Monday, 17 September 2012
moroccan-ish soup with beef, chickpeas and cous cous

After having a cold (or any time really), this is one of my favourite soups – it is fresh with herbs, spices and lemon, it has just a teensy bit of meat bulked out with earthy chickpeas, and it has the filling yummy-ness of couscous.

2 tbsp oil (I like grapeseed)
150g beef mince
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp dried chilli flakes (or 1 red chilli, finely chopped)
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
875g canned chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 litre vegetable stock
400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp chopped mint
50g couscous
3 handfuls of baby spinach
about 2 tsp sugar
zest of one lemon
salt and pepper
natural yoghurt, to serve

Heat oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Add beef to the pan and brown quickly. Remove beef and place on kitchen paper to drain.

Stir onion into pan and cook until soft and browned, adding the garlic and chilli when the onion is almost cooked. Add the cumin, coriander and allspice and stir for one minute.

Return beef to the pan and add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, stock and chickpeas. Stir well then cover the pan and simmer for around 15 minutes. Stir in the parsley, mint, baby spinach and couscous into the soup, cover and remove from the heat. Leave to stand for five minutes. Add sugar, salt and pepper to taste.

I like to serve mine with natural yoghurt on top, with some extra herbs.

Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , , — Katrina @ 5:24 pm
Feathers and Cupcakes
Monday, 6 August 2012

A couple of weeks ago we had one of those crisp, sunny winter days – you know, the ones that are utterly gorgeous? – so we decided to visit the Botanical Gardens for a picnic. One of my favourite things to eat on a picnic (or any time really) are these brownies. Velvety and intensely chocolatey, studded with crunchy hazelnuts and scented with the fresh citrus notes of orange, these brownies are one of my all-time beloved recipes.

Of course, you can take the basic chocolate brownie recipe and do whatever you like with it – plain chocolate brownies are certainly more-ish, or perhaps you prefer walnuts to hazelnuts? Sometimes I make two lots of mixture, bake the brownies in two cake containers, sandwich them with whipped cream and strawberries, and drizzle with a chocolate ganache – it certainly makes a fun birthday cake…

This recipe was inspired by the brownie recipe in Tessa Kiros’s wonderful book Apples for Jam – the hazelnuts and orange are my addition.

Makes around 9 squares

175g butter
150g dark chocolate, broken or chopped
30g cocoa powder, sifted
3 eggs, separated
175g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour
1/2 cup (around 70g) hazelnuts, roasted, cooled in a tea towel and rubbed so the dark brown skins are removed
zest of one orange

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Butter and flour a square baking tray (mine is about 21×21 cm) that is at least 3cm deep – I also like to line mine in baking paper for easy extraction.

Put the butter in a heatproof bowl that has been placed over a small saucepan of simmering water (don’t let the base of the bowl touch the water). When it begins to melt a little, add the chocolate. Stir until all the chocolate has melted.

Once melted, remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder. Leave to cool a bit.

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. In another large bowl, wish the egg yolks with the sugar and vanilla until creamy, then fold in the flour. Add the cooled chocolate mixture, mixing well, then add the hazelnuts and orange zest. Carefully fold in the egg whites, until everything is thoroughly mixed.

Put the brownie mixture into your prepared baking tray and cook for around 25 minutes, or until a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean. The brownie should still be quite moist in the centre with a crunchy top and edges. Leave it to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , , — Katrina @ 8:30 am
Feathers and Cupcakes
Monday, 7 May 2012

Yesterday Sam and I decided to have a lazy Devonshire tea at home with freshly made scones, home-made jams, whipped cream and loose leaf tea. It was so enjoyable we have vowed to do it again soon…

Here’s my recipe for scones, which comes from The Margaret Fulton Cookbook, a book I turn to again and again for reliable baking recipes.

Makes about 12-15 scones.

3 cups self-raising flour
1 tsp salt
60g butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup buttermilk (or milk with 1 tsp vinegar added)

Pre-heat the oven to 230°C.

Sift flour and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre and mix in the milk, adding more milk if necessary to make a soft dough.

Knead, handling the dough as lightly as possible (to prevent the scones from becoming tough), and roll out on a lightly floured board to 2cm thickness. Cut into rounds the size you like (my cutter is 7cm in diameter).

Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and brush the tops with a little milk. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Transfer to a clean tea towel, and cover until required. Serve warm with butter or jam and whipped cream.

Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , , , — Katrina @ 8:30 am
Feathers and Cupcakes
Tuesday, 3 April 2012

We got home last night from a little trip away to Melbourne to celebrate the wedding of some lovely friends. After spending nearly the whole day travelling (stuck in airports) this is what I made when we got home at around 6pm, feeling far too exhausted to go to the shops (but at the same time feeling like something home cooked).

This is just what happened to be in my pantry at the time, but I would have loved to (and usually do) add some chopped bacon and a couple of sticks of celery. Feel free to add whatever you happen to have in your pantry!

