Category Archives: Non-Sri Lankan Food

Sweet Potato Pancakes

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For a long time my son Callum didn’t like toast for breakfast. He preferred cooked breakfasts, pancakes, waffles, bacon and eggs. I had neither the time nor the energy to indulge him so I created some cheats. This was one of them. A sweet potato pancake that I made in bulk and froze. Easy to whip out of the freezer and defrost even on a morning before work.

In fact, the day of little Miss M’s arrival I was making a large batch of these, in a valiant attempt to prepare for the madness that would follow. I dropped Callum at daycare and made a triple batch of this recipe. I cooked them, lay them on baking trays and left them to cool while I visited the Ob/Gyn. Sadly, I never made it back home, I just continued onto hospital. It was only a few days later when my sister-in-law was at our house, waiting for a tradie of some sort, that she texted me and said “What should I do with all the pancakes?” I sadly had to tell her they’d been sitting on the counter for days and would need to be binned.

The idea for the pancakes came from Jessica Seinfeld’s book, Deceptively Delicious. While I like the ideas for her recipes, hers have more of an “increase veg, decrease calorie” philosophy. I love the increased veg idea, but both my little mini humans need all the calories they can get. So nothing but full fat here.

 

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup of self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup wholemeal flour
  • 1 1/2 cups full cream milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 3/4 cup steamed sweet potato, mashed (about 1 medium sweet potato)

Preparation

In a large bowl whisk together the the flours. Add the milk and butter and mix well. Whisk the two eggs lightly and add to the mix, mixing till there are no lumps. Finally add the the sweet potato and mix well until it’s even distributed.

Butter a large skillet or pan and place over a low to medium heat. When the pan is hot, place 1/4 cup of the mixture into the pan, leaving a few cm between each pancake to allow for spread.

Flip the pancake gently when bubbles cover the surface. I find these pancakes get more brown, as compared to the plain ones, the sugar content in the sweet potato will do that.

Cook for the few minutes on the flip side before cooling and serving to your demanding clientale.

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If you want to freeze, just lay them flat on a tray with some baking paper and freezer for an hour or two before placing in zip lock bags.

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Borscht

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My family has rather a strong connection with Russia. In the late seventies my father travelled to the former USSR to study mining engineering. He spoke no Russian, knew no-one and had never travelled outside Sri Lanka. He spent the first year learning Russian and over the next five became well and truly immersed in Russian culture. He can still shot vodka, can still speak Russian, especially after said vodka’s and enjoys Russian food slathered in copious amounts of mustard. A lot of my father’s friends are friends he made while in Russia. When growing up, it wasn’t unusual to see a Russian potato salad at family dinner a long with yellow friend rice and chicken curry.

My Uncle Shelton likes to do a fully fledged Russian meal. He cooked it for me while I was pregnant and a few months ago he came over, groceries in hand and cooked me and Mr Firehouse the full deal. A beautiful red beetroot borscht, a rice pilaf and a potato salad. Served with rye bread and plenty of mustard it was a delectable treat! It was a chance for me to sit and watch in my own kitchen and take notes as he masterfully prepared the meal.

Since then, borscht appears on our weekly meal plan often, especially with two children who love beetroot.  It’s a warming, comforting meal and freezes well when I make a big pot over the weekend. And, best of all, apart from a little peeling and chopping the prep is pretty simple.

When I have time, I make my own beef stock and then use the meat off the bones in the soup itself. But, it tastes just as good with good store bought stock and a piece of beef that benefits from slow cooking.

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Ingredients

  • 500g of stewing beef
  • 1 litre beef stock
  • 2 carrots chopped
  • 2 potatoes chopped
  • 2 large beetroots chopped
  • 1/4 cabbage chopped
  • 1/4 cup dill
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • salt and pepper to season
  • rye bread and hot english mustard to serve

Preparation

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In a medium pot cover the beef with water and set over a low heat to boil. Boil until the meat is fall apart tender. At this point take off the heat, remove the meat and pour the stock into a jug. Chop and reserve the meat.

Place the jug of stock in the fridge and skim the layer of fat once it has solidified.

In a large pot add the stock, meat, chopped veg and seasoning. Add enough water to covet the vegetables. Bring to the boil and cook until the vegetables are tender but retain a bite.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with sour cream and freshly chopped dill.

Serve with a side of rye bread spread with hot English mustard.

 

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Lemon Curd

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A few weeks ago I left the role of the SAHM (stay at home mum, if you’re not up with the lingo) and joined the ranks of the working. It makes for a busy week, frantically bolting out of the house at 7 with 2 kids, then rushing back in time for dinner, baths, bed, wine etc.

