Creamy slow-cooked zucchini pasta bake

A creamy slow-cooked zucchini pasta bake

My go-to cookbook is the amazing The Cook’s Companion by Stephanie Alexander. Whenever I’m not sure what to do with a vegetable, particularly if I have a lot of something, I refer to the chapter in Stephanie’s book and pick out an always-delicious recipe. The other week we had a lot of zucchinis delivered in our vegetable box and I did just that.

A creamy slow-cooked zucchini pasta bake

This recipe is inspired by Stephanie Alexander’s Slow-cooked Zucchini. I love the idea of cooking zucchini for a long time to create a glossy and unctuous texture. It makes this simple ingredient so luxurious.

A creamy slow-cooked zucchini pasta bake

I decided to turn the zucchini into a creamy pasta bake, because how can you go wrong with a creamy pasta bake?

This is a great comfort food dish. I happened to make this dish on a night when bedtime for the little one was particularly trying, and dinner was eaten tag-team between my husband and I. This is the perfect dish for solo eating. Decadent, rich and luscious. Enjoy!

A creamy slow-cooked zucchini pasta bake

Creamy slow-cooked zucchini pasta bake

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 4-5 zucchinis, cut into 2cm chunks
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • 250g fusilli
  • 20g parmesan, plus extra
  • 200g crème fraîche
  • 30g butter, melted
  • 50g breadcrumbs

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over a moderate heat and add zucchini and garlic. Lower heat and cover. Cook for 20 mins, stirring frequently until the zucchini has become squidgy and will mash easily.
  2. Mix the breadcrumbs with melted butter. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Mash the zucchini with a fork or potato masher, and add the lemon juice, chilli flakes and anchovy fillets. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Preheat the oven at 180° Celsius.
  5. Cook pasta according to packet instructions, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid.
  6. Add ½-1 cup of pasta water to the zucchini mixture to loosen, along with the crème fraîche and parmesan. Add cooked pasta and stir.
  7. Put pasta mixture into a roasting tray and top with breadcrumb mixture. Grate an extra layer of parmesan over the top of the breadcrumbs.
  8. Cook in the oven at 180° Celsius for 15-20 mins until golden and crunchy.

 

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Apple and custard tart

An apple tart with a creamy custard filling

Growing up, my family and I would often go for holidays in regional Victoria. Sometimes a long car trip was required. I remember my dad had these bingo sheets that he would hand to us at the start of the journey. It had lots of pictures of typical things you might see – a red car, a cow, a petrol station etc. You had to colour in the boxes until you’d found them all. It was a fun way to pass the time when travelling as a young child.

An apple tart with a creamy custard filling

Whenever we made a pit stop, we’d find a park to play in and a local bakery in the little town. And we’d get pies for lunch, with chocolate milk or a vanilla slice or custard tart if it was teatime. I’d always pick the custard tart. I like the fact that it’s not too sweet, and the texture is deliciously creamy.

I’ve put a spin on the custard tart today, adding apples as we have plenty of them at the moment. I added far too much cinnamon for my photos, but it still tasted delicious! I took it to dinner with my family, and we all had a slice for dessert with tea.

 

An apple tart with a creamy custard filling

Apple and custard tart

  • Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients

For the pastry:

  • 240g plain flour
  • 160g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tbs caster sugar
  • ¼ cup water

For the apples:

  • 35g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 2 apples, sliced
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch cinnamon

For the filling:

  • 1 ½ cups cream/milk
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup caster sugar

Directions

  1. To make the pastry, beat the butter and flour together in a mixer using a dough attachment. Add sugar and combine. Add enough water to bring the pastry together into a ball. As soon as the pastry comes together, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 mins or until needed.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200° Celsius. Grease a quiche flan with spray oil.
  3. To make the apples, melt butter and sugar in a small saucepan.
  4. Add the apples to the saucepan with the vanilla and cinnamon. Shake the saucepan to cover the apples with liquid, cover the saucepan with a lid and cook on a low heat for 10 mins. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  5. Take the pastry out of the fridge, and sprinkle the worktop with flour. Roll out the pastry until it is big enough to cover the base of the quiche flan. Line the flan with pastry and trim the edges, leaving extra height to allow for the pastry to shrink while cooking. Weigh down the pastry with baking paper and baking beads, and blind bake the pastry case for 20 mins in the oven.
  6. To make the filling, whisk the eggs and sugar together. Add the milk or cream and whisk.
  7. Remove the pastry from the oven and lower the heat to 160° Celsius. Remove the baking beads and baking paper. Line the pastry case with an even layer of the apples, and pour in the custard filling.
  8. Bake in the oven for 30 mins or until custard is set but wobbles when jiggled. Serve hot or cold, with ice cream or cream.

