food

silverbeet, ricotta and feta cannelloni

silverbeet-ricotta-feta-cannelloni-philippa-moore

This is vegetarian winter comfort food at its finest. Silverbeet (chard in the UK) is such a nutritious winter vegetable and can be bought readily and cheaply at this time of the year. It goes in everything - pasta sauces, stir-fries, soups, stews, pies, frittatas. This is eating seasonally at its best!

And if fussy eaters in your family sometimes eschew the silverbeet stalks, I promise they’ll barely notice them in this delicious dish. You can use a bechamel sauce to top the pasta rolls instead of passata if you prefer, but I love the acidity and brightness of a tomato-based sauce with this dish. It contrasts so nicely with the creaminess of the cheese and the filling.

This dish has become my standby for winter entertaining, and everyone I’ve served it to has exclaimed with pleasure on taking their first bite. I’m sure you’ll be the same!

It partners well with a rocket salad, steamed green beans, broccoli or any green vegetable on the side - just keep it simple. This dish is the soprano in the mid-week dinner opera.

Silverbeet, ricotta and feta cannelloni

Serves 4-6 depending on appetite

1 onion, finely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 bunches silverbeet (or you can use cavolo nero, kale, spring greens or chard, if you’re in the UK), washed and chopped reasonably finely (stalks and leaves)
Stock or wine, just in case it sticks
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs or oregano OR a handful of fresh sage and rosemary, finely chopped
1 x 375g tub ricotta
100g (roughly 1/2 a packet) feta
Any other cheese you might have lying around you want to use up (blue cheese is especially good)
1 x 150g tub basil pesto (Coles does a good one)
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
A bit of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
1 x 375g pack fresh lasagna sheets (roughly 12 sheets)
1 x 690g jar tomato passata
1 x 220g tub cherry bocconcini (baby mozzarella balls)
A sprinkling of fresh parmesan (optional)
A little chopped fresh rosemary and oregano to sprinkle over the top
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 C. My oven needs to be on 220 to get it to this temperature - you want a hot oven basically!

Heat some olive oil in a large, non-stick pan (which has a lid) over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and garlic, and cook for a few minutes until starting to soften. Add the chopped silverbeet and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for a minute or so until it starts cooking. You can then reduce the heat slightly, put the lid on and leave for a few minutes for the stalks to cook and soften. Add some stock, water or wine to the pan if it starts to stick.

Once the silverbeet is cooked, turn off the heat and set the pan aside to cool slightly while you assemble the rest of the filling ingredients.

Add the herbs and ricotta, crumble in the feta, and grate or crumble in any other cheese you wish to use (I find making this is wonderful around Christmas too, when you’ve inevitably got lots of random bits of cheese in the house). The add the tub of pesto, lemon zest, nutmeg, chilli, any other herbs you might like or have lying around (parsley, thyme and basil are all good) and a good cracking of fresh black pepper and a smidge of salt (you won’t need much because of the feta). Mix everything together well.

Assemble a large baking dish (what you’d normally cook a lasagna in), buttering/oiling it if need be. Take each fresh lasagna sheet and place roughly two tablespoons (1/12th) of filling on top, spreading it slightly but keeping it mostly in the middle, then roll up loosely to enclose the filling. Place the rolled cannelloni, seam-side down, in the dish, taking care not to pack them in too tightly. Continue until all the lasagna sheets and filling are used.

Pour the jar of passata over the top, spreading the sauce out evenly. Place the cherry bocconcini evenly on top, to ensure equal cheesiness in each portion! You may not need all of them. Finally, sprinkle the top with a little fresh parmesan (if using) and the chopped fresh herbs.

