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mini chico rolls

It being the party season and all.

Though I have to confess, this was our lunch yesterday.  In our defense, the filling meets healthy – and is possibly even a decent way to get lots of vegetables into a children’s party plate.

mini chico roll filling

The Recipe:

This recipe fills two dozen wonton wrappers – what we get in a packet of wrappers from the supermarket.  Using bought ones makes the recipe really really fast and easy, but making your own isn’t hard especially if you use a pasta machine, so I’ll include the wrapper recipe too.

Part 1: Wonton Wrappers

You can buy wonton wrappers in the fridge at any supermarket these days, but if you make your own, you can use real egg.  In a food processor, blitz until the dough just comes together (just a few seconds)

  • ½ cup of flour (I use the same Laucke Wallaby Unbleached Bakers Flour that I use for my sourdough, but any high gluten flour will work)
  • 1  large egg
  • a couple of teaspoons of  any light flavoured oil
  • pinch salt

Flour the workbench well and knead very briefly, kneading in enough more flour to make a smooth, non-sticky, soft dough. Then leave it to rest for a few minutes while you make the filling.

Part 2: The Filling

For 24  ( a packet of skins) you need about two cups of filling when it is all raw.  The inspiration for these actually came from harvesting the very last of the season’s cabbages out of the garden.  I used cabbage, snake beans, carrots, and spring onions, all finely chopped and shredded.  You can use a food processor to coarsely grate if you are in a real hurry.

Add a half thumb of ginger, finely grated, a couple of cloves of crushed garlic, a little chili to taste, a handful of herbs finely chopped (lemon basil, Thai basil, coriander, mint or a mixture) and a couple of teaspoons of light soy sauce.

Add a little oil to a wide pan or a wok, get it hot, and cook the filling, stirring, for just a couple of minutes.  You are trying more to dry it all than to cook it, and best to leave undercooked rather than over.

Mix a spoonful of cornflour (corn starch) with water (or ordinary plain flour if you don’t have cornflour in the pantry).  Take the vegetables off the stove and add a little of it to the hot vegetable mix, just enough to make it all sticky.  Keep the rest for sealing the rolls.

Let the filling cool a little while you roll out the wrappers.

Part 3: Assembling and frying

If you are using home-made wrappers, use a pasta machine, or a rolling pin and a well floured benchtop, to roll out the dough till it is translucent thin.  You will be cutting it into 10cm squares, so aim for a 10 cm wide pasta strip.

Put a teaspoonful of filling  on each wrapper.  Roll diagonally, folding the corners in. Use a finger dipped in the flour and water mix on the last corner to seal.

Wipe out your wok or pan and heat up a couple of centimetres of frying oil until it is quite hot.  I usually use light olive oil for frying like this because it has mostly monounsaturated fats, it  has  a high smoke point and it’s fairly neutral flavoured.

Fry in two or three batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan, use tongs to turn them and fry for just a couple of minutes till they are brown and crispy.

You can keep them warm in an oven if you have to, but they are best eaten freshly cooked and hot with a soy and sweet chili dipping sauce.

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zucchini, carrot and sunflower seed slice

Today is just the second day in the last two months that it hasn’t rained, a gorgeous sky blue day but my garden is still too wet to plant.  The zucchinis have struggled in the wet, but the tromboncinos have done really well right through all this rain.  (And the Suyo Long cucumbers – very impressed with their mildew resistance).

So my glut crop is tromboncinos rather than zucchini, but this recipe works equally well with both.

Zucchini, Carrot and Sunflower Seed Slice

Turn the oven on to heat up.

Grate 1½ cups of carrot, 1½ cups of zucchini, and one onion.

Put them all in a heavy pan with a good swig of olive oil and fry, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes.  The idea is just to heat the vegetables through, soften them, and evaporate a bit of moisture.

While they are cooking, blend together:

  • ½ cup of  cottage cheese 
  • 3 eggs
  • a good handful of flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 big tablespoon of wholemeal plain flour
  • salt and pepper

Grease an ovenproof dish well.  I have a square, pyrex dish 20 cm square that is perfect for it.  You may like to line the base with greaseproof paper – it does come out without it but it makes a little less risk of sticking.

