This recipe is from the ‘make + freeze’ section from the new Donna Hay magazine (50th issue, autumn). I always love the make + freeze section of the magazine; as the name suggested, I can make the dish and freeze it in the freezer for the next time when I need a quick meal 🙂

The recipe is for spicy chorizo and beans; it’s an incredibly easy to make dish and taste oh-so-wonderful. Not only that, it also has the goodness of the beans :). The other good thing is that in the magazine Donna Hay showed a few dishes that can be made from this chorizo and beans stew. You can serve it with crusty bread, have it as an easy pasta sauce, or make cheesy chorizo and bean pies.

I divided the stew into 4, used 1 portion for the cheesy pies and put the other 3 portions into separate airtight containers and freeze them. The cheesy pies taste so delicious!! No kidding! When you bite into the crispy pastry, you will get the tasty chorizo, soft beans in a rich and spicy tomato sauce combined with the melting cheese. It’s just so great!

I will definitely make the pies again and will also try the stew with pasta next week 🙂

Chorizo and beans

(recipe from Donna Hay magazine, autumn issue 50)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 chorizo, sliced
  • 2 red onions, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 4 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 2 x 400 gr can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3 x 400 gr can beans. I used 2 cans of mixed beans and 1 can of chick peas
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Step 1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the chorizo, onion and garlic and cook for 8-10 minutes or until golden and tender.

Step 2. Add the chilli, paprika, oregano, tomato and sugar. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Add the beans and balsamic vinegar and cook for 2 minutes.

To freeze:

Divide the chorizo and beans into 4 portions and place in airtight containers or zip lock bags. Freeze for up to 3 months.

To defrost:

Place the container or bag in the fridge overnight and allow to defrost completely.

Cheesy chorizo and bean pies

(recipe from Donna Hay magazine, autumn issue 50)

(makes 4 pies)

  • 1 portion chorizo and beans (¼ of the above recipe)
  • 2 store-bought puff pastry sheets
  • 1 small handful of fresh oregano leaves
  • 4 cheddar cheese slices
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Step 1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cut each puff pastry sheet into 4 equal squares. Place 4 squares on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper.

Step 2. Divide the chorizo and beans among the 4 squares, sprinkle with the oregano leaves and top with the cheddar cheese slices. Top with the remaining pastry squares and press edges to seal. Brush the pies with the lightly beaten egg and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

love this delicious hearty pie 🙂



This dish is one of the many dishes I enjoyed in my childhood. My mom made this often. The sweet and sour sauce is very versatile and can be served with other ingredients, such as fried chicken, egg or vegetables :). The sauce is very simple to make with the main ingredient of store-bought tomato sauce :P. I used frozen peas for the sauce; but other vegetables such as diced capsicum or sliced cucumber goes well in the sauce too.

I used basa fillets in this dish. Basa is a firm white fish imported from Vietnam and it’s considerably cheap in Australia; it’s about AUD 10.00 per kilo. You can use a deep frier if you have one to fry the fish. I just shallow-fried them in a wok. Best served with hot steamed rice 🙂 .It’s very yummy!

Fish in sweet and sour sauce

(serves 4 – 6)

  • 700 gr white fish fillets. I used basa
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • corn flour
  • oil to shallow fry

Sweet and sour sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon corn flour, mixed with 1¼ cup cold water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
  • salt & pepper
  • ¼ cup frozen peas

Step 1. Heat the oil in a wok over medium fire to shallow fry the fish. Cut the fish fillet into stripes and season with salt, pepper and lime juice. Coat each fish piece with corn flour and shallow fry the fish in batches until golden brown. Place the cooked fish on paper towel to drain the excess oil.

Step 2. Meanwhile, to make the sauce, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add in garlic and onion and fry for about 5 minutes or until onion is soft. Add in tomato sauce, soy sauce, vinegar and stir well. Add in the corn flour and water mixture and stir gently until the sauce is boiling and thickened. Add in the sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Add in the frozen peas and further cook for 1 minute. Set aside and keep warm.

Step 3. Place the fish pieces in a serving bowl and pour the sauce over. Best served with hot steamed rice.

a dish of my childhood 🙂


Carbonara is probably the second best-known pasta sauce out there (second to bolognaise). It’s a very simple sauce and it’s favourited by many people because of the bacon pieces (who does not like bacon!) in a rich creamy sauce. I love carbonara and I do prefer the cream-based pasta sauce than the tomato-based. But sometimes I do feel guilty having pasta carbonara, if I let myself remember the ingredients of the sauce 😛

This version of fettuccine carbonara uses low-fat dairy and prosciutto to make a healthier dish. The taste is still yummy and I enjoy it even more knowing that it’s quite a healthy dish :). The crispy prosciutto are a gem!

