Vegetarian Dishes: Liam’s Incan Bean Stew

A tortilla in a bowl filled with a pumpkin, tomato and nave bean stewLast week Liam* and I went hunting for some haricot beans to cook a bean stew recipe from a book on the Incas that my mother gave him for Christmas. It took us a while, but eventually we discovered that haricot beans are what we call navy beans, which are also the beans in baked beans.

Anyway, we made the stew and Liam made himself a bowl inside his bowl out of a tortilla, and heaped the stew inside. And, he declared the whole meal delicious. He’s not always terribly keen on new food, but whether it was having chosen itnd cooked it himself out of his own book, or the novelty of serving it in a tortilla bowl, he loved this meal. Or, you know, maybe it just was delicious! Because actually, everyone except my four-year-old daughter enjoyed it. And she didn’t actually try it!

Of course, the recipe as written was a little too spicey so we modified it to suit our tastes. This is how we made it:

250g dried haricot (navy) beans
4 tomatoes
500g pumpkin (after removing skin and seeds)
2 tsp Paprika (the original recipe called for 2tbs, which seemed to spicy for us, but play with it to get the level you like)
mixed herbs
black pepper
100g sweetcorn

1. Wash the beans thoroughly in cold water, then put them in a large bowl and cover them with more cold water. Leave them to soak 3-4 hours.

2. Drain the beans and place them in a large saucepan. Cover with yet more cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for two hours or until tender.

3. Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes finely, peel the pumpkin and chop it into 2cm cubes.

4. Heat 100ml of water in a medium saucepan. Stir in the paprika and bring to the boil. Add the tomatoes along with a good sprinkling of mixed herbs, plus salt and pepper to taste. You may need to add a little more of these later when you have added everything else, just do a taste test to see. Simmer for 15 minutes or until thick and well blended.

5. Drain the beans then return them to the large saucepan. Add the pumpkin and the tomato mixture and stir well. Simmer for another 15 minutes.

6. Add the sweet corn and simmer for another 5 minutes, or until the pumpkin has almost distintegrated and the stew is quite thick.

7. Do a taste test – see if you need to add more salt or pepper. Sun gods and sacrifices, the lost world of the Aztecs, Incas and Mayans

8. Serve in bowls. We served it with rice and tortillas. The book also suggested corn bread as an accompaniment.

Simple but delicious.

The book is called Sun gods and sacrifices, the lost world of the Aztecs, Incas and Mayans by Fiona McDonald & Philip Steele. It also has other craft activities, from making feather fans to mozaic masks to a full size felt Inca tunic! Liam hasn’t actually done any of the other craft activities (most probably need some level of parent involvement), but he has been enjoying reading the book. The next thing he wants to do is try the recipe for making our own tortillas.
*Have I been cagey about the kid’s names? I just can’t do it anymore – Liam is my nine year old.

This post is linked to Delectable Tuesday and Meatless (Vegan) Mondays and Real Food Wednesday .

Super Easy Tomato Basil Soup

The other night I served a winner for dinner- at least as far as Master Eight & Mr Sustainable Suburbia were concerned. Ms Just-Turned-One didn’t like it and Ms Four wouldn’t try it, but hey, three out of five (I include myself) is about the best I can hope for – and it’s especially gratifying that everyone who did eat it had seconds.

So, here’s the recipe. Now, I just made this up as I went along out of ingredients I had on hand, and I didn’t measure anything, but it’s pretty straight forward.


1 medium sweet potato, peeled
1 medium carrot, peeled
1 parsnip, peeled
3 bunches baby bok choy, washed thoroughly (I used the leaves and stems)
About a cup of chopped fresh basil, loosely packed
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can puréed tomatoes
1 375ml jar summer tomato & basil pasta sauce (the brand was Bertolli’s Five Brothers)
2 tbsp tomato paste
About 1-1.5 litres of water
About 0.5-0.75 tsp salt
About 1.5 tsp sugar

Chop the veggies – you’re going to purée them, so how small you chop them will depend on how long you have to cook them. I put them on at about 2pm and puréed them about 5.30, so Iwas able to cut them fairly big.

