I recently did my first ever cooking class – with City East Community College. It was a half day class on “Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cooking” and it was delicious.
My favourite thing we made (apart from Za’atar) was the baklava – who knew it was so easy?!
Made a batch at home the very next day. If you make a batch with half a pack of filo pastry then the other half can be spanakopita for 2-3 people, perfect amounts for me & my fella.
Smash some nuts
1 tablespoon sugar
We used about 1/2 a cup each of pistachios, blanched almonds and walnuts. I imagine you could adjust this to whatever you like. Use a food processor, or a spice grinder like I did to smash this up into coarse sand (or chunkier or smoother if you want).
Set up your pastry station
Smashed nuts (from above)
Half packet filo pastry – covered with a teatowel to keep it from drying out
100 grams or so of melted butter (or vegan alternative – a sweeter oil like macadamia maybe?)
Assemble your souramenos
Work one sheet of filo at a time and make sure the others are covered so they don’t dry out. Brush your sheet with butter – a few lines should do, sprinkle a handful of the crushed nuts then working from one of the long ends scrunch it up so you end up with a long piece of pastry and nuts – folded a bit like a fan. Then work from one end to roll it tightly into a spiral and place this into your baking tin.
Once they are all done bake at 200c for around 20 minutes or until they are starting to colour nicely. Then drizzle over a few tablespoons of water and bake for another 5 minutes – this apparently ensures that the centres are cooked.
While they are baking make the syrup.
2 cups caster sugar
2 cups water
Pieces of lemon and/or orange peel
Few drops of rosewater or orange blossom (can be overpowering so go easy!)
Combine sugar, citrus rind and the water in a pot over medium heat and stir to dissolve sugar, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes, should be syrupy but not caramel. Towards the end add the juice of about half a lemon and some drops of rosewater or orange blossom.
Pull your golden little pastries out of the oven, pour over the syrup and let cool. Then eat them! They are not as sweet as many of the store bought ones, and have a lovely citrus note.
I love the trashyness of dude food, but in Oz it’s relatively rare to find a vego version of it that isn’t just beans and cheese in place of flesh. That’s ok in a burger, but for chilli fries you need some good old processed faux flesh to make it awesome enough to justify both the fussiness and the glorious disgustingness of the outcome.
To make chilli fries you need to make two things: chilli (con quorn) and fries. You will also need cheese and jalapenos when assembling.
First make the chilli, you can even do it the day before, maybe two days – chilli does just keep getting tastier as it waits to be eaten. You won’t eat a full batch on your fries obviously so it’s good for lunch or dinner for another couple of meals – just add cornbread on the side or rice or pasta like Americans do (weird).
Chilli’s not really a recipe as far as I’m concerned, it’s something I have always cooked by feeling – mainly by copying what my mum did. Use your own favourite chilli recipe instead if you want!
Soffrito (diced carrots, celery and onion – just onion is ok too)
Couple cloves chopped garlic
2 x 400 grams tinned tomatoes (or a bottle of passata is ok too)
1 packet of Quorn mince
Chilli powder/cayenne/fresh chilli to taste (or all of these)
1 stock cube
2 bay leaves
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium, add mince and cook for a few minutes.
Add soffrito and garlic and fresh chilli if using – cook until soft.
Add chilli powder/cayenne and cook, stirring regularly until it smells good.
Add tomatoes, stock cube, bay leaves and some water (about half a cup) and bring to boil. Then turn to medium and simmer for half an hour or until it’s as thick as you like and tastes good. Taste regularly and add salt pepper and any additional spices whenever you want.
Then make the fries.
Potatoes – try find a variety that is good for fries (derr).
Oil – canola or sunflower is fine.
Heat oven to its highest setting – mine goes to about 260c which worked well.
Peel potatoes or don’t – then cut into 1 cm slices, and cut slices into 1cm sticks.
Blanch sticks in boiling water for 3 minutes, then drain and pat dry.
Place chips into roasting pan (make sure they’re not too crowded!), drizzle with enough oil so they are well coated and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes turning half way through until they are lovely and golden.
Then the magic happens
Place the fries on a plate or serving platter, heap on some chilli add some home pickled jalapenos (more of which another time) and grate on some cheese.
Serve with beer. Lots of beer. Have icecream for dessert.
Scotch eggs are one of my favourite finger foods for a party – they are kind of retro and kitch, but also delicious and travel well if you slice upon arrival and can keep them relatively cool. They can also be prepared in advance.
This was my first attempt at making vegetarian scotch eggs. When I ate meat it was easier, buy sausages and squoosh out the filling then wrap this around boiled eggs and fry. The vegetarian option however involved a little more prep, but the results were most definitely worth it – these were good and just about healthy enough to consider as an occasional week night dinner with a salad on the side.
Some of the vego recipes online involved buying vegetarian sausages but that seemed both a bit expensive and overly processed. I was inspired by this recipe, which I tweaked a little to make it simpler and to match it to my palate and what was in the cupboards.
