Tag Archives: extra virgin olive oil

Not quite hummus



A good dip is essential for any cooks table, be it a barbecue, picnic, actually for any gathering of any kind really.

I never buy supermarket dips. I think they’re horrible and expensive and filled with processed stuff. I like to make my own. And when it’s this simple, you should too.

I call this dip ‘not quite hummus’ because it’s made with cannellini beans instead of chickpeas, which is the traditional pulses used in hummus. I think it makes a lovely change to the chickpeas but by all means you can substitute the later. Keep in mind butter beans also work brilliantly here, though you might require an extra dash of water as they tend to make a thicker dip.





To serve, you’ll need some toasted pita bread or fresh sourdough bread, and raw cut vegetables, or just some store bought crackers.

I’ve found a new love for radishes. I recently purchased a mandolin ( a slicer with a thin setting) and now one of my favourite raw vegetables is thin slices of radish, which work beautifully with this dip. I love the colour and their round shape.

You’ll need a food processor for this recipe and if you don’t have one I highly recommend investing in one. I’ve had mine for 10 years now and there’s been a lot of dips made in that ten years. I couldn’t manage my kitchen without one…




Not quite hummus


1 x 400g can of cannellini or butter beans

1 small clove garlic, chopped

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1tbsp tahini (sesame paste)

1tsp salt

large pinch of black pepper

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 large lemon, juiced

50ml water

To finish

chopped fresh parsley

drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Drain and rinse the cannellini beans, place in a food processor with the rest of ingredients for the dip and process till smooth. Check the seasoning. Place in a large bowl, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with toasted pita bread or fresh sourdough bread, crackers, sliced radishes, raw vegetables or tabbouleh.

Pumpkin freekeh salad with basil and goats cheese



I’m not going to tell you about my landlord selling our house, or how we’ve spent copious amounts of time looking for a new home. I’m not going to tell you about all the packing and sorting and cleaning to be done. No I won’t tell you any of that. Instead, let me tell you about this delicious, wholesome salad with roasted pumpkin, goats cheese, fresh basil and freekah.




Freekeh, if you’re yet to be acquainted, is young green wheat that’s processed and dried by roasting over an open flame. It has a nutty, smoky flavour, with a firm (much firmer than pearl barley) chewy texture. It’s brilliant cooked and served cold in salads, as you might brown rice. It’s nutritious too and high in fibre. And for the sake of convenience, supermarkets are now stocking this delicious grain. You can also buy freekah cracked, which cooks much faster and doesn’t require soaking over night – not that I soaked the freekah for this salad (see recipe for fast track cooking) – there’s far too many boxes piling up to be that organised!




This is the gorgeous basil I have growing in my back garden, and the one I picked fresh for this salad. I can’t take credit for being the grower, that would be my green thumbed man, he’s very handy in the garden. I chopped the basil back two weeks ago and made fresh pesto to eat with linguini and already it’s screaming out to be used again. Now of course, not everyone will have access to basil from their own back yard, that’s fine. My tip is to smell the basil before you buy it. It should be pungent and have an almost over powering perfumed smell, if it smells of freshness and sweet summer then it’s good to buy.




The dressing for this salad uses roasted caraway and mustard seeds. Caraway seeds have a flavour similar to star anise and fennel and are often used to flavour rye bread. Roast and pound the seeds, in a mortar and pestle, together with vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and cracked pepper.

Now, the goats cheese crumbled over the top gives the creaminess this salad requires – the fresh basil – the lightly caramalised onion – its all top shelf. I love eating this salad with a good sourdough bread, or it’s also excellent served with a grilled steak or barbecued lamb cutlets.


Pumpkin, goats cheese salad with freekeh and basil


1 cup whole freekeh (soaking overnight cuts cooking time)

1 kg butternut pumpkin (skin on weight)

2 red onions, peeled and sliced into thin wedges

1/2 bunch thyme, chopped

1 cup picked basil leaves, washed

100g soft goats cheese

Sea salt

Cracked black pepper

For the dressing

1 tbsp caraway seeds

1 tbsp mustard seeds

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

50 ml extra virgin olive oil


Soak freekeh in cold water over night. Cook in a medium pan with plenty of water for about 45 minutes. Or if you forget to soak freekeh, cook in plenty of water for 1 hour, turn off the heat and stand in the hot water for a further 30 minutes. Drain and rinse, set aside to cool.


Pre heat oven to 200C or 180C fan forced. Peel and cut pumpkin into 2cm dice, place in a baking tray with sliced red onion, chopped thyme, a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt and black pepper, mix together with your hands and roast in the  oven for 40-45 minutes, stir once during cooking. Set aside to cool to room temperature.