Place in the hot oven and bake for around 35 minutes (if your oven is temperamental like mine, check after 25 minutes) until the dish is bubbling and the top is golden brown and looking irresistible.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before dishing out and enjoying, preferably with a glass of excellent red wine alongside. If a Barbaresco is easily available where you are, I highly recommend that. Otherwise, an Australian pinot noir or cab sav is delightful.

peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips and sea salt

peanut-butter-choc-chip-sea-salt-cookies-philippa-moore

I don’t know what it is about the taste of peanut butter, but it has an almost Proustian effect on me.

As a child, I rejected every other sandwich filling for my school lunchbox. In fact, I rejected sandwiches most of the time - they were dull in taste and vomit-inducing in texture, the opposite of everything I wanted and believed food to be. So for most of primary school, my usual lunch was a bag of carrot sticks and peanut butter on crackers. Peanut butter became a familiar, quotidian taste and I found it far from exciting. Once I was old enough to make my own lunch for school, peanut butter was off the menu. I’d had enough to last a lifetime, or so I thought.

But as an adult, I’ve found tasting peanut butter again quite ambrosial. I love it on apple slices, on toast, in stir-fries, in smoothies or even by the spoonful.

Peanut butter also makes a divine and, with the addition of a sprinkle of sea salt, very adult biscuit. But the method is so simple a child could make them (with a little supervision). I find making biscuits such a faff that I was determined to make these in one bowl/pan. Success.

Be warned, these are incredibly addictive.

Peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips and sea salt

150g smooth peanut butter (I like Bega Just Nuts or Pic)
125g unsalted butter
65g rice malt syrup
125g brown sugar
1 egg
Splash of vanilla extract
100g dessicated coconut
270g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
120g dark chocolate chips
Sea salt flakes, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 180 C (fan-forced). Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Place the peanut butter, butter and rice malt syrup in a large saucepan (you will use this to make the whole mixture, so make sure it’s a big saucepan) over low heat. Stir occasionally until just melted. Turn off heat.

Add the brown sugar, egg and vanilla, and beat well until combined.

Add the coconut, flour and bicarb soda and stir to combine.

FInally, add the chocolate chips and stir until evenly distributed through the mixture.

Using a teaspoon and your hands, roll into balls of a size to your liking (just be consistent!) and place evenly spaced on the trays. Once all the mixture is used, use a fork to flatten the dough balls slightly.

Sprinkle the tops with a little sea salt (only a little - we’re not going for a hundreds and thousands look! Just a flake will do. Be restrained and judicious here). You could also put a few more choc chips on top (as I did).

Bake in the oven for roughly 8 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown. For goodness sake set a timer, otherwise you’ll pull a groin muscle running to the oven to rescue them.

Allow to cool slightly on the trays, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. You can eat them warm(ish) but I think they’re at their best cool. They are “crisp yet fluffy”, as Tom described them.

Perfect with a cup of tea or (I imagine) crumbled over some vanilla ice cream.

when july was summer

Gin and tonics in our backyard last July.

Gin and tonics in our backyard last July.

Last July, it was summer, not winter.

Our one-way tickets to Australia were booked.

London wasn’t home any more. It’s a hard feeling to describe, when life is carrying on as much as it always has, but now there is no point buying plants for the garden, or that piece of furniture, for you know now there is an end date, and soon you will leave this corner of the earth. The house you live in and love will soon be someone else’s. You will disappear. It will be as if you had never been there at all.

Here is something I wrote at the time. Just some little observations. Things I wanted to remember.

Tom and I walking up to the street fair, July 2018

Tom and I walking up to the street fair, July 2018

8 July 2018

The third weekend in a row of high temperatures, the sun beating down, unfiltered by cloud. My shoulders tanned brown. Tom and I walk up to the village Green, where there’s a street fair. They’ve closed the road by the train station so the usually car-choked streets are filled with donkey rides, Enfield for Europe protestors, gin and tonic stands, a Mini convertible we know no one will win. The smells are intoxicating - Caribbean food, curries, kebabs, Vietnamese tofu grilled on hot coals, halloumi fries piled with pomegranate seeds.

