Savoury Pinwheels

We all find ourselves in the position of having to prepare a plate of nibbles occasionally, whether it’s for something at home, school, work or to take to a friend. The question is always “what?”. Some of you may have a signature dish, but if you’re like me and don’t, or are just looking for something fail-safe and easy, this is one of my favourites and can have as many or as few ingredients as you choose, the options are only limited by your imagination.

I’ve listed 5 variations below that are absolutely delicious!

Savoury Pinwheels

Blue Cheese, Cranberry and Walnut:
1 sheet ready-made puff pastry
½ a cup dried cranberries
50 g creamy blue cheese, crumbled
2 Tbsp chopped walnuts
1 egg

OR

Parmesan, Basil and Sun-dried Tomatoes:
1 sheet ready-made puff pastry
50 g grated parmesan cheese
a few fresh basil leaves, torn or used whole
3 Tbsp sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
1 egg

OR

Chutney and Cheese:
1 sheet ready-made puff pastry
chutney of your choice (enough to spread over the pastry sheet)
½ a cup Edam cheese (you can use a stronger cheese, but I don’t want to overpower the chutney flavour)
1 egg

OR

Marmite and Cheese: (kids love this one)
1 sheet ready-made puff pastry
marmite
½ a cup Edam or Cheddar cheese, grated
1 egg

OR

Pineapple and Ham Pizza:
1 sheet ready-made puff pastry
2 slices ham, thinly sliced
2 slices tinned pineapple, chopped
½ a cup cheese of your choice
1 Tbsp tomato/pizza paste
1 egg

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Defrost the pastry sheets fully before adding the filling.
  3. If using a paste/chutney filling, spread it over the pastry sheet.
  4. Sprinkle the fillings evenly over the pastry sheet and roll the sheet carefully so it forms a cylinder/pipe shape. Using a sharp knife, slice the roll into 1,5cm discs and place flat onto the prepared tray. If they’ve lost their shape, gently coax them back into round discs with your fingertips.
  5. Paint the egg wash over the pinwheels (you can leave this step out if you wish, but the egg wash browns them beautifully).
  6. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

Enjoy!

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Sausage, Herb & Lentil Stew with Homemade Bread

This past week has seen Auckland’s typical Spring weather, “4 seasons in one day”, return with a vengeance, this phrase having been made famous by Neil Finn and co. of Crowded House – true Kiwi music icons. We’ve had quite heavy rain and fantastic loud, thundery storms with the accompanying lightning. So loud that it wakes you up with quite a fright in the night and the walls seem to quiver a little, but then you realise how blessed you are to be warm and safe and then snuggle back down under the covers and drift off to sleep with the sound of the rain and wind lashing the world outside.

I had thought it was time to begin concocting various salads again, but we’ve been able to extend the comfort food a little longer with pasta bakes, stews and soups. This particular recipe is an old favourite that is supposed to be a stew served with mashed potato or rice, but I like to serve it up with home baked crusty bread or thick slices of still-warm bread fresh from the oven. I was surprised to see it in this month’s Food magazine as it almost matches word for word the original recipe I took from the Your Family magazine back in about 2000, with the exception of one or two ingredients.  Another easy, inexpensive hearty meal which can be stretched to feed the masses if necessary.

Sausage, Herb and Lentil Stew
Sausage, Herb and Lentil Stew (Soup)
1 Tbsp oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
4 – 5 cooked sausages (I like pure Angus Beef), chopped
1½ Tbsp plain flour
2½ cups beef stock
410 g can chopped tomatoes
½ tsp mixed herbs
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
410 g can lentils, drained
salt and freshly ground black pepper
handful fresh chopped parsley

  • In a large pan, heat the oil and fry the sausages (or grill them in the oven).  When cooked and slightly browned, remove from the pan and set them aside.
  • Add the onion, garlic and chopped carrot (and a little more oil if necessary), and gently fry until the onion is soft.
  • Slice the sausages into chunks and add to the pan, along with the flour, stirring to coat the flour and so that it doesn’t stick.
  • Add the stock a little at a time, mixing well after each addition to remove any lumps, then add the chopped tomatoes, mixed herbs and balsamic vinegar.
  • Simmer the stew gently until the liquid has reduced (or don’t – I like to leave the liquid as is so don’t tend to simmer too long, just enough to allow the flavours to develop – I then serve it as a chunky soup with the bread).
  • Stir in the drained lentils and heat through.
  • Season with the salt and pepper and garnish with the parsley.

