Easy cheesy: Tortilla lasagne

I’m not going to dwell for long on this one. It’s not the type of recipe to make you go ‘oh I wish I was able to make that’ or ‘it looks too good to eat.’

It’s more of a born-of-necessity recipe, an ‘I have leftovers of many weird things and defrosted some mince when I didn’t need to.’ Those are my favourite ones The kind that takes 20 minutes from start to finish but will provide you at least 3 solid meals. Cheap and cheerful, quick and easy, and all the other cheesy, Flatter’s guide to food in a minute sayings that a meal centred around mince and veges conjures up. I am not ashamed to say this adapted lasagne was inspired by a recipe in a kids magazine and the need to use up leftover tortillas without a single morsel of coriander or salsa in sight.

Tortilla lasagne
4 large tortillas
1/2 red onion
500g mince
1 can tomatoes
4 small red chillies
any veges you want (I used leftovers from the above recipe, a mixture of courgette/zucchini, potato, onion and red pepper)
a few handfuls of grated cheese

Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius
Fry the onion over medium heat for 5 mins until soft, add mince and veges and fry till mince is browned
Add chillies and can of tomatoes, simmer for about 15 mins until sauce has reduced a bit
Layer mince, tortillas and cheese into a casserole dish (if you are lucky you’ll have a round one, otherwise cut tortillas to fit)
Bake at 200 degrees celcius for about 15 mins until cheese is golden

I would recommend this if you have a horde of hungry children (your own or otherwise) to feed, or if you know you won’t have much time to make lunch/dinner anytime in the next few days. There is also so much that can be done with this; add in any veges you want, take out the chillies, add in more chillies, make the sauce more exciting (this I would recommend most of all). Have fun with it, that’s what food is about.

All the cooking on the weekend must have affected my capacity to remember to take photos (even though for once it was daytime), so here you will see a vaguely relevant picture of the veges that went into the burritos, the leftovers of which contributed to this lasagne


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Quick food for busy mums: Eggplant, asparagus and basil pesto pasta

Just kidding mum and dad! I might not have posted a blog in a while but I have not spent my time off making babies and pasta. And here I am, back again with another recipe for time deprived cheapskates.

After an afternoon of drinking on the roof with hardy NZ friends – ‘Sun? Time to get out the tshirts and beer!’ – hunger didn’t so much creep up as it did sneak attack from within a sparsely stocked fridge. From the necessity for a quick and easy meal using minimum ingredients, the below recipe was born.

Eggplant, asparagus and basil pesto pasta

1 eggplant, chopped roughly
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped roughly
1 tbsp coconut oil, to cook
500g pasta (or enough for 2 people)
2 cups basil, roughly chopped
1 cup finely grated parmesan
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Fry eggplant and asparagus on medium heat in coconut oil for 10-15 minutes or until eggplant is soft
Boil water in a large saucepan, add pasta, olive oil and salt to taste. Cook for 8 minutes or so until al dente then drain
Combine basil, parmesan, olive oil, salt and pepper in a food processor
Combine veges, pasta and pesto and serve, topped with more parmesan

The Internet will tell you that to cook eggplant you need to salt it, dry it, peel it and do various other things to it. I’m sure this makes it taste fantastic, however don’t be afraid to just cook it up as above. As long as you don’t give it too much oil to absorb it will still taste just fine.

No photo today sorry! You’ll have to get your blurry, out of focus kicks somewhere else.

I think the most important thing to take from this post is that I can I successfully made basil pesto without removing any fingers or even being physically harmed at all. I don’t know about you but I count that as a win.

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More than one way to skin an apple: Baked granny smiths

Nothing like a TV show where someone bakes a sponge cake containing extracts of five – count em’, five – of their own bodily fluids to put your own eating habits in perspective. Especially if you watch it while drinking the contents of a ramekin filled with butter and sugar.

But this post is not about my preference for SBS programming (even though I can reliably be located on the couch every Monday night trying to decide if I like Ted Danson, Jason Schwartzman or Louis C.K. more), it is about the best dessert to make you feel better when you arrive home late, lazy and downtrodden on a wintery night.

