Mixed mushroom and two cheese toastie with pickles

Well it seems winter has returned to Melbourne. I had just packed away the bulky doonas, jumpers and socks and I’ve had to pull them all back out again! Looking out my window at the moment it is a little windy, quite grey and very wet. You wouldn’t know it was summer. I am tempted to make soup but I think that going a bit too far… so I am going to make a mushroom toastie instead.

There is a little cafe not far from my house that serves their mushroom toastie with a pickle on the side. The sharpness of the pickle cuts through the richness of the mushrooms and cheese just nicely. Such a simple but comforting lunch on a cold and (unseasonably) wintery day.

So this is my version of a hearty mushroom toastie with cheese and pickles.

Mixed mushroom and two cheese toastie with pickles

A couple of tbs of butter

1 cup of assorted mushrooms (interesting ones), sliced – I used enoki, swiss brown, king oyster and baby oyster

A few sprigs of parsley and sage, chopped

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup of gruyere cheese, grated

1/4 cup of comte cheese, grated

1 pickle, sliced

2 slices of good quality sourdough bread

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium – high heat. Add mushrooms and leave to brown, stir and turn to ensure that all mushrooms are nicely browned. Add the chopped parsley and sage, salt and pepper and take off the heat.

Pile the cooked mushrooms onto a piece of your bread and scatter over the grated cheeses.  Place the pickles on top and then close the sandwich. Toast for a minute or so or until the cheese is melted and the bread is nice and crispy.



Vermicelli noodles with sweet pulled pork

If you’ve ever tried to make rice paper rolls, you’ll know they take some perfecting; the wrappers need to be soaked for the right amount of time so they are pliable but not too sticky, the fillings need to be well distributed so your rolls are nice and plump and they need to be rolled by (almost) expert hands so they are perfectly tight and delightful to eat.

As you may have gathered from the observations above, my rice paper rolls didn’t quite turn out so polished. Beautiful flavours but a delivery that definitely needs more work….then there were the kids rolls (everyone made their own). Actually they weren’t rolls as such, rather lots of scrunched up rice paper, heaps of noodles and a splattering of pork, apple and cucumber. But they loved the mess and the novelty of watching the wrappers soften in a bowl full of water.

I didn’t love the mess quite as much when it was time to clean up. There were noodles absolutely everywhere…

I love that everyone got involved in this meal but I do think that for an unseasoned rice paper roller like me, a simple bowl of noodles is the way to go. The flavour is the same but you bypass all the fiddliness and the mess is a little more contained. So lunch the next day was vermicelli noodles with sweet pulled pork. It was delicious.

All the elements of this dish are cold apart from the warmed pork so it’s a nice cool salad on a hot day. And if you don’t have pork, I think it would work just as well with some shredded chicken or some pan fried prawns cooked in garlic and chilli.

Vermicelli noodles with sweet pulled pork

For the pork

2 cups of leftover pulled pork

2 tbs of fish sauce

2 tbs of brown sugar

3 tbs of leftover pork jelly (juices)

A good splash of water

For the noodles

300g rice vermicelli noodles

A cup of herbs including thai basil, coriander, mint and garlic chives

1 cucumber, finely sliced

1 apple, finely sliced

1/2 a small fennel, thinly shaved

A handful of roasted peanuts, crushed

1 long red chilli, finely sliced

1 lime to serve

Put a large saucepan of water onto boil. Add the vermicelli noodles and cook in rapidly boiling water for 6 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to stop them cooking. Give them another rinse under cold water before serving if they start to stick together.

For the pulled pork, put the brown sugar, fish sauce and pan juices (jelly) in a frypan and bring to the boil. The sauce will start to bubble up and caramelise. Turn the heat down to medium, add a splash of water and add the pork. Mix and continue to simmer until the pork is heated through (a couple of minutes). You want to add enough water to create a nice sauce as this will be the dressing for the noodles. Taste and adjust to your liking.

To serve, dish up the noodles with the pulled pork, cucumber, apple, fennel, herbs, peanuts, chilli and lime. Enjoy!

Serves 4


Pork shoulder tacos with apple and fennel slaw and chipotle mayo

As long as you have some corn tortillas at home, you can almost always guarantee you have dinner (or lunch!) sorted. Tacos are a nice healthy option and you can feed a couple of people, or feed a crowd…

We often cook them with crumbed flathead fillets or sliced eye fillet or porterhouse. But if you have time to do some slow roasting, pork shoulder is worth the wait. If you have any left over, you can freeze it for sandwiches or salads throughout the week.

