocolate has melted stir and add egg yolks to the mixture.

5. Add the chocolate mixture and almond meal to the egg whites and fold gently until just combined.

6. Carefully transfer the mixture to your prepared tin.

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

8. Remove cake from the oven. Cover with a plate and allow to cool and steam for at least an hour.

VARIATIONS
vegan / egg-free – I’m afraid the eggs are really key to the texture of this cake.

dairy-free – I haven’t tried this but you could easily replace the butter with coconut oil. And replace the white chocolate wiht a combination of 100g extra coconut oil, 100g extra almond meal and 50g extra brown sugar. If you do try this let me know!

nut-free – replace almond meal with 150g (5oz) plain (all-purpose) flour. Again I haven’t tried this but it’s where I’d start.

Video version of the recipe.

fergal cake

Peanut Butter Ganache

Inspired by peanut butter ganache on the most amazing Fender Bass Guitar cake my super talented sister, Naomi, made for my Irishman’s birthday back in January.

If you live in Sydney and ever need a creative birthday cake, she’s the girl! Get in touch via My Little Sweet.

As you can see from the photo this makes a super generous covering for the cake but I really love having the sweet and salty thing going on. Feel free to reduce the quantities if you prefer more cake with your ganache.

150g (5oz) cream
250g (9oz) white chocolate (with real cocoa butter)
300g (11oz) peanut butter (with no added sugar)

1. Bring cream almost to a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat. Break chocolate into small chunks and add to the cream.

2. Stand for about 5 minutes to allow the chocolate to melt.

3. Stir well then add the peanut butter. Stir again.

4. Allow to cool to room temperature to thicken before using to decorate your cake. Will take a few hours. Or if you’re short on time pop it in the fridge for an hour to chill but don’t forget about it. You don’t want it rock hard!

Video version of the recipe.

With love,
Jules x

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Last year I took an online business course. One of the things I found super valuable was that we were encouraged to buy a book called ‘Strengths Finder‘ and take a test to discover what our strengths were.

Anyway one of my key strengths is that I’m a ‘futurist’. Which basically means I’m always thinking about the future.

Which wasn’t a huge surprise to me. I’ve been ‘dreaming’ of owning a little farm with a not so little veggie patch for years now. And I’m often thinking of my next meal while I’m enjoying the current one.

It was only natural that I started thinking about the concept for my next book well before the ink was dried on my contract with Penguin for ‘5 Ingredients 10 Minutes‘. As you can imagine there are loads of ideas floating around in my brain. But one of my favourites is ‘5 Ingredients 1 Pot’.

So I was super excited when I got the following question from a ‘Coffee Kittie’, a Stonesoup email subscriber…

“I have a tiny kitchen (as in, no stovetop, and only a crockpot and mini-oven to cook with). Do you have recipes that are “one-pot” meals? I like to eat my foods all together for the most part to cut down on space and wash-up needs. I (a-hem) also have a tiny sink…”

So today I thought I’d share some of my favourite ‘one pot’ meals that have already appeared on Stonesoup.

AND ask your opinion…

What do you think of ‘5 Ingredients 1 Pot’ as a concept for my next book?
Is it something you’d be excited about? Or do I need to keep my thinking cap on?

I’ve created a super quick 2 question survey for you to share your thoughts OVER HERE. Or feel free to answer in the comments below…

25 Healthy One Pot Meals

You may think of ‘one pot’ meals as things that take a long time to cook. But it isn’t really the case. So I’ve divided the list into ’15 minutes or less’ and longer cooking meals.

_____

lamb shanks with prunes

Lamb Shanks with Prunes

Lamb shanks are one of my all time favourite cuts of meat. One of the things I really miss since my Dad sold the farm is having access to home grown grass-fed lamb and home grown lamb shanks in particular. We used to joke that it was a shame sheep only had 4 legs!

If lamb isn’t your thing, see below for alternatives.

I like to keep things simple and just serve this on a bed of baby spinach leaves. But you could serve with mash, steamed rice or buttered pasta or add in a can of chickpeas if you prefer.

Enough for 4.
4 lamb shanks
4 red onions, quartered lengthwise
200g (7oz) pitted prunes
1 can tomatoes (400g / 14oz)
1 stick cinnamon, optional

1. Preheat your oven to 150C (300F).

2. Place lamb, onions, prunes, tomatoes and cinnamon, if using in a large casserole or cast iron pot. Cover with a can full of water (or 1 1/2 cups).

3. Cover with the lid or some foil and bake for 4-5 hours or until lamb is super tender.

4. Taste and season.

VARIATIONS
slow cooker – reduce water to 1/2 cup. Cook on auto for 10-11 hours or until lamb is tender.

vegetarian / vegan – I love large mushrooms slow cooked like this. Replace lamb with 4-8 large field or portabello mushrooms. Halve the water and cooking time.

different meat – anything that works well slow cooked such as osso buco, chicken drumsticks or marylands, beef short ribs, pork neck, lamb neck chops, pork spare ribs, duck legs. You’ll need to adjust the cooking times.

different fruit – I love prunes here. They’re not exactly the most glamorous fruit but they cook down into the sauce to give a hint of sweet richness without overpowering. And then there’s all that fiber. But you could use dried apricots or dried apples instead if you prefer.

fruit-free – replace prunes with baby carrots or parsnips.

Video Version of the recipe.

______

5 ingredients 10 minutes cover image

Do you have a copy of ‘5 Ingredients 10 Minutes‘ yet?

No? Then what are you waiting for?

It’s inspired even my not-so-into-cooking brother to get into the kitchen!

For more details about my latest print book including some FREE sample recipes from the book go to:
www.5ingredients10minutes.com

With love,
Jules x

ps. I’d really love to know what you think… Is a book on ‘5 Ingredient, One Pot’ recipes something you’d be interested in buying? Share your thoughts OVER HERE or in the comments below.

pss. I’ve recently been having a massive comment spam problem, so I’ve had to change the comments so that they will be moderated before being displayed. I’m doing this myself so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Sorry but I will get there!

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Editors Note: This is the first ever guest post to be published on Stonesoup! The words and photos are from my friends Kathryn & Lucy, authors of ‘An Honest Kitchen‘.

W e all have meals we love, the ones we look forward to, crave even – comfort meals. But so often these favourite dinners are neither healthy nor easy to prepare.

In the latest issue of An Honest Kitchen we’ve taken on the challenge to revamp some of the most popular meals around. Our Makeovers include the traditional roast, pasta meals, fish and chips, egg based meals and even tacos.

In the process we’ve deconstructed these recipes and uncovered a whole range of ways you can streamline the cooking and boost the flavour. Our Makeovers have more vegetables, more fibre, less salt and more nutrient complexity and variety.

And (of course) they’re still delicious.