Chuck them in a large saucepan (at least five litres) with the water and canned and jarred goods. Add the tomato purée and the roughly chopped basil.

Simmer until everything is soft, ideally at least an hour to give the flavours time to mix. Two is probably better. Blend (I used a stick blender) until relatively smooth (or until you get the texture you want really), then add salt and sugar (which removes some of the tartness of the tomato) to taste.

Cook for a bit longer, then serve with grated cheese and your favourite bread. We had Turkish bread with it, which was yum. Even those who turned their noses up at the soup enjoyed the bread!

A vegetarian frittata recipe (or, Failing at my vegetarian dishes challenge)

Well, apparently challenging myself to cook two new vegetarian dishes a week was optomistic. One new dish (of any sort) per week seems to be about my limit. However, thinking about it has at least meant that we are eating more vegetarian in general.

Last night, for instance, we had burritos. Often we’ve been having them with beef and beans, but last night I just made the beans.

Tonight we’re having a vegetarian fritata (recipe below) and a salad. I’m conscious that Kid Number One doesn’t like fritata, so I’m putting lots of feta in the salad as well as shelled, steamed and peeled broad beans (from my Mum’s garden).  Not entirely sure if he’ll like the beans either, but he’s enjoyed helping to shell and peel them anyway. And I know he likes feta.

Sweet Potato and Feta Frittata

Serves 4-8 (or 2!) depending what else you have with it


  • 1 small or 1/2 a large sweet potato
  • about 5 large silverbeet (Swiss chard) leaves, or equivalent
  • two smallish tomatoes
  • a few sprigs of parsley
  • about 100g feta cheese – in Australia I use Southcape Marinated Fetta made from cows milk which is really yummy, but probably any good feta would do.
  • 8 eggs, taken out of the fridge earlier so they are at room temperature (ideally)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • a pinch of salt

You will also need

  • 1x26cm saute pan with a heavy base, with lid
  • A medium mixing bowl
  • A whisk (or just a fork really)


  1. Slice the sweet potato up into 1 cm thick slices. You can leave it like that or chop it into smaller chunks as you prefer.
  2. Pre-cook the sweet potato however you like, I put it in a ceramic bowl in the microwave, with plate over the top, for about 3-4 minutes and then check it.
  3. Meanwhile, chop your silverbeet and parsley as finely as you like, I do the silverbeet in about 1-2 cm strips, and cut those up further if I’m using large leaves, and steam it for about a minute (or microwave for a few seconds – maybe 15?) – just to soften it a bit. If you want to include the silverbeet stem, I’d steam it for a little longer. Alternatively use baby spinach leaves and don’t bother pre-cooking at all. (Sometimes I don’t even both with the silverbeet).
  4. If you have an electric stove it should be heating up by now. You want it heated to a medium temperature.
  5. Put the saute pan on the stove to heat through.
  6. Slice the tomatoes into about 1/2 cm thick slices
  7. If you are using the marinated feta, fish about 100g out of the jar now so most of the oil can drain off it.
  8. Beat the eggs, water and salt together in a medium bowl.
  9. Pour a little bit of oil from your marinated feta to lightly grease your pan.
  10. Tip the sweet potato into the pan, pour the egg mixture over the sweet potato and quickly add the greens and the feta. You are aiming to keep adding stuff until you can’t get anymore under the egg. You want to do this quickly before the egg cooks too much while you can still stir it around to get it all spread evenly.
  11. Lastly add the tomato slices – spread evenly over the top and push them in just under the egg if you can (it doesn’t matter if they don’t go all the way under though).
  12. Now, put the lid on and turn the stove down to low. Cook until almost set, about 15-25 minutes (check after 15 and see how set it is). Now you can finish it off under the grill, with the lid off, but you can also leave it for longer on the stove if you have the patience.
  13. Serve with a large garden salad.