Taco fillings in my opinion should be quick, fresh and simple – cabbage, fennel and apple for example make the perfect slaw, with a few additions, and they also last for a long time in the fridge which means you should never get caught out if you decide to whip up some tacos.

Buen provecho!

Pork shoulder tacos with apple and fennel slaw and chipotle mayo

1.5 kg pork shoulder, skin removed (mine had no bone but with bone is also fine)

1 tbs of salt

1 tbs of sugar

12 small tortilla wraps

For the slaw

1 pink lady or fuji apple, cut into thin matchsticks

1/2 small fennel, thinly shaved

1 cup of red cabbage, shredded

1/2 cup of herbs – parsley, coriander and mint, finely chopped

1 long red chilli, finely sliced (or you could use jalapeños)

Juice of one lime

Olive oil

Freshly cracked pepper

Marinated onions

This marinated onion recipe is adapted from the cumulus cookbook. 

1 red onion, finely sliced lengthways

1 pinch of salt flakes

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 pinch of paprika

1 tablespoon of chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

For the chipotle mayo

1/2 cup kewpie mayonnaise

2 heaped teaspoons of chipotle sauce (I use a brand called ‘La Morena’. You can also use sriracha if you don’t have chipotle sauce. It’s a little hotter and doesn’t have the smokey flavour, you’ll need less so adjust to your taste)

Juice of half a lime


Pre-heat your oven or BBQ to it’s highest temperature. Rub sugar and salt onto the pork and then place in a roasting dish on a wire rack. Add a cup of water to the tray and cover tightly with foil.  Add pork to your oven or BBQ and immediately turn the heat down to 130 degrees celsius. Leave pork to cook for 4 hours, checking every so often to make sure there is still water in the bottom of the roasting dish. It is cooked when it pulls apart from the inside out with 2 forks.

Place pork in a bowl and lightly cover with foil to rest for about 10 minutes, then pull apart with a couple of forks. Pour remaining liquid into a jug and put in the fridge to cool. Once the fat has solidified, discard it and keep the lovely pan juices, they will have gone a bit jelly like. When you’re ready to eat, heat up a couple of tablespoons of the jelly and pour back over the pork. The pork should be nice and tender so this step is not necessary but it does add more flavour.

Place sliced onions in a bowl and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Leave for one hour. Squeeze liquid from the onions and place in a clean bowl. Add remaining ingredients, mix and set aside.

For the slaw, place the apple, fennel, cabbage, herbs and chilli in a bowl. Squeeze over the lime juice, a drizzle of olive oil and a bit of cracked pepper. Set aside.

Mix mayo ingredients together.

Heat each tortilla for a few seconds on each side and then place in some foil while you cook the rest. Keeping the tortillas in the foil keeps them warm but the steam also also makes them nice and soft.

To eat, top your tortilla wrap with a little pork, some slaw, the marinated onions and a drizzle of chipotle mayo. So good.

A nice cold beer is the perfect accompaniment on a hot summer’s day…

Serves 4


Soba noodles in broth with chicken and vegetables

Now that the days are getting longer, dinner time creeps up much faster than it used to. The other day I was out enjoying a warm spring afternoon without a worry in the world. I had the sun on my back, my kids were running around loving life and the time was of no importance. Until I got home that is… and everyone was hungry because it was well after dinner time. You see, in these blissful moments it’s quite easy to block out the fact that you have nothing prepared for dinner.

After a quick rummage through the cupboard, I came across a packet of dashi that I had been meaning to use. If you have never tried dashi before, please do yourself a favour. It takes no time to prepare, is super versatile and is wonderfully flavoursome – it can be used as a base for noodle dishes, curries or simple miso soup. I had some random vegetables in the fridge, chicken thigh fillets and soba noodles and I threw this dish together.

It took 20 minutes to make from start to finish and everyone in the family loved it, including my 8 month old. For my (almost) 3 and (almost) 5 year old I served the noodles with less broth and I cut the vegetables up nice and finely. Life’s good when the whole family eats the same meal!

