Wednesday, May 31, 2006

621 & me (or "why I should have stayed home and cooked")

Tonight was the night I was sure I’d make the McKeith smoked tofu and bean burgers. I’ve been thinking about it for 3 months and even with the end of the shopping week denuded fridge I knew I had everything, bar the parsley. However when I was about to leave work, the urge for congee overcame me. One phone call and 15 minutes later, I rendezvoused half a block from my favourite Chinese restaurant. Correction, the only genuine Chinese restaurant I like. No, not the pretentious Flower Drum. This is the other one in China Town that foodies flock to, even if you have to wait on the ugly stairs for what seems like hours to get a seat at a formica table, so you can chow down to what is arguably the best of the cuisine in the city.

Congee combines my love for porridge with my on going steady relationship with rice. One day I will get the patience to make my own. But for $5.50 a bowl, why bother? Within minutes of ordering, the medium size ubiquitous blue and white soup bowl, full to the brim of rice porridge, chunks of fish, spring onions and ginger arrives. This is a functional food, where medicine and cooking collide. Invalid food in other words. You don’t need to be sick to enjoy it, but I’m sure it qualifies as preventative medicine.

I also ordered Asian broccoli and fresh shitake mushrooms, the sauce tasted like sweet soy. With the entrée it made a rather neat, complete healthy meal. But after this I went off the rails. I just had to have some of what my partner was having and this for sure had a good dollop of the dreaded MSG in it – that’s why it tasted so darn good.

By the end of the meal I had a raging thirst (bring the water dammit waiter!), a headache and a really nasty temper brewing. This is the thing that they don’t tell you about 621 – it is the maker of foul moods. My advise to those looking for love – never, ever have a first date at an Asian restaurant, it’ll end in tears.

Fortunately this was the 220th date, so it didn’t get too messy. But it has put my relationship with my favourite Chinese restaurant on rather shaky ground.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A different kind of comfort food

Nigella Lawson did a show once on “Temple Food”. This is what you eat when you need to get back in touch with your body after too many nights of rich dining or when you need to bounce back from a hangover.

I’d consider the simplest TF to be a bowl of steamed vegetables, naked and unadorned by butter or salt. Homestyle, something a restaurant chef would turn pale at the thought of serving to a punter.

After eating out all last weekend I wanted something a little healthier for my innards. This is comfort food – food nazi style. Beyond vegetables I needed something else with a hefty dose of fibre. I had a weird craving for lentils, something I hadn't cooked for years. Just as well dried legumes are virtually indestructable, as I had a very old packet somewhere at the back of the pantry.

Lentils and rice and lots of spice

Heat a little vegetable oil in a saucepan that has a well fitting lid.

Add a chopped onion and stir over medium heat. Add some spices. For this I used:
Lots of finely chopped fresh ginger
A large clove of garlic
A generous couple of teaspoons of garam masala
A small sprinkle of mustard seeds
A little bit of dried, crushed chilli

Stir in the hot oil until the onions are translucent and you hear some popping noises from the mustard seeds.

Throw in some brown rice and stir, then an equal quantity of raw brown lentils (if you have thought ahead it’s better to soak both first for a few hours). If you want to make a quicker dish, use basmati rice and red lentil. When the oil and spices have coated the grains add a plentiful amount of hot vegetable stock. As this will cook by absorption you need at least twice as much volume of stock to the rice and lentils. Don’t worry too much about getting the amount just right, as you can top up the stock if need be while it’s cooking.

Once it has come to a simmer, turn down the heat and put the lid on. Stir every once and a while. For white rice cook for about 20 minutes then make sure the lid is firmly on and leave to sit a further 15 minutes. For brown, check to see if the rice and lentils are almost fully cooked (about 30-40 minutes) and also leave to sit for quarter of an hour.

This dish goes well with steamed vegetables, curries and most things vaguely Indian. It is also a tasty dish to eat on it’s own or with some asian pickles.

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Sated 2

My weekend in food:
Friday night - after going to a lecture at the NGV and seeing the Pissarro exhibition – dinner at River. Very nice fish dish – blue eye, prawn wantons, snow peas and bean shoots in a spicy broth reminiscent of a tom yum. Plus some extra vegetables and someone ordered fries. A couple of glasses of Scotchman’s Hill Pinot.

