Perfect for Autumn

Made a new recipe for our cooking club yesterday.  It was the first time I’d been in a couple of months and I needed some time for just me.  I’ve been so incredibly busy with helping my husband open his restaurant (it opened one week ago today) —doing whatever I could to get it off the ground running in the right direction (helped with menu, made some desserts, created some cocktails).  I paid a sitter for several nights to go in and pick up the slack wherever it was needed (running food, bartending, waiting or bussing tables) to work for free.  Not that I can afford to, but I want to dedicate my experience for our long-term success.  Most restaurants are disorganized and discombobulated in the beginning and ours was packed from the moment it opened.

So… a friend gave me a gorgeously designed book as a restaurant opening gift (I think she designed the book) about decorating/gardening/entertaining for a particular season.  It has recipes interspersed and one caught my eye.  It was for curried pumpkin ravioli with an apple onion sauce.  Our cooking club theme this month was pumpkins and apples. How perfect, I thought. 

Well, I took it and modified it a bit.  First off, I used Butternut squash instead of pumpkin and I roasted mine whole (it keeps all the sweetness from running out) instead of canned pumpkin and I added some different spices, and substituted pecans for walnuts.  You will need time for this recipe but it pays off! I made a similar dish another fall.

Curried Butternut Squash Ravioli 
(adapted from a Pumpkin Ravioli recipe by Carolyne Roehm)

½ stick butter (divided)
1 lg shallot, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
2 lg cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp curry powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cumin
⅛ tsp cayenne
½ tsp salt
pinch black pepper
1-2 butternut squash, cooked whole, peeled, seeded & pureed
12 oz ricotta cheese (whole milk)
1 pack of wonton wrappers

1 med onion, finely chopped
2 Macintosh apples, peeled, cored & cubed
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup pecans, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
¼ cup heavy cream

First cook the butternut squash on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350˚F for an hour or more (depends on size/thickness).  You can tell when it’s done when you stick a skewer through the densest part (near base of neck). Not a clear photo, but hopefully you get the gist.

(Didn’t use cloves in the end)

Next melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add shallots and sauté until soft.  Turn heat to medium and add ginger, garlic, spices and some salt.  Sauté another few minutes then add 3 cups of butternut squash.  Mix well and continue to cook for a few minutes.  Remove and cool.  Add the ricotta cheese and cool for at least half an hour.

Before adding ricotta

Using parchment paper on a cookie sheet lay out some wonton wrappers.  Take a teaspoon and drop a dollop of filling in center.  Wet edges of wrapper with water and your finger.  Place another wonton wrapper on top and press around the edges to seal.  Pick up the ravioli with an open seam at top then carefully burp the air out (so that it won’t open when brought up to temp).  Press sealed edges with a fork if you wish.  Repeat. Once the first set of ravioli has filled the sheet, place another piece of parchment on top and continue until you’ve run out of wrappers or filling. Cover with a slightly damp piece of paper towel.

Start the sauce by cooking onions in a sauté pan with a couple of tablespoons of melted butter (and I use a touch of grapeseed or sunflower seed oil) until translucent then add apples and wine.  Simmer for a couple of minutes then add the chicken stock and pecans.  Cook until apples are soft then set aside while you cook the ravioli.

Bring large pot of water to rolling boil.  Carefully place a few ravioli in at a time.  While a batch is cooking bring sauce back up to heat (medium-high) add cream and simmer for a minute.  Ravioli take about 3 minutes to cook (translucent and floating).  Scoop ravioli out with slotted spoon or mesh spyder, draining well. 

Top with sauce and serve immediately. 

It was so delicious and worth the effort.  But unfortunately only one of my children will eat it!  Maybe you’ll have better luck… actually today I’m going to try with a different sauce with some leftover uncooked ones.

No battles tonight

We’ve been getting some beautiful vegetables from our CSA and other local farms. We had the local corn my youngest help shuck with cocozelle zucchini from our CSA, broccoli, brown rice and chicken.  I made two types of chicken, a curry yogurt marinade (trying for something like Tandoori) and some with a crunchy coating.  I mixed plain yogurt and Patak’s Hot curry paste in which I marinated some drumsticks and breast pieces.  I then roasted the chicken along with some pieces coated in panko with herbs de Provence, olive oil, salt & pepper for my youngest two, especially my middle son who’s very sensitive to spice.

The boys all liked what they were given, except that my eldest said he didn’t like zucchini (which he ate all of anyway).  I remember being his age and my brother and I staying at a friend’s house while my parents were away.  The mom made zucchini that was cut really thin and overcooked.  The seeds were huge too.  I did not want to eat it, nor did my brother, but we were not allowed to leave the table until we did.  I stuck it out for a while, but eventually gave in and ate the cold, soggy zucchini (probably holding my nose while I did!).  My brother was at that table for hours.  I think she gave up on him eventually so she could go to bed.   I avoid situations like that.  I wasn’t going to make my son eat more than a taste, but he just ate what was on his plate, after speaking his opinion. 

