Thursday, May 14, 2015

Lamb Shank Tagine

It's been a while since I've posted on the Blog - we've had a busy 12 months! We welcomed a wonderful new Butcher to our Georgetown Fresh Food Hub and the two businesses are working closely to bring beautiful fresh food to the tables of Newcastle families!

This is the perfect mid-winter comfort food, rich and flavourful with root vegetables.  Serve with cous cous for a complete meal.

Lamb Shank Tagine

Ingredients - Serves 4
8 small lamb shanks  
4 tablespoons Herbie’s Spices Tagine Spice Blend
4 parsnips cut into 3cm cubes
6 carrots cut into 3cm cubes
2 long red chillies, sliced
2 red onions (in 1/8ths)
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
1 lemon cut into 3cm cubes
1 cup firm green olives
3 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
200mL water or brown stock

  1. Coat shanks in 2 tablespoons tagine mix and roast 45 minutes at 200ºC, turning once.
  2. Brown parsnips, chillies, carrots, onion and garlic in large pan, add remaining tagine mix, lemon, olives & tomatoes.  Bring to a gentle boil and cook 5 minutes.
  3. Drain fat from roasting tray and cover shanks with sauce.  Add water or stock, cover and cook at 180ºC for 2-3 hours, until meat falls from bone. 
  4. Turn shanks during cooking and add more water if looking dry. Serve with cous cous.
Additional Tips
If you're lucky, there will be left-overs for lunch the next day.  If you like your food with some extra heat, make up a Harissa paste to serve on the side. 

This Recipe courtesy of Herbies Spices.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Mini Mandarin and Almond Cakes

Autumn & Winter is the time that citrus fruit is at its most bountiful and delicious. 

I had a slightly unwell little person at home with me today (He was coughing and running a slight temp & he didn't complain when I said that a sick day meant time in bed! I think he needed a Mental Health Day) and we splurged after dropping off his sister at school with a coffee and a cupcake. The cupcake was a Gluten Free Mandarin cake & little Mr and I shared it & he LOVED it. He wanted to know if we could make it & I told him that I had made them previously, so I would hunt out the recipe & we could make them (after he had a big sleep).

Mini Mandarin & Almond Cakes

·            3 seedless mandarins, skin on
·            1 cup caster sugar
·            1 cinnamon sticks
·            125g butter, softened
·            3 eggs
·            1 1/2 cups almond meal (ground almonds)
·            1/3 cup plain flour (or for Gluten Free option, use Corn Flour or Gluten Free Plain Flour)


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced. Place liners in a 12 hole muffin pan.
  2. Combine mandarins, 1/2 cup sugar, cinnamon and 2 cups cold water in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil. Boil, covered, for 15 minutes or until mandarin skin is tender. Remove mandarin and process in a food processor until mandarin is almost smooth. Cool.
  3. In an electric mixer, beat butter and ½ cup sugar until pale and creamy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in almond meal, flour and mandarin purée. Spoon mixture into prepared cases. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cooking with Kids

This is not the first post I have written about cooking with kids, but this is a topic I feel very strongly about, for many reasons. Firstly food and preparing food is an integral part of life, without food we can't live. Teaching children about food is one of the life skills that is often missed in our busy schedules. So many children, teenagers and even adults have a limited knowledge about the production, storage and preparation of food, because they have not been exposed to real food. They have only shopped in supermarkets where all of the food is presented pre-packaged, most meals are presented to them without them having any input or knowledge about the cooking.

I believe that to counteract the obesity epidemic and the junk food lifestyle we need to talk about food and cook with kids. Parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, sports coaches, grandparents and other carers can all help to raise this generation of children with an awareness of the basics of nutrition, healthy eating and teach them the basics of how to cook.

Let your children shop with you, let them help to make decisions on what they will have in their lunchboxes or on their dinner plates, but do this in a controlled manner. Offer 2 choices, for example; "You can have an apple or some strawberries for fruit break tomorrow, which would you prefer?" or "We're having roast chicken for dinner tonight, which vegetables would you like to help me prepare?" Talk about the healthy food pyramid, how we should eat more vegetables and fruits than meats and carbohydrates and less fats and sugars. Soon these children will be helping to make healthy choices for the whole family.
When I ask my children "Who wants pie for dinner?" I am always greeted with cheers & the question "Can I help?" Music to my ears!

