Kumara and Chorizo Salad

Time saver: kumara is the Maori word for sweet potato but you don’t have to be in NZ to make this. This tasty salad (and variations of it) is one of my favourites. It’s pretty simple to make and delicious to eat.

I wrote this up a while ago, and since I’m now in the Northern Hemisphere and heading for summer it seems like a good time to bring it out. This is the basic recipe, you can play around and try things out. I think Mum throws in some toasted cumin seeds and does something else a little different too. Enjoy.

Kumara and chorizo salad – serves 2 (as a main)

  • 1 large kumara (sweet potato), peeled, cut into slices/wedges (about 400g)
  • 1 medium red onion peeled, cut into wedges
  • zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 100g feta, cubed
  • 200g chorizo sausage
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp pine nuts (optional)
  • 70g-100g rocket leaves
  • salt
  • black pepper
  1. Put kumura and red onion in roasting dish, drizzle with olive oil, season with a pinch of salt and some cracked black pepper, then mix well to ensure everything is well coated.
  2. Roast for 30 min at 200°C (390°F), stirring/turning halfway through.
  3. While that’s roasting, toast pine nuts in a small frying pan, stirring/shaking frequently to avoid burning. When browned, remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Zest orange, then cut in half and juice it. Combine the zest, 4 Tbsp orange juice, 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar in a small bowl and mix well.
  5. Slice chorizo diagonally, into 5mm thick slices. then fry in a frying pan till browned. (You can use a little oil to get things started.)
  6. Combine all ingredients in a salad bowl, mix well to combine then serve.

Mediterranean Meatballs

Time saver: this recipe is adapted from one of the Annabelles, I can’t remember which one. I’m pretty sure in the original recipe they use lamb mince, and that’s not my jam (but I wouldn’t stop you from doing it).

meatballs_mediumBecause the meatballs are so delicious you really only need a simple sauce – it’s been a while since I wrote this recipe up, so these days I might go for a simpler sauce than I’ve given here. Either way, it’s a delicious meal, just like mamma used to make, if your mamma was Phil.

On with the show, serves 5-6.


  • 1kg minced beef
  • 200g feta
  • 100g pitted black olives, chopped into eighths (around 25 olives)
  • 2 thick slices of bread, crusts removed (plus cold water to dampen)
  • 1 egg
  • Ground black pepper
  • ½ cup shredded fresh basil/coriander/parsley
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Additional oil for frying

Tomato sauce

  • 2x 400g tin peeled chopped tomatoes
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • ¼ c red wine
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • Oil for frying onion


  • 500g pasta – e.g. fettucine, spaghetti… (plus plenty of salted water to cook in)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Optional: Small amount grated parmesan, and fresh herbs to garnish.

Prepare sauce:

  1. Heat oil in a small pot, then sauté the onion and garlic till clear.
  2. Add the tomatoes, sugar, oregano, thyme, salt, wine, black pepper.
  3. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from the heat, and either blend in a blender, or use the stick mix to create a smooth, lump-free sauce.
  5. Return to a low heat and simmer gently. Add more wine/salt/pepper if required.


Prepare meatballs:

  1. Put the mince, olives, egg, fresh herbs, and olive oil in a large bowl.
  2. Add the feta, crumbling it into small pieces.
  3. Moisten the bread with cold water, squeeze it slightly so it no longer drips, then crumble into the bowl.
  4. Combine all the ingredients thoroughly.
  5. Shape meatballs and place on a plate. About 1 large tablespoon at a time, rolled quickly between your palms to make a meatball. (Should make around 28-30 meatballs of this size.)


  1. Heat oil in a large hot frying pan.
  2. Fry the meatballs until cooked through, turning every 2-3 minutes. This should take around 8-10 minutes, but may take longer depending on the size of the meatballs and heat of the pan.

To finish:

  1. When the pasta is cooked, drain it quickly and return it to the pot. Stir through the tablespoon of olive oil, coating it (and preventing it from sticking).
  2. Dish up the pasta into large bowls.
  3. Dish out the meatballs on top of the pasta.
  4. Cover the meatballs with the pasta sauce.
  5. Optionally, sprinkle a little grated parmesan on the top, and garnish with a sprig of fresh herbs.
  6. Don’t forget a glass of red wine.

