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Tomato & Basil Sauced Cod

I think of all the fishes in the sea . . .  cod is my absolute favourite.  It has a lovely mild almost sweet flavour, not too strong . . .  and a delicate texture when cooked properly. It is a fish which lends itself to a wide variety of preparations.

We love it battered and deep fried of course, but that is not my favourite way to prepare and eat it . . .  you might be surprised at that.

My favourite way is actually quite simply pan fried.   A simple seasoning with salt and pepper and a light dusting of flour . . .  is all it needs . . .  and a hot pan with a tiny bit of oil and a knob of butter.  (Not always, but sometimes.)

A nice thick loin will only take 6 to 8 minutes done this way . . .  you don't really need anything else, but the real beauty of cod is that it takes to other flavours admirably.  It is like the chicken breast of the fish family.

Almost anything goed with it.  Today I created a simple sauce using some white wine, lemon juice . . . 

the juice and zest of a lemon, chili flakes with fresh cherry tomatoes and basil . . .

 The flavours are fresh and punchy and go so well with this fish.  It is also a sauce that cooks up very quickly and its also a great way to use up any lacklustre cherry tomatoes you might have in the larder  . . . it does wonders for them, but  . . .

Its also a beautiful way to use up some of the fresh cherry tomatoes that will be landing on our tables over the next weeks . . .  I love fresh tomatoes from the garden.  They are so sweet and tasty! 

Basil goes very well with both tomatoes and fish. In the winter months I rely on store bought fresh basil and I try to use it all up right way, because it is not a great keeer, but in the summer months . . . I grow my own basil in the garden and I just can't get enough of it.  I just love the stuff!!

*Tomato & Basil Sauced Cod*
Serves 2
(can be easily doubled)
Quick, easy and delicious!

2 cod loin fillets
salt and black pepper
1 TBS olive oil

For the sauce:
1 TBS olive oil
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
160g cherry tomatoes, halved (1/2 pint)
60ml dry white wine (1/4 cup)
handful of fresh basil leaves, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 TBS fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

You will also need:
a bit of chopped basil for a garnish

Make the sauce first.  Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the pepper flakes and garlic.  Cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the cherry tomatoes.  Cook, stirring occasionally, unti they are starting to soften, but still maintain their shape.  Add the white wine and let it bubble up.  Reduce to half.  Stir in the basil, lemon juice, zest, salt and pepper.  Simmer for several minutes to amalgamate the flavours.  Set aside and keep warm.

For the fish, dust lightly with salt and pepper and black pepper.  Heat the oil in a clean skillet until hot.  Add the cod, presentation side down.  Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown. Flip over and continue to cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes until cooked through.  It should flake easily at the edges when prodded with the tines of a fork.  Place onto two heated dinner plates.  Spoon a portion of sauce over each, garnish with a bit of chopped basil and serve immediately.

This recipe is smaller sized just for two, but can very easily be doubled.  You might want to double the sauce anyways.  Just saying!  Fish for Friday.  Bon Appetit!

Marie Rayner
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Creamy Spinach & Mushroom Gnocchi

I just adore Gnocci . . .  those delicious little Italian potato dumplings that combine my adoration of potatoes and pasta in the most perfectly delicious way!

 They are also very versatile.  I like them simply boiled with some butter, salt, pepper and cheese . . .  browned in butter like fried potatoes, with  a tomato sauce and cheese, with vegetables, with meat, with gravy . . .  you get the idea.  I love Gnocci any way I find them!

You can get them in a few different flavours also . . .  sweet potato, beetroot, etc. My favourites however are the basic old fashioned plain potato, coz I'm a simple girl like that.

This dish today is a simple vegetarian dish with a simple sauce that goes together very quickly, in a flash really.  You could call this a 15 minute supper!

Sliced mushrooms get browned in a non stick skillet with a bit of cooking spray, or if you are feeling really naughty you could use a bit of butter and oil.  (Just sayin!)

Once they are softened and beginning to turn golden, (It helps if you let them sit instead of agitating them, which makes them release their juices and you don't really want that) you add some garlic and cook until fragrant and then  . . .