Saturday – a cup of black coffee, Scrambled eggs, a persimmon, 2 mandarins, 2 feijoas, water. A rather disappointing meal at a new Moroccan restaurant – nice marinated olives, sloppy under spiced dips and bits on a mezze plate, an average vegetarian harrira. Half a glass of beer.

Sunday – Coffee with cardamom in the bath. Sautéed mushrooms on rye toast with avocado and sheep’s cheese. 2 tuna nori rolls. Water. Dinner at the Kent Hotel, seafood spaghetti, with spinach, rocket, pumpkin and pine nut salad. Another delicious peninsula pinot noir. 2 glasses of Grand Marnier with a selection of chocolates and nougat. Lots of mineral water.

Note to self: need to eat clean, fresh food at home this week.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

and now recipes without pictures

I am camera-less for the duration. The lens of my lovely little canon A70 has decided to not retract. If you are interested in the saga of the dreaded E18, catch up with the story here.

In the meantime you will have to just imagine.

It’s a chilly night. Body and soul needs some warming. What better time to mull some wine?

Impromptu mulled wine

Take some red wine. Something on the hearty side, not a delicate pinot noir. There is debate as to quality – but if you start with ‘rough as guts’, you’ll just end up with ‘spicy rough as guts’. If in doubt grab a cab sav, in the lower teens dollar wise.

Pour the wine into a large pot. Add slices of organic oranges. Now raid your spice cupboard. Cinnamon is a must – sticks or the chunky bark. A little nutmeg is fine, just the right use for the nobly end that you have been grating on your porridge. A small sprinkle of cloves, maybe some star anise. A slice or 2 of root ginger is nice. You don't have to add all of these, just use what you have on hand.

Put on the lid. Let is simmer gently. If making ahead of time, turn the heat off and let it steep to bring out the flavours, otherwise just simmer for at least 20 minutes. Add some sugar, enough to slightly sweeten without it becoming sickly.

If you feel cheated that the heating process may have robbed you of the full alcohol content, stir in a few splashes of brandy*. Keep the lid on and either place the pot on a heat diffuser mat or store in a prewarmed thermos (perfect for autumnal excursions).

Serve in heatproof glasses and sip til your heart feels gladdened.

* Be warned, even without the brandy this drink can pack a punch.

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Friday, May 26, 2006

soup season continues

A bowl of soup, a slice of bread, a glass of wine. The simple life.

Beyond boiling an egg and making toast, soup must be one of the easiest dishes to get under your belt when going for your kitchen P-Plates.

When I was 11-12 yo, going to a State school in New Zealand – there was a wonderful experiment called ‘Intermediate School’. Here all the girls and boys were taught woodwork, metalwork, art, sewing and cooking along with the usual academic subjects. We started with the egg (Delia would have been proud), next scones (I still have visions of male classmates with doughy webbed fingers) and advanced onto sweet (upside-down cake) and savoury dishes (Oakhill potatoes, whatever they were). But never soup. I look back and think that most remiss. But if it had been in our basic curriculum, what kind would it be? With soup, the possibilities are endless.

I don’t often order soup when I am dining out, unless it offers something fiddley (tom yum – all the peeling of prawns and simmering of the shells, but one day I will do it again) or beyond my repertoire (that wonderful Burmese fish soup – recipe anyone?). This is because there is something about a homemade soup, made in an old cast iron pot that takes on an essence that is beyond flavour. Or perhaps I just imagine that.

Of blended soups – orange vegetables with spices, processed with a dash of coconut milk remains a favourite. But there is something about the homogenous texture of this style that feels a bit like baby food, not a ‘real meal’. The most satisfying, vegetarian soups tend to have legumes or wholegrains to pad it out. My current favourite is a tomato based, bean soup - a pasta-less distant cousin of minestrone.

Bean and vegetable soup

Basic ingredients:
A little olive oil
Vegetable stock
1 can of well rinsed beans (or soaked and cooked, or thawed from frozen)
1 can of crushed tomatoes (preferably organic)
Herbs and seasonings of choice

Sauté onion, then garlic with a little oil in a large pot. Add whatever chopped vegetables you like (this version had sweet potato, carrots, parsnip and zucchini – but that is entirely up to you). Stir. Add the canned tomatoes (there are never any decent fresh ones in winter, but if you have a Nona who’s made you some chunky tomato sauce that would be even better) and beans (this had cannellini, but I often use kidney), then top with stock. Bring the pot to a simmer and let it cook unobtrusively on the stove til you are ready to eat. Never boil soup, if you have a temperamental stove place the pot on a heat diffuser mat. Top with stock if the waterline drops too low. Before serving add sea salt and ground pepper if required. Strew in some fresh green herbs like basil, marjoram, oregano or chives if you have them.

