Roasted pumpkin, pear and chickpea soup

Roasted pumpkin, pear and chickpea soup

We love soup for Meatless Monday or after Saturday morning sport.  However often a plain vegetable soup can be low in protein and leave you hungry later on, so I’ve added chickpeas which are a terrific source of plant based protein and fibre.  Adding pear brings a beautiful sweetness to this dish.  This soup is very simple to put together with the oven doing the bulk of the work.

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Grilled vegetable and fig platter

Grilled vegetable and fig platter

Perfect for entertaining, or for a family dinner with the hopes of leftovers, here's how we've been enjoying our grilled veggies.  Our secret is to include a punnet of figs (so cheap at the moment - and they used to be such a luxury!) and to marinade before grilling.  This is a delicious side to barbecued steaks, sausages or halloumi.

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Roasted pumpkin salad with crispy chickpeas, pomegranate and mint

Roasted pumpkin salad with crispy chickpeas, pomegranate and mint

In worrying news for hummus fans the world over - we are facing a GLOBAL SHORTAGE OF CHICKPEAS! After the avocado crisis I'm not sure how I'll cope! In the meantime, while tinned chickpeas are still cheap I'll stock up. Here's how we had them last night - roasted til crispy tossed with coriander, cumin and oregano, roasted along side some pumpkin. Served with rocket, mint, toasted pepitas, pomegranate seeds and some halloumi too. 

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Six Salads for Summer

Six Salads for Summer

It's heating up here in Sydney!  With a newly vegetarian teenager in my house I'm trying to get in the habit of creating a big, substantial salad on a Sunday that can work as leftovers for the week. Or I get on the #meatfreemonday bandwagon.  Here's 6 of my favourite salads, and one little extra.

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Watermelon & Pomegranate Salad with Whipped Feta

Watermelon & Pomegranate Salad with Whipped Feta

If you are asked to bring a salad to a BBQ or Christmas party - this one is a winner!  Look at those colours!  And yum, any salad with pomegranate and feta is a winner in my books.  Then add in that beautiful refreshing watermelon and the crunch of almonds, so good.  

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Nicoise salad

Nicoise salad

Create this delicious classic french salad with loads of veggies and heart healthy tuna and eggs for a hot summer night to transport you to the south of France.

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Bun Cha Bowls

Bun Cha Bowls

Hot summer evenings are calling for this divine BUN CHA bowl with a warm dipping sauce.  

Healthy, low carb, high protein, with heaps of veggies, Gluten Free and FODMAP friendly!

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Gado-gado with Chicken sates


I adore chicken sates and gado-gado, both firm favourites from learning Indonesian at school and many many visits to our northern neighbour.  I love gado-gado as a fantastic way of having a filling salad at dinner with plenty left over for lunch the next day.  Here's my recipe, adjust it to suit your favourite veggies.


  • 600 gm, chicken, cubed
  • 1 onion
  • 2 tab lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • sml knob of ginger peeled
  • 1-2 fresh red chillis (seeded if you don’t want it too hot)
  • 1/3 cup tamari
  • 1 tab brown sugar
  • 270ml coconut milk
  • ½ cup 100% crunchy peanut butter
  • 3 handfuls baby spinach
  • 4 soft boiled eggs
  • 6 new potatoes, boiled until soft, about 10 mins
  • 2 carrots
  • big handful of green beans
  • 2 lebanese cucumbers, cut into long batons
  • bean shoots


  1. In a food processor blitz the onion, garlic, ginger, chili. Mix in the tamari, lemon juice and sugar. Add to a ziplock bag with the chicken pieces. Leave to marinate for a couple of hours in the fridge. Soak 12 bamboo skewers.
  2. Prepare your gado-gado salad by assembling the veggies that you like, I’ve included a suggested list in the ingredients, but use the gado-gado to clean up your fridge. You can also include quickly fried firm tofu pieces.
  3. Remove the chicken pieces from marinade (reserve the marinade) and thread onto the skewers.
  4. Pour the reserved marinade into a saucepan, add the coconut milk and peanut butter. Bring to the boil and heat through until thickened. Taste and adjust for lemon juice, tamari and chili.
  5. Barbecue the chicken for 6 minutes or so until they are browned and cooked through. Serve sates with the gado-gado salad.

