OK, I’m super excited and a little nervous because it’s been almost 2 years since my last new eCookbook.
Anyway, here goes…
‘Healthy & Tasty Meals Made Easy’ is now ready!
For all the details go to:
OK, I’m super excited and a little nervous because it’s been almost 2 years since my last new eCookbook.
Anyway, here goes…
‘Healthy & Tasty Meals Made Easy’ is now ready!
For all the details go to:
I love this time of year.
Here in Oz, Summer is just around the corner and the lure of long lazy days on the horizon. Yay for holidays.
Even though we don’t officially celebrate Thanksgiving here, I love the concept of this holiday.
When I lived in California, I really embraced it. Taking the time to get together with your loved ones and give thanks with a big feast thrown in.
What’s not to love about that?
But the holidays can come with their fair share of stress.
So I thought I’d talk about the 2 biggest mistakes most people make when it comes to entertaining. And of course my tips for avoiding them…
It’s so easy to get carried away when planning a feast. Even though I’m a big fan of keeping things as simple as possible, especially in the kitchen, I still fall for this rookie mistake from time to time.
So what’s the solution?
Easy. Write down your menu. Leave it aside for at least a few hours, preferably overnight.
Then read through and cut out anything that feels like too much effort. Be ruthless!
Things in the kitchen always take longer than you expect. Even for experienced cooks like me.
Again the solution comes down to planning. And being realistic and honest with yourself and realistic.
If you think you could do with some help in the planning department, I have something you might find helpful over here.
Here are some of my favourite recipes for entertaining…
1. Roast Butternut ‘Hummus’ – serve with flat bread or crusty bread or celery sticks.
Broad Bean Pesto – If it’s not broad bean season make it with frozen peas. Either way serve with crusty bread.
Succulent Slow Roast Lamb with Spicy Beet Sauce I love slow roasting meat because you end up with super tender meat AND it can be done ahead so there’s no stress about getting the timing right.
Amazing Glazed Ham – if you’re in charge of the main protein forget about turkey and focus on the ham. A glazed ham is super forgiving and you don’t need to stress about getting it cooked through because it’s already cooked. You just need to focus on getting it looking gorgeous and glazed. I make this every year and this year we’ve even cured and smoked our own ham but you don’t need to go to that much trouble. The other great thing about ham is that is tends not to be ridiculously expensive.
Pecan Crusted Sweet Potato – if you need to keep the vegetarians happy, this is the main course for you! If you have any carnivore guests I can guarantee they’ll want to try this too.
Onion & White Bean Bake – This will double as a side if needed.
Green Chickpea Salad – chickpeas are still one of my all time favourite foods. And this salad is no exception. Kale makes a brilliant ‘pot luck’ salad green because it tastes better after a bit of time marinating in the dressing, more than you can say for most regular salad greens.
Burnt Carrot Salad – This is still on high rotation in our house. It’s best if you toss everything just before it’s time to eat, so it is a little bit higher maintenance. But worth it!
Preserved Lemon Potato Salad – the preserved lemon makes this salad far more exciting than a regular mayonnaise-heavy potato salad. There are 2 other delicious potato salad recipes to choose from on this page as well. If there’s an Irish person among the guests you may have them pledging their undying love for you… don’t say I didn’t warn you ;)
Warm Salad of Roasted Cauliflower & Quinoa – also great served at room temp. Just keep the cheese in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. Quinoa always gets loads of questions and compliments.
Rolls Royce ‘Slaw – One of those salads that can sit in the fridge as long as needed. Especially good at barbeques.
Roast Beets, Lentil & Balsamic Onion Salad – this one takes a little bit of effort to prepare but is super low maintenance after that. Great if you aren’t sure how long it will be before you eat.
Toblerone Ice Cream Cake – only make this if you know there will be plenty of freezer space. Guaranteed crowd pleaser.
Croissant Surprise Cake – I can’t tell you how many readers have contacted me telling me of all the compliments they’ve had after making this cake. Great because it will sit at room temperature for hours or is equally happy straight from the fridge.
No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake – This cake is super easy and super rich. And it’s better if you make it the day before. Get ready for the recipe requests!
Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies – the salt makes them slightly unusual but apart from that they’re as good as cookies get. I love taking these to parties because they’re easy to serve and don’t create any washing up.
To celebrate the Holidays this year, I’ve bundled together 4 quick online cooking classes.
* Stress-Free Entertaining
* Thanksgiving, Made Easy
* Make Your Christmas Merry
* Made with Love (Delicious Gifts Made Easy).
AND if you join today you’ll get access to all 4 quick classes for LESS THAN the price of 1.
To get all the details and make sure you don’t miss out on this LIMITED TIME offer go to:
ps. And if you’re interested in simplifying your life in 2015, the early-bird pricing for ‘A Simple Year’ ends 15th November!.
To make sure you don’t miss out on this really great program go to:
Today I have a bit of a favour to ask…
In a few weeks I’m going to be releasing my new eCookbook called ‘Healthy & Tasty Meals Made Easy‘. I’m super excited about it because it’s been almost 2 years since my last new book.
But before I put my latest ‘baby’ out into the big wide world, I’d love to get some feedback on it.
That’s where you come in.
If you’d like to be one of my early ‘previewers’ and score a free copy of ‘Healthy & Tasty’ before it’s available for sale, I’d love to hear from you.
To register your interest, just leave a comment below letting me know how you could benefit from having a FREE copy of ‘Healthy & Tasty’.
The competition is now closed. Huge THANKS to the over 300 people who entered!
The winners have been notified via email.
And the winners are (drum roll)…
For all the details including the special 30% OFF launch discount go to:
The fine print:
There are 20 FREE copies up for grabs.
Entries close: Monday 3rd November.
Entries will be judged by me. I’m looking for creativity and enthusiasm.
This is a recipe that was inspired by English chef, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. It certainly fits in with the ‘tasty’ criteria for my new ebook but with the pasta it didn’t really come up to scratch from a health perspective. So rather include it in my new eCookbook, I thought I’d share it here.
enough for 2
4 zucchini, sliced finely
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed (optional)
4 tablespoons cream
150g (5oz) short pasta
2 handful melting cheese
salad leaves, to serve
1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Bring a pot of water for the pasta to boil.
2. Heat a little olive oil on a medium heat in a large frying pan. Add zucchini and cook until the zucchini are super soft and reduced. 10-15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, boil pasta according to the packet timing. Drain.
4. Add garlic to the zucchini (if using) and cook for about 30 seconds. Remove pan from the heat and toss in the pasta, cream and half the cheese.
5. Divide the mixture between 2 x 2cup oven proof dishes. Top with remaining cheese and pop in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until everything is hot and the cheese has melted.
6. Serve with salad leaves on the side.
carnivore – brown some bacon or crumbled pork sausages and toss in with the pasta.
more substantial / carb lovers – serve with garlic bread.
different cheese – I use a combo of emmental, gruyere and parmesan but cheddar, mozzarella and swiss cheese are also good.
vegan / dairy-free – just toss the garlicky zucchini through the cooked pasta with a little extra olive oil. And serve with finely grated brazil nuts and a handful of mint or basil leaves on top.
healthier / more veg – replace some or all of the pasta with steamed chopped cauliflower.
different veg – the zucchini are pretty special here because they cook down and concentrate in flavour but you could use asparagus, broccoli, peas, red bell peppers (capsicum) or cauliflower.
gluten-free – use GF pasta (I did) or replace the pasta with steamed chopped cauliflower.
ps. And if you’re interested in simplifying your life in 2015, the early-bird pricing for ‘A Simple Year’ ends SOON.
To make sure you don’t miss out on this really great program go to:
This time 5 years ago I was at a big crossroads.
I loved my job designing Tim Tams (chocolate cookies) for Australia’s largest biscuit manufacturer. I mean who wouldn’t love working with chocolate?
However, earlier in the year I’d had a glimpse of another life. Writing my first cook book was an experience that I’d loved so much.
Maybe it was my calling to write about food?
At first I dismissed the idea. How on earth could I earn as much money as I did in the corporate world?
But like most good ‘scary’ ideas, it kept coming back.
About the same time I’d discovered the blog, Zen Habits. I was getting deeply into the concept of simplicity in life. As I read about Leo’s own transition from a job he hated to full time blogger, it dawned on me…
I didn’t need to match my 6-figure corporate salary. If I put my mind to it, and really simplified my life, I could live on a fraction of the amount.
All of a sudden the change seemed within reach and in January 2010 I quit my job.
I haven’t looked back.
These days I feel incredibly blessed. I get to help people all over the world discover that healthy eating doesn’t need to be complicated. I only work on projects I love. I have the freedom to fit in my work around taking care of my 16 month old.
And for the last few years I’ve made way more money than I ever did as an ’employee’.
