Category Archives: Appetisers

Beet and Yoghurt Dip



Well the summer soccer season is now officially over – which reduces our soccer commitment to only 4 days per week! Yay.

Summer soccer didn’t end quite as well as the boys had hoped, with a disappointing loss in the grand final. So our beautiful boys, competitive spirits dashed, fought tears through the medal ceremony.

Thankfully we had a party planned for them afterwards. True to form, the boys had their runners-up medals safely stashed (not so disappointed they would risk losing them!), and were in the backyard knocking around a soccer ball within moments of arriving.

Spirits revived!

My contribution to the event was dips and nibblies, and I couldn’t resist making something pink. This dip is actually from my sister Salsa, and is truly delicious as well as healthy. I often make it to use in salad sandwiches for work/school day lunches.


Beet Dill Dip


  • 450g can beets
  • 1 sm clove fresh garlic
  • 1 c Greek style yoghurt
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh dil

Finely grate beets, and crush garlic. Place in medium bowl with yoghurt and dill and mix well.  Refridgerate until slightly set. Serve with fresh chopped vegetables, chips, lavash bread or crackers.

Beet Dill Dip 2

Pumpkin Feta Pastries


I rarely have people over for dinner mid-week.  It is just so hard to get a meal going, and then get the kids into bed in anything resembling a decent hour, that it’s all too hard. However, when I do go for the mid-week option, I look for impressive + easy. This is where options like store-bought puff pastry come in very handy.

These pastries make a wonderful crunchy, sweet/savoury appetiser.


  • 5 sheets puff pastry
  • 1/2 small blue pumpkin (or butternut squash)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • olive oil
  • 20 cherry tomatoes
  • 200g marinated feta
  • 200g ricotta
  • handful continental parsley
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked

Preheat oven to 180C.  Line baking trays. Oil additional baking tray. Grate or crush garlic and spread over the oiled tray. Chop pumpkin into large even chunks (you can leave the skin on at this point), and lay on baking tray in a single layer. Bake until just getting soft – flipping over periodically to coat in the garlic and oil. Once cool enough ot handle, cut skin off the pumpkin and chop into smaller pieces.

While pumpkin is cooking, separate the pastry sheets to defrost.  Chop tomatoes into quarters, chop feta into small pieces, and finely chop the parsley.

Cut each piece of pastry into 4 squares. Prick the pastry with a fork.  Place a teaspoon of ricotta in the middle of each pastry piece. Create small mounds over the ricotta with the pumpkin, feta, tomatoes and parsley, leaving a border around the mound.  Brush the borders of each pastry with the egg and place on baking trays.

Bake for about 12 minutes or until pastry is golden.  Serve immediately.

Mint Pea Dip


I am always amazed at the volume of food that is consumed when I have people over. Especially when there are kids involved.  It’s not a bad thing – I would feel inadequate if the entire mountain of food I presented wasn’t enthusiastically devoured, but … it does pay to have some fillers in there to start things off.

Dips are a great option. They go in and out of fashion, but the reality is, people love them, and the flavour and ingredient combinations are endless.  This is one of those recipes that is more successful with kids if you don’t tell them what’s in it. I’m not sure why, but the poor old pea maintains its dreary reputation although I am sure none of the kids I know have been subjected to the over-boiled mushy nightmares of generations gone by.

This dip is lovely and fresh and is good with vegetables or crackers. I have served this one with crackers made from lavash and lebanese flat bread.


  • 2 1/2 c frozen (or fresh) peas, cooked
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 t finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T fresh lime juice
  • 2 T macadamia oil
  • 2/3 c sour cream
  • 2/3 c Greek style yoghurt

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.


  • 6 sheets of lavash bread or lebanese flat bread
  • 2 T macadamia oil
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • 1/2 t paprika
  • 1-2 t sea salt flakes
  • 2 T sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 200C.

Mix oil with cumin and paprika. Brush over the bread. Cut bread into cracker sized pieces. Sprinkle with salt and sesame seeds.

Place on tray in oven and cook until crisp (approx 5 minutes).  Be careful not to overlap the crackers on the tray, and keep an eye on them because they burn fast!

Cracker recipe courtesy of my friend Antoinette!

Kale Pesto Dip


Some time ago my dad, Prof, challenged me to find a blog worthy recipe for kale.  He loves kale. He raves about its health benefits and he grows a lot of it. It is one of the staple vegetables in his diet. He also knows that I haven’t been such an avid fan. I often find it is bitter and has a strong aftertaste, so I am sure he was snickering to himself and thinking I would fail!  But, in accepting the challenge I set out to investigate what could be done with this rugged little green leaf. 

The first thing I learned on my kale discovery adventure was that it isn’t readily available in the shops nearby, and when I do find it it is often a bit sad and tired. The second thing that I learned is that kale needs to cook for much longer than spinach – those leaves are pretty tough. The third thing that I learned is that when cooked in the right way, I can actually enjoy this healthy green vegetable.  The recipe below is SO good, which means that I met the challenge and won – but Prof has forced me to change my views, so it’s a win for him too! Thanks Dad!

The recipe here was inspired by one I found on the mamacino blog: (lovely blog  with some delicious recipes – worth a look).



  • bunch of kale, washed, de-stemmed and lightly steamed
  • 1/2 c fresh basil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • juice of 1/2 small lemon
  • 1/2 c roasted cashews
  • 1/4 c grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 c Parmesan cheese, grated

Place all ingredients except oil in a food processor and blend. Scrape the sides.  Add the oil in a thin stream as you continue to blend until smooth.  You can keep for up to a week in the fridge.  It has the same versatile uses as a traditional basil pesto.  It’s especially tasty in soup!


