cauliflower rice “paella”

This is not a paella by any stretch of the Spanish imagination, as it is clearly missing its integral rice component. To call it by any other name, however, and I couldn’t convey how it tastes nearly as good.

(Let it be noted, however, that it is in fact primal/paleo/keto friendly/low carb/gluten free/dairy free, but don’t let that put you off)

Evidently, it’s not all treats around here. I’ve subbed out rice for cauliflower – one of my favourite, fart-stench-creating-to-prepare low carb substitutes. I absolutely love the taste of rice – to the point where I have previously claimed it to be one of my favourite carbohydrates, but thankfully with the caramelised prawns and spicy chorizo to contend with, I don’t miss it here. It even reheats beautifully – however there was certainly none left when I served this to my parents while I was home for the weekend.

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chicken and aubergine tray bake with cauliflower rice “tabouleh”

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I made a terrible mistake in the preparation of this dish in that I purchased chicken breasts for protein. It’s not so much that I dislike chicken breast as I prefer pretty much every other cut of chicken to it. Generally when I’m meal prepping (as I did with this dish) with chicken, I will use boneless, skinless chicken thighs for ease, but a bonier cut such as a whole butterflied chicken or even just legs or drumsticks would work well and add more flavour. Chicken breast is fine, darker meat is delicious.

I suppose this recipe may end up looking a bit involved for something I actually intended to just have lying around for leftover dinner prior to leaving for night shift. It is highly likely that if I’d read it in a magazine I would have 100% skipped past it because it calls for more than one cooking vessel. However, once the bake is in the oven, there is very little to do for the cauliflower to make it the perfect little salad to balance out the meal. This is unsurprisingly one of those meals that gets better the longer you leave it, and so it was utterly marvellous to prepare for low effort dinners. I’d call it versatile enough to even serve to guests (especially as it can be prepared well in advance), but I think that’s just because it tastes really good. The bake itself is incredibly flavoursome. Beyond simply serving it alongside this fresh, citrus based salad, I would suggest a yoghurt-based accompaniment.

Some of the ingredients (preserved lemons, za’atar, pomegranate molasses) are not exactly typical kitchen staples, but I promise that they all hang about long enough for you to experiment and experience their deliciousness in other dishes also.

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twice-cooked beef short ribs

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Mum bestowed me with beef after visiting Wellington a few days ago. I now have a brisket waiting to be braised (perhaps smoked if I’m feeling ambitious), a scotch fillet in the freezer – and short ribs that I prepared yesterday. Short rib is absolutely one of my favourite cuts of meat. It’s not readily available in most New Zealand supermarkets – my Mum bought these ones – neatly trimmed and cut into individual pieces, no less – from a European butcher in Lower Hutt. Cooking these short ribs has made me realise how much more experience I have to gain in preparing braised meat dishes. It is not something I do particularly regularly, and I’m excited that the prospect of autumn and winter will provide me with plenty of opportunity to familiarise myself with reaching the perfect fall-off-the-bone result.

The twice cooked part of this recipe is entirely optional – personally I love the taste of grilled beef fat, and so it really added to the dish. In the interests of saving time, you could just as easily throw everything in the slow cooker, though the result would be flavoursome, I’m not sure it would be as rich and satisfying. We served these alongside polenta chips – something of an experiment inspired by our visit to Venetian restaurant Ombra on Thursday. Not quite perfect yet – hence no recipe, but these ribs would also be great alongside potatoes in practically any form – roasted or mashed springs to mind.

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Black sesame chicken with Asian slaw

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I feel like anyone presenting a recipe involving cabbage always pre-empts it with the claim that it is an entirely under-rated, eternally cheap vegetable. I’m inclined to agree. However, the trouble with cabbage and I is that I know it keeps forever in the fridge – a theory I always seem to test when I purchase it, favouring other vegetables over the mess of shredding it into little bits. Having a half cabbage turn to ruin is never a great loss to me, however with my New Year’s resolution of “using what I have in the fridge” resulted in this delicious slaw that’s perfect for summer. Apparently I’m obsessed with all things sesame at the moment, and this entire dish is really designed to show them off. The slaw would go along great aside a raft of grilled and marinated meats – chicken is simply what I had on hand.

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Opa’s beef rendang

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As alluded to in my previous recipe, my Opa grew up in Indonesia. He passed away when I was nine years old, and it has only been recently as I’ve become more passionate about cooking everythingΒ (I genuinely had never grilled meatΒ on a barbecue until a few months ago), that I have embarked on what I am not even hyperbolically describing as a spiritual journey in getting in touch with him through cooking his food. Food has always been hugely important in my family, and he was an exceptional cook – to the point where he finally started writing his recipes down with the intention of turning it into a book (life/cancer had other plans). My Dad photocopied some of these for me to work my way through: this is the first.

I had a whole afternoon to prepare this – and you kind of need it (along with a morning trawling through Asian supermarkets to find the ingredients). Rendang is a dry, spicy but not hot curry that is a traditional Indonesian beef curry. Alternatively you can buy the prepackaged spice concoctions to prepare this dish, but I promise that the extra love that goes in is worth it, regardless of whether you grow sentimental through how delicious it tastes. Curry is one of those forgiving dishes that gets better the longer it is leftover and this one in particular freezes very well. I served it to friends the night after preparing it, with plenty left over for meals later in the week. Make a shopping list, ensure you have a large enough container to store it, and you will have an impressive dinner on hand to serve to friends in the freezer.

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