The piece de resistance  . . . double/heavy cream . . .  ohhh  . . .  so rich.  So tasty . . .

You also add a nice amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a goodly amount of fresh baby spinch, letting that cream bubble up and thicken and wilt the spinach . . .

 After that you toss in the gnocchi (which you've also been cooking.  Takes literally seconds.), well drained of course and a nice smidge of salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Presto chango!  Dinner is ready!  I like to scatter some more Parmesan on top.  I grate the garnish Parmesan a bit coarser so people can see it . . . sit back and wait for the ooohs and aahhs . . .  and they will come.  Trust me.

*Creamy Spinach and Mushroom Gnocchi*
Serves 4

You can use any variety of mushroom you want for this quick, simple and delicious dish. I like chestnut mushrooms myself! 

625g fresh potato gnocchi (about 1 1/2 pounds)
375g of fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced (13 ounces, scant pound)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
300ml double cream (1 1/4 cups)
90g baby spinach leaves (3 1/2 ounces)
25g finely grated parmesan cheese (1/3 cup)
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
salt and black pepper to taste

Cook the gnocchi according to the package directions in a saucepan of lightly salted boiling water.  Drain well.  While the gnocchi are cooking soften the mushrooms in a large skillet you have lightly spritzed with low fat cooking spray.  Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so longer.  Add the ream and spinach.  Bring to the boil, then reduce to a low simmer and cook until the spinach has wilted and the sauce thickend.  Stir in half of the cheese and season to taste with salt, black pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.  Stir the cooked and drained gnocchi into the mixture.  Sprinkle on the remaining cheese and serve immediately.

You could also add a TBS of grainy Dijon mustard to the sauce if you wanted to.  It adds a nice zip.  I didn't do that this time.  Break out the crusty bread because you are NOT going to want to miss any of that delicious sauce!  Bon Appetit!

Marie Rayner
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Crispy Chicken Salad

Oh dear, chicken two days in a row.  Forgive me!  I had some chicken breasts that I wanted to use up and I did not want to freeze them, so here you go, chicken two days in a row.   Two very different prepartions however!  But, this is also somewhat light and healthy and perfect for a light summer supper!

I don't know how it works, but slicing chicken breasts in half horizontally always seems to tenderize them, and of course it quickens the cook time, so this is also a supper that is very quick to put on the table!

The only faffy part is the panĂ©-ing of the chicken.  ( A fancy French word for breading.) But even that isn't too difficult.

I use a vegetable peeler to cut my carrots into ribbons.   They give a nice look.   I also de-seed the tomatoes for this type of salad, when you don't want the tomato seed/juices diluting the dressing.

There's plenty of Parmesan cheese in the breading and then again in the dressing . . . giving it a lovely creaminess that goes very well with the tartness of the lemon.  Lemon and Parmesan . . .  a brautiful combination.

You can really stream-line things by using store bought breaded chicken if you wanted something really fast, but I happen to think those types of things are pretty tasteless.  I would rather bread my own . . . .

You can also use a ready-mix of salad leaves, but again . . .  I mix my own.  I would rather do it myself, wash it myself, mix it myself.  I find those store mixed leaves have a rather odd taste to them, and they don't last very long either. It seems you no sooner open a pack and they are going off!  In any case.  Give this a go.  I think you will really like it.

*Crispy Chicken Salad*
Serves 4

Crisp coated chicken served on a bed of salad greens with a punchy Lemon & Parmesan Dressing.  What's not to like? 