And this is where baked apples come galloping into the picture like the white knight of deceptively unhealthy food that they are. I guarantee this dessert will make you feel great (unless you are on a diet) and can be made in under 5 minutes. It is also one of those amazing dishes that utlilises everyday ingredients from the pantry. So instead of being suited to those who plan meals and have routine grocery shopping habits, baked apples cater to the more spur-of-the-moment, ‘must eat something sugary right now’ amongst us. As long as you pick up a granny smith apple or two when you do go food shopping, you will be prepared to make this dish at any time. And if you don’t feel like baked apples that week you could instead cover it with peanut butter and raisins, bake it into a pie or eat it on its own (I guess, as a last resort).

Baked apples (whole)
Granny smith apples (as many as you like, although the measurements below are enough for 2 apples so adjust this to match)
Chunk of butter, cut into smaller chunks, about 25g total
A pinch each of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice
1/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius
Peel and core the apple/s
Mix together the sugar and spices
Stuff the apples with the butter and sugar (start and end with the butter to plug the ends)
Arrange on baking tray (the dish type, not the flat type, unless you love cleaning) and bake for half an hour or until when poked with a knife the apples give a bit but aren’t soft

Baked apples (ramekin style)
Ideally baked apples would be baked whole but in this non-perfect world in which I haven’t yet tracked down an apple corer, this has lately been my method of choice

Granny smith apples (as many as you like, although the measurements below are enough for 2 apples so adjust this to match)
Chunk of butter, cut into smaller chunks, about 25g total
A pinch each of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice
1/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius
Peel and cut out the core of the apple/s, cut each apple into 8ths
Mix together the sugar and spices
Toss the apple pieces in the sugar and spices until coated and layer into the ramekin with the butter
Bake for half an hour or until when poked with a knife the apples give a bit – you want them to be not too hard and not too soft

This recipe helped a flat of 5 students endure a winter in an uninsulated, heat-pump-less Christchurch house. A house in which I would study in my often below-zero room in gloves and a jacket. It’s no Blumenthal-esque gastronomic delight, towering croquembouche tower or flambe bananas, but any dessert that can pull off a feat like that and remain humble is one I consider worthy of admiration.
Spot the baked apple (hint: looks like a bowl of chips)

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Two of us: Coconut and raspberry

Lately it feels like the wintery blanket cast over Melbourne is lifting. The weather is getting warmer, the sky gets dark later and light earlier.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect to be breaking out the jelly shoes and sunscreen anytime soon. And I’m not relishing the thought of oncoming summer like it would appear. I love winter, cold weather and rain suit me better than sun and sweat. Despite this, I have noticed a tropical theme to my food cravings lately.

Maybe this is in anticipation of cocktails on the roof of our apartment building, possibly it is because I have reached the overkill limit with my mashed potato intake. But I think the real reason is that I feel the time has come for another holiday in the Cook Islands. Just a few more days of eating starfruit, lighting mosquito coils, being bitten by territorial fish, pig hunting, and tearing round on a scooter. A few more nights drinking at Trader Jack’s and eating burgers at Palace Takeaways before heading to the Banana Court. A few more mornings reading books, feeding marmalade to a well trained moko and watching the puppies play on the lawn (they are big dogs now, with puppies of their own).

So lactose intolerance be damned, I will eat as much of the two below recipes as I can until the moment I am sitting on a rickety, 12 seater plane waiting for the moment when the pilot brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘driving arm’, hanging his arm out the window as he taxis the runway on the island I have been away from for far too long.

Breakfast Smoothie

1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup raspberries
1 banana
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp coconut sugar (optional)
pinch cinnamon and/or nutmeg (optional)

*Put all ingredients in a blender. Turn the blender on.

Raspberry and Coconut Chocolate
(inspired by http://www.sarahwilson.com.au/2012/04/my-sugar-free-raspberry-ripe-2/#more-4272, but adapted to be less healthy)
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp cocoa
2 Tbsp brown sugar/honey/golden syrup (whichever you prefer)
1/3 cup coconut, shredded or flakes
1/3 cup of frozen raspberries

*Melt the butter and oil in a pan, adding the oil first as it takes longer to melt
*Once melted, stir in the cocoa and sugar/honey/syrup. If using sugar, make sure it all dissolves
*Cover a baking tray/shallow bowl with baking paper and arrange berries and coconut evenly
*Pour the chocolate mixture from the pan on top and leave to set in the freezer
*Once set (usually about half an hour), cut into pieces

Raspberry and coconut playlist

Leon Russell: Back to the Island
Prince: Raspberry Beret
Señor Coconut & His Orchestra: Around The World (Daft Punk cover)
The Monkees: It’s Nice To Be With You
The Beatles: Two Of Us




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Leftover meals: Vegetarian pizza and Apple crumble

You know those end-of-the-week blues? That feeling you get after finding out your train is cancelled when you’re trying to get home after a long day. Or when the train finally arrives and no-one gives their seat to an old man. Or when you brave a central city train station at 5pm. Or when you’ve just eaten a Krispy Kreme donut for the first time. Or when all of the above happens almost all at once.