3 Ways You Can Makeover Dinner

1. Add More Vegetables

We haven’t yet met a recipe which wouldn’t benefit from having just a bit more vegetable added:

• The easiest way to add more vegetables is simply to double the quantity of the vegetables given in any recipe you read (although you don’t need to do this with ours!)

• If you’re thinking about adding in different vegetables, then pay attention to whether the recipe uses relatively quick cooking veg, like zucchini, snow peas and spinach, or ones which take longer to cook, like carrots, pumpkin, beetroot and onions. It’s easier to add in vegetables which take a similar amount of time to cook.

2. If in Doubt, Add a Salad

If you don’t want to add more vegetables to your cooking, or are concerned there’s not going to be enough food, then serve it with a salad.

• A big green salad is easy to prepare, especially if you use a pre-made salad mix.

• One handful of salad is roughly equal to one vegetable portion, so use this to top up the vegetables in dinner.

• Season with a pinch of salt and some cracked black pepper and then squeeze over some fresh lemon juice, instead of using a richer dressing.

3. Change the Portions on Your Plate

If you look through food magazines or watch cooking shows you’ll notice the vast majority of meals are organised around the protein and grain foods. These foods then dominate our plates, with vegetables often added as an afterthought or forgotten entirely, not the best approach for good health.

• Try to boost up the vegetables in every meal, making them about half of the bulk of each meal.

• There’s no need to go “carb free”, but aim to make the grain or potato portion of your meal about a quarter of the bulk on your plate. Cook less of these foods and replace some of them with extra vegetables.

• Think about whether you need to reduce your portion of protein-containing foods like meat, chicken, fish, eggs and tofu. Aim for a piece of meat or chicken the size and thickness of your palm, or a piece of fish the size of your hand. As a general rule, make the protein portion of your meal about a quarter of the bulk on your plate.

omelette 2

Meal Makeover: Tomato, Rocket & Feta Omelette

From ‘An Honest Kitchen‘ by Kathryn Elliott and Lucinda Dodds.

Omelettes can be a great standby meal. However many recipes are served as is, with minimal vegetable. We decided to include omelettes in Makeovers, because there is a way to make them healthier, without adding any complication to the cooking.

Plus, being able to make an omelette means you can make a healthy dinner in minutes. A meal which is far, far quicker and better for you than takeaway.

To ensure you don’t end up with an omelette which is burnt on the bottom, while still being raw and runny on top, you need to pull the set edges of the omelette away from the outside of the pan, using a fork or spatula. They should come away easily, without sticking. You then slightly tilt the pan, so
that the uncooked egg runs into the empty space you’ve just created.

Serves 1

2 eggs
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch chilli flakes
1 spring onion or 1/3 bunch of chives
1 tomato
20g feta cheese
2 handfuls rocket
1 slice wholegrain bread
2 teaspoons olive oil

Prep the ingredients: Break the eggs into a bowl. Add the oregano and chilli flakes and season with salt and pepper. Finely chop the spring onion and slice the tomato. Crumble the cheese. Wash the rocket. Put your bread in the toaster.

Whisk the eggs together.

Put a small frying pan on a medium-high heat and let it get quite hot.

Add the oil and swirl it around the pan, covering the base. Place frying pan back on the heat.

Pour the eggs into the pan, tilting it slightly so the eggs spread evenly.

Don’t stir. Leave the eggs alone while you count to five.

Using a fork pull one edge of the omelette into the centre. Tilt the pan so some of the liquid egg runs into the empty space. Do this 2 – 3 times, until there is no runny egg left.

Scatter over the vegetables and feta.

Fold one half of the omelette over the other using a spatula or fish slice

To serve: Tip the omelette onto a plate and serve immediately with the toast.

__________________

FrontCover

Kathryn & Lucy

Kathryn Elliott and Lucinda Dodds are the authors of ‘An Honest Kitchen‘, a publication all about real food that’s good for you. Each issue of An Honest Kitchen is full of simple recipes, practical cooking information and healthy eating advice. Our latest edition, Makeovers, in which we revamp popular meals is available in e-format NOW.

www.anhonestkitchen.com.au/

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One thing I’ve found a little disappointing about being pregnant is that I haven’t had any really weird food craving. This probably sounds a little silly but I was secretly hoping to be stuck with the urgent need for ‘peanut butter and pickles’. Or something even more bizzare.

Early on in the pregnancy I did have a massive thing for fish and chips. Every time I was in Sydney I found an excuse to get takeaway from ‘The Fish Shop’ in Potts Point. But looking back, it was really the chips that were calling me. Yes, about the only thing I’ve been craving has been potatoes. Especially mash. Or champ (that’s mash with green onions). Or colcannon (mash with cabbage).

You’d never guess the ancestry of this baby on both sides is Irish.

More recently I’ve been on a bit of a red meat thing. So there’s been loads of steak and lamb. But this was more a feeling that I was getting tired and needed the extra iron (which worked amazingly well by the way) rather than a ‘craving’.

Anyway, I digress.

Recently I got a great question from a Stonesoup reader around combining flavours. David writes:

Would love to understand what flavours can be used/work with others and what should not be tried together so when I am trying to throw a dish together I can flavour it successfully and not just have a stab in the dark all the time. :)

Which is a great question but it did get me thinking that maybe there’s a mistake with this type of thinking…

So what’s the mistake?

Basically I think it’s a mistake to feel like you’re ‘having a stab in the dark’ when you combine flavours. Even if you’re super new to cooking. And especially if you’re new to the idea of not following recipes and starting to ‘throw a dish together’.

Think about it.

Even if you’re new to cooking, you’re not new to eating. Right?

All those years of having 3 meals per day have taught you some super important lessons. You know mostly which flavours taste good together. It may not be something you think about consciously, but the knowledge is there.

How do you avoid the mistake?

1. Back yourself.
If you were making a sandwich you’d know what flavours would work. Wouldn’t you?

So all you need to do is trust your instincts.

Or as I teach my students at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School… you need to follow ‘Clancy’s Law of Cooking’. Which goes something like…

“If you think something will taste delicious then it probably will.”

2. Study the classics.
The next step is to bring your ‘subconscious’ flavour combining knowledge to the front.

The best way to do this is to learn from the classics. There’s no need for you to be ‘reinventing the wheel’ every time you step into the kitchen.

And it just so happens that my ebook the ‘2-Minute Meal Plan‘ comes with a whole bonus ebook called ‘The 2-Minte Meal Plan Flavour Directory’ which is all about Classic Flavour Combinations.

2MMP Flavour Directory 3D Cover
The Bonus Flavour Directory includes:
* The 7 golden rules of flavour pairing.
* Classic flavour pairings.
* Flavour profiles & classic ingredients from around the world.