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England are playing Sweden in the World Cup in a few hours so giant television screens are set up on the green, the air full of expectation. By the time we walk home with food for lunch, the streets will have emptied significantly. A few hours later, roars, screams and cheers will signal that England have triumphed. 

I linger at the plant stall, my favourite, full of varieties of sage and mint - apple, peppermint, pineapple. Heartsease, its purple flowers shaped like little hearts. House leeks, to ward off bad spirits. Thai basil, which I’m longing to cook with having been watching Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey. All the plants I would buy if we weren’t leaving. But it’s going to pain me to part with the ones I already have. I keep my coins in my purse and move on. 

plant-stall-london-philippa-moore

For weeks now we have lived on salads, veggie burgers, dips and raw vegetables, grains that can be cooked with water from the kettle. I can’t remember the last time I made pasta, soup or a curry. We have a little rain for the first time in nearly four weeks and my thirsty plants gulp it down.

The hard cantaloupe melon we bought yesterday, barely giving off a fragrance, is already ripe and begins to perfume the house. It is beginning to dip into a smell that is less perfume and more compost heap. I suspect we must eat it today.

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The smell of over-ripe melon will always make think of that last summer in London.

PS: The reason for the photos with captions on them is because a few days later, on 13 July - bizarrely, coinciding with Trump’s visit to London - my phone died and I hadn’t backed up any photos since May. The only way I could access these pics was through Instagram stories!




tofu, broccoli, cashew and macadamia stir-fry

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In an effort to demonstrate my diet is much more than soup and baked goods - though my most recent recipe posts on here would suggest otherwise - I’m sharing this amazing stir-fry that has found its way into my repertoire of late.

While London of course did have Chinatown, one thing I love about being back in Australia is the array of wonderful Asian ingredients you can get just in the local supermarket. Shao xing, for example - or Chinese cooking wine - I was never without it when I lived in Melbourne, and yet it proved elusive while I lived in London (and when I did find it, it was a lot of money!). I got a bottle for something ridiculous like $3 on my last trip to Woolworths. Not to mention the noodles! The sauces! The varieties of tofu and tempeh! Admittedly, Australia has a way to go when it comes to the availability of other vegetarian foods (I so miss Alpro single cream) but when it comes to the proliferation of delicious Asian ingredients, I can’t complain!

I had also forgotten the delight of macadamia nuts. I buy a mix from Woolworths of unsalted cashews and macadamias, which is what I use in this stir-fry. You can use any nuts you like. Always good to have nuts and tofu in a vegetarian stir-fry for extra protein!

My favourite tofu so far has to be Coles own brand Hard Tofu. It’s made in Australia, so bloody cheap and easy to cook with! It’s my tofu of choice for this stir-fry but you can of course use your favourite.

Or, if you’re my parents, use chicken. Amused face.

Tofu, broccoli, cashew and macadamia stir-fry

Makes 3 large serves

4 dried noodle nests
Rice bran oil, for frying
1 x 300g pack hard tofu, cut into cubes
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large red chilli, finely chopped
1 large head broccoli, chopped, including the stalk
3 stalks silverbeet, chopped
1/2 cup cashew and macadamia nuts (or however much you want)
Splash of shao xing (Chinese cooking wine), or cooking sherry, or vegetable stock
Vegetarian oyster sauce (made with mushrooms - although apparently oysters are vegan, that’s a post for another day)
Sesame seeds, to serve (optional)

Boil the kettle. Put your dried noodle nests in a heatproof bowl and when the kettle is ready, cover the noodle nests with boiling water. Set aside while you do the rest.

Place a generous splash of rice bran oil in a large wok or frying pan over high heat. Add the tofu. Cook the tofu for a few minutes, stirring/turning occasionally until it is light brown on both sides. If you want it crispier, cook it until it is golden brown all over.