If you want a less Mediterranean flavour, try adding some crushed cumin and coriander seeds to the onions when you are sautéing. Use your imagination – fennel seeds today, a little rosemary tomorrow. Fresh, delicate green herbs need little cooking, while dried herbs especially seeds and bark need some direct roasting or frying to release their flavours.

Soup always tastes better the next day.

A soup as good as this requires real bread to go with it. Not the pappy, bread improver filled supermarket kind. I am not a big bread eater, but fortunately when I want it, am spoilt for choice of artisan bakeries. This time it was a Natural Tucker sourdough, rye casalinga, toasted with some freshly made herb butter.


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Thursday, May 25, 2006

pictures without recipes

Due to polite requests – here is my new little kitchen.

It went from this




and this

Yes it's small, but there is lots of storage. The pantry opens out and has a nifty powerpoint in it, so can double as another workbench when needed. (I refuse to have a microwave, but if someone really had to have one, it could safely hide in there).

Space was an issue. So as not to distrub the outside of the building (and go into lengthy council approval delays) the window had to remain, but it does let in some rather sweet morning light. I tried to barter the kitchen drawers to fit in a bigger oven and stovetop but...

There were huge budget restraints, which meant big compromises on appliances. A roof that didn’t leak and electrics that could cope with the modern world without threatening life and limb, won out in the end. It's tough being sensible sometimes.

But it’s mine and I love it!

Now - if anyone in Melbourne has a lovely wooden table and chairs they are trying to get rid of cheaply, send me an email and I will be a very happy woman :)

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Breakfast soup

This is the kind of morning I love. I awoke at an hour not too early, not too late. The house was chilly, but my bed was delightfully warm. There was a pleasant hour spent sipping coffee, doing a crossword, snuggling with the cat, talking on the phone to a friend in a warmer climate.

At this stage what would have made things more perfect could only have been my lover materialising (now I had had that wonderful, soul restoring, solo time) with some crisp pastries from Filou’s. Alas, despite a good 30 seconds trying to will this to happen, I realised breakfast today would be by my own hand - and I needed it now. Sadly the French bakery doesn’t deliver (“An apple slice and pain au chocolat to the spinster in number 12 please”) and I still was not ready to get dressed and take the 10 minute stroll required to satisfy the sweet gluten craving (and anyway, there was always the possibility of afternoon tea!).

A warming and decidedly healthier option came to mind. Soup for breakfast. Not just any soup, but the world’s best breakfast soup – miso.

To me, miso is good health in a bowl. The cultured bean, immune strengthening shitake mushrooms, beta carotene resplendent in carrots and carminative ginger. What’s more it is a very quick breakfast.

I make no claims to authenticity with this recipe. A true miso uses lovingly made dashi, certainly not a speedy process. The instant kind, which I suspect is used by far too many of this city’s Japanese restaurants, is spiked with msg and goodness knows what else. Instead I use the simplest of fish stock –the fiddley bones and scraps from flathead fillets simmered in water for 10-15 minutes. The stock is unadulterated with any seasoning, strained (through muslin if you are a purist and want to remove the sediment) and frozen til needed.

Miso Soup

Plain fish stock or water
a knob of ginger cut into fine, thin slivers
spring onion, diagonally sliced
carrot, thinly sliced
shitake mushroom (reconstituted dried, if fresh not available), thinly sliced
tofu, cubed

shiro miso paste

Place fresh fish stock in a pot (slowly thaw if using frozen). Add vegetables and tofu and bring to a simmer 5 minutes, or until carrots are tender.

gratuitous shot of the tiles and granite in the new kitchen. I put in lots of fresh shitake as I had been around a lot of sick people this weekend

Take some miso paste (about 1 tsp per serve) in a small bowl (or suribachi if you have one) and ladle in some of the warm broth. Mix until the paste has dissolved. Now turn the heat off and pour the liquefied paste back into the pot. Stir. You should see moving clouds bubbling around, one of the joys of using cultured foods. But remember miso is a delicate being, never boil it and if you need to reheat the soup do it gently, with the greatest respect.