The bonus is only available when you purchase the ‘2-Minute Meal Plan‘.

2MMP Flavour Directory 3D Cover

To make sure you don’t miss out, go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/2mmp/

green curry stir fry

Green Curry Stir Fry

The idea for using Thai green curry paste as a sauce to season a stir fry came from my favourite food writer, Nigel Slater. To be honest I wasn’t sure it would be very good but as usual when I trust St. Nigel everything turns out much more delicious that expected.

Enough for 2-3
2 heads broccoli, chopped into little trees
450g (1lb) minced (ground) chicken
3-4 tablespoons green curry paste
2-3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 bunch basil, leaves picked & torn if large

1. Heat a little oil in a wok or large frying pan on a super high heat. Stir fry the broccoli until it is bright green and starting to soften but still a little crunchy. About 4-5 minutes.

2. Remove broccoli from the pan. Add a little more oil then stir fry the chicken until no longer pink.

3. Add back the broccoli, curry paste and fish sauce. Stir until everything is hot.

4. Remove from the heat. Taste and season with more fish sauce and curry paste if needed.

5. Serve with basil leaves scattered over.

VARIATIONS
different veg – any stir fry veg will work here. Try bok choy, chinese broccoli, any chinese greens really, broccolini, cauliflower, red capsicum (bell peppers), zucchini (courgettes), carrots, snow peas (mange tout), green beans or a combo of any of the above.

vegetarian / vegan – replace the chicken with 2-3 large handfuls of cashew nuts. And season with soy sauce or salt instead of the fish sauce. And make sure your green curry paste is vegetarian. Most brands are but good to check.

can’t find green curry paste? – most other curry pastes will be good but you’ll need to adjust the quantity depending on the variety. OR just go for a simpler stir fry and use soy, oyster or hoisin sauce instead of the curry paste.

no fish sauce? – season with salt OR use soy sauce instead.

different meat – replace chicken with minced (ground) beef, pork or turkey. You could also use sliced meat instead of the mince if you prefer.

more substantial – serve with roast cashew nuts and steamed rice on the side.

Video version of the recipe.

With love,
Jules x

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The other day my cousin-in-law, Moira, posted a super cute picture on Instagram of my cousin Josh and their son Dan with the comment ‘Wondering if hot chocolate at breakfast time is a bad idea…’

If you’re like most people, you’re probably thinking that Moira is right and chocolate for breakfast isn’t so healthy.

But I beg to differ.

You see I’ve been reading (and cooking from) Sarah Wilson’s brilliant new ebook, the “I Quit Sugar Chocolate Cookbook“.

Earlier in the year, I interviewed Sarah about her personal journey ‘Quitting Sugar’. If you missed it, you can listen to the audio interview over here. So I was super excited when she announced she was pulling together an I Quit Sugar Chocolate Cookbook and jumped at the chance to contribute a recipe.

While my tastebuds have been having loads of fun exploring the recipes, I haven’t been feeling guilty about my creations. Firstly because I know that Sarah is super passionate about keeping things sugar, and especially fructose-free. But also because there’s some great information in the book on the health benefits of eating chocolate.

So today I wanted to share my favourite health benefits from the book, along with a chocolate recipe so healthy I’ve been enjoying it for breakfast…

5 reasons to eat more chocolate.

As Sarah keeps reminding you throughout the book, the benefits related to eating chocolate come from cocoa especially raw cocoa in its pure form. So we’re talking either using raw cocoa powder or dark chocolate with as little sugar as possible.

1. Slows the aging process.
Raw cocoa contains powerful antioxidants called ‘polyphenols’. It has nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine and up to three times the antioxidants of green tea. These antioxidants protect your body from harmful chemicals. They also help slow age-related decline in nitric oxide production which apparently is a good thing.

2. Boosts your mood.
As most chocolate lovers know, eating chocolate can make you feel better. The good news is that studies are confirming regular cocoa intake can result in significant improvements on certain aspects of mood, including calmness and contentedness.

3. Slows the growth of cancer cells.
As I mentioned last year, antioxidants and other compounds in dark chocolate help slow the growth of cancer cells. So a little dark chocolate is a good thing, but apparently the milk solids in milk chocolate cancels out the benefits. So stick to 70% cocoa solids or higher.

4. Reduces the risk of stroke.
This Swedish study found that increased chocolate consumption reduces the incidence of stroke among men. Interestingly, most of the chocolate used in this study was milk chocolate.

5. Helps keep you leaner.
I love the findings of this study in San Diego. People who consumed chocolate more regularly had a lower BMI than those who ate chocolate less frequently.

Keen for more chocolatey goodness?

See the details of Sarah’s NEW Chocolate eCookbook over HERE!

chocolatey granola IQS-3

Chocolatey Coconut Granola


Adapted from the ‘I Quit Sugar Chocolate Cookbook‘ by Sarah Wilson.

If the thought of chocolate for breakfast gets you excited, I highly recommend starting with this granola. It’s seriously delicious served on top of home made natural yoghurt or coconut yoghurt. And in case you’re wondering, I have chia seed bran in the bottom of the glass in the photo above.

Sarah uses rice malt syrup to sweeten many of her recipes. Most good health food stores will stock it, but you could use honey instead. I really love the flavour of rice malt syrup, it’s not super sweet and has a lovely malty slightly carameley flavour. I also love that it’s a natural ingredient produced from brown rice.

75g (3oz) butter or coconut oil
3 tablespoons rice malt syrup
30g (1/3 cup) cocoa powder, preferably raw
150g (5oz) coconut flakes
250g (9oz) chopped nuts

1. Preheat your oven to 150C (300F).

2. Melt butter or coconut oil in a small saucepan. Add rice malt syrup and cocoa powder. Stir.

3. Combine coconut and nuts in a bowl. Stir in the cocoa syrup mixture until the flakes are just coated.

4. Spread mixture on a baking tray. Bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. Stop when the coconut is well browned (which can be difficult to tell through the cocoa) or everything tastes roasted and yummy.

5. Cool and transfer to an airtight container. Will keep for a few months at room temperature.

VARIATIONS

optional additives – Sarah also includes cinnamon (1 teaspoon), chia seeds (2 tablespoons) and cocoa nibs (2 tablespoons) in her recipe. So feel free to add in any or all of these. But honestly I prefer this simple 5 ingredient version.

different nuts – I used brazil nuts and pecans but feel free to use any nut you like.

different sweetener / no rice malt syrup – If you can find rice malt syrup or aren’t interested in investing in a new sweetener, feel free to use honey instead. Glucose syrup or dextrose could also be used. Or if you have stevia in the house that’s another option.

vegan – make sure you use coconut oil instead of the butter.

nut-free – if you’re catering for nut allergies, you could replace the nuts with extra coconut (just double the amount of coconut and skip the nuts) or use a combo of coconut and seeds such as pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds – whatever you feel like.