Note that if there are leftovers and you reserve them for another meal, the lentils will absorb much of the liquid so on re-heating, you may need to add a little more hot water/stock but not too much as you don’t want to dilute the flavours.

Click Crusty Healthy Homemade Bread for the recipe.

Crusty health bread loaf

Enjoy!

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Creamy Tomato, Bacon and Mushroom Pasta Bake

The first time I read this recipe I literally glanced over it very quickly and moved on – to put it plainly, it just didn’t grab me.  But once I made it, I couldn’t believe the depth of flavour from such a simple dish. This is another easy one, prepared and cooked in about 30 minutes. What I like about it is that it can be used as a base to which you can add just about anything to spruce it up or put a different slant on it.  It is begging to have the bacon replaced with chicken pieces, or an olive tapenade or pesto instead of the sun-dried tomato, perhaps spinach leaves instead of the broccoli, but I’ll save those for another day.

Creamy Tomato, Bacon and Mushroom Pasta Bake

One of the ingredients is sun-dried tomato pesto and unless you have this stored in your fridge and use it often, it can seem a bit pricey seeing that you only need 1 tablespoon. I didn’t have any on hand and my freezer supply had run out* so I substituted with whole sun-dried tomatoes in oil which I chopped finely. It also uses bacon instead of more expensive meat, so is a great way to make your $ stretch further. My family devoured it and then asked for seconds so that, to me, is always a sign of a good recipe.

*When I have leftover pesto, I spoon it into ice cube trays and place it in the freezer.  Once frozen, the cubes can be moved to a sealed plastic bag and stored for a few months. The ice tray tends to stain so perhaps set one aside for this type of occasion.

ingredients:
300 g (3 cups) small pasta shapes (spirals, ravioli, shells, etc.)
300 g broccoli, trimmed and cut into small florets
cooking oil spray
1 red onion, finely chopped
175 g lean bacon (just throw in the whole pack for goodness’ sake!)
150 g mushrooms, sliced (I used portobello as they are so full of flavour)
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
1 Tblsp sun-dried tomato pesto (or the equivalent of chopped sun-dried tomatoes)
400 g can chopped tomatoes
¼ cup light evaporated milk (freeze the rest in a jiffy/glad bag so you can use it at a later date)
½ cup grated Edam cheese (I used ¼ Edam and ¼ Parmesan)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cook pasta following the instructions on the packet, adding the broccoli in the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain well.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large non-stick pan over a medium-high heat and fry the onion and bacon. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 – 6 minutes or until the bacon is slightly crispy.
  3. Add the mushrooms and pepper, cooking for a further 3 – 4 minutes.
  4. Add the pesto (or chopped sun-dried tomatoes) and can of tomatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the evaporated milk and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 2 more minutes.
  6. Drain the pasta and broccoli and add to the sauce. Toss gently to combine.
  7. Transfer to a lightly oiled 2 litre (8 cup-capacity) ovenproof baking dish and sprinkle with the cheese.
  8. Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the cheese is golden.

Serve with a fresh green salad. The HFG magazine suggests that this meal can be made ahead of time and frozen, but I’m always a bit suspicious of how frozen pasta will turn out.  If you’ve tried freezing it and were happy with the result, please let me know.

Enjoy!

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Baked Chocolate Pudding

On Saturday night we invited friends over to watch the rugby.  Sadly the game was disappointing, or more appropriately, the referee was an idiot and had no business reffing a game of that quality but the company was wonderful.  We hadn’t seen these particular friends in a while and it’s always wonderful catching up on news, events and great conversation.  My hubby is the King of Roasts in our home – I don’t even attempt them anymore – not because I can’t, but because his are just so good!  He made a delicious roast leg of lamb with roast potatoes and juicy carrots.  My contribution was a roast veggie couscous, but the true highlight of the evening was my friend’s baked chocolate pudding.

Alex and Brian are a wonderful couple – the Kiwi and the Scotsman – and are always great fun to be around. I met Alex about 7 years ago when she was employed to cover my parental leave and we’ve been friends ever since.  She’s one of the world’s beautiful souls.  Nothing much seems to phase her and her happy-go-lucky yet rather quiet personality always lights up a room.  You know the type of girlfriend where there is never any nonsense?  No competition or bitchiness?  She’s always just Alex…easy to talk to, great company, always good for a laugh and a few glasses of wine!

