Category Archives: Mains & All-in-Ones

braised beef seitan-2

Tender and Delicious Red Meat Style Seitan

So I’m not going to claim to be back again. I seem to do so after every long absence, then after one or two posts I lapse into my lazy ways. In fact, a few weeks ago I decided I wasn’t going to do this blog anymore. I’m short on time, and while I’d love to be able to cook full time for a living, that just isn’t a reality right now.

However, it seems that while my interest in this blog is sporadic, when the inspiration hits, I just can’t help but share it with you all. So I have decided that I won’t pressure myself to post here, but that I will keep this site to post when I feel like it. And I’ve had more than enough inspiration in the last week to motivate me.

Last week, I went to the Herb and Chilli Festival in Wandin, Victoria. If you’ve never been, you really must go next year. I went expecting to find a few good chilli sauces, but found so many more than a few. I came home with enough to last me two years, and that was showing restraint. Among the highlights currently sitting in my pantry are jerk mustard (oh yes), smoky chilli-stout sauce, habanero-mango salt and a sensational peach and chilli chutney. And it was that peach and chilli chutney that inspired this post, because I just couldn’t bear the though of not spreading it on a sandwich of vegan roast beef. All those months of sticking to my gluten free diet, and I was undone by a chutney.

And so, with the excuse of an Easter feast, it was time to whip out the gluten flour, as I only do on special occasions. I had never planned on sharing my seitan recipes here, having always intended to sell the finished products, but what can I say, I feel like spreading the love today.

This seitan recipe is incredibly versatile. Once you steam it, you can cook it in a number of ways and use it in a number of recipes. You can roast it and use it for sandwiches, braise it for a melt in your mouth, tender and succulent dish, turn it into a ragout, put it on skewers on the BBQ, or fry it up as a ‘steak’ with your favourite sauce. It has a delicious flavour on its own, but is not so strong you can’t add any sauce you like.

The featured picture is from tonight’s preparation, which has been braised, and it was incredible. This is what it looks like after steaming only. Just look at that tender goodness.

Seitan beef steamed


4 cups sliced mushrooms (a flavoursome variety like Swiss Brown)

1 cup grated beetroot

1 cup cannellini beans

3 tbsp tamari

3tsp onion powder

2tsp garlic powder

1/2tsp dried parsley

1/2tsp celery seeds

1/4tsp dried sage

1/4tsp dried rosemary

2tbsp tomato paste

3tbsp olive oil, plus extra for cooking  the mushrooms

2 cups porcini stock, cold

Salt and pepper to taste

3 cups Bob’s Red Mill gluten flour (all brands are different, I can only vouch that this recipe works with this brand)


1. Heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt cook until soft and browned. Throw the mushrooms into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Add the beetroot to the pan and cook a few minutes until soft. Add this to the food processor. Process into a paste and scrape it into a large mixing bowl.

2. Put the cannellini beans into the food processor and blend until you have a paste. Add this to the mushroom and beetroot mixture. Add the tomato paste, herbs and spices, olive oil and tamari and mix well. Add the porcini stock, stir until smooth, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remember with seitan to ‘over season’, because the gluten flour has a strong flavour of its own.

3. Add the gluten and mix in. Once you’ve mixed with a spoon, get in there with your hands. Make sure it’s really well mixed in. You will have a very soft, moist dough. Form into two logs and roll each log up in foil, sealing the ends by twisting shut like a bon bon. Steam for one hour then leave to cool.

If using this recipe for sandwich meat, move the logs straight to an oven tray (still wrapped in foil) and bake at 180C for another hour. For all other recipes, allow the seitan to cool inside the foil and then use as desired.

shepherd's pie-2

Hearty Gardener’s Pie


Serves: a crowd
shepherd's pie

I am a summer person, through and through. I am cold blooded and I love the heat. I love the beach, tropical fruit, cold beer and flowers. It is my intention to move to the tropics as soon as I am able. I just love that humid heat.

