French woman’s ‘secret weapon’ soup

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I go through stages of googling French women – how they raise their kids, what they wear, what they eat. Meandering my way through google, I came across this recipe for vegetable soup – a French woman’s ‘secret weapon’ to balance out the rich and luxurious French diet whilst maintaining her very French slim silhouette (the original recipe is on the @mindbodygreen website). So I had to try this recipe….and it’s since become a constant in my kitchen, especially during the cooler months. It is SO simple to make, it’s delicious and it’s a very easy way to ensure we’re all eating our veggies. My girls love it, and I love knowing that I can balance out a weekend of indulgence with a Monday night meal of this soup. For a heartier meal, I like to add sourdough toast and a slice of good cheese, such as my favourite, gruyere.

Ingredients
2 onions
1 leek
2 carrots
1 zucchini
1 potato
3 Tbs olive oil
1L liquid chicken stock (use vegetable stock if you prefer)

Method
1. Chop up the onions, leek, carrots, zucchini and potato.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, add the onions and sauté until they soften.
3. Add the leek and carrots to the onions and sauté lightly.
4. Add the potato and zucchini. Let all the vegetables cook together for a few minutes.
6. Cover the vegetables with the stock and simmer over medium heat (partially covered) for at least 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Puree in a blender, then season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Serve warm.
Enjoy x

Roast Chicken with Creme Fraiche and Herbs

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I love French food. The simplicity, the rich flavours. And there’s something a little perverse about embracing butter, cream and cheese in today’s world of calorie counting & food group elimination 😜. So what a joy it was to discover Mimi Thorisson’s cookbook, A Kitchen in France. I cook her recipes often and they are so beautiful – much like Mimi, her farmhouse in rural France and her tribe of kids and dogs.

Coming into the cooler months, there’s nothing better than a warming roast dinner, something that you can pop in the oven to do its magic while you have a glass of wine and savour the aroma that this gorgeous dish brings into your home.

Here’s the recipe…..

Ingredients
300ml creme fraiche
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced (look for the French shallots at your greengrocer)
A large bunch of fresh parsley, leaves removed and chopped
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 whole chicken (1.3-1.4kg)
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, combine the creme fraiche, garlic, shallot, parsley, and thyme. Season with fine sea salt and pepper.
3. Spoon half the mixture inside the cavity of the chicken.
4. Truss the chicken securely with kitchen twine (I don’t do this step as I never seem to have kitchen twine!)
5. Rub the remaining cream in a thick layer all over the chicken (make sure to rub under the thighs and wings).
6. Sprinkle the coarse salt over the chicken and put in a roasting pan.
7. Roast the chicken for 1.5 hours, until golden brown and cooked through (the juices should run clear, not pink, when you prick the thigh with a knife).
8. Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Your could serve this with creamy mashed potatoes, or mix it up and serve with brown rice that you cook in chicken stock, as I often do.  Enjoy x

Anzac Biscuits

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If I could choose one biscuit that says childhood to me, it’s the classic Anzac bikkie. On the weekend, Grace and I stood side by side in our little kitchen and baked together. We measured, we stirred, Grace licked the bowl and in no time at all we had trays of warm, freshly baked Anzac biscuits to enjoy for afternoon tea. They’re chewy, softly sweet and hopefully baking them together will be a lovely childhood memory that Grace can cherish. Here’s the recipe……

Ingredients
110g (1&1/4 cups) rolled oats
150g (1 cup) plain flour, sifted
65g (3/4 cup) desiccated coconut
150g (3/4 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
125g unsalted butter, cubed
60ml (1/4 cup) water
2 Tbs golden syrup
1 tsp bicarbonate soda

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees.
2. Combined the rolled oats, flour, desiccated coconut, sugar and cinnamon in a medium sized bowl, mix well.
3. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, water and golden syrup. Place over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and stir in the bicarbonate soda. Add immediately to the dry ingredients, using a wooden spoon to mix until combined.
4. Drop teaspoons of mixture onto an oven tray lined with baking paper. Allow space between each, as the biscuits will spread during cooking. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then remove the trays from the oven. Allow the biscuits to rest for a minute or two on the tray then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Enjoy x

Greek yogurt cake (Yiaourtopita)

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This is one of my favourite cakes to bake. Its gentle golden colour, the moist and light crumb, the subtle flavour of lemon. I always feel better knowing that this cake is baked and sitting on the kitchen bench, ready to cut into.