The thing is, I wouldn’t have made it here if I hadn’t simplified my life. That really was key.
Which begs the question… What opportunities might open up if you started to simplify YOUR life?
You’re probably wondering why I’m talking about this. Well I just wanted to share a really exciting project that I’m a part of…
It’s called ‘A Simple Year’ and basically it’s a year long program of guided simplicity that focuses on simplifying a different area of your life each month.
If it sounds like something you might be interested in go to:
This salad was inspired by my Kundalini Yoga teacher, the lovely Odette. In preparation for a special early morning practice recently, Odette encouraged us to try a 24 hour ‘green foods’ detox. As she was describing a suggested meal of peas and avocado, all I could think was ‘yum’. And here it is…
enough for 1
2 handfuls frozen or freshly podded peas
1 handful pistachios (optional)
1. Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a small pan on a medium high heat. Add peas and stir fry for a few minutes until they’re hot. If using frozen just pop them straight in the pan from the freezer.
2. Place warm peas in a bowl. Top with scoops of avocado and a splash of lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Serve with pistachios on top (if using).
different veg – use chopped asparagus, green beans, broccoli or podded broad beans.
more veg – serve with a handful of baby spinach, mint, flat leaf parsley or basil leaves.
carnivore – it won’t exactly be a yogic detox salad but feel free to fry some chopped bacon, sliced chorizo or chicken thigh fillets before cooking the peas.
nut-free – just skip the pistachios or serve with the herbs suggested above.
more substantial / carb lovers – again this will take it outside the realms of a ‘yogic’ salad but you could serve with crusty bread and butter or toss in some cooked quinoa, brown rice or other cooked grains.
ps. Here’s what people are saying about ‘A Simple Year’ 2014…
“Participating in “A Simple Year” has offered me the opportunity to focus on several areas of my life and reconsider, unclutter, and ponder changes that I would not have pursued without the program. The structure of the course allows you to dig in as little or as much in each area as you care to or can manage. For me it’s been life changing.”
“Signing up for and participating in “A Simple Year” has been one of the best things I did in 2014. It has allowed me to make some significant changes in my life, each leading to other new changes and opportunities.”
Do you ever feel ‘too tired to cook’ after a long busy day? Well you’re certainly not alone!
A few years ago I surveyed Stonesoup readers for their biggest cooking challenges. The number 1 response was being ‘tired at the end of a long day’.
We all know what that feels like.
But how do you make it easier to cook when you’re tired AND hungry?
Or as one of my students calls it…’HANGRY’.
So here’s my simple 2-step process to make it easier to get into the kitchen and cook the delicious, healthy meals you and your family deserve…
STEP 1. Have actual food in the house
If there isn’t food in the house we’re all more likely to pick up takeout than go to the store, buy ingredients, come home and cook. Food in the house gives you a HUGE head start.
I find there are 2 parts to this.
First, having a well stocked pantry can be a huge life saver.
The other piece of the puzzle is a regular system for buying fresh ingredients. It might be an idyllic weekly trip to the farmers market, a Monday night supermarket run or an online order that gets delivered.
The type of system isn’t important. Just find one that works for you.
STEP 2. Have a collection of fast, simple recipes at your fingertips.
Having a collection of quick, healthy, easy recipes is key. If you know dinner is only going to take you 10-15 minutes, aren’t you more likely to be able to find the energy you need to make it happen?
I can hear you asking…
“Great Jules, but where am I going to find such a collection?”
To be honest, you don’t need to look any further than Stonesoup. This collection of 50 healthy 10-Minute meals is a great place to start.
BUT if you want a collection of super easy, healthy and yummy recipes that you can save on your phone or tablet to access any time, even when you’re not online, then I have just the thing for you..
The best selling of my eCookbooks is called the ‘Tired & Hungry Cook’s Companion’.
It’s all about helping you avoid becoming ‘Hangry’!
If you’s like to discover more go to:
My Irishman and I have been on a mission to eat more fish so we have been having a regular pescetarian Monday. This curry was inspired by one such Monday. I’ve found buying fish at our local farmers market makes fish cooking much more affordable and delicious. I’ve served it on a bed of cauliflower ‘rice’ (raw grated cauliflower) but you’re welcome to use steamed basmati rice if you prefer.
enough for 2
450g (1lb) fish fillets, chopped into chunks
1-2 tablespoons garam masala
1-4 red chillies, chopped
1 can tomatoes (400g / 14oz), chopped
4 tablespoons whipping cream (35% milk fat)
1 bunch coriander (cilantro), leaves picked
1. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan (skillet) over a medium high heat.
2. Add the fish and brown for a few minutes. Then add the garam masala and chilli. Stir for a few seconds.
3. Add tomatoes and their juices. Simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the fish has cooked through.
4. Stir in cream and bring back to a gentle simmer.
5. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with coriander on top.
vegetarian – replace fish with drained canned chickpeas or home cooked chickpeas.
vegan – replace fish with diced eggplant. Will take longer for the eggplant to cook in the sauce, around 20 minutes. And replace cream with coconut milk.
dairy-free – replace cream with coconut milk. Butter or ghee could also be used instead of cream.
different herbs – if coriander (cilantro) isn’t your thing consider basil, mint, a handful of fresh curry leaves. Or just skip the herbs.
carnivore – replace fish with diced chicken thighs fillets or sliced steak. Adjust the cooking time as needed.
no garam masala – replace with a mild curry powder or loads of black pepper and a little ground cumin.
Here’s what people are saying about it…
“I’m really enjoying the Tired and Hungry Cooks Companion – it’s helping me to become somebody who actually cooks for herself! Because there are few ingredients, I can read the recipe once and remember it. I am starting to have repertoire of recipes in my head. I’m saving money because I am not buying lunches or eating out. I’m enjoying my food more.”
Jen, Tired & Hungry Cook’s Companion Owner.
“I love your latest eCookbook. It has been my saviour with a newborn along with international postings for my husband. We are currently in South America and even though not all the ingredients are available, the fact it’s transportable and 5 ingredients to whip up in minutes has saved our night life!”
Emma, Tired & Hungry Cook’s Companion Owner.
“I love how your five-minute meals are actually meals, not just haphazardly thrown-together salads or supplemented pre-packaged ‘foods’. Most of those recipes are exactly the amount of effort I’d want to exert if I was tired and hungry, but didn’t want to settle for noodles or fast food.”
Aldrea, Tired & Hungry Cook’s Companion Owner.
pps. Here’s the link again:
When I was getting into cooking, one of the few things I found really intimidating was working with spices. I’m not sure what caused my ‘spice phobia’ but I do remember only using spices if the recipe called for them. I’d always use exactly the types and amounts listed.
Talk about restrictive.
Over the years, with a lot of trial and a little bit of error, I’ve adopted a more liberated approach to cooking with spices.
If you’re ever short on time or short on space in your pantry, spices can be an absolute life saver when it comes to making food taste amazing.
Not only that, using different spices is by far the quickest and easiest way to make a boring old dish taste new and exciting.
What’s not to love about spice?
I specifically wanted to share my 3 favourite spice blends because these days I find I’m far more likely to reach for a blend than faff around with adding a heap of different single spices.
Using spice blends means you get the complexity of flavour of loads of different spices all in the one little packet. Love it!
1. RAS EL HANOUT
This is a Moroccan spice blend that translates as ‘top of the shop’. It’s traditionally the best spice blend a Moroccan spice merchant will sell. The ingredients lists can be lengthy, with as many as 23 different spices. And as you can imagine the flavour is exotic and complex without being too ‘out there’.
It’s my favourite blend for the tajine recipe below and it works really well with fish and chicken and vegetables like eggplant (aubergine).
Best substitute for Ras el Hanout: Equal parts paprika, coriander, ginger and a pinch of saffron OR just ground coriander.
A Lebanese blend of 7 spices including paprika, pepper, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg. It’s a bit darker and more intense than Ras el Hanout but still works well with meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables.
Best substitute for Baharat: Equal parts paprika, cumin and cinnamon OR ground cumin.
3. GARAM MASALA
I always spell this Indian spice blend wrong but think I’ve got it right today! For some reason garam masala is my ‘go-to’ Indian spice if I’m in the mood for a bit of curry. I tend to reach for garam masala over a generic curry powder.
I think this is because garam masala tends to be more laid back than some in your face curry powders. Which tends to suit my cooking style better.
Best substitute for Garam Masala: Mild curry powder OR loads of black pepper.