Baked Chocolate Pudding
As Alex knows me so well and that I’m always trying new dishes, she kindly brought along the recipe for her magnificent creation without even being asked!  She was also happy to be “guest contributor” to Chocolate Goose this week so all kudos to Alex for her take on the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe below, which is described as “rich and delicious and so easy to make. The edges bake like a brownie and the insides are like molten chocolate.  Your friends will go crazy.” I can’t add much to that description really – it sums it up perfectly.

ingredients:
225g (½ pound or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the dish
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
¾ cup good cocoa powder (Alex used Dutch processed, hence the dark colour and rich flavour)
½ cup all-purpose flour
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
1 Tbsp framboise liqueur (optional – was left out of this one)
vanilla ice cream for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Lightly butter a 9 x 12 x 2 inch oval baking dish.
  2. Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
  3. In the bowl of an electric  mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 5 to 10 minutes, until very thick and light yellow.  Meanwhile, sift the cocoa powder and flour together and set aside.
  4. When the egg and sugar mixture is ready, lower the speed to low and add the vanilla seeds, framboise (if using) and the cocoa powder and flour mixture.  imx only until combined.  With the mixer still on low, slowly pour in the cooled butter and mix again until just combined.
  5. Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared dish and place it in a larger baking pan.  Add enough of the hottest tap water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the dish and bake for exactly 1 hour.
  6. The centre will appear very under-baked, but the edges should be crisp and cooked. This dessert is somewhere between a brownie and a pudding but should not be runny in the centre, just a bit gooey/stodgy.
  7. Allow to cool and serve with vanilla ice ceam.

The recipe also states that this dessert can be made up to 3 days in advance. Wrap well, refrigerate and bring to room temperature before serving.

Enjoy!

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Hearty Chicken and Veggie Casserole

This past week I decided to give myself a break from red meat.  Don’t get me wrong, I love red meat, but I think we eat too much of it at times, so a week of chicken, bacon or veggies (may have to throw in some fish tonight) has been well received by my body, and surprisingly, my family weren’t too concerned.  I had a terrible headache yesterday and wondered if that had anything to do with it, something like withdrawal symptoms, but decided that I was just being dramatic and the headache was just a headache.

One of my favourite things to do is snuggle up on the couch with a few good foodie magazines and ponder over the recipes and “ingredients in season” sections.  I then plan my meals for the next two weeks as I find fortnightly shopping more economical than weekly, both from a financial point of view as well as my time. Besides, its just a chore traipsing round the store more often than I have to as there is already so much to get done every week.

Back to my recipe mags…my favourite at the moment is the Healthy Food Guide.  I try to buy it monthly, but sometimes that’s just a luxury so I find myself returning to older copies of the magazines that I have stashed away.  This week was one of those weeks when it was easy to pull out the old favourites and adapt them here or there, plus the weather turned cold again so a few casserole type dishes were in order.  This recipe is taken from the June 2010 edition of the HFG.

Hearty Chicken and Veggie Casserole
ingredients:

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
500g skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breast (I used leftover roast chicken from the previous night)
1 carrot, diced
1 red pepper, sliced
400g can chopped tomatoes
½ cup chicken stock
¼ cup white wine
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp brown sugar
4 cups chopped spinach (use frozen if you don’t have fresh)
fresh parsley to garnish

  1. In a large pan, heat the oil and cook the onion and garlic over a medium heat until softened.  Add the chicken (if using raw), carrot and pepper.  Stir-fry until the chicken is browned.
  2. Add tomatoes, stock, wine, tomato paste and sugar.  Bring to a simmer. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the liquid has reduced a little.  If you use pre-cooked chicken that you’ve cut into strips, add it after the sauce ingredients have simmered for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the spinach and cook for a further 5 minutes. Garnish with parsley if you like and serve with pasta, rice or potatoes.  I opted for lovely nutty brown rice in keeping with my health kick this week.

This meal takes less than half an hour to prepare and cook – the brown rice probably took the longest, so is a nutritious and delicious dish to turn to on those nights when you are running low on time. The original recipe also suggests adding chillies or black olives as an alternative for extra flavour so play with it a little and make it your own.

Enjoy!

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Decadent Chocolate Brownie

I finally tried my friend’s recipe this weekend and I am very pleased to confirm it is every bit as delicious as she said it would be.  Decadent is the right word to describe it.  There is a shocking amount of chocolate in it, but I was pleasantly surprised to note that only half the sugar and eggs that are in my personal favourite chocolate brownie recipe.

