We Have Pies for Dinner???


What’s not to love?

There’s a crisp shortcrust shell holding the filling of your choice which is then covered in a buttery flaky pastry and baked to perfection. My mouth waters at the thought.

The task is to get a meatless pie filling that will satisfy a meat eater as well as a vegetarian and as they say “mushrooms are the meat for vegetarians”, and so began the hunt for the perfect mushroom pie recipe.

A little from this recipe and a little from that recipe and according to my husband we have a winner…


Mushroom, Red Wine and Onion Pie

This is my big batch so some get eaten for dinner now and the rest get frozen for another time.

You’ll need a couple of sheet of Puff Pastry for the top.

For the shortcrust pastry:

600g plain flour

300g salted butter – cubed

1 egg yolk

6-8 Tblsp cold water

Rub the butter into the flour until it’s a breadcrumb consistency. A few little lumps of butter are okay. Mix the water and egg yolk together and add to the flour. Mix it all together until you get a ball then flatten into a circle, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge while you get the filling ready.

For the Onion Filling:

4 Tblsp olive oil

700 g onion – diced (whatever size you like)

1 Tblsp thyme leaves

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup balsamic

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large fry pan or saucepan and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium high heat for 12 – 15 minutes or until the onions are soft and starting to brown.


Stir in the thyme, sugar, salt, pepper and balsamic and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10 – 12 minutes until the vinegar is absorbed. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.  Set aside to cool.

For the Mushroom Filling:

100 g salted butter

1 Tblsp olive oil

1 kg mushroom (I love Portobello or Swiss browns for this) thickly sliced

2 Tblsp thyme leaves

1 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp smokey paprika

3 Tblsp plain flour

150 ml red wine (I used some left over Merlot)

100 ml water or veg. stock

200 g crushed tomato or passata

Heat the oil and butter in a wide based saucepan then add the mushrooms. Stir over medium high heat until the mushrooms are starting to brown, about 10 – 12 minutes.

Add the thyme, salt, pepper, paprika and flour and stir for a minute to cook the flour a little then add the red wine, water or stock and tomato. Give it a good stir and let it cook for a few minutes , stirring often, until it’s all thick and glossy and yummy. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

I managed to get 10 single serve pies out of this batch but you can make mini pies or larger family sized pies.


Roll out the shortcrust pastry to cover the base and sides of your pie tins then put back in the fridge for about 15 minutes. (This helps minimise pastry shrinkage)

Blind bake pastry cases for about 20 minutes (place a sheet of baking paper over the pastry and add some dried beans or rice). Remove the paper and beans.

Spoon some of the mushroom filling into the par-baked pastry cases. Top with a couple of teaspoons of onion the cover with some puff pastry using a fork to seal the puff pastry onto the shortcrust.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes in a 200 C oven until golden brown.

The mushroom and gravy together with the sweetness of the onion is amazing.

Serve with peas or broccoli and wedges of fresh tomato and a squeeze or two of your favourite tomato sauce.

A winner.









Tortellini or Ravioli…You Choose…

Pasta parcels stuffed with minced beef, pine nuts and parsley.


These little lovelies are stuffed with a filling that is usually used in a Lebanese Yoghurt and Dumpling Soup which I will one day blog.

But for now this is what I’ve been craving for a few days.

Pasta dough:-

(enough for 3-4 serves)

1 & 1/4 cup plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs

2 tsp olive oil

Mix the flour and salt together in a medium bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs and olive oil. With a fork break up the eggs and slowly start bringing the flour into the middle with the egg. Once all the flour has been mixed into the egg tip it all out onto a clean floured surface and using your hands bring it together into a ball and knead for a few minutes until smooth. Cover and let it rest while you prepare the filling.



175g lean beef mince

1/2 small onion – finely diced

1 large clove garlic – finely diced

2 Tblsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley

1 Tblsp pine nuts – lightly toasted (optional)

salt, pepper, cinnamon to taste


Mix altogether in a small bowl.


If you don’t have a pasta roller, roll out the dough very thinly. If you do roll the dough out to number 5 on the setting wheel.


I recently bought a ravioli mould so I though I’d try it out.



Think I need a little practice on it, but not too bad for a first go.

Or you can make tortellini by cutting out little circles (about 5 – 6 cm diameter). Place a little filling (about 1/2 – 1 tsp) in the centre of each circle. Fold each over to form a half moon and pinch the edges together to seal. Bring the corners of the flat egde together and press them tightly to form the ravioli.


Leave on a floured surface or clean tea towel while you get the pasta sauce ready.

Simple tomato pasta sauce:-

2 Tblsp olive oil

1/2 brown onion – finely diced

3-4 cloves garlic – crushed

1 x 400g can diced tomato

1 – 2 tsp dried Italian herbs or (if you’re lucky enough) some of your favourite fresh herbs i.e. basil, oregano, lemon thyme, chilli etc.

Salt and pepper to taste.

In a large fry pan heat the oil and add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring for a minute or two then carefully add the tomato and give it a good stir. Add your herbs, season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover and allow to simmer for 30 minutes or until the tomatoes have broken down and you have a thick luscious sauce.


Bring a large sauce pan of water to a rapid boil. Add a couple teaspoons of salt and gently lower your tortellini or ravioli into the water, give a little stir. Once the pasta floats to the surface, give it 5 -6 minutes more then lift them out with a slotted spoon and add them to the pasta sauce.



Toss together for a couple of minutes and it’s ready to serve.








Birthday Dinner – Beef Lasagne

It’s my husbands birthday and this is one of his favourite dinners.

I did however make fresh lasagne sheets instead of using packaged by kneading together 1 cup wholemeal flour, 2 eggs and 1 tablespoon olive oil until smooth and elastic. Let it rest for 30minutes then roll out very thinly and cut into wide strips.



(serves 4)

Bolognese Sauce

Olive oil

2 medium onions – finely diced

5-6 cloves garlic – minced

500g minced beef

440g tin crushed tomato

3-4 tablespoons tomato paste

Salt, pepper & cinnamon to taste

1½ tablespoons dried mixed herbs (basil, oregano, tarragon, etc)

250g large lasagne sheets

Béchamel Sauce

4 tablespoons butter

½ cup plain flour

pinch of  salt

1 litre milk (skim or soy are also suitable)


250g grated cheese

Optional: Zartar (a Lebanese herb mixture of thyme, sesame and sumac)

Bolognese Preparation

Put 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium, heavy based saucepan with onion and garlic. Gently cook for about 2 minutes until onion is soft but not browned. Add mince and seasonings and brown, stirring. Pour in crushed tomato and tomato paste. Stir until combined. Add about ½ cup water, continue stirring. Cover tightly & simmer on lowest heat for 1 – 1½ hours, stirring occasionally.

Béchamel Preparation

Melt butter in medium saucepan on medium heat. Add flour and salt and stir until combined (it should be crumbly). Cook stirring for 1 minute. Remove from heat and very slowly add milk (½ a cup at a time), stirring continuously to avoid lumps. Return to heat and stir continuously until thick and bubbling.

Lasagne Assembly

Put thin layer of Bolognese on bottom of a deep square oven tray (about 25 x 25 cm). Cover with a layer of lasagne sheets, then Bolognese, then béchamel. Continue until ingredients are finished or tray is full, finishing with béchamel sauce. Cover with grated cheese and sprinkle zartar over the cheese. Bake in moderate oven (180º) for 30-40 minutes until brown. Leave for about 15 minutes before cutting and serving.


And for dessert…..


Prince  Regent cake.

Happy Birthday.

What’s your favourite birthday dinner???

Seasoned Chicken with Asparagus Sauce.

Well, I finely managed to get a copy of Jane Grigson’s English Food. Thankyou very much Mr Brian P. for lending it to me.

This is the November book for The Cookbook Guru challenge.

Let me tell you, there are some pretty interesting recipes in there. I’ve bookmarked a few pages with recipes containing ingredients that I’ve never cooked with but am definitely up for trying.

Tonight though, I’ve picked something easy. Asparagus Sauce.

Dinner tonight is going to be free range chicken breast which I’ll season with salt, pepper, cumin, sweet paprika, cinnamon and sumac.


I’m going to pan fry the meat to give it a lovely golden colour then i’ll put it in the oven (200c for about 10 – 15 minutes) to finish cooking.

In the meantime I’ll be roughly chopping 2 bunches of fresh asparagus spears, leaving a few whole spears for garnish, and steaming them in a little water until they are cooked through. Then pop them in the blender, with a little of the cooking liquid, and purée.image

Once the chicken has finished cooking lift it onto a plate and keep it warm (I put it in the microwave oven and close the door), then pour the asparagus purée into the same fry pan that you cooked the chicken in. All those lovely spices and juices left behind end up flavouring the sauce. Add 30g butter and let it gently melt in.

Now, Jane’s recipe calls for sour cream but I don’t have any so I added some Greek style yoghurt instead, about 3 tablespoons.

Heat through gently and adjust the seasoning if you need to.


This meal went down well with a glass (or two) of  Four Sisters  Sauvignon Blanc Semillon.


Pasta with Eggplant and Tomato…

Eggplant has got to be one of my favourite vegetables. You can do so much with it.

This particular recipe is actually a Lebanese meza dish that I’ve made into a pasta sauce.

The original recipe is cooked and then eaten cold as part of spread of dishes called a meza. Lots of plates with lots of tasty food spread out on a table and shared between family and friends. Its a very social way of eating.Image

And this is a very simple recipe….

To a large fry pan add 2 tbls olive oil and sauté 1/2 an onion that you’ve finely sliced. Once the onion has softened and started to brown a little add some eggplant (one medium sized or two small) that you’ve chopped into large pieces. Let them cook for a few minutes, stirring often so they don’t stick to the fry pan then throw in two diced large tomatoes, 2-3 chopped cloves of garlic and if you like it spicy, a couple of finely sliced chillies.


Season with salt and pepper, add a couple of tablespoons of water, stir well, cover and let simmer gently for about 20-25 minutes or until the eggplant is cooked.

I like to add a few kalamata olives and a bit of fresh basil in at the end.

Boil up your favourite pasta, stir it through the sauce and serve.

So simple, so delicious.



Fun Food Friday (Nachos)

Friday night at our place is Fun Food Friday. It’s the end of the working week and we can sit back with some wine or beer and look forward to work free weekend. Unless, of course, my husband has to work on Saturday in which case we make Fun Food Friday really count……Image

Beef and Bean Chilli

To a small saucepan add 2 tbs olive oil, 4 cloves finely chopped garlic, 1/2 finely diced brown onion and 2 finely chopped red chillies and cook on medium high heat for 4-5 minutes or until the onions start to brown on the edges. Be sure to stir occasionally.

To this then add 1 tsp each cumin seeds, fennel seeds and hot or medium paprika, and 1/2 tsp each of ground cumin, ground coriander, tumeric, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper (optional, depending on how much heat you like). Stir well and cook for 1 minute before adding 200g lean beef mince and stirring in really well, making sure to break up any clumps, until the beef is browned.

Throw in 200g diced canned tomato (with the juice), 1/2 cup water, 1/2 tsp sugar and 1 1/2 tsp salt.

Once it comes to the boil, turn the heat down to low, half cover the saucepan with a lid and let it simmer away gently for 30 – 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add 200g canned 4 bean mix (or whatever beans you like – red kidney works very well), mix it all in and allow to continue simmering for another 10 – 15 minutes.

I love serving with lots of corn chips, grated tasty cheese, some hot tomato salsa, sour cream or Greek yoghurt and heaps of guacamole :

In a bowl mix together 2 mashed avocados, 1/4 very finely diced or grated brown onion, 1 clove minced garlic, 2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/2 tsp  salt, sprinkle of pepper and a sprinkle ground cumin.Image Tonight meal was accompanied by a glass of Peter Van Gent Verdelho for me and a Coopers premium Lager for  Brian.



Mjadra (Lentil and Rice Pilaf)


Yet another Lebanese Lentil dish. I did say we love lentils in this house.

I cooked a corn beef on Monday night, then made fritters out of left overs yesterday and then corn beef and mustard pickle sandwiches for lunch today. We are all corn beefed out. A quick SMS to my husband and tonight’s dinner is decided.

Healthy, vegan and delicious – Mjadra….

Here’s what you’ll need :-

1/2 cup green lentils

1 cup brown rice

1 1/2 large brown onions

2tbs olive oil

salt and pepper

2 1/2 cups water


Rinse the lentils then put in a medium saucepan. Pour over  cups cold water, cover and bring to the boil. Once boiling turn heat down to medium low and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile chop 3/4 of a large onion into large dice and gently fry in 2 tbs olive oil until soft and just starting to brown on the edges then throw them, along with the oil, in with the lentils.

After the lentils have had their 10 minutes, stir in the rice, season with plenty of salt and pepper,  cover and bring back to the boil, then turn the heat down to low and leave to cook for 45 – 50 minutes or until the rice is cooked. (You can add a little more water if you think it needs it.)

When it’s done, turn the heat off and leave it covered while you thinly slice the rest of the onion and brown in 1 tbs olive oil with a sprinkle of salt. This is then served on top of the Pilaf.

We like this dish with a fresh tomato, onion and parsley salad and a spoonful of Greek yogurt.



Moroccan-Spiced Lamb with Prunes and Saffron

brians curry 3

Brian (the Husband) had the day off yesterday.  He decided it was about time he got in the kitchen and did some cooking.

Now, Brian is the chief cheesecake  and Anzac biscuit maker in this household, but he also makes a mean Lamb and Prune curry.

This recipe is adapted from  ABC Delicious Magazine  from a few years back, but its one he keeps going back to because … well… it’s wonderful…

The original recipe calls for lamb shanks, but he used diced lamb instead. 500g of it in  fact, which he tossed in 1-2 tablespoons of plain flour, salt, pepper and 1 tsp ground cinnamon.

Then heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy based saucepan and brown the meat all over. Take meat out, add a little more oil if pan is dry,  throw in 1 large diced onion and cook for a few minutes until brown. Add 4-5 cloves finely chopped garlic, 2 tsp ground cumin, 2 tsp ground coriander,  1 tsp freshly grated ginger, 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, (Brian used a sprinkle of  hot paprika as well), 2 tsp Harissa paste ( or minced red chilli) and 1 small dried red  chilli. Cook for about 2 minutes. Add  1 piece preserved lemon rind – diced (don’t use the pith and flesh. You can also use 1 tsp lemon zest if preserved lemon is handy), 500ml beef stock,1 tbs raw sugar and 400g canned chopped tomatoes. Return the lamb to the pan, bring it all to the boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered for 1 hour, stirring often, scrapping the bottom of the pan to make sure all the sticky bits make their way back into the sauce.

In the meantime, soak a generous pinch of saffron threads  in 2 tbs warm water and set aside to infuse.

After one hour, add the saffron and its soaking water and continue simmering for another hour, with pan partially covered, adding 200g pitted prunes for the last 10 minutes.

Brian serves this amazing dish with steamed rice and lots of fresh coriander.

Sooo Yum.

Enjoy… brians curry 2