Tamarind and Lime Pickled Leader Prawns with Green Papaya and Rambutan Salad




Talk about being pushed out of my comfort zone, this week I spoke on live to air radio about cooking, my blog, local produce, and how I work with it in each place I visit. It all happened within a couple of hours. A phone call from the station, asking me whether I’d like to do it and a few questions about myself and what I’ve been doing, then, to answering a phone call at 3.20pm and waiting for the music to finish and the presenter to introduce me. He was relaxed and friendly, and once my nerves calmed down, it was really fun and an awesome experience. What a funny day that was.
Anyway, the whole reason for the segment was to advertise a competition run by the ABC to find regional recipes from around Australia to include in a Cookbook celebrating Australian cuisine and local produce.
So here is my entry! The tropical produce up here in darwin is so beautiful, I can’t get enough! I’ve used the local Leader prawns from the trawlers down at Francis Bay, green papaya from my friends garden, and the rambutans, onion, ginger, chillies, mint and limes from the Rapid Creek Market. With the rest of the ingredients form the local Asian Grocer, I didn’t even need to visit a large supermarket. Which makes me very happy!
I’ve been wanting to try these local Leader prawns since I first saw them, they are so massive, three of them was more than enough for me. However, they are really delicious, with a beautiful texture, made even more special by pickling them in this delicious marinade. You could use any prawns in this recipe through, and it would also work with fish or squid, just omit the blanching part of the process.
This is my third green papaya salad recipe for the blog, obviously, it’s just too delicious. Along with the sweet rambutans, the crunchy coconut, the tangy prawns and the big beautiful edible rice bowl. This is such an exciting meal, that’s impressive whilst still being really simple and easy. I hope you give it a try!






Serves 2


500g raw Leader prawns, or other large prawns such as King or Tiger
1 long red chilli, finely chopped
Juice of 3 limes
3cm piece ginger, chopped into tiny matchsticks
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp palm sugar
1 tsp tamarind puree
1 tsp fish sauce
salt and pepper
1 small papaya, julienned or grated
6 rambutans, peeled, quartered and de-seeded
1 small spanish onion, very finely sliced
1/2 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup toasted coconut chips
2 rice cakes with sesame seeds


Peel and de-vien the prawns, leaving the tails on for presentation if desired.
Combine the chilli, lime juice, ginger, sesame oil, sugar, tamarind, fish sauce and salt and pepper in a shallow, non-reactive dish.
Bring a pot of water to the boil. Drop in the prawns and cook for 30secs, no longer. Strain and place in the dish with the marinade. Stir to combine and arrange so that all the prawns are submerged in the marinade. Cover and place in the fridge for 6 hours.
When ready to serve, toss together the papaya, rambutans, onion, and mint.
Cook the rice cakes, one at a time, in the microwave, on high for 1min.
To serve, divide the salad between the rice cakes. Top with the prawns, some of the marinade (this acts as the dressing), and sprinkle with the coconut chips.



Maple Roasted Pumpkin, Kale, Blue Vein and Wild Rice Salad with Pomegranate Molasses

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How awesome are vegetables! They are so versatile, exciting, colourful, textural, interesting, and above all, nourishing. I love treating my vegetables as the main point of a meal, all you need is a bit of love and a few extra touches, and the next thing you know you’ll be turning your humble piece of pumpkin thats been hiding at the bottom of your veggie draw, into a beautiful, shining, and delicious star!

I came across this Naranka Gold Pumpkin at the markets here, I’ve never seen it before, but, as I love to roast pumpkin with its skin on, I thought the look of this pumpkin’s golden skin was very enticing. Roasted to perfection with a hint of sweetness and citrus, it was absolutely delicious. Not to mention the nutty wild rice, the bursts of sweetness from the pomegranate, the earthiness of the kale and the strong scent of the blue vein. It is perfectly satisfying as a main meal but would also be great as part of a feast, along with roasted meats, spreads, other salads and breads. You could also replace the rice with quinoa and the blue vein with goats cheese or feta.




Serves 4


1 1/2 cups blended black, red and brown rice

1/2 a small naranka gold pumpkin, about 800g-1kg, cut into thick 5cm wedges, seeds scraped out

1 tbs golden syrup

1 tbs lemon infused olive oil

1/2 cup mixed seeds, such as pepitas, sunflower and pine nuts, toasted

4 large kale leaves, about 120g, stems cut out and leaves finely shredded

Small red onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

Handful of fresh parsley and mint, roughly chopped

120g blue vein cheese. crumbled

Fruit from 1 fresh pomegranate

2 tbs pomegranate molasses

Splash of red wine vinegar and olive oil

Salt and pepper


Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celcius. Line an oven tray with baking paper.

In a large bowl, toss the pumpkin with the lemon infused olive oil, maple syrup and some salt and pepper.