Spanish gazpacho - drink your veggies


A couple of years ago we had a beautiful holiday in Andalusia, Spain.  We'd sit out in the garden and start our meal with short glass of gazpacho which you could buy in tetra packs from the supermarket.  I've come up with this recipe which gets some veggies into everyone before the meal has started.  I tend to use tomato juice (no added salt or sugar), it would be better to use real tomatoes but I can't get that lovely rich tomato flavour from the disappointing supermarket tomatoes.  The advantage of tomato juice is there is no de-seeding or peeling.  Think of it as a red green smoothie!


  • 2 slices crusty bread

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

  • 1/2 small garlic clove, crushed

  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

  • 1L tomato juice

  • 1 red capsicum, seeded, chopped

  • 1 lebanese cucumber, seeded, chopped, plus extra finely chopped as a garnish

  • 1/2 long red chilli, seeded

  • 3 green onions, chopped

  • 2 tabs olive oil


  1. Break bread into large pieces and place in a bowl (or your thermomix bowl). Pour over red wine vinegar and set aside for 10 minutes

  2. Place bread in a blender or food processor. Add garlic, sugar, tomato juice, capsicum, cucumber, chilli and green onions, and blend until combined (1 minute speed 10 in thermomix). With processor running, pour in olive oil in a thin stream

  3. Transfer gazpacho to a large jug, cover and refrigerate until chilled. Just before serving, stir well with ice cubes and add extra finely chopped cucumber as a garnish.


Quinoa Tabouli


Did you know that quinoa is a complete protein which means it contains all the essential amino acids?  It's  also a rich source of B vitamins, a good source of carbohydrates and easy to digest.  For these reasons  it is being considered a possible crop in NASA's Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration human occupied space flights! If you've had a quinoa fail before it might be because you haven't washed off the bitter tasting saponins on the outside of the quinoa.  Lightly rubbing the quinoa under running water gets rid of the saponins and improves the flavour.

With the lovely warm weather we've been enjoying a tabouli salad most nights.  I cook a cup of quinoa and use about 2/3 in the salad and then use the leftover quinoa for quick salads for lunch.

I like to serve the salad for dinner with some seared lamb loin fillets marinated in a little lemon and olive oil, perhaps a touch of sumac or smoked paprika. For a portable lunch the next day the salad is delicious with some feta or almonds.


  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 1.75 cups of water
  • pinch of salt
  • generous handful of parsley, leaves picked, roughly chopped
  • generous handful of mint, leaves picked, roughly chopped
  • two big handfuls of baby spinach
  • 4 spring onions, white part only, chopped
  • 2 lebanese cucumbers, halved lengthways and chopped
  • 250g cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • Seeds from half a pomegranate (optional)
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (optional, if you don't have it omit, do not substitute!)


  1. Soak the quinoa for 15 minutes in plenty of water. Drain in a fine wire colander and gently rub the seeds to remove any saponins.
  2. Combine the quinoa with 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt.
  3. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to a simmer for 15 minutes, partly covered. The quinoa is cooked when the grain starts to spiral.
  4. Drain any remaining water.
  5. Leave in the saucepan with a clean tea towel or paper towel between the saucepan and the lid for 5 minutes or so. You'll need about 2/3 of the cooked quinoa for the tabouli, the rest will keep in the fridge for 48 hours.
  6. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of black pepper. Add half of the dressing to the quinoa.
  7. Put spinach, herbs, spring onion, tomatoes and cucumber in a salad bowl. Add the quinoa. Toss and add remaining dressing. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds to serve.

Serves 4

Thai style beef salad


This is how I like to eat in summer - a big salad topped with delicious steak.  I discovered this salad when I was pregnant as I was trying to increase my iron stores and eat lots of leafy greens.  It's now a firm family favourite and perfect for my teenage children who need zinc and iron for growth, energy and immunity.

GF, LF, FF - see below for notes


  • 400 g lean beef (I like sirloin or porterhouse)
  • plenty of black pepper
  • olive oil
  • 2 large handfuls asian salad mix or baby spinach leaves
  • 250g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 20 green beans, sugar snap peas or snow peas, blanched
  • 2 red capsicums,sliced
  • 2 Lebanese / Japanese cucumbers sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1 small bunch coriander picked
  • 1 small bunch mint picked
  • Cashews to sprinkle over


  • juice from 2-3 limes
  • 1 sliced red chilli (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoon palm sugar (or castor sugar)


  1. Season the steak with the pepper and cook in a hot pan with a little olive oil until medium rare. Remove from the pan, cover loosely and allow to rest for about 5 minutes then slice thinly.
  2. Combine the salad leaves, tomatoes, green beans, capsicum, cucumber, onion and herbs.
  3. Add the sliced beef.
  4. Make the dressing by mixing the lime juice, chilli, fish sauce and sugar.
  5. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix through. Top with a small handful of cashews.
  6. Divide between serving bowls and enjoy. Lean chicken breast, grilled fish or grilled firm tofu can be used in place of the beef.

