Tag Archives: extra virgin olive oil

Roasted Brussel Sprout And Chickpea Salad With Garlic Yoghurt



A dear friends Aunty who I lived with for six months in Brighton, the UK, (20 odd years ago now), would steam her brussels for hours on end.

On a Sunday morning (it was always a Sunday) she would begin the day by steaming the vegetables for the evening meal (gulp). The poor overcooked brussel sprouts would then sit all day on the stove top sweating in their pot till we all came home from the pub and she’d proceeded to heat them again before serving our Sunday roast with something I can only refer to as muck.

It was a crime against the vegetables and one that brussel sprouts never made a recovery from. That is till this year, when I pushed aside those horrid memories and took to roasting them.



Suddenly there was reason to love this misrepresented vegetable. To write a recipe for it. To post it here on this food blog.

I urge anyone who has a brussel sprout phobia to fight back. To say ‘No’ to hating brussel sprouts, and ‘Yes’ to roasting them.

This quick and easy way of preparing them with za’atar, garlic, chickpeas and extra virgin olive oil is so delicious, and so simple, that it is side dish you will be sure to fall back on time-and-time-again.

It’s a side dish to serve with a roast, or a good steak, or any number of other vegetable dishes like creamy potatoes and baked pumpkin.

And what I really love about this dish is the whole cloves of garlic, roasted with the sprouts then skinned and chopped and folded through Greek yoghurt with mint if you fancy, the taste is strong yet subtle, creamy and rounded.





Roasted brussel sprout and chickpea salad with garlic yoghurt 

600g brussel sprouts, washed and halved

400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 tbsp za’atar

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle at the end

4 cloves garlic, smashed but kept in their skin

Sea salt

Cracked black pepper

1/2 cup Greek natural yoghurt

1 tbsp chopped mint

1tbsp lemon juice

Pre heat oven to 200C.

Cut the washed brussel sprouts in half and place in a large bowl. Add the drained chickpeas, za’atar, 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and sea salt and cracked pepper, toss till well coated.

Line a large tray with baking paper and spread the brussels over the tray. Roast for 30 minutes, or till roasted and caramalised looking.  Half way through cooking sprinkle the sprouts with 1 tbsp water to add moisture during the roasting process.

Set the sprouts aside and pick out the garlic, remove the skin and chop it to a fine paste, combine the garlic with the yoghurt, mint, lemon juice, 1 tbsp water, and season with sea salt and pepper.

Dollop the garlic yoghurt all over the brussel sprouts and serve warm.

Zucchini, Tuna And Borlotti Bean Salad With Chilli And Lemon


Not even I can deny the convenience of opening a can of pulses, rinsing them under water, and having them ready to use. It’s what I call fast food. The type we should all be eating.

Whether it’s Borlotti beans, cannellini beans or chickpeas (which by the way, the later two make a great substitute to the borlotti in this salad) the fast access to a pulse that would usually need to be soaked over night and cooked for 30 minutes or longer just can’t be denied.  So I’m happy to use this short cut when I need fast feeding.

This recipe proves that fast food can be healthy. The spirals of zucchini (which look like pasta in this shot) are my favourite element to the salad. I’m grateful for my spirelli cutter, which makes quick work (and beautiful spirals of zucchini). If you aren’t a convert yet, you can use a peeler, a mandolin, do the old fashioned way and use a knife, or – though it’s not as pretty – as a last resort, just grate the zucchini.


A large glug of extra virgin olive oil (don’t be shy here, it’s so good for you) is heated lightly for the garlic and chilli to gently cook in. In goes the zucchini, a quick swizzle in the pan before turning off the heat and adding the drained tuna, lemon zest (wax-free if you can), juice and rinsed borlotti beans.

If you’re in the middle of winter (like I am) you’d eat it warm, but if you’re beating the heat of summer, let it cool and eat it cold – either way, it’s just so good!

Each time I walk past my bowl of organic homegrown lemons, sitting by the window sill, I think of how lucky I am to have wax-free lemons picked from my own tree. I wonder why all store-bought lemons can’t be wax-free. Surely everyone deserves wax-free lemons. If you don’t have a lemon tree, find someone who does, or, buy organic wax-free lemons, you will benefit immensely.


I’ll never tire of the classic combination of garlic, chilli, lemon and tuna. I don’t think you will either. It’s so Italian. It’s so simplistic. It’s just right.

And really, any food this delicious that can be made in ten minutes deserves a little attention.

