Category Archives: Light Meals

Mussel Soup with added Frutti di Mare all’olio


Seafood selection - ideal for any recipe

Seafood selection – ideal for any recipe

I am fond of seafood – as distinct from fish – which I also like but I do make the distinction. Mussels are delicious – fresh or frozen. Frutti di Mare is a frozen product of various seafood from Lidl. They stock this plus other gorgeous goodies during the festive season.
This is a simple, quick and extremely yummy soup!!

And it’s winter – best time for zuppa!!


150g selected seafood
1 finely chopped onion – I use cibouli
½ leek thinly sliced and chopped
Garlic – I use a garlic cooking paste
2 potatoes cubed
1 cup vegetable stock
½ cup white wine
Lemon juice
Sprig of fresh thyme
Chopped parsley – mine is chopped and frozen in ice cube trays for easy use
Snipped chives – I haven’t frozen these yet. I may well try and see how they work
Salt & Pepper
½ cup double cream
Some cornflour to thicken if necessary
Good handful of torn baby spinach
Some butter to finish

How to make-up
1 tbsp groundnut oil – put in a medium saucepan, add the onion, garlic and leek. Fry gently until soft. Add the cubed potatoes and the stock.

This is the easiest soup really

This is the easiest soup really

Cook gently until the potatoes are nearly soft but not quite. Add the thyme sprig and lemon juice (to taste. Add the wine, parsley and chives. I also add several drops of fish sauce but this is optional.

Start adding salt and pepper and then the seafood. Add the cream and stir to combine all. Taste to ensure the flavours are melding well. When all is hot, add the torn spinach and stir in well. Then add a big knob of butter to finish and give a shine to the soup.

Serve with garlic bread, croutons, snack sized toasted bread or whatever you like. I promise you it is the yummiest soup. Enjoy.

I have a coffee table in my office and often eat there while reading. This was one of those occasions.

I have a coffee table in my office and often eat there while reading. This was one of those occasions.


Brinjal pickle or curry

This is such a terrific pickle. I found this recipe by Charmaine Solomon in the 1970s when my boys and I lived on our wee farm and grew all our vegetables. I must have planted a lot of eggplant seeds because when it became apparent that we would have dozens of the big, purple fruits, I had to work out what to do with them. Hence the brinjal pickle.
These days, in order to experience the gorgeous flavours and texture of this pickle, I have to buy the aubergines. Sob. It doesn’t matter what brand of Brinjal pickle I buy in jars in Asian supermarkets, it doesn’t taste anywhere near as delicious as the homemade variety. I guess, because to be commercially viable, some things are left out, some stuff added and blah. Anyway, it doesn’t have the same flavour I like. My boys used this as a spread on their cheese sandwiches. You can also use it on rice for a quick curry. It is truly lovely stuff. As a curry it is called Brinjal pahi and I am sure there are as many versions as there are cooks – 1,490 entries in Wikipedia alone! This one is now mine.

Here we go.

3 medium purple aubergines or 2 large ones – sliced about ¾cm thick.
Lay out as many slices as fit on a paper kitchen towel. Sprinkle salt over the slices and then sprinkle turmeric powder. Rub the slices, turn them over and repeat for the other side.
Use a big, non-reactive bowl and place the prepared slices in layers. Cover with a plastic sheet and leave to sweat the moisture for a minimum of two hours. I often left the aubergine overnight and poured the liquid off in the morning. Blot the slices dry on paper before frying. This doesn’t take as long as you think it will. Have a cuppa.

Sliced aubergine exsanguinating

Sliced aubergine exsanguinating

Cover the base of a large frying pan with about 2cm oil and heat. Fry the slices slowly until brown on both sides. Lift them out with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl. Reserve the frying oil. I have to say that an Aga would be good. I had a slow combustion stove on the farm and the ability to control heat is an advantage. I have made it on a gas stove but never on an electric stove. Today I had to use the induction hob. Not good, not good at all. I mean the cooking worked but fires are a much better way to go.

Sweated, dried off & ready to fry

Sweated, dried off & ready to fry – this is the tedious part of the process


Wet Spice Mix
1tbsp black mustard seed
½cup brown vinegar. I used a malt vinegar once – t’weren’t the same
1 brown onion finely chopped
3 – 4 cloves garlic sliced finely
1tbsp fresh, finely chopped ginger
Blend mustard seed and vinegar until mustard is ground down. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until it becomes a smooth paste.