This pie recipe has become a family favourite, and like so many of our family recipes it is adapted to suit what is in the fridge. My children love to cut up the mushrooms for this pie, they also enjoy turning on the oven and stirring the pie filling. My daughter, now 6 years old, likes the responsibility of weighing and measuring ingredients, so I let her weigh out the flour and use the measuring  cups and spoons to measure out the butter, herbs and liquids. I like to think the flavour of these pies has the kids asking for more, but I think the fact that they help to make them also has something to do with the success!

Chicken and Mushroom Pie - adapted from a recipe by The Stock Merchant
4 rashers bacon (we use Sellers Meats at Merewether), cut into 2.5cm strips
1 teaspoon oil or butter
1 brown onion peeled and diced
150g brown mushrooms, sliced into 5mm pieces
300g free range chicken thigh fillets with fat removed, cut into 2.5cm pieces
40g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme - Herbies brand of course!
1 x 20ml tablespoon butter
500ml hot The Stock Merchant Free Range Chicken Stock
1 x 15ml tablespoon Marsala or sherry
4-5 medium to large dutch cream or sebago potatoes, peeled and quartered
butter, salt and pepper to mash the potatoes to your liking

1. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
2. Place peeled and chopped potatoes into a saucepan of water and bring to the boil.
3. Whilst potatoes are boiling fry bacon strips in oil or butter to make them crisp, add the diced onion and cook stirring until the onion is translucent, then add mushrooms.
4. Coat the chicken in the flour and thyme and add to pan with oil or butter – fry until chicken begins to colour.
5. While stirring the mixture, pour in hot stock and Marsala or sherry and create a sauce. Let simmer for 5 minutes.
6. Whilst the chicken mixture is simmering, drain the cooked potatoes and mash using milk or cream or butter and a good grind of salt and pepper.
7. Take four 250ml pie-pots or ramekins and divide the chicken mixture between the four pots and cover with the mashed potato. Bake in the pre-heated oven for approximately 20 minutes.
8. Once the tops are lightly golden brown they are ready. Serve immediately. These can be served with steamed carrot and broccoli for a colourful, fun and nutritious dinner.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Meat Free Mondays

Meatless Monday is a global campaign attempting to change the health of the population and the planet, by reducing the amount of meat eaten worldwide. Monday, the start of the work week, is when many people re-set their goals, re-establish routines and think about their impact on the world around them a little more, before the hectic nature of modern life pulls them back into its clutches.

Australians are the among the highest meat-eaters in the world, and this is impacting our health, and the health of our planet. Red meat is generally high in saturated fat, which is associated with heart problems, and has been linked with some cancers, particularly bowel cancer. Meat production, particularly grain-fed beef,  requires a greater input of water than the production of grains or many vegetables. This meat production puts extra strain on our planet. Meatless Monday is about being kind to our bodies and kind to the planet.

Many of us can manage a meat free breakfast and even a meat free lunch, but when it comes to the evening meal we are pre-programmed to look for meat on our plate. It doesn't have to be that way, start your Meat Free Monday campaign with a bowl of pumpkin soup for dinner, made using vegetable stock, rather than chicken stock. The next week try a mixed vegetable stir-fry with brown rice. As the weeks progress you can become more adventurous in your Meat Free Monday journey. This recipe for a Roast Vegetable Salad may inspire you.

Roast Vegetable Salad

1 sweet potato, cut into thick slices
½ butternut pumpkin, cut into chunks
1 zucchini, sliced into 2.5 cm pieces
1 red capsicum, seeded and quartered
1 red onion peeled & quartered
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
2 avocados, sliced
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons Herbies Greek Seasoning
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Pre-heat oven to 200C.

2. Place sweet potato, pumpkin, zucchini, red onion and red capsicum in a mixing bowl. Add 1½ tablespoons olive oil, garlic and Greek Seasoning and toss to make sure all the vegetables are coated in oil.