As I have switched in recent years from the bold hatcho miso, to the young, sweeter shiro, I add a little tamari to get some balance of sweet and salty tastes.

If you want this to be a hearty meal, rather than a dainty breakfast, add more vegetables and cook some rice vermicelli, and eat from a suitably large bowl.

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Pie eyed

One winter I was lamenting (quietly to myself, as you do) about the lack of fish pie options now I am milk free. I have made white sauce before with soy, but it comes out too sweet and it’s a poor alternative. One day in Gourmet Traveller I came across a non-saucy pie, in a yeasted crust, made from fish and leeks. With a bit of tweaking it became my favourite dish for a cold night.

The original recipe, other than being in pastry rather than topped with mash, included raisins. Throw in a handful if you like the sweet-savoury combo, personally I don’t. In some renditions of the pie I have added in more vegetables, forgotten the parsley, substituted the lemon peel with fine slivers of kaffir lime leaves. Use your imagination. The original quantities adequately fill my largest, oval pie dish but for 2 it’s easy to halve or quarter the ingredients and serve in ramekins (or your favourite single serve vessel).

Comfort food fish pie

Basic quantities – for 4 hungry people as a stand alone dish, 6 with a salad or 8 as part of a multi-course meal (or can feed an unlimited amount of supermodels).

Olive oil for sautéing
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
600g leeks, washed trimmed and sliced
75g green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
45 g of small capers (the ones in salt where you soak for an hour, then drain)
1 tablespoon lemon peel, finely chopped or grated
1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
600g blue eye (or similar) fillets, in approx. 8mm slices (or whatever takes your fancy)

Mashed potato (more on mash)

Get the potatoes on for the mash.

Cook fish in olive oil. Do this in batches so you don’t crowd the pan. Just 1 minute a side (to seal rather than cook through). Put aside. Now do the same with the leeks. Cook til soft and add in the lemon peel, caper, olives and parsley. Give it a quick toss then set aside.

Make the mash.

Combine the fish and leek mixture in the pie dish. Top with generous amounts of mash.

Bake in a hot oven. About 200c for about 20-30 minutes, til the mash is golden on top.

In this version I used flathead. The chunks tend to be not as thick as blue eye but I love the taste (and an excuse to get the fillets and replenish the freezer with some stock). I had no parsley and wanted more vegetables so added in some zucchini. The new oven didn’t seem that hot, so it took about 45 minutes. In a second batch, I cooked at about 205 for 20 minutes and placed under a hot grill for about 7.

This recipe is gluten-free, dairy free (depending on how you make the mash) and very tasty. It won't, however, please the carb-phobes.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

sip and stir

Yesterday I finally cleared enough space to think about cooking. There is nothing over the top about this little kitchen, it’s small but functional. The appliances are very simple, not top of the range, just built to do their job. There was little in the fridge beyond some leftover champagne and butter. My neighbour had dropped off a strange care package of 2 shallots, a large chilli, some chives and a stick of lemongrass. While out I found some perfect looking swiss browns, so mushroom and champagne risotto it would have to be.

Risotto is something I can take or leave, but it is warm and comforting food. I rarely order it when dinning out – too often a "vegetarian" version uses chicken stock and it is usually drenched in butter and cheese. There is something reassuring about having the time to stand at the stove and stir a pot, and this seemed a good way to get into the groove of my new place to cook.

Do I really need to write a risotto recipe? It’s such a simple process. It requires a little patience, so have some good company to sip a drink with or crank up an entertaining playlist on the pod.

Mushroom and champagne risotto

Finely slice some shallots or onions and cook in some olive oil til soft.
Add some crushed garlic and stir
Toss in some sliced mushrooms (whatever variety takes your fancy) and cook for a minute or 2
Add handfuls of uncooked Arborio rice, stir til coated with oil
Splash in some champagne (about a cup)
Now ladle in some warm vegetable stock*
If you like, add some chopped sun dried tomatoes (I know they are considered pretty naff these days but they add colour and little bursts of salty flavour)
Have a drink
Stir some more (this took about 20 minutes)
When the grains of rice seem just cooked, throw in some chives, season with salt and pepper. Cover firmly with a lid and forget about it for 5-10 minutes (this is a good time to make a green salad).