So, it may not surprise you to hear that winter for me is a long, depressing time full of misery, being constantly cold and nose-drippy, with aching bones and what seems like an eternity of darkness. I have spent winters in the northern hemisphere and while I realise the Melbourne winter is relatively mild, it’s still too much for me. However, I do love winter food.

As soon as the mercury drops below 20C it’s time to pull out the snuggly jumper and crank up the oven, start slow cooking those stews and pies and roasting potatoes. And so it is that I made a gardener’s pie (aka meatless shepherd’s pie) in the middle of an Australian summer.  There is nothing more comforting than gathering around the table with a steaming dish of hearty lentils and crispy, creamy potato, scooping it into a delicious mess on your plate. Plus, there’s always leftovers for the next couple of days, which makes a great work lunch.

I know that there are thousands of vegan shepherd’s pie recipes out there, but one more can’t hurt. This one is so flavoursome and doesn’t require beef or chicken style stock, which not everyone has access to, usually contain palm oil and are loaded with MSG. However, you can use whatever stock you wish if you have a beef style one that you love.

The gardener’s pie might be a humble dish, but I haven’t met anyone who didn’t like this. Make it in a large dish for an everyday weeknight meal (less washing up) or individual ramekins if you want to make it a bit more special. I’ll leave you with a restaurant insider’s tip: the meals are often not that special, but appear special because of the presentation. Place this in individual ramekins or those adorable mini casserole dishes  and pop them on a plate with a little salad garnish and a decorative swirl of dressing, and your dinner guests will be suitably impressed.


2 cups dried whole red aka brown lentils (I used green this time because I was out, but it’s better with brown and looks prettier too), soaked 2-4 hours, rinsed and drained

3tbsp olive oil

2 medium carrots, grated

6 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 brown onions, finely diced

2 cups frozen peas

1 bouquet garni

2 bay leaves (yes, two more in addition to the boquet garni)

3/4 tsp celery seeds

1L vegetable stock

20g dried porcini mushrooms

5 cups thickly sliced Swiss brown mushrooms

1 cup porcini soaking liquid

4tbsp tamari

1tbsp dark brown miso

2tbsp cornflour, dissolved in 3 tbsp cold water

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups water, if needed

For the potato topping

10 Dutch cream or desire potatoes, peeled

1/2 cup non dairy milk (I use unsweetened rice milk or cashew milk)

1/2 cup non dairy butter/margarine

Salt and white pepper, to taste


1. Place the porcini mushrooms in a bowl and cover with 2 cups water for around 40 minutes. Strain through a paper towel lined sieve, reserving the soaking liquid, then rinse the mushrooms and squeeze out. Chop finely

2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the onions and cook until almost caramelised. Add the garlic and cook another couple of minutes. Add the mushrooms and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cook until the mushrooms are browned. Add the carrots, porcini mushrooms, bay leaves and celery seeds and cook a few minutes more. Add the lentils, peas and vegetable stock and stir well, scraping the bottom to de-glaze. Add the porcini soaking liquid and the bouquet garni and bring to the boil. Add the tamari and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the lentils are soft and the mixture has thickened, stirring every few minutes, around 30 minutes. You may need to add more water so it doesn’t dry out. Add the miso and a generous amount of freshly cracked black pepper and season to taste. Once you are happy with the flavour, add the cornflour slurry.

3. Meanwhile, place the potatoes into a pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and cook until soft. Drain and return the potatoes to the pot. Mash well and then add the non-dairy milk and butter. Mash well until super creamy. Add more milk and butter if you think it needs it, it will depend on the size of your potatoes. Season generously with salt and a little white pepper, to taste.

4. Remove the bay leaves and bouquet garni from the lentil mixture and pour it into your pie dish of choice. Blob the mashed potato all over the mixture and squash together. Run a fork across the top to make grooves for extra crispiness. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt (again, for more crispiness). Place into a hot oven until the top is crispy (around 20 minutes) and allow to cool a few minutes before serving so you don’t burn everyone.

beetroot lentil stew

French Lentil & Betroot Stew

Serves: 4

While I’m very glad to have escaped the coldest Melbourne winter in 26 years by melting in Italy instead, I was a little sad to miss out on all the hearty winter comfort foods this year.