Ingredients
180g unsalted butter, room temperature
250g castor sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
Zest of 1 small lemon
300g plain flour
1 Tbs baking powder
Pinch of salt
250g full fat Greek yogurt

Method
Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
Grease and line a 24cm springform tin.
Beat the butter and sugar together until pale. I use my stand mixer for this.
Add the eggs one at a time, and beat well after each addition.
Add the vanilla essence and lemon zest and beat until combined.
Add the flour, baking powder and salt, along with the yogurt and beat gently until smooth.
Spoon into the tin. The mixture will be quite thick!
Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Keep an eye on it from about 35 minutes, the crumb of this cake should be light and moist so be careful not to over-bake.
Remove from the oven and let it cool in the tin for 10 minutes.
I would say to then turn it out onto a wire rack, but honestly we cut it warm straight from the tin and it is absolute heaven just like that.
Enjoy x

Sweet Potato Bake

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This recipe, an Ottolenghi favourite, is one of those dishes that is always just the right thing for any dinner table. It’s a handful of simple ingredients, cooked long and slow, and the result is nothing short of spectacular. Please, please go and buy some humble sweet potatoes and try this recipe – your family and friends will love you for it!

Ingredients
1.5kg sweet potatoes
1 bunch fresh sage, roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tsp sea salt
A few grinds of black pepper
300ml thickened cream

Method
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Wash the sweet potatoes (don’t peel them) and cut them into thin slices. I use a mandolin, but if you don’t have one, use a sharp knife and do your best to slice them thinly.
In a large bowl, mix together the sweet potatoes, sage, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix them by hand then tumble the whole lot into a large baking dish. Cover the dish tightly with foil, place in the oven and roast for 60-70 minutes, or until potatoes are softened when checked with a sharp knife.
Remove the foil and pour the cream evenly over the potatoes. Roast uncovered for a further 45 minutes. Stick a sharp knife in different places in the dish to make sure the potatoes are cooked. They should be totally soft, the cream lovely and thick and the whole dish rich and slightly caramelised in parts.
Serve immediately. I generally pop the whole baking tray into the middle of the table and serve it family style.

Apple picking adventures and a quince paste recipe

Saturday morning….the girls stirred at 5.30am and I knew that today was the day for an adventure. We bundled up in vests, hats and gumboots and settled in for a long drive to the mountains. It was time to get out into nature and pick some apples. 

Winding up through the mountains the air cleared, the temperature dropped and everything felt cool and green and very autumnal. We visited Bilpin Springs Farm and were given a quick tour, then left to pick our fruit. What a contrast to choosing fruit in the supermarket! We picked red delicious, golden delicious, bramley (the best variety for apple pie) and an added bonus was the quinces. 
It was lovely to escape the city, get out into nature and show our girls where their food comes from. And now adventures await in the kitchen. We got straight into prepping the quinces and a very moreish quince paste is now bubbling away on the stove. 
Here’s the recipe….
Ingredients
650g quince, peeled and chopped 

250ml water 

1 x strip lemon peel 

1 tsp vanilla extract 

175g white sugar

175g brown sugar

Method
Combine quince, water, lemon peel and vanilla extract in a medium heavy based saucepan. Bring to the boil, then simmer (covered) for 25-30 minutes, until quince is soft.

Blend the softened quinces, lemon peel and whatever is left of their poaching water in a blender or food processor until smooth.

In a large heavy based saucepan, combine the sugars with the blended quince.

Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until sugars are dissolved.

Turn the heat as low as possible and cook (covered) for a further 3 or so hours until burgundy in colour.

Cool for 20 minutes and pour into clingfilm lined moulds.

Set in the fridge for a few hours.

Enjoy x 

Breadandbabies best ever roast chicken

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When the best roast chicken then becomes the best leftovers.

You know when you think you’re going pretty well at cooking roast chicken? And then one day you have a whole chicken, but none of your other usual ingredients….so you have a think…..you raid the vegetable crisper, your herb garden and suddenly you have the BEST roast chicken you’ve ever made? Pretty much by accident? That’s what happened to me this week….

Lemon & rosemary roast chicken

Ingredients…
1 whole chicken (1.4kg)
3 Tbs salted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 lemon, zested (reserve the lemon for the chicken cavity)
3 stalks fresh rosemary from your herb garden, finely chopped (equates to about 2 Tbs chopped rosemary)
Olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Method…
Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
Combine butter, lemon zest and rosemary. Season with a pinch of salt, add a few grinds of black pepper. Mix until combined.
Ease your fingers under the skin over the chicken breast, to create a pocket. Scoop up some butter, slide your fingers between the skin and the breast and massage the butter into the breast. Repeat with the other breast. If you have leftover butter, rub over the skin of the chicken.
Halve the lemon, and pop into the chicken’s cavity (up its behind, basically).
Drizzle the chicken with olive oil, 2-3 pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper.
Pop into a roasting tray and put into the preheated oven.
Roast for 1.5 hours. To check it’s cooked, gently slide a sharp knife into the join between the leg and the breast. If the juices run clear, it’s done.
Pull out of the oven, cover with foil, and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
Carve, serve and enjoy!
X

Note – I served my roast with ratatouille and risoni pasta. Then tonight we used the leftovers for the most luscious chicken sambos – chicken, ratatouille, avocado and cheese on ciabatta bread. SO good.