For the Salad:
6 cups of salad leaves
1 medium carrot, peeled and shaved
1 cucumber, trimmed and sliced
1 large tomato, cored and chopped
For the dressing:
3 TBS fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp minced garlic
2 TBS heavy cream (can also use sour cream, creme fraiche or plain yogurt)
2 TBS finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 TBS extra virgin olive oil
For the chicken:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast portions
sea salt and black pepper to taste
45g plain flour (1/4 cup)
1 large free range egg
180g panko bread crumbs (1 1/2 cups)
90g finely grated Parmesan Cheese (1/2 cups)
2 TBS olive oil
2 TBS butter

 Cut the chicken breasts horizontally into two pieces each.  Pound lightly between some cling film.  Season lightly on both sides with salt and pepper.  Place the flour for the chicken into a shallow bowl. Whisk the egg in another shallow bowl.  Combine the bread crumbs and cheese in another shallow bowl.  Dip each chicken first into the flour, shaking off any excess, then into the egg and then into the breadcrumb mixture, pressing firmly to coat well on each side.

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Have ready a baking sheet. 

Heat half of the oil and butter together in a large skillet.  Once the butter begins to foam, add half of the chicken pieces.  Fry until golden brown on both sides, taking about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer to the baking tray.  Wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining chicken and oil/butter. When all have been browned and placed onto the baking tray, pop the tray into the heated oven and cook for a further 6 to 8 minutes until cooked through.  Remove from the oven and set aside. 

Make the dressing by whiksing the lemon juice, garlic, cream, cheese and seasoning together until smooth.  Whisk in the olive oil slowly until creamy.  Set aside. 

Mix the salad ingredients together in a bowl.  Add half of the dressing and toss to coat. Divide between 4 chilled plates.  Top each with a portion of chicken and drizzle the chicken with a bit more dressing.  Serve immediately.

This was beautiful enjoyed out on the patio beneath the umbrella with a nice breeze ruffling the hair. Todd is not such a salad freak, but I added a baked potato for him and he was happy.  Bon Appetit!

Marie Rayner
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Spicy Chicken Burgers

There is  magazine I have been buying recently called Food to Love.  Its filled with triple tested recipes from the Australian Women's Weekly.  I love the recipes in it.  They're interesting and to be honest, delicious.  In the June issue they had a recipe for Spicy Chicken Burgers that was ticking all my boxes!

 It uses mini chicken fillets (chicken tenders) which have been marinated in some harissa paste. Well, actually  . . .  the original recipe doesn't really marinate them, but I wanted the flavour to stick, so I let them stand for half an hour after I mixed them with the paste so that the flavours really got into the meat.

You could also use boneless chicken breast cut into strips . . .  or even boneless chicken thighs. Both would work very well.

 There is a tiny sinew that runs along the underside of mini chicken fillets that I like to remove with a sharp knife. It only takes a few minutes to get rid of it and it helps to keep them nice and tender.  Just sip the tip of a sharp knife under it and then work the knife down the length to loosen it and cut it out.  I use both of my hands for this.  I grab the tendon and hold it with some kitchen toweling so I can get a good grip and run the knife with the other hand.  Its quite simple really.

Then again, it might not be something that bothers you.  So easy peasy, just leave it on.  The marinated chicken is quickly fried in a lightly greased skillet until golden brown on both sides.  Make sure you don't over cook them.  They only need about 2 1/2to 3 minutes per side, if that. They will continue to cook for a bit when you take them out of the pan.

Other than that you only need some toasted brioche buns . . .  some beetroot hummus. (I LOVE HUMMUS!) some fresh baby spinach leaves and some ribboned cucumber.

 You spread the hummus on the toasted bottom bun . . .  if you don't like beetroot, you can use pain hummus, or I am thinking the lemon/pepper or red pepper hummus would also be VERY tasty!

The hummus gets topped with some fresh baby spinach leaves and then you pile on the cooked chicken filets and the thinly ribboned cucumber.   I use my potato peeled to cut the cucumber into thin strips. Altogether this was quite, quite delicious and so quick and simple to make! 

*Spicy Chicken Burgers*
Serves 4
You can make these as hot or as mild as you like.  I, myself, don't like them too spicy, but you can suit yourself!  The beetroot hummous, baby spinach and cucumber add a light and healthy touch! Delicious. 