Fortunately, Melbourne spring is still pretty much winter anyway, and inside our freezing old stone house, I’ve still had plenty of reason this week to roast, stew and braise until the kitchen is steamy.

This beetroot stew is on a fairly regular rotation throughout the colder months in my house. Created out of desperation when the organic grocer had no other vegetables in those few weeks between seasons, it made me forget at first bite that I had hated cooked beetroot since childhood. Fabio asks for this all the time, and even my sister, who still hasn’t recovered from the trauma of the boiled beetroot of our youth, is a big fan. I love it when I’ve been feeling tired or run down.  It’s easy, cheap, healthy, and really, really delicious.

The secret here is of course, with any dish where vegetables are the heroes, to choose fresh, organic beetroots and carrots. You don’t want to use old rubbery beets, as they will be bitter. Fresh beets lend this stew an incredible sweetness with just the right amount of earthiness.

To really make something really special out of this dish, I usually top it with a big chunk of my home made cashew ash chevrè. I haven’t had a chance to do any fermenting since I got back last week, but if you make your own nut cheeses, I really recommend using it here. I also serve it with bread brushed with olive oil and grilled in a cast iron pan, it really makes a difference.


1/4 cup olive oil

1 large brown onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 medium beetroots, whole, unpeeled

2 carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal

1 bunch rainbow chard, washed, stems removed and roughly torn (alternatively use beetroot greens or silverbeet)

1 cup French puy lentils

600ml water (approx)

3/4tsp celery seeds

1 tsp dried marjoram

3 bay leaves

Couple of pinches dried thyme


1. Pierce the beetroots with a knife and wrap individually in foil. Place on a tray and bake at 180C until tender, 40 minutes to 1 hour. Remove the beets from the foil and let cool for 5 minutes, then rub off the skins. Cut the beets into 3-4cm chunks and set aside.

Optional: Place beets back on the tray. Drizzle with a little olive oil and return to the oven for 10-15 minutes, until slightly caramelised. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, cover the lentils in boiling water and cover with a lid. Let soak 30 minutes. Drain and rinse and set aside.

3. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over very low heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the carrots and bay leaves and cook until the onions are sticky and just starting to brown, stirring constantly. Add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes, stirring.

4. Add the lentils, water, remaining herbs and 1 tsp salt. Stir well then bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, approx 30-40 mintues. Add the beetroot and stir well. Cook another 5 minutes. Add the chard stir in until wilted. Add a little more water if necessary.

5. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper and adjust salt to taste. Remove from the heat and let sit 10 minutes before serving. Ladel into bowls and serve with grilled bread.


black bean enchiladas

Black Bean and Vegetable Enchiladas

Makes 12 large enchiladas

Time:  Let’s be honest, these take a while

Who doesn’t love enchiladas? I basically love everything that involves rolling filling up in some kind of carbohydrate, smothering it with cheese and baking it. These enchiladas involve making a scrumptious, spicy black bean filling, rolling it up in large corn tortillas, spreading with delicious home made smoky-chocolatey-spicy enchilada sauce, piling on gooey, stretchy cashew cheese melt and then topping with fresh herbs and jalapeños. Does it get any better?

I know there is quite a bit of work involved in these the first time you make them, but the recipe for my enchilada sauce makes a ton, which you can freeze in smaller portions for future use. The filling also makes enough for several meals,  so you can store half of that in the freezer for quick weeknight enchiladas another day.

I serve these with my arroz verde and some refreshing Mexican slaw for an outstanding meal.