Video version of the recipe.

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 10.14.33 AM

Looking for more healthy chocolate recipes?

Then I recommend checking out the ‘I Quit Sugar Chocolate Cookbook‘. You’ll find plenty of ideas healthy enough to have for breakfast and more ‘treaty’ options.

Sarah is fan of ‘exotic’ ingredients such as chia seeds and rice malt syrup. So if you’re not interested in expanding your baking ingredient arsenal, the book probably isn’t for you. Although by using the following substitutions, you will be able to make 66 out of the 74 recipes in the book.
* Honey = rice malt syrup or stevia
* Regular cocoa powder = raw cocoa powder
* Butter = cocoa butter or coconut oil
* Just skip it = chia seeds or cocoa nibs.

For more details of healthy chocolatey goodness go to:
www.sarahwilson.com.au/chocolate-cookbook/

With love,
Jules x

ps. The links to Sarah’s ebook above are affiliate links. So if you do choose to buy, you’ll be supporting the Stonesoup business, which I appreciate deeply.

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A little while back I got a great question from Kelsey, a Stonesoup reader.

Kelsey writes…

Okay, so I live with my boyfriend, and I really enjoy eating healthy (spinach, avocados, beets and goat cheese, etc.) but my boyfriend is really just interested in the meat and carbs in any meal!

He won’t eat it if there’s no substantial meat, and I have a hard time finding the budget + willpower to try and make us separate meals.

Any tips for balancing the two?

I LOVE this question!

Unless you’re cooking for yourself 100% of the time, I’m sure you’ve grappled with the ‘keeping everyone happy’ dilemma at some stage.

Even in my house, where we both love most food, there are times when my Irishman and I disagree on what’s going to be delicious. Especially when it comes to ‘Meat-Free Monday’ or eating fish.

So over the years I’ve developed some simple strategies to cope with this problem without having to cook separate meals. And the thing is, it isn’t necessarily as difficult as you’d think.

How to cope with different taste preferences or allergies without cooking separate meals…

1. Focus on commonalities.
The first and easiest solution is to find a meal that will please everyone. So ask yourself what does everyone like? Or what can everyone eat?

Part of the problem is that we tend to define allergies or taste preferences by what we ‘don’t / can’t’ eat. So this becomes the focus. Sometimes just changing the way you think about the problem can be enough to spark creative ideas for solutions.

2. Serve with different sides.
The next place I’d look for solutions is to find different ways to serve the main component of the meal so that it keeps everyone happy and satisfied.

So in Kelsey’s example, I’d serve her main ‘protein’ with steamed veg or a salad so she feels like she’s having a healthy meal. Where as for her carnivore, I’d serve the protein with something carb-focused like the butter beans below to keep him happy.

Or say it’s curry night. Kelsey might like to serve hers with some grated raw cauliflower (cauliflower ‘rice’) and steamed rice for her carnivore.

3. Choose a different ‘protein’ or main event.
I find this one particularly helpful for catering for vegetarians or vegans.

So the carnivores will get their chicken, steak, fish or whatever. And the vegetarians will have some grilled halloumi or omelette, or for a more vegetable focus pan fry some mushroom ‘steaks’ or eggplant ‘steaks’. Then just keep all the accompaniments veggie friendly and everyone is happy.

4. Adjust the quantities / ratios to suit.
This may not be helpful in the case of allergies. But when it comes to taste preferences, especially around health, tweaking the quantities can be really helpful.

For example, Kelsey might cook up 2 steaks and then rest and slice them. She might then mix up a green salad. Her carnivore would get a large serving of steak with a little salad. And Kelsey would have a lovely big salad with some chunks of avocado and a smaller amount of steak tossed in.

5. Free yourself from rigid recipes.
You know how I always include ‘variations’ at the bottom of my recipes? Well, the reason I do that is to open your mind to the possibilities that are out there. I want to empower you to ‘tweak’ the dish so it suits you and your situation.

And the thing is it doesn’t need to stop there.

I really believe the secret to catering for different tastes and allergies without turning yourself into a multiple-meal-making-machine is to develop the confidence and skills to free yourself from the constraints of rigid recipes.

And you know the best way to learn?

It’s to take baby steps.

And that’s where the blueprint or ‘template recipes’ in my ebook the ‘2-Minute Meal Plan‘ come into play. It includes 63 templates which will give you the confidence and skills to cook more creatively, while still having a basic recipe to follow.

2MMP 3D Cover

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

mushies with sausages-4 mushies with sausages-3

Sausages with Mushies, 2 Ways

To demonstrate how you can ‘tweak’ a basic meal to keep everyone happy, I’ve included 2 different ‘ways’ or options for serving.

In Kelsey’s situation I’d serve more of the mushrooms to her and pop everything on a bed of baby spinach or other leaves. To keep her carnivore boyfriend happy I’d give him the larger share of the sausages and less mushrooms and toss in a can of butter beans or chickpeas to serve.

If I were cooking for a vegetarian and a carnivore I’d cook the mushrooms and sausages separately and then serve the beans and mushrooms and spinach for the vego option. And serve the sausages with the beans and mushies for the carnivore.

Enough for 2
4 tablespoons butter
4 sausages
4 large field mushrooms, sliced
4 sprigs thyme
2 large handfuls baby spinach OR 1 can butter beans (drained)

1. Heat half the butter on a medium high heat in a large frying pan. Remove sausage casings and crumble the sausage meat into the pan.

2. Cook, stirring and breaking up any large chunks of sausage meat for a few minutes or until sausage meat is starting to brown.

3. Add the remaining butter, mushrooms and thyme. Continue to cook, stirring every now and then until the mushrooms are tender and brown and the sausage meat is all cooked through.

4. Taste and season. Serve on a bed of the baby spinach, if using OR add the butter beans, if using, to the pan and cook for another few minutes or until heated through.

VARIATIONS
gluten-free – make sure your sausages are gluten-free or replace with ground (minced) beef or pork (about 450g / 1lb).

breakfast / higher protein – serve with a poached egg on top.

vegan – replace butter with olive oil and replace sausages with cooked lentils (about 450g / 1lb). Make sure you’re generous with the oil and you may like to splash in some sherry or other vinegar to add freshness to the lentils. The cooked lentils can be added after the mushrooms are cooked and just heated through.

vegetarian – replace sausages with lentils as per the vegan recipe. Use the butter.

paleo – serve with the spinach not the butter beans.

different greens – any washed salad leaves will work here. Or you could try wilted greens such as kale, collards, spinach or chard. Also lovely on top of a bed of steamed broccoli or broccolini.

different carbs – I’ve used canned beans because they’re super quick and relatively healthy. But you could serve on hot buttered toast, a bed of mashed potatoes, with cooked pasta or couscous or even steamed rice.

too dry – add in another good hunk of butter… don’t be shy :)

Video version of the recipe.