12 mini chicken fillets, trimmed (chicken tenderloins)
(I use a sharp knife and remove the tough tendon. It takes a few minutes
but results in a much more tender piece of chicken)
2 tsp harissa paste, or to taste
(Remember harissa is quite spicy)
1 tsp olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste
4 burger buns, split (I like brioche buns)
1 large handful of baby spinach leaves
1 ridged cucumber, cut into ribbons using a potato peeler
110g of beetroot hummous (can use regular hummous if you prefer) 

Trim the chicken and combine in a bowl along with the harissa paste.  (I let mine sit for half an hour prior to cooking so that the flavor penetrated the chicken meat.) Heat the olive oil in the pan until hot.  Add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until golden and cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Toast the cut sides of the burger buns. Spread the bottoms with the hummous, top with a portion of the spinach and cucumber ribbons and a fourth of the chicken.  Top with the tops of the buns and serve immediately.

A dollop of garlic mayonnaise also goes well on top of the chicken and cucumber, or even sweet chili mayo if you are feeling really adventurous!!!

Now that's what I call one heck of a delicious burger!  Todd ate his with a knife and fork.  Me . . .  I'm common, I just piled on the top bun, picked it up and dug in.  Yum! YUM!  Bon Appetit!
Marie Rayner
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Asparagus and Courgette Rice

I wanted to cook us something quick and light today . . . fresh, and healthy.  I remembered seeing this recipe in the June issue of Food to Love and I had everything in the house to make it and so I put it on the menu!

Not only was it incredibly easy to make, but very quick to make also, using a minimum of ingredients

Courgettes (zucchini), asparagus, chicken stock and brown rice.  Oh, and a bit of Parmesan cheese and some fresh parsley.  Not a lot really!

I used the pre-cooked brown rice that comes in pouches that you can keep in your store cupboard. I always have some of that stored away. It always comes in very handy!

I prepped all of my ingredients . . .  cleaning and chopping the vegetables, grating the cheese, and it went together very quickly.  I am sure I had it ready and on the table in less than 15 minutes!

 I used a gel pot stock, the kind you get from Knorr, and I used the vegetable one which meant that the dish was completely vegetarian.  Well, except for the cheese.  I know a lot of veggies don't use cheese because it is a milk product and they don't even use anything produced by an animal.

I've never quite understood that myself.  I get the not wanting to eat meat bit, but not the not using anything that is produced by animals.  Surely there is not a lot wrong with that, but I might not be seeing it in quite the same way as they do.

 In any case this is delicious.  With lots of colour and crunch along with a bit of nuttiness from the brown rice.

I love courgettes and I love asparagus, but if you didn't like those I am sure you could create another combination that would be equally as tasty . . .  like green beans and peas . . .  or, well, just use your imagination. I think almost any vegetable combination would work . . . 

 Except for maybe beetroot, that is not unless you want to be eating pink rice!

Some people don't mind eating pink food.  I am quite fond of beetroot myself!  I hope you will give it a go!  It would make a lovely quick and tasty mid-week supper!

*Asparagus and Courgette Rice*
Serves 4
Quick, easy, and delicious. Also very colourful and crunchy. You can add some chopped cooked chicken, steak, or fish to this if you wish. 

180ml chicken stock (3/4 cup)
1 large courgette, trimmed and coarsley chopped
1 large handful of fresh asparagus, trimmed and coarsely chopped
500g cooked brown rice (3 1/4 cups)
2 TBS coarsely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
80g finely grated Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup)
salt and black pepper to taste
Extra Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on the finished dish 

Combine the chicken stock, courgettes and asparagus in a deep skillet.  Bring to the boil, and then simmer, uncovered, until just crispy tender and the liquid has reduced by half.  Add the rice and parsley.  Cook, stirring, until heated through.  Stir in the cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with extra Parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top. 

Note - if you want to add cooked chicken or fish, add it with the rice. Make sure it is completely heated through.

For the die hard protein fans in your life you could add some leftover chopped meat of course, but a lovely fried egg also goes very nicely on top. Just saying! Scrumpdiddlyumptious!!  Bon Appetit!

Marie Rayner
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