Summer Pasta From the Pantry

Summer Pasta From The Pantry

The key to simple, quick and delicious meals is a well-stocked pantry. If you’ve got the basics of a meal already in the cupboard, you can spend less time running up and down the supermarket aisles and more time picking the best of the fresh ingredients on offer.

Many of my favourite cookbooks start with a chapter on what to store in the larder.¬†Mark Bittman¬†advises that “cooking at home becomes exponentially easier, faster, and more spontaneous when you have basic foods at arm’s reach.”

However there’s a fine balance between stocking up on essentials and hoarding little bits in bags. I try to keep my pantry stocked with my most used ingredients, though a jar of exotic spice or a specialist Asian sauce has been known to sneak in.

Nigel Slater¬†has a cramped London kitchen (I empathise) and notes that “cupboard space is at a premium. My store cupboard is lean and restricted to essentials rather than groaning with all manner of ‘things that may just come in useful’.”

Nigel notes that if he had to whittle down his pantry to three ingredients to take on a desert island, he’d choose¬†lemons, olive oil and Parmesan cheese. If he and I wash up on the same island, he’d have my dried pasta, capers and parsley and we’d be able to make a version of this dish (with the tuna we catch from the sea).

Many of the ingredients required for this recipe are already in your pantry, or they should be.

Continue reading

Call For Submissions: What’s Your Homesick Toast?

What's your homesick toast?

Wow! I am overwhelmed and so excited by the response to my post about the toast I make when I’m feeling homesick for Australia. Thank you all so much for your comments, it was great to meet you all!

Some of your comments got me thinking: what do you put on a piece of bread when you’re away and feeling nostalgic for the taste of home?

Continue reading

Spicy Pepitas

Spiced Pepitas

Sitting on a train, listening to music and watching your point of origin morph into your destination out the window is a lovely way to travel. But if you’re not into dry, sparse sandwiches packed in too much plastic, or greasy, limp offerings from the neon shopfronts at the station, then eating on a train can be disappointing. In preparation for a 3-hour trip on the Long Island Rail Road this week, I packed myself a little snack.

I generally choose salty over sweet; a bag of potato chips will not last long in my presence. Though if sweet combines with salty, well, that is an elevated snack.

Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, are a solid performing bite to eat on their own. When they’re roasted with a spicy-sweet combination of flavours, these seeds develop their naturally chewy, subtly sweet nuttiness into a richer, crunchier and altogether more satisfying treat.

Continue reading

Three-Ingredient Asparagus Tart

Three-Ingredient Asparagus Tart

A cold bottle of Riesling, a sunny afternoon and a few friends should be the three ingredients required for this tart, because that’s how I prefer ¬†to eat it. But before you open the wine, you’ll just need to pick up some asparagus, puff pastry and cheese. For this is the most accommodating of tarts. It requires very little to turn simple ingredients into a dish that looks like you trained in a French patisserie to make.

Continue reading

Homesick Toast

Homesick Avocado on Toast

I have fully embraced the New York breakfast of boiled dough spread thick with an inch of cream cheese.

Bagels fuel the working week in NYC. Every Tuesday at work there is a long meeting that uses bagels to lure people in. We take turns in bringing the bagels, which means we start each meeting dissecting today’s batch, comparing them to the reigning favourite provider. If you bring sub-par bagels, you put productivity in jeopardy. These chewy rolls demand respect, and I’m happy to give it to them.

But sometimes, I miss Australian breakfasts.

A thick slice of toast smothered in creamy avocado and spiked with fresh herbs and citrus is happiness on a plate to me. It tastes like home, or, more specifically, a menu item at one of my favourite cafes in Melbourne. So when I feel a longing for Australia, I make Homesick Toast.

Continue reading

Simplest Store Cupboard Tomato Sauce

20120619 - Dinner - Tomato Sauce - Final 1

20120619 - Dinner - Tomato Sauce- final 4


As you may gather, I like simple recipes. I especially like simple recipes that take pantry ingredients and transform them into a rich, luscious meal that is worthy of note. This one does that using canned tomatoes, the stalwart of the store cupboard.

It’s entirely likely that even if I don’t think I have any tomatoes in the pantry, I can reach in behind the half empty bag of nuts and that wild rice I bought but never used and find a tin or two. I prefer tomatoes that are canned whole rather than crushed or diced. I think this retains the integrity of the tomato and it means I can go wild with my kitchen scissors after I’ve poured them into the pot (extremely satisfying way to chop).

Whenever I am at an Italian grocer, like Eataly in NYC or Mediterranean Wholesalers in Melbourne, I’ll stock up on cans of organic tomatoes ready for recipes just like this one. It’s worth spending a little more on the quality of the tomatoes, as the recipe is so simple, you want the flavour of your tomatoes to be as full as possible.

Continue reading

Summer Quinoa Porridge

Morning routines are hard to change.

It’s the time of day most prone to auto-pilot, and is therefore reliant on a¬†series of repeatable steps that do not require much thought, yet are likely to get us to our required destination on time. If part of a routine is changed, some other part also has to shift. It’s the balance of nature – our morning routines are a finely tuned system that self correct when something new is added.

My routine is in flux. I’m trying to give up the ghastly practice of reaching for my phone as soon as I wake up. I’m swiping and tapping a screen to life before I can even open both eyes fully. I squint at my email, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to catch up on what’s happened back home in Australia during the day they’ve just finished and I’m about to start. It’s a connection to home, which I love, but when I stop and think about how I’d like my morning to be, it doesn’t involve attaching myself to a device as soon as I come to.

I could follow¬†Winston Churchill’s¬†routine and¬†rise¬†at 7:30 but stay in bed to eat breakfast, read the papers, and dictate to a secretary till 11. This is followed by a weak whiskey before lunch, which does sound quite appealing.

Or I could give Benjamin Franklin‘s routine a try, but that would involve getting up at 4am then¬†washing, eating, and thinking about what I would accomplish for the day until 8am, then work. Early is fine, but not that early.

Whatever new routine evolves, it has to involve food (though not in an Ice Cube kind of way).

Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day. In winter I love¬†a steaming bowl of porridge made with soy milk for a hint of nuttiness and laced with cinnamon. It’s like a warm hug to start the day right. I’m craving a summery version of this fortifying and hearty start to the day. And maybe if I can make food the strongest habit in my morning, the screen addiction will subside.

Continue reading