Curried lemon lamb

marinating lambCurry and chilli cookbook, 112pp.
various contributors
Bay Books, Sydney, 2003
Cooking on page 32

We love curries and I’m always keen to expand my repertoire, so I grabbed this at a secondhand bookstore. Bay Books are a trusted resource for reliable and easy-to-make recipes.

This book explains the common spices and chillies used in spicy cooking. It also describes other common ingredients and accompaniments, and encourages readers to experiment with new ones.

curried lemon lambCurried lemon lamb

1/4 cup (60 ml/2 fl oz) olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1/2 cup (125 ml/4 fl oz) lemon juice

spices for lamb Lamb
500 g (1 lb) lamb fillets
2 tablespoons oil
3/4 cup (185 ml/6 fl oz) boiling water
1 cup (185 g/6 oz) couscous
30 g (1 oz) butter

To make the marinade: Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Coat the lamb with the marinade in a shallow bowl. Cover; refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to moderate 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Remove the lamb from the dish, reserving the marinade. Heat the oil in a pan and brown the lamb. Transfer to a baking dish, cover with the marinade and cook in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the lamb is tender.

frying lambAdd the water to the couscous in a heatproof bowl. Cover tightly; set aside for 3–5 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add the butter. Thinly slice the lamb. Serve on the couscous, with the marinade juices spooned over.

How it played out
Lamb fillets cost a fortune—$44.50 a kilo—but you have to splurge sometimes. I bought 300 grams  to make just over half a batch. I halved the ingredients for the marinade, which made plenty. Also halved the ingredients for finishing the lamb.

Curry and chilli cookbookThe roasting time was perfect. I let the couscous soak for 5 minutes, in a bowl covered by a small plate. Served with corn and roasted beets.

We love lamb, but rarely enjoy the luxury of the fillets (backstraps). This recipe as a perfect way to showcase this beautiful cut of meat.

I now have two delicious page-32 recipes for fillets. The other is spicy lamb backstrap. If you love lamb and can afford these cuts, I hope you can try both recipes.

P.S. Not a fan of lamb? I think this curry recipe could be made with beef or chicken strips. 

Poor John and I have been travelling recently in West Africa and Vietnam. If you have time please check out my travel blog.

baking lamb

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Baked stuffed tomatoes

TomatoesEat more vegetables, 192pp.
by Carolyn Humphries
Dorling Kindersley, London, 2016
Cooking on page 132

This book covers all kinds of vegetables and greens. There are chapters on cabbages and leafy greens, vegetable flowers, shoots and stems, salad leaves, the onion family, roots and tubers, squashes, and cucumbers.

It explains how to select, store and use ingredients. There’s also helpful hints on using herbs, spices, pulses, nuts, seeds and oils to add flavour. Recipes didn’t start until after page 32.

Stuffed tomatoes

Baked stuffed tomatoes

Ingredients and method
Cut 4 large beef tomatoes in half horizontally. Scoop out the insides and discard. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and drain upside down for 30 minutes.

Anchovies and garlic breadcrumb mixturePreheat the oven to 220°C (425°F/Gas 7).

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan, then add 2 finely chopped anchovies and 1 crushed garlic clove. Cook for 30 seconds. Stir in 4 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs and cook for 2 minutes. Mix 4 tbsp mascarpone cheese, 125g (4 1/2 oz) ricotta cheese, and 2 tbsp finely chopped basil leaves. Season with freshly ground black pepper.

Fill each tomato with the cheeses and top with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake for 15–20 minutes.

Serves 4.

How it played out
Company was coming so I made these to go with a quiche for lunch. My tomatoes weren’t huge, so I expected to have leftover filling and breadcrumbs. But the amounts were perfect. I followed all the measurements and ingredients, and the tomatoes cooked in 17 minutes.

Eat more vegetables cookbookVerdict
We all agreed that the something was missing. The anchovies and garlic couldn’t be detected, and the cheeses made a rather bland mixture. That said, I think the concept has a lot of possibilities. I might make something like this again, but would add extra garlic, anchovies and basil, and use cheeses with more personality. Gorgonzola comes to mind.