Then add the onion, garlic, chilli and broccoli/silverbeet stalks (reserve the florets and leaves until last). Cook, stirring constantly, for a few minutes until soft. Add a splash of shao xing to get all the yummy flavours talking to each other. Add the nuts, continuing to stir. You can put a lid on at this point to get the stalks of the vegetables cooked a bit more, I find it speeds things up. Otherwise keep stirring and cooking until the stalks are tender.

Add the broccoli florets, silverbeet leaves, another splash of shao xing (or soy sauce, or vegetable stock if you’d prefer) and the oyster suace (as much as you like). Stir everything to combine. Keep stirring as the broccoli cooks, or alternatively you can put a lid on the pan and leave it to cook on its own (purists will tell me technically this then makes this dish not a stir-fry, but hey!).

At this point, drain the noodles and then add to the pan.

Toss it all together until thoroughly combined. Add some more oyster sauce if you like (or any other asian sauce you might have lying around that you want to use - I have a chilli soybean one that’s very good). Toss again until everything is mixed together and piping hot.

Spoon into giant noodle bowls, sprinkle with sesame seeds, maybe add a bit more chilli if you like it hot (like I do) and then tuck in. I do enjoy the frisson of greedy pleasure that a delicious noodle dish inspires - you just want to keep shovelling it in! (or is that just me?)

I don’t know what it is but the combination of spongy tofu, crunchy nuts, wholesome broccoli, slippery noodles and spicy chilli is an absolute winner. Serves 2 for dinner and leftovers for one lucky person the next day. Be prepared to fight over who gets it!

pumpkin, feta and silverbeet muffins

pumpkin-feta-silverbeet-muffins-philippa-moore

I’m a huge fan of the savoury muffin and while I have provided a receipt for one previously, I made them in a different way to use up some roast pumpkin and feta I had lying around and OH MY WORD they were good.

I always roast pumpkin with the skin on - with this batch of muffins, it was butternut but with other pumpkins such as Kent, with thicker grey skin, you might want to double check that it’s soft and not too tough.

You can use any combination of roast veg, cheese and herbs you have lying around. You can also sub a generous handful of flat-leaf parsley or spinach for the silverbeet leaves.

Be warned, these don’t last long. You will regret only making one batch.

Pumpkin, feta and silverbeet muffins

Makes 6 large or 12 small muffins

350g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A handful of fresh or dried sage leaves, chopped
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary, needles chopped
275ml almond milk
135ml Greek yoghurt
115ml olive oil (I used some of the chilli oil from a jar of yoghurt cheese I bought, it worked beautifully)
2 eggs
200g (roughly) chunks of roast pumpkin
150g feta (I used a combination of feta and soft goats cheese)
2-3 large leaves silverbeet, shredded (not the stalks, just the leaves)
Grated parmesan, to sprinkle on top
Hemp seeds, to sprinkle on top

Preheat the oven to 200 C (180 C fan-forced). Line a muffin tray with cases.

Combine the flour, bicarb soda, salt, pepper, sage and rosemary in a large mixing bowl.

Combine the wet ingredients in a jug.

Add the roast pumpkin chunks and the feta to the flour, and make a well in the centre. Pour the wet ingredients into the centre, sprinkle the silverbeet leaves over the top. Stir gently to just combine - over-mixing will give you tough muffins, which no-one wants! A few lumps of flour are fine, don’t worry.

Spoon the mixture into your muffin cases, ensuring each one has a good few chunks of pumpkin in. Sprinkle the tops with grated parmesan and hemp seeds - “drugs?!” asked my horrified mother when I told her what was on top of the muffin she was enjoying! - this is optional of course, but I find it adds greatly to the flavour. Hemp is full of protein too.

Bake in the oven until golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean - in my temperamental gas oven, I found the large muffins needed about 35 minutes. If you’re making 12 smaller ones, you might only need 18-20 minutes. Check after 20 minutes and go from there!

Allow to cool briefly in the tin then turn out on to a wire rack.

You can eat these warm or cold. They are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee or a bowl of soup.