Do you have a ‘spice phobia’? What are your favourite spices or blends? I’d love to hear in the comments below :)
This is a dish I’ve been making for years and am kinda surprised I haven’t ever written about it on Stonesoup. About time! It’s a brilliant example of how using spices can transform a boring old dish (Italian meatballs) into something exotic and super tasty.
enough for 2-3
1 onion, peeled & chopped
450g (1lb) minced (ground) beef
125g (5oz) almond meal
2 teaspoons ras el hanout, baharat or ground coriander
1 jar tomato passata or puree (700g / 24oz / 2.5 cups)
4 tablespoons butter
1 bunch coriander (cilantro), leaves picked
cauliflower rice or cooked couscous to serve
1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Place onion in a small pan on a medium heat with a little oil and cook until soft but not browned. About 5 minutes or a little longer.
2. Combine cooked onion, beef, almond meal and your chosen spice in a large bowl. Season generously with salt. Roll teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls and place in an ovenproof dish.
3. Pour over the tomato passata or puree and top with butter. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes or longer until the meatballs are browned on top and cooked through.
4. Serve meatballs on a bed of cauliflower rice or couscous with coriander leaves on top.
to serve with couscous – cook couscous according to the packet but add some extra butter.
to serve with cauli rice – grate 1/2 small cauliflower using your food processor or a box grater and serve meatballs on top. No need to cook or warm it.
different accompaniments – great wrapped in lebanese bread, tortillas or other flat bread. Could be served with your favourite pasta.
short on time – skip the onion and simmer the tajine on the stovetop until the meatballs are just cooked through. You might also like to skip the meatball rolling and just cook the meat more like a bolognese sauce.
different meat – beef is a favourite but lamb is also great. Pork, chicken, turkey or buffalo could all be used.
vegetarian – try adding the spice above to these lentil balls.
nut-free – replace almond meal with soft bread crumbs or cooked quinoa.
dairy-free – replace butter with lots of extra virgin olive oil.
different herbs – mint, basil, parsley or baby spinach are all great.
italian meatballs – just skip the spice and serve with basil instead of the coriander.
indian meatballs – use garam masala as your spice and serve with a dollop of natural yoghurt.
If I mention the words ‘mindless eating’, what thoughts pop into your head?
Probably nothing healthy, right?
For me ‘mindless eating’ normally evokes thoughts of chowing down on junk in front of the TV or computer. Big bags of chips or pop corn at the cinema. Or shoveling ice cream straight from the tub.
While I’m a huge fan of the concept of MindFUL eating, I’ve also come to appreciate that there’s a place for mindLESS eating in a healthy lifestyle.
Really? Mindless eating = healthy?
Mindless Eating for good is a concept I discovered via the lovely Darya Rose. It was coined by researcher Brian Wansink in his awesome book, ‘Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think’.
Basically Wansink’s research team have found that our bodies aren’t very good at accurately keeping track of how much food we eat. Most people can eat 20% less and not actually feel like they’re missing out on anything.
Wainsink calls this the ‘mindless margin’. It’s basically a ‘buffer zone’ where our brains don’t detect whether we’ve eaten more or less.
Over time, the extra (or less) food eaten in the mindless margin adds up to weight gained (or lost!).
So today I wanted to share some tips from Wainsink’s book that I’ve found helpful.
1. Use smaller plates
It’s an optical illusion but it really does work. The same amount of food look like much more if served on smaller plates. So you’re more likely to feel satisfied with less.
Same goes for smaller glasses, something to think about if you’re trying to limit your wine consumption. (Nothing to see here…)
2. Serve (slightly) less food
Most of us keep eating until our plates are empty. So a great way to eat less is to serve yourself less food to begin with. The trick is to find a balance, you don’t want to feel like you’re missing out. It’s about keeping inside the ‘mindless margin’.
3. Only serve healthy options in the middle of the table.
I love serving big platters of food in the middle of the table because it looks so appealing. But as you probably know yourself, if food is there it gets eaten.
I’ve found by serving healthy options like salad and vegetables in the middle, I still get the look and feeling of abundance. However keeping the extra servings of meat and potatoes in the kitchen, means we’re far less likely to have too much of these.
The simple sauce for this chicken was inspired by my favourite food writer, Nigel Slater. A bit of garlic, some 5-Spice powder and soy sauce. So easy and really delish. I can get Chinese 5-Spice at my local supermarket but if you can’t, an online spice merchant will be able to help you out. Or see the variation below for an alternative.
Enough for 2
2 teaspoons Chinese 5-Spice
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
500g (1lb) chicken thigh fillets, slice into bite sized pieces
250g (1/2 lb) snow peas, trimmed
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
1. Combine 5-spice, garlic and 2 tablespoons oil. Toss in the chicken and allow to marinate for as long as you’ve got. A few minutes is fine but for anything longer than an hour, keep it in the fridge.
2. Heat a little oil in a wok or large frying pan on a very high heat. Add snow peas and stir fry until bright green and just cooked but still very crunchy. Remove to a clean bowl.
3. Heat a little more oil in the wok and stir fry chicken until well browned and just cooked though. About 5-10 minutes.
4. Return snow peas to the pan to warm through. Remove from the heat and toss in the soy sauce.
5. Serve in two bowls with cashews on top.
vegetarian – replace chicken with sliced hallomi and pan fry until golden instead of stir frying.
vegan – replace chicken with sliced eggplant. Allow more time stir frying for the eggplant to cook properly. Undercooked eggplant is one of my least favourite things.
no Chinese 5-spice – make your own approximation with equal parts ground cinnamon, fennel seeds, black pepper and star anise. Or at a minimum just use cinnamon and fennel.
different veg – asparagus, sugar snap peas, bok choy, broccolini, broccoli, Chinese broccoli, red capsicum (bell pepper), zucchini (courgettes).
more veg – serve on a bed of cauliflower ‘rice’ (grated raw cauli).
carb-lovers – serve with steamed rice or rice noodles cooked according to the packet.
different meat – minced (ground) chicken, chicken breasts, pork fillet, steaks – any tender cut that will stir fry well.
I‘m a huge believer in the power of habits for helping to put everyday decisions on autopilot, making it much easier to live a healthy life.
One of the things I’ve learned in my study of habit formation over the years is the power of public commitment.
Earlier in the year, I joined Febfast and committed to a month without alcohol.
It was tough. Especially the night we were staying with friends in Sydney and everyone else was drinking really lovely wine.
One of my friends tried to persuade me to have some. They weren’t going to tell anybody…
It was tempting.
But you know what kept me from caving?
The thought of having to sit down here and admit to you that I had broken my promise.
While Febfast is long gone, I have a few bad cooking habits that I’ve been trying to kick on my own. And if truth be told, I haven’t been having much luck.
So today I’m ‘outing’ myself on my 3 worst habits. I’ll report back in a month or so to let you know how I’ve gone.
As I mentioned in my interview with the lovely Darya Rose a few weeks ago, picking at food while I cook has long been my worst cooking habit.
Now that I’m getting dinner ready for Fergal before I start cooking for my Irishman and me, it’s been getting worse.
I hate that feeling of sitting down to dinner and not being hungry.
Darya had some brilliant advice around setting boundaries for snacking, like using a plate and only doing it sitting at the table. I’ve been working on implementing this for a few weeks now, and while I have made some progress, there have been times when I have had my official snack and still picked while cooking.
I need a bit more help with this one.
Even though we have top quality knives and the easiest sharpening system ever, I’m very embarrassed to admit that I can easily go weeks if not months without sharpening.
I know dull knives are dangerous. I just can’t explain this terrible habit apart from being super lazy.
So I commit to sharpening my knives at least once a week on Sunday or Monday. I’ve started this week off with sharp knives. It feels great.
I think this habit started when we were buying most of our veg from the supermarket. Those pre-washed bags of salad leaves and herbs are just ‘oh so easy’.
Now we buy the lions share of our veg from the farmers market. I’m loving the increase in quality and freshness but have honestly been ‘pretending’ to myself that the leaves don’t need washing.
When clearly they do. I know.
I can’t believe I’m going to put this in writing, but we had a guest staying who found a slug in the salad. Even that mortification hasn’t wrenched me out of my slothfulness.
It’s definitely time for a change. So when I report back I’m planning on my salad spinner being my new best friend.
Do you have any bad cooking habits that you’d like to break? Or even some good habits you’d like to form?
I’d love to hear about them in the comment below :)
OK so if you’re a purist when it comes to the naming of dishes, you’d better block your ears. I know that cabonara traditionally includes egg yolk and no cream, but I really liked the sound of kale ‘cabonara’ and I felt more in the mood for cream than egg yolk… so that what we have.
Enough for 2
4-6 slices bacon, chopped
1 bunch kale, ribs discarded (if tough) & leaves sliced into ribbons
1-2 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons cream
2 large handfuls grated parmesan + extra to serve
1. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and cook bacon on a medium high heat until well browned.
2. Remove bacon from the pan and add the kale and garlic. Cover and cook, stirring every few minutes until the kale is wilted and deep green in colour. It will take about 5-10 minutes. If it starts to burn, add a splash of water to help generate some steam.