Poor John and I have been travelling in Vietnam recently, staying with our daughter who is posted to Ho Chi Minh City for several years. Hope you can check out my travel blog.

Stuffed tomatoes

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Basil meatball soup


Courtyard kitchen: recipes and growing tips for herbs and potted fruits, 240pp.
by Natalie Boog
Murdoch Books, Crows Nest NSW, 2015
Cooking on page 32

Food photographer and self-taught home cook, Natalie Boog got so tired of spending money on herbs that she decided to grow them at home. That flair for food, coupled with her journalistic skills (she worked for The Sydney Morning Herald), led Boog to write a food blog. And that became the inspiration for this book.

I was interested to read that Boog wrote, styled and did all the photography for this book. Most impressive.

Basil meatball soup

Basil meatball soup

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for pan-frying
1 brown onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 x 400 g (14 oz) tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
750 ml (26 fl oz/3 cups) chicken stock
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

meatball ingredients bacon and parmesan meatball ingredientsMeatballs
250 g (9 oz) minced (ground) pork
50 g (1 3/4 oz) bacon, chopped
100 g (3 1/2 oz/1 cup) finely grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil
1 egg
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
plain (all-purpose) flour; for dusting

Heat the oil in a frying pan over low heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 5–6 minutes, or until soft. Add the chickpeas, chicken stock and 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) water and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the chickpeas are slightly softened. Blend one-quarter of the soup until smooth, then return to the pan, season to taste and combine well. This helps to thicken the soup.

Meanwhile, to make the meatballs, put all the ingredients, except the flour, in a bowl, season to taste and combine well. Using your hands, roll teaspoons of the mixture into small balls, then dust lightly with flour.

Heat 1 cm (1/2 inch) olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the meatballs for 5–6 minutes, or until golden all over and cooked through. Remove from the pan, then add to the soup and simmer over low heat for 1–2 minutes. Serve hot. Serves 4.

meatballs fryingHow it played out
I was thinking of this recipe when I bought 600 grams of minced (ground) pork at the farmer’s market.

I used about half for this recipe and the rest to repeat another page-32 recipe that is extremely popular in our house—stir-fried pork with mushrooms.

I followed the instructions here, except that I forgot to dust the meatballs with flour before frying. I regretted that omission because the meatballs might have held together slightly better. But they worked well enough.

Courtyard kitchen cookbookI didn’t have enough fresh basil, so used a combination of fresh and a squeeze-from-the-tube variety.

I was surprised by how delicious this soup was. I often skip making meatballs because I think they are too fiddly. These were easy to make and worth that smidgen of extra effort.

Two points. I should have chopped the bacon even smaller and I worried that there was too much parmesan. As it turned out, the amount of parmesan was fine. It gave a good, strong parmesan flavour.

Poor John and I have been travelling in Vietnam recently, staying with our daughter who is posted to Ho Chi Minh City for several years. The bowl in the main picture was a gift from a dear friend. It’s from Hanoi, and shows that city’s trademark image—a dragonfly.

Frying meatballs


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Avocado smoothie

smoothie ingredientsCooking with yogurt, 376pp.
by Ilian Iliev
New Holland Publishers, London, 2015
Cooking on page 32

Ilian Iliev advocates the benefits of yogurt. He reckons it’s a food to eat any time, and any day. To encourage us, he has compiled a collection of recipes that are simple to make and require ingredients that are easy to get.

The recipes cover drinks, soups, dips, starters, salads, mains and desserts. He also includes a recipe for making yogurt at home, as well as recipes for frozen yogurt.

Page 32 has a beverage recipe.

Avocado smoothiesAvocado smoothie

1 large avocado, peeled and diced
2 ripe bananas, peeled
200 g (7 oz) low fat yogurt
100 ml (3 1/2 fl oz) skimmed milk
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 ice cubes

smoothie ingredientsMethod
Throw the avocado and bananas into the blender jar then pour in the yogurt and milk and add honey and cinnamon. Blend on high speed until smooth and frothy, serve cold. Serves 4.

How it played out
Avocados have been super expensive recently—more than $3 each. Luckily I found some on special and bought one to make this recipe, which has been on my to-do list for a long time.