With love,
Jules x

2MMP 3D Cover

ps. Wondering if the ‘2-Minute Meal Plan‘ will help?

Here’s how it’s already helped people just like YOU…

“It’s enabled me to improvise and trust my own instincts.”
Jo, 2-Minute Meal Planner.

“The template recipes are really helpful for thinking about cooking in simpler terms and finding inspiration.”
Allison, 2-Minute Meal Planner.

“Loved the “template” recipes. Biggest benefits: Flexibility! & less waste.”
Geralyn, 2-Minute Meal Planner.

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Whenever I talk to people about their frustrations with cooking, meal planning is always one of the most common responses.

How about you? Is meal planning something you’re happy with?

If your answer is ‘YES’ then skip down to the recipe below and I’ll see you next week.

If on the other hand your answer is a ‘NO’, meal planning isn’t a source of joy in your life. Then hang around.

Because I suspect you may be making this simple mistake…

What is the most common meal planning mistake?

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

Having a set recipe list causes problems for many reasons. First, it takes a lot of time to plan in advance. And having a set list means you aren’t free to choose what looks best (or cheapest) when you’re out shopping. 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 YOU 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.

Looking for a revolutionary approach to ‘reverse’ meal planning and cook healthy food fast?

2MMP 3D CoverWell the ‘2-Minute Meal Plan’ System can help!

In the ‘2-Minute Meal’ Plan I’ll show you…

* How to reverse the meal planning process using the 2-Minute Meal Planing formula to work out how much food to buy.

* The easiest way to free yourself from the constraints of traditional recipes by using ‘template recipes’.

* The secret to making sure you NEVER have to eat a meal you don’t feel like.

* How to avoid the waste normally caused by a change in ‘plan’.

* PLUS! 63 NEW ‘Template’ recipes to use as a base and adapt to your tastes and ingredient availability! You’ll never feel like you’re eating the ‘same old’ thing again.

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

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tuna pesto pasta

Tuna Pesto Pasta

This recipe was something I discovered when I was home alone a few weeks ago. I felt like something super comforting yet light at the same time. Not always an easy brief to fill. I’ve made pesto based pastas and tuna based separately for years but the whole idea to combine the two was a new one for me. And I’m glad I got there. Better late than never.

The pesto brings lovely freshness and zesty flavour and the tuna provides subtle protein, which makes this dish great for anyone who is a bit hesitant about eating fish.

I’ve been experimenting with gluten-free pastas lately and have been pleasantly surprised with the results. I’ve found pasta made with quinoa flour gives excellent results. Of course feel free to use your own favourite pasta or see below for other options.

Enough for 2
150g (5oz) short pasta (I used gluten-free pasta)
5-6 tablespoons pesto
2 x 185g cans (2 x 6oz) tuna in oil, drained
2-3 handfuls baby spinach

1. Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente (see the packet for times).

2. Drain pasta and return to the pot. Stir in the pesto, tuna and baby spinach. Season and serve hot.

VARIATIONS
budget – increase the pasta to 250g (9oz) and reduce the tuna to one can.

fresh – serve with a squeeze of lemon.

vegan – replace the tuna with 2 handfuls cashews or other nuts and use a dairy-free pesto (just make regular pesto and skip the cheese).

vegetarian – replace tuna with fresh cheese such as ricotta or goats cheese.

grain-free / slow carb – replace pasta with cooked or canned butter beans or chickpeas or cooked quinoa – you’ll need about 300g (11oz) cooked legumes. Heat your beans / chickpeas in a little oil then stir in remaining ingredients.

paleo – pan fry sliced zucchini (about 3 medium) in a little oil until soft. Skip the pasta and stir the remaining ingredients into the hot zucchini.

Video version of the recipe.

With love,
Jules x

ps. Not sure if the ‘2-Minute Meal Plan‘ will help you?

Here’s what people are saying about the ebook system…

“I just purchased the ebook and I am only on page 57 of the first part, but can already tell I LOVE IT. I’m so excited to start implementing the things I’m learning, and to gobble up the rest of the books. Thank you a million for this ebook, it is absolutely brilliant. I really can’t remember the last time I was this excited about a purchase. I will also be getting a much happier husband thanks to this book.”
Amy, 2-Minute Meal Planner

“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!”
Kate, 2-Minute Meal Planner.

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Have you ever wanted to get more organized with your meal planning? Have you taken the time to sit down, decide what you’re going to eat, then written your detailed list? Then gone shopping with the list and got everything you need?

How did that work out for you?

I’m guessing if you’re anything like most people, you’ve experienced the pitfalls of traditional meal planning…

The time it takes. The frustration when you can’t find everything on your list. The temptation to buy things which aren’t on the list because they look delicious or are on special. Having to eat the meal you ‘planned’ even though you don’t really feel like it. The guilt at throwing away all those veg that are ‘passed it’. The stress of adapting your meal plan to the inevitable changes in your schedule and life.

Let’s face it, the traditional meal planning can be tedious. And pretty ineffective.

What if there was another approach to meal planning?

Here’s the thing… There is!

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

It may sound scary, but it’s a liberating approach to meal planning. That’s also quicker and easier.

Since last year, I’ve been teaching people like you how to ‘reverse’ their meal planning with my 2-Minute Meal Plan System.

When I asked my students if they have achieved the results they were hoping for with this new meal plan system, the overwhelming majority answered ‘Yes!’.

How does the 2-Minute Meal Plan work?

I’m glad you asked. Basically there are 2 main parts…

2 Keys to the 2-Minute Meal Plan System:

1. A simple ‘formula’ to help you figure out how much food to buy.
The formula is quick and easy to work out. If you can count, you’ll be able to do this in your head.

It tells you how many types of protein (or main events) and vegetables to buy. This gives you the freedom to shop for what looks best, rather than having a rigid list.

The formula helps get the quantity right so you don’t end up with more than you need, while allowing as much flexibility as you need. If you’d prefer to have a few specific recipes in mind before you shop, the formula will help with that as well.

2. The collection of ‘template’ recipes.
These help you learn to cook based on the ingredients you have on hand, freeing you from the constraints of traditional recipes.

It includes general templates for how to make different classic dishes. For example a great stir fry, a quick soup or a fragrant curry. Each template comes with suggestions for variations so you’ll be able to adapt them to the ingredients on hand. It’s a way to learn to cook more creatively, while still having a basic recipe to follow.

Ready to reverse YOUR meal planning process?

2MMP 3D Cover

For more details on how you can reverse your meal planning process go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/2mmp/

w1 coconut rice & greens-2

Rice & Greens

This is one of those super comforting dishes. The perfect antidote to a weekend of over-indulging.

