food writing

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.

super moist apple cake

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There is nothing like the smell of a cake baking in the oven to make you feel cosy, snug and homely. Over Easter I had some apples from my aunt’s tree to use up and this recipe made great use of them. I am not a fan of cake recipes that are too complicated or require too many bowls - one-bowl cake recipes are definitely more my thing. I get a bit grumpy having to mix dry and wet ingredients separately, and I very rarely make anything that requires you to separate and whisk egg yolks and whites separately either. Gah! Too much work. Just give me cake.

Hope you enjoy this one!

Super moist apple cake

Based on this recipe

150g butter, melted
420g stewed apple
1/2 cup brown sugar (or a different kind of sugar or sweetener, depending on your tastes/preferences)
2 eggs
2 cups self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom or nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 160 C (fan-forced). Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.

Nice and easy - place all ingredients in a bowl and mix together until combined and no lumps of flour or brown sugar remain, taking care not to over-mix. Place in the oven for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the tin before slicing and serving. It keeps well and can also be frozen in individual slices.

I like to serve it with a dollop of Greek yoghurt and, if they’re in season, slices of fresh fig.

nan's anzac biscuits

Last year’s batch, made in London, to Nan’s original recipe!

Last year’s batch, made in London, to Nan’s original recipe!

This is the only recipe I have ever used for Anzac biscuits. They are just the way I like them and remember them from childhood - slightly soft and chewy!  Tom loves them too because they taste like his childhood favourite, flapjack!

Nan's ANZAC biscuits

Makes about 40 (I usually double the recipe!)

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup self raising flour
1/2 cup plain flour
3/4 cup coconut [if you don't have this use an extra 3/4 cup oats]
3/4 cup sugar (brown, raw or white)
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
2 tablespoons boiling water
125g butter, melted
2 tablespoons golden syrup (I often use rice malt if that’s all I have)

Mix all dry ingredients. Dissolve bicarb soda in boiling water and add to melted butter and golden syrup. Add to dry ingredients and mix well. Place in teaspoonfuls on a greased tray.  I roll them into balls in my hands first, which really does remind me of making these as a kid! 

Bake in a moderately slow oven (160 C, 325 F) for 15 minutes.  If you want harder biscuits cook for a few minutes longer.  Let them cool and then store in an airtight container.

They last a long time - they were originally designed to be sent to troops overseas so they had to travel well and not go off for months and months - but in this house they last as long as my and Tom's willpower allows!

Happy ANZAC Day - lest we forget.

best-ever chocolate chip cookies

I do understand why people eat raw cookie dough - this stuff is the bomb!

I do understand why people eat raw cookie dough - this stuff is the bomb!

I recently rediscovered these cookies. I hadn’t made them for years - I guessed around 2010 and, thanks to magic of blog archives, it turned out I was right! But the other week, I noticed a few half-empty bags of chocolate chips in my parents’ pantry and my mind travelled back to these cookies, which I first discovered via a now-offline blog in 2005 and which were always my contribution to staff morning teas when I lived and worked in Melbourne. I only had to make and bring them in once to have people clamouring for more. They really are that good.

And you might wonder at the addition of rolled oats - it might seem like the equivalent of having a salad at McDonalds but trust me, they are a non-negotiable part of these cookies. Don’t leave them out!

Everyone loves these cookies. Try them and you’ll see!

Best-ever chocolate chip cookies

2 and 1/4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (note: I love salt in sweet things. I up this to 2-3 teaspoons, but that's just me. And I use Maldon sea salt)
1 cup butter (2 sticks/220g)
3/4 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cups chocolate chips (I used a mixture of white and milk for this particular batch as that’s what we had but prefer dark)
1 cup rolled oats

Preheat the oven to 190 C (350 F). Line several baking trays with baking paper.

Put the butter, vanilla and sugars in a bowl and beat until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until creamy and fluffy.

Add 1 cup of the flour and fold in. Then add the rest of the flour, the baking soda and salt. It will look very thick and you'll think you need to add water or something, but don't! It will all be fine! Keep stirring!

Once all the flour is mixed in, add the oats and choc chips, again a bit at a time. Stir through thoroughly.

Use two teaspoons to spoon the mixture into small dollops on to the baking trays. You'll probably be able to get 12 on a normal baking sheet. Make sure you leave lots of room in between them, as they spread out when baking.

When your trays are all loaded, put them in the oven and bake for 10-11 minutes or until they look golden on top.

Remove from the oven and cool slightly before removing from trays. Then spoon remaining mixture back on to the trays as before, put back in the oven, etc. until all the mixture is gone.

It takes me about 7 trays to use all the mixture.

Depending on the size of your dollops, you can get up to 80 cookies from this - I usually average around 65.