Serves 4

GF - check fish sauce,

FF (FODMAP friendly) - substitute green tops of spring onion for onion, limit portion of snow peas to five pods, substitute peanuts for cashews



Cauliflower and broccolini fried rice served with pickled cucumber


A vegetable hack I've been using a lot lately is to mix in half cauliflower rice with our brown basmati.  Tonight I'm sharing my cauliflower fried rice which is a huge hit. I serve it with quickly pickled cucumber, a fried egg and some tamari almonds. I did wonder how the "rice" would be received - see picture below, but mixed in with aromatic ginger and coriander plus the colour somewhat disguised by turmeric no-one gave it a second thought!


Cauliflower is a fantastic vegetable being a source of cancer-fighting agents (glucosinolates).   I've been using a lot of turmeric in my recipes recently as the active ingredient -curcumin - as it has been linked to warding off dementia and preventing cancer.  The AIS is investigating the anti-inflammatory properties for use as a sports supplement.

(I am listing this a vegetarian, but you'll need to take out the ham)

Cauliflower and broccolini fried rice with ginger and turmeric




  • 1/2 head of cauliflower

  • 1 bunch broccolini

  • 200g packet of pre-cooked brown basmati rice

  • 2 french shallots

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 2 cm piece of ginger

  • 1 red chilli (seeds removed)

  • 1 bunch of coriander

  • 100g ham

  • 2-3 tab tamari

  • 2-3 tsp tomato sauce (I use sugar free)

  • 1 tsp turmeric

  • 1 tsp paprika

  • shallots to serve

  • fried egg to serve

  • cucumber pickle to serve


  1. In a food processor or by hand pulse together the cauliflower florets and broccolini. Remove and set aside.

  2. In food processor or by hand chop the shallots, garlic, ginger, chilli and coriander.

  3. In a heavy bottom frypan or wok fry the processed shallot mixture in a tsp or so of coconut oil or olive oil. Stir fry for 3 minutes then add ham and fry for another minute or so.

  4. Add pulsed cauliflower, broccolini and rice and fry for another minute.

  5. Add turmeric, paprika, tamari and tomato sauce and fry for a few minutes.

  6. I like to serve with a fried egg, some pickled cucumber, a squeeze of lime and some tamari almonds

  7. Make a quick cucumber pickle by slicing up 2 cucumbers, pour over a little rice wine vinegar, a squeeze of lime juice and a tsp of sugar.

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Simon's baked beans


Having a rustle around in the freezer I found the ham bone I had saved from Christmas.  I asked my husband to make his amazing baked beans and he also wrote down the recipe as we can never quite remember how he makes them.  These make a delicious breakfast, lunch or easy dinner.  You can cook an egg in the bean mixture as well.  If you don't have a frozen ham bone left over from Christmas then you can get a ham hock from the butcher or make a vegetarian version. A diet rich in legumes such as cannellini beans  is associated with lowered blood sugar and reduced harmful LDL cholesterol.   They’ve been linked to reduced risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colon and other cancers, as well as improved weight control.  Plus my kids love eating them!


  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 red onions roughly chopped.
  • Splash of olive oil
  • Ham bone (frozen from after Christmas) or ham hock.
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 x 400gm tin of crushed tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp of maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp of Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tsp of smokey paprika
  • 1 tsp of dried chilli flakes (this gives it just a hint of heat but up to you)
  • 1 tsp of dry mustard powder
  • 4 x 400gm tins of Cannellini Beans (drained and rinse beans from 3 of the tins, but use liquid and beans from 4th)


  1. Preheat oven to 160 deg C.
  2. Fry up garlic, onions and oil over a medium to high heat (choose a big pot that is also able to go in oven). Whack in the ham bone. Pour in 2 tins of tomatoes and the bay leaves. Then add the maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, and spices.
  3. Drain the beans in a sieve and rinse off the briney liquid from 3 of the tins, but chuck liquid and beans from the 4th. Give it all a stir.
  4. Check seasoning but probably could do with a good pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. Cover and put the pot in the oven for a 1 1/2 hrs.
  6. I like to cook it the beans long enough so that the meat has fallen off the ham bone but not so long the dish becomes too dry. I switch off oven and just leave the pot in until I'm ready to serve.
  7. Dish it up with crusty bread and green salad

You can also cook this in the slow cooker on low for 4 hours.  