I also love it because it uses items you could have stocked in your pantry so it’s a great ‘last minute’ or change of plans meal.

If you can get spinach frozen into little ‘bricks’ rather than one big block, it’s much better because it defrosts much more quickly. If you’re stuck with a big frozen chunk of spinach, it may need a little spin in the microwave to speed up the defrosting process.

Enough for 2
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 can coconut milk (400mL / 1.5 cups)
1 packet frozen spinach (250g /9oz), defrosted
1 packet par-cooked brown rice (250g /9oz)

1. Heat a little oil in a medium saucepan. Cook garlic on a medium heat for about 30 seconds or until starting to brown.

2. Add coconut milk, spinach and rice. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 2 minutes or until everything is hot.

3. Taste. Season.

VARIATIONS
paleo / grain-free – replace the rice with grated raw cauliflower (I use the food processor for ease). Simmer until cauliflower is tender and the liquid has reduced.

no coconut milk? – replace with almond or soy milk – they’ll be a little more watery so be prepared to simmer longer to thicken up.

can’t find par-cooked brown rice? – most supermarkets now have ‘pouches’ of cooked rice but feel free to cook your own brown rice, just boil in water until just tender. Drain and use as per the recipe.

rice alternatives – risoni (rice shaped pasta), cooked short pasta, canned beans, canned chickpeas + see below.

lower GI / slow carb – replace rice with cooked lentils, canned chickpeas, cooked split peas or quinoa.

higher protein – add in a drained can of black beans. Or serve with a poached egg on top.

carnivore – stir fry some sliced chicken breast or thigh fillets in the pan before adding the other ingredients and proceeding from step 1.

fresh greens – replace frozen spinach with fresh spinach, baby spinach, sliced kale, cavolo nero, collard greens, chard (silverbeet) or a mixture. Add with the garlic and cook until wilted before adding the other ingredients.

Video version of the recipe

With love,
Jules x

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Not last October but the one before, I happened to be in Melbourne at the same time as Tim Ferriss. I’d ’email-met’ Tim online via a mutual friend and had written a guest post for his blog. So I was delighted when he agreed to meet for a drink.

I’ve been a massive Tim Ferriss fan since I stumbled across his first book, the 4-Hour Work Week, in mid 2009. At the time I was designing chocolate biscuits for Arnotts, the largest biscuit (cookie) manufacturer in Australia. As far as jobs went, it was pretty great. I was developing new Tim Tams. I got to eat chocolate AND get paid for it. But I was yearning for more.

I’d already set a goal of working on my own business full time. But it seemed a long way off.

Until I read the 4-Hour Work Week.

The book was an inspiration. Maybe I could follow my dream and make it work. In January 2010 I took the leap, quit my job and started working on Stonesoup full time.

Apart from being a huge fan, I did have an ulterior motive.

Not long before, he had announced his latest book project, The 4-Hour Chef, where he was planning to teach people how to learn any skill by using himself and cooking as an example. Given I teach people how to make their cooking more simple and fun in my online cooking school, it seemed like a no brainer.

In hindsight, not exactly. Tim and I did have that drink in Melbourne. We had a great old time. I tried to convince him I was the right girl to teach him to cook. He gave me tips on calming my nerves before public speaking (basically have another drink – excellent advice!). We had a few laughs.

I followed up by sending him one of my online classes. And that was that.

As time for publication of the 4-Hour Chef drew closer, I did feel a little disappointed that he hadn’t been in touch. But when details of the book revealed it was learning to cook like a ‘pro,’ I didn’t feel so bad.

As you know my style is simple home cooking, not fancy 5-star ‘professional’ chef type food.

So you can imagine my surprise when my pre-ordered copies arrived and I saw my name, a few lines below Heston Blumenthal, on the ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ acknowledgements page.

Wow, I was in Tim Ferriss’ book! And not only my name, one of my recipes as well (Cashew Nut Pesto, page 212). Yay!

cauli cashew mash-2

9 Lessons from the 4-Hour Chef

Even though I have a degree in food science and read cookbooks like novels, I picked up plenty of new ideas and tips from the 672 pages of the 4-Hour Chef. Here are some of my favourite new tips as well as some I hadn’t thought about in a while…

1. Leftover egg whites can be used to make a great hair conditioner.
Combine 2 whites with 5 tablespoons full fat natural yoghurt. Apply to hair and let sit in a towel turban for 30 minutes. Rinse. I’m yet to try this but love the idea.

2. Smell your food like a dog.
This isn’t a new one for me but it’s super important. Flavour is less than 10% taste and more than 90% smell. So by smelling your food before you eat, you’ll radically change how you experience flavour.

3. Not all taste buds are located on the tongue.
Apparently taste receptors have been found in the throat, roof of the mouth, small intestine, and stomach. So maybe the wine makers and judges who are spitting out have it all wrong after all.

4. To counteract hot food, drink whole milk.
Or cream. Capsaicin, the active ingredient in chillies, is soluble in fat and not in water. Yoghurt or coconut milk will do the same thing.

5. Unusual (but apparently delicious) flavour pairings to try.
:: cayenne pepper and salt on mango
:: cinnamon and chilli powder on vanilla ice cream
:: soy sauce on vanilla ice cream (this one is mine… I’d forgotten how good it is!)
:: cinnamon on bacon
:: almond butter on hamburger

6. When using a ladle remember ‘double dip, no drip’.
To avoid drips, fill the ladle then tap the bottom of the ladle on the surface to remove any excess liquid or sauce.

7. If in doubt set your oven to 350F (180C).
Most times it will work out fine. Except if you trying to ‘slow cook’ something.

8. Each type of protein has a herb that will never fail you.
fish = fennel or dill
beef, pork or lamb = rosemary
lamb = mint
eggs = chives or tarragon
chicken = all of the above

9. Having a Plan B removes much of the stress of cooking.
Ferriss confesses to being the ‘king of freaking out’ in the kitchen until he realized that he needed a backup plan. The first and last rule of the 4-hour Chef…

“If you f**k it all up, you can always order takeout”

More notes about the 4-Hour Chef

The 4-Hour Chef isn’t just about cooking, it’s about teaching you how to learn new skills quickly and easily. It’s definitely not your regular cookbook but there’s a bit of ‘something for everyone’.

If you’re a novice cook, the ‘Domestic’ section does a great job of breaking down cooking into 17 lessons based on specific dishes. The instructions are clear and the ingredients lists are short… A man after my own heart.

If you’re more a Bear Grylls wanna-be, the ‘Wild’ section will appeal. It’s all about hunting and survival stuff. To be honest I skimmed most of this.