These are not big problems. In fact, assigning them the word ‘problem’ is too generous. However, it is times like this when there is nothing better than the thought of coming home to a warm house, an easy meal and a blanket on the couch. And is there a more perfect time to be lazy and use up the dodgy looking food rattling around the bottom of the fridge?

The pizza recipe below was quick, delicious and a great way to use up all the suspicious looking ingredients in my vege drawer. The topping combination is of course only a suggestion as the glory of pizza is that you can put pretty much anything you can imagine on it.

Vegetarian pizza

1 head of broccoli, chopped into medium sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 zucchini/courgette, roughly chopped
1/2 red onion, sliced
2 Tbsp thyme
3 mushrooms, sliced
Basil pesto to cover bases
1/2 cup of cheese
Pita breads

*Cover pita breads with a thin layer of basil pesto and enough cheese that all the ingredients will stick
*Arrange all other ingredients on pizza (along with anything else you want to add)
*Bake in oven at 200 degrees celcius for about 15-20 minutes or until pizza crust is crispy

Apple crumble for one

1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into largeish chunks (1 chunk = 1/8th of the apple)
50 g butter
1 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp unsalted pistachios, finely chopped

*Arrange apple pieces in the bottom of a ramekin
*Mix together butter, flour and sugar with your fingers until you get a fine breadcrumb like consistency (see note below)
*Add nutmeg, cinnamon and pistachios to the crumble mixture and cover the apple pieces in the ramekin
*Bake on 200 degrees celcius for about half an hour or until the apples have gone soft and the crumble topping is crispy
The measurements above are a ballpark figure as every time I make this I just make a judgement call. The topping is always different, but never bad (yet). I think it is best to value texture over measurements when it comes to crumble topping. Experiment with different amounts of butter/sugar/flour (you can also add oats or coconut) until when mixed together you get a fine breadcrumb kind of consistency that tastes not too sugary (you should have more flour than sugar).

As an added bonus, leftover crumble is great on porridge, or in tomorrow’s start-of-the-weekend apple crumble…

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Pineapple meats a new friend: Fruity steak and hot dogs

In case you hadn’t already noticed, I love pineapple. There’s some mysterious hidden quality it holds that drives me slightly wild. So if one of these spiky, beautifully ugly tropical creatures ever catches my eye at the fruit store, resistance is futile. Even though every time I think about buying one I am worried I won’t eat it all before it goes brown and slimy.

This terrifying possibility has never been realised, pineapple seems to disappear all too quickly around this house. And since we are now undeniably ensconced in winter (a balmy Melbourne winter but winter nonetheless), it is about to disappear for longer than usual as I try to do my bank balance and the environment a favour by eating seasonally. In fact, it is already too late for the poor, sad pineapples in Collingwood’s fruit stores and supermarkets, as you will see that in both these recipes I have used pineapple juice rather than real pineapple. My only advice regarding pineapple juice is don’t use a shelf stable product (aka unrefrigerated). If it can sit for months on a shelf, it is not juice. Try to find a shop that sells refrigerated pineapple juice or buy a pineapple and juice it.

Pineapple marinated steak
*1 cup pineapple juice
*1/2 cup soy sauce
*1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
*2 Tbsp worchestershire sauce
*3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
*One 2cm chunk of ginger, grated finely
*1 Tbsp golden syrup or brown sugar
*1 long red chilli, chopped
*1 or 2 steak cuts of your choice (but preferably something good for grilling eg porterhouse)

*Mix together all ingredients apart from the steak until well combined
*Pour over the steak in a shallow bowl and leave to marinate for as long as possible (overnight is best, the steak will absorb a lot of the moisture and go slightly brown on the outside but don’t let this freak you out, it will still taste good)
*Grill as usual to your preferred level of ‘doneness’ and rest for a few minutes before serving