In order to streamline our lives I decided to try my hand at online grocery shopping.  Coles, where I habitually and preferentially shop offers free delivery at certain times if you go above 150 dollars. Since I do it fortnightly, we often hit that target.

On the whole it’s been a pretty good experience, fruit is hit and miss so I tend to avoid it unless it something foolproof like mandarins or bananas. I only order stock standard veg as well. Nothing much beyond carrot, potatoes and bags of salad.

There was that one time I accidently ordered three loaves of bread, but we have a freezer and by the end of the two weeks we realized that we do actually eat about 3 loaves a fortnight. There was another time where I ordered a jar of curry paste and they “substituted” with a jar of simmer sauce. Seriously?

Then there are the lemons. Oh the lemons. Fifteen of them at last count. I’m not sure what’s happened. A cursory look in the fridge before hitting “add to trolley”, while a whole bag sits waiting beneath the wine that’s always crowding the vegetable crisper? Or is it the yellow freshness they’ve captured so perfectly in the stock image I can’t resist? Do I secretly want my fruit bowl full of lemons so they can perfume the house? Who really knows? Whatever the reason, the other day I found myself faced with a fruit bowl full of fifteen lemons and the horrible possibility of them going off.

My husband, who easily puts this down to my general scatterbrainy-ness, is happy to laugh it off. He’s not a lemon-worshipper  like myself. He doesn’t understand what will befall us all if a precious lemon goes to waste. He did have a useful suggestion though, stemming from his own experience making a cheesecake a couple of weeks ago.

“Why not make lots of lemon curd?” he says helpfully.

You don’t need to tell me twice.

So here it is, my recipe for lemon curd using whole eggs. Most recipes call for extra yolks and what not, and if you want, you can make this with 2 whole eggs and 2 yolks but why go through the hassle of separating and then finding alternate uses etc. Just make it with 3 eggs, trust me, it’ll be fine! This makes for a slightly lighter and runnier curd I think, but perfect to slather on toast or have with greek yoghurt. Or, if you’re like my son, eat it out of the jar.

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Ingredients

  • 3 whole eggs
  • 80 g of butter
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons

Preparation

In a small saucepan at the eggs and sugar and whisk till combine. Place over a low heat and add lemon juice and butter. Stir continuously until the the mixture is smooth and thickened up nicely.

Strain into sterilized bottles and keep in the fridge.

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Quick Tomato Soup

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When I served this soup to my brother-in-law, Firehouse Junior, a couple of weeks ago he confessed something to me. I cooked the family a meal at some point, soon after his brother and I had first started dating. Walking into the kitchen he had discovered me chopping pumpkin and concluded that pumpkin soup was on the menu. He promptly walked away, secretly dismayed at the thought of eating pumpkin soup for dinner. It was not his favourite thing to eat. Being the polite young man he was, he dutifully waited for me to finish cooking, and ate the soup given to him…and enjoyed it. He tells me he has been a pumpkin soup fan ever since. Furthermore, he will now try the food I put in front of him with an open mind.

I don’t think he had any strong feelings towards tomato soup prior to my serving this, but suffice it to say, the man is now a fan. On describing the recipe, he was also convinced it was easy enough for him to make…and healthy enough for lunches. As Firehouse Junior faces the prospect of living solo later this year, I think these recipes will come in mighty handy.

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Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 carrots chopped
  • 2 celery stalks chopped
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tin chopped tomato
  • 1 bottle passata
  • 5-6 piquillo/roasted peppers chopped
  • honey/salt/pepper to taste
  • fresh basil and cream to serve

Method

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and soften the onions and garlic. When softened, add the chopped carrots and celery and cook till softened. To the softened vegetables add the balsamic vinegar and oregano. Give the vegetables and herbs a good stir and add the tinned tomatoes, passata and peppers. Fill the passata bottle with water and add that to the pan as well.

Bring the pot to a low boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Puree the soup in a blender (for a very smooth texture) or using a stick blender (a slightly thicker texture) and taste for seasoning. Adjust as necessary. Finally, place the soup back on the heat and add the honey to slightly sweeten the soup and balance the acidity of the tomatoes and vinegar.

Serve with some cream and garnish with basil to serve.

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Wild blueberry muffins with crumble topping

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Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week at Mister C’s school. It’s an American tradition, a rather nice one I’d say, where you spend the week honouring and celebrating teachers. C’s daycare did a whole host of things, one of which was a potluck breakfast. I asked Mr Firehouse to sign me up for some baking. We both agreed on muffins.  When he came home later that day and I asked him what he’d signed me up for, he confirmed that I needed to deliver some muffins on the Wednesday following.

