Slow cooked chicken and pumpkin curry

The weather is getting quite fresh in Queensland – winter is drawing nearer and the air is cool and crisp. I really love this time of year because it’s the perfect time to cook hearty comfort food, such as this delicious chicken and pumpkin curry.

Slow cooked chicken and pumpkin curry

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1/4 Jap pumpkin (also known as Kent pumpkin)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tab ginger paste*
  • 1 tab lemongrass paste*
  • 3 tabs yellow curry powder
  • 1 tab garlic powder
  • 1 tab onion powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 3 tabs fresh lime juice
  • 1 x 398ml can light coconut milk
  • 1 red chili (optional)**

Method:

  1. Remove the chili top, and finely chop the chili.
  2. Pour the chicken stock and coconut milk into your slow cooker.
  3. Add the salt, ginger, lemongrass, curry powder, onion powder, garlic powder, turmeric and chili.
  4. Stir until all ingredients are combined.
  5. Peel the pumpkin piece, cut it into medium cubes and add it to the slow cooker.
  6. Cut the chicken into large cubes and add it also.
  7. Cover and cook on LOW for 5-6 hours.
  8. Prior to serving, add the lime juice and stir in thoroughly.
  9. Serve with rice.

* If you prefer to prepare your own ingredients, you can instead use one tsp freshly grated ginger and 1 tab chopped lemongrass. I find that I have less waste when using the pastes, and it also cuts down the prep time. I use the Gourmet Garden brand which they sell at most grocery stores.

** The chili adds heat to this dish. To reduce the heat you can remove the seeds before chopping it, or you can increase the heat by adding more chili.

Slow cooked Thai red curry beef

When I first started hosting dinner parties, I would spend the majority of the night in the kitchen instead of mingling with my friends. Now, whenever possible, I’ll use my slow cooker instead – prepping the meal in the morning and leaving it to simmer all day. Come sunset I can eat, drink and party with my friends… much more fun!

Sadly, the photos in this post were taken the following day, using what little was left over, so it’s mostly sauce with a few chunks of meat in it. I promise it looks much more appetising when first served!

Slow cooked Thai red curry beef

Serves 5-6

Ingredients:

  • 1kg beef skirt steak (or similar stewing meat)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup beef stock
  • 1 tab brown sugar
  • 3 tabs red curry paste
  • 2 tabs fish sauce
  • 2 tabs fresh lime juice
  • 1 x 398ml can light coconut milk
  • 1 tab sriracha sauce, or to taste
  • 2 tabs all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves

Method:

  1. Dice the beef into large cubes.
  2. Bring a large non-stick skillet to medium-high heat. Cook the beef, stirring occasionally, until just browned (roughly 8-10 minutes).
    Skirt steak browning in skillet
  3. Drain the beef and place it in a 4L electric slow cooker; sprinkle with salt.
  4. Return pan to medium-high heat, then add the onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes or until tender; spoon onion mixture over beef.
  5. In a medium bowl, combine beef stock, sugar, curry paste, fish sauce, lime juice, coconut milk and sriracha. Pour mixture over the beef and onion; cover and cook on LOW for 6-7 hours.
  6. Spoon 2 tabs of the liquid from the slow cooker into a cup, and whisk in flour until smooth; return mixture to slower cooker and stir in.
  7. Add baby spinach and stir; cover and cook on LOW for 15 minutes or until sauce thickens.

Rum balls

My sister invented this recipe and they are the yummiest rum balls I’ve ever tasted. I highly recommend these for your next Christmas celebration – they’re sure to be a hit with your guests!

Rum balls

Ingredients:

  • 1 pack Milk Arrowroot biscuits, finely crushed
  • 2 tabs cocoa
  • 1 cup sultanas
  • ½ cup desiccated coconut
  • Extra desiccated coconut, to decorate
  • 1 tin condensed milk
  • ¼ cup Bundaberg rum

Method:

  1. Soak fruit in rum until liquid is absorbed.
  2. Mix cocoa, desiccated coconut, sultanas and crushed Arrowroot biscuits until well combined.
  3. Add condensed milk and, if necessary, more rum to taste. Refrigerate until firm.
  4. Roll mixture into small balls, then toss them in extra desiccated coconut.
  5. Refrigerate the rum balls until ready to serve.

Rum balls

Gingerbread men

I love gingerbread men! These ones are designed not to spread while cooking, and have just the right amount of spice. My son loves helping to decorate them too.

Gingerbread men

Ingredients:

  • 125g butter, at room temperature
  • Extra butter, to grease
  • 110g (1/2 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
  • 2 tabs caster sugar
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) golden syrup
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 300g (2 1/3 cups) plain flour
  • Extra flour, to dust
  • 2 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 150g (1 cup) pure icing sugar, sifted
  • 8-10 drops red liquid food colouring
  • 8-10 drops green liquid food colouring
  • Smarties, to decorate (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (or 150°C fan-forced).
  2. Grease two flat baking trays with butter.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Add the egg yolk and golden syrup and beat until combined.
  4. Stir in the flour, ginger and mixed spice.
  5. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Press dough into a disc, and place it between two sheets of baking paper and roll out until about 5mm thick. Use a gingerbread man cutter to cut out shapes, but do not separate shapes from the dough yet. Place the rolled dough in the freezer for 30 minutes to harden.
  6. After 30 minutes, remove from freezer separate the cut-out men, placing them on trays about 2cm apart.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 with the leftover dough.
  8. Bake in oven for 7-10 minutes or until brown. Remove gingerbread from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  9. Place egg white in a clean, dry bowl. Use an electric beater to beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the icing sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Divide icing among 3 bowls. Add red colouring to 1 bowl and stir until combined. Add green colouring to remaining bowl and stir until combined.
  10. Place each of the prepared icings in small plastic bags (sandwich bags work well). Cut a small hole in a corner of each bag. Pipe icing over gingerbread men to decorate.
  11. If desired, add Smarties while the icing is still wet.