1 large brown onion, finely chopped

5 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 zucchini (on the larger size), diced into 1cm cubes

1 red capsicum

1 green capsicum

600g (approx) sweet potato, diced into 2cm cubes

1 400g tin diced tomatoes

4 tins black beans, drained and rinsed

2 dried ancho chillies

1 dried pasilla chilli

2 chipotle chillies in adobo sauce

1 cup vegetable sauce

1 tsp ground cumin

Salt to taste

Olive oil for cooking

1/2 to 3/4 cup enchilada sauce

12 large soft corn tortillas

2 1/2 cups cashew cheese melt (or more, put as much as you like, I’m not the cheese police)

To Garnish

Handful fresh parsley or coriander, chopped

A few jarred jalapeño chillies


1. Remove the stems from the ancho and pasilla chillies. Shake as many seeds out as you can. Place into a bowl and cover with boiling water for 30 minutes until soft. Drain and chop finely

2. Wash the red and green capsicums and remove the stems and seeds. Flatten them out and place on some foil under a hot grill/broiler, skin side up,  until the skins are blacked. Set aside

3. Place the sweet potato onto a baking dish with a drizzle of olive oil (around a teaspoon) and bake at 200C for around 30 minutes, until soft

4. Meanwhile, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over low heat. Add the onions and cook until starting to brown. Add the zucchini and cook until browned. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the beans, tomatoes, chipotle chillies, pasilla and ancho chillies, cumin and stock and mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring often to avoid sticking, until thick, approx 15-20 minutes (see photo below).

enchilada filling

5. Peel the capsicums and slice thinly. Stir the capsicums and sweet potatoes through the black bean mixture.

6. Place around half a cup of filling down the middle of each tortilla. The filling should not be wider than a third of the tortilla, so adjust the quantity if your tortillas are larger or smaller. Roll up the tortillas and place into a large rectangular baking dish side by side, seam side down. You will need two large baking dishes if you are making all 12 (my photo only has 4 enchiladas in it). Spread with the enchilada sauce and top with the cashew cheese. Bake in a 180C oven for 20 mins, until hot and the cheese is bubbling and slightly browned.

Serve with arroz verde.


Baja tacos-1

Baja Tempeh Tacos

Serves 4-8

I have made these a few times now, and every time I forget to measure things. I finally did it tonight (well, mostly), and I am very happy to be able to share the recipe.

I always break these out on taco night, alongside a number of healthier fillings. I have fearlessly fed these to people who are not accustomed to eating things such as tempeh. Simmering the tempeh really changes its flavour, and, well, what doesn’t taste good covered in crispy batter?

You could serve this battered seaweed tempeh with chips instead of course, but I love tacos, and I’m too lazy to fry chips at home.

I put coriander on these for everyone else. I hate it, so I have mine without. While it enhances them if it doesn’t taste like soap to you, it certainly isn’t necessary.


For the tempeh

1 300g packet tempeh

2 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce

2 tsp sugar

3 cups water

5 sheets of nori

3/4 cup plain flour, plus more as needed

1/2 to 3/4 cup cold soda water OR a mild tasting beer, as needed

1 large pinch chilli powder

1 large pinch salt

Sunflower or canola oil, for deep frying

 For the Slaw

3 cups shredded cabbage (purple preferred)

2 carrots, grated

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

pinch salt, or to taste

For the Sauce

1 ripe avocado

1 tbsp lime juice, or to taste

1/4 cup water, plus more as needed

salt to taste

1 tsp sugar

1 chipotle chilli in adobo sauce

1 clove garlic

To Assemble

16 soft corn tortillas, warm

Fresh coriander, unless you hate it

Fresh lime wedges


1. Mix the slaw ingredients together in a bowl. Place in the fridge while you do everything else.

2. Cut the tempeh along the shorter edge into slices 5mm thick. You should get around 16 pieces. Slice these in half lengthwise to create long, thin strips. Place the water, vegetarian oyster sauce and sugar into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the tempeh and simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, cut the sheets of nori into eight even rectangles using a pair of scissors. One at a time, wrap each piece of tempeh up in the seaweed, as shown below. Place each piece seam-down onto a flat surface – the moisture from the tempeh will seal the seaweed.

tempeh seaweed

4. Place the sauce ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Add a little more water if necessary. Adjust lime juice and seasonings to taste and set aside.

5. Place the soda water, chilli and salt into a mixing bowl. Whisk in the flour until you have a batter just very slightly thinner than pancake batter. If you prefer a thicker batter than the one shown, add more flour.