Edited to add: Kid Number One did eat the frittata after all, but picked out the sweet potato, but Kid Number Two pretty much only ate the sweet potato so between them they did okay! I forgot to put the feta in the salad and no-one really liked the beans much  (me included) 🙁 , but the oil from the marinated feta made a great addition to the salad dressing. Yum. Oh, and I also forgot to take a photo of the frittata. Next time…

Making yoghurt tonight!

Well, it turns out all I needed to do in my quest to find out how to make yoghurt from scratch using an easiyo maker was to follow the first link in my last post – namely to the Easiyo on Amazon – and look at the comments. The very first one has the instructions.

So now I will

  1. Heat 1 litre of light, organic milk almost (but not quite) to boiling.
  2. Cool it in the fridge until completely cold
  3. Mix it with a tbsp of yoghurt and 1/2 cup powered milk by shaking it up in the Easiyo container the same way you do with the sachets (ie half fill with milk, add yoghurt and powered milk, shake, fill with the rest of the milk, shake again).
  4. Fill the Easiyo maker with boiling water as per it’s usual instructions
  5. Pop the container of milk and yoghurt in there and leave for about 10 hours.
  6. Take it out and see if it’s set, if so put in fridge, if not, try, try again!

And now I must rush off, because soon the milk will get to the right temperature, and if I’m not there to take it off the heat it will boil, which I guess means it doesn’t work?

Will report back tomorrow. Wish me luck!

(PS for more detailed instructions just follow the link above and read the first comment, by “New in Florida”)

Updated to add: This worked like a charm. Notes:

  • I did not use a thermometer, just heated the milk until it was not quite boiling (starting to get frothy on top, but not yet frothing up properly), and I let the milk cool in the fridge overnight.
  • When I shook it in the Easiyo it frothed up so much there was barely room for the other 500ml milk. To settle I gently tapped the container on the bench, but I also had to scoop out a lot of froth! The second go around I didn’t shake so much and it was okay.

Edited again to add: I have now put together all my making yoghurt experience into one article on the main Sustainable Suburbia site: How to Make Yoghurt From Scratch in an Easiyo Yogurt Maker.

How to cook rhubarb pie – delicious and so easy!

(Skip to Rhubarb Pie recipe)

Cutting into the perfect rhubarb pieToday I made the best rhubarb pie ever.

As always, instead of sticking with the recipe I found as written, I’ve mixed up a few different recipes and then tweaked a little. Hence a whole new post instead of just a link from my last how to cook rhubarb post.

The first time I cooked it (earlier this week) I didn’t have time to make pastry, so I used what I had in the freezer, which was reduced fat puff pastry. Now, it was certainly delicious, but hard to eat with a spoon. Also, I found the first pie a bit sweet (and I have a massive sweet tooth).

So today I tried again. For the second attempt I kept the sugar the same, but chopped the rhubarb up a bit finer so it would fill all the nooks and crannies, and added an extra roughly 200g – nearly half as much again. So without further ado, here is:

How to cook Rhubarb Pie



  • 670g fresh rhubarb, chopped finely (1/2 to 1 cm widths) (this is about 5 or 6 cups, but it’s hard to be exact since it depends how you cut it.)
  • 260g (1&1/3 cups US) white sugar
  • 45g plain flour (6 US tbsp)


  • 280g  plain flour (this is about 2 & 1/2 cups)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup light olive oil (120ml) (any vegetable oil would do really)
  • 90ml milk
  • Optional: an egg and some sugar for the top of the pie.


Preheat the oven to 230C (450F). Lightly grease a 9 inch (approx 23 cm) pie dish.