Slow cooker creamy beef casserole with Brussels sprouts and mustard

Creamy, rich, indulgent beef casserole with mustard and nutty Brussels sprouts

There is something about having dinner bubbling away by noon that makes you feel like a boss for the rest of the day. It makes dinner hassle-free, and even the prep seems quicker earlier in the day. With a new baby in the house, and being the middle of winter, the slow cooker has become my best friend.

Creamy, rich, indulgent beef casserole with mustard and nutty Brussels sprouts

I wanted to create a slow cooker beef dish that would be the ultimate comfort meal. I make a lot of slow cooked beef dishes that involve tomatoes, but I wanted something richer, something creamier, and something that seemed more indulgent. However, this dish still has lots of veg and makes getting your ‘five-a-day’ easy.

So in addition to carrots, celery and mushrooms, a classic beef combination, I decided to go with the often overlooked Brussels sprout. I am a fairly recent convert myself. When I lived in Cambridge for a year I subscribed to a weekly veg box and received many many Brussels sprouts which necessitated learning how to cook them a variety of ways. And I realised that when cooked well they can be delicious! In this dish, the Brussels sprouts soak up the flavour of the mustard and provide a crunchy texture and a nutty depth of flavour to the casserole.

Creamy, rich, indulgent beef casserole with mustard and nutty Brussels sprouts

Serve with mashed potatoes and red wine, for a cosy supper on a cold night. I made this on a night when the wind was hammering at the windows and the rain was lashing down and it was wonderful.

Creamy, rich, indulgent beef casserole with mustard and nutty Brussels sprouts

Slow cooker creamy beef casserole with Brussels sprouts and mustard

  • Servings: 6
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Ingredients

  • 1kg chuck steak, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tbs plain flour
  • 1 cup beer
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into thick rounds
  • 2 celery sticks, cut into thick slices
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 2 cups Brussels sprouts
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 cup button mushrooms, sliced
  • Handful of parsley, to serve
  • 1 lemon, to serve
  • Mashed potato, to serve

Directions

  1. Heat oil in the base of the slow cooker set to ‘sear’ function. If you do not have this function, use a frying pan. Add the onion and sear the meat until all surfaces are browned.
  2. Add the flour and stir to evenly distribute and coat beef. Cook for 1 min.
  3. Add beer and stock, deglazing the base of the pan with the liquid. If using a frying pan, move beef to the slow cooker at this point.
  4. Add the garlic, carrots, celery and mustard.
  5. Set your slow cooker for 6 hours on low or 3 hours on high.
  6. Add the Brussels sprouts and mushrooms 10 mins before the end of the cooking time.
  7. Once cooking is complete, add cream and stir. Serve with mashed potato. Garnish with parsley and a spritz of lemon juice.

 

Fennel and apple soup

A cosy winter soup with fennel and apple

Winter is the season for homemade soup. I have fond memories of growing up eating soup for lunch at the weekends. Minestrone, pumpkin, and pea & ham were the family favourites.

For this soup, I experimented with a new discovery for me: fennel. I had never made soup with it before, and as it was in season, I thought I’d experiment.

A cosy winter soup with fennel and appleA cosy winter soup with fennel and apple

This soup balances the aniseed flavour of the fennel with the sweetness of the apple for a light but flavoursome meal. It goes well with garlic bread, and a garnish of sour cream.

I like to make extra portions of soup and freeze them for future weekend lunches. This time around, it came in handy for our first weekend getaway as a new family. With one night away and a little 4 month old in tow, we decided to book accommodation that had a kitchen and self-cater for dinner. And my fennel and apple soup was just the thing! Frozen, it was easy to pack into the car. And super easy to heat up in an unfamiliar kitchen. Yum! Hot, warming, homemade soup. Minimal effort for a cosy holiday dinner.