8 eggs – 6 medium hard boiled, about 5 minutes or so, then peeled, 2 beaten in a bowl*
1/2 a red onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 grated carrot, as rough or fine as you want
2 tins chickpeas
2 teaspoons of smoked paprika
3 teaspoons of chilli flakes
1 teaspook cayenne pepper
100 grams flour
100 grams panko (preferred) or breadcrumbs or quinoa flakes
Enough oil to medium shallow fry
1. Fry onion, garlic and garlic in olive oil until soft
2. Add chilli flakes and paprika and fry for another minute before removing from heat
3. Drain chickpeas and add both tins to the onion mix and plenty of salt and pepper
4. Get a stick mixer (or appliance of your choice) and blitz the mixture so that it’s still a bit chunky but all sticking together – then let the mix cool
5. Arrange 3 bowls in order – flour, then beaten egg, then panko with cayenne and salt and pepper
6. Get the chickpea mix and divide it into 6 balls
7. Place one ball onto a small piece of clingfilm then put another on top, flatten it out gently with your fingers – you want it big enough to just wrap around an egg
8. Coat one egg in flour, then remove the top piece of clingfilm carefully and wrap the mix around the ball. Put it to the side and repeat 7-8 with the remaining 5 eggs and mixture
9. Each chickpea wrapped egg should now be dipped in the beaten egg, then in the panko so that it is well coated. You can double dip them if you have time. Then pop in fridge for 10 minutes.
10. Heat the vegetable oil in the pan you intend to fry in, make sure there’s enough oil that it will come at least halfway up each scotch egg. I use a little pot that has room for 2 scotch eggs at a time. Make sure the oil is hot enough before putting them in, should immediately sizzle. Once nicely golden remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.
I like my scotch eggs cold, so would then pop them into tupperware and slice before eating. If you’re taking them to a picnic or something pack them uncut and they will travel better. Normally you would cut them in half but as they are quite big I also served some cut into quarters, if you make them with quail eggs then just cut them in half.
* If making with quail eggs I’d suggest a pack of 10 or a dozen, and two regular chook eggs for coating them.
Sometimes you need to make a sweet treat for work or a picnic and you want something super simple, very easily portable (particularly if you live in a tiny apartment like me and have no cupboard space for cupcake carriers and their ilk) and delicious.
You could take fruit, and 90% of the time that would be my go-to, but sometimes fruit just ain’t going to cut it!
On such occasions I make chocolate spiders. They are like a better version of chocolate crackles and don’t involve copha, because frankly that stuff is creepy. The darker chocolate and pure PB make these a little healthier than they might otherwise be.. (though the ingredients in the noodles are a bit scary)
You will need:
- 1 packet of Chang’s ‘original fried noodles’ (100 grams)
- 2 tablespoons of peanut butter (100% peanuts preferable)
- 200 grams bittersweet/dark chocolate.
- Melt chocolate and PB in a bowl over a pot of hot water (or in a microwave if you have one).
- Add noodles and stir (you may also want to add some salt or chilli powder to spice things up).
- Spoon mix into patty pans or baking paper if preferred then refrigerate till set – about an hour at least.
- If you take them to a picnic make sure you are fast and have one before everyone else eats them!
I have no idea how long they would last but they have never ‘lasted’ longer than a day in my house.
One of the last remaining places I know that do a proper Australian salad sandwich – with grated carrot, beetroot & the rest is the takeaway in Leura in the Blue Mountains.
$3 for a trip down memory lane to the taste of being a kid. They also do great sweet potato scallops.
Before or after a hike I like to pop by for a quandong icecream – The Conservation Hut at Wentworth Falls has a gorgeous view. Cafe looks ok but icecream gets my money every time. They do some bush tucker type flavours & some more traditional ones.
This is a good entry point to Wentworth Falls but best accessed by a car. Otherwise take the train to Leura & start your hike from there. Check out WildWalks for a great listing of hikes in the Blue Mountains & the rest of NSW.
Japanese rice balls – onigiri – are my favourite snack in the whole world. If it was up to me all those places doing sushi rolls would be forced to also sell onigiri. They feature heavily in Japanese TV and movies – Cutie Honey refuels her powers using them, and Tadokoro Sachiko in Boss eats them almost every episode. In the Tokyo Marathon not only was the most popular costume with the crowd the onigiri hat (with swathes of people chanting o-ni-gi-ri! as he ran past) but some people also gave out salty onigiri as fuel on the course.
Fresh and sticky with no need for soy sauce they can be wrapped with crunchy seaweed, or nothing at all. Some are filled, but my favourites have just some flavouring mixed through, either shiso or japanese purple basil or shiitake mushrooms are all good.
In Sydney so far I have two go to places. Love to hear about any others!
The Japanese Konbini behind Woolworths at Town Hall – homemade and nicely salty. Only a small amount available every day. Flavour here is Japanese purple basil. Around $2 depending on filling.
Middle level of Hunter Connection – Ooh, Rice! Lots of choice of fillings, crunchy nori – Japanese basil flavour again (but tried shiitake too which was delicious) $2.50 each.