The dish is simple to make; it’s a bit tricky when heating up the egg mixture. Do make sure to heat the egg mixture over low heat and stir constantly so the egg mixture lightly set (does not turn solid). I took photos while cooking so I did overcook the pasta sauce a little bit; the sauce should be more liquid and creamier than this.

It’s normally served with fettuccine, but other pasta can be used as well.

Fettuccine carbonara

(from ‘Cook smart for a healthy heart’, Reader’s Digest, 2004)

(serves 4)

  • 350 gr fettuccine. I used dry fettuccine from the supermarket
  • 8 slices prosciutto (about 100 gr)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat cream
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-fat ricotta cheese
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • pepper to taste

Step 1. Cook the fettuccine in salted boiling water until al dente.

Step 2. Meanwhile, dry fry the prosciutto slices in a hot frying pan for 2-3 minutes or until just crisp. Remove and drain on paper towel, then crumble or snip into small pieces. Set aside.

Step 3. Beat the eggs with the cream, then mix in the ricotta, half of the parmesan cheese and a little pepper.

Step 4. Drain the pasta. Return the empty pan to the heat and pour in the egg mixture. Heat for 1  minute over low heat, stirring  constantly, then tip the drained pasta back into the pan. Toss the pasta with the creamy egg to coat the strands with the mixture. The heat of the pan and the hot pasta will lightly set the eggs to make a creamy sauce. Divide pasta in serving bowls and sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese and the prosciutto pieces.

a healthier pasta carbonara 🙂


One kilogram of chestnuts is one of my impulse buyings when I went to Vic market last Friday (the others are red long chillies and chocolate brioche :P). The chestnuts I got were very big and only AUD10 a kilo!! I already know what to do with them when buying them. Roast them, of course!

In Melbourne city area, on the side of the road or near the intersection, the roast chestnuts sellers emerge during this season (autumn/ winter). They roasted the chestnuts in front of you on a small and portable grill. The smell of roasting chestnuts is so oh-la-la. Whenever I walked past them, it always makes me want to get a little paper bag filled with them. The price for a handful of roasted chestnuts is quite dear, tho. It’s like AUD3.50 or something *sigh…*

I never really know how to correctly roast them. I tried roasting them a couple of times a long while ago; I thought it was ok, but the peeling of the chestnuts can indeed be a nightmare. Before, I actually peeled them when I am about to eat them; i.e. that can be when they are already cold. I did my research on the Internet on how to roast chestnuts in the oven. The most important things are you cut a cross on each chestnut to allow the steam to escape during roasting (otherwise they can explode!) and that you must peel them when they are still warm (including the inner thin skin layer), otherwise they will be impossible to peel. There you go! Peel them when they are still warm.

So I did all that and still found peeling chestnuts is incredibly hard. Some chestnuts are easy, but the others are like impossible to peel the inner thin skin layer; it stubbornly sticks on the nuts. So we ended up breaking a lot of chestnuts during the peeling process and some we just need to bit the chestnut off from its thin skin. I don’t entirely mind this – Yum! :P. We still managed to get some intact peeled roast chestnuts for the photos. The peeled roast chestnuts did not stay around for too long. They are soo sweet and yummy!

If anyone know some tips to peel the chestnuts more easily, please kindly enough let me know 🙂

Roast chestnuts

(from ‘’ on how to roast chestnuts in the oven)

  • 1 kg chestnuts

Step 1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Rinse the chestnuts, drain and dry well. Cut an X on one side of each chestnut using a sharp knife all the way through the skin to allow the steam to escape.

Step 2. Arrange the chestnuts on a baking tray with the cut sides up. Roast for 10 minutes, then turn the chestnuts to the other side and roast for a further 10 minutes.

Step 3. Place the chestnuts in a bowl and cover with tea towel. Peel the chestnuts as soon as you can handle them, including the inner thin skin. They will be very difficult to peel once cold (Trust me!). Place the peeled chestnuts in a jar or bowl and enjoy 🙂


I am always excited when cooking lentils 🙂 I always think I did not cook lentil often enough, despite the health benefit it has (lentil is legume, it is recommended to have at least 2 serves of legume every week). Lentils are high in protein and fibre and they help lower cholesterol. For more information, see here.

The type of lentil used in this recipe is puy lentil. It costs AUS4.00 for 250 gr in Victoria market. This recipe is incredibly easy to make and every ingredient in this recipe says ‘healthy’ :). Fish, lentils, celery, onions; and the flavour comes from fresh chillies, thyme and bay leaves. The dish tastes fresh and clean.