Serves 4

20g butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup arborio rice
2/3 cups dry white wine
400g tin diced tomatoes
1 tsp of dried mixed Italian herbs (it you happen to have fresh basil at home, omit this ingredient and instead stir through a small handful of fresh basil at the end)
750g vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
lots of freshly grated Parmesan, to serve


Place the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once butter has melted and is sizzling a little add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until translucent.

Add the arborio rice to the pan and stir to coat the grains of rice. Add the white wine to the pan and simmer until nearly absorbed.

Tip in the diced tomatoes and simmer until nearly absorbed, stirring often.

Pop the bay leaves into the pot and, with your fingers, crumble the mixed Italian herbs in to the mixture.

Add the stock, a ladleful at a time, waiting until each ladleful is absorbed before adding the next one.

After the last ladleful of stock has been absorbed it is ready to eat! Spoon into bowls and scatter with the Parmesan cheese.

Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , , — Katrina @ 8:30 am
Feathers and Cupcakes
Monday, 26 March 2012
chocolate french toast

Lazy Sunday morning breakfast in bed yesterday was this chocolate-filled French toast from Bill Granger’s Holiday, and I was lucky enough to have it cooked for me – very spoilt indeed.

Serves 2

1 egg
1/4 cup plus scant 1 tbsp milk
1/2 tbsp caster sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
4 slices white bread
50g chocolate (I prefer dark and Sam prefers milk – either is delicious so choose your favourite)

Combine and whisk the eggs, milk, caster sugar and salt in a flat-ish dish. Heat the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat.

Dip two slices of the bread into the egg mixture and turn over until they are completely coated. Put them in the frying pan and sprinkle each one with half of the chopped chocolate. Soak another two slices of bread in the remaining egg mixture and put on top of the chocolate bread in the pan to make sandwiches. Press lightly with a spatula to seal the edges.

Cook for about 3 minutes each side, or until golden brown. Remove from pan and serve immediately.

Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , , — Katrina @ 8:30 am
Feathers and Cupcakes
Thursday, 22 March 2012
chicken noodle soup

With two little sick people in the house this past week, both of us were craving chicken noodle soup. I don’t know about you, but a pot of this simmering on the stove magically seems to make me feel nurtured and cared for.

There are many versions of chicken noodle soup, and this is mine – the flavours are pretty simple but that’s how I like this particular soup. How do you make yours?

Ingredients – stock
1 whole chicken, preferably free-range
1 onion, peeled and thickly diced
2 bay leaves
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery sticks (green leafy end included), roughly chopped
2-3 sprigs of parsley, roughly torn
salt, to taste (about half a teaspoon to a teaspoon, depending on your personal taste)
5 black peppercorns
water (I like to use filtered), enough to cover the chicken when in the pot

Ingredients – soup
knob of butter
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
2 celery sticks, finely diced
1/4 cup white wine (optional)
2 litres chicken stock (you can freeze any leftovers)
1/2 cup corn (frozen is fine)
1/2 cup peas (frozen is fine)
100g dried egg noodles

shredded chicken from the chicken stock
small handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped

To make the stock, pop all the ingredients in a large pot and cover with the water. Bring to the boil then lower the heat to a simmer and cook with the lid on for around an hour.

Take the chicken out, set aside, and strain the stock, discarding the solids.

Take the skin off the chicken and shred the meat when cool enough to handle (I find that it’s easier to do this when still warm instead of putting it in the fridge to do later when it’s fridge-cold).

I normally make the stock a night ahead and put it in the fridge overnight. This way, when I want to cook the soup I can easily skim off the fat that has risen to the top of the container.

To make the soup, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrots and celery, and sautee for five minutes, or until softened. Add the white wine, if using, and simmer until most of the wine has been absorbed. Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil. Once boiling, add the egg noodles, corn and peas.

Once the vegetables are tender throw in the shredded chicken and heat until the chicken is warmed through.

Toss in the parsley and serve and enjoy.

Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , — Katrina @ 8:30 am
Feathers and Cupcakes
Friday, 10 February 2012

A lovely lady I know made these for a picnic once and they were absolutely delicious. She was kind enough to share the recipe, and this is my slightly modified version. She made hers with juicy, fat king prawns, but as Sam doesn’t like them I replaced it with chicken. You can add whatever vegetable fillings you like/have lying around (she suggested lettuce, but I swapped it out for cucumber). It’s also fun to make a big platter of the fillings and have people make their own!

Makes 8

100g rice vermicelli noodles
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 chicken breast, poached and shredded
1/4 cup finely chopped mint leaves
1/4 cup chopped spring onions
1/2 cup julienned carrots
1/2 cup julienned capsicums
1/2 cup julienned cucumber
8 rice paper rounds

Sweet chilli sauce, or pre-made Vietnamese sauce (from Asian supermarkets) to serve

Using the cooking instructions on your packet of noodles, soak vermicelli in water, until soft. Drain and rinse. Using scissors, snip vermicelli into short lengths.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a frypan. Once hot, add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes, add the oyster sauce and mix to combine. Add the shredded chicken, coat in sauce and cook for a minute or so to heat through.