For the dressing, place caraway seeds and mustard seeds in a small fry pan, toast in a dry pan till seeds start to pop. Place in a mortar and pestle and pound to a rough powder, add vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and a large crack of pepper, whisk to combine.


Pour the dressing over the cooked freekeh and toss to combine, add cooled roasted pumpkin, and picked basil, toss gently to combine. Place on a large platter and sprinkle with crumbled goats cheese. Eat with good sourdough.





Asparagus and rocket penne – for two



A number of years ago I worked in a cafe in  Surry Hills, called Lumiere. The kitchen was smaller than my bathroom, yet we churned out great food and made almost everything from scratch. This chicken and asparagus rocket pasta always featured during the months of spring, when asparagus was in season, and rocket was plentiful.  The rocket adds it’s signature peppery taste to the pasta and the parmesan and lemon juice join together to balance that peppery taste and give the dish a sharp edge.




Making the rocket oil is simple. It’s similar to a pesto but cheaper to make as you leave out the pine-nuts, which can prove pricy. Lemon juice is essential in the oil as is salt. And as the lemon juice will oxidise the vibrant green colour of the rocket, it’s best to make it as close to serving time as possible. Or if you want to prepare the rocket oil ahead of time, leave the lemon juice out, and add it to the oil just before tossing through the hot pasta.

As asparagus is a spring time vegetable, only buy it when it’s in season to make sure you’re not buying a vegetable that’s been shipped from the other side of the world.




And two of the most important tips to live by when cooking pasta are: use a quality pasta – the cheapest is often the worst, and only ever cook it to al dente – this might mean standing over the pot and continually checking the done ness, but it will be worth it in the end as over-cooked pasta is horrible and must be avoided at all costs.

I often make this pasta dish without the chicken –  frozen peas are good, use half a cup- these can be added with the asparagus and boiled for one minute,

or: half a punnet of cherry tomatoes – halved and lightly sautéed in extra virgin oil for 2 minutes before adding the white wine. Yum,yum!


Asparagus and rocket pasta with chicken and lemon


250g free range chicken breast, diced

1 lemon

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup white wine

1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 2cm lengths

1 bunch rocket, washed, picked and chopped

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus extra for garnishing

1 1/2 cups wholemeal penne, or any other quality pasta

Place a medium pot of water on to boil. Place the chicken in a small bowl, add the zest of 1 lemon, 1 tsp olive oil, 1 grated clove of garlic, salt and pepper, set aside for 10 minutes. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a large fry pan, add chicken, cook on a low-medium heat so as to not burn the garlic. Once chicken is almost cooked add white wine and simmer for 1 minute. Turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, cook pasta to al dente. One minute before draining pasta, add asparagus and boil for 1 minute then drain.

To make the rocket pesto  (do this whilst pasta is cooking- it’s all about timing), place rocket, 1 grated clove garlic, juice of one lemon,parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and extra virgin olive oil in a food processor, blitz till smooth.

Add the drained pasta and asparagus to the fry pan with chicken (off the heat), add rocket pesto, salt and pepper, toss or stir till well coated, divide between two bowls, garnish with extra parmesan cheese and eat immediately.

Salsa verde – the magic green oil




Salsa verde – ever tried it? You really must. This vibrant, rustic, green herbed sauce adds a little touch of magic, with a big touch of flavour. And serving it with a simple steak is one of my favourite ways of eating it. Though don’t stop there. In Italy, where salsa verde comes from, they serve it with fish, a grilled piece of barramundi is sublime drizzled with a little of the magic green oil. You can dress a salad of mixed leaves with it, toss it through warm potatoes, or spoon it over tomatoes with mozzarella. The possibilities are endless.






Lets talk anchovies. They are a key ingredient in salsa verde. Their naturally salty flesh falls apart and oozes it’s flavour into the green sauce. Anchovies have a bad reputation with many people, I used to be one of them. But I assure you, they are delicious when used to flavour sauces. So please, please don’t leave them out. I used parsley and mint in my batch of salsa verde, as that’s what I had on hand, but basil and fresh tarragon are also good additions. Back in my restaurant days, we always made salsa verde in the food processor, which is fine if you’re in a hurry, these days I pound mine in the mortar and pestle, but also suggest chopping by hand if you have the time.





Salsa verde


2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tbsp baby capers

2 anchovies

1 cup roughly chopped parsley

1 cup roughly chopped mint

1 tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar

75ml extra virgin olive oil

Place the garlic, capers and anchovies in a mortar and pestle, pound to a paste. Alternatively, chop to a fine paste. Add parsley and mint and continue to pound or chop till herbs are well combined. Place in a small dish, add vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, a small pinch of salt and a large pinch of pepper. Stir till sauce amalgamates.

If time is of the essence, you can chuck everything in a food processor and pulse-blitz till combined.