Zucchini, tuna and borlotii bean salad with chilli and lemon 

Serves 1


50ml extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, sliced thinly

1/2 long red chilli, deseeded and sliced

2 small-medium zucchini

95g can tuna, drained (I use Sirena, Italian style)

3/4 cup borlotti beans, drained and rinsed

1 wax-free lemon

Sea salt 

Cracked black pepper

Scattering of picked parsley 

Prepare the zucchini into thin long strips by your preferred method of a spirelli cutter, mandolin, knife or grater.

Zest the lemon and juice half of it.

Warm the extra virgin olive oil in a medium fry pan, add the garlic and chilli, and cook gently for 2 minutes. Add the zucchini, sea salt and cracked pepper, cook gently for 1-2 minutes.

Turn off the heat, add the drained tuna, drained borlotti beans, lemon zest and juice, toss lightly to combine. Serve warm scattered with parsley and if so desired grilled bread.

Basil and Macadamia Nut Pesto


I feel like getting back to basics. I’m officially on holidays from my food editor job, and the past weeks have seen all manner of festive dishes cooked, tested and prepared for the magazine. I feel I’ve already cooked my way through Christmas fare and now I just crave some simple food that requires no recipe, no testing, no oven!

I can think of no better condiment to make in summer than basil pesto. What makes this pesto truly special is replacing the traditional pine nuts with macadamia nuts. The creamy consistency of macadamia nuts is just what the sweet perfumed basil requires. It’s a match made in heaven. 


My son – and I must say I’m absolutely ecstatic about this – discovered he likes to eat my pesto with crackers. He actually polished off the entire bowl the other day and instead of lecturing him on how greedy that was, I was congratulating him on finally discovering the wonders of freshly made pesto. One child down, one to go.


Basil and macadamia nut pesto 


1 1/2 cups picked and washed basil leaves

80g (1/2 cup) raw macadamia nuts

1 small clove garlic, chopped

1 small lemon, juiced

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup grated parmesan

Sea salt

Black pepper


Place all the ingredients for the pesto in a food processor, blitz till nuts are a chunky consistency and basil is well combined. Check seasoning and adjust with extra salt, pepper or lemon juice.

TIP – washing the basil enlivens the vibrant green colour and gives you a bright green finish to the pesto. Pesto stores in the fridge for several days.






French Ratatouille


Ratatouille, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s a fancy French name for cooked provincial vegetables, consisting of eggplant, peppers, garlic and tomatoes. It’s one of my favourite dishes, yet I can forget to cook it for months at a time. How can this be?

What I love about this ratatouille recipe is everything is popped into one tray. You will need lots of extra virgin olive oil. But that’s not a bad thing. I recently heard Ottolenghi talking about how much virgin oil he uses when cooking eggplant. He advised, use lots, then use more. So don’t be shy.

The ratatouille vegetables are covered with foil and roasted in the oven. The flavours have no other choice than to blend together. This method also ensures the eggplant is soft, just the way properly cooked eggplant should be. The peppers and onions take on a sweetness from the tomatoes and finishing the dish with vinegar and brown sugar sharpens all those flavours. 




By all means, you can replace the tinned tomatoes with fresh ones. If doing this, four would probably be enough. I had tinned on hand this particular day and as long as they are whole tinned, you can then squeeze the tomatoes in your hands and squash them to the desired consistency (this is actually quite fun).

There are times where I desire soft goats cheese. I like to crumble chunks of it into the warm ratatouille. It adds a creaminess that is irresistible with the tomatoes. You might consider giving this a try.


The obvious first choice of serving ratatouille is with pasta. You can’t go wrong here. Toss 2/3 of the ratatouille through your al dente pasta, spoon into bowls then top with the remaining ratatouille, crumble over extra goats cheese, black pepper and fresh herbs.

Ratatouille makes an excellent side-dish that you might serve with fish, lamb or chicken. Or it can be eaten spread on toasted baguette as a light lunch.

When given a chance to lessen the dishes, I take it. I revel in it. One tray food, yes please!


One tray ratatouille 


1 small eggplant

2 red onions, diced

1 red or green pepper (capsicum), diced

2 cloves garlic, sliced

5 whole tomatoes from a tin (with a little of the juice) or 3 fresh tomatoes chopped

lots of extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Black pepper

1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano (or basil)

1 -2 tbsp sherry or balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp brown sugar

50-80g soft goats cheese


Pre heat oven to 200C.