Stir through a knob of butter and it is ready to serve.

It tasted fabulous. I go for a consistency that is neither soupy, nor dry and this was just perfect. The champagne gave the mushrooms an extra dimension without being overpowering.

* to be honest I just used a low salt, msg-free stock cube dissolved in boiling water (shock horror) straight from the jug – not actually simmering away on the stove. Guess what? It was just fine.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

..and the first thing she cooked was

I have a new kitchen. Slowly I am finding homes for life's little essentials. Fiddling around with spots for pots and pans (the middle, wide, pull out drawer of the ‘pantry’ seems to do the trick) and working out places for the spices. Amidst the chaos I’ve barely been able to see the granite bench top, so no real cooking yet. Saturday was spent ushering visitors through and drinking champagne, as you do. So yesterday it was down to business. Outside Melbourne was damp and grey. I needed a hearty breakfast to set me up for a hard day’s work and that was a job that only porridge could fill.

As a child I liked only super smooth oatmeal. It cooked in a moment and would be augmented with spoonfuls of brown sugar and little puddles of milk, cream if I was really lucky. These days my tastes have definitely changed. I like chunky, whole rolled oats, slowly cooked and definitely no moo! It's a creamy soymilk for me. When I am mindful, I set up the pot the night before – 1/2-1 cup of oats and twice as much water. Sometimes I will throw in a handful of sultanas or dried cranberries. Overnight it will soak, which allows the grains to puff up and it needs a lot less cooking in the morning.

In a pinch, if I have forgotten to spend 30 seconds setting this up before bed, I will cover oats with boiling water in the morning, stick the lid on firmly and let them steep for 10 minutes or so to soften before cooking.

The trick to cooking porridge is a heat diffuser mat. Don’t talk to me about microwaves – it brings out the food nazi in me! Even if the oats are soaked they still don’t taste as good. Turn one of the burners on low and let the mat heat up. On another, bring the soaked oats to a simmer. You will usually need more fluid; I tend to add soy rather than water, as it makes it taste creamier. Once the oats are barely simmering, give them a stir and place the pot on the diffuser mat, leave on low and go have a shower. They don’t stick to the pot and by the time you have finished, the porridge is ready to eat.

Ode to oatmeal

1 part rolled oats
2 parts fluid eg: water, milk, soy, rice milk, cream, juice, coconut milk
A handful of dried fruit (optional)

Soak over night and cook as directed.

Top with milk and sweet treats as desired.

plain old fashioned porridge for the lactose intolerant

Sweet treat extras:
Maple syrup
Rice malt
Apple or pear juice concentrate
Homemade jam
Stewed fruit
Grated apple
LSA (linseed, sunflower and almond meal)

*Passionfruit and maple syrup make a great combo

Grainy variation
Add leftover, cooked brown rice to the oats - it makes a nuttier and even more delicious porridge.


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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Wrapping up down south

As my couple of months in Melbourne’s South Eastern suburbs comes to a close, it’s time to award my Top 3 eating experiences in this neck of the woods. I will preface this by saying – none are worth travelling across town for, but if you find yourself at Chadstone at dinnertime, leave the confines of the shopping centre and check out these local eateries.

1. Clover
Thai and Japanese
3A Station St, Oakleigh
Though it is good advice to be suspicious of a restaurant that combines 2 disparate cuisines, it is a literal marriage of these two cultures that lead the owners do so. No doubt because of its heritage, it works.

If you want some soup – there is miso, tom yum or a tom kha to choose from. Spring rolls or gyoza (and much more) for entree. Strangely the pairings kind of work. The sushi and sashimi is averagely good but it is the stir fries (“Wok Toss” dishes) that appeal to me the most. For a healthy meal, I can’t go past the beancurd and vegetables with fresh ginger and light soy.

There is also a good choice of Thai curries, salads, noodle and rice dishes. Food is of a uniformly good standard and the breadth of choice means there is something for everyone.

The restaurant is comfortable, service prompt and also offers takeaways.

2. Gasi Busi
80 Poath Rd Hughesdale
I spied this restaurant one day while checking out the organic grocery opposite. It was closed at the time but the menu looked interesting and cheap, yet the glimpses I got of the interior looked enticing.

We rocked up without a booking on a Saturday night and lucked the last table. The décor was more of a good Japanese restaurant, than the utilitarian Korean joints in this part of the world.