Satay Noodles

Time saver: when the lady wants satay noodles, she gets satay noodles.

When I asked what to cook for tea tonight, I got told “satay noodles”, so that’s what I did. The key thing with satay for me is getting the balance of the sauce right. It’s easy to end up with a really rich sauce that tastes great at first but quickly becomes overbearing. A lot of recipes use milk, cream, or coconut cream and that sometimes contributes to the problem, so this time around I left those out.

Quick note, I used tamarind paste, which is a fairly unusual ingredient for New Zealand cooking. It’s quite sour and has an interesting taste, and you can find little jars of it in most supermarkets. If you don’t have it and don’t want to buy it, just use the zest and juice of a lemon instead.

I hope you like it. (I’m nuts about nuts, so it works for me.)

Satay Noodles – serves 4

  • 500g rump steak
  • 2-3 shallots, peeled and chopped finely
  • 2 Tbsp Thai sweet chilli sauce
  • 3-6 Tbsp peanut butter (depending on how peanuty you like it)
  • 1 Tbsp tamarind paste OR zest and juice of a small lemon (could add this even if you use the tamarind paste just for an extra kick)
  • 1 Tbsp crushed ginger
  • 1 tsp or 2-3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 Tbsp peanut oil (or another vegetable oil – not olive oil)
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, ends trimmed, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 head brocolli, cut into florets
  • 2 courgettes (zucchinis), ends trimmed, cut into rounds
  • 600g udon or hokkien noodles
  • 1/2 cup water (more if needed)
  1. Trim fat from steak, then cut into strips (cutting across the grain) and place in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the chopped shallots, Thai sweet chilli sauce, peanut butter, tamarind paste, ginger, garlic, soy sauce and chilli flakes. (If using lemon add this too.)
  3. Pour the sauce over the meat and stir through to coat meat evenly. Leave to marinate for a few minutes.
  4. While the meat is marinating, prepare the other vegetables.
  5. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large frying pan (electric non-stick is great) on medium-high heat.
  6. When the frying pan is hot, add the meat and sauce mixture (scrape out bowl so you get all the flavour). Stir constantly for 3-4 minutes till meat is seared, then add vegetables and continue stirring.
  7. After 2 more minutes, add the water, stir thoroughly and continue cooking for 3 more minutes. Add the noodles, stir well then cook for a further 3 minutes. Add water as needed if sauce starts to dry out. Then serve.

Ruby’s Prawn and Vege Fritters

Time saver: these come to you from my friend Ruby. It’s like a complete meal, in a fritter.

Close up prawn and vege frittersI was going to make these a few times and settle on a combination I liked, but it turns out that if I wait until I do that, I’ll never get another post up (and that would make baby pandas cry).

This recipe is copy and pasted more or less verbatim.The quantities are a little vague, so you sort of get to interpret it however you want to. When I made it I think I used a bit too much cabbage (I used about 1/8th of one), and next time I wouldn’t cut the prawns so small (I used about 200g prawns, next time I’d go for a bit more than that). I also didn’t have coriander (well I do, but it’s bolted and lost all its leaves), so I used fresh parsley and a few mint leaves instead.

They’re pretty tasty, and I’m sure you can tweak the recipe to take it wherever you want. (E.g. you could add a bit of crushed garlic and ginger, and then add a bit of lemon or lime juice and a dash of fish sauce to the sweet chilli sauce you serve them with for a more Thai flavour, etc.) If you want to serve it as lunch/dinner, all you need is a bit of a side salad to dress it up. Anyway, here you go:

Ruby’s Prawn and Vege Fritters – serves 3-4

They can be as big or as small as you want (I prefer smaller ones – they tend to cook a little better) makes around 12 – give or take, depending on size.