Peel the eggplant and cut into 1cm dice, place in a large baking tray. Add the onions, peppers, and garlic. Squeeze the whole tomatoes, in the palm of your hand, onto the vegetables (or if using fresh ones, chop them into a rough dice). Drizzle with lots of extra virgin olive oil, season with sea salt and black pepper, sprinkle with rosemary and oregano and toss gently to combine.

Cover with foil and roast for about 45 minutes, or till eggplant is soft.

Remove from oven, add the vinegar and sugar, toss gently till sugar dissolves. Allow to cool slightly then sprinkle with goats cheese and fresh oregano (if desired).

Dukkah – The King of Spice Blends


There are days where the craving for freshly made dukkah is so strong that I find no satisfaction till a batch is roasted, pounded, and then eaten whilst still warm. 

It has to be said, possibly the best way to enjoy duukah is with bread and extra virgin olive oil. It certainly is the way I most often consume it. But I also value dukkah for its versatility. Once I have a batch made the remainder stores well and can be sprinkled on vegetables before roasting, used as a seasoning to salads, dusted on to meat or fish before cooking, it can be used in dressings, added to yoghurt… I find it such a useful flavouring for so many things that is a staple in my kitchen.


I prefer my dukkah made with hazelnuts. Added to the roasted spices of coriander, cumin, sesame, and black pepper, I add dry roasted hazelnuts (this saves roasting and peeling them). You can swap the hazelnuts for pistachios, or for a less authentic offering, macadamia nuts also makes a nice blend.

I’ve used a mix of black sesame and white sesame seeds because I like the contrast. Plus, I had them in the cupboard – they needed using up. But generally white sesame seeds are the go. The remaining, and just as important ingredient, is sea salt. And it should be sea salt, don’t swap this for any thing else.


The recipe has deliberately been kept to a smallish amount so you use the dukkah up while it’s fresh. It’s so simple to make and really takes no time at all, and can and should be made regularly.

Egyptian dukkah 


1/4 cup dry roasted hazelnuts

1 tbsp white sesame seeds

1tbsp black sesame seeds

1 tbsp cumin seeds

2 tbsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns

1/2 tsp sea salt

Place the sesame seeds, spices and peppercorns into a fry pan. Roast them on a medium heat till the spices begin to sizzle and pop – don’t walk away at this stage as it won’t take long.

Roughly chop the dry roasted hazelnuts and place in a mortar and pestle with the roasted spices and sea salt; alternatively use a spice grinder. Pound or grind to a coarse consistency – remember to keep it chunky. Check seasoning.

Serve with fresh Lebanese bread and extra virgin olive oil. Store remaining dukkah in an air tight container in the pantry for 2 weeks.

(C) Copy right: Food From Michelle’s Kitchen 2016 Egyptian dukkah

Fennel and leek sourdough gratin


I cooked this fennel and leek, sourdough gratin for my lunch last week after spotting some fat gorgeous bulbs of fennel at my local fruit store. I had half a loaf of wholemeal sourdough that needed using when it dawned on me it would be the perfect companion for the fennel.  When the gratin came out of the oven I drizzled it with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled over some chopped parsley – it sure beat a boring sandwich!



Gratins are a wonderful invention and we can thank the French for them. The culinary term – gratin – takes an ingredient, bakes it in a shallow dish, then tops it with cheese, bread crumbs or cream, then it’s browned under a grill – marvellous!

Now, a good sourdough bread is important in this recipe. A white or a wholemeal may be used. I reckon rye bread would be pretty good too. Don’t waste the crusts, blitz them up also.

This gratin is just one way to enjoy the mild Mediterranean flavour of fennel. Fennel flavours soups, stews and sauces. It can be braised with wine and stock, shaved thinly and eaten raw in salads, wedges can be crumbed and fried – it’s just so versatile!




I’ve also cooked this gratin with Tuscan cabbage instead of leeks and quite liked the bitter edge the cabbage delivered.  A generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil after the gratin comes out marries well with the wine and stock.

If you’re looking for a protein to serve alongside this fennel gratin, roast chicken is a good choice, as is a grilled fillet of white fish. Or try French lentils or chickpeas. Or simply do as I did and eat it on it’s own.


Fennel and leek sourdough gratin


1 large bulb fennel

1 large leek

1/2 bunch thyme, picked and chopped

1/2 cup white wine

1 1/2 cups hot vegetable stock

1 punnet of grape or small cherry tomatoes

2 cups sourdough bread crumbs ( 2-3 slices sour dough bread)

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and cracked black pepper

Butter for greasing

Chopped parsley to garnish

Pre heat oven to 200C. Grease a 32cm shallow dish with butter. Halve leek and wash well. Slice into thin pieces and scatter over the bottom of the dish. Cut fennel into 1cm rounds, remove any thick inner woody pieces that look tough. Scatter fennel over leeks, sprinkle with chopped thyme, sea salt and cracked black pepper. Heat vegetable stock to boiling. Pour white wine and hot stock over fennel, cover with foil and bake in the oven for 50 – 60minutes.