A cosy winter soup with fennel and appleA cosy winter soup with fennel and apple

Fennel and apple soup

  • Servings: 4 as a main
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Ingredients

  • ½ leek, finely sliced
  • 20g butter
  • 2 fennels, sliced
  • 3 apples, diced
  • 1-2 tbs plain flour
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • Fennel fronds, to serve
  • Greek style plain yoghurt, to serve

Directions

  1. Fry leek in butter in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan on a medium heat until soft.
  2. Add fennel and apples and fry for 3 mins.
  3. Add flour, and stir to form a roux with butter on the base of the pan.
  4. Add chicken stock and 1 litre of water and bring to the boil.
  5. Simmer soup until vegetables are softened, about 20 minutes.
  6. Puree soup with a stick blender until smooth.
  7. Serve topped with fennel fronds and a dollop of yoghurt.

Pineapple and Coconut Drizzle Cake

Pineapple and coconut drizzle cake - perfect tropical vibes to freshen up a wintery rainy day!

Pineapple has such tropical vibes; I always associate it with summer. What a superb way to freshen up a dull and dreary Melbourne winter weekday. It has me dreaming of sunny beaches and summery breezes.

The pineapple I bought for this cake was lovely on its own. It was so juicy and sweet. The best pineapple I’ve ever had was in Fiji, on my honeymoon. But this pineapple was almost as good!

Pineapple and coconut drizzle cake - perfect tropical vibes to freshen up a wintery rainy day!

Coconut is the perfect flavour to combine with pineapple. And using coconut cream means that this cake is super easy to make dairy-free – just substitute the butter with a dairy-free spread and you’re good to go! I actually did this the second time I made this cake to cater for some dairy-free friends and it tasted just as good.

I decided to emulate the texture of a lemon drizzle cake by soaking the cake with a pineapple sugar syrup. Combined with a topping of shredded coconut, the texture of this cake is dense and intense and oh so tasty!

Perfect for an afternoon cuppa on a rainy day.

Pineapple and coconut drizzle cake - perfect tropical vibes to freshen up a wintery rainy day!

Pineapple and Coconut Drizzle Cake

  • Servings: 8
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Ingredients

  • 110g unsalted butter, softened
  • 110g caster sugar, plus 30g extra
  • 2 eggs
  • 130g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 35g dessicated coconut, plus a handful extra
  • 125ml coconut cream
  • 100g fresh pineapple, cut into chunks

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180° Celsius. Grease a 20cm cake tin with spray oil.
  2. Place pineapple chunks into food processor and whizz until pureed. Strain the pineapple puree and reserve the juice in a small bowl. Place both pineapple puree and pineapple juice to the side.
  3. Cream the butter and 110g of the sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the eggs, one by one.
  5. Fold in the flour, baking powder and coconut.
  6. Stir through the coconut cream and pineapple puree until combined.
  7. Pour the mixture into cake tin and bake in the oven for 35 mins or until golden on top, and a skewer comes out clean.
  8. While the cake is baking, mix 30g of the extra sugar with the pineapple juice to create a thick paste.
  9. Leave the cake to cool for 5 mins, before turning out onto a wire rack. Use a skewer to poke holes all over the cake. Pour over the pineapple sugar syrup while the cake is still warm. Sprinkle extra coconut over the top and leave to cool fully before storing or eating! Keeps well for 2-3 days in an airtight container.

Custard and sultana muffins

Custard filled sultana muffins

You hear about women craving all sorts of weird and wonderful food combinations when they’re pregnant. I didn’t get any strange cravings, which is mildly disappointing, as I feel like I’ve been robbed of a good story! The closest I got to a ‘husband-making-a-mad-dash-to-get-pickles-from-the-shops-at-4am’ situation was a sudden desire for cucumber early one summer’s evening. I made this known to my husband, who assured me he was happy to go and get some cucumber for me, just after some household chore was done. Could I be any healthier??

However, he never went! He forgot, and to this day I don’t let him forget about it!

