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muthia andf pakora

We are flooded in and the chooks, who hate wet weather, are very miserable. But we are safe, have plenty of food and firewood and, with the new power system, even plenty of electricity.  So I’ve had a lovely day playing in the kitchen rather than the garden, and we had our neighbours (who are also flooded in, same side of the creek to us) over for a long late Sunday lunch.

I spent a couple of hours making corn vadai and azuki vadai and eggplant and beetroot  pakora and zucchini muthia, and I really needn’t have bothered cos there were two clear favourites on the platter, and they were the quickest and easiest ones – the muthia and the pakoras.

This is the third of my “Food to Share” series, a South Indian platter inspired by the ginger and turmeric and chilies going nuts in the midsummer garden.  This one has:

  • Corn Vadai – little patties made with corn, lentils and spices
  • Azuki Vadai – made with ground soaked brown snake bean seeds and spices
  • Eggpant pakora – just thin eggplant slices dipped in pakora batter and fried
  • Beetroot pakora – grated beet mixed with pakora batter and fried
  • Zucchini muthia – steamed zucchini and besan (bean flour) patties
  • Coriander mint dipping sauce
  • Hot Mango and Tomato Chutney
  • Green Mango Pickles in Oil
  • Fresh cherry tomatoes and sliced cucumber

All made from things that are so in season they are in glut in my garden.

Zucchini Muthia Recipe:

Grate two overfull cups of zucchini and put in a colander over the sink.  Let it drain for a few minutes, pressing and squeezing to get excess liquid out.

In a bowl, mix

  • 2 cups of drained grated zucchini
  • ½ cup besan (bean flour)
  • 2 dessertspoons plain wholemeal flour
  • 1 scant teaspoon of cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh turmeric (or substitute ½ teaspoon dried)
  • 2 medium to mild chilis, finely chopped (more or less depending on how hot you like it)
  • a handful of herbs, finely chopped.  Coriander, fennel, or Thai basil all work in different ways.
  • pinch salt
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 dessertspoons oil

Use your hands to mix, squeezing the mixture together.

Use wet hands to shape into 14 little patties. They should be a bit sticky but able to be made into patties. If they are too sticky, add some more besan.

Steam the patties for around 20 minutes, till they a skewer comes out clean. You can make them ahead up to this point, and they will keep in the fridge for several days.

To finish:

In a little oil in a frypan, pop ½ teaspoon of mustard seeds.  Add a little finely diced chili, if you like spiciness (or not) and a couple of dessertspoons of sesame seeds.

Add the steamed muthia and fry for a few minutes till they start to colour. The sesame seeds will stick to them.

Serve hot with chutney or pickles or dipping sauce.



My all time, very favourite, can’t be beaten dinner is a plate of roast root vegetables.  On their own. Little crispy caramelised bits on the edges and each individual vegetable a star in its own right. With home grown, very fresh vegetables it’s amazing.  But even with bought vegetables it’s pretty good.

It really should be done long and slow in a hot wood oven.  But this half-hour midweek version is nearly as good, and it meets the rules of the Tuesday Night Vego Challenge.

The Recipe:

It’s not as easy as it might sound to get perfect roast vegetables fast. It’s all in cutting things small and the right size in relation to each other, having the pan hot before you put them in, not crowding the pan too much, and keeping the moisture level down.

Put the oven on high to heat up with a big heavy roasting pan in it.  You want a hot oven and a hot pan.

While the pan is heating up, put a swig of olive oil in a big bowl.  Peel and cut some pumpkin and/or sweet potato into medium-small chunks,  and some onions into quarters or eighths, depending on how big they are.  If you leave the root end on the onions, they will fan out a bit but hold together. Toss in the olive oil, and quickly, so as not to let the heat out, put into the roasting pan in the oven.

Now put a pressure cooker with a very little bit of water on to heat up. (You can use a pot and steamer – it will just take 5 minutes longer.)

While it is heating, scrub, peel if you need to, and chop some carrots, parsnips and beetroot.   You need them fairly small with a big surface area.  I chop them lengthways rather than into chunks – small carrots into quarters, parsnips into 10 cm lengths then into eighths, and beetroot into quarters or eighths depending on how big they are. You could add some turnips or swedes too, or celeriac. If parsnips aren’t a regular for you, now is the time to try them. Parsnips this time of year are very delicious.

Cook for just a minute or two in a pressure cooker or about 5 minutes in a steamer. You are looking to just heat them all the way through, not actually cook them.