Meanwhile, take 2-3 slices of sourdough bread, crusts and all, cut into small chunks then place in the food processor and blitz to a chunky crumb.

Remove foil and turn oven up the oven to 220C. Scatter the grape tomatoes evenly over the fennel, top with bread crumbs and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake in the oven, uncovered, for 20 minutes or till cheese is golden.

Once out of the oven, sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Backed ricotta salad with black rice and corn



The Blue Mountains, two hours west of Sydney, has always held a special place in my heart, and it will continue to do so as I had the great pleasure of marrying my spunky husband there last weekend. For those of you who have had the experience of getting married, you’d know how absolutely time consuming planning a wedding is. We survived.

To my husband, I love you. Welcome back to life.

The past weeks I’ve been planning some recipes I’d share when I finally gained my time back. This wasn’t one of them. But you know, inspiration comes from many places.

My brother, also a chef, cooked us a wonderful wedding breakfast the morning after. Apart from the homemade tomato and currant chutney with habanero chilli, that he lovingly bottled and gifted for our small, intimate family wedding, there was eight hour slow-cooked double smoked ham, fresh croissants, silky scrambled eggs, cheeses, marinated olives, crispy pastizzi, and the most delicious baked ricotta.




So, the inspiration for this salad comes from my adoring brother. Thanks Dan.

Ricotta is versatile and when baked becomes firm and sweet, the soft cheese being completely transformed. Add flavour with lemon zest and smoked paprika, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and cracked black pepper. Herbs are also a wonderful thing when baking ricotta, especially if you are fortunate enough to snip them fresh from the back garden or potted balcony. Try some fresh thyme, dill, or bay leaf. Rubbing the tray with oil before placing the ricotta down ensures a crisp layer will caramelise during baking and gives colour and flavour to the once white ricotta.




A quick word on black rice. If you haven’t yet tried it, run, run now to the supermarket and grab yourself a box of this gorgeous staple. Also called the forbidden rice it’s deep purple colour when cooked is just as irresistible as it’s flavour, which I’m not sure how to describe other than delicious. Black rice has a similar cooking time to brown. Try serving it with your next casserole or curry, you won’t be disappointed. I like it in this salad for its flavour, colour and texture.




I wanted a dressing with a little spice. Cumin and dried chilli are cooked with the corn and fresh coriander. A glug of extra virgin olive oil and the juice from the zested lemon is added with salt and pepper. It works. Though lime would be equally good and in hind sight I’ll do that next time. Lime zest and lime juice.

I used Frisee lettuce , because I love it’s shape, and it’s bitter flavour. Be sure to only use the lighter inner leaves and if you don’t like bitter lettuce, baby spinach or some peppery rocket would be divine. Let the other ingredients shine through and only use a handful of greenery.




Baked ricotta salad with black rice and corn

This recipe will serve 4 as a starter


1/2 cup black rice

300g fresh ricotta

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1 tsp hot smoked paprika

2 cobs corn

1/2 tsp dried chilli

1 tbsp cumin

1/2 bunch coriander, chopped

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Cracked black pepper

1 avocado, sliced

Inner leaves of frisee lettuce or handful baby rocket or baby spinach


Place black rice in a medium pot, cover with plenty of water, bring to the boil and cook for 25-30 minutes, drain and lightly rinse, set aside to cool.


Pre heat oven to 200C. Grease the bottom of a small baking tray with oil, add ricotta and press firmly into a small rectangle. Sprinkle with lemon zest, smoked paprika, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 25-30minutes. Set aside to cool.


Remove the kernels from the two cobs of corn. Heat a medium fry pan with a little extra virgin oil and cook corn gently for 5 minutes, add a little water during cooking to help steam the corn. Add chilli, cumin and chopped coriander, cook for 1 minute. Turn off the heat add juice of 1 lemon and 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, season with sea salt and black pepper, set aside to cool.


Peel and slice avocado into small wedges. When all ingredients have cooled, place a handful of frisee lettuce in a large bowl, add black rice, cooked corn, and crumble baked ricotta into large chunks, toss gently to combine. Add sliced avocado and gently toss, divide between four plates or serve on a platter for guests to help themselves.