Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Super Simple Tomato Sauce

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One of Mister C’s favourite foods is pasta with tomato sauce. Of course, when my high-alert new mummy radar saw how much salt was in tinned tomatoes, I flipped out. Seriously? Ever since then I’ve been buying the ‘no salt added’ and much more expensive tin or making my own sauce.

This is one of those recipes that takes 5 minutes at the beginning, 5 minutes at the end and a lot of waiting in between. Do it on a day that’s not too hot as the oven will be on for a while. I popped these in the oven and went for a walk around the neighbourhood because my oven has a stop time where I can tell it when the oven should turn off. Roasting the tomatoes makes them lovely and unctuous and sweet. Even the slightly sad, end of summer tomatoes we have now taste pretty good this way. I find that this sauce really doesn’t need anything added to it except some lovely fresh pasta and maybe some cheese and Mister C certainly agrees.

Ingredients

  • 6-8 egg (roma) tomatoes cut into wedges
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. dried herbs (italian, rosemary, thyme)
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 a small red onion sliced

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 fahrenheit (180 celsius)

Place the tomatoes on an oiled or lined oven tray and sprinkle the oil, garlic and herbs on top.

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Bake in the oven for 1 and a half hours until the tomatoes are soft and juicy

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Place tomatoes, garlic and onions in a bowl and blend using a stick (or immerision) blender blitz them up. You can also place the tomatoes in a food processor and blender and blitz that way.

Serve as is over cooked pasta or freeze in ice-cube trays to serve later.

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Filed under Baby Friendly Food, Snacks and Sides, Tips and Tricks, Vegetable Dishes

Garlic

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I have an irrational hatred for cleaning garlic. I hate the way the skin sticks to my fingers, I hate that I can smell the garlic on me for ages afterwards. I hate that all the cloves are different sizes. I also don’t like the taste of smell of the minced garlic in bottles, it never tastes quite right, like lemon juice out of a squeeze bottle. So, I’ve developed a few tips and tricks to avoid the hassle.

A few notes

  • Fresh garlic is always best, so if you can get it fresh and want a potent garlic flavour, go for the good stuff. If I’m doing a lamb roast, or a garlic centred dish, I always forgo the annoyances and get the fresh stuff.
  • Garlic stored at room temperature, in oil or in the fridge can develop botulinum toxin, so please be very careful about how you store garlic

I buy these bags from Costco, but there’s a lot of places you can buy already peeled garlic.

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I then rinse and place the whole lot in a food processor and process until finely chopped (almost a paste). Next I place teaspoons full (about 2 small cloves of garlic) onto a tray, lined with paper and place in the freezer. Once frozen (leave at least 4-6 hours depending on your freezer) I place them in zip loc backs and keep in the freezer. When I need garlic in a recipe, I simply place a frozen nugget in the pot, it defrosts quickly and I have no garlic skins stuck to me!

I also freeze some cloves whole by laying them on a tray and placing them in a Ziploc bag once frozen. This is for recipes that ask for slices or chopped garlic, rather than crushed.

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1  bag of garlic lasts us at least a few months and a few hours work (mainly in the freezer) saves me a lot of annoyance down the track.

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Curry Leaves

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When we left Sydney I had to leave my beautiful curry leaf plant behind. It was so handy being able to pop into the garden, tear off a sprig and run back in to pop it into a curry. I don’t have that luxury here. I suspect the climate gets far too cold for curry leaves to grow. In fact, most supermarkets don’t stock them here. You need to specifically visit an Asian or Indian supermarket to get them and they’re not all that common. I started stocking up last year whenever I went to the Indian grocery but quickly discovered that curry leaves don’t keep all that well in the fridge and just crumble in the freezer. I then took to the drying them and putting them in a tin and now I have curry leaves all year round, except when I forget to go to the Indian grocer or Callum throws them out of the trolley without me noticing.

Here’s how

Simple de-sprig your curry leaves and give them a good wash and drain.

Place them in single layer on an oven tray and put them in a 120 degree celsius (250 fahrenheit) oven for about 20-30 minutes until they’re dry but still green. Make sure there is no residual moisture and all leaves are nice and dry.

Place them in an airtight container. I’ve had mine for about 3-4 months without any issues.

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Masala Chai Mix

I love tea! I love drinking it, eating with it and even just smelling it. It’s my happy place. The smell of tea reminds me of Sri Lanka.

I was wracking the old brain to try and think of something to give the lovely ladies at my second baby shower. Pabs, I guess this means I owe you a present or two ;).
While at the appropriately named Whole pay-packet (otherwise known as Whole foods) I saw some re-usable tea-bags. Something I’d never seen before. It occurred to me then that maybe I should give the lovely ladies some tea. Something that reminded them of me.

I scoured a number of places for recipes and in the end, tweaked a few to  make my own. I then made my own and finally asked my dear husband to try it as black tea is on my list of no-nos.

Ingredients

  • 125g of good quality loose leaf black tea (we used Dilmah – a ceylon orange pekoe)
  • 3 tablespoons cloves
  • 4 sticks of cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons of cardamon pods crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg (ground)
  • 150 g of crystallised ginger

Instructions

Preheat oven to 140 celsius or 120 fan forced.

Crush the cinnamon sticks and cardoman pods in a mortar and pestle.

Place cinnamon, cardoman, cloves and pepper in a baking tray roast in a the oven  for 5 minutes until
fragrant. Trust me you’ll know when the time is right, the whole house will smell like masala chai.

Place the black tea in a small bowl, along with the crystalised ginger (chop into small pieces if they are big like mine) and nutmeg.

Let the spices cool briefly and mix with the tea. Make sure there is an even distribution.

I bottled these for friends and added the following ‘brewing instructions for one’ from thekitchn.

Brewing Instructions
tea for one


1 cup of water
1/2 cup of milk
1 tablespoon of Chai Mix placed into a tea bag
Sugar or honey to taste
Bring the water to a boil and add the teabag. Turn off the heat and let steep for about 5 minutes. Add the milk, turn on the flame and reheat until hot. Remove from heat, discard teabag, sweeten to taste, enjoy!

I should add that the best way to store tea is away from light and, while pretty, if you plan on keeping the chai for a long time I’d invest in some dark or opaque tins to keep the light out and the tea fresh.

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