 I do cook my zucchini differently from that family friend.  I par boil the entire courgette until it’s almost soft, then shock, then slice lengthwise then across on a bias and finish in my usual butter, salt  and pepper.  I think the chunkier pieces that aren’t overcooked are more pleasant in the mouth than limp, thin slices.  If they were raw, maybe the opposite would apply.  Also using a type of zucchini with small seeds probably helps.  But the main thing is that my kids aren’t going to have to sit at a table for hours turning dinner into a battle of wills.  If they don’t like it, I’ll try again next time.  I would rather they test their mettle on something more worthwhile.

A Winter’s Soup

A snowy Winter’s day seems like the perfect day to make soup.  The boys were home because of a “snow day” but they would have been home anyway since they had strep throat. We were expecting 7-11 inches and got somewhere on the higher side. I had wanted to make a curried cauliflower soup for the first time but since I had less than a complete head, I figured I’d add some carrots, potatoes and a couple of parsnips to the pot. Make it more of a curried vegetable soup. 


Curried Winter Vegetable Soup

1 small onion, minced

1 head (or there about) cauliflower, cut into pieces

3 potatoes, diced

4 carrots (use fewer for a more rounded flavor)., sliced

2 small parsnips, sliced

3 cups vegetable stock

1 Tbsp oil- vegetable, canola, peanut, safflower

Water—enough to cover vegetables after stock is added

Sea salt to taste (add towards the end)

Curry spice mix— I used 2 tsp Penzy’s Singapore Spice blend (black pepper, lemon peel, garlic, onion, turmeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, ginger, nutmeg, fennel, cinnamon, white pepper, cardamom, cloves, cayenne) with some extra:

            ¼ tsp garlic powder

            ¼ tsp turmeric

            ¼ tsp cumin

            ¼ tsp ginger

Cream (optional)

Saute the onions in the oil.  Add the curry spices.  Mix in the cauliflower so it’s well coated. Add stock, rest of vegetables and any needed water.  Bring to a boil.  Simmer until all the vegetables are tender.  Add salt to taste (Important to add salt towards the end, because as the water/stock boils away the salt becomes more concentrated and you can’t undo it). Blend with an immersion blender.  Add cream if you’d like… or not.

I really liked it but will make it with fewer carrots next time; they were the predominant flavor.  As far as the kids: my middle son said he didn’t like it even though he tried it and ate half of it without any fuss.  Actually, he was quite keen to try it.  My youngest refused and the eldest wasn’t interested at the time (he wasn’t feeling well).  We’ll see if I can get any of them to like it. It might just be a my kids really won’t eat this one! Or maybe I can blame it on the strep.  I’ll try again with the leftovers tomorrow.

At least my middle son had a little bit of energy to play in the snow.

Curried Chickpeas, Kale, Potatoes & Lentils

Not only am I on a curry kick but I am loving chickpeas (garbanzo beans) lately.  Luckily my kids like them too.  Hummus is one of their favorite snack foods and they won’t object to falafel or chickpeas in any dish I make.  I don’t think I started eating them until I got to university and tried falafel for the first time from the cart in the Octagon. (Dunedin’s town ‘square’ is actually octagonal.)

The other night I made a different version of my Spiced Chickpeas and Potatoes from the other week.  This time I added a bunch of kale from our shared harvest (CSA), lentils and fennel seeds, which added a nice flavor dimension.  It was perfect for warming little ones up on these chillier autumn nights.  My eldest son declared it “delicious” and that he “loved it” and not surprisingly my middle son said he didn’t like it because it was too spicy but he ate more than half of it before he gave up on it.  My youngest son missed out on it because he fell asleep before dinner after a busy day of play dates and running around. 

It’s fairly easy to make especially since I used canned chickpeas and precooked belgua lentils from Trader Joe’s. 

Curried Chickpeas, Potatoes, Kale and Lentils

  • Olive oil
  • 1-2 shallots, diced (or med onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (adjust if needed)
  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 5 sm/med potatoes cut into bite sized pieces (with skins on)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (vegetable stock if vegetarian)
  • bunch kale, remove large stems and cut into strips
  • lentils (I used the beluga lentils- 1 cup)
  • 3 large tomatoes, peeled and crushed
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thai basil, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • sea salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice (had no lemon)

Sauté shallot and garlic. Add spices and stir for a minute or two.  Stir in chickpeas, potatoes, tomatoes, kale and stock, salt and pepper to taste. (I think I should have added it later, but it was fine).   

Cook for 20 minutes then add the lentils, basil and parsley. 

Cook for another 10-20 minutes.  This can be made in crock pot but I suggest sautéing onion/shallot and garlic and then heating the spices over the stove first then adding it all to slow cooker.  Cook on low for 5 hours or high for 3.

I loved the additional flavor that the fennel seeds added and the kale really went well with the other ingredients.  Of course you can tailor this to suit your tastes and what’s in your pantry/refrigerator.  I find that eating less meat is not only healthful and good for the environment but less expensive.  Not that I ever break the food down into it’s nutritional parts; still it was interesting to find out that not only is there plenty of protein (even vegetarian version) and fiber in this dish, it also is fairly high in folate and other vitamins and minerals.  Meaning it is really good for you and your kids, as well as tasting fabulous.