Assuming you’ve already chopped the rhubarb, we’ll start with the pastry:

  1. Dry: Mix the flour and salt in a bowl.
  2. Wet: Measure the olive oil separately and then add the milk, but don’t mix it together.
  3. Pour wet ingredients into dry and gently mix (I used a fork) until you have an even dough.
  4. Divide the mixture into roughly 1/3 : 2/3.
  5. Place the larger ball onto a large piece of wax paper, and place another piece of paper over the top, then roll it out.
  6. Peel off the top sheet and flip pastry over into 9 inch pie dish.
  7. Peel off the bottom sheet and press pastry into the dish. If there are bits hanging over the edge either use them to fill in any holes in the side or add them to the other ball. Later you will repeat this process to make the top of the pie.
uncooked rhubarb pie without the top pastry. Photo

Note that Ms 6 cup up the rhubarb in this case so some of it isn’t as small as I’d like, but it was still just fine.

Now the filling:

  1. Mix together the flour and sugar. Sprinkle roughly half of this into the bottom of the pie, making sure to cover the whole of the pastry (this soaks up the juices and makes sure you end up with a yummy crisp pastry, not a soggy one. Don’t worry, the sugar managers to sweeten the rhubarb plenty without being directly mixed with it.)
  2. Fill the pie with your chopped rhubarb.
  3. Sprinkle the remaining flour-sugar mixture over the top of the rhubarb.
  4. Roll out and flip the top piece of pastry the same way you did the bottom one. Seal it around the edges, and slice three or four holes in the top to let the steam escape.
  5. Optionally beat an egg and use a pastry brush to brush the top of the pie with it, then sprinkle some sugar over the top. This creates a lovely attractive finish to your pie.

Baking: Cover the pie lightly with some aluminium foil to prevent the pastry burning and bake at 230C for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 175C (350F) and remove the foil, and bake for another 40-45 minutes. Serve hot or cold. (or warm). Absolutely divine when left to cool a little and then  served with a scoop vanilla ice cream and/or some pouring cream. Yummy.

Kid Number One (who has never liked rhubarb before) said the first version of the pie was the best pie he’d ever tasted, so I was prepared for him to turn his nose up at this slightly tarter version, but he devoured his slice in record time.  The husband and I both found this one much better.

Vegetarian risotto recipe with pumpkin, spinach and feta – New vegetarian dish No. 1

In keeping with my pledge to cook more vegetarian dishes, I tried this easy risotto recipe last night. This was a delicious recipe a friend cooked me for lunch earlier in the week, which I modified (of course – I can’t help myself) and served up to my family. The husband and I enjoyed it. Kid number one ate the feta and a little of the risotto (the rice) but no vegies. Kid number two nibbled on some feta and decided she didn’t like it. And babe number three ate a little of the rice and chewed on the broccoli and asparagus.

Here’s the recipe:

steamed pumpkin with greens


1 medium onion, diced
2 cups arborio rice
4½ cups stock (whatever sort you like, but obviously it’s not vegetarian if you use a meat stock)
~1 cup chopped pumpkin
1 bunch asparagus, chopped
~½ cup chopped broccoli
~1 cup baby spinach leaves
pinch salt
350g jar feta cheese marinated in olive oil and herbs (I used a brand called South Cape, but I’m sure there are other options)


  1. Heat a large pan (I used a wok shaped pan with a flat bottom) over a medium high heat and add about 2 tbps of oil out of the feta (smells divine as it heats).
  2. Saute the onion until translucent and starting to turn golden.
  3. Turn the heat down to medium. Add the 2 cups of arborio rice and stir until it begins to change colour (about 5 minutes).
  4. Add 1/2 cup stock and stir until absorbed (instead of stock, you could use white wine for this step).
  5. Add another 2 cups stock and simmer until absorbed, stirring constantly. Add more liquid as necessary to achieve a nice texture for your rice. This took about 1/2 hour and I reckon I added close to another cup of water. You could use more stock, but my stock was homemade and quite concentrated.
  6. Now, this is the tricky bit. While that’s happening you need to steam the other vegies. I had Kid Number 1 help with the stirring, but if you don’t have someone to help, well you just have to make sure you are organised with the vegetables all chopped beforehand. So – I steamed the vegies one kind at a time, because they take different lengths of time, but just reusing the same water.
    • Pumpkin – I didn’t time it, opps! But I think it was about 10-15 minutes. According to this eHow article on How to Steam a Pumpkin 15 minutes should do it. Unlike this author I just served with the skin left on, but this can depend on what sort of pumpkin you choose (and how lazy you are!).
    • Broccoli – I used frozen and steamed it for about 5 or 6 minutes.
    • Asparagus – I steamed this for about 5 minutes, but 3 would have been fine.
    • Spinach – this I didn’t steam at all!
  7. Once it’s all cooked, drain the excess oil off the feta (but keep it, it’s great for cooking with) and pour the feta in to the rice and mix gently. Do a taste test to see if you need to add some salt. Then add the baby spinach and steamed vegetables. Stir gently until well mixed and the spinach is wilted.
  8. Serve. Yum!