While they are steaming, add to the olive oil in the bowl:

For each person:

  • half a teaspoon of fresh thyme finely chopped
  • half a teaspoon of fresh rosemary finely chopped
  • two cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • a teaspoon of lemon zest
  • good pinch of salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

You want enough herby oil to coat the vegetables.

Drain the vegetables well and allow the steam to evaporate off, then toss in the herby garlicy oil.

Quickly, so as not to let the heat out, add the vegetables to the pumpkin and onions in the baking tray, giving them a bit of a toss to turn.

Bake for 20 minutes on high.

While they are baking, make the caper mayo, for which you need an egg, lemon juice, capers, and a neutral oil like grapeseed oil.  I use my Two Minute Mayonnaise recipe, but leave out the mustard and garlic and put in extra capers – about 3 teaspoons of them.  If you have a sweet tooth, you could add just a touch of honey. This will make more mayo than you need, but it keeps in the fridge for a week or so and you’ll find plenty of uses for it.

Serve the vegetables with mayo on the side.



Roots and perennials planting days from today through to Tuesday afternoon. This is a good time of year for planting perennials in my part of the world. We are past the frizzle days of high summer, but still enough time left for things to establish before going into winter dormancy, and be really ready to take off in spring. We are also coming into what is traditionally our wet season, though in this La Ninã year, that really isn’t a factor. The ground is so wet, it’s even a disincentive.  Although, I guess,  if you’re planting a tree that will be there for hundreds of years, it’s not a bad thing to see the potential planting sites at their extremes.

I’m not really ready for this planting break – it’s been so busy since Christmas – I’ve been chasing my tail. I haven’t got seed potatoes, and I need to visit the local nursery for trees, and the very wet weather has not been kind to my carrot seedlings. Every time I look at the garden, I see so much wanting doing. But I’ve learned that if I just get out an do something, at least on the planting days, I can keep production happening even in the frantically busy start to the year, and avoid that spot in three months time when the chickens of missed plantings come home to roost.

So today I’ll plant out these beetroot babies, and the survivors of the carrots – there’s enough of them to bridge the gap. I’ll get some spots ready for potatoes. We don’t eat spuds every meal. Too many carbohydrates for people who don’t do physical work all day, and who aren’t (deliberately anyhow!) growing. But home grown new season fresh spuds are a gourmet delight, a treat, and for a month or so, a couple of times a year, they’re worth the calories. The November harvest, of the spuds planted in August is the smaller harvest.  It heats up early in spring here, and the hot weather slows down their storage of carbohydrates. The second harvest, in May of spuds planted now is usually the bigger one. So tomorrow I’ll get some seed spuds and if I have the spots all ready for them it will only take a few minutes to pop them in.

I’ll put in another round of carrots and spring onions and beets, and also a dozen pots of parsnips using the same technique as the carrots.  I’m not in an ideal climate for parsnips – they like it cooler for longer than we get. But they are one of my very favourite vegetables so I persevere. They take around 5 months to be harvestable,  and the best ones are those harvested in winter, which means planting in summer. But they’re trickier to germinate than carrots, specially in hot dry weather, and if it’s too wet, they won’t like it either. But if I’m lucky, I may get some ready for harvesting from midwinter on.

And I may just manage a visit to the local nursery on Tuesday on my way through town. We really don’t need more fruit trees, but it’s tempting.



roast beetroot and macadamia dip

This is the second of my Halloween dips.  This one disappeared even faster than the pumpkin one, with the kids happily hoeing into beetroot.  I have beetroot in the garden and macas from our trees, and another batch in the oven right now, the second one since. I’ve developed a fetish for beetroot dip open sandwiches for lunch.

Beetroot is a super-superfood.  That deep red colour is a giveaway.  It is extremely rich in antioxidants, vitamins including folic acid, and a big range of minerals. And there’s even a few hints it might be good for fending off dementia, which, every so often, I swear I must be getting!

The Recipe:

Peel and chop 3 medium sized beetroot into bite sized chunks.

Oil a baking tray, and spread the beetroot on it with

  • 2 cloves of garlic (skin on)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed

Bake in a medium oven for 20 minutes or so, until the beetroot is tender to a fork.

Spread ¼ cup of macadamias on another baking tray and roast them for around 10 minutes until they just start to brown.

Squeeze the garlic out of its skin and tip the lot into a food processor. Add 3 dessertspoons of lemon juice and a good pinch of salt.

Blend until it is finely chopped but not smooth, adding a little olive oil if necessary to get the texture right.

It’s better the next day, if you can  wait that long!