6. Heat  three inches of oil in a wok (or whatever you use to deep fry) over high heat. You want the oil to be very hot, but not smoking. To test if the oil is hot enough, drop in a tiny bit of batter. It should bubble up immediately. Reduce heat a little to maintain temperature. Dip the tempeh into the batter and gently drop into the oil. Fry four pieces at a time until lightly golden, turning half way through. Remove from the oil and place onto a towel lined tray. Keep the tray in the oven to keep everything nice and crispy while you fry the remainder of the tempeh.

7. To assemble the tacos, spread a tablespoon or two of the sauce onto each tortilla, and top with two pieces of tempeh and some coleslaw. Or stuff more in, who am I to tell you how much to put in your taco. Sprinkle with coriander if using, and serve extra sauce and lime wedges on the side. Eat immediately.



Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 2-3 hours

Serves: 4-6 as a main

Is there a better way to celebrate summer vegetables? I think not. Ratatouille is a great dish to have on hand, as it can be used to make so many meals: Bruschetta, with grilled or soft polenta, on its own soaked up with crusty bread (my favourite), in a sandwich, with pasta, in a tart or as a side dish to whatever you want.

This is a very simple dish that tastes a lot fancier than it is. The secret lies in the cooking time. I have been served some truly horrendous ratatouille in my time, with crimes such as undercooked eggplant (really there is nothing worse than this), crunchy chunks of vegetables served in a runny tomato sauce,  and a quick ‘stir fried’ ratatouille (just NO). Ratatouille is a stew, which means everything should be soft and mingled, and thick. The flavour comes from the vegetables slowly melding into one another, to allow their sweetness to develop. If you cook it slow and long, you can’t go wrong.

I like to roast my capsicums first because I don’t enjoy the skin in my ratatouille, and I bake the eggplant instead of frying it because it’s easier and tastes just as good. Don’t be tempted to try and fry it in your enamel dutch oven to save one dish – eggplant needs high heat and enamel needs low heat.

You can also cook it on the stove top on the lowest possible heat if you don’t have an oven, but you will need to keep an eye on it and you won’t be able to cook it as long. It is best served at room temperature.


3 zucchini (approx 700g), diced into 2-3cm cubes

2 eggplants (approx 900g), diced into 1.5cm cubes

2 whole red capsicums

2 large brown onions, halved and finely sliced

6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 tsp Herbes de Provence OR 3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme

2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to garnish

1 400g tin diced tomatoes

4 tomatoes, diced

2 bay leaves

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1. Toss the eggplant with 2 tsp salt in a bowl and set aside for 15 minutes

2. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 200C. Place the whole capsicums onto a piece of foil and cook in the oven until the skin starts to blacken and become loose and the flesh is soft (approx 20-30 mins). Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

3. Mix 1 tbsp olive oil with the eggplant and place onto an oven tray. Place into the hot oven and cook for 15 minutes until soft. Remove and turn the oven down to 150C.

4. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a dutch oven over low heat and add the onions. Cook slowly, stirring often, until soft, slightly brown and sticky. Add the zucchini with a pinch of salt and cook until just soft. Turn off the heat.

5. Peel the capsicum and discard the seeds. Thinly slice and add to the pot with the eggplant, tomatoes, tinned tomatoes, garlic and herbs. Stir well. Place the lid on the pot and cook in the oven for 2 hours.

6. Remove from the oven and uncover. Season generously with freshly ground pepper and adjust salt if desired and allow to cool to warm or room temperature – it is not best hot. Serve with generous amount of fresh basil (not one leaf as shown in the picture – we were hungry and ate it all).

freekeh soup

Palestinian Freekeh Soup with Lentil Balls

Serves 4-6 

I was inspired to make this dish as I sat flicking through the pages of Yotam Ottolenghi’s wonderful book ‘Jerusalem’. Although to this day I have never actually cooked a single recipe from it, this is one of my favourite cookbooks for dinner ideas. As always, it delivered, with a very enticing recipe for ‘Spicy Freekeh Soup with Meatballs’.

Freekeh is a favourite in our house, and coincidentally was the only grain left in the house, and so this decidedly not vegetarian friendly dish was just begging me to create a vegan version.

This spicy dish is very satisfying, but as I sit here polishing off the leftovers, I am lamenting that I didn’t have a side of wilted greens with sumac and vegan yogurt to go with it (I just never feel as though a meal is complete without leafy greens, I can’t get enough of them).



1 batch Middle Eastern Lentil Balls

150g cracked freekeh, rinsed

1 brown onion, very finely diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large carrot diced into small cubes

1/2 tsp celery seeds (if you can’t find these, you can put 1 diced celery stick in the soup instead)

400g tin diced tomatoes

2 tsp Saudi Baharat (or to taste)

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)

1 cinnamon quill

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp soy sauce

1L good quality vegetable stock

2 cups water, plus more as needed

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

chopped fresh parsley and lemon wedges, to serve


1. Start by making the lentil balls. Set aside at room temperature.

2. Heat the oil in a saucepan over low heat. Cook the onions until translucent and sticky and add the garlic. After a minute, add the carrot, spices and celery seeds and cook five minutes more

3. Add the freekeh and stir well. Increase the heat and add the tomatoes. Cook another minute and then add the remaining ingredients

4. Bring to the boil and reduce to a rapid simmer until the carrots are tender and the freekeh is cooked all the way through, approximately 25 minutes. If you think it needs more water, add it. Freekeh does not always take the same amount of water.

5. Place 4 or 5 meatballs into each bowl and ladle some soup over the top. Garnish with a tablespoon or two of chopped parsley and a lemon wedge. The lemon juice and parsley really make this soup, so don’t leave them out. Serve immediately, and garnish with some vegan yogurt if desired.

Quinoa Soup for blog

Peruvian Style Quinoa Soup

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 35-40 minutes

Serves 4

I’ve never been a fan of a big pile of quinoa on a plate as a substitute for rice or cous cous, so I’m always looking for tastier and more interesting ways to use it. Since it comes from South America, and given that I am obsessed with latin-american cuisine lately, Peruvian quinoa soup seemed like a winning option.

Traditionally made with lard, chicken stock, potatoes and onions, but highly adaptable, you can really put anything you like in it, so it’s very easy to veganise. My version uses corn for the sweetness and texture, and includes tomatoes for a more rounded flavour. I had actually intended to stir in some baby spinach and parsley at the end of cooking, but we were so hungry I completely forgot about it until we had almost finished. I think it would have worked really well though, so I would encourage this adaption. One ingredient that you really cannot change though, is the aji amarillo paste. It gives the soup most of its flavour, and is served with just about everything in Peru. It is a fairly mild chilli, but wonderfully fruity. It is available from South American grocers or online if you don’t have one near you.

This is a filling and satisfying soup and hearty enough for a main course. If you are planning on keeping leftovers for the next day, note that the quinoa will absorb all of the liquid overnight and you will end up with something more like quinoa risotto than soup. Just as delicious, but if you would like to avoid this you can cook the quinoa separately  and combine them when you are ready to serve. I prefer to do it all in the one pot because the quinoa absorbs more flavour, and because it saves on time, dishes and effort.

While it may not be the prettiest meal, I assure you that what it lacks in looks it makes up for in flavour (and nutrition). This is a favourite staple in our house.


2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup quinoa (I always used mixed)

3 cups Nicola or Desire potatoes, cut into 3cm cubes

kernels from 2 cobs corn

4 medium tomatoes, diced

1 large brown onion, finely diced

3 large cloves garlic, minced

4 1/2 cups vegetable stock

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp smoked paprika

4 tsp aji amarillo

1 tsp mushroom seasoning (optional)

 salt and pepper to taste

For garnish

2 avocados, sliced

2 tomatoes, diced

extra aji amarillo paste

wedges of lime

fresh chopped parsley or coriander (optional)

salt and pepper to taste


1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the onions and cook until browned. A bit of char is good for extra flavour

2. Add the corn and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the corn is bright yellow, approx two minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir to deglaze the pot

3. Add the potatoes, 4 cups of the vegetable stock, oregano and paprika. Bring to the boil and reduce to simmer until the potatoes are just tender, 15-20 minutes

4. Add the quinoa and the remaining 1/2 cup vegetable stock. Bring back up to the boil and reduce to a rapid simmer until the quinoa is cooked (it is cooked when it releases a ‘tail’ and is soft, but not mushy). Remove from the heat and stir through the aji amarillo paste, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Serve and top each bowl with 1/2 an avocado, some diced tomato, a good squeeze of lime juice, salt, pepper and a dollop of aji amarillo.