Dry Spice Mix – or an equivalent amount of curry powder and curry leaves.
1tbsp ground coriander
2tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground fennel
Using a small dry pan, heat the ingredients gently – shake the pan constantly, don’t let the mixture burn. It should be a medium brown colour and fragrant.

½cup tamarind pulp steeped in ¾cup hot water. Strain, discard seeds, reserve liquid.
3 fresh chillies, seeded and sliced
Small cinnamon stick
1tsp chilli powder if desired

Heat ½cup reserved oil, fry blended wet mixture for 5mins. Add dry mixture and other ingredients. Add the aubergine slices (I use a sharp knife at this stage to roughly cut through the aubergine thus breaking the skin up) and oil from the bowl they were in, stir well, cover and simmer for 15mins. You may need to add some more salt.

Keep your wee spoon out of this - we are bottling it.

Keep your wee spoon out of this – we are bottling it.

Let cool thoroughly before bottling in clean, dry bottles. I kept a bottle for 4 years and it was absolutely gorgeous. It just doesn’t ever go ‘off’.

Stir-fried Spiced Chicken Slivers with Oriental Veges

Quick, tasty & nutritious

Quick, tasty & nutritious

I used an oriental bean stir-fry mix from Asda comprising bean sprouts, edamame beans, red peppers, shaved carrots and Chinese cabbage. I added a finely sliced mushroom and some leeks with some cut asparagus spears.

I sliced a chicken breast very finely – it’s pretty easy to do when the chicken is still half frozen. The quantities don’t really matter that much – it depends on how many you are feeding. I was only feeding me and the photos show quantities for one plus some left-overs for the evening.

The spicy marinade I used was a suggestion from an fb  correspondent on a comment thread extolling the virtues of turmeric. It is part of the ginger family  – Zingiberaceae. It’s tropical and grows wild and in gardens throughout Mullumbimby where I used to live. I grew it with several other gingers for culinary purposes. All ginger plants are very easy on the eye as well.

Anyway here is the spice mix. I just shook an even amount of all three spices into a small bowl and added enough lemon juice and olive oil to make a squishy paste.

Turmeric Powder
Ground Coriander
Red Chilli Powder
Olive Oil
Lemon juice

I smothered the chicken in the marinade and left it for about an hour.

Marinating happily in spice

Marinating happily in spice

I knew the chicken would take about four minutes to cook so the vegetables have to be cut finely enough to also cook for about 4 minutes.

Heat up some sunflower oil in a wok and add the chicken at quite a high heat so that the meat browns evenly. This requires constant stirring until the chicken is cooked but not burnt. Remove and set aside.

Any vegetables you like - cut finely

Any vegetables you like – cut finely

The vegetables can be whatever you prefer. I used some of the oriental bean stir-fry mix plus mushroom, leek and asparagus. I cut the asparagus spears into three sections and covered with boiling water for about six or so minutes to soften them.

Add more oil and heat. Pour in all the vegetables and stir to coat them. Cover the pan for four minutes but stir frequently so the vegetables don’t burn. Towards the end of cooking add ½ clove minced garlic plus several drops of sesame oil and season with pepper and salt. Add back the chicken and heat through. There is not much sauce with this so if you like, add a sauce of maybe soy, chicken or vegetable stock. You can add more heat as well.

I served this with a fine egg pasta and added a real favourite of mine – Nando’s Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Peri peri marinade. Well – I use it as a sauce.


Warm Roast Potato, Bacon & Egg Salad

This is a cobbled together dish that is based Steamy Kitchen’s Warm Bacon Potato Salad to which I added some eggs and removed the mustard. You can put some grainy mustard in the dressing if desired.

A really tasty warm salad

A really tasty warm salad

I used Harmony potatoes because I had just lifted them from the garden. Next time I will use red potatoes with a natural nutty flavour and firmer texture. Maybe Pink Fir Apple potatoes. Having said that the Harmony potatoes roasted well and were fluffy inside and nicely browned on the outside. I never peel potatoes.

You will Need:

6 or more scrubbed new chat potatoes
3 large eggs hard boiled, peeled and roughly chopped
2 rashers streaky bacon chopped into 1” pieces
½ red onion chopped
½ clove garlic chopped finely or minced
2 green spring onions sliced
Some chopped parsley
Olive oil for coating the potatoes for roasting
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Raw chopped ingredients

The How to Part:

I parboiled the quartered potatoes and drained them. Tossed in olive oil, I roasted them as one layer on a baking sheet at 190ºC for about 20 minutes. I have never been very good with exact times for cooking. I guess you sort of know when things are ready.