  • 4 T kale pesto
  • 1 c sour cream
  • 1 c Greek style yoghurt

Mix all ingredients together.  Serve with chopped raw vegetables, corn chips, or crisp breads.  Shown served with Roasted Tomato and Capsicum Salsa (




Roasted Tomato and Capsicum Salsa


Salsa is one of my favourite dips.  It is a great spring time dip – so fresh and light. It is also fabulously versatile because you can use it as an accompaniment to so many dishes.


  • 6 large tomatores
  • 1 red capsicum
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 T finely diced onions
  • 2 stalk celery finely diced
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1/2 c fresh coriander, chopped
  • olive oil

Brush oven tray with oil and preheat oven to 200C. Chop tomatoes and capscums into quarters, and peel and slice the garlic. Cook until vegetables are soft.  Chop tomatoes and capsicum into small chunks.  Finely chop garlic.

Place 0nion and celery in large saucepan and saute in 1 T olive oil until cooked through.  Reduce heat to low, and add cumin and enough water to keep ingredients from sticking to the pan.   Add tomato mix to pan. Add coriander to the pan and cook until heated through.  Remove from heat.

Once cool, serve with plain corn chips or chopped vegetables (cauliflower is especially good).

Hand-moulded Sushi


Sunday was Father’s Day.  Father’s Day means that Wal got woken up nice and early by his two loving kids. They jumped up and down on him, read him stories and gave him lots of cuddles. I spent that time at the other end of the house reading a book – really enjoying the attention being poured upon Dad.

I wasn’t surprised when Wal suggested a trip to the fish markets to buy some sushimi.  I decided to treat him to some sushi for a bit of a change.

A big platter of sushi, a glass of white wine, and a sunny backyard – perfect Father’s Dad afternoon.

Recipe Steps


  • 2 c prepared sushi rice
  • 225 g sashimi tuna, sliced thinly (it it crucial that you buy only the freshest sashimi grade fish)
  • 2 t wasabi
  • 1/2 c prepared dipping sauce
  • medium bowl with cold water with 1 T rice vinegar

Sushi Vinegar

  • 1/2 c rice vinegar
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 t salt

Mix ingredients together and set aside until required.

Dipping sauce

  • 1/2 c light soy sauce
  • 1/2 t sesame oil
  • 1/2 t finely grated orange zest
  • 5 cm length spring onion, very finely chopped

Mix all ingredients together and set aside until required.

Sushi rice

I generally use only Australian produced rice, and so the sushi rice I use is SunRice Japanese-style sushi rice. Cook rice as per instructions (I use the absorption method).

Once cooked, spread rice in a large flat bottomed non-metal bowl. Using a paddle or spatula slice through the rice repeatedly to break up the clumps and to make it cool more quickly. As you do this, gradually add sushi vinegar to the rice. You may not need all the vinegar, you don’t want the rice to become too wet or mushy.

Moulding the sushi

Once the rice is cooled and ready you need to mould it into shape.

Dip your fingers into the water bowl and shake off the excess water. Pick up about a tablespoon of rice and gently squeeze into a rectangular shape with rounded edges. Next, pick up a slice of fish, and gently press onto the rice. The rice is very sticky so the fish will stay in place. If desired you can spread a small amount of wasabi along the centre of the fish before pressing it, wasabi side down, onto the rice. Otherwise, you can have wasabi on the plate to add as the sushi is eaten.

Serve on one large communal platter, or on individual platters, with wasabi and a small bowl of dipping sauce on the side.

Sushi preparation adapted from Cooking Class Japanese / Australian Women’s Weekly. Sydney: Network Distribution Co., c2001.

Crispy King Prawns with Honey Garlic Sauce


On sunny weekends, when nothing else is on, we often make a trip to the Sydney Fish Market  to pickup some seafood for a decadent and indulgent lunch.  There are always so many fabulous seafood options to choose from.  I try to have a plan before I get there, or I am become too overwhelmed to choose!

Whatever else we buy, we almost always come home from the fish market with prawns. Everyone in our house loves prawns – so much so that there is pretty much no bad way to serve them.  However, when I say everyone loves them, that includes the cats. So if we are going to eat them, we have to be prepared to deal with the feline Jekyll to Hyde transformation that occurs as they pick up the scent.  The crazed caterwauling is horrendous. The claws come out as they reach upwards in the hope of snagging that loose tail.  They will haul themselves up our legs to get closer. They are relentless.

So in order to prepare prawns and enjoy eating them we must ban our furry friends from the house,  and play some music to drown out the howling and scratching against glass doors.

This recipe is another inspired by Kylie Kwong. Aside from the process of peeling the prawns it is very quick and easy to prepare, and is really tasty.


  • 1 kg green king prawns
  • 3 t cornflour
  • 2 T water
  • 2 T light soy sauce
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 T finely chopped coriander
  • 1 t sesame oil
  • vegetable oil for frying

Honey Garlic Sauce

  • 2 T honey
  • 2 T shao hsing wine or dry sherry
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 T light soy sauce

Peel and de-vein prawns, leaving tails intact. In small bowl, mix ingredients for Honey Garlic Sauce and set aside.

Mix cornflour and water in a medium-sized bowl.  Add prawns, soy sauce, egg and sesame oil and mix well.  In wok or frying pan heat oil until the surface seems to shimmer.  Fry the prawns in batches for 1 minute. Drain on kitchen paper.

Drain oil and reheat wok until moderately hot.  Return prawns to it with the sauce and cook for 30 seconds.

Arrange on platter and serve immediately.

Adapted from Simple Chinese Cooking / Kylie Kwong. Camberwell : Lantern, 2006.