Jessica Blog-3

Awesome Beetroot Burgers

Special equipment: Food processor

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Makes 12 burger patties

A few years ago, I made up a batch of beetroot burger patties with leftover ingredients at the end of the week. In truth, I don’t have any recollection of them beyond making them, but Fabio surprised me by requesting them a few months down the track. Of course, I couldn’t remember what I had put in them, so reproducing them proved a little tricky. I did however set about trying to perfect a new beetroot burger, and have made countless versions over the last year. Unfortunately, none of them were what I wanted. They were ok, but they didn’t make me say ‘wow!’. I tried many recipes from other cooks too, some even claiming to be the ‘best beetroot burger ever’, but I was not impressed. They were either too dry, too crumbly, too mushy or too bland.

I was pretty much ready to give up on a juicy, chewy, grill-able, flip-able great tasting beetroot burger. That is, until last week. Once again I found myself with a bunch of beetroot on clean-out-the-fridge-day. Could it have been fate? Not expecting anything fantastic, I threw a few things together. For some reason, I decided  to finely chop the beetroot and puree the chickpeas with some tahini. Instead of rice, I used freekeh, as I had a box in the cupboard I was determined to use in some creative way. I don’t know how, but somehow this accident created the best beetroot burgers I have ever eaten. It was love at first bite, and this time, I had been clever and measured everything. Most pleased with myself.

The first couple of patties I fried tasted incredible, were juicy and moist and held together enough to be flipped and be handled, but would break in half if picked up on one side. That just wasn’t good enough, so I added some flax eggs. Perfect texture, but some of the flavour disappeared. Last night I made them again, this time adjusting a couple of quantities, and have to say that they taste just as good as the no-flax version, but hold together better than any firm, no-potato patty I’ve ever made.

These burgers don’t need to be baked, you can throw them straight into the frying pan. The spices are subtle so that the burger can go with a number of toppings. This would work with aioli, mustard, vegan cheese, ketchup, relish or mayo. Serve with rocket, lettuce or coleslaw. Because they aren’t dry, they are good enough to serve on their own with a salad. I LOVE the versatility of these burgers. They reheat very well in the microwave, as I discovered when I packed some for lunch at work today. In fact they might have even tasted better today than they did last night.



5 smallish – medium beetroots, peeled and ends trimmed

1 cup cracked freekeh

1 medium brown onion, very finely chopped

2 cloves garlic

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (reserve the liquid from the can)

3 tbsp tahini

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp liquid from the can of chickpeas

1.5 tsp salt (or to taste)

1.5 tsp cumin (or to taste)

2 tsp smoked paprika (or to taste)

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 1/4 cup bread crumbs

1 tbsp ground golden flax seeds mixed with 2 tbsp chickpea liquid (from the can) to form a thick goo

sunflower or canola oil, for frying


1. Rinse the Freekeh and place in a saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer, stirring often, until all the water has absorbed and the freekeh is soft and chewy, approx 15-20 minutes. Place into a large bowl and set aside.

2. Meanwhile,  heat some oil in a frying pan over low heat and add the onions. Cook gently until brown and sticky, approx 10 minutes. Add to the bowl.

3. Grate the beetroot and place into your food processor. Pulse until you end up with tiny pieces, but do not blend it into a paste.

Jessica Blog-2

Add the beetroot to the bowl with the freekeh and onions.

3. Place the chickpeas, tahini, garlic, spices, salt, olive oil 1 tbsp chickpea liquid in the food processor. Process until you have a thick, sticky paste that is as smooth as possible. You will need to scrape the sides down a few times to do this. Add the chickpea paste to the bowl and mix well

4. Add the breadcrumbs and flax goo and mix very well until fully combined. I find my cake spatula or hands (with gloves on) are the best ways to do this.

