healthy lunch

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Three Ryvita multigrain.
A helping of smoked salmon on each – about 75g in total.
Topped with cottage cheese – again about 75g in total.
Garnished with cherry tomatoes cut into quarters and plenty of black pepper.
This is my current favourite lunch – and at only 4.5 points for the lot, it’s a healthy one too.

making patties

>We set up a pattie-making factory one hot afternoon, Eric, Orlando and I. We had been hankering for a proper West Indian pattie for a while and Eric was the resident expert. We would have liked saltfish patties but the salted cod here takes far too long to prepare – a full weekend for one side of salted cod. So we went with beef instead.

First, Orlando set about cooking the beef filling. He browned a large chopped onion, then added 800g of heart-smart minced beef, four large chillies (two red and two green) finely chopped, a decent dollop of old-fashioned curry powder and some Indian meat masala. When the meat was brown he added four medium potatoes which had been cooked, cooled and diced beforehand.

About a cup of beef stock was added to make the mixture moist, then about the same again of breadcrumbs to make sure the mixture bound enough for us to fill the patties.

Actually, we didn’t have breadcrumbs so we used cornflake crumbs instead – which I think worked better.
Meanwhile I coloured the pastry by painting it with turmeric, then rolled out the sheets and cut out large circular shapes using a breakfast bowl. I kept all the offcuts and Orlando insisted he would not waste a bit. He persevered, and from the scraps of five pastry sheets he got an extra size cutouts plus one tiny piece we made into a party pie. Then the factory line began.
Orlando placed a dessertspoonful of the beef mixture onto the pastry round. I wet the edge with water, folded it over and used a fork to seal the edges into a half moon shape.
Then once we had a full tray ready, Orlando brushed the top of with a beaten egg to glaze them. Not too many in a tray – we didn’t want to crowd them. Then into the oven at 200C for about half an hour.
The results were splendid: 26 perfectly golden, sturdily made patties with a rich beef filling with just enough bite to them. We ate two each on the spot (just to make sure they were ok).
Now we know how long it takes, and we have had a bit of practice, there is no stopping us. Two hours in the kitchen makes over two dozen patties. Only problem is, they take less time than that to polish them all off…

Eileen’s Quick Bouillabaisse

>Serves 4
WeightWatchers: 4.5 points per serve
Prep: 10-15 mins
Cooking: 10 mins

Saffron threads ½ tsp
Leek 1 finely sliced
Potato 1 (120g) cut into 1com cubles
Chicken stock 1 litre (4 cups)
Diced Italian tomatoes 800g can
Lemon juice 2 tbs
Seafood marinara mix 750g
Mussels 12, cleaned
Flat-leaf parsley 1/3 cup roughly chopped
Fresh red chilli (optional) 1 red finely chopped

Combine saffron and 1 tbs hot water in a small bowl. Stand for 5 mins.

Spray a large deep non-stick saucepan with oil and place over medium heat. Add leek and potato. Cook, stirring for 3 mins or until softened. Increase heat to high.

Add saffron, stock, tomatoes and lemon juice. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes to infuse the flavours.

Add marinara mix (you might want to separate out the different types of seafood and add them according to how long you want them to cook). Last, place mussels on top of bouillabaisse. Return to the boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered for 3 mins or until mussels open. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into deep bowls and sprinkle with parsley. Serve.

red cross coffee snaps

>Our colleague Amanda brought a fresh batch of these amazing biscuits in every morning, a gift from her daughter who kept us stocked up throughout the worst of the workload.

If you use this recipe, please make a donation to the Australian Red Cross Bushfire Appeal – every penny counts!

Ingredients
125g butter, softened, chopped
275g brown sugar
2 tbsp ground coffee
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
110g plain flour
110g self-raising flour

Method
Preheat oven to 180C/160C fan forced.
Beat butter, sugar, vanilla and coffee until lightened and fluffy.
Add egg; beat until just combined.
Stir in sifted flours.
Roll teaspoons of mixture into balls; place on baking paper covered trays.
Bake for 10 minutes, stand on trays for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool.

chicken chilli fry

>It is over ten years since I travelled to India. My very first meal in Goa was in a little outdoor restaurant called Tropicana, and it was chicken chilli fry, a local speciality. Nothing fancy, just well-seasoned chicken cooked with chillies in a strong flavoursome gravy.

For ten years now I have been trying to replicate that taste. Everybody’s recipe is different and yet the same. They may use their own family masala; some are drier than others; some are bulked up with vegetables and some give the meat pride of place. But all have that particular base flavour which always eluded me.

The best variation of it was Bobby’s calamari chilli fry. I used to joke that it had drugs in it – the stuff was addictive. Bobby used to always send me home with a big bag of his own special masala, freshly roasted and ground that morning. Still I could not deliver the goods like a true Goan.

So this week I had a deep craving for chicken chilli fry. I was determined not to go to our local Indian restaurant: their version has that elusive flavour but it is a bit too oily for me. I googled and searched and googled again. I downloaded a dozen recipes to see if I could find a common element. Then something caught my eye and I thought: I’ll try that.

I fried the chilli. The hint is in the name I guess. I took four large green chillis, deseeded them (the seeds can be a little bitter), cut them into strips and fried them alone in a little oil. No garlic, no sweating, just fried like onions. Within moments the aroma from the pan confirmed that I had found that elusive element.

I had always used the chillies as seasoning rather than a vegetable ingredient, and this was clearly the mistake. Frying the chillies released an amazing aroma and taste which was the complexity I had been missing all this time.

In another pot I cooked my chicken, marinated beforehand in finely chopped onion and garlic, Worcestershire sauce, a drop of fish sauce, garam masala and my own local meat masala. It simmered away for twenty minutes or so until the chicken was cooked. I then added the chicken bit by bit into the pan with the fried chillies, browning all the chicken as I went. Once that was done, I added the rest of the broth from the chicken pot and reduced it down to a thicker gravy. A teaspoonful of brown sugar and a dash of balsamic vinegar added to the sharpness.

I ate slowly and with relish. For all the chillies I used, it could have been a bit hotter for my taste, so in future I would use 6 large chillies to a half-kilo of meat. My toughest customer, Orlando, ate the left-overs for dinner the following night and declared that it was sensational.

Finally, a ten-year culinary conundrum is put to rest.