Custard filled sultana muffins

Saying that, during my pregnancy I did have a strong hankering for all things cold and creamy. I always doubted though how likely it was that this was pregnancy-related. I couldn’t get enough of milkshakes, crème brulee, cheesecake, ice cream, rice pudding, custard… Ah custard.

Custard filled sultana muffins

And this is where today’s recipe fits in. I think I’m still having a love affair with the stuff. This is custard for all times of day, whenever the desire may strike. Enjoy!

Custard filled sultana muffins

Custard and sultana muffins

  • Servings: Makes 12
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Ingredients

For the custard:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 tbs caster sugar

For the muffins:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 115g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
  • ½ cup sultanas
  • 225ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 115g (1/2 cup) butter, melted

Directions

  1. To make the custard, combine milk and vanilla in a small saucepan.
  2. Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Fill the sink with cold water, and get out a clean bowl, rubber spatula and strainer for when the custard is cooked.
  4. Bring the saucepan with the milk mixture to a simmer. Remove from the heat.
  5. Pour the milk mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly.
  6. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan over a medium heat and stir constantly until thick. Cook for 2-4 mins. When the custard is cooked you will be able to draw a line on the back of the spoon through the custard.
  7. As soon as it is ready, pour the custard through the strainer into the clean bowl. Place the bowl in the sink so that the cold water surrounds it. Stir with a rubber spatula until cold. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
  8. Preheat the oven to 180° Celsius. Grease a muffin tray with spray oil.
  9. To make the muffins, combine flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, sultanas and sugar in a bowl.
  10. Combine milk, eggs and butter in a separate bowl.
  11. Mix dry and wet ingredients until combined. Spoon half the mixture into the muffin tray. Then, place a spoonful of custard into each muffin, and fill them up with the rest of the muffin mixture. Cook for 30 mins at 180° Celsius until golden.

Spiced Chicken Bake with Cauliflower and Almonds

Spiced chicken traybake with cauliflower and almonds that is easy and quick to prepare!

With a young baby in the house, early evenings are now very busy times. At 6pm our house is go-go-go! Bath time is happening and bedtime is approaching. So… dinner preparation has had to become super-slick. The less time required in the kitchen, the less multi-tasking for this tired mama!

Spiced chicken and cauliflower traybake that is easy and quick to prepare!

I wanted to create a dish that would eliminate the crazy from our evenings. Something that involves minimal effort to put together. Something that I can whack into the oven and forget about until my husband and I are ready to eat. Our ‘dinner time’ varies from one night to the next and it is nice to be able to sit down to eat together as soon as bub is asleep.

Spiced chicken traybake with cauliflower and almonds that is easy and quick to prepare!

I LOVE cauliflower. It is seriously one of my favourite vegetables. My all-time favourite dish growing up was a luscious cauliflower cheese to accompany a roast lamb. This, sadly, is one of the few ways I know how to cook this delightful vegetable. Given cauliflower is in season at the moment in Melbourne, I decided to try cooking it a different way. I have also been loving almonds in savoury dishes and thought that they would provide an interesting crunch. The overall effect is one of major scrumptiousness. I love this recipe – not only are we set up for a yummy dinner, but also a peaceful evening, and who can complain about that?

Spiced chicken traybake with cauliflower and almonds that is easy and quick to prepare!

Spiced Chicken Bake with Cauliflower and Almonds

  • Servings: 3
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Ingredients

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt & pepper
  • ½ cup almonds, crushed
  • ½ tsp of chilli flakes
  • 6 chicken drumsticks
  • 1 red onion, cut into wedges
  • ½ cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 6 black olives, pitted and sliced
  • ½ bunch coriander, coarsely chopped
  • Couscous, to serve
  • Lemon wedges, to serve

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 220° Celsius.
  2. Combine olive oil, garlic, ground coriander, cumin, lemon juice, salt, pepper, almonds and chilli flakes in a large bowl.
  3. Add the chicken drumsticks to the marinade and toss to ensure an even coating.
  4. Place the chicken in a roasting tray with the red onion and cauliflower.
  5. Bake in oven for 20 mins.
  6. Reduce heat to 180° C and baste with juices. Bake for a further 40 mins.
  7. Add olives to the roasting tray 10 mins prior to the end of the cooking time.
  8. Sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve with couscous and lemon wedges.