3. Spread the vegetables evenly onto a baking tray and season with freshly ground pepper.

4. Bake in oven for approx.  40 minutes or until tender and golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

5. Place cooled vegetables into a serving bowl. Add tomatoes, avocado, baby spinach, balsamic vinegar and a little more olive oil. Toss well. Sprinkle with pine nuts.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Gluten Free Cooking

At The Fresh Ingredient we are seeing more and more customers looking for gluten free foods. Gluten Intolerance and Coeliac Disease are becoming more common in Australian society. I'm sure there are many reasons for this, but one of things that we, as food professionals have noticed is the amount of gluten that is added to foods, especially convenience foods and highly processed foods. If you read the ingredients list on jars of curry sauces, pasta sauces etc you will find thickeners are often added, along with other preservatives, colourings etc. Many people comment to me that Gluten is in everything. I don't agree. Gluten is in many foods, but with knowledge and care it is easy to eat Gluten Free.

All fruits and vegetables are gluten free, as is meat. The majority of dairy products are gluten free, you just have to check what has been added to your cheese and yoghurts. Eating grain based foods is a little more difficult, but rice, quinoa, tapioca, buckwheat, corn, millet and amaranth are all gluten free and they are becoming more readily available.
I often hear people say "I don't want to eat grilled meat and steamed vegetables every night, but I have to eat gluten free, what can I do?" At The Fresh Ingredient home we eat gluten free most nights, we love warming casseroles, pies, risotto and even pasta dishes. We use gluten free pasta, and make our own meat and vegetable based sauces. When making casseroles or stews I still coat the meat before browning it, but I use rice flour and a selection of Herbies spice mixes, rather than gluten based prepared slow-cooker bases. Risotto can be a filling, tasty and relatively easy dinner dish. If you use good quality stock and fresh meat and vegetables this will be a gluten free dinner that the whole family will enjoy!
Smoked Chicken and Capsicum Risotto
6 cups chicken stock - either homemade or The Stock Merchant Chicken Stock
1 cup good quality white wine,
1.5 cups arborio or carnoli rice
1 brown onion, finely diced
1 golden shallot (eschallot), finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup finely diced mixed capsicum (red, green and yellow)
1 smoked chicken breast finely diced
2 tbs Brookfarm Macadamia Oil
1 tbs butter
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste.
1. Heat chicken stock over low heat and maintain at a simmer. It is best to heat the stock before adding to the rice so that the rice cooks more quickly at a steady temperature.
2. Heat oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add finely chopped brown onion, golden shallot and crushed garlic cloves and cook, while stirring, for 5 minutes or until the onion softens. Add diced capsicum and stir until capsicum softens, then add one and a half cups of carnoli/arborio rice and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for 1 to 2 minutes or until the grains appear glassy and are coated in the butter mixture.
3. Add one cup of white wine and cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid is completely absorbed. Add a ladleful of the hot stock and stir continuously until the liquid is completely absorbed. Continue adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring continuously, allowing the liquid to be absorbed before adding more.
4. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the rice is tender yet firm to the bite and risotto is creamy. Remember to stir every minute or so. In the last 5 minutes add the diced smoked chicken.
5. Remove from heat and add parmesan.
Serve with the remainder of the white wine and a green salad if desired.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Fresh Food Love

Recently a customer asked me what it was that made me smile. I had to think for a moment, not because I don't smile; I smile and laugh often every day, anyone that visits The Fresh Ingredient will have experienced the quirky style and sense of humour that pervades the business, I had to pause and think because I needed to pinpoint what it was that made me smile. I replied that the sound of children laughing made me smile. I thought about this conversation often in the days following and added many things to my mental list of things that make me smile. This list includes; the snuggly cuddles of my children, the feel of an anticipated book in my hand, a cup of coffee made by my husband and handed over with a smile, but the thing that keeps coming up in my list is always related to food. Food is not just fuel for my body, it is also food for my soul.

I love cookbooks, I always have. I remember as a child often sitting and reading cookbooks, I didn't necessarily want to cook what I was reading about, I just loved to read the recipes. I love to read menus, I will take a long time to decide what to order in a restaurant or cafe, because I am reading each item and thinking about how it will taste, or how it has been prepared. These make me smile.