Serves 4 adults. Probably took me about an hour all up.

Note:  The vegetables are all optional really. My friend just used baby spinach, and she used 2 leaks instead of an onion. The marinated feta is really the defining characteristic of this risotto. The pumpkin was a really good addition though, as was the asparagus.

Full disclosure: I actually used chicken stock, so it wasn’t a strictly vegetarian dish, but only because I had some on hand after cooking a roast chicken on the weekend, so it wasn’t as though I went out and bought it (which I would have had to do to produce a vegetable stock today).

How to cook rhubarb, fresh from the garden (or from the shop, if need be)

I harvested my biggest load yet of Rhubarb yesterday, and there’s still more in the garden. We have had such a wet Spring that it is growing prolifically. So now the question is how to cook rhubarb? Of course I’ve stewed it before (instructions below), but I’m going to try something different this time.

Did you know that rhubarb is actually botanically classified as a vegetable, not a fruit? This is only our second year growing it. I planted a few crowns that my mother dug up for me in the autumn before last, and harvested enough last year to make several small batches, which I stewed and ate over a week or so on my breakfast cereal. No-one else in the family was particularly keen on it (weirdos), but I think we had it once or twice for dessert with ice cream, all the same.

This time though, I’m going to try something different. I’m going to cook rhubarb pie. I spent quite some time yesterday Googling “how to cook rhubarb” and came up with a gazillion and one rhubarb pie recipes, some with strawberries, some with apple (I often stew it with apple) and some plain.

The one I liked the sound of best was plain, with the flour and sugar mixture placed half in the pie crust under the raw chopped rhubarb, and the other half over the top of it. Apparently this makes sure the juices from the rhubarb don’t soggify (do you think that’s a word?) the pastry, and creates a nice crisp crust. Of course, I’ve lost the link now, but I’ll find it again and if it works out I’ll post photos and add a link to the recipe.
Freshly harvested rhubarb stems

In the meantime, here’s how to cook rhubarb the way my mother and Nanna both did it:

  1. Clean the Rhubarb stems and trim the ends (NB the leaves are filled with oxalic acid so DO NOT eat them!).
  2. Chop it up, into about 1/2-1 inch pieces.* Use your judgement with this, some stems are much thinner than others, so they’re not all going to be the same anyway – no need to be slavish about getting it exact.
  3. Pop it in a saucepan with just enough water to cover – rhubarb has a high water content, so you don’t need a lot of extra water, but don’t leave it to boil dry as I did twice (twice!) last year. A heavy based saucepan is best.
  4. Add sugar – now, this is variable to taste basically, but start with about 1/2 cup per 1/2 kilo (or per pound) and see what you think. Some people like up to a cup per pound. You can also add some apple in which case you don’t need as much sugar.
  5. Simmer until the mixture is mushy – look for the rhubarb strings to be mixed through out, rather than solid pieces. Though again, this is a matter of taste – but that’s how my mother always made it, so that’s how I make it too.

That’s it. That’s how you stew rhubarb.  Now you can eat it, either hot with ice cream, or cold on your breakfast cereal tomorrow (or stirred through your porridge, mmm).

Tomorrow, how to cook rhubarb pie.

*Why am I talking in inches? I could say 1-3 cm, which is not the same as 1/2-1 inches, but there you go. I told you it didn’t need to be exact 🙂

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