This isn’t really a “Witches Kitchen version of healthy” recipe.  But birthdays are exceptions.  I made a double mix for Johanna’s birthday and the extra cake went on to Odin’s birthday – Johanna’s 53rd and Odin’s 2nd – and both sets of party-goers wanted the recipe.  Proves kids do have taste!  This is the kind of cake you need if you plan to stay up dancing all night, or playing chasie all afternoon.

The Recipe

Turn the oven on to medium to heat up.  Grease a 23cm deep cake tin and line the bottom with a circle of greaseproof paper.

Cream together 250g butter and 250 grams (1½ packed cups) of dark brown sugar.  Add 4 eggs and a teaspoon of vanilla essence and beat  in.

Sift together 2 cups of self raising flour, 2 big tablespoons of cocoa powder, and a teaspoon of baking powder. Stir into the butter-sugar-egg mix.

Add 500 grams of grated raw beetroot and 100 grams of grated dark chocolate.  The Ethical Consumer Guide is a good way to check for free trade brands of  chocolate – there are several to choose from and they are easily available.

Pour the mix into your cake tin and bake for about an hour, until the centre springs back and a skewer comes out clean. You need the middle of a medium oven – if it is too hot, you may need to put a piece of foil on top for the last bit to stop the top burning.
Cool for a few minutes in the tin, then turn out and allow to cool completely before icing.

The Icing

This is the simplest ever way to top a cake, and it works brilliantly.  Beat together ordinary cream and jam until thick.  Stop before it turns to butter! For this cake, you will need about 100 ml of cream and a good tablespoon of jam –  just keep adding jam until you get the right depth of colour.    Boysenberry jam creates a good deep pink coloured cream before it gets too sickly sweet.

Add birthday candles and about 20 people to help eat it!

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The kids are back at school after the holidays, so it is time to get back into lunch box baking. This is the ninth in my Muesli Bar Challenge series.

For those of you who are new to the site, the Challenge is about my bet that it is possible to make lunch box treats that fit the Witches Kitchen definition of healthy and ethical,  and that my school age reviewers prefer to the overpackaged junk food marketed as suitable for kids’ lunch boxes.  They also have to be be able to compete with supermarket muesli bars in terms of quick and easy, and in terms of cost.

The reviewers come from four different, very normal families and range from kindergarden to high school ages.

This week’s Challenger uses pecans and apple (both in season) and a secret ingredient – beetroot.  Beets are a super food, rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre, and a specially rich source of folic acid, which is important for whole range of  functions. Chocolate is also a good source of anti-oxidants and actually good for you in a healthy recipe!

The Recipe

I used a 23cm round cake pan for this recipe, but it would probably slice up more neatly in a square pan.  Grease and line the pan with greaseproof paper.  Turn the oven on to heat up.

Sift together 1 cup of wholemeal self-raising flour, half a cup of cocoa powder, and one teaspoon of baking powder.

Mix in half a cup of dark brown sugar, half a cup of chopped pecans, and a quarter of a cup of choc chips.

Add a cup of grated raw beetroot and one large granny smith apple also grated.

In another bowl, blend together three eggs, half a cup (150 ml) mild flavoured oil, (I like to use grapeseed oil), and a teaspoon of vanilla.  Add to the other bowl and stir together to combine.

Turn out into the paper-lined cake pan and bake for 30 minutes or so in a moderate oven, till a skewer comes out clean.



low GI Roast veg

This is one of my all time favourite meals, deceptively simple:  Roast Vegetables as Themselves. It is low carb, which is good for dinner time, specially if you are watching weight, and it can be adapted to whatever vegetables are fresh, local, and in season.

Chop and peel a variety of vegetables into small-chunky pieces. You need to chop them to a size where they all cook in the same time, but the average would be a bit smaller than your typical roast dinner veg size.  So as not to overdo it on the oil, pour a little olive oil on your hands and massage the vegetables in the baking tray. Roast for 20 minutes or so in a hot oven, tossing half way through. Near the end, sprinkle with crumbled low-fat fetta cheese.

It really needs nothing else. Don’t be tempted to overelaborate or serve as a side dish. It’s really worth just appreciating vegetables as themselves.

Right now, using what I have in the garden, I have parsnips, carrots, baby beets, and red onions, all chopped smallish, and capsicum, eggplants, zucchini, egg tomatoes, and pumpkin chopped larger. I chop the eggplants first, salt them, and let them sit for just a few minutes while I chop the rest, then rinse, pat dry and add.  If you leave the base on the onions and halve or quarter them (depending on size) they will hold together. I also throw in some whole peeled cloves of fresh garlic and sprinkle with chopped fresh oregano and lemon thyme.

It’s simple, fast, cheap, and if you use  fresh vegetables in season, amazingly good.


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