“What flavour?” I asked, hoping for some helpful suggestions.

“Bacon”, he replied. I laughed, certain he was being ridiculous. “The teachers and I got into a big discussion and we all decided that a bacon flavoured muffin would be amazing.”

“True,” I replied. “But how about a blueberry one with a crumble topping?” He heartily agreed and I set to work making these wild blueberry muffins.

We delivered them as agreed on Wednesday. Wednesday afternoon I went to pick up Master C and as I’m walking past the staffroom I hear the director’s voice calling out to me.

” So, what happened to the bacon muffins?”

Now, I need to give you a bit of context. I never got in trouble at school. Mr Firehouse laughs at me, but I would tear up if the teacher looked at me the wrong way. Never mind the principal. The Principal at Mr C’s school (read Director) is a lovely lady, but when she called at me from the office I was seized by the same fear that had seized the 7 year old me…. ahh.

” I didn’t think you were being serious.” I stammered.

” We’re always serious about bacon,” she replied, looking stern and somewhat ominous . Thankfully, before I could feel too bad about it, and break down,  she informed me that a kindly parent had bought a tray of bacon.

So, I apologise that these contain no bacon. However, even Mr Firehouse, the great champion of bacon, declared they are pretty good. Even the teachers at Cal’s school agreed!  Originally inspired by a Bouchon recipe, I’ve simplified this recipe and made it nut free to cater to kids and schools alike.

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Ingredients

( Recipe based on a recipe from the Bouchon Bakery cookbook)

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 7 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp. unsulfured blackstrap molasses/golden syrup
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract/vanilla paste
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk

for berries:

  • 1/2- 1 cup frozen blueberries ( I used wild and recommend them if you can get them)
  • 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

for crumble topping

  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown/raw sugar
  • 1/3-1/2 cup butter

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To make the muffins: In a small bowl, toss the frozen blueberries and 10 g (1 tablespoon) of the flour until the blueberries are coated. Place the bowl in your freezer.

Add the remaining flour to a bowl, add baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl and whisk to combine. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-low speed until it has a mayonnaise-like consistency. Mix in the sugar on medium-low speed until the butter-sugar mixture is fluffy. Add the molasses and honey, beating until well combined, and scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary. Mix in the eggs and vanilla until just incorporated. Alternately add the dry ingredients and buttermilk in 2 additions each, beginning with the dry ingredients and finishing with the buttermilk.

Give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula to ensure everything is combined, then cover the bowl and refrigerate at least overnight, or up to 36 hours. I usually do it overnight.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 425 F/220C. Line muffin pan with paper liners. Take the muffin batter from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes so it’ll soften slightly. Grab the blueberries from the freezer, and add them to the batter, folding to incorporate. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared liners, filling each about 2/3 to 3/4 full. Top each muffin with about 2 tablespoons of the crumble topping.

Transfer the muffins to the oven, and immediately lower the oven temperature to 325 F/ 170C. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow the muffins to cool for about 5-10 minutes, then remove them to the rack to cool completely.

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Easy Chocolate Cake

A simple but slighty indulgent chocolate cake to celebrate 1500 facebook fans. A super exciting milestone for little ole me! HP1B9017 Ingredients

  • 200g unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 200 g soft brown sugar sugar
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 50g cocoa powder sifted
  • 50ml milk/sour cream
  • 50 g chocolate finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. vanilla essence

HP1B9020 Preparation Preheat the oven to 350F /180C and line an 8 inch round tin with baking paper ( I used a loaf tin) . In a medium bowl mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda. In the bowl of a mixer cream together butter and sugar and salt until nice and fluffy. Stop the mixer once or twice to scrape the bottom and sides of the mixer bowl. Butter_Cake-1 Add the eggs to the creamed mixture one at a time. If you rush it, the mixture might separate so take your time. Remember to scrape your bowl.   Butter_Cake-5When all the eggs are in, add 1/2 the flour and half the milk or sour cream and gently fold them into the mixture. Then add the other half of the flour and milk, folding that in gently too. Finally fold in the chocolate chip, being careful not to overmix. Pour the mix into the prepared baking tin and place in the oven until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. I start at about 45 minutes baking time. HP1B9019

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Brown Butter and Berry Tea Cake

HP1B0177A couple of months ago we were at another baby’s birthday party at a park. Mr C was in his element, running around, terrorising adults and children, and being the centre of attention. Come cake time, he was nowhere to be found. I was getting a little worried when I spied a curly head peering out from under the massive cake table. There he was, staring intently at the baby’s mother cutting the cake. Mouth open and agape.When I approached him he looked me in the eye and said “cake”. I think he might just be his mother’s son. Of course, there was no denying him cake after that.