3. Return bacon to the pan and add cream. Stir over the heat to warm through then remove from the heat and add the cheese.
4. Divide between two plates and serve with extra cheese if you like.
more substantial / carb lovers – toss in some cooked pasta at the end. A drained can of chickpeas or white beans will do the same job without causing blood sugar problems.
paleo / more classic cabonara – replace cream with 2 egg yolks. Add the yolks with the bacon off the heat. And see the dairy-free option.
dairy-free – replace cream with 2 egg yolks and replace parmesan with grated brazil nuts and if you like a teaspoon of nutritional yeast.
vegetarian – replace bacon with chopped smoked tofu – a really lovely ingredient. OR serve with a big handful of smoked almonds or other nuts.
different greens – as much as I love kale, any leafy greens such as spinach, baby spinach, chard or silverbeet can be used.
vegan – cook sliced kale with garlic in olive oil and serve with more olive oil and a good few handfuls of roasted nuts or cooked legumes.
A few weeks ago, my Irishman was in a lift with a family with a sick baby. He mentioned that he has a one-year-old and the other parents were like, ‘Oh you must be used to him being sick’.
My Irishman was a little taken back by this.
Over dinner he told me about his encounter with the sick child.
We both realized we’ve been very lucky with Fergal. Apart from the odd runny nose, he hasn’t ever been really sick. (Excuse me while I just go and touch some wood!)
But is this just good luck? Or good genes? Or something we’re doing or not doing?
In all likelihood, it’s a combination. However, our habits and lifestyle must be having an impact.
1. We eat real food.
The rate of obesity has increased at the same rate as our consumption of processed food. Coincidence? I think not.
What do I mean by ‘real food’?
Basically, it’s anything without a complicated ‘ingredients list’ on the pack. Or better yet, food that doesn’t come in packages. Like vegetables, fish, meat etc.
While most of our food falls into the ‘real’ category, we don’t obsess. I’m happy for occasional processed conveniences like commercial curry pastes or tomato ketchup.
2. We go easy on grains, especially wheat.
The main problem with grains, even ‘whole grains’ is they provide loads of carbohydrates without enough beneficial micronutrients. I prefer to get my carbs in the form of vegetables and legumes.
Even if you think you don’t have a problem with wheat or gluten, you may find your health improves if you experiment with removing wheat from your diet. It’s not just a digestive thing. In ‘Wheat Belly,’ William Davis links consumption of modern wheat to all sorts of ills including schizophrenia.
3. We aren’t afraid of fat. Including saturated fat.
Whenever I write about fat it tends to be controversial. The whole ‘low fat’ movement has a lot to answer for.
Eating fat doesn’t make you fat. In our house we love olive oil, butter, cream, nuts, avocado and bacon.
Not ready to stop being fat phobic? Then check out:
– What Does It Mean to Be Fat-Adapted?
– Why Fat is the Preferred Fuel for Human Metabolism
Also, saturated fat isn’t bad for us. In 2010 a panel of heart disease experts concluded that reducing saturated fat intake doesn’t reduce the risk of heart disease.
Saturated fat tends to be the most stable fat for cooking and can actually be beneficial. If you think I’ve gone crazy, read 7 Reasons to Eat More Saturated Fat.
4. We eat lots of vegetables.
Vitamins. Minerals. Fiber. Antioxidants. Plus they’re delicious.
What’s not to love about veg!
In case you’re wondering, I’d better be clear about my credentials.
I’m not a professional dietitian or nutritionist. However, I did study nutrition at university. For my Food Science Degree I took two nutrition subjects (and got distinctions!) along with basic biochemistry.
My Irishman tells me that bacon and cabbage is a traditional dish from Limerick. He’s a big fan of his Mum, Geraldine’s version.
I knew it was a bit risky to mess around with a family favourite but I couldn’t help myself. Instead of boiling the cabbage, I just soften it in a little oil which saves time and reduces the risk of any ‘smelly’ cabbagey flavours.
enough for 2
3-4 slices bacon, chopped
1 bunch leeks, washed & white parts sliced OR 1 onion
1/2 small cabbage or 1/4 large, sliced
1 tablespoon rice or other wine vinegar
1. Heat a medium saucepan on a medium heat. Add a little olive oil and brown bacon.
2. Then add the leeks and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring when you think of it.
3. When the leeks have started to soften, add the cabbage and a splash of water. Cover and cook, stirring every few minutes until the cabbage is ‘al dente’ or just soft. Somewhere from 5-10 minutes.
4. Season with salt and pepper and vinegar. Serve hot.
different cabbage thicknesses – I like to slice my cabbage finely using my knife, so not as fine as a mandoline. This way the cabbage cooks quickly. If you’re after a more chunky look, cutting the cabbage into 1 inch ribbons will also work, just expect a longer cooking time.
more veg – serve with flat leaf parsley leaves, baby spinach or a few spoonfuls of home made sauerkraut.
different cabbage – I’ve used white cabbage in the picture but we love this with red cabbage (and balsamic vinegar) or savoy as well. You could also use brussels sprouts, just remember to slice them finely so they cook quickly. Kale can also be used.
vegetarian – just skip the bacon and serve with a salty cheese crumbled over like feta.
herby – a little thyme or sage added with the onions is also lovely.
carb lovers – serve with steamed or mashed potatoes.
vegan – replace bacon with smoked tofu or skip the bacon and serve topped with roasted or smoked nuts such as almonds.
You know when you come across someone who is a kindred spirit? Someone who has similar philosophies to your own?
I love when that happens.
Like when I discovered Darya Rose from the fab little blog summertomato.com.
Darya and I share a lot in common including a love of vegetables and legumes, a background in science (Darya has a Ph.D) and a firm belief in the power of healthy eating. We’ve both written guest posts for Tim Ferriss‘ blog, which is how I discovered her.
Anyway, Darya’s book Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting is one of the best books I’ve read on healthy eating.
Actually I love it so much I’ve read (listened to the audiobook version) about 5 times in the last year.
If you’re at all interested in how to use real food and healthy habits to control your weight, or even just after some inspiration to help you eat healthier, I can’t recommend Foodist enough.
But in case you need more convincing, I contacted Darya and asked her a couple of questions…
Q. For you personally, what are the top 2 habits you’ve developed (or quit) for controlling your weight?
A. The number one habit I had to give up, without a doubt, was dieting. It sounds counter-intuitive, but dieting was what caused me to make terrible food choices, deprive myself and ultimately overeat. Once I embraced the joy of Real Food all the “self control” I wished I had became second nature. Eating right became easy for me, and I lost weight naturally.
The second habit was cooking. I never used to cook, and to be honest I thought it was beneath me. I was an academic and preferred to outsource my food preparation so that I could focus on “more important things.” I was so misguided. Once the value of Real Food started becoming clear to me, I realized the only practical way to fit my new lifestyle into my grad student budget was to learn how to cook for myself.
What surprised me was how easy it was.
I thought I needed to have some special talent to make food taste good (I had been known to burn water in the past), but when you start with excellent, seasonal ingredients it’s actually kind of hard to mess it up. Then you just need to develop a few simple skills (sautéing, roasting, etc.) and it’s a piece of cake. These days I actually consider it easier to cook and eat at home than go out to a restaurant in the city.
Q. The habit I struggle with the most is snacking while I’m cooking. This is especially bad at dinner when I’m tired and lacking will power! I often sit down to eat and am already full. Now that I have a baby who eats dinner before us, I find it’s getting worse. I’ve tried having healthy snacks on hand which does help sometimes but often I eat the healthy snacks and reach for more food as well. Any ideas how I can stop so I can enjoy my meals at the table?
A. Snacking is tough for a lot of people. One of the issues is that it is difficult to make it a discreet occurrence; it is hard to create a barrier to stop yourself from overdoing it. The key to reprogramming any habit is to pay close attention to the triggers that drive your behavior, and what feelings they activate. The next step is finding ways to steer yourself in a different direction.
One way that I’ve personally been able to control creeping habits like snacking (I lump work/email in the same category, since I work at home it’s hard to keep work out of my personal life sometimes) is to create clear boundaries.
For instance, I too am often hungry before dinner, which is often after I finish my daily workout. I know that there is no way I can get through the cooking process on so little fuel, so I consciously have a satisfying snack before starting to cook. Carrot sticks wouldn’t cut it in these situations. I often have a bit of trail mix, cheese or a hearty piece of fruit. It’s important to make your snacking official, use a plate and sit at a table. That way eating while standing or walking around the kitchen feels weird and inappropriate.
With my method I’m satisfied enough to not snack during the cooking process, then by the time dinner is ready I’m hungry again. Similarly I keep work in its place by forbidding email in the living room. I have a home office (far away from the living area), which is the only place I’m allowed to work. If I want to check email I have to walk away from everyone and go into my boring office. It’s a pretty good deterrent.