Serves 8

Roasted tomato and white bean soup


Today I've got two sick children so I'm making soup for dinner.  Soup, particularly vegetable based soups are a great option nutritionally as they combine lots of key nutrients including vitamins and minerals for relatively few calories.  Tonight's soup is full of tomatoes, my son is happy to eat this although he will "never, ever eat a tomato". Tomatoes are a wonderful source of vitamin B6, C, K, beta-carotene, potassium and manganese. The lycopene in tomatoes has been linked to lower rates of heart disease and cancer.


  • 1kg tomatoes, quartered or halved depending on size. I like a mixture of truss and romas.

  • 1 red onion, peeled and quartered

  • 6 cloves garlic, unpeeled

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1 tab maple syrup

  • 400g tin cannelini beans, drained and rinsed

  • 250 - 500 ml water to taste

  • Pesto to serve


  1. Preheat oven to 200degrees.

  2. Put tomatoes, garlic and onion in a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil and maple syrup. Season to taste.

  3. Roast for 45 minutes or until vegetables are soft

  4. Squish garlic out of skin, and discard skin. Add all vegetables and juice to saucepan.

  5. Add the canellini beans and process the mixture with a stick blender.

  6. Add water (I tend to use closer to 250 ml as I like a thick soup) and heat through gently.

  7. Serve with a dollop of pesto

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Chicken, barley and lentil soup

This soup needs to be cooked when you have a bit of time on your hands as it takes about an hour to put together but you can just taste how nourishing it is.  I cooked it on a hot summer day in Sydney that had started off with a cool, overcast morning, can't wait to enjoy it on a cold winter's day.  This soup was based on a recipe by Jane Strode.



Chicken, barley and lentil soup



Prep time:

15 mins

Cook time:

1 hour

Total time:

1 hour 15 mins




  • ⅓ cup (80ml) olive oil

  • 2 brown onions, finely sliced

  • 6 cloves garlic, finely sliced

  • 1 cup pearl barley

  • 1.5L chicken stock

  • 1 cup French green (puy) lentils

  • 6 dried bay leaves

  • 20 sprigs thyme

  • 4 chicken thigh fillets, sliced

  • 2 handfuls baby spinach


  1. Sear the chicken until browned all over for about 5 minutes. Remove chicken and set aside. Place oil, onions and garlic in a large saucepan over medium heat. Season with pepper and cook until soft and starting to colour, about 20mins.

  2. Add barley and stock, bring to a simmer and cook a further 10mins. Add lentils, bay leaves and thyme; cook a further 20mins or until lentils and barley are tender. Add chicken and season with salt. Cook a further 5mins or until chicken is just cooked through.

  3. To serve, warm soup over medium heat, add spinach and cook until just wilted. Garnish with a dollop of pesto (see note).

  4. TIP:

  5. Place leftover soup in small zip-lock bags and freeze – the single serves are convenient for work lunches or a quick dinner. Add extra spinach and pesto just before serving. Will keep for up to 6 weeks.


To make pesto, place 1 cup basil leaves,  ½ cup pine nuts, ¼ cup grated parmesan and 2 cloves garlic in a food processor and blend to a smooth paste. Gradually add 1/4 cup (70ml) extra virgin olive oil, processing to combine. Place in a clean container, cover with a little extra oil and refrigerate. Will keep for up to 4 weeks.[br]Prep: 20mins. Cooking: 1hr 5mins. Makes 2L.


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NIgella's moonblush tomatoes

Here's a Nigella Lawson recipe that I use to turn supermarket tomatoes into gorgeous tomatoes.  I love to serve them on some salad leaves with slices of chevre and a few basil leaves.  Or delicious on the side of some grilled fish.  They take no time to prepare but it's best to make them the day before (or the morning before) you plan to eat them.  However I've had great results just from 30 minutes in the oven rather than overnight.




  • 500g (about 24) on-the-vine cherry or other baby tomatoes

  • 2 teaspoons Maldon salt or 1 teaspoon table salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1 x 15ml tablespoons olive oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7.

  2. Cut the tomatoes in half and sit them cut side up in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with the salt, sugar, thyme and olive oil.