Soba noodles in broth with chicken and vegetables

Olive oil

1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced

1/4 of a small fennel, thinly shaved

2 chicken thigh fillets, cut into 3 cm pieces (I always choose thigh fillet over breast fillet. It’s so much juicier and much more flavoursome… but of course you could use breast here if that’s your preference)

1 x 3g packet of dashi

2 tbs of soy

2 tbs of mirin

4 stalks of broccoli or broccolini, sliced

6 asparagus spears, sliced (tips left in tact)

A handful of fresh or frozen peas

A handful of baby spinach

(I have also made this with thinly sliced pumpkin, mushrooms etc. You can really add any quick cooking vegetables you have on hand)

3 x 90g bundles of soba noodles

4 eggs, or one per person, hard boiled

Sesame seeds, extra soy sauce and sriracha to serve

Place a medium saucepan of water on to boil for your soba noodles.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leek and fennel and saute until soft and golden. Add the chicken and brown quickly. Add the dashi and 600ml of boiling water (or as per the instructions on the dashi you have), soy sauce and mirin. Bring to a simmer.  Add your vegetables and continue to simmer for approximately 3 minutes or until soft.

Drop your noodles in the boiling water. They should take 3 minutes to cook (I cook for one minute less than the packet says as they cook a little more in the hot broth). Drain and divide up into your bowls. Spoon over the chicken, vegetables and broth. Top with an egg, sesame seeds, more soy to your taste and some chilli sauce if you like a bit of heat.

Dinner sorted!


Macadamia and seed crusted flat head with homemade tartare

Every couple of weeks I stock up on fresh fish and freeze it for meals during the week. I buy salmon, sea perch, rockling, red snapper, sometimes prawns… and always flathead.  It’s such a beautiful fish – bright white when cooked, subtle in flavour and it holds it’s shape nicely if cooked well.

We eat crumbed flathead fillets at least once a week and while panko coated fish is always a winner, it’s also nice to mix it up every now and then. I got the idea for this recipe from a dish in the What Katie Ate cook book.  She coats chicken fillets in puffed quinoa and quinoa flakes to give it a nice crunchy coating. I’ve used puffed millet, sesame seeds, chia seeds and macadamia nuts as well as some panko breadcrumbs. The taste doesn’t change dramatically but the macadamia nuts give the fish a nice toasty flavour. There’s also a lot of goodness in the seeds.

I’ve made my own mayo but of course you could always use bought mayo and add the extra ingredients to make tartare sauce.

And chips…there is always chips! I parboil mine and then oven bake them, they come out nice and crispy.

Macadamia and seed crusted flat head with homemade tartare

12 – 14 flathead fillets

1 cup of panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup of puffed millet

1/2 cup of macadamia nuts, crushed

2 tbs of sesame seeds

2 tbs of chia seeds

Plain flour, an egg and milk to coat the fish

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

For the tartare sauce

1 egg

A good pinch of salt

1/2 clove of garlic

Juice of half a lemon

1/2 tsp of dijon mustard

Approximately 1 cup of sunflower oil

1 tbs of capers, chopped

1 tbs of cornichons, chopped

1 tbs of parsley, finely chopped

1/2 tbs of dill, finely chopped

Sprinkle a generous amount of flour on a plate. In a bowl, lightly whisk an egg and add a tablespoon of milk. For the crumb mixture, mix together the panko breadcrumbs, chia seeds, sesame seeds, crushed macadamia nuts and a good pinch of salt and freshly cracked pepper. Tip half of this mixture out onto a plate. Pat your flathead fillets with paper towel to remove any moisture and then coat with the flour. Dip in the egg mix, and lastly in the crumb mixture. Repeat until all fillets are coated.

For the mayonnaise, crack the egg into a jar and add the garlic, salt, lemon juice and dijon mustard. Blend for a couple of seconds with a hand held blender. Add the oil in a steady stream (keep blending) until you get the desired consistency. The more oil you add, the thicker your mayonnaise will become. Add the parsley, caper, cornichons and dill. Mix well.

Heat olive oil in a large fry pan over medium high heat. Add the fish and fry gently until brown. Turn over and reduce the heat slightly to allow the other side to brown and the fillets to cook through. Remove and place on a plate with paper towel until all fillets are cooked. You could place them in a pre-heated oven to keep them warm if you wanted to.

Serve fish with tartare sauce, chips and greens.

Serves 4