Spice Island inspired hot dogs
*1 small onion, chopped
*3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
*1 cup pineapple juice
*1/2 cup chilli sauce
*2 Tbsp soy sauce
*1 Tbsp brown sugar
*1/2 tsp hot mustard
*500g frankfurters (although using more or less won’t make a difference to the above proportions if you want to make a change)
*Hot dog buns

*Cook onion and garlic in a large saucepan over a medium heat for about 5 mins until soft
*Add pineapple juice, chilli sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and mustard and simmer for about 15 mins until sauce has thickened, stirring often
*Add frankfurters and cook until they are cooked through
*Serve the frankfurters on the buns (toasted or untoasted – your choice) with your favourite toppings

Toppings: I used cheese, coriander and the sauce I cooked the frankfurters in but mustard, tomato sauce and sauerkraut/fried onions are also highly recommended. The only limits on toppings are your imagination and any pre-existing cholesterol issues.

Suggested “Cooking with pineapple” playlist
Leon Russell: Back to the Island
Elvis Presley: Blue Hawaii
The Troggs: Wild Thing
Hall and Oates: You Make My Dreams Come True
Stardust: Music Sounds Better With You
The Lovin’ Spoonful: Summer In The City
Shaun Cassidy: Da Doo Ron Ron

And to all my pineapple friends: don’t get too comfy on that lonely fruit store shelf, I’ll be seeing you when it’s possible to wear a sleeveless dress again. We’ll have a reunion with our mutual friends mint, rum, coconut and lime.

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Saturday Morning

Have you ever poured boiling water into a teacup over jasmine tea and just watched as the leaves slowly pop open and unfurl, releasing tiny bubbles and turning the water slightly pink? I never have until today. This probably indicates that I should be doing something way more exciting on my days off than I currently am. But as I eat breakfast and prepare to make a special trip into town with my neighbour to visit a secret tea shop, it seems fitting to appreciate this tea that is more often consumed drunkenly at the nearest Chinese BYO than appreciated for its delicate beauty.

I know I haven’t posted much lately but as the sky is steadily colouring darker and darker gray with bright silver patches where the sun is trying but failing to break through, it looks like chances are high for rain and as a direct result for me to later be huddling next to the heat pump eating and writing about food.



Long weekend comfort food for one: Mexican hot chocolate and pork ribs

I’ve been wishing for a weekend of rain and miserable cold weather. Today I got my wish, however, I should have been more specific as I had in my head visions of sleeping in, watching movies and eating practically non-stop in a toasty warm house for 3 days. NOT of biking in the driving rain to get the ingredients for my perfect weekend.

But blessings sometimes come in watery, 10 degree celcius disguises as I finally managed to not only befriend one of the ladies at Casa Iberica (this is quite a feat as she has to be one of the toughest nuts to crack, even if you speak Spanish, and unless you count knowing the words ‘Caliente’ and ‘Hola’ as speaking Spanish I definitely do not come under this category) but also do an entire grocery shop without setting foot in a supermarket

When I finally I walked through the door at home, despite being rather soggy, with a good book and hot chocolate in the works the only way was up.

Mexican hot chocolate

*1/2 disc Ibarra hot chocolate (or Abuelita)
*1 cup (as in the cup you’ll be drinking from, not a measurement cup)

*Chop or crush the disc into small pieces and mix with the milk in a saucepan
*Heat over a low heat, whisking so it doesn’t burn and it gets nice and frothy, until completely combined


What better way to top off a semi-productive day than with sweet and spicy pork ribs, homemade chips and a tamarind jarritos followed by toasted pineapple with coconut sugar?

Rainy day pork ribs
*1/3rd cup honey
*1/4 cup tomato sauce
*1/4 cup soy sauce
*1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
*2 tsp chilli flakes
*3 garlic cloves, crushed
*1 tsp olive oil

*Mix together all ingredients and coat pork ribs (I used 3 but for two people I would use 5 or 6 and double the marinade) in a bowl. Leave to marinate for as long as you can, overnight if possible, although I only marinated mine for an hour and they turned out fine
*Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius
*Line a baking dish with foil then pour in about 2 cups of water, enough to cover the bottom and account for a little evaporation
*Oil a wire rack and place ribs on top, reserving the marinade
*Position the baking tray underneath the wire rack in the oven and bake ribs for about 45 minutes until cooked (make sure to account for size, I had to put one of the larger ribs in 15 mins earlier than the others), turning occasionally and basting with the leftover marinade
*Eat straight away, no cutlery allowed