 5. Line a couple of trays (or your bench) with non-stick baking paper. Take handfuls of mixture and form into patties. Place on the baking paper until ready to use. This mixture is very sticky, so I really recommend you form all the mixture into patties before you start cooking them or you are going to have burger mixture on everything you touch. If you like you can sprinkle the baking paper with some breadcrumbs to make them easier to move around

6. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the burgers and cook a few at a time, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Be careful not to flip the burgers before the first side is fully cooked, as they will lose their charred, crunchy surface, approx 4 minutes each side.

7. Eat all the burgers!

Chili Bean dish

Chilli con Frijoles Negros

Prep time: 5 minutes, plus soaking

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4-6

I almost called this recipe ‘authentic’ black bean chilli, but of course, as any Texan would remind us, authentic chilli does not contain beans, or tomato. However, this recipe is closer to being authentic than many, because it contains a hell of a lot of chilli, and doesn’t contain vegetables. Now, when I first started making chilli, I was a poor uni student trying to cram all my vitamins into one big, cheap pot of food to last me all week, so I understand the temptation to add vegetables. I used to add all kinds: corn, capsicum, zucchini, carrot, even mushrooms once. It fit the bill of cheap and nourishing, but it didn’t taste like chilli. It tasted more like a spicy black bean soup, which is really what it was. There’s nothing wrong with spicy black bean soup of course, but once I’d had real, deep red and fiery hot chilli in the USA, I could never call anything else ‘chilli’ again. I urge you to ignore that voice telling you everything is better with extra vegetables and serve your veggies on the side instead.

The depth of flavour in this dish comes from the many varieties of chillies used. The Arbol chillies provide heat, and not much else. The Chipotles add smokiness, the Guajillos add fruitiness, and the Mulatos add a rich, almost chocolatey flavour.  Slow cooking the onions adds even more depth and meatiness. I use a good quality vegetable stock rather than the Massell chicken style stock cubes these days, because the cubes contain palm oil and the powder seems to have no flavour. I do however add vegetarian mushroom seasoning (available at good Asian grocers), which is a great chicken stock replacement. It’s basically MSG without the MSG. It makes everything taste better. You can use whatever stock you like as long as it has a good flavour.

A word of warning: The recipe as it is below is HOT! After all, it is chilli with beans, not beans with chilli. If you want it mild or aren’t sure, simply remove the seeds from all the whole chillies. If you scrape the seeds into a bowl, you can always add them back in to if you want it hotter. If you enjoy breathing fire, by all means add an additional chillies As it is now, this is the perfect heat level for me, but I have a very high tolerance for heat.

Serve this chilli with a dollop of avocado and lime on top, some grilled corn and cornbread or rice. You can add vegan cheese and sour cream too if you like, but it tones down the heat too much for my taste.


1 large brown onion, finely chopped

2-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp brown sugar

4 tins black beans, drained and rinsed

1 tin diced tomatoes

3 cups vegetable stock

3 dried Mulato chillies

2 dried Guajillo chili

6 dried Arbol chililies

 3 whole dried chipotle chillies

1 or 2tsp ground cumin (to taste)

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp vegetarian mushroom seasoning (optional)

Salt to taste

1 tsp liquid smoke (or to taste)

To serve

Avocado mashed with fresh lime

Grilled Corn Kernels

Brown rice or  cornbread


1. Place the whole chillies in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak until rehydrated, approximately 30 minutes. Once rehydrated, remove the stems and place chillies into a food processor and blend into a paste (alternatively, mince them by hand).

2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the onions and cook gently, stirring often, until sticky and golden, approx 10 mins. Add the garlic and chillies and cook another minute. Add the beans and sugar and mix well.

3. Add all remaining ingredients except for the liquid smoke and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer until thick and rich. Add liquid smoke and salt to taste and allow to cool a little before serving. As with all spiced food, this is even better the next day.