Coated with Olive oil

Coated with Olive oil

Fry the bacon in a heavy based frying pan for several minutes turning the pieces so that they don’t catch but start to crisp up. Add the red onion and garlic and keep frying and turning until the bacon is really crisp.

Frying bacon & onion

Mix the red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and then tip the bacon mixture in. The bacon drippings add juices to the dressing. Mix in the sliced green spring onions. Finally put the roasted potatoes in a serving bowl and mix the dressing through thoroughly.

Warm salads are rather good on cool evenings as it was tonight.


Pork Strips with Mango & Ginger

Using pork steaks untrimmed but sliced finely is a quick and easy way to stir fry the meat. The larder has been getting a bit of a clean out lately, mainly because winter has returned with a vengeance and with snow! Not that I mind snow; I actively love it. It is the dreich days with bitter wind, sleet and low cloud that keep me indoors. So the larder and the freezer have been the mainstay of cooking. It’s good because all the ingredients bought in a flash of enthusiasm often end up sitting in their containers in larder and freezer looking unappreciated for far too long. After all, we are subject to fads and favourites!!

The larder disgorged some very useful additions to this dish

The larder disgorged some very useful additions to this dish

A while back I found a couple of bottles in the supermarket that were dressings. One was a mango & ginger dressing meant for a salad. I thought it sounded just right for a pork stir fry. Pork is such a sweet meat and juicy if left untrimmed. I liberated a pork steak from the icy confines of the freezer and let it defrost in the fridge. I even felt virtuous.

Some vegetables, seasonings and oils and we had the makings of a dish. You could use whatever vegetables you have on hand and cut to cook at stir fry pace. I did have some spring onions but will use them tomorrow night. Alternatively cibouli onions would do well. Brown onions would be too strong, I think and red onions wouldn’t really work either. But, of course, this choice is up to the individual.

I didn’t have any water chestnuts in the larder, but I quite like the thought of adding them. Add sliced bamboo shoots if you have them. Sliced green capsicum would be good.

This recipe shows the quantities for one serving.


1 pork steak untrimmed and sliced into strips
1 leek cut into ½cm slices
1 clove garlic finely chopped
2 big handfuls baby spinach leaves
1 green chilli sliced finely. I still have some frozen in ice cube trays
½ knuckle of ginger sliced finely
½teasp chicken stock powder. I use Knorr
½teasp ground coriander or 2 coriander plants chopped – leaves, stalks and root
2-3tbsp Mango & Ginger dressing – or something similar
½-1teasp hot & spicy green habanero sauce
Biggish splash dry white wine
Hokkien Noodles, cooked or a pre-cooked packet – which is what I used
1½tbps garlic flavoured oil mixed with sunflower oil
Smallish knob of butter to finish
Salt & Pepper – I used Szechuan pepper. WW has made some P&S shakers and we filled the pepper shaker with a mixture of ground peppers, one of which was Szechuan with some white and black as well. We didn’t have any green or red pepper corns but they will find their way into the larder.

The Ash and Walnut P&S shakers. Lovely pieces.

The Ash and Walnut P&S shakers. Lovely pieces.


Heat the wok – I have a wok that is deep and small with a flat base because I have an induction hob. It is sufficiently worn in to have become my favourite. Add the oils, salt and the chicken stock powder. When hot, pour in the pork, chilli and leek. Stir fry on a moderate heat for 1min.

My favourite wok

My favourite wok

Add the garlic, ginger, ground coriander (or chopped root & stems) and stir. Add the dressing and sauce. This turns into a smooth cooking sauce to which you can add the splash of dry white. Reduce if necessary.I didn’t have to and in any case, you don’t want to overcook the stir fry.

Pour in the cooked Hokkien noodles and the spinach leaves. Stir to coat everything and let simmer for 2mins. Add the pepper and the butter with one final stir and ladle out into a bowl to serve.

A filling, flavoursome and light meal

A filling, flavoursome and light meal

Prawns with Linguine. Spring onions, lemon & vegetables

I really, really love prawns and can eat them by themselves washed down with an icy cold dry white or champagne. I also love them with chilli. The two ingredients seem to complement each other so well and spring onions and spinach are just so delicious. So I added them to this dish.