For a fussy eater like me, there was a pleasant amount of choices. Hard to decide whether to go for a sizzling plate, be tempted by the deep friend fish with cabbage salad or opt for a traditional hot pot. The dumplings for entrée were delicious, with an oddly meaty texture despite being vegetarian. We were hungry and service was slow. When mains arrived we descended like starving wolves.

The benchmark of Korean food, for me is the hot pot. I love the little bowls of pickles that come with it. My soft tofu and seafood came bubbling in its little vessel (sadly not made at the table). The flavour was great, but the seafood was scanty – tiny little shrimps and miniature mussels. His kimchi hot pot with pork had a hotter, sweeter sauce with a greater depth of flavour. The side dishes were pleasing, except for the broccoli covered with the special bbq sauce – I just didn’t like the flavour.

It was a pleasant experience with great flavours, nice surroundings but slightly marred by the slow (though very friendly) service and small servings.

3. Nights of Kabul
Afghan and Persian
39 Portman St, Oakleigh
Try not to let the tacky décor and vastness of this too often under populated establishment put you off. What they lack in decorating taste, they make up for in efficient service in this family run restaurant. The food really is worth checking out.

I love the pastries and the rice dishes here. For a non-meat eater the menu gets a bit repetitive with many of the mains mimicking the entrees, but it is a good, cheap, tasty meal. Carnivores have a wider selection. The lovers of ridiculously inexpensive wine will marvel at the prices, but connoisseurs should bring their own.

I haven’t made it on the nights of special entertainment – with traditional music or dancing, but I’d choose it over the vast Greek one across the road any day.

Honourable mention

The gourmet pizza at the little Italian café on Atherton Rd is delicious. Lecco Pizzaria, is a cozy little eatery with red checked tablecloths and a couple of tables on the pavement. I've never eaten anything else here but the pizza was so good I came back for more – and I don’t even like pizza!

Shihans Chilli Bar, 137 Koornang Rd, Carnegie - a small shop selling Sri Lankan groceries and homemade delights from the bain marie and freezer. Great dhal. Worth stocking up on a couple of curries to keep on hand at home.

Final word
All of the restaurants would qualify for being a "cheap eat" - with mains all under $20, most between $10-15. None a foody mecca but still satisfying enough to palate and wallet.


Friday, May 05, 2006

Moroccan dreaming

With less than a week til I move back into my house, my thoughts are elsewhere (counting pennies to pay for it, for a start!). I have been cooking, but not snapping pics.

I wanted to make a Moroccan cauliflower dish, like I have eaten at the Moroccan Soup Bar but couldn’t find a suitable recipe and ended up making a basic vegetable tagine instead.

Actually it was a “saucepan” not a tagine, as it was made on the stove top without the aid of the namesake cooking vessel.

The Moroccan inspired saucepan
Fresh ginger, finely chopped
Garlic, finely chopped
Coriander seeds, ground
Cumin seeds, ground
Chilli, dried or powdered (to add a little spice but not hot like a curry)
Cinnamon – 1 quill or piece of bark*

Sweet potato or pumpkin, cubed
Onion, sliced
Zucchini, chopped lib with whatever you have in the fridge

1-2 cans of chickpeas, rinsed well
(some people have been known to add meat)

Good quality vegetable stock (chicken if going for the carnivorous version)
1-2 cans of chopped tomatoes

Fry the spices, except cinnamon, in some vegetable oil then add the densest vegetables and onion. Stir. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, cinnamon and stock. After a while add any remaining vegetables. Simmer some more. Add more stock if required to give it a ‘stew with lots of juice’ consistency. Check seasoning, add salt if necessary.

Prepare couscous as desired. If you were a purest it would have been steaming over the stew all the while, but I just did the quick method (1 cup of couscous steeped in 1 cup of boiling water, covered with a tea towel for about 10 minutes) – stir through a bit of butter and fresh chopped mint, if you have it, before serving.

* I love the strong taste of cinnamon bark, it really adds another dimension to the flavour which powdered cinnamon doesn’t quite hit.

I used the leftovers for mini pies the next day. This was a quick no-brainer, I’m hungry after working late meal thanks to the joys of frozen pastry. Drain off excess juice and mash or finely chop. Fashion into pies and bake in a moderate-hot oven for 15-20 minutes. Tastes great with tomato chutney and a salad.

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