Other than making half a batch, I followed the instructions using a food processor. Maybe someday I’ll buy a blender, but I seem to manage quite well without one.

I confess that I used 2 per cent fat milk and full-fat yogurt. I don’t buy the low and no-fat varieties of most things. I just try to show restraint.

Cooking with yogurt cookbookVerdict
I’m not a big fan of smoothies, but I love milk and avocados. I know that both can be good for you. I enjoyed my first avocado smoothie about 10 years ago in Ethiopia. That one was much, much nicer and more elaborate, but this one gives it a run for the money. Go on, try it.

Were currently in Vietnam, where avocados are plentiful and dairy is hard to find. So we’re drinking a lot of lemon and lime juices. Last time we enjoyed those kinds of drinks was in India. You can read about that on my travel blog.



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Quinoa, zucchini and feta salad

Quinoa, zucchini and red onion

Low carb: recipes to help you reduce the carbohydrates in your diet, 240pp.
by The Australian Women’s Weekly Kitchens
Bauer Media Books, Sydney, 2016
Cooking on pages 32–33

People often turn to a low-carb diet as a way to lose or maintain weight. The theory is that by lowering carbs, you force your body to burn more fat. There is also a view that burning fat also slows digestion, meaning you feel full for longer.

Nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan, who wrote the introduction to this book, cautions that a low carb eating plan is not a license to eat. She recommends avoiding pre-packaged, processed foods. This book is filled with tempting recipes made from fresh ingredients.

Poor John and I have never followed such a diet, but I have friends who do. I checked this out of the local library, so I could compile a repertoire of suitable dishes.

Quinoa, zucchini and feta salad

Quinoa, zucchini and feta salad

3/4 cup (150g) white quinoa
1 1/2 cups (375ml) water
1/2 cup (70g) hazelnuts
2 medium zucchini (240g), cut into long thin strips
250g heirloom or mixed cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 small red onion (50g), sliced thinly
100g feta, crumbled
1 cup loosely packed fresh small basil leaves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Zucchini, tomatoes and hazelnuts Quinoa, zucchini and feta saladMethod
Rinse quinoa under cold water; drain well. Place in a medium saucepan with the water; bring to the boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender. Transfer to a large serving bowl to cool.

Meanwhile, roast hazelnuts in a medium frying pan over medium heat for 4 minutes or until golden. Rub hot hazelnuts in a clean tea towel to remove most of the skin; discard skin. Coarsely chop nuts.

Add nuts to quinoa in bowl with zucchini, tomato, onion, half the feta and half the basil. Drizzle with combined oil and vinegar; toss gently to combine, season to taste. Serve topped with remaining feta and basil.

Serves 4.

Use a julienne peeler, mandoline or V-slicer to cut the zucchini into long, thin strips, or coarsely grate it instead, if you prefer.

Women's Weekly Low Carb cookbookHow it played out
I made this as written, using my scary mandoline to cut the zucchini. I have to admit that since starting this blog, I have become more confident with the mandoline. 
By the way, I wouldn’t grate the zucchini. It would make the salad too soggy. Also, my hazelnuts were already skinned and toasted so that saved a step.

Quinoa is so versatile. I often use it for people who have gluten issues. That wasn’t the case today. I served this with two other page-32 recipes—tomato and bread salad and spiced chicken. Coming soon.

Poor John and I are currently travelling in Vietnam. We’re here to visit our daughter, Petra, who is posted to the Australian Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City for several years. Hope you have time to check out my travel blog.

Quinoa salad in the background

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Kung pao chicken

cashews and cookbookSimply stir-fries, 144pp.
by the Reader’s Digest kitchens
Reader’s Digest, Ultimo New South Wales, 2007
Cooking on page 32–33

This is one of five books I own from the Australian kitchens of the Reader’s Digest. co enough, three of the five have page 32s that feature recipes using chicken.

Chapters in this book cover poultry, fish and seafood, beef and other meats, and vegetables, tofu and mushrooms. There are also recipes for rice, noodles, sauces and pastes that can be used with stir-fries.

Pages 32–33 have a traditional Chinese recipe. It’s made healthier by stir-frying rather than deep-frying the chicken.