Pineapple just needs to be toasted up as in my previous pineapple recipe except replace brown sugar with coconut sugar or (if you can’t buy it) a half-half mix of sugar and finely grated toasted coconut

Near perfect day: tick
House clean and tidy: hmmm best not to ask

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Melbourne must-dos: Johnston St Milk Bar

Tonight I got off the bus in the miserable half-hearted Melbourne rain and walked halfway home. Then turned back and walked back the way I came, to the Johnston St Milk Bar. This is a place I have mentioned before but can’t stop myself from raving about again. When the chef at a place you already consider a favourite shakes your hand, introduces himself then makes a pizza that isn’t on the menu because he knows you’ll like it (even though you’ve only been there 4 times before) you have to rave. You just have to. I only found this out tonight, as even though I’ve always had a dark desire to become a ‘regular’ customer at a place that serves great food, it has never become a reality until now. This is largely due to budgetary restrictions, which have finally been overcome (yes!), as at the Milk Bar is not only truly amazing but cheap as chips. The customer service is also above and beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before. Not only are the staff the friendliest you’ll ever meet but it seems 5 mins of talking about jalapenos and snow is all it takes to score a free glass of mulled wine. While I get the feeling perks for regular customers aren’t uncommon, I love that the guys also aren’t afraid to give customers shit when they deserve it, especially since it is always kind hearted and jokey, never malicious like when I worked in customer service (people grrrr).

So does a cordon bleu (chicken, ham, blue vein cheese) pizza at the Milk Bar followed by a walk home in the drizzle listening to Nancy Sinatra finished off with lazing in front of the modern day fire (heat pump) and eating chocolate with my glasses still speckled with rain qualify as a great Friday night? If i was the type to swear on the internet, which i am, I’d say fuck yeah.

Bang bang!

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The cheats guide to: Homemade ravioli

A while ago I read an interesting recipe that said you don’t have to have a pasta machine to make your own ravioli. My flatmate and I both agreed that this was quite obviously a giant, spiky lie. However, since the recipe writer is a professional chef and I am merely someone who is too critical of professional chefs, this ravioli business niggled at me for weeks. That was until Sunday when I got out my rolling pin, measuring spoons, fancy flour and olive oil and set to making my own pasta dough sans pasta machine. I am not going to bore you with details of and a recipe for the two semi-successful batches that followed, just suffice to say that it was a few hours well spent for two reasons: I made a delicious dinner that could have been better and I added to my list of ‘things I would like to improve on in the kitchen’.

But that was not the end of the matter. The filling was SO good and so expensive that I could not be content using a fraction of it then giving up. So last night post-knitting circle I stopped by my local supermarket to pick up fresh sheets of pasta. It turns out this was very naive. However I did come across, and eventually settle for, wonton wrappers, thinking these could act as a worthy pasta replacement.

Internet research suggested that I was in for a watery, disgusting excuse for a meal. In reality I had delicious pasta parcels that cooked in less than 2 minutes and lost nothing in taste from not using real pasta. I would seriously suggest it as a quick and easy meal, especially as these ‘ravioli’ freeze really well.

Homemade ‘ravioli’ parcels

*150g grated cheddar cheese
*200g ricotta cheese
*50g finely grated parmesan cheese
*1 beaten egg
*2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
*1 packet of wonton wrappers

For the filling:

*mix together the egg, cheeses and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To make the ‘ravioli’/parcels:

*take a wonton wrapper and place a small spoonful of the filling in the middle. Dip your finger in water and wet around the sides then twist up the sides to look like a little moneybag dumpling (in the pictures below they are tied with string but this isn’t necessary)
*repeat this step until you are out of filling. Make sure you don’t use too much so that it spills out the top, and drain it if it is too wet or it may soak through the wrappers
*place into boiling, salted water and cook for 2 minutes or until tender (no longer than 3 minutes should be necessary)


I ate these with basil pesto and another time with red onion, garlic and sliced tomato cooked briefly (4 mins). The great thing about them is that the filling really goes with any kind of pasta sauce you can dream up.

You can also see why I called them ‘ravioli’ not ravioli. You could make them into a traditional ravioli shape with the wonton wrappers but this seemed to work better for me and despite there being a lot of pastry at the top they cooked evenly in the 2 minutes.

So I encourage you to try these out, especially as a handy stand-by freezer meal. And as always I especially encourage you to let me know if you have tried the recipes or if you have any you would like me to try!

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