Sunday, February 27, 2011


I call these super patties because they are delicious cold, filling enough to make lunch - or dinner if you take two - and extremely healthy.

They also happen to be gluten-free and vegan if you're entertaining somebody in those camps.

And yes, Billie happily scoffed back the mixture before it even hit the fry-pan.

I do owe a big shout-out to Iku, the fantastic vegetarian whole foods cafe I drew inspiration from. Iku's don't have walnuts, and I think they must deep-fry to get them totally crispy. I don't actually know what Iku puts in theirs, but this was my attempt at imitation:


1 cup brown rice
Toddlers, babies and adults will love these patties
1 block of firm tofu (about 250-300 gms)
1 Tablespoon brown rice vinegar (optional)
5 Tablespoons tamari (soy sauce if none available)
1/2 cup walnuts (optional, or use other nuts)
1/4 cup poppy seeds
two handfuls fresh herbs  (I used dill, oregano and thyme beause that's what's in the garden)
2 spring onions, finely chopped
Rice bran oil, or other good cooking oil

Cook brown rice in 2 cups cold water in small pot. Bring to boil then turn right down to slow simmer, leaving lid on and not stirring at all. Turn off once water gone. Pour into large bowl to cool.

Break tofu into pieces and place in food processor or bowl where you can use hand-held blender. Pour tamari and brown rice vinegar on top and blend until thick paste - doesn't need to be completely smooth. Add walnuts, spring onions and herbs and blend again. Remove from processor and add to rice with poppy seeds. Check seasoning then use wet hands to form LARGE flat round patties. These work well as very big patties. Place on plate in freezer for 30-60 mins, or fridge if leaving for longer.

Pour enough oil into fry pan so you can shallow-fry - about half as high as the patties. Heat on medium until hot and then drop some patties in. Cook on medium for about 5-8 minutes or until browned and crispy, then turn and repeat. Try to just turn once in order to avoid breakage. Place on paper towel on plate and eat hot, warm or cold. They don't even need sauce.

Billie collects sticks at the Wentworth Falls lake

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tacos with Chili Beans

I have been a burrito addict since I visited San Francisco when I was 18. But lately I've been getting into tacos.

Why? Well in restaurants they're often offered with more delicate, flavoursome fillings than your chunky burrito - no rice allowed. You can opt to just eat one or two tacos for a snack. They're fun to make at home sitting around the dining table. And toddlers love 'em.

But tacos must be soft. For some reason the tacos that made it to New Zealand during my childhood were hard, crunchy and very difficult to eat. Ideally you want soft corn mini tortillas that you heat in the oven before filling.

Billie's still getting the hang of the Mexican thing - she's mastered nachos but when handed a taco she tends to separate the tortilla from the filling and eat one at a time. Mind you, she's been doing that with pizza this week too.

I have a standard vegetarian chili/refried beans recipe that I use for burritos, nachos, tacos and everything in between. I made it up shortly after dining out on that fabulous Mexican food in California. Fifteen years later I still use the same recipe.


3/4 cup dried black or kidney beans, or one tin
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tin tomatoes
1 lemon, squeezed
1 Tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons tomato paste (optional)
chili to taste - fresh, powdered, paste (whatever you have, but don't be too shy)

Soak and cook beans, or open tin. Heat oil in fry pan and saute onions and garlic. Chop tinned tomatoes and pour into pan with juice. Add rest of ingredients, while stirring over a medium-low heat. Simmer on low until reduced down a little. For tacos you want quite a dry chili, but if serving just with rice etc or with corn chips for nachos then don't reduce as much. Check seasoning.

Meanwhile, prepare other taco ingredients. Last night we used grated cheese, fresh chopped tomatoes, some guacamole, and a little spinach and coriander (from the garden, no less). Heat stack of tacos in foil on middle shelf in moderate oven for five minutes. Keep wrapped in foil to serve, removing as you use them. Place bowls of cheese and other fillings on table and dig in.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Muffin mania began in our household when I was pregnant with Billie. Something about nesting brought out the baking urge in me. We're talking sweet, savory and everything in between.

Billie is nearly 18 months and I haven't kicked the habit. Much to Miles' pleasure, as his regular cafe order is a muffin with his soy honey latte (uggh - not my cup of tea). But we're both regularly disappointed with cafe muffins - too dry, lacking in the key ingredient as advertised, and generally just large and floury. So one of the reasons for muffin mania is to fill a necessary gap in the market.

But the main motivation has become the creative challenge. I just use what's around to flavour them, backed up with an easy and relatively healthy muffin base. I do fiddle with the base a little too - sometimes one egg, sometimes two, and sometimes less oil or milk. But the main creative challenge offered by muffin mania is balancing the chosen extra ingredients so that you wind up with a muffin that isn't too dry, moist, sweet or bland.