Puftaloons

These puftaloons are delicious, and super easy to make!  My Mum makes these fried scones to perfection, and I have fond memories of  my family enjoying these as a special treat.

Puftaloons

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Pinch salt
  • Oil or clarified fat
  • Golden syrup (to serve)

Method:

  1. Sift flour and salt together.
  2. Add milk, and mix into a soft dough.
  3. On a floured board, knead the dough lightly.
  4. Flatten to 1 cm thickness.
  5. Flour a small round cutter and cut circles from the dough.
  6. Heat a small amount of oil (or fat) in a pan,
  7. Gently fry the puftaloons until golden brown on each side.
  8. Place on absorbent paper to cool slightly, then serve with golden syrup.

Tip:  If using oil, ensure it has a high smoke point. I use rice bran oil.

Puftaloons

Blueberry muffins

Nothing beats a blueberry muffin for an on-the-go breakfast or a quick and tasty snack.

Blueberry muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups self raising flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/3 cup (79 ml) macadamia oil (or your preferred nut/seed oil)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsps vanilla essence
  • 1 1/3 cups (200 grams) fresh blueberries
  • 1 tsp extra sugar for muffin tops, to decorate (optional)

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 190° C. Line 10 standard muffin cups with paper liners. Fill any empty muffin cups with 1 tablespoon of water to ensure the muffins bake evenly.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk flour and salt with the 3/4 cup of sugar until evenly combined.
  3. Add the oil and the egg to a 500 ml measuring jug. Fill the jug with milk only until it reaches the 1 cup line marking. Add vanilla extract and whisk until combined.
  4. Add milk mixture to the dry ingredients, then stir with a fork until just combined.
  5. Use a spatula to gently fold the blueberries into the mixture.
  6. Divide the muffin mixture between the 10 muffin cups. If desired, sprinkle a little of the extra sugar on each of the muffin tops (for a little crunch).
  7. Bake blueberry muffins for 10 minutes, then test with a skewer inserted into one of the muffins. The skewer should come out clean or crumb-covered, not sticky. If the tops are cooked but the insides are not, cover the muffin pan with foil (being careful not to burn yourself!) and return it to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes.
  8. Turn muffins out onto to a cooling rack and allow to cool.

Tip:  These muffins can be frozen in freezer bags for up to 3 months.

Blueberry muffins

Rustic steak and mushroom pie

Rustic steak and mushroom pie

Ingredients:

  • 2 sheets shortcrust pastry
  • 2 sheets puff pastry
  • 800g beef rump steak (with most fat removed), diced
  • 1 cup button mushrooms, peeled and sliced
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 cup liquid vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup red wine (I used Jacob’s Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2009)
  • 2 tabs salt-reduced gravy powder (roast beef flavour, or similar)
  • 1 tab cornflour
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180° C (fan-forced) or 200° C (convection).
  2. Grease and flour a pie dish. If using frozen pastry, put the sheets out to thaw.
  3. Place a sheet of shortcrust pasty in the dish. Fill in any gaps with the second pastry sheet.
  4. Trim the pastry in the dish, leaving a 2 cm overhang.
  5. Cover with baking paper, and use either pastry beads or rice to weigh down the pastry.
  6. Blind bake the pastry for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
  7. Dice the onion and fry in a pan until soft and clear.
  8. Add the meat and wine to the pan. Cook until just brown, then add the mushrooms.
  9. Allow meat to cook for a further 2 minutes at low heat, stirring occasionally.
  10. Without draining the pan, scoop out the meat, mushrooms and onion and set aside.
  11. In the same pan, add gravy powder to the remaining liquid and stir.
  12. Add vegetable stock gradually, stirring constantly, until desired consistency is achieved.
  13. Taste and check if the gravy needs salt. Add pepper (and salt if required).
  14. If gravy is not thickening scoop some liquid from the pan to a cup, add the cornflour and stir until smooth. Return the liquid to the pan and stir well.
  15. Once gravy is thick, return the meat mixture to the pan and stir until combined.
  16. Pour the meat and gravy mixture into the pie crust.
  17. Place a puff pastry sheet on top of the pie (you may need 2 sheets to cover the pie).
  18. Trim edges and push them down with the prongs of a fork.
  19. Cut leftover puff pastry into 3 leaf shapes, and place in centre of pie to decorate.
  20. Use a skewer to make a hole in the middle of the pie for air to escape.
  21. Cook for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown.
  22. Allow pie to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.