food writing

silverbeet, ricotta and feta cannelloni

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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.

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!

tomato and lentil lasagna soup

It’s Frida approved.

It’s Frida approved.

I shared the above photo on Instagram, making the assumption that everyone was probably sick of my soup photos - but it’s all I’ve been eating lately and I’m all about keeping it real on here, as you know - but to my great surprise, there have been many calls for the recipe. I try never to let my public down, so here it is!

Imagine the best bits of minestrone and lasagna but in a soup, with some added spiciness and piquancy from ginger, cumin, coriander, parsley and lemon juice. It’s downright addictive and delicious! I made this up to use up what was in my fridge but I think I’m going to have to buy all the ingredients again to make this soup all winter long.

And please note, when I say “finely chopped”, I mean chopped as finely as you like/can be bothered! If you don’t mind a chunk of ginger or garlic in your soup (and I don’t), then don’t feel obliged to slave over the chopping board for longer than you want to!

Tomato and lentil lasagna soup

Makes at least 6 decent servings

Olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 bunch fresh parsley (the bunches you can get in the supermarket), including the stalks, finely chopped
3 large sticks celery, including the leaves and ribby bottom bits (without dirt), finely chopped
3 large stalks silverbeet (chard) or kale, including the stalks, finely chopped
Any other vegetables you want to use up (carrot, zuchinni, capsicum etc), finely chopped
390g lentils - I used a combination of 150g dried red lentils and 1 x 400g can (including liquid) cooked brown lentils which was a great combination, as the cooked brown held their shape nicely
3-4 tablespoons tomato paste (I like it rich and tomatoey)
2-3 tablespoons spicy tomato chutney (optional, I just had this sitting in the fridge)
1 x 420g can whole plum tomatoes
1 heel of manchego/parmesan/vegetarian hard cheese (optional, but it adds a lovely flavour - freeze your cheese heels when you get to the hard end of your piece of cheese so you can use them in things like this!)
2 litres (approximately) stock - I made my stock with Massel Beef Style stock powder, which is vegan, and adds a lovely richness
4-5 fresh lasagna sheets (approx 1/3 of a 375g pack), torn into rough pieces
Juice of 1 lemon
Baby spinach, to stir in at the end
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Drizzle some olive oil in a large, heavy-based stock pot and place over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger, and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften. Add the spices, parsley and vegetables, and stir to coat. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes until starting to soften and fragrant. Add a bit of water if it’s starting to stick to the bottom.

Add the lentils and stir to get everything mixed together nicely. Add the tomato paste, chutney (if using), can of tomatoes, stock and cheese heel. Stir to combine, add more stock if you think it needs it, and then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for approximately 20 minutes or until the lentils are soft.

Tear the fresh lasagna sheets into pieces - the more rustic the better! - and place in the simmering soup. You may need to add a little bit more stock. Make sure the pieces of pasta are submerged sufficiently. Cook for a further 4 minutes until the pasta is soft.

Finally, add the lemon juice, spinach leaves, salt and pepper to taste (you probably won’t need much salt if you’ve used the cheese heel) and stir well to combine and wilt the spinach. Remove the cheese heel (or cut it up and put it back in the soup - I like that, but not everyone does!), ladle into deep bowls and serve.

This is like a warm hug in a bowl! The fresh lasagna sheets make it particularly phenomenal. If you want a stick-to-your-ribs winter soup that will warm you from the inside out and make your tastebuds zing, this is the one. I hope you enjoy it.

moroccan chickpea and lentil soup

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This soup was a great favourite of mine in my Weight Watchers days - I made it again recently and to my delight, it is still excellent. And perfect for those nights where the air is freezing, you can smell chimney smoke and rotting leaves, and hear next-door’s dogs howling at the moon.


Moroccan Chickpea and Lentil Soup

2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons turmeric
4 teaspoons Masterfoods Moroccan Seasoning (or a spicier Moroccan souk seasoning, my favourite is this one from Gerwurzhaus)
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 cups red lentils, rinsed
2 x 420g cans chickpeas, drained
2 large or 3 medium carrots, diced
1 large or 2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 large red capsicum, chopped
1 sweet potato (or large white potato), chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
Vegetable stock (or water), to cover
Fresh coriander to serve, if desired

Coat a stockpot with cooking spray. Saute onion, garlic and ginger until soft. Add a bit of stock if it starts to stick.

Add carrots, capsicum, sweet potato and zucchini (a note on the vegetables: this combination is not set in stone. It works brilliantly with any vegetables so use up whatever you’ve got). Mix well, then add the red lentils and chickpeas. Add the spices. Stir well to coat everything evenly.

Cook for about a minute, until everything is fragrant and combined thoroughly. Add enough stock to cover. Stir well. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer.

Come back to check on the soup every 15 minutes or so. Lentils will absorb the liquid as they cook, so you may need to add more stock or water during the cooking time, depending how thick you want the soup.

After 30 minutes, check the lentils to see if they are tender. If they are, the soup is ready. If not, cook for a further 10 minutes before checking again.

A note on the spices: some Moroccan seasonings can be quite mild so taste the soup as you go and add more if you want. I prefer a kick!

Either serve the soup as it is, or puree roughly with a hand-held blender to break up the bigger chunks of carrot and capsicum.

Serve immediately, or freeze in containers. Makes enough for 8 serves.

This is one of the most comforting things in the world to eat when it’s cold outside.