Wet 1 wrapper at a time with warm water until soft. Lay it flat on a chopping board and pat dry with a damp tea towel. In a mound on one edge, place noodles, some lettuce, carrot, onion, capsicum, chicken and a pinch of mint. Fold the bottom up, then roll the sides up tightly to enclose filling.

Serve with the sauce, if desired.

Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , , — Katrina @ 8:30 am
Feathers and Cupcakes
Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Image by Nikole Ramsay from At my French Table.

As promised, here is one of my new favourite recipes from my fabulous birthday present, At my French Table. This recipe is so quick and easy, and really delivers on flavour – this meal is such a treat.

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as an entrée

olive oil, for cooking
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cm piece ginger, finely chopped
1 fresh small red chilli, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1 kg mussels, scrubbed and cleaned
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Crusty bread and/or French fries to serve

Heat a heavy-based saucepan over low heat for 1-2 minutes. Brush base lightly with olive oil. Gently cook garlic, ginger and chilli for 1 minute. Add wine and 1 cup water, then increase heat to medium and bring to the boil.

Add mussels and spring onions. Cook covered for 3-5 minutes or until mussels open. Discard any unopened mussels.

Sprinkle mussels with parsley. Serve with French fries and bread to mop up the lovely sauce.

Recipe from the wonderful At my French Table by Jane Webster.

Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , — Katrina @ 8:30 am
Feathers and Cupcakes
Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Recipe from

After trying this at a fabulous lady’s house, I was so excited to find the recipe. Because there’s no cream cheese, it’s less creamy than a more traditional cheesecake and seems (to me) to have a lighter texture. But don’t get the wrong impression – I still adore a delicious traditional cheesecake as well!

P.S. The pastry alone is an excellent addition to the repertoire – it’s so yummy!

P.P.S. If you don’t particularly like mixed peel you could try grating the rind of an orange into the mixture, and squeezing in a bit of orange juice for good measure.

Serves 8-12 (depending on slice size)

Ingredients – filling
75g hazelnuts
480g fresh ricotta
100g caster sugar
125g sour cream
2 eggs, lightly whisked
100g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
95g mixed peel
2 tbsp brandy (we had run out of brandy, so I substituted dark rum, which was a yummy alternative)

Ingredients – shortcrust pastry
150g plain flour
55g almond meal
60g icing sugar mixture
125g butter, chopped
1 egg yolk

Icing sugar, to dust

To make the pastry, place the flour, almond meal, icing sugar and butter in the bowl of a food processor and process until the mixture resembles find breadcrumbs Add the egg yolk and process until the dough just starts to come together. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Shape into a disc and cover with plastic wrap Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

Preheat oven to 200°C. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 3mm-thick disc. Line a 20cm tart tin (I used 22cm) with pastry and trim any excess. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes to rest.

Meanwhile, spread the hazelnuts over a baking tray and bake in oven for 10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly. Place the hazelnuts on a clean tea towel and rub to remove the skins. Coarsely chop.

Combine the hazelnuts, ricotta, sugar, sour cream, egg, chocolate, mixed peel and brandy in a large bowl.

Cover the pastry base with baking paper and fill with pastry weights (I use dried chickpeas, but you can also use rice or other dried beans). Place on a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce temperature to 180°C.

Spoon the ricotta mixture into the pastry base and use the back of a spoon to smooth the surface. Bake in oven for 45 minutes or until filling is just set. Turn oven off. Leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door ajar for 1 hour until cool (this prevents the cake from cracking). Remove from oven and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for 2 hours to chill. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Filed under: Recipes — Tags: , — Katrina @ 8:30 am
Feathers and Cupcakes
Monday, 22 August 2011
spicy chicken thighs with cucumber and cashew salad

Recipe adapted from Bill Granger’s Every Day.

Ah, Bill Granger, you’ve done it again! This recipe is not only super easy, it’s packed full of flavour and has quickly become a firm favourite in our household. I cannot emphasise just how fabulous his recipes are – if you haven’t yet been indoctrinated into the cult that is Bill (as I clearly have), I highly recommend his wonderful books.

Serves 4

Ingredients – marinated chicken
3 tbsp fish sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp dried chilli flakes (or 2 large red chillis, minced finely)
2 tsp brown sugar
4 boneless chicken thighs
2 tbsp oil (I used grapeseed)

Ingredients – cucumber and cashew salad
3 tbsp lime juice (but I have also used lemon juice successfully)
3 tbsp brown sugar
200g rice vermicelli noodles
2 cucumbers, halved and thinly sliced
Small handful of fresh mint leaves, sliced if they are large
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp cashew nuts, crushed


Whisk the fish sauce, pepper, garlic, chillis and sugar in a bowl. Put the chicken in a separate bowl and pour over half the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Keep the rest of the marinade on the side.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook once on each side until it is cooked through.

While the chicken is cooking, add the lime or lemon juice and sugar to the marinade that you set aside. Stir until the sugar has dissolved to make a dressing.

Pour boiling water over the vermicelli and leave until soft. Drain under cold water, place in a large bowl and add the cucumber, mint, spring onions and cashews. Add the dressing, toss well and serve with the sliced chicken.

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