Nowadays he can identify the difference between a muffin “mussin” and cake. A muffin comes in a wrapper and a cake needs to be sliced. At afternoon tea-time when he sees me opening the freezer to grab a muffin, many an excited squeal can be heard.

The long and short of this is that I need to make sure that the baking I do is Mr C  friendly and generally on the healthier side of things. This means recipes with lots of fruit and veg, as little sugar as I can get away with and added bonuses like oats and nuts. Mr C is also very into helping at the moments so unless I bake during nap time, the recipe has to be simple enough that he can help with “missing”. Admittedly this results in about  three times the mess, but the kids loves it!

This recipe originally called for 1 cup of sugar, but I decided to halve it and substitute it with apple sauce, following the guidelines here.

I also added some nuts to the crumble topping for some extra crunch.

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Crumble topping

  • 1/4 cup butter cubed
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Cake

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen mixed berries

Preparation

Inspired by the Brown Butter Blueberry Coffee Cake by Ambitious Kitchen

In small bowl mix together the crumble ingredients, except the pecans, gently with your finger tips until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add the pecans and refrigerate while you make the cake.

Preheat your oven to 350F or 180C and line an 8 X 8 tray with baking paper.

In a small saucepan place the stick of butter and slowly melt over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and watch the butter foam. After a few minutes you’ll notice some brown appearing at the bottom, remove from the heat at this point and leave to cool. The butter should be lovely and nutty in flavour at this point.

In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the frozen berries and coat well with the flour mixture.

In a second bowl mix together the egg, egg yolk, apple sauce, milk and cooled butter.

Mix the dry and wet ingredients together before pouring into the prepared tin. Sprinkle the crumble topping on top and bake in the oven for 45-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

This recipe is suitable to freeze!

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Sweet Potato, Cauliflower and Coconut Soup

 

 

 
Cauliflower Soup-9Mr Firehouse and I are pretty good at meal planning. We have to be to avoid shopping every couple of days with a toddler who loves to run up and down the aisles. Especially one who is currently obsessed with doors. Guess where he runs to first?Go on, guess.  Anyway, there are times in the week where we plan a bit loosely and might buy something nice at the farmers market. So it was that I once ended up on a Friday afternoon with no meat in the fridge, a few sweet potatoes, cauliflower and some admittedly sad looking thai basil leaves that had been bought for something else. I scoured the internet for something that wasn’t a vegetarian green curry. The idea of red curry soup intrigued me but as I looked through the multitude of jars in my fridge, all I could find was green curry paste. Let’s just say I pretty much substituted everything in that recipe except for the onions and garlic….this happens pretty often. When the recipe said pumpkin, I heard sweet potato. When the recipe asked for red pepper, I was certain they had meant cauliflower. Kale, no worries, thai basil will do just fine.

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Ingredients

  • 1 small head of cauliflower roasted
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1.5 tbsp. of green curry paste
  • 1 tin (400ml) coconut milk
  • 1 cup thai basic leaves, loosely packed
  • 2 tbsp. oil divided

Preparation

In a medium saucepan fry the garlic and onions in a tbsp. of oil until just softened.

Add the cauliflower, sweet potatoes and stir until  well mixed. Add just enough water to cover the veg and place on a medium heat. When the pot comes to a boil turn the heat down to medium and let it simmer with the lid on until the vegetables are softened.

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Transfer the soup to a blender and puree with the thai basil leaves.

In the same sauce fry the curry paste in the second tablespoon of oil until fragrant, add the coconut milk stir well and add the pureed soup. Bring the mixture to the boil and take off the heat.

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Serve with a few extra basil leaves to garnish.

 

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Sweet and Spicy Eggplant

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The other night Mr Firehouse and I were having leftover Chinese take-away for dinner. As carefree as I often am with what Mr C eats, I thought it too early to introduce him to MSG. So I cooked a simple vegetarian stirfry with some home-made plum sauce that I knew he liked. You see, one of the things that I read and totally loved in the many parenting, books, websites and blogs I’ve perused is to always include a “loved food”. Something that you know the child will eat. With Callum fruit is a safe bet so plum sauce it was. I added broccoli, capsicum and carrot and finally added some fried eggplant I had on hand. He tasted the carrot, sucked on the broccoli and capsicum but by the end of the meal, there was not an eggplant in sight.