Kung pao chicken

Kung pao chicken

500 g chicken thigh fillets, trimmed and cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons peanut or rice bran oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
8 dried chillies, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon crushed sichuan peppercorns
2 spring onions, sliced
2 tablespoons salt-reduced soy sauce
1 tablespoon shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup (50 g) cashew nuts or peanut, toasted
steamed rice, to serve

2 teaspoons salt-reduced soy sauce
2 teaspoons shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoon cornflour (cornstarch)

marinating chicken chillies and spring onions cooking chillies and spring onionsMethod
To make the marinade, combine all the ingredients in a shallow non-metallic bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok or large non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the chicken, in two batches if necessary, and cook for 5 minutes, or until just golden. Remove to a plate.

Heat the remaining oil in the wok, add the garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the chillies, sichuan pepper and the white part of the spring onions and stir-fry for 1 minute, or until fragrant.

Combine the soy sauce, rice wine or sherry and sugar in a small bowl, then add to the chilli mixture in the wok and stir well. Add the chicken and stir-fry for about 2 minutes to heat through. Stir in the spring onion greens and cashew nuts. Remove from the heat, divide among serving bowls and serve with steamed rice.

Serves 4.

Instead of chicken thighs, use prawns or scallops. You can also add any of your favourite vegetables, such as red capsicum (bell pepper), green beans, sugarsnap peas or snow peas.

Simply stir-friesHow it played out
I’m a seasoned chilli eater, and can stand a lot of heat. But for this recipe, I thought eight chillies plus the sichuan peppercorns were over the top. As a consequence, I used only four chillies and the full amount of sichuan peppercorns, which was more than enough.

I had three chicken breasts on hand and marinated them for almost an hour. I always have shaoxing rice wine on hand, so have never needed to substitute dry sherry. Cooking was so fast (I used peanut oil) . It took about 15 minutes in all. The cashews added a nice crunch.

Delicious and so quick to make. Especially liked that I didn’t have to deep-fry the chicken pieces. It’s a cooking technique that I rarely use.

I also liked the fact that, as with most stir-fry recipes, different protein and vegetables can be used. I’m adding this to my collection of go-to recipes for busy days.

We’ve had some wonderful Chinese meals on our travels. Here’s a blog post about one on those of those meals in Kashgar in far west China.

Kung pao chicken, rice and asparagus

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Lime and strawberry kisses

Honey and yogurtBowls of goodness: vibrant vegetarian recipes full of nourishment, 192pp.
by Nina Olsson
Kyle Books, London, 2017
Cooking on page 32

Nina Olsson is Swedish by birth, but she has been inspired by home cooking and ingredients from around the world.

Her mix of recipes are vegetarian, and often vegan and gluten-free. Many are based on her popular blog—Nourish Atelier.

I bought this secondhand at my favourite bookstore, Canty’s in Fyshwick. It’s worth following their Facebook page. They often share clever posts.

Page 32 is a breakfast dish, although I think it works for a dessert too.

Lime and strawberry kisses

Lime and strawberry kisses

250g strawberries, halved
juice of 1 lime
400g Greek yogurt or soygurt
2 tablespoons runny honey
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Vanilla, honey and cinnamonMethod
Fill a bowl with the strawberries and pour over the lime juice. In another bowl, mix the yogurt with the honey, salt and vanilla with a spoon. Divide the yogurt between serving bowls and top with the strawberries. Drizzle some honey over the strawberries and sprinkle a little cinnamon. Serve with extra lime pieces on the side. Serves 4.

Bowls of GoodnessHow it played out
As usual, I made half a batch for the two of us. I followed all the ingredients (using Greek yogurt) and instructions. Also used the divine Tinlin honey that was given to us by the family of one of our daughter’s friends. Yummo!

Given that it was a breakfast recipe, I served it over some lovely crunchy cereal bites.

Oh what a breakfast. I’ll definitely make this often when strawberries are cheap or in season. But as I said earlier, I think it would be great for a dessert too.

Poor John and I have been travelling in West Africa since February. Hope you can drop by my travel blog.

strawberries and lime

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