The important part is that there’s a clear boundary for when snacking or working is/isn’t allowed. In Foodist I call these black & white rules.
Adapted from Foodist by Darya Rose. This is one of Darya’s ‘home court’ recipes which is similar to greens I cook all the time. I love Darya’s idea to leave the garlic sit and add at the end of the cooking time. Darya notes that this time increases the nutritional content of the garlic while minimising the risk of burning the garlic. Love it!
enough for 1-2
1 bunch kale
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
handful shelled pistachios, roasted
100g (3.5oz) cooked lentils (1/2 cup), optional
1. Wash kale well and slice into ribbons. Leave some water on the leaves to help the kale steam as it cooks. If the stems are really thick, remove the stems and just use the leaves.
2. Heat a large frying pan on a medium high heat. Add a splash of olive oil, the chopped kale and a pinch of salt. Cover with a lid and cook for a few minutes.
3. Stir and if the kale is drying out or starting to burn add a few tablespoons of water. Cover again and cook for another few minutes. Keep cooking and stirring like this until the kale is wilted.
4. Make a hole in the center of the kale, add the garlic and a splash more oil. Allow the garlic to cook for about 30 seconds then stir it into the kale.
5. Add pistachios and lentils (if using). Stir. Taste and season with extra salt and pepper if needed.
carnivore – brown some chopped bacon or chorizo before adding the kale. Or serve as a side to roast or BBQ chicken.
different greens – I’ve used purple kale in the picture but any green kale or leafy greens such as spinach or chard are great.
lemony – if the greens taste a little flat, I sometimes add a splash of lemon juice or sherry vinegar at the end.
more substantial – add more cooked lentils or other legumes such as chickpeas or beans.
different nuts – feel free to us other nuts such as almonds, cashews, brazil nuts or pine nuts.
nut-free – just replace the nuts with extra lentils or a handful of toasted sourdough breadcrumbs for extra crunch.
other ideas for tasty additions – roast chopped beets, shavings of parmesan, goats cheese, ricotta, sardines, fresh parsley, lemon zest, or aioli.
Can you believe it’s September already?
I really love this time of year. Spring is just beginning to make an appearance both in the weather and the produce available at the farmers market. The days are getting longer.
And it’s my birthday(!)
This year, I’m continuing my birthday traditions of sharing a new cake recipe with you and having a birthday sale. So let’s dig in!
I actually started developing this year’s recipe over 12 months ago because I take my Birthday cake very seriously. I wanted to make a sweet treat using one of my favourite vegetables, beetroot.
Most baking recipes that use beets just call for grated beets, similar to carrot cakes. But I’ve always found the results disappointing. As much as I adore the earthy flavour of beets, it’s too much for me when used raw in a cake.
So the solution?
Easy, just used cooked beets.
And combining them with dark chocolate in a rich squidgy brownie doesn’t hurt. At all.
One of the best things I’ve done in my business this year is start ‘Soupstones’, a done-for-you meal planning service. I love this unique service because it really helps make it super easy to eat delicious, healthy home cooked dinners on a regular basis.
It’s all about helping you eat well and be well.
So this year I thought I’d do something different and have a 50% OFF Birthday Sale on Soupstones Meal Plans monthly membership. So if you join during the sale, you’ll lock in the 50% savings for as long as you are a member. As per my birthday tradition, this sale is available for the next 72 HOURS ONLY. That’s it.
To make sure you don’t miss out go to:
UPDATE: The birthday sale is now over.
The first time I came across a red velvet cake recipe, I remember being so disappointed that the ‘red’ came from food colouring. My first thought was why not use something natural like beets?
enough for 6-8
150g (5oz) unsalted butter
150g (5oz) dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped
150g (5oz) cooked beets
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, optional
150g (5oz) brown sugar
150g (5oz) almond or hazelnut meal
1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line a loaf pan with baking paper.
2. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add chocolate. Stand.
3. Meanwhile, whizz beets in a food processor until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla, sugar and nut meal and whizz again until mixed.
4. Add melted butter and chocolate and again whizz until combined.
5. Spread mixture over the base of your pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until firm on the top but still squidgy in the middle.
6. Cool in the tin and serve sliced with vanilla ice cream or double cream.
no food processor – just chop the beets finely by hand and mix everything with a spoon.
even redder velvet – replace dark chocolate with white chocolate.
home cooked beets – just trim and scrub beets then bake whole (180C / 350F) until soft when pierced with a knife, about an hour but may be longer for large beets. Cool and peel before using.
budget / nut-free – replace nut meal with plain (all purpose) flour. Be super careful not to over bake as flour based brownies can be very dry.
dairy-free – replace butter with coconut oil.
egg-free – I haven’t tried this but replacing the egg with 1 large mashed ripe banana should work fine here.
vegan – combine the dairy and egg free options.
Here’s how to enter…
1. Watch the FREE training videos above.
2. Leave a comment below the video telling me the story of how the Healthy Meal Method could make a difference to your life.
UPDATE: The Competition is NOW CLOSED.
The winners are:
So I was very pleasantly surprised with the response to my previous post on fermenting vegetables.
It made me super happy to hear that so many of you are interested in fermentation and put in a request for my sauerkraut recipe.
So today that’s exactly what I have for you.
I was never a huge fan of sauerkraut until I started making my own. Being able to control how fermented or ‘funky’ your kraut gets makes a huge difference. If you’re new to fermenting vegetables though I’d really recommend starting with fermented carrots which are much much easier!
This method is called dry brining and when you read through the method it’s hard to imagine it working. I know I always thought that when looking at kraut recipes. It wasn’t until I actually saw Sandor Katz make kraut that I ‘got it’. So I recommend checking out the video as it’s much easier to show you rather than write.
makes 1 medium jar
1/2 head cabbage
1. Day 1. Cut cabbage in half lengthwise and trim the surfaces that were already cut. Remove outer leaves and discard. Finely slice the cabbage as well as you can. I use a knife because I like it rustic. But you could use a mandoline if you want really fine kraut.
2. Place sliced cabbage in a large bowl. Sprinkle with a few generous pinches of fine salt as you go. You want at least 0.5% salt. I just add and mix and taste as I go. When the cabbage tastes slightly salty but still really fresh I leave it at that. (See notes below for more detailed quantities).
3. Massage cabbage with your clean hands. Sandor recommends 10 minutes but I usually do it for a few minutes and then leave it to stand so the salt can work its magic. You want the moisture from the cabbage to come out.
4. Pack the cabbage into a clean glass or ceramic jar. Press down firmly as you go to really release the moisture and pack it as tightly as possible. I like to use the back of a spoon. You want enough liquid to just cover the cabbage. If it looks too dry add a little filtered or boiled and cooled water. But be sparing as water will dilute the final flavour.
5. Seal with the lid and leave on the kitchen bench.
6. Day 2. Open the jar to release any gas buildup. Push the cabbage down to re-submerge. Taste.
7. Day 3+. Repeat as per day 2 and taste again. If the cabbage tastes tangy enough for you, pop it in the fridge and start eating. If not leave it out of the fridge and continue to taste every day until you’re happy. Depending on the temperature and how funky you like your kraut it can take from 3 days to months.
Different Veg – I like savoy cabbage but recently made a mix of savoy and red cabbage that was really pretty. Turnips, carrots, apple and cooked spuds can all be added.
Flavourings – I haven’t tried any but celery seeds, curry spices, caraway seeds, or chilli can all be used.
Quantity rule of thumb – 1kg veg will fill a 1L vessel and will need about 0.5% – 1% salt so about 5-10 grams.
If in doubt when tasting – pop it in the fridge because this will slow the fermentation down and you can always pull it back out if you decide later that it’s not strong enough for you.
Different containers – Don’t ferment in metal due to corrosion. Plastics can be OK but I prefer glass or ceramics so you can be certain there are no plastics leaching into the ferment.
Floating veg – you can put a weight to hold down the veg as they tend to float. I usually don’t bother.
Fill levels – Don’t fill to the top due to expansion
Light degrades some nutrients but generally light is OK. It doesn’t need to be in a dark cellar and is better in the kitchen where you won’t forget about them. Plus UV rays from the sun act as a mould inhibitor.
White Mold – just skim and discard they’re not toxic.
Bright Coloured Molds – are toxic – discard the project. But don’t stress about this too much. No one has died from eating fermented vegetables.
ps. I’ve also recently uploaded a video for making fermented carrots (much easier than kraut!). It’s available over here.
Without a doubt, the saddest day of the year for me is the 20th August.
You see it’s the day that nine years ago my family huddled in a little hospital room and watched my Mum breathe her last breath.
I still really miss her.
This year I’m feeling it even more than usual. I think it’s because now that Fergal is getting more interactive I often imagine how much my mum would have delighted in spending time with him.
I also wish she was around so I could ask her questions about this whole motherhood thing.