The ‘Scientist’ section is a great introduction to the classic food science principles as well as some more modern ‘molecular gastronomy’ techniques. It’s fascinating stuff but to be honest I wasn’t inspired to cook anything from this section. Not my style.

Finally the ‘Professional’ section gives some great insights into what it takes to be great chef. Loved the ‘classics’ recipes in this section. Although I can safely say I won’t be trying the ‘carp a l’ancienne’ which has not 5 ingredients but 5 whole pages of ingredients (about 150 ingredients total).

4hcThe 4-Hour Chef by Timothy Ferriss.

So you probably won’t be interested in the 150 ingredient carp recipe either. But there are plenty of recipes that fall under the Stonesoup ‘5 ingredients’ umbrella. Definitely worth picking up a copy.

Get it shipped anywhere in the world for FREE from bookdepository.co.uk.

cauli cashew mash-4

Cashew & Cauliflower Mash

Inspired by Tim Ferriss’ Coconut Cauliflower Curry Mash from the 4-Hour Chef.

Cauliflower is one of my favourite vegetables. These days I most often eat it grated and raw as cauliflower ‘rice’ or roasted like this salad with quinoa. It also makes an excellent mash that will satisfy any carb cravings without the guilt.

With the richness of the cashews and coconut milk, it’s a deeply satisfying meal in a bowl. My new favourite comfort food!

Enough for 2 as a main or 4 as a side
1 head cauliflower, chopped into florettes
1 can coconut milk (400mL / 14oz)
2 handfuls cashews + extra to serve

1. Place cauli, coconut milk and cashews in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to the boil.

2. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until cauli is no longer crunchy.

3. Mash with a stick blender or a fork and some muscles. Season.

VARIATIONS
Nut-free – just skip the cashews.

different veg – feel free to try different root veg such as parsnip, sweet potato, swede (rutabaga) carrot, turnips or a combo.

curry mash – add in a ‘large’ or ‘3 finger’ pinch of curry powder when seasoning.

carnivore – serve as a side with your favourite grilled sausages.

mexican mash – (stealing Tim’s idea here) replace cauliflower with sweet potato. Skip the coconut milk and cashews and simmer chunks in water until soft. Drain and mash with 2 chopped chillies, 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, and a squeeze of lime juice. Serve with coriander leaves (cilantro) on top.

greener – serve on a bed of baby spinach or with chopped parsley leaves.

Video version of the recipe.

With love,
Jules x

ps. I’ve used affiliate links so if you buy Tim’s book you’ll be supporting Stonesoup as well. So thank YOU!

I’ve also set up a ‘Stonesoup Recommended‘ page if you’d like to checkout other ebooks and books I have purchased, cooked from and LOVE. I really value YOU as a Stonesoup reader so please know that I don’t take freebies and only recommend products I truly believe in.

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This year marks the 6th Mother’s Day since my mother died. It’s always a bit of a funny time for me. I tend to try and focus on all the memories. What she was like.

How she LOVED asparagus. How she loved lashings of cream on her desserts, especially if they involved passion fruit. How she loved her garden and playing tennis on a Tuesday.

But there’s always a bit of sadness that creeps in around the sides.

This year it’s worse than normal. Which is understandable I guess since it’s also my first Mother’s Day where I have any claims on getting flowers OR breakfast in bed*.

I just really wish she was still around. So many questions. And my Mum just adored babies (she had 5 of her own). Whenever there was a baby anywhere near, she’d be the first to volunteer for cuddles and the last to hand them back to their mothers.

There’s no doubt in my mind that she would have been a champion grandmother. I can just imagine how ‘in her element’ she’d be with 4 special grandchildren and 2 more on the way (my sister is expecting in August!).

And the Love Is Free

3D cover

If you’re new to Stonesoup you might be surprised to learn that ‘5 Ingredients 10 Minutes‘ isn’t my first print book. I actually self-published a collection of my Mum’s recipes back in 2009.

The book is called ‘And the Love is Free and I’m so glad I wrote it. I just love having my Mum’s recipes and stories all in the one place.

There are only a limited number left. So why don’t you order a copy of my first print book today?

To make sure you don’t miss out go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/and-the-love-is-free-a-tribute-to-my-mum/

GF tuna dish-2

Super Quick Tuna ‘Dish’

Adapted from ‘And the Love Is Free‘.

Growing up, tuna ‘dish’, as we called it, was easily my favourite meal. You may know it as tuna bake or tuna mornay.

But whatever it’s called, it’s still the thing that comes to mind when I need something super comforting. The original version is made with pasta instead of beans and bechamel sauce instead of the ricotta. This simplified version has the advantages of being much quicker and easier AND being gluten-free without losing any of its comforting goodness.

Enough for 6-8
1 large can tuna in brine (425g / 15oz), NOT drained
500g (l1b) full fat ricotta
250g grated melting cheese, I used emmental but see below for other options
3 cans white beans, (400g / 14oz each), drained
2-3 handfuls almond meal, optional

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

2. Mash tuna with a fork until combined with the brine. Stir in the ricotta.

3. Place a thin layer of tuna & ricotta mixture in the base of a medium ovenproof dish. Scatter over half the beans and a little cheese. Top with more tuna mixture, then the rest of the beans. Cover with the remaining tuna mixture and sprinkle over the remaining cheese. Dust with almond meal, if using.

4. Bake for 20-30 minutes until everything is hot and the cheese on top is melted and browned.

VARIATIONS
bean-free – replace beans with 400g (14oz) short pasta such as penne, cooked until al dente.

nut-free – just skip the almond meal or replace with breadcrumbs.

vegan / dairy-free – the cheese is really essential here. Sorry!

vegetarian – try this warming onion and white bean bake instead.

different cheeses – try a mixture of cheeses instead of the emmental. Cheddar is good, so is raclette or gruyere. You’re just looking for something that will melt and go all golden. My mum used to use processed cheese slices, so feel free to give them a try.

Video version of the recipe.

Do you have something special planned for the mother(s) in your life?

I’d love to hear about it. Please share your ideas in the comments below.

With love,
Jules x

* For the record (you never know which Irishman might end up reading this) I’m happy to skip the breakfast in bed tradition. The thought of crumbs in bed just doesn’t do it for me. BUT breakfast sitting in the sun on the lounge room floor with lashings of hot, milky Irish breakfast tea sounds like my idea of heaven.

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A little while back I got a question from an anonymous Stonesoup reader…

“How can I attain the ultimate goal…creating a meal without a recipe, anywhere anytime.”

These days I hardly ever use recipes. I have too many ideas of my own that I’m keen to try out each time I step into the kitchen. But it may surprise you to hear that I haven’t always been this confident and creative in the kitchen.