Allow the cookies to cool. You’ll need a will of iron to resist them while they’re warm, but it’s worth it - they’re a bit too soft when warm. When cool and firm, you will have cookie heaven.

Enjoy!

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roast pumpkin and cauliflower curry

I also added tofu and silverbeet from my dad’s garden to this particular version of the curry - which I’d highly recommend!

I also added tofu and silverbeet from my dad’s garden to this particular version of the curry - which I’d highly recommend!

Tasmania had a rather hot summer this year. Compared, at least, to what the summers were like when I last lived here 14 years ago! In fact, it’s now been revealed Australia experienced one of its hottest Januarys on record. Talk about a welcome home!

So you might be surprised to hear that curry remained on dinner rotation throughout the summer season for Tom and I. We eat vegan half the time and a curry, or some variation of it. is a deeply satisfying vegan meal.

I have also become addicted to pumpkin since moving home. In the UK, you could only really get butternut squash in the supermarkets - none of the beautiful Queensland Blues or grey green-skinned Kents that I so loved. Of course the open-air farmers markets had more variety than my local Sainsbury’s but most of the time I couldn’t be bothered schlepping to Portobello Road or Marylebone early on a weekend morning. My elbows needed a rest from the working week commute! So it has been heaven to enjoy pumpkin again more regularly. It’s very cheap here too, and I find a decent piece from the Hill Street Grocer stretches to at least two meals, if not more.

I prefer roasting pumpkin because you can keep the skin on - saves you a horrendous job! - and once roasted it is edible. It goes so beautifully crisp. And it’s so delicious. I have no idea why people would cook pumpkin any other way!

Back to the curry - a great way to make curry in warmer weather is to barbecue or roast vegetables that you’d normally cook in the sauce, and then add them to the sauce (or pour over) just before serving. Thanks to air con I could have the oven on inside and not roast myself, but if you want to avoid having the stove on more than necessary, outdoor grilling of the veg is the way to go.

It’s a pretty basic sauce that I’ve done here, naturally you can use whatever combination of spices you like. I quite like the occasional return to curries that remind me of health-food shops when I was growing up - the milder, garam-masala heavy curries I remember from the late 1990s, trawling through my mother’s cookery books and turning my hand to a few dishes, some of which were complete disasters but many of which my family liked. This was one of them.

Roast pumpkin and cauliflower curry

Makes four good servings, can be stretched to more if served with rice

1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets (including the leaves)
750g (roughly) piece of pumpkin (I mostly use Kent), skin on, chopped into medium chunks
2 teaspoons garam masala
Cooking spray or olive oil
2 teaspoons coconut oil
1 medium brown or red onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 inch sized piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 small red chilli, finely chopped (take out seeds if you want it less hot)
2 teaspoons garam masala
1-2 teaspoons Keen’s Curry Powder
1 x 420g tin chickpeas
1 x 400ml tin coconut cream or milk (I prefer cream as it makes a thicker, more luscious sauce but either is fine)
Handful of spinach leaves (or any greens you like)
Sea salt and lemon juice to taste

* You can use dried chilli flakes if you don’t have fresh chilli. Or both if you want a chilli fest! My family do not have the same enjoyment of heat as I do so I err on the side of caution. On that note, always try a piece of fresh chilli before you add it to your dish. The heat varies! You may end up only needing half of the chilli. Remember, you can always add more - but you can’t take it away!

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Oil or spray a roasting tin. Place your cauliflower and pumpkin pieces in a plastic bag (or a bowl, and just stir to coat) and add the garam masala. Tie up the bag and toss around to coat the pieces in the spice. Empty the bag into the roasting tin, distributing the pieces evenly (you might need two trays). Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked and golden brown.

While the pumpkin and cauliflower are roasting, make your sauce. Heat the coconut oil in a large saute pan (alternatively you could use a Le Creuset cast iron casserole dish). Once melted, add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli, cook for a few minutes and then add the spices. Stir to coat everything well and cook until it’s nicely fragrant and toasted, but not browning or sticking. If you find it’s sticking, add a splash of water.

Then add the chickpeas and coconut cream, and stir everything to combine well. If you want more liquid, you can add a cup of vegetable stock (you can get a wonderful vegan “Chicken Style” stock in supermarkets here which I like to use) at this stage. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes or until your roast vegetables are ready. At this stage, make some rice if you like.

Once the pumpkin and cauliflower are done, this is a nice swift operation. Allow the roast vegetables to cool slightly and then add to the simmering curry sauce, along with the spinach leaves. Stir through gently to coat everything in the sauce and allow to heat through. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and lemon juice (I find a curry normally needs both) to your taste.

Serve immediately! I’ve had it with rice, with bread and all alone. Any way you enjoy it, this is a dreamy, satisfying and nourishing meal.