  3. Put them in the oven, and immediately turn it off. Leave the tomatoes in the oven overnight or for a day without opening the door.


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White bean puree - a mashed potato substitute

This is a very easy to make white bean puree which the whole family enjoys.  We have it with quickly cooked steaks and grilled asparagus.  It works as a mashed potato substitute and I am always happy to find ways  to use more legumes.

photo by Liz Parsons

White bean puree - a mashed potato substitute


2 (generous)


  • 1 can cannelini beans (I always use the italian ones - they seem softer and also don't contain additives)

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 1/3 cup chicken stock

  • 1 slice lemon rind


  1. Simmer the beans,garlic and lemon rind in the stock for about 5 mins.

  2. Remove the lemon rind and puree with a stick blender. Once blended add 1/2 tab olive oil and quickly whiz again.

Cauliflower 'rice'

If you've overindulged on the bread, cheese, wine or chocolates on the weekend, why not have a lower-carb day and add some extra vegetables to your plate.  The marvellous Jane Kennedy came up with cauliflower rice in her book "cooking without the boombah".  I was extremely dubious about it, but served with something saucey you really don't miss the rice.  For the kids I mix in the cauliflower rice with their basmati. Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous family, like broccoli.  It contains sulforaphane, an anti-cancer compound.



Cauliflower 'rice'







  1. Take half a head of cauliflower. Break into florets and place into a microwave dish with a lid. Don’t add water. Turn on high for (approx) 4 minutes. Whizz the cauliflower with a Bamix or food processor until it resembles cous cous. It should be light and ‘fluffy’, not mushy.

  2. The ‘rice’ soaks up the juices and flavours of whatever dish you’re serving….without the added calories.


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Italian country soup

This soup is based on a Bridgette Hafner recipe which I have added more veggies to.  I usually double the recipe as it freezes well and is great for tired children.  If you are vegetarian you could omit the pancetta. Cannellini beans are a great source of protein and fibre.  If you are a fan of having a "meat free Monday" this is a great recipe to make.  The original recipe used dried beans which were soaked overnight and added earlier in the recipe - I have tried it both ways and we like the tinned beans more.



Serves 6


  • 2 leeks, washed and sliced

  • 100g flat pancetta, thinly sliced (optional)

  • 2 carrots, diced

  • 2 zucchini, diced

  • 2 sticks celery, diced

  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 small potato, peeled and chopped into small dice

  • Sprinkle of dried oregano

  • 2 tins of cannellini beans

  • Splash of white wine

  • 2 tins Italian tomatoes, roughly chopped

  • 3 cups water or chicken stock

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1 sprig rosemary

  • Small handful of risoni (dried pasta shaped like rice) or small pasta shapes or broken fettuccine

  • Two or three generous handfuls of baby spinach or kale

  • Parmesan cheese, grated

  • extra virgin olive oil, to serve


  1. In a heavy-based pot, gently cook the leeks, carrot, zucchini, celery, pancetta and garlic in the olive oil until softened and lightly golden. Add the potato and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the oregano, white wine, tomatoes and water or stock, season with salt and pepper and add rosemary.

  2. Bring to the boil, skim the surface and simmer for 40-50 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Add the drained and rinsed breans, risoni and, if the soup has become a little thick, more water. Cook for a further 10 minutes. Add the baby spinach or kale.

  3. Serve with a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese and a dash of extra virgin olive oil.

Calories:286  Fat:7g Carbs:41g Fibre:8g Protein:13g

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Lentil and Feta Salad


This is a great salad, high in protein, great for vegetarian or coeliac guests. 


  • 1 cup Lentils du Puy or french green lentils

  • 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoons lemon juice

  • sea salt

  • freshly ground black pepper

  • ½ cup shredded flat-leaf parsley

  • 12 fresh mint leaves

  • ½ red onion, finely sliced

  • 1 Lebanese cucumber, sliced into four lengthways and diced

  • 100g feta cheese, crumbled


  1. Place the lentils in a saucepan with 1½ cups water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender. Strain and set aside.

  2. While the lentils are cooking, soak the red onions in the lemon juice – I find this reduces the bitter onion taste.

  3. After the onion has soaked for about 20 minutes, drain the lemon juice and whisk with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper into a bowl.

  4. Add the lentils and onion and allow to cool.

  5. Add the parsley, mint and cucumber and stir gently to combine. Place in a serving dish and top with the crumbled feta.

  6. Fantastic on its own or with some lamb or sausages for the carnivores

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