Lay the pieces of pumpkin in a single layer on the lined baking tray. Place in the oven and cook for about 45 mins, turning halfway, until golden and tender, crisp edges are good. Remove and allow to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Boil the rice until tender. Drain, and transfer to a large bowl to cool.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion and garlic until soft, about 5mins. Add the fennel seeds, cumin seeds, and kale, and continue to sauté for another 5mins. Add to the bowl with the rice, along with half of the toasted seeds, half of the pomegranate, the fresh herbs, a splash of red wine vinegar and olive oil, and some salt and pepper. Mix well.

Empty the rice mixture out onto a large serving plate. Top with the pumpkin, the rest of the seeds, the rest of the pomegranate, the blue vein, and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses.




Seafood Laksa (kind of)



This is another favourite from the weekend markets here in Darwin, each stall has their own recipe; all equally delicious. I wouldn’t ever claim this to be anywhere near an authentic replica, I used a lot of what I had on hand, and also tried to use a little less oil compared to the traditional recipes. I love this dish for that reason though, so long as you have a few of the key elements, you will no doubt be able to produce a delicious meal.

Another awesome part about this dish is that half of the elements don’t even get added until the very end, so, by putting all of these ingredients out on the table, you not only make for a colourful and exciting table full of food, you also allow people to top their soups in whichever way they choose. This is a great way of catering for a mix of, meat eaters, seafood lovers/haters, and vegetarians. To the list of toppers I have included in this recipe, you could also add; shredded chicken, boiled egg, cucumber, carrot, cabbage…anything you think might be nice.

One more awesome thing…. it’s incredibly delicious as a cold dish the next day; if you manage to keep any leftovers that is!



Laksa Paste


1 1/2 tbs dried shrimp, soaked in 1/2 cup boiling water for 10 mins

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp turmeric

2 long red chillies

2 birdseye chillies

3cm piece fresh ginger, peeled, diced

1 red onion, peeled, diced

2 stalks lemongrass, white and pale green part, diced

2 cloves garlic, peeled, diced

10 roasted cashews

2 tsp roasted shrimp paste

1 tsp peanut oil


In a frying pan, over medium high heat, dry fry the spices for about 1-2mins, stirring constantly, until fragrant. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and grind into powder.

Place the spices and the soaked shrimp, along with the soaking water, and all the remaining ingredients into a small food processor or a bowl deep enough to process with a stick blender. Process until a smooth paste forms.

Transfer to a jar and keep refrigerated. It will last about 1 -2 weeks.

Seafood Laksa

Serves 4


2 tbs peanut oil

12 large green prawns, peeled (reserved), de-viened, tails left on

1/2 cup laksa paste

6 cups fish/chicken/or vegetable stock

400ml coconut cream

250g firm tofu, cubed

250g green beans, trimmed and halved

1 tsp coconut sugar

1 tbs fish sauce

Juice of 1 lime

salt and pepper

500g firm white fish fillet, cut into 4cm cubes

200g vermicelli noodles

200g wide rice noodles

Bean sprouts, spring onion, chilli, coriander, mint, thai basil, fried shallots, roasted peanuts, lime wedges, to serve


In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Fry the reserved prawn shells for about 3 mins, until they turn red. Remove with a slotted spoon, leaving as much oil in the saucepan as possible.

Add the laksa paste to the saucepan and cook, stirring, for 2-3 mins.

Add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium, add the coconut cream and bring to the simmer. Add the tofu, beans, sugar, fish sauce, lime juice and some salt and pepper and allow to simmer for 10-15mins.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan of boiling water, cook the rice noodles and vermicelli, cooking the thicker ones first for about 2 mins, then adding the vermicelli for about 1 min. Strain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.

Add the fish and prawns to the laksa. Turn off the heat and allow to gently cook through for about 5-8mins.

Divide the noodles between the serving bowls. Top with the laksa, ensuring even distribution of ingredients.

Top with remaining ingredients as desired.












Caramel Banana and Buckwheat Crunch Ice-Cream (Vegan, Raw, Gluten Free)

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I’m a sucker for crunchy bits in my ice-cream, I love the textural difference of the creaminess and then, once in a while, a nice crunchy sweet thing pops between your teeth, although I find you never get enough of these awesome bits in store bought ice-creams.

I’d had this paper bag of buckwheat kicking around the car since I was back on the east coast of Queensland, where I had come across a cute little health food store in the middle of a fishing town. I figured it was time I did something with it. Also, a freezer full of bananas, and five or so trees here with huge bunches growing very quickly, called for some banana ice-cream!

Out of all the vegan ice-cream recipes I have tried, this one is by far the richest, sweetest and most creamy, while being the most natural at the same time! When it comes to vegan sweets, sometimes I find that many of the recipes call for so many ingredients, sometimes ones that aren’t always easily accessible. That’s why I love how simple this ice-cream is. If you wanted, you could make it with nothing but the frozen banana and it would still be delicious!