I had some dry white wine (ahem), and all of the above. This recipe is a variation on Curtis Stone’s recipe in kidspot.

I made enough for a single main but it would do two as a supper.

The raw ingredients - even a wee glass of wine

The raw ingredients – even a wee glass of wine

• 100g linguine
• 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• 4 spring onions, ends trimmed & finely chopped
• ½ green capsicum finely sliced
• 50g baby spinach leaves
• 2 small green or red chillies, seeded and finely chopped. I used my fresh frozen chilli plus a teasp chilli paste
• 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
• 100g prawns – cooked and peeled
• ½ cup dry white wine
• Big splash of lemon and dill flavoured oil (gorgeous flavour)
• 2 finely grated rind lemons
• 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Finely sliced capsicum & spring onion whites

Finely sliced capsicum & spring onion whites

Cook linguine according to packet directions.
When the pasta is about 5 minutes from being cooked, heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add the white parts of the spring onions, garlic, capsicum and chilli and cook for 1-2min. Add prawns and cook for 1min, stirring occasionally. Add the wine and swirl to deglaze the wok, reduce sauce by half.
Add the lemon juice and rind to the prawns. Slowly pour the olive oil into the pan, stirring to emulsify.
Toss drained linguine in with the sauce. Add the greens from the spring onions and the baby spinach. Season with salt and pepper. Serves one as a main or maybe two as a light supper.

A very tasty pasta dish on a cold night

A very tasty pasta dish on a cold night


Potato & Pea Rosti with Cos Lettuce

Rosti are so versatile as a light lunch or supper dish. You can use basically anything you have in the fridge and larder to create a tasty snackish meal.

Using baby Charlottes, unpeeled but cleaned up of eyes and dark skin patches. I cut them in half and boiled them in salted water. I use a so-called ‘lite’ salt these days. We love salt too much and I try to mitigate against too much damage as we age by using a mixture of Sodium chloride and Potassium chloride.

Ainsley Harriott presented a fresh pea programme on Great British Food today and inspired me to make potato and pea rosti.Balsamic vinegar, red and white wine vinegar

He was promoting fresh garden peas (which are beautiful and I have probably missed planting seed for this year’s cropping).

So I used frozen peas because that’s what I had. I didn’t have courgettes which would work really well to fill the rosti, so I used a mini Cos called Baby Gem. I used to grow thousands of them in Mullumbimby for the salad leaf mix that I sold. As a stand alone lettuce it has a great shelf life and is crunchy. Yum.

So, here’s my ingredient list:

Peas and the baby Cos

Peas and the baby Cos

500gr baby potatoes cleaned but not peeled, halved and boiled in salted water
200gr frozen or fresh shelled peas boiled not mushy
1 mini Cos lettuce roughly cut, leaves separated
2 lightly beaten eggs
Some grated parmesan – the amount is to your taste. I used lots because we both love cheese. Should have used more!
Some breadcrumbs will help bind the mixture. You could use ground rice but not too much.
Toasted pine nuts if you have them available in the larder
Some torn basil leaves
2 tbsp Olive oil
Pepper and salt

What to do:

Mash the boiled potatoes very roughly in a bowl and add the olive oil. Add the cooked, drained peas, parmesan, pepper and some salt and the egg. Mix without mashing the potatoes too much and add the breadcrumbs, pine nuts, basil and the lettuce. Take a quick taste, add further seasoning if necessary.

All mixed up and ready to go

All mixed up and ready to go

Six rosti ready to fry

Six rosti ready to fry

Form into patties and firm the edges with a spatula to stop the peas falling out. Heat some oil in a large frying pan and add the formed rosti carefully. Don’t be tempted to turn them too quickly. Let them brown up first and as the egg cooks, the rosti become easier to handle.  The other temptation is to try and cook the rosti on too high a heat so that they brown but the inside doesn’t cook. Better to use a lower heat so that everything cooks and browns at the same time. Turn them over once when browned and serve with a dressing of your choice.

There are so many ready-made dressings around that it is often easier to use a bought one. There’s Heinz  Blue Cheese Dressing on the shelves; a Nando Sun-dried Tomato and Basil sauce and any number of other sauces and dressing to titillate your palette.

A tasty stack!

A tasty stack!

Or make your own. Ainsley made a tangy tomato dressing with plum tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, shallot and red wine vinegar. I didn’t but it sounds good.