soul food

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.

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.

spinach, risoni and lemon soup

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This is one of my most favourite soups of all time. And if you’ve been reading my ramblings for a while, you’ll know how much I love soup and therefore that is not a statement I make lightly!

This soup came into my life like so many good things have - in Melbourne, through a friend. The original recipe had chicken in it and when I used to eat meat, I made the original recipe and it was truly ambrosial. Then when I went vegetarian 12 years ago, I used Quorn in place of the chicken. These days, I am mostly in favour of eating natural, unprocessed stuff as often as possible (I make an exception for Smith’s Salt and Vinegar chips but I digress) so I have ditched the chicken substitute all together for a can of cheap, nutritious beans.

And therefore, the 2019 version of this soup is quite frankly the best ever.

Try and grind cumin seeds fresh if you can - I must confess I only did this when I found myself in a kitchen that only had seeds, not ready-ground cumin! It is such an essential part of the soup and when freshly ground, there is an added magical earthy deliciousness to it. But don’t worry if you can’t or don’t want to, it will be just as tasty! You can also add the liquid from the beans in to the soup, I often do. I find it helps the soup to thicken. But by all means drain them first if you prefer.

This soup makes an elegant and delicious meal for friends and an equally nourishing meal for just yourself. Soup is the ultimate act of self care. Well, in my world it is.

Spinach, risoni and lemon soup

Makes heaps

1 tablespoon olive oil (or you could use cooking spray)
1 leek, thinly sliced or 1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
A splash of dry white wine (optional)
1.5-2 litres vegetable (or “chicken style”) stock
250g risoni (orzo in the UK) or any other short pasta
1 x 400g can cannellini or butter beans
Zest and juice of 1 large or 2 small lemons
250g spinach leaves, washed (and chopped if they are large)
Chopped fresh dill, as much as you like


Heat the oil in a large pan on low heat.  Add the leek/onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes or until soft.  Add the cumin, saute for 1 minute. Add the wine, then the lemon zest, risoni, beans and stock.

Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for about 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked. Add the lemon juice, spinach leaves and dill.  Simmer for a few minutes until the spinach is wilted.  Season with salt and pepper (and more lemon juice if you like) and then serve.

I love dill so I am very liberal with the amount I use.  I also sometimes put some stalks in with the broth to cook the pasta in.  If you don't like dill you can use parsley.  You can also add other green vegetables you might need to use up, like celery, zucchini (courgette) or green beans. If you have a heel of stale sourdough or other good bread lying around, you can also put the piece of bread in your bowl first, then ladle the hot soup over the top and leave for a few minutes to grow soft before eating. Divine. And no waste! (my favourite).

Despite being filled with pasta and beans, it's wonderfully light and nourishing.  You can feel it doing you good as you spoon it up. If I have a cold, this soup is all I want to eat.

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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