Happily I can report no complete failures, but I will note polenta is a challenging ingredient.

A few muffin varieties can be found in these pages but often I don't bother to log them. However, due to popular request, today Billie Bites starts a special Muffin Mania page. which I will add to irregularly. It's useful for me too as I often think, hmmm, what were those muffins I took to so-and-so's?

To kick start, today we have these healthy savory numbers - another way to get vegetables into toddlers.

I served them yesterday to Billie and her friend Marilla (born only one day later). Both toddlers devoured two and a half muffins. Now that's a fair bit of carrot.

Billie and Marilla eagerly await their carrot and corn muffins


1 large carrot or 2 small, grated
1 cup grated tasty cheddar cheese
1 corn cob, raw
1 handful fresh herbs, chopped - I used basil, oregano, thyme
220g self-raising wholemeal flour, or use plain and add 2 teaspoons baking soda/powder
3/4 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup oil - I use rice bran
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to medium - about 190 c or 380 f. Prepare 12 muffin tins - depending on what sort you use. I have recently started using those silicon ones so only a very light smear of oil is needed. 

Sift flour and baking powder/soda if using into large bowl. Add cheese and herbs and salt and pepper.

In a small bowl mix eggs, oil and milk together. Slice raw corn kernals off by placing cob horizontally on chopping board and add to wet ingredients with carrot. 

When you are ready to bake, gently combine wet and dry - only swiftly stirring until just mixed through. Then quickly and gently spoon into tins. Bake in middle of oven for about 15-20 minutes or until browned on top.

Leave for 5 minutes in tins before removing to cool on wire rack. Eat fresh. They don't even need butter.
Marilla wonders why her lunch is being photographed

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


TRICK: Fritters re-heat very well in the oven ready to be served as tasty party finger food.
TRICK 2: Fritters offer a great place to hide greens from toddlers who deem them uncool.

Fritters have made appearances in various guises on these pages, even corn fritters. When Billie was a baby I made lots of simple vegetarian fritters. But each time I get in a fritter mood I experiment with texture and substance - to flour or not to flour, to baking powder or not, and so on.

This particular model was a roaring success with Billie but also was very well received at a work do last night to farewell our colleague Ronan. I had pre-party jitters about how the  re-heating would go. But no fear - ten minutes in the oven on a tray left them perfectly light and crispy.


4 corn cobs, lightly steamed
4 spring onions, finely chopped
3 courgettes/zucchini, grated
1/4 cup fresh coriander/cilantro chopped (optional)
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta (preferably the solid, firm kind - but if it's runny just cut back on the milk)
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup plain flour
generous grindings of salt and black pepper

Allow cobs to cool for a few minutes before removing corn - lay cobs down horizontally on chopping board and use large knife to slice off. This prevents the corn covering your kitchen floor.

Combine corn with spring onions, coriander, courgettes and flour and baking powder. In a smaller bowl combine milk and ricotta with beaten eggs, then pour into the large bowl with rest of fritter ingredients.

Heat about one tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. I used rice bran oil as it heats to high temperatures and doesn't have any flavour, but olive oil works too. Once pan is hot, drop tablespoon lots of batter into pan (don't crowd in pan and keep them small - they cook quicker and look more appetising).

Cook until lightly browned on both sides, flipping once. Keep heat to medium so they cook through without burning. Remove first batch onto plate lined with paper towel, and repeat until mixture used up.

While these re-heat in the oven very well, you can keep the mixture in a sealed container in the fridge for a few days and impress your friends and family with fritters and eggs for brunch, fritters on the side of their chili beans, fritter sandwiches, etc.

And a very Happy Birthday to my father...

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Sydney evenings have been lingering in the 30s this week so when my friend Violet Tingle - My Darling Darlinghurst - invited me around for a blogging brainstorm, the only food to take was a salad. But it had to be a substantial salad.

I literally made this up as I went, Billie hanging over the kitchen/living room dividing barrier, but it's so good I'll be making it again and again. A very tasty vegetarian dish.


1 cup quinoa
1 3/4 cup cold water
1/2 t salt
2 red peppers/capsicums, finely chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup mint, chopped
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted in a dry fry pan until lightly browned

3 cloves garlic, crushed/chopped finely
1 lime, juiced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Rinse quinoa and then place with the water and salt in small pot and bring to boil. Turn to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until water absorbed. Remove from heat and leave lid on for 5-10 minutes, then fluff with fork. Combine with rest of salad ingredients, then mix dressing and combine well. Serve at room temperature.

FOR BABIES 7 MONTHS AND UP: Make a little extra quinoa and puree.
FOR BABIES 9 MONTHS AND UP: Reserve some salad and puree a little, depending on teeth.