I love to look at fresh food, I love to hold fresh food, these make me smile. I love to cook. Cooking food for family and friends makes me smile, however I don't have a lot of free time, so I need to have a repertoire of "recipes" that are tasty, family friendly and reasonably fast to prepare. I am inspired to create meals by the beauty of fresh produce, I will think about flavour combinations and play around with the ingredients, with what I have on hand and what is affordable.

With pumpkin in season I am creating many dishes inspired by this delicious vegetable, soup comes to mind first, but The Fresh Ingredient family also love  a pumpkin pasta dish. I turn the oven on as soon as I get into the house, ready to roast the pumpkin and also to heat the kitchen, which is the heart of our home. With this dish I don't measure or weigh out ingredients and I substitute if I don't have something on hand. The protein element in this dish can be either chicken or bacon (or both). The sauce can be cream based, or stock based or both.

Creamy Pumpkin and Chicken Pasta
Ingredients(serves 4)
1/2 butternut pumpkin, peeled and diced, or use a good sized wedge of Jap Pumpkin.
2-3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 eschallot, diced
1 double chicken breast, sliced.
2-3 rashers best quality bacon, cut into strips (I love Seller's Butchers at Merewether, they smoke their own bacon. It is the real deal!)
1/2 cup pure cream (Udder Farm if available)
1/2 cup chicken stock (or pasta cooking water)
3 cups dry penne pasta
1/4 cup pine nuts
fresh parmesan, grated
salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. 
2. Toss pumpkin in half of the oil and roast for 30 minutes or until tender and golden. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to oven for the last 10-15 minutes. In the last 2-3 minutes place a small roasting pan with pine nuts into oven, agitate to make sure they roast evenly.
3. Shortly before the pumpkin is ready, boil salted water for the pasta, cook the pasta following packet directions.
4. Fry bacon, add garlic and eschallot to the pan, (use remaining olive oil if required) turn heat down to low heat.
5. Add pumpkin to frypan contents stirring gently, slowly stir in the cream and stock. Pumpkin should go a little mushy and blend with the cream. 
6. When pasta is ready, stir the parmesan and chicken into the pumpkin mixture and season with salt and pepper.
7. Drain pasta and combine with pumpkin mixture. Serve with a little extra parmesan, the roasted pine nuts and a grind of black pepper.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Super Soup

Soup is common to most cultures throughout the world, from the traditional pea and ham soup of the Anglo-Saxon people, to the chowder & gumbos of the Americas and the Tom Yum of South East Asia. Soup is a comfort food for many, the continual references to "chicken soup" in popular culture attest to its place in society. Homemade soup is very nutritious, easy to digest and generally easy to prepare. As long as we watch the salt and fat content and the amount of bread or croutons consumed with the soup, then it can be a tasty addition to many diets.
Whilst soup is available in packets, tins & microwaveable plastic containers, many of these products are high in salt, preservatives and artificial colours and flavours, not the best things for our bodies or our souls. Making soup at home is very good for our body and soul. The rhythm of chopping the vegetables, the smell of sautéing your aromatics, the gentle bubbling sound of the soup simmering in the pot, the sight of a steaming bowl of your own handmade goodness and finally the taste, not just of the beautiful fresh ingredients used, but also the love that has gone into this meal.
At the Fresh Ingredient we love soup throughout Autumn and Winter, and we love to hear about our customer's cooking adventures. Throughout April and May we are inviting people to submit their soup recipes, via e-mail or our facebook page. The one judged to be the most interesting/creative will win a gift box from The Fresh Ingredient. 
Good Luck. Mary/The Fresh Ingredient

Moroccan Sweet Potato Soup

Ingredients - Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large brown onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons Herbies Chermoula Spice Mix
  • 600g orange sweet potato, peeled, diced
  • 500g carrots, peeled, sliced
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 300g can chickpeas, drained, rinsed
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Turkish bread to serve.

  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Stir in chermoula spice mix. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add sweet potato and carrot. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Add stock. Cover. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
  • Add chickpeas to soup and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until chickpeas are tender.
  • Blend soup, using a stick blender, or if using a processor, blend in small batches, until smooth. Return soup to saucepan, bring to medium-low heat. Check seasoning and adjust salt and pepper. Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice, continue heating and stirring until the soup has warmed through. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with pepper and serve with Turkish Bread.