This was exciting! When I first met Mr Firehouse, he did not eat eggplant. Hated it. Would pick it out or not even serve it on a plate. It’s taken nearly five years of marriage to convert him to an eggplant lover. Seems like my son was born one!

So today for dinner I decided to make a sweet and spicy eggplant dish to go with our Moroccan Meatballs. It’s simple, delicious and like most things cooked with eggplant, improves with a little age.

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Ingredients

  • 3-4 small eggplants chopped into batons (like thick chips or fries)
  • 1/2 cup of oil for frying (this will vary)
  • 1/2 red onion finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small red capsicum (pepper) sliced
  • 1 tbsp. cumin ground
  •  1.5 tbsp. brown sugar (or honey, we’re honey free because Mr C shouldn’t have honey till he’s a little older)
  • 1 tbsp. white vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

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In a large frying pan or skillet add a little of the oil and fry the eggplant in batches until the outside has a nice golden brown colour and the eggplant is nice and soft. Make sure the oil is very hot, as the eggplant will absorb cold oil. As you add the next batch, you might have to add some more oil as well to keep the ‘frying’ going.

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Once all the eggplant is fried off, leave to drain on a paper towel for about a half hour. This isn’t critical but helps to get rid of excess oil and make the dish less oily.

In the same fry pan  add a  tbsp. of oil and add the onion and garlic. Fry until the onion is soft. Add the cumin and fry until nice and fragrant. Finally add the honey/brown sugar, vinegar and a splash of water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and wait for the mixture to start boiling. When the mixture is boiling add the eggplant and the capsicum and warm through. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with some fluffy white rice or flat bread.


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Roast Vegetable Quiche

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Mr Firehouse gave me a challenge this week. When I accused him of being not very keen on vegetarian cooking, he asked for a vegetarian dinner. This is a vegetarian quiche with cream cheese pastry, so really, double the cheese! It’s delicious, nutritious and colourful!
I’ve always loved the Exclusively food version of quiche and this recipe is based on that recipe. I’ve made modifications, but if you’re looking for the original, you know where to look.
Note: I’ve also successfully made this quiche with gluten free flour.
Ingredients
  • 500g of chopped vegetables to roast (I used zucchini, onion, eggplant capsicum and mushroom)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. of olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 125 g cream cheese at room temperature
  • 125 g butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 cup whole meal flour (feel free to use all plain if you want)
  • 1 tbsp fresh herbs of your choice
  • 5 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 1 /2 cups shredded cheese (I used a combo of tasty cheddar and part-skim mozzarella)

Preparation

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Doesn’t that just look like health on tray?

Preheat the oven to 350 F or 180 C. Place the chopped veg, vinegar, oil and dried thyme into a baking dish. Mix and place in the oven for 45 mins. Make sure you turn the veges over every 15 minutes or so to get a good colour all round.

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Mmmm…roast veges. FYI, Mr C loves these just as is….no need to mess around with pastry and cream with him.

While the veg is roasting you can make the quiche base. I use my kitchenaid, but you can easily use a food processor. Place the cream cheese and butter in the bowl and mix until it’s all combined and uniform.

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Once you hit that stage, start adding the flours, a little at a time. You might not need the whole lot, so add a little at a time.You want a wet dough that you can press into the pan, not one that comes altogether as if you’re going to roll it out. When it’s nearly done, add the fresh herbs and mix.

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I make my quiche in a Pyrex pie dish. It’s easy to work with, I can put it straight in the diswasher and it’s the perfect size for this recipe. I spray it generously with some oil before I start, just to be on the safe side. Once greased, push the dough it into the dish until you have a thin layer all around the dish. If I have extra I reinforce the edges, to make them nice and crispy and thick.

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Into the pan place a third of the cheese, and lay half the roast veg on top. Arrange them so that whatever slice you get, you get a good mix of veg. Now add another layer of cheese, the rest of the veg and finally the last of the cheese.

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First a 1/3 of the cheese

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Then the roast veges

In a jug, mix the eggs, cream, salt & pepper and the nutmeg. Now pour the cream and egg mixture into the quiche. Give the liquid time to settle and get into all the nooks and crannies.

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Don’t worry if it looks like it’s not full, it’s egg remember, it will puff up.

Bake for 50 minutes at 180 c or 350 F.

Serve warm with a nice green salad, or really, just on it’s own is perfectly okay too. I tend to make extra of these vegetables as Master C is a huuuuge fan!

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