Category Archives: Starters

Thai Chicken and Corn Cakes

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I made this modified Ainsley Harriott recipe for the first time last night and everyone loved it. The kids devoured these yummy Thai chicken and corn cakes and I loved them not just for taste but also for simplicity: everything just goes in the food processor for blitzing. And it was so affordable: the total cost being less than $10 (and it made 20 rissole sized cakes which is two dinners worth in this house). Next time I make hot finger food I’m going to roll them into little balls to dip in its sauce using a toothpick for a yummy starter. These Thai chicken and corn cakes are freezer friendly, which makes this recipe my new favourite.

  • 3 skinless chicken breasts or 5 thighs (approximately 750g)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 1 x 400g tin corn kernels, drained
  • half bunch fresh coriander leaves
  • 4 spring onions, sliced
  • 2 tbsp sesame or peanut oil

sweet chilli sauce

  • 4 tabs sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 teasp soy sauce
  • 1 teasp fish sauce
  • 5cm piece cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
  1. Roughly chop the chicken breasts and put all ingredients (minus the oil and sauce ingredients) together in the bowl of a food processor. Process until combined evenly, though ingredients should still be visibly distinct to the eye.
  2. With wet hands, pat mixture into 20 rissole sized cakes and pan fry on each side for 3-5 minutes, in a very hot fry pan using sesame or peanut oil.
  3. If desired, combine sauce ingredients in a dish (though sweet chilli sauce straight from the bottle is great with this dish too).
  4. Serve with mashed potato and steamed vegetables or a salad of asian greens. Makes 20 cakes, and serves 6+ adults.
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Tandaco Southern Fried Chicken

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Though it’s true I’m not the biggest fan of packet mixes (they aren’t that cheap really, and often don’t taste that great), this Southern Fried Chicken coating mix is simply awesome. It doesn’t have that hideous packet mix ‘fake’ flavour, it goes a surprisingly long way and best of all, it’s one of the fastest ways get a decent dinner done at the drop of a hat. I tend to keep multiple packets of this in reserve for when the day ends much more crazily than was first planned or when the opportunity to have people over arises out of the blue. Use this shaker chicken mix on any type of chicken you like – drumsticks for affordability – wings for hot finger food that pleases a crowd – or thighs and breasts for a quick meat and three veg dinner. Simply coat chicken pieces in the mixture and roast in a very hot oven in a roasting dish splashed with olive oil and/or butter, at around 200-220 degrees, making sure you turn them before they burn. The chicken should develop a lovely brown stickiness all over. 1 packet of this Southern Fried Chicken coating does a bit more than 1kg chicken. Enjoy!

Stephanie Alexander’s Homemade Pesto with Pasta and Chorizo

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I am a big fan of stir-through pasta sauces and regularly use store-bought ones for ease of use and lowering stress when it comes to meal times and hospitality. There are some really great tasting ones out there and I heartily encourage their use if it means making hospitality easier. Having said that, the recipe that follows for home-made basil pesto is just so easy and yummy that I had to share it with you. The bright green and powerfully flavoured pesto that results is worlds apart from its perfectly-fine supermarket counterparts. This Stephanie Alexander recipe is one that I’ve cherished for many years because of its taste, ease, affordability and versatility: make it ahead of time and store in fridge for a later use, such as a main pasta dish or on sandwiches or even as a dip with crackers and cheese. My favourite way to use it tossed through hot spirals of pasta with pan-fried chorizo cut into half-moon shapes with chunks of fresh capsicum. The quantities that follow make 250g of pesto and the photo above is a double quantity in a 500g jar. Depending on where you source your basil from, this little jar of basil bliss will set you back around $4.

  • 1 cup firmly packed basil leaves
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to seal
  • ¼ cups pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Sea salt
  • 60 grams parmesan, grated
  1. Put basil leaves, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and salt in a blender or food processor and blend/process until smooth. Stop the machine once or twice and scrape down the sides with a spatula. Remove cutting blade and change blade to a fine grate. Put parmesan through the processor into the bowl on top of the basil mixture. Remove blade and mix well (or grate cheese with a grater and add to basil mixture and mix well).
  2. Spoon pesto into a clean and dry 250 ml-capacity screw-top jar. Press down with the back of a spoon to ensure there are no air pockets and seal with a film of olive oil. Store in the refrigerator.

Hearty Chicken and Vegetable Soup

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Katrina put me onto this soup recipe a few weeks back and I thought I’d give it a go today. I tried it today because we’ve got a big week ahead (one of our kids is having their tonsils and adenoids out tomorrow), I wanted a meal to give away and I wanted to put the rest in the fridge for the number of lunches and dinners we’ll need quickly in the days to come. For all these reasons, I doubled the quantities and I really enjoyed the ease of this recipe – it only took around 20 minutes of peeling and chopping before sticking it on the stove to simmer. The ingredients list tells you to use chicken lovely legs, but today at my butcher, drumsticks were on special and lovely legs were not. I decided the saving in cost was worth the 5 extra minutes to remove the skin from each drumstick, and seeing as the recipe requires the removal of bones, I figured it didn’t matter that each leg was not shortened. The end result was yummy, full of good meat and healthy vegetables. Total cost, less than $8 and feeds 6-8. Thanks for the link, Katrina and thanks taste.com for the recipe and photo.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 leek, halved, washed, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, diced
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 2 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 swede or turnip, peeled, diced
  • 1 1/4 cups dry soup mix, rinsed
  • 8 cups chicken stock (I use powder cause it’s cheaper)
  • 1kg skinless chicken lovely legs (or drumsticks)
  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leek and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until soft but not coloured. Add carrot, celery, zucchini and swede. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in soup mix, stock, chicken and 1 cup cold water. Increase heat to high. Bring to the boil.
  2. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour or until soup mix and vegetables are tender.
  3. Remove chicken legs from soup. Allow to cool slightly. Remove meat from bones. Roughly chop chicken meat and add to soup. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into warmed bowls. Serve with bread if desired.
  • Packet dry soup mix is a combination of split peas and lentils. You can find it near the chickpeas in the supermarket.

Cauliflower Soup

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My recent soup craze began on Sunday as the weather well and truly turned cold. I had a go at making this recipe, originally from Delicious Magazine and I really couldn’t believe how easy it was. To make it go further, I doubled the recipe and in total, it cost less than $7 to make. My non-soup loving husband confessed (with a smile) that even though serving him cauliflower soup was “pushing it”, he actually quite liked it! The quantities in this recipe serves 6.

  • 1/4 cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 potatoes (about 400g), chopped
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large (about 1kg) cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) thickened cream
  • 1 cup (80g) finely grated parmesan
  • 3 bacon rashers, chopped
  • 4 bread rolls
  • Grated nutmeg and finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line 2 baking trays with foil.
  2. Heat 2 tbs oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add celery, onion and garlic, then cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes until softened. Add the potato, chicken stock, bay leaf and three-quarters of the cauliflower, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until cauliflower and potatoes are tender.
  3. Remove from heat, cool slightly, then transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. Stir through the cream and 1/2 cup (40g) parmesan. Season to taste.
  4. Meanwhile, place the bacon and remaining cauliflower on one of the lined baking trays. Season with pepper, then drizzle with remaining 1 tbs oil and sprinkle with 2 tbs parmesan. Roast for 10-12 minutes or until crisp. Put the bread rolls on a separate tray, sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup (25g) parmesan and bake for 2 minutes or until golden.
  5. Divide soup among 4 bowls, then top with crispy cauliflower and bacon. Sprinkle with nutmeg and parsley, drizzle with oil and serve with bread rolls.

Red Lentil Soup

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Yesterday was a cold, wintery day and it made me crave a warm, hearty red soup. I googled for a recipe and found this one on the blog goodygoodyyumyum.blogspot.com. It was dead easy to make and cost me no more than $6. This recipe serves 6 and can easily be doubled to go further. Enjoy!

2 carrots, diced
1 onion, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil
2 beef stock cubes (boullion cubes)
250g smoked bacon bones
250g red lentils
400g tin tomatoes
1 litre water (4 cups)
cracked black pepper

Cook onion, carrot, and celery in oil and butter over medium heat until onion is translucent. Add bacon bones, lentils, tomatoes, water, stock cubes and bring to boil. Simmer for no less than 60 minutes (longer is fine). Remove bacon bones, cut the meat off and return the meat to the soup, discarding the bones. Season with pepper and serve.