The cooked lentils in this recipe can be matched with other fish or meat, such as pan-fried chicken breast. Other vegetables like capsicum or leeks can also be used for the lentils. So there you go, many variations can be made from this recipe; this dish will definitely be one of our regular dinner menus 🙂

Fish with spicy puy lentils

(adapted from the recipe from ‘Cook smart for a healthy heart’, Reader’s Digest, 2004)

(serves 4)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 red chillies, finely sliced
  • 250 gr puy lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 x white fish fillet (about 150 gr each). I used baramundi
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon wedges to serve

Step 1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over medium fire. Add onion, celery and chillies and cook gently for 2 minutes. Stir in the lentils. Add the water, thyme and bay leaves and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Add salt to taste. If at the end of this time the lentils have not absorbed all the stock, drain them (you can use the excess stock to make a soup).

Step 2. Ten minutes before the lentils are ready, preheat a non-stick frying pan over medium fire. Mix together the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and pepper. Pour the mixture over the fish fillets. Pan-fry the fish fillets for about 4 minutes on each side or until the fish flakes easily.

Step 3. Spread the lentils in a serving plate and top with the fish fillets. Serve with lemon wedges.

Lentil is good for you!


Sesame prawn toasts are normally served as a starter or snack in yum cha restaurants. I have to say I would love to have them when having yum cha, but I normally did not order them as they tend to be oily and greasy, because they are deep-fried in oil. I know they are delicious, though!

This version I got in the cookbook ‘Cook smart for a healthy heart’ is baked, not fried. So, the toasts are not greasy and they are certainly a lot healthier than the deep-fried version. Use the multigrain bread rather than the white bread.

I love this healthy version of sesame prawn toasts. It’s very easy to prepare, ready in about 30 minutes and no more messy oil :). I will definitely make this again!

Sesame prawn toasts

(adapted from recipe in ‘Cook smart for a healthy heart’ book, by Reader’s Digest (Australia), 2004)

(serves 2)

  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat thickened cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 4 slices multigrain bread
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds

Prawn topping

  • 250 gr peeled raw prawns
  • ½ red capsicum, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large garlic cloves, grated
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-fat thickened cream
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Step 1. Preheat oven to 200°C. For the topping, place the prawn and capsicum in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Place the mixture into a mixing bowl. Add in the spring onions, garlic, lemon rind, cayenne pepper, thickened cream and pepper and mix all the ingredients together well to make a spreadable paste. Set the mixture aside until ready to cook. The topping can be prepared ahead and kept in a fridge for 4 hours.

Step 2. Beat together the cream and eggs until smooth. Dip the slices of bread in the mixture to coat both sides well, then place them on a baking paper on a baking tray (I made sure I used up all the cream and eggs mixture, that all was absorbed by the breads).

Step 3. Spread the topping evenly over the breads, spreading right up to the edges. Sprinkle evenly with sesame seeds.

Step 4. Bake the breads for 20 – 25 minutes or until they are crisp and golden brown. Cut each bread into 4 squares and serve immediately.

I love these bite-size snacks 🙂


This delicious pork stew is one of the recipes we got from the Bumbu Bali Balinese Cooking school. Ig and I did a full day Balinese cooking program when we were in Bali last May 2009. We really had fun doing the program. The class size is kept to a small group of 10 people. The program started early in the morning where we visited the local and fish market. The head chef (Heinz) joined us from the morning and gave us a brief overview about Balinese food. He bought a variety of Balinese cakes and fruits in the market for our breakfast :). After the market, we went straight to the restaurant/ cooking school. We had our Balinese breakfast together in a huge wooden table in the middle of the garden. It was such a nice day and it’s good to be in an open area like that.

After breakfast, we headed straight to the kitchen (the kitchen is in open area as well). We learnt and made 22 recipes of Balinese food; each of us in the class took turn in making the dishes. For more information about the cooking school, see here.

The 22 dishes that we prepared and made were basically our lunch! What a feast!

This pork stew is considerably easy to make and does not have a long list of spices and ingredients like the typical Balinese foods are. It has a lot of garlic, shallots, ginger and chillies; and it uses the much-loved kecap manis or the Indonesian sweet soy sauce. I made this in the weekend; kept it in the fridge and served it a couple days after. It tastes better when reheated 🙂

Pork stew in sweet soy sauce

(adapted from recipe from ‘Bumbu Bali’, Balinese Cooking, Bali, Indonesia)

(serves 4)

  • 800 gr diced lean pork
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 70 gr shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 50 gr garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 50 gr ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 4 tablespoons sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • 10 bird’s eye chillies, left whole
  • 2 cups water

Step 1. Heat oil in a heavy saucepan. Add shallots and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes over medium heat or until lightly coloured.

Step 2. Add pork and ginger, continue to sauté for 2 more minutes over high heat. Add sweet and salty soy sauce and black pepper; continue to sauté for 1 minute.

Step 3. Add the chillies. Then, add the water, little by little (ratio of 2 parts meat to 1 part liquid), and simmer over medium heat for approximately 1 hour.

Step 4. When cooked, there should be very little sauce left and the meat should be shiny and dark brown. If the meat becomes too dry during cooking, add a little more water. Best served with hot steamed rice.