Quick and spicy dinner

Some nights round here, there isn’t a lot of time, or for that matter, inclination, to cook. It’s good to have a few quick recipes on hand to make an easy meal from ingredients you have on hand.

This recipe is based loosely on the Italian pasta sauce alla Amatriciana—a spicy tomato based sauce flavoured with smoky bacon. But in this version, I have replaced the bacon with chorizo sausage, which amps up the spicy factor a bit more.

The whole dish takes about 20 minutes to throw together, which is perfect when you’re juggling homework, bathtime and bedtime.

Penne with tomato and chorizo sauce

Adapted from The Food I Love, by Neil Perry

Serves 2

1 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 chorizo sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced about 0.5cm thick
1 400g can diced tomatoes
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
200g penne
freshly grated parmesan cheese

Put water on for pasta.

Heat olive oil in a frypan over medium-high heat and fry onion for 2-3 minutes until soft and golden.

Add garlic, dried pepper flakes and chorizo sausage and saute for 3-4 minutes until sausage starts to brown around edges.

Add tomatoes and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Meanwhile, cook the penne pasta until al dente.

Drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Divide into two pasta bowls and add parmesan cheese to taste.


1. If the sauce thickens up a bit too much, add a bit of the pasta cooking water to the pan to thin it out.


When life gives you pumpkins

Sometimes, life gives you pumpkins. In our vege patch this summer, we ended up with a rogue pumpkin plant that gave us 3 small but delicious pumpkins. I’m not entirely sure, but I think they were Golden Nugget pumpkins. And they were definitely the nicest pumpkins we’ve grown in the last few years.

Anyway, when faced with a bounty of unexpected pumpkins, you have to think of something to do with them. They were too small to make much pumpkin soup, so one I roasted alongside potatoes and a chicken for a delicious roast dinner. Another went into a curry. But the third made us a delicious meal combined with lamb, green beans and almonds. The recipe was a hybrid, combining the best parts of two Donna Hay recipes: one for a roast pumpkin and couscous salad (from her cookbook The New Cook), and the other for lamb with couscous and spiced almonds (from Simple Dinners). The result was a delicious autumn meal!

Lamb and pumpkin couscous with spiced almonds

Serves 4

1 small pumpkin, peeled and cut into chunks
1 and 1/2 tsp ground cumin
3 tbs olive oil, plus extra for brushing
120g blanched almonds
2 tsp sesame seeds
2 tbs honey
2 X 250g lamb loin/backstrap
sea salt and black pepper to taste
400g (2 c) instant couscous
2 c water
50g butter
1/2 c mint leaves, roughly chopped
150g green beans, trimmed
Tzatziki to serve

Preheat oven to 200C.

Toss the pumpkin with 1/2 tsp cumin and 2 tbs olive oil and a large pinch of sea salt, and spread out on baking tray. Roast for 20-30 minutes until tender.

Toss almonds and sesame seeds with 1 tbs olive oil, 1 tsp cumin and honey and spread out on non stick baking paper on a tray. Bake for 10 minutes until golden. Cool slightly and break or chop into rough pieces.

Brush meat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes each side in grill pan or frying pan over high heat, or to liking. Rest for 5 minutes then slice.

Cover green beans with water and microwave for a couple of minutes to blanch (or steam or boil until bright green but still crisp).

Place couscous into heatproof bowl. Boil 2 c water and pour over couscous, swirl to mix. Add butter, cover and stand for 5 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork.

Toss couscous with pumpkin and green beans. Divide between plates. Top with sliced lamb and scatter with mint and spiced nuts.

Serve with tzatziki if desired.


Sunshine on a plate

A couple of weekends ago, we had one of those glorious late summer days, where the sun was shining, there was no wind and the day was just begging for a lazy afternoon of friends and BBQs. Lucky for us, we’d seen the weather forecast and invited a few families over to lounge around our backyard watching the kids play.

The day also coincided with ripe corn growing in our vege patch. So I decided to make a salad with just picked corn to go with the BBQ. I searched around the web for a recipe that kind of matched what I had in mind—I didn’t want anything too complicated. And I found an old recipe on US celebrity chef Emeril’s website that ticked all the boxes.

It matched the day perfectly—sunshine on a plate!

Corn, feta, tomato and risoni salad

Inspired by Emeril’s Orzo Salad with Corn, Feta and Tomatoes.

3 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup uncooked risoni pasta
4 ears of fresh sweetcorn
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
3 spring onions, chopped
1 jar of marinated feta cheese in olive oil, drained and cheese crumbled into small pieces

To make the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil and crushed garlic in a jar and shake to mix. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Use a knife to cut the kernels off the ears of corn. Cook risoni for 5-6 minutes in boiling water. Add the corn kernels and cook for 2-3 minutes more, until both corn and pasta are tender.

Drain corn and pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Add about half of the dressing and toss to coat.

Allow to cool, then add the remaining ingredients and toss with the rest of the dressing.

Serve at room temperature or chill before serving.


1. Risoni is a small rice shaped pasta similar to orzo.

2. I used marinated feta cheese because that’s what my husband brought home from the shops. You could substitute regular feta cheese, crumbled into small pieces. You could also use some of the marinade from the cheese in the dressing in place of olive oil.

If you’re interested in seeing more of my recipes click here.