But I didn’t sit down today to make myself or you cry.
I just wanted to share a trick that’s really helped me deal with the loss of someone so special.
Whenever I’m feeling lost and wishing I could call Mum and ask her for help, I ask myself a question instead. ‘What would June do?’
The funny thing is as soon as I ask it, I usually feel exactly what the answer is.
Just something that I’ve found useful. If you’re ever missing someone, try it. It might just help you too.
And of course I wanted to remember my Mum. So I have a little June-friendly recipe that includes some of her favourite things (asparagus and fish) and lots of her favourite colour (green).
It’s not quite asparagus season here, but this was a combo from last Spring that I just loved and have been meaning to share with you since then. I love it with fish but the mint and asparagus also work really well with lamb cutlets or chops.
takes: 15 minutes
makes: enough for 2
2 fish fillets or steaks
1 bunch asparagus, stalks trimmed and broken in half
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 bunch mint, leaves picked and torn if large
large handful goats cheese
1. Heat a frying pan on a medium high heat. Add a little oil and cook the asparagus, stirring every few minutes until it is just tender. About 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, combine lemon juice with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a bowl. Season.
3. Toss the cooked asparagus in the dressing and leave it to stand.
4. Add a little more oil to the pan and cook fish until golden on both sides, 2-3 minutes each side.
5. To serve, divide fish between two plates. Toss mint and asparagus in the dressing and scatter over the fish. Crumble over goats cheese and serve warm.
vegetarian – skip the fish and double the asparagus and goats cheese. Or serve minty asparagus with goats cheese and a poached egg.
vegan – skip the fish and cheese and serve the asparagus with chunks of avocado and roasted nuts such as brazil nuts or pine nuts.
dairy-free / paleo – replace goats cheese with roasted nuts such as brazil nuts or pine nuts or drizzle over a sauce made with 2 tablespoons each lemon juice, tahini, water and olive oil.
carnivore – replace fish with chicken thigh fillets, lamb cutlets or other lamb chops, or minute steaks.
not asparagus season? – no probs. Use green beans or frozen peas instead.
A few months ago took an online course called ‘Debunking PCOS‘ which is all about improving fertility and conquering Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome which I was diagnosed with over 10 years ago.
The thing that really surprised me about the course was that the number 1 action we were encouraged to take was to heal your gut.
Not exactly the most glamorous topic, but when you consider how important the gut is to helping you absorb and use the nutrients you need, it really makes sense.
A healthy gut isn’t just important for fertility. It impacts everyone’s health.
So I hear you asking…
“OK Jules, so how do I make my gut healthier?”
Well funnily enough, earlier in the year I went to a workshop on how to ferment vegetables. It was led by Sandor Katz, author of ‘Wild Fermentation’ and ‘The Art of Fermentation’. And was completely inspirational.
But I’m jumping ahead of myself…
Easy. Eat more fermented foods!
Yoghurt is probably the first thing that comes to mind. And if you’re happy with eating your yoghurt then that’s great.
But the wonderful world of fermented food doesn’t stop there.
Fermenting vegetables is a brilliant habit to get into. Especially if you’re trying to keep away from dairy so yoghurt isn’t a good option for you. But even if you’re happy with your yoghurt, adding fermented vegetables to your repertoire is only going to help your gut.
Plus, they’re delicious!
I love the tangy crunch of a home fermented baby carrot.
And the best part is, if you make them yourself then you can control how mild or ‘funky’ they taste. I’ve never been a huge fan of commercial sauerkraut, but regularly make and eat it now that I know how good it can taste when you don’t ferment it too far.
That’s easy too. Just stop eating inflammatory foods which include refined carbohydrates and vegetable oils.
But if you’re reading Stonesoup you’re probably doing that anyway :)
If you’re nervous about the whole fermentation thing, the good news is apparently no one has ever died from eating fermented veg. So it’s safe!
This method is a great place to start because it’s suitable for pretty much all vegetables. My favourites so far are carrots, zucchini (which turn out like pickles), red chillies and celery. I’m also keen to try onions.
Will keep in the fridge for months.
1 clean glass jar
enough vegetables to fill jar
50g (1 3/4 oz) salt
1L (4 cups) water
1. Scrub veg. Trim or chop into bite sized pieces. Peel if you prefer (I don’t bother).
2. Pack the veg into your jar.
3. Combine salt and water and stir until dissolved. Shouldn’t take too long.
4. Pour salted water over the veg to cover them. You probably won’t need all the liquid. If the veg aren’t covered, make up more brine so they are covered.
5. Close jar and leave somewhere you will see it but not in direct sunlight.
6. Every day open jar to release any built up gas (CO2). Start tasting after about 3 days. When you’re happy with the flavour (ie it tastes acidic or tangy enough for you) pop the jar in the fridge and start eating. Or if the veg start to soften, it’s time to refrigerate. Generally 4-5 days is a good amount of time for fermentation but if you’re living somewhere really warm it may not take that long. And really cold climates may take longer.
veg – use your imagination. Cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, chillies, beets, celery, cucumber, watermelon rind, baby eggplant, capsicum (bell peppers), green tomatoes, chard stems. Sandor Katz did say that the only thing he doesn’t like to ferment are veg with lots of chlorophyll. So anything too green like kale isn’t great. And from my notes watermelon rind tastes like cucumber pickles.
flavourings – feel free to add in flavourings such as cumin seeds, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, bay leaves, preserved lemon, lemon zest, thyme, rosemary, sage.
salt – I use a finely ground sea salt but Sandor said it doesn’t matter so much.
lower salt – it is possible to ferment without the salt or use lower quantities, the problem is that salt helps to keep the veg texture nice and crisp so unsalted or low salt veg can end up mushy. Which might be OK for you. Salt also helps flavour.
water – use filtered water if you can. But if using tap water, boil it and allow it to cool to get rid of any chlorine which may hinder the fermentation.
brine – after you’ve eaten the veg the brine can be discarded or used to season soups and stews. Or you can drink it.
as a snack – my favourite way to eat them is to pick them out of the jar and snack. Fergal and I often chomp on fermented carrots while I’m getting his dinner ready.
in salads – add a little crunch and zing. I wouldn’t make a whole salad from them though as it might be too much of a good thing.
with rich / hearty meals – serve a little bowl of fermented veg with your next pork belly or lamb shank extravaganza. I love them with mashed potato too.
with burgers – it’s a classic combo for a reason!
ps. Did you enjoy this? If you’d like me to do a followup post on how to make sauerkraut, leave a message below and if there’s enough interest I’ll share that as well.
Not long after we moved into our little farm house earlier in the year, I was beginning to question my ability to cook without burning something.
It started one night when I was making a bolognese sauce…
Somehow I got side tracked and forgot I had the pot on the highest setting. The next thing I know my Irishman (whose nose is much more sensitive than mine) was asking ‘Is something burning?’
It was. Not good.
Then to make matters worse, the next morning I was warming up some cavolo nero (black Tuscan kale) to have with our eggs and the same thing happened. Another burnt disaster.
For someone who has a degree in Food Science and writes cookbooks for a living, this was starting to get embarrassing.
But as I was scrubbing my poor burnt pots that morning, I realized there could be one good thing to come out of my kitchen disasters. I was getting a lot of experience in how to rescue burnt food.
A great blog post topic!
So here we are…
1. Remove from the heat source.
No explanation needed.
2. Transfer the unburned food to a clean pot / container. ASAP.
The thing I’ve learned is usually the burnt food stays attached to the bottom of the pot so it’s usually easy to separate off the good remaining food.
Just resist the urge to stir and see ‘how bad it is’. You can always add back the bottom layers later if they’re still edible. But the sooner you cut your losses, the more likely you’ll still have something edible at the end.
3. Add water to the burnt pot.
This stops making things worse and helps with cleaning later.
4. Add water to the rescued food, if needed.
Depending on what was burnt and how bad things are, adding back moisture can help. Although in the case of someting like my cavolo nero it isn’t really an option.
5. Taste and season with strong flavours, if needed.
Sometimes the rescued food will taste fine. But if there’s a bit of a lingering burnt flavour, I like to try and camouflage it.
For example with my bolognese sauce I added some more tomato paste and a little smoked paprkia and some butter to ‘smooth’ everything out. It didn’t completely cover the burnt flavours but at least we were able to eat it.
Other good ingredients to reach for are curry pastes (Thai or Indian), curry powder, other spices, chilli in any form. Coconut milk is another option for ‘smoothing’ the rough flavours if butter isn’t your thing.
6. Let it go.
Sometimes these things happen. And the only option is to throw out your disaster. Try and learn from your mistake but there’s no need to beat yourself up about it. I’ve started setting my timer more often and not leaving the kitchen with a pot on full heat which seems to be helping!
For the record, I haven’t burnt this dish yet. It’s just something I made recently that I just loved and wanted to share with you. I used purple kale in the picture but any kale or leafy green will work.
This is my idea of a perfect one pot meal, although if you’re cooking for a particularly hungry carnivore you may need to serve it as a side to a roast chicken or juicy steak.
takes: about 45 minutes
makes: enough for 2-3
1 onion, chopped
6 rashers bacon, chopped
1 bunch kale, sliced
300ml (1 1/4 cups) double cream
2 large handfuls grated cheese
1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F).
2. Heat a little oil in an oven proof pot and add bacon and onion. Cook over a medium heat until the onion is soft, about 10 minutes.
3. Add kale and cook for a few minutes, stirring so it starts to wilt down. Add cream and stir well.
4. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook for 15 minutes with the lid on.
5. Sprinkle over the cheese and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the kale is tender and the cheese golden.
different greens – most greens will work here. Cavolo nero is great or curly kale, English spinach, silverbeet (chard) or even chinese broccoli or broccoli rabe.
dairy-free / vegan – replace cream with coconut milk and sprinkle with pinenuts or almonds instead of the cheese.
different cheese – I used a comb of emmental, gruyere and parmesan but any melting cheese will work including cheddar.
carb lovers / more substantial – toss in some cooked short pasta before adding the cheese.
can’t find double cream? – just use whipping cream or heavy cream instead.
ps. Do you have any other ‘kitchen disasters’ you would like some help with?
Tell us about them in the comments below… could be just the thing to spark another blog post!
I love Winter. The frosty mornings. The crisp clear days. Snuggling up by the fire with a good book and a glass of red.
If I was forced to choose my favourite season it would be a toss up between Winter and Autumn (Fall).
That being said, it’s about this time of year when I get a little nostalgic for long, sultry Summer evenings. And not having to pile on wellies and layers just to go and feed the chooks.
I also get a little nostalgic for basil. Especially in the form of verdant green pesto.
Of course, I can still buy bunches of basil at an exorbitant price all throughout the Winter but it’s just not the same.
The good news is I’ve discovered a Winter-friendly alternative. If you’re a stickler for tradition, it’s probably best if you stop reading now and check back next week.
But if you like to try new things, read on!
It uses mint and almonds instead of basil and pine nuts. And it’s just the thing to liven up Winter soups and stews.
Although if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere at the moment and are sick of eating basil, this could be just the thing for you too!
I can also imagine it sitting proudly on an outdoor table waiting to accompany a piece of fish or chicken from a Summer evening BBQ…
What’s your favourite season and seasonal foods? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
Serve this pesto pretty much any where you’d serve regular pesto. Dollop on soups or salads. Use as a sauce for pan fried fish, chicken breasts or even steak. My personal favourite is to team it with lamb… Either lamb cutlets cooked until still rosy pink or slow roast lamb shoulder literally melting off the bone. It’s also great to liven up some steamed green beans or peas.
Enough for about 1 cup
large bunch mint, leaves picked
1 small clove garlic
3 handfuls almonds
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1. Whizz mint, garlic and almonds in a food processor until finely chopped.
2. Add oil and a little lemon juice and mix. Taste and season with salt, pepper and extra lemon if needed.
summery – replace mint with basil. You can replace the almonds with pine nuts but I’m also a fan of cashews because they’re delicious and much more affordable.
nut-free – replace almonds with half soft breadcrumbs and half finely grated parmesan.
other herbs – flat leaf parsley, carrot tops, coriander (cilantro) are all possibilities. I’m also a fan of a little bit of sage or oregano combined with parsley.
garlic-free – sometimes I can’t be bothered with garlic and it’s still lovely but I do find it needs more salt and lemon to make up for that garlicky sharpness.
no food processor – just finely chop everything and stir together for a more rustic chunky pesto.
Yesterday morning I decided to do something a little differently. I’ve been trying to get into the habit of waking up early. I used to think I wasn’t a ‘morning person’ but when I make the effort, I love having that extra quite time to meditate and get a little work done.
So what did I do differently?
Basically I just moved my phone / alarm out of reach so I had to get out of bed to turn it off.
Of course I was up then, so it wasn’t hard to light the fire, make a pot of white tea and let the day begin.
My job yesterday morning was to read through the entries of people looking to win a free spot in my new online cooking program ‘The Organized Cook‘. It was lucky that I got up early because there were 225 people who had left comments.
After reading through all the ways that you guys are struggling with being organized cooks I felt a bit emotional. But thinking about it another way, I had to smile.
You see, it’s my job to help.
So in a funny way knowing that you need help feels good on some level. I guess it’s nice to feel needed :)
Anyway, there were a few themes that kept coming up so today I wanted to ‘debunk’ the most common myths about being an organized cook.
But before we get to that, I’d better announce the winners!
It was tough trying to decide. A huge THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to share your thoughts.
And the winners are:
Congratulations! You should have an email in your inbox with details on how to claim your prize.
Myth 1. You have to spend hours in the kitchen sacrificing your precious weekend time.
Lack of time is often cited as the biggest obstacle on the path to organization. But here’s the thing, you don’t need to dedicate huge chunks of time to make a difference.
In fact, unless I’m cooking for a dinner party, I rarely spend extra time in the kitchen getting ready for the week ahead.
What I do is use the time I’m already in the kitchen to get extra items prepared.
I’m not a big fan of ‘multi-tasking’ as a rule. But there is a time for it in the kitchen.
I often pop on some veg to roast (1 hour but 2 minutes active time), cook up a pot of quinoa (15 minutes) or make a quick ragu (20 minutes) like the one below for the future while I’m cooking for today.
If you’d like to explore this more, I’m going to be going much deeper in my new online program, The Organized Cook.
Myth 2. If you’re organized there’s no room for flexibility
This ties in with the misconception that being organized means you have to eat loads of the same reheated meals. If you focus on using ‘mise en place‘ or preparing certain ingredients rather than pre-cooking whole meals, there is loads of room for flexibility and creativity.
And even better, cooking this way means you can pull together healthy meals in very little time.
Myth 3. Pre-prepared food is not as healthy as fresh
Just because fresh food is healthy, doesn’t necessarily mean that food cooked in advance is devoid of nutrition.
Whenever we cut or cook food we’re exposing it to oxidation and light in the case of the former and heat in the latter. So any light, oxygen or heat sensitive nutrients will be lost during food prep.
Whether we eat the food straight away or store it and eat in a few days time doesn’t make a significant difference. Most of the sensitive nutrients will have already been lost.
The other thing to consider is if we’re talking pre-cooked home meals vs takeout you know who will win in the health department.
All that being said, I think it’s important to serve something raw and fresh if possible with every meal; both freshly cooked and pre-cooked. For example, add a handful of fresh parsley leaves or some baby spinach to the ragu below or serve it with a green salad.
Well you’re in luck!
Registration is NOW OPEN for ‘The Organized Cook‘.
You have less than 72 hours to join us for The Organized Cook because Module 1 will be released this Saturday.
To make sure you don’t miss out, use the link below:
UPDATE: REGISTRATION IS NOW CLOSED.
Today’s recipe is an example of the types of things we’ll be covering in The Organized Cook. It’s a quick meal that can be made in advance if you prefer. It’s the type of one pot meal you can get going and have simmering away while you do something else in the kitchen.
Enough for 2
4 thick pork sausages
1 can tomatoes (400g / 14oz)
2-3 tablespoons butter
1. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan or skillet on a medium high heat.
2. Remove sausage meat from the casings and crumble into the pan. Discard casings.
3. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring to break up the chunks, until the meat is starting to brown.
4. Add tomatoes and butter and cook for another 10 minutes for the sauce to reduce a little. Taste and season.
vegetarian – replace pork with drained canned chickpeas.
vegan – replace sausages with 1 drained can of lentils or about 250g (9oz) of cooked red or green lentils and swap the butter for olive oil.
different sausages – pork are a firm favourite in our house but feel free to use other sausages such as beef or chicken if you like them.
pescatarian – replace sausages with peeled green prawns (shrimp) simmer until just cooked.
herby – cook a few thyme leaves or rosemary in with the sausages.
budget – replace half of the sausages with cooked or canned white beans.
more substantial – feel free to serve the ragu with your favourite cooked pasta, preferably something short like rigatoni or penne.
gluten-free – use GF sausages or replace with about 400g (14oz) minced (ground) pork or other meat.
Excellent! Takes 15-20 minutes. Will keep in the fridge for a week or so. Or can be frozen for up to 12 months.
paleo / low carb – serve on a bed of baby spinach (pictured above) or grated raw cauliflower (aka cauliflower ‘rice) or grated raw broccoli. Also good on top of a big plate of wilted greens.
carb lovers – serve on top of your favourite cooked pasta. I like it with rigatoni. Hot buttered toast is also good.
slow carb – serve on top of canned or cooked legumes such as lentils or cannellini beans or even chickpeas.
cheesey – A grating of fresh parmesan can be a welcome addition.
herby – in Summer I like to serve with a crowning of fresh basil leaves.
ps. Not sure if the Organized Cook can help YOU?
Here’s what Gerry and Rebecca have said about classes at the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School…
“I LOVE THE SVCS!! I have completely changed my eating habits AND am LOVING IT! What I especially love about your recipes, is the versatility if I do not have something available, there’s always something else I can use instead.”
Gerry, Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School Member.
“I really appreciate how your (classes) have freed the way I cook. From reducing the number of ingredients, to using what I have on hand, and to your many, many other ideas: thank you. I love your approach and imagination. You have inspired me.”
Rebecca, Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School Member.
Here’s the link again:
It may surprise you to learn that we actually eat lots of do ahead meals in our house.
Even though I love cooking. And would be happy to cook every day, I’ve found that when I’m taking photographs for my blog, or a book or a new online cooking class, it’s much easier to batch the work and have a big cooking and photography day.
This means we often end up with a fridge full of pre-cooked meals. Especially when there’s a new class on the horizon.
Over the last 4 years I’ve had a lot of experience in the best way to store and reheat all sorts of meals. Even the ones you wouldn’t normally think of as make ahead dinners.
And before I forget, I wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to all of the 888 people who took the time to complete last week’s survey about my upcoming online class, ‘The Organized Cook’.
When was going through the results and saw ‘do ahead meals’ as the second most requested topic, it sparked some inspiration. So today I thought I’d share with you my ‘golden rules’ for making sure do ahead meals taste their best…
Rule 1. Just make more of what you’re making.
The thought of getting extra meals ready in advance can be off putting. The good news is, you don’t necessarily have to be ‘captain organized’ to get the benefits of having some extra meals prepared in advance.
The easiest and most efficient strategy is to cook extra of whatever you’re already making. Eat some now and store the rest. While there is sometimes a bit of extra work in doubling or tripling a recipe, it’s rarely double or triple the effort. And usually doesn’t take any extra time.
Rule 2. Keep the components separate to store.
This is all about making sure the texture and temperature of each component aren’t compromised.
Keeping the components separate enables you to store, reheat (if needed), and serve each in the best way for each component. This means your slow cooked lamb shanks can be served piping hot with a cool crisp salad on the side for contrast and maximum deliciousness.
It also makes it easier to ‘mix it up’ and add variety so you’re not serving a carbon copy of the original meal each time.
Rule 3. Serve with something fresh.
Whenever I’m serving a pre made meal, I always try to add something fresh just before it goes to the table. This helps to make the whole meal feel fresh and new. It also helps balance things from a nutritional perspective.
Sometimes it will be a green side salad as in the example above, other times it’s some fresh herbs scattered on top. Or even some toasted pine nuts for some extra crunch.
Do you want to win one a FREE spot in my upcoming online program?
To celebrate the launch of ‘The Organized Cook (how to prepare for the busy week ahead)’ next week, I’ve decided to have a little competition and give away 5 FREE spots in the Organized Cook with 12 Months Membership to the whole Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School.
To enter you just need to leave a comment below answering this question…
What do you struggle with when it comes to being an Organized Cook?
UPDATE: The Competition is NOW CLOSED
A huge THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to share your thoughts.
And the winners are:
Congratulations! You should have an email in your inbox with details on how to claim your prize.
I think cauliflower is one of the most underrated vegetables. I love that it packs the same nutritional punch as its cousins broccoli and cabbage, yet its white colour gives it more flexibility than green veg.
And I should mention, if you’ve been looking for a gluten-free tabbouleh recipe that’s also ‘paleo’ then this almond tabbouleh is for you. We’re just using almond meal instead of the cracked wheat. I love the softer texture and creamy slightly nutty flavour you get from the almond meal.
Enough for 4-6
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup (60g / 2oz) almond meal
hummus, to serve
1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Trim outer leaves from cauli and place the head in an oven proof pot that holds the cauli snugly.
2. Drizzle generously with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Bake uncovered for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until cauliflower is well browned and tender enough to cut with a butter knife.
3. Meanwhile, for the salad, combine lemon juice with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a bowl. Season. Toss in the parsley and almond meal.
4. Slice the cauli into wedges and serve with hummus, tabbouleh and more extra virgin olive oil drizzled over. Plus lots of salt and pepper!
do-ahead – roast cauli then cool and refrigerate. To reheat just pop back in the oven for 15 minutes or until warm. The tabbouleh is one of those rare salads that can be made ahead and will keep in the fridge for a few days, just give it a good toss before serving.
carnivore – Serve as a side to roast chicken or brown some minced (ground) beef and scatter it over the hummus before serving.
nut-free – replace almond meal with cooked quinoa, cooked couscous or bulghur wheat that has been soaked in water until soft and then drained.
spiced cauliflower – combine a tablespoon each of cumin seeds, coriander seeds and dried chilli flakes with a few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Drizzle over the cauli before roasting. If you have some baharat (Lebanese 7 spice blend) it works really well too. Or try some finely chopped red chilli.
make your own hummus – whizz 2 cans chickpeas with 6 tablespoons each of the canning liquid, lemon juice, tahini and 2 cloves garlic. When you have a creamy paste season and add in a little extra virgin olive oil.
different herbs – feel free to mix up the herbs in your tabbouleh. Mint, coriander (cilantro) and basil are all worthy additions.
more substantial / carb lovers – serve with warm pita bread or tortillas.
Since becoming a Mum just over a year ago, there have been many changes in my life.
Easily the biggest one, from a food perspective, is that I just don’t have as much time to spend in the kitchen as I used to…
So meanwhile I’ve been relying on the quicker recipes in my repertoire like the ones in 5 Ingredients 10 Minutes.
The other habit I’ve really found life saving is a little technique or ‘secret’ I like to call ‘mise en place‘.
Mise en place is a French term that roughly translates as ‘put in place’. It’s used to describe the practice of chefs preparing food up to a point where it is ready to be used in a dish during food service.
It may be as simple as washing and picking herbs into individual leaves or chopping vegetables. Or more complicated like caramelising onions, cooking dried beans or slow cooking meats.
The main benefit in a restaurant is that it makes it much quicker and easier to get food on the table after the customer has ordered.
The secondary benefit is that the preparation can help to extend the shelf life of fresh produce.
1. Save you time during the week.
By taking the time on weekends to do a little ‘mise en place’ preparation, we can make it much quicker and easier to get dinner on the table when we come home from work late and everyone is hungry.
2. Prolong the shelf life of your produce
Happily, there’s another side benefit… A little bit of preparation can extend the shelf life of fresh produce. This is usually because the preparation involves some sort of heat which reduces any microbes present.
Just think of a slow cooked meat dish which will last for a week or longer in the fridge, compared to a piece of fresh meat that may only keep for a few days. Same goes for wilted kale vs a bunch of fresh kale.
I’m in the process of revamping my online cooking program that focuses on ‘Mise en Place’ or building block recipes. It’s going to be released in a few weeks and before then I’d love to get your input to make sure the class is as useful as possible.
I’ve created a quick 2-question survey below, I’d really love to get your thoughts…
Most weeks I either cook up a big pot of lovely lentils or quinoa to use during the week for breakfasts, lunches or dinners. I’ve also more recently been getting into grating raw veg like broccoli or cauliflower in the food processor and keeping it in the fridge for a quick veg hit to serve with my poached eggs in the morning or in a salad like this.
If you’re not a fan of raw broccoli, see the ‘more wintery’ variations below.
Enough for 2
1 head broccoli
400g (14oz) cooked quinoa
6 tablespoons pesto
squeeze lemon juice
8 tablespoons ricotta
1. Chop broccoli into small bite sized pieces or grate it using a box grater or your food processor.
2. Toss prepared broccoli in a bowl with the quinoa and pesto. Add lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Taste and add more salt / pepper / lemon, if needed.
4. Serve with ricotta on top.
not-so-organised – cook 200g (7oz) quinoa from scratch, just boil in a big pot of water like pasta for 10 minutes. Then drain and you’re good to go.
warm salad / more wintery – follow the ‘not-so-organised’ instructions above and add broccoli to the cooking water after 5 minutes. Drain and toss in the pesto and lemon and serve warm with cold ricotta on top.
make your own pesto – whizz one bunch basil leaves with 1 clove garlic, a handful pinenuts and large handful grated parmesan. Add enough extra virgin olive oil to make a chunky paste and season well with s&p.
no quinoa? – replace with any cooked grain or legume. Barley or brown rice would be my first choices.
dairy-free / vegan – replace ricotta with hummus or a drizzle of tahini and use a dairy-free pesto like this Sicilian Nut Pesto.