  • 1½ cups standard flour
  • ¼ tsp of tumeric powder
  • 1 tsp chicken stock powder
  • 1 egg
  • water to mix (between ½ to 1 cup of water) depending on what consistency of fritter you like
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chives
  • spring onion
  • cabbage (finely chopped)
  • carrots (finely chopped)
  • fresh coriander
  • 5 large prawns (or as many as you like!) (Phil’s note: I’d go with at least 250g prawns, and don’t cut them too small)
  • sweet chilli sauce
  • oil for frying
  1. Chop up the veg (as much or as little as you like).
  2. Make batter with top ingredients (Phil’s note: put flour, tumeric and chicken stock powder in a bowl, make a well in the middle and crack the egg into it, then pour water into well, mix well with a fork, starting in the middle and working out till the batter is smooth, season with salt and pepper).
  3. Add veg and roughly chopped prawns to batter and mix well.
  4. Cook in hot oil. (Phil’s note: heat around 3 Tbsp oil in a frying pan over a high heat, then spoon heaped tablespoons of mixture in to the frying pan and flatten slightly to make a round fritter. Cook on each side until golden brown, then serve. I got about 20 fritters doing that. I recommend using peanut oil for a bit of flavour, but otherwise use whatever you have.)
  5. Serve with sweet chilli dipping sauce.

Prawn and vege fritters

Tuna melt parcels

Time saver: Phil riffs on an old favourite with pastry. Cat is impressed.

Tuna melt parcels - with egg washSo last night I was making Spicy Pumpkin Soup and got hungry. You’d think that was the point of the soup, but for whatever reason I decided to make these as the soup simmered away.

Tuna melts are simple and tasty. Bread, tuna, cheese, a bit of pepper and a sandwich press are all it takes for a winning combination. But what if you don’t have bread? (Regular readers might wonder why I didn’t just whip up some artisan bread, but remember I’m using the stockpot I make the bread in to make soup, pay attention people.) Branching out I had no choice but to reap the health benefits of flaky puff pastry. Long term studies have repeatedly shown that flaky puff pastry is delicious and I guess the less said about the rest of it the better.

For the parcels I wanted to do a bit more than just tuna and cheese, so I whipped up a cheese sauce, threw in some blue cheese and then added the tuna to that. If blue cheese doesn’t appeal, stick with cheddar. If you want to make it a bit healthier, add some brocolli or spinach to the sauce.

One final point – tuna fish stocks are currently in danger of being depleted. With some species more badly affected than others. The situation will obviously change with time, but I think Pacific-caught Skipjack Tuna is currently OK. (While there’s a part of me that wants to say “It’s running out, make the most of it while you can”, I don’t think that’s really a position I can endorse. It would be a tragedy to overfish to a point where tuna can’t recover, and being aware of what you’re eating is what home cooking is all about.)

Tuna melt parcels – makes 4

  • 185g tin tuna chunks in spring water, drained
  • 2 square sheets flaky puff pastry
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • ½ c milk
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 80-100g (about 1 c) grated cheddar, or 40-50g (½ c) cheddar and 40-50g blue cheese
  • 1 egg + 1 Tbsp water for an egg-wash on the pastry, or just use milk
  1. Pre-heat oven to about 200ºC.
  2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat.
  3. Add flour to make a white roux. Stir well to combine and keep from catching on the bottom. Cook for around 1-2 minutes.
  4. Gradually add the milk and stir well with each addition to avoid lumps. Stir with a wooden spoon or whisk.
  5. After adding all the milk you should have a reasonably thick white sauce. Season with black pepper, then add the cheese, stirring thoroughly until it’s all melted.
  6. Add the tuna chunks (and any vegetables – strictly optional) to the sauce, and stir to combine.
  7. Cut each of the pastry sheets in half (giving you four long rectangles of pastry). Decide which end will hold the filling, then stab through several times with a fork. (This is to stop big pockets of air forming, causing the pastry to rise and push out the filling.) Don’t be afraid to get mean with it, but avoid putting any holes within about 1 cm from the edges.
  8. Put 4 Tbsp of the tuna filling in the centre of each of your fork-stabbed bases. Use a little water to wet the edges, the fold the (unstabbed) top half over and press down. Seal by pressing down on the sides with a fork. Make a couple of holes in the top of each parcel with a fork.
  9. Transfer the four parcels to a baking tray (lined with baking paper if you want to make it easier to get them off/clean up). If using an egg-wash, lightly beat an egg with 1 Tbsp of water then brush on to any visible pastry. (You won’t use even close to all of the egg wash. Maybe feed it to the cat, or make a miniature omelette.) If using milk brush that on instead.
  10. Bake in oven for around 15-20 minutes until the pastry is golden-brown.

Cooking tuna melt parcels - montage