Julie Oelofse and I have been friends for over 20 years. We met through mutual friends in our late teens and partied many a good party together. We studied together, she was at my 21st birthday party and was there to celebrate my wedding way back when. Sadly we lost contact when I moved cities and countries but met up again through mutual friends on Facebook. Now we celebrate milestone birthdays without each other, but we get to share pics of our kids and special times. Isn’t life funny. I bet if we got together again, we would share as many laughs as we did all those years ago and it would seem like time stood still. It’s great to have friends like Julie, very special indeed, even if so far away.

Decadent Chocolate Brownie

I must admit I was a tad sceptical though about the use of coffee granules and nuts in the batter as I’ve never been a fan of nuts in brownies and am not a coffee drinker, but this particular combination of ingredients, although quite strong, is definitely very more-ish and I couldn’t stop at my first piece – the brownie was still warm and I was already helping myself to seconds.

My advice? Bake the brownie, invite some great friends round and share a few good laughs about old times. As for me, I’ll be thinking of my friend and the good times even though I’m on the other side of the world.

ingredients:
250g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
175 g unsalted butter
5 ml vanilla extract
15 ml instant coffee granules
250 ml castor sugar
2 eggs
300 ml flour
100 g pecan nuts, roughly chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 27 cm x 17 cm (top measurement) slice tray with baking paper (I let the paper lie up and over the sides of the pan and then hold the sides down using metal bulldog clips).
  2. Melt the chopped chocolate, butter, vanilla extract and coffee granules in a large saucepan over a low heat, stirring occasionally – the granules seemed to want to stick to the bottom.
  3. Beat the sugar and eggs together until light and fluffy and add to the melted chocolate or just add them to the mixture in the saucepan and whisk well.
  4. Sieve the flour and add to the mixture, along with the chopped nuts. Pour mixture into the prepared tray and bake in the centre of the oven for 25 – 30 minutes until the edges look firm and cooked while the centre remains slightly squidgy (mine took 27 mins and were just perfect!).
  5. Allow to cool in the tray for a while then invert carefully onto a wire rack to fully cool, peeling the baking paper off slowly.
  6. Cut into slices or squares and savour that first taste.
  7. An afterthought had me considering icing them thinly or sprinkling icing sugar over the top for decoration, but I decided to leave them plain to get the full effect.

Enjoy!

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Lemon Slice

As I’ve said before, I love anything lemon flavoured and as yesterday was the first day of Spring and an absolutely beautiful day at that, I felt the need to bake something light and refreshing that we shared for afternoon tea while also celebrating the special man and Father in our lives on Father’s Day, my darling husband of 17 years :).

My original plan this past weekend was to try a dear friend’s Chocolate Brownie, which is truly one of my weaknesses, but her recipe calls for pecan nuts and as luck would have it, I had hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts and almonds on hand but no pecan nuts.   No matter, my next trip to the supermarket is already scheduled for later this week and I look forward to sharing the finished product next time.

But back to the subject at hand, my delicious Lemon Slice that I got from a Nestlé condensed milk wrapper years ago.  One of the quickest and easiest treats to prepare so great for surprise guests or when you want to bake something and only have a few pantry staples to rely on.  Please use fresh lemon juice though, I don’t believe the concentrate you can buy in a supermarket conveys the same crisp freshness, it is normally more tart and acidic, but if that’s all you have available, it won’t spoil the end product, you can be sure of that.

DSC_0010

ingredients:
base:
1½ cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup brown sugar
125g butter, melted

topping:
400g can condensed milk (I use the lite one and it works perfectly)
3 eggs
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
¼ cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp plain flour

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (or 160°C fan forced). Line a 27 cm x 18 cm x 3 cm tin with baking paper.
  2. To prepare the base, combine the dry ingredients with the melted butter and mix well.  Press the mixture firmly into the tin and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
  3. While the base is cooking, prepare the topping. Beat the condensed milk and eggs in a large bowl for 1 minute.  Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and flour and beat again until combined. Pour this mixture over the base – you don’t need to let the base cool first and note that the mixture will be very runny.
  4. Return the tin to the oven and bake for a further 20 – 25 minutes or until the topping has set. If the mixture is still spongy in the centre when pressed gently with your finger, return it to the oven for another 2 minutes.  The top should be firm and bounce back when you press it gently.
  5. Very important: allow it to cool in the tin as moving it may cause the base to crack.
  6. Once cool, transfer it to a board and cut it into pieces with a wet knife.  Dust it with icing sugar to make it look even more beautiful.

Enjoy!
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