Mix the egg, cottage cheese and parsley mix with the vegetable mix.  Add 1/3 cup sunflower seeds and mix well. Tip into the oven dish and smooth out the top.  Sprinkle the top with grated cheese.

Bake in a hot oven for 15 minutes until golden on top.

Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, then tip it out and slice into little squares or fingers.

Serve on a platter to share, with chili jam or chutney or homemade tomato sauce, or cold in a lunch box or picnic basket.

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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.

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My partner’s favourite lunch is microwaved tofu and vegetables with chili (he’s a chili fiend).  I’m not a huge fan of either tofu or microwaves, but hey, I’m not purist. It’s mostly garden vegetables, and I am a huge fan of them!

I’m not a huge fan of tofu because soy beans contain a number of compounds that can cause health problems,  it takes a fair amount of processing to get tofu from soy beans, and they are one of the most genetically modified and unsustainably farmed crops on the planet.   Nutrisoy and Soyco are a couple of brands that don’t use genetically modified soy beans.

I’m not much of a fan of microwaves either, mostly because they have such limited uses for so much consumer electronic junk.  But Lewie has a microwave at his work and it is an easy, no mess way to cook lunch, especially if you have an inactive office job.

The Recipe:

Part 1: The Dressing/Marinade

I make a jar of this because we use it for all sorts of dishes.

In a jar, shake together:

  • 1 part olive oil
  • 1 part lemon juice
  • 1 part soy sauce
  • 1 part sweet chili sauce or chili jam
  • a clove or two of garlic crushed
  • a similar amount of ginger crushed
  • a little sesame oil or tahini

This dressing or marinade will keep in the fridge for weeks.  Use a few dessertspoons over the vegetables in the lunchbox.  They will toss themselves on the way.

Part 2: Tofu

Fry some cubes of tofu in a little oil till browned.

Part 3: The Vegetables

This is just simply chopped garden vegetables in season.

  • Chinese cabbage
  • Silver Beet
  • Celery
  • Carrot
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Snow Peas
  • Red Onion

(I have a zucchini plant surviving in my garden, but really it shouldn’t be in season.)

Assembling and Cooking:

Vegies and cooked tofu in a microwavable lunch box with a lid, with a couple of spoonfuls of dressing.

At work at lunch time shake the lunchbox to cover everything in dressing and put the whole thing in the microwave for 4 to 5 minutes (more or less, depending on how crunchy you like your vegetables.)

Feel so glad you brought lunch rather than succumbed to a burger.

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This is the May-June carrots.  They were planted as seed back in January.  We had these for lunch in a tofu, noodles and Asian greens stir fry, and they were yum.

This is the June – July carrots.  They were planted as seed back in February.  They’re pretty well right for now.

This is the July – August carrots. I have a dozen tubes of them ready to be planted out today. They were planted as seed back in March, so it is actually two months now since sowing.  Carrots are slow to start but they’ll take off now.  I shall dig a little hole and plant the group as one in it, bottomless tube and all.  Any excess fertilizing would just make them go all to leaf and no root, so they get no compost and I  prefer spots where a heavy nitrogen feeder like a leafy green has come out.

This is the August – September carrots.  They were planted as seed a month ago, last roots and perennials planting days. I shall move them to a sunnier part of the shadehouse today, so they get a bit more light so they don’t go leggy, but otherwise, they’re right for another month.

And this is the September – October carrots, planted today, companion planted with spring onions using my standard method.  If I had to plant them out today, I don’t know where I’d put them – the garden is too full, the bigger plants will out-compete them, one day of harsh sun as they germinate will kill them.  Planted like this in the shadehouse, I can keep them watered and weed free till July, by which time a lot of lettuces and cabbages will have been harvested to make room for them.

There’s very little actual work involved – I grabbed a bucket of creek sand on my way home last night and mixed it with some old compost to make the planting mix. The sowing takes minutes and the planting out only half an hour or so.  Of course it’s not quite that simple – there’s always seeds that don’t germinate,  mice that get them in the shadehouse, bandicoots that break into a garden bed, floods that drown them,  frizzle days that scorch them, and times when I get so busy that planting days just speed past.  But if I can keep the routine going, I can harvest a dozen or so carrots pretty well most weeks of the year.

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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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