The buckwheat crunch is so good, you can use it in many other ways, like on top of fruit salad, yoghurt, other desserts, or part of a granola or trail mix. Or just eat it on it’s own. You can buy ready made ‘buckinis’ from health food stores if you don’t want to bother with this part of the process. Although it’s easy, it does take a couple of days. If you don’t have a dehydrated, you can dehydrate it in the oven by putting it on it’s lowest setting and leaving the door ajar, it should take about 8 hours. Or, if you’re impatient, like me, and your not too worried about it being technically raw, then you can just bake it in the oven at 160 degrees celcius for about 20-30mins, or until crunchy.

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Buckwheat Crunch


1 cup raw buckwheat

1/2 cup maple syrup (or liquid sweetener of your choice, you can use honey if you you don’t need it to be vegan)

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp allspice


To activate the buckwheat, place it in a large jar or bowl, cover with water, make sure there is enough water for the buckwheat to absorb. Cover, and soak in the fridge overnight.

The next day, drain and rinse the buckwheat with a sieve, rinsing until the water runs clear. Return it to the jar or bowl and cover with water again. Soak in the fridge for another 8 hours or overnight again.

Drain and rinse the buckwheat, again unit water runs clear. Drain well. Place in a bowl with the maple syrup and spices and mix well.

Spread out onto dehydrator trays (or baking trays, see alternative methods above). Dehydrate at 40 degrees, overnight.

Store in an airtight container.

Caramel Banana and Buckwheat Crunch Ice-Cream


4-6 bananas, peeled and frozen (I used 6 as they were very small organic ones, but if you get the big ones from the supermarket just use 4 or 5)

1/2 cup pitted dates, firmly packed

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup buckwheat crunch

Extra buckwheat crunch and toasted coconut chips to serve


Chop the frozen banana and place in a food processor along with the dates and vanilla. Process until smooth.

Transfer to a bowl and stir through the buckwheat crunch.

Freeze for 6-8 hours, or overnight.

To serve, top with extra buckwheat crunch and toasted coconut chips, or other toppings of your choice.



Salt and Spice Herbed Chickpeas

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Beware! These are the most addictive little things you will ever try…be careful not to eat TOO many or the next thing you know you’ll be blaming it on the dog….trust me.

But still, this never deters me from grabbing handfuls of these delicious, salty, spicy, flavourful little gems, so great with a cold beer, wine or cocktail, or even sprinkled over a green salad. I love serving them as a snack at parties or small gatherings, they always get a good reaction, and being vegan and gluten free they are friendly to everyone!

I used to serve these chickpeas at a tiny cafe/bar where we would open for dinner three nights a week. Just me and one of my best friends, creating a little corner of Europe in the middle of Newcastle, NSW, we had such a great time! We would set a tiny bowl down on the table for customers, as soon as they sat down and started reading the menu; instantly making them hungry for more delicious food and thirsty for another cold beverage…sneaky, I know.

I recently made them for some family as an afternoon treat, we also had some Steamed Artichoke with Mustard Dipping Sauce and some cocktails made with homemade syrups…it was a festive afternoon!

You can use any herbs and spices that you have on hand, just make sure they are nice and salty!

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Serves 6 as a starter


1/4 cup light olive oil

3 x 410g tins chickpeas, rinsed and drained

A couple of handfuls of fresh herbs, such as sage, oregano, thyme, leaves picked

2 tsp smoked paprika


1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp fennel seeds

pinch of dried chilli flakes

salt and pepper


Heat the oil in a large, deep sided, frying pan over high heat. Add the fresh herbs (stand back, as they will spit), and cook for 1min, or until starting to crisp. Reduce the heat to medium/high and add the chickpeas, stirring to coat. Add the spices and a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Cook, stirring often, for about 30mins, or until golden brown and starting to crisp.

Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to drain. Transfer to a clean plate and serve warm, or at room temperature with an extra sprinkle of salt.


Sticky Spiced Apricot Chicken with Quinoa and Stone Fruit and Feta Salad

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Who doesn’t love sticky, finger-lickin good, chicken wings? This is a versatile recipe, as you could serve it as a weeknight meal with the family or you could cut the wings into thirds, adjust the cooking time to a bit less and serve them as a yummy finger food at your next barbecue. I love the stone fruit, feta and red onion combination too, it’s punchy and exciting. This is a great summer time recipe, bright and cheerful!




12 whole chicken wings

2 tbs fresh ginger, grated

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 tbs worcestershire sauce

3 tbs oyster sauce

4 tbs soy sauce (use gluten free soy or tamari if necessary)

1/2 cup apricot jam

2 tsp chinese 5 spice powder

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1/2 tsp pepper

A few good handfuls of mixed mesculin leaves

2 apricot

1 peach

1 nectarine

1 plum

Handful each of parsley and mint leaves, roughly torn

100g firm feta

1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced

light olive oil

white wine vinegar

salt and pepper

Cooked quinoa and lemon wedges to serve


In a large non-reactive dish (glass is good), combine the ginger, garlic, worcestershire sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, apricot jam, chinese 5 spice, chilli flakes and pepper. Add the chicken and use hands to thoroughly cover with the marinade. Cover with cling wