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Cheesy ravioli and veggie bake

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SERVES 4

1 pack fresh ravioli (I used a pumpkin & parmesan one, but any will do!)

1/4 of a pumpkin deseeded and peeled, sliced into finger-long, thin slices

1 small jar good quality passata or pasta sauce

4 spring onions, finely sliced

2 bunches asparagus, woody ends snapped off

2 handfuls baby spinach leaves, chopped

2 handfuls fresh podded peas

1 handful fresh parsley leaves, chopped

1 corn cob, kernels cut off

1/2 pack of Meredith goat’s cheese chevre, crumbled

125g mozzarella cheese, grated

100g parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 210 degrees celcius. In a small roasting dish, lay out the pumpkin in a single layer. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a small amount of salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, or until tender.

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook the ravioli until almost done, usually about 5 minutes (check the pack for guidance). Remember that the ravioli will continue to cook in the oven during baking, so boil it until a little under al dente. Drain in a colander.

Place a sautee pan over medium heat with a little extra virgin olive oil and gently sautee the spring onions until softened. Add the jar of passata or pasta sauce and bring to a simmer. Now throw in the peas and snap the asparagus into bite-sized pieces and throw them in too. Simmer until they are almost tender – about a minute or so. Turn off the heat and add the spinach leaves, corn kernels and parsley, stir and cover to allow them to wilt.

When the pumpkin is done, place the pieces on a plate. Using the roasting tray from the pumpkin, lightly grease the pan with any leftover oil from roasting and a little more if needed. Place half the ravioli over the base of the roasting tray, then spread half the veggie sauce over that. Scatter this with half the pumpkin, along with all the crumbled goat’s cheese. Now layer over the rest of the ravioli. Pour over the last of the veggie sauce, followed by the last of the pumpkin. Combine the mozzarella and parmesan cheese and scatter generously on top. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and gloriously golden.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes or so and serve with a big salad.

Indian Spiced Lentil Soup with Lime and Coriander

This is a really yummy soup I made up this afternoon, and it’s so super healthy. Lots of alkalising greens and lime in there, warming ginger, nourishing fats from the coconut oil, and protein from the lentils. I’m proud of this recipe, it’s really worked so well. Give it a try!

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Makes one big pot of soup

2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil

1 brown onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 heaped tablespoons of finely grated fresh ginger

4-5 parsley stalks, finely chopped

I bunch coriander, stalks chopped finely and leaves picked

1 green chilli, finely chopped

2.5 teaspoons ground coriander seeds

2.5 teaspoons ground cumin

1.5 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 handful fresh curry leaves

3 small carrots, diced

4 stalks celery, diced

Celery heart leaves, chopped

2 large desiree potatoes, diced

375g dried green lentils

1 tin diced tomatoes

Water or homemade veggie stock

1/2 bunch silverbeet, chopped

1 handful parsley leaves, finely chopped

1 lime

 

Melt the coconut oil over medium heat in a large cauldron-sized pot. To the pot, add the onion, garlic, ginger, coriander stalks, curry leaves, parsley stalks and chilli. Sautee slowly until the onion is softened. Sprinkle in some salt, the ground coriander, turmeric and ground cumin, and stir. Allow the spices to toast for a minute or until fragrant.

Now add the veggies and sweat for a few minutes, then stir in the lentils. Pour in the tomatoes, and enough stock or water to cover the veggies or as much as you like. Sprinkle in the parsley leaves and celery heart leaves, and bring the pot to the boil, then reduce to a slow simmer. Stir occasionally, and allow to cook until the lentils are tender, about 1.5 hours. About halfway through, add the chopped silverbeet.

When you’re ready to serve, sprinkle with the coriander leaves and squeeze in some lime juice.

Enjoy!

Brighten up Your Plate: Two Magnificent Salad Recipes

A post for those of use who have perhaps overindulged in Christmas treats and want to detox a bit:

I’m a firm believer that salad doesn’t just mean a few leaves adjacent to a hunk of steak – the humble salad can be a meal in its own right. Here are two recipes I’ve created that are perfect as robust meals on their own. These bright, colourful dishes are absolutely delicious, so give them a go!

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‘Love’ Salad of quinoa, greens, and beans

Serves 2

1 tin organic lentils, drained and rinsed

¾ cup white quinoa, rinsed thoroughly

4 large cos lettuce leaves, shredded

2 handfuls cherry tomatoes, quartered

½ a telegraph cucumber, deseeded and sliced

3-4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

1 large handful basil leaves, roughly chopped

1 or 2 pieces of rye mountain bread or other flat bread

1 block haloumi cheese, cut into strips

                                                                                             DRESSING

1 lemon, juiced

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 fat garlic clove, crushed

1 pinch salt

1 pinch pepper

3 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Cook the quinoa according to packet instructions, usually 10-15 minutes depending on the grain.

Toast the mountain bread either in the oven on a cookie tray or in a dry frypan. Once toasted on both sides, crack the bread into bite-sized pieces and set aside.For the haloumi, gently fry the strips in a non-stick dry frypan until soft and golden.

For the dressing, whisk all ingredients together and taste for balance of flavour.

To assemble, toss together the lentils, vegetables, quinoa and dressing.

Garnish the top of the salad with the cracked mountain bread and the strips of squidgy golden haloumi and eat with delight in your heart.

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Asparagus, Baby Carrot and Brown Rice Salad

Serves 3

1 bunch asparagus, woody ends snapped off

1 bunch baby carrots, trimmed

2 handfuls rocket (arugula) leaves

1/2 a handful parsley leaves

1 handful walnuts, chopped

1 cup brown rice

Feta cheese, optional

DRESSING

1 garlic clove

3 big swigs balsamic vinegar

1/2 a lemon, juiced

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

One pinch each salt and pepper

Start by chopping the asparagus and baby carrots into bite-sized pieces and steam them until tender. Place in a salad bowl.

Meanwhile, boil the brown rice according to packet instructions, drain, and add to the salad bowl.

Chop the rocket and parsley leaves and add to the salad bowl, along with the walnuts.

For the dressing, whisk together all the ingredients and pour over the salad.

Crumble the feta over the salad, if using, and toss gently to combine.

This is most fabulous when served warm, but is also lovely at room temperature too.

Simply Scrumptious! Cake Baking & Femininity

Hi all!

Over at my other blog, I’ve posted a brand new podcast that might tickle your fancy and get your tastebuds humming: it’s all about cake baking and femininity! I interviewed cake expert Carmel Cedro about children’s cookbooks; wedding cake trends; girl’s celebration cakes; Dolly Varden (Princess) Cakes; Cupcakes; and the tension between our culture’s fascination with food vs. the cultural obsession with skinniness and diets. Click on this link to view and scroll down the page to download the podcast for free! : http://sparklescene.com/simply-scrumptious-cake-baking-femininity/ I would love to hear your thoughts, so please don’t hesitate to leave a comment on this blog or on sparklescene!

Happy baking everyone,

Athena

Photo credit: Kim Clayton-Greene

Oven-Roasted Ratatouille with Crispy Tofu

This is a wonderful recipe for ratatouille, adapted from a recipe on taste.com, and I cook it all the time. I serve it with all sorts of things: sometimes I stir a tin of black beans through the vegetables at the end of the cooking time. A couple of weeks ago I served it on the side of a minute steak – fabulous. Tonight I made it with tofu and it was especially delicious.

Serves 4

1 eggplant

1 red capsicum (pepper)

1 yellow capsicum (pepper)

2 zucchini

6 roma tomatoes

1 red onion

2-3 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary

1/2 a bunch fresh parsley

1 block firm tofu, pressed

Balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (390 Fahrenheit).

Chop the eggplant, capsicums and zucchini into cubes and place in a large roasting tin. Quarter the roma tomatoes and finely slice the red onion into half-moon slices. Crush the garlic and finely chop the rosemary. Add all this to the roasting tin, along with a good glug of extra virgin olive oil, and some salt and pepper.

DSC02449Roast for 45 minutes or until the vegetables are all tender and lovely.

In the last few minutes of the ratatouille’s cooking time, prepare the tofu. Slice the pressed tofu into 1cm slices and pan fry in your oil of choice and a splash of balsamic vinegar until wonderfully crispy. Take off the heat and season with a little salt.

Once the vegetables are done, roughly chop the parsley and toss it through the veggies along with the tofu. Serve with some rice if desired.

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Seriously Magnificent Vegetarian Lasagne

Last night I had my dear friend Kim over for a girl’s night in with the family and I made this rather fabulous vegetarian lasagne for us to share as we watched movies. We watched Spring Breakers and also Warm Bodies. Spring Breakers was, shall we say, our least favourite of the two, and I’ll probably write something about its depiction of femininity, power and sexuality on my other blog at some stage. Warm Bodies is great fun, a zombie romcom essentially, and I recommend it highly. Anyway, let’s get to the food.

The way I made this was based on two recipes: one by Janella Purcell, and the other by Green Kitchen Stories. It is packed with roasted vegetables, loads of herbs, some tofu, and a lovely napoli sauce. The cheesy topping is a healthier, but no less delicious, version of the traditional white sauce, using ricotta, lemon, and mozzarella. Evidence of the white sauce’s deliciousness: Kim took off the cheesy topping and saved it for last.

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Everyone at the table agreed that this is the best vegetarian lasagne we have ever had. Divine!

Recipe feeds 4-6 hungry humans

For the roasted vegetables

1 eggplant (aubergine), sliced thinly

Jap pumpkin, sliced thinly, enough to make 2 cups worth

4 zucchini, sliced thinly

Mushrooms, sliced thinly, enough to make 1 cup’s worth

1 clove garlic

1/2 a cup of olive oil

Salt and pepper

For the napoli sauce

1 brown onion, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

3 tins diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

For the white sauce

500g ricotta cheese

1 handful basil leaves, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper

1 lemon

A little milk, if needed

For assembling the lasagne

1 packet fresh lasagne sheets

180g firm tofu, crumbled

250g mozzarella cheese, grated

100g pecorino cheese, grated

1 cup each parsley and basil leaves, roughly chopped

Firstly preheat the oven to 180 Degrees Celsius (356 Fahrenheit), and place the thinly sliced vegetables in a large roasting tray. Drizzle them with the olive oil. Mince the garlic and scatter this on the vegetables, and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 20-30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

While that happens, get started on the napoli sauce. Chop and sautee the onion and garlic in a little olive oil in a medium sized pan over medium heat. Once translucent, add the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, and some salt and pepper. Allow to simmer for 15-30 minutes or until thickened and saucy.

For the white sauce, mash the ricotta until smooth. Add the finely grated zest and juice from the lemon, some salt and pepper, and the handful of chopped basil. If the mixture is a bit firm and stodgy, add a slosh of milk or two to loosen it, until it turns into a thick creamy consistency.

To assemble, get out a large roasting tray and lightly oil it with olive oil. Spread a little napoli sauce on the base, and then add a layer of lasagne sheets, enough to cover the base of the tray. Now spread a little more napoli on the lasagne sheets, then add all the eggplant and sprinkle with some of the parsley and basil. Now add a layer of all the pumpkin, then some white sauce. Then add some more lasagne sheets, then make a layer of the crumbled tofu, some napoli sauce, then more lasagne sheets. Next add all the mushrooms, some of the white sauce, and the rest of the parsley and basil. Now add all the zucchini and some more napoli sauce. For the final layer, add the last of the lasagne sheets, napoli sauce, and the rest of the white sauce. Scatter all the mozzarella and pecorino on top and cook in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until the top is gorgeously golden and the pasta is cooked through.

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We served this with a salad, and a glass of white wine. ENJOY!

Pasta with a Zesty Raw Veg Sauce, Lentils and Herbs

OK so this is an amazing dish. I cannot get enough of it, and I think everyone needs to try this one! It’s so moreish and fresh and light, but also really satisfying and robust in flavour. I was inspired by a Nigella Lawson recipe that uses raw, finely sliced mushrooms marinated in lemon, thyme and olive oil. My dish does this too, but with lots of additions that make it extra scrumptious and healthy to boot. The recipe is vegetarian, and if you omit the parmesan cheese to garnish, it is also vegan.

Serves 4

6-8 button mushrooms

2-3 small zucchini

1 fennel bulb with fennel fronds

125g cherry tomatoes

125g black kalamata olives

1 garlic clove

1 lemon

I small handful thyme stalks

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 handful parsley

1 tin organic lentils, drained and rinsed

400g spelt spaggheti

1 handful parmesan cheese, to garnish

Firstly, begin to prepare the vegetables. Finely slice the mushrooms to make roughly 1 and 1/2 cup’s worth, and place in a large serving bowl. Use either a vegetable peeler or mandolin to strip the zucchini into ribbons to make roughly 1 and 1/2 cup’s worth, leaving the seedy cores intact and throwing them away. Now slice any large zucchini ribbons into matchstick-width slices with a knife and add the slices to the mushrooms. Again, using a vegetable peeler or mandolin, finely slice the fennel and then slice with a knife into thin strips, making 1 cup of fennel strips. Add these to the bowl too. Reserve the fennel fronds for later. Now halve the cherry tomatoes, and mince the garlic; add these to the bowl along with the whole olives. Pour in the olive oil, and strip in the leaves from the thyme stalks (discard the stalks). Finely grate the lemon zest into the bowl and the squeeze in the juice of the whole lemon too. Add the salt and stir the bowl well.

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The veggies marinating in lemon, garlic and thyme

Put a pot of water on to boil with a little salt added, and cook the pasta until al dente. Continue to stir the bowl of veggies occasionally as the pasta cooks. Drain the pasta.

While the pasta is still hot, toss through the vegetables and add the lentils to the bowl too.

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The magnificent end result! Perfect pasta

Chop the reserved fennel fronds and the parsley semi-finely and scatter it into the bowl and serve with the parmesan cheese, if desired.