For pretty much all of my 20s I was a recipe follower. Not to the letter, mind you, I’d always make a few little ‘tweaks’. But unless I was making a sandwich, I pretty much consulted a recipe before I cooked anything.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with following recipes. I firmly believe that it was following recipes (mostly from my still favourite food mag Australian Gourmet Traveller) that taught me to cook way more than anything I learned while studying for my food science degree.

I even remember creating my own website in late 1999 so I could access my favourite recipes while I was working in a winery in California without having to cart around my hefty folder of favourite recipes.

But over time it was a combination of things that led me to start cooking on my own. Cooking from the heart.

Why cook without recipes?

The biggest driver for me was time. Working as a young winemaker I didn’t have the luxury of an hour to spend each week picking out recipes, writing my shopping list.

There were lifestyle influences as well. When I was living in the Barossa Valley my Saturday morning ritual was to head to the farmers markets. I’d grab a coffee and sometimes a bacon and egg roll and stroll around the markets picking up whatever looked good.

This market-led type of food shopping was heaps of fun. But it didn’t lend itself to list making and recipe cooking.

So I found myself starting to create ‘template recipes’ based on successes I’d had in the past. I then used these to branch out and cook on my own.

Cooking without recipes was much more fun and (mostly) just as delicious, if not more so. It also meant I had far less waste because I used what I had.

3 Steps to learning to cook without recipes.

I firmly believe YOU CAN learn to cook without recipes. You just need to take it slowly and follow these simple steps.

STEP 1. Start ‘tweaking’.
The recipes here on Stonesoup are a perfect starting place for that. I challenge you to step up and start trying some of the ‘variations’ I list at the bottom of each recipe. I especially want you to try the more ‘out there’ variations. The ones that make you feel a little bit uncomfortable.

Then when you’ve pushed yourself on the tweaking, it’s time for Step 2…

STEP 2. Branch out to ‘template recipes’.
I did this unconsciously myself, but I wish I’d had someone to show me the way. I would have saved myself loads of time and mistakes.

It’s all about thinking about your recipes in more general terms rather than specific ingredients. So instead of lemon juice you’d be thinking in terms of ‘acid’ which could be any type of citrus juice or vinegar or even tomatoes. Or from the recipe examples below, instead of chicken thigh fillets you’d be thinking about ‘tender cuts of protein’.

Armed with a good collection of ‘templates’ you’ll find that you are able to open the fridge and see delicious possibilities.

If this sounds a bit too much, the good news is you don’t have to figure it out all on your own. If you join me for ‘Master Your Meal Plan’ I’ll be sharing 60 of my best template recipes and showing you exactly how to put them to use. Before you know it you’ll be one of those people who can just effortlessly ‘whip something up’

Sound good?

2MMP 3D Cover

I’m super excited to announce that the 2-Minute Meal Plan System is now ready.

To pick up a copy today, go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/2mmp/

pesto chicken with zucchini_-2

Pan Fried Protein with Instant Sauce and Raw Veg Salad Template Recipe

Please don’t let the name of this template recipe put you off. I know it doesn’t sound the most appealing. As soon as you narrow it down, like in the ‘pesto chicken with zucchini’ variation below it will start sounding like something you’ll actually want to eat. Trust me.

Enough for 1:
approx 150-250g (5-9oz) protein
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 handfuls finely sliced raw veg
3-4 tablespoons sauce, to serve

1. Heat a frying pan on medium high heat. Add a little oil to the pan or rub the protein with oil. Pan fry the protein until browned on both sides and cooked to your liking. Anywhere from 2-5 minutes each side.

2. Combine lemon juice with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Season. Toss in finely sliced veg.

3. Serve protein on a bed of the salad with sauce drizzled over.

variations

veggie ‘protein’ – Halloumi, tofu or seitan would also work well here. Or think about pan frying some precooked / canned beans or lentils until they are just cooked and serve with the raw veg salad. Field or portabello mushrooms are great here too. Or think about slicing an eggplant into thick ‘steaks’.

carnivore protein – for pan frying, tender cuts are best. And preferably not too thick as it can be difficult to get the middle cooked without completely burning the outsides. Steak, lamb cutlets or lamb chops, pork cutlets or pork chops, chicken breasts, chicken thigh fillets. Also consider forming minced (ground) meat into burger patties.

pescetarian protein – any fish fillets will be great.

raw veg – Broccolini, broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, fennel, snow peas, carrots, capsicum (bell peppers) or zucchini are all great. Pretty much any veg that will work in a shaved salad is good here. You could use salad leaves as well. Think baby spinach, rocket (arugula), flat leaf parsley, mint leaves, basil leaves, finely sliced kale or any salad leaves.

veg combo – feel free to use a combination of veg. I toyed with the idea of tossing in a few handfuls of baby spinach leaves but decided against it today. On another day the salad may go in.

sauce – Don’t be afraid to call on convenient ready-made options if you don’t have time to make your own. Things like pesto, hummus, babaganoush, chilli oil, basil oil, lemon oil, tabasco, chilli sauce, lemon wedges, lime wedges, oyster sauce or soy sauce (for an Asian vibe), even good old ketchup can all work.

warm veg – if you’d prefer a warmer meal. Steam or pan fry the veg before dressing in the lemon juice mixture.

OR

pesto chicken with zucchini_

Pesto Chicken with Zucchini

Here’s an example of how you could turn the ‘template’ recipe above into a meal.

Bashing the chicken like this sounds a bit harsh but it makes a big difference. First, it makes the thigh fillets roughly even in thickness so they cook evenly AND more quickly. Plus it tenderises the chicken. Win. Win.

Enough for 2
450g (llb) chicken thigh fillets
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 medium zucchini
6-8 tablespoons pesto, to serve

1. Heat a pan on a medium high heat. Remove excess fat from the chicken. Using the palm of your hand or a meat cleaver, bash the chicken so you have an even thickness all the way though.

2. Rub chicken with a little oil and season. Sear in the pan for 3-4 minutes on each side or until chicken is well browned and cooked through.

3. While the chicken is cooking, mix lemon with 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a bowl. Season.

4. Finely slice the zucchini crosswise into ‘coins’ and toss in the dressing.

5. When the chicken is cooked, serve with zucchini salad on the side and pesto on top.

VARIATIONS
paleo / dairy-free – use a dairy-free pesto like this sicilian nut pesto.

vegetarian – replace chicken with sliced halloumi (no need to bash the halloumi!).

vegan – replace chicken with sliced firm tofu or seitan. Or try field mushrooms instead. OR Replace chicken with drained canned butter beans – just pan fry in a little oil until golden. And use a dairy-free pesto like this sicilian nut pesto.

nut-free – make your own nut-free pesto replacing the pine nuts with extra parmesan.

different veg
– see the template recipe above for ideas.

different sauce – see the template recipe above for ideas.

Video version of the recipe.

With love,
Jules x

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