My eldest son and I had the leftovers for lunch the following 2 days. 

Curry Love

I guess I’ve been on a curry sort of kick.  I love curries.  In my early twenties I worked for a few months in an Indian restaurant in Wellington, NZ.  Every Friday night, a night off, my friend and I would go out to dinner.  I always wanted to eat curries.  I guess it was being around them the rest of the week, smelling them, seeing them but often not tasting them that intensified my desire.  Living in Wellington, the capital of NZ, allowed me to try curries from all over, not just India.  I’d have Thai, Cambodian, Japanese, Malaysian, Vietnamese curries. Growing up on the East Coast of the US I didn’t even know there were other curries besides Indian or Thai until I lived in Wellington.   I love the spices that are in Asian curries and thanks to the Silk Road also in many North African and Middle Eastern dishes. 

I am passing on this love of curries to my kids.  They might not be eating Vindaloo yet, but if I keep the heat down, they really like it. 

I didn’t use a recipe for this lamb curry I made the other night, I figured out the ratios since I’d been using so many similar spices in other dishes.   My mother came over for dinner and she also loves curries and lamb (she’s a Kiwi by birth), so it was a win-win all round! 

Lamb and Chickpea Curry

  • 1 med onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp garam masala (Punjabi)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (adjust for heat)
  • 1 pound lamb shoulder or other stew cut, boned, trimmed of excess fat, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 3 large tomatoes or skinned
  • 10 small or 4 large potatoes, cubed (I used many tiny just harvested potatoes)
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil

Sauté onions then garlic in olive oil over med-high heat.  Add spices and stir for a couple of minutes.  Make a well in middle and add lamb. (I also threw in the bones that I couldn’t get all the meat off, as it eventually fell off in cooking.) Turn so all sides are browned and cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Add tomatoes and stock, stir couple of times, cover cook for 20 minutes.  Add potatoes, chickpeas, salt and pepper.  Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes until potatoes are soft.  Serve over basmati or jasmine rice.  You could put lentils instead of chickpeas and add a green veggie— spinach would be nice. 


We all loved it.  Even my middle son.  And believe it or not, he didn’t even complain when I put it on the table!  My youngest wanted more meat, so I kept giving him some of mine.

It’s a great dish for ease of clean up since there’s only one pan and maybe another for rice.

Mis en place

Mis en place is a term in cooking which means everything in its place— before you cook.  This is one thing that I’ve picked up from my husband.  I used to be a bit rash in my cooking and not have everything prepared before I began to cook but that can be tricky especially when cooking with ingredients that need to be added in quick succession.  

I needed to use up the remaining chicken thighs that I’d used in the previous night’s dinner and I also had some eggplant I wanted to use.  I found a Mark Bittman recipe that I thought sounded delicious.  It was a vegetarian dish but you can add meat to it.  I added the chicken; lamb would be perfect too.  It is something that can’t just be thrown together without prior prep, but it’s worth it!  You will need to have all the spices mixed, the ginger, garlic, veggies and chicken chopped prior to cooking.  It takes about an hour. 

Mark Bittman’s Curried Coconut Eggplant with Potatoes (and Chicken)

I cut the recipe in half because I only had one eggplant.  I also added one small zucchini.  It was enough for the 4 of us plus there were leftovers for 2.    This is the original recipe:

  •  2 med to lg eggplants
  • salt
  • neutral oil (I used sunflower)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (adjust for kids)
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp minced fresh ginger (I kept this measurement)
  • 2 tsp sliced garlic
  • 3 large tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded and chopped (I used 1 lg & 1 sm)
  • 3 lg potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I used 3 med & one small)
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (you might need to add more depending on consistency)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • minced fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Prep the eggplant first by peeling, cubing and salting.  While draining mix the spices, (I ground the coriander seeds with a mortar and pestle.)  Then mince the ginger, slice the garlic, and peel and cut them the potatoes.  Mix all the spices together then prepare the tomatoes. (To peel slice an X into the bottom, dunk into boiling water for around 20 seconds then put into ice bath.  Skin will come right off).  Put oil and mustard seeds into a pan over medium heat and cover for about 3 minutes when they began to pop.  Add rest of spices, ginger and garlic and cook, stirring often until the ginger and garlic are soft.  Next add tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, chicken and coconut milk.  Reduce heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring every so often.  Add chicken  and cook for another 15 minutes. (While that was simmering I put the rice on so it would be ready at same time.)  Add zucchini (optional) and if necessary some more coconut milk, salt and pepper then continue cooking for about 15 minutes (uncovered).  Once time is up, stir in the lime juice and serve over rice. 

You can also cook the rice in coconut milk (half water, half coconut milk) if you’d like.


My sons loved it!  I loved it!  My eldest liked it so much that he finished his brother’s after he’d devoured all of his!   It was a bit spicy for my middle son but he ate it with a mix of pleasure and pain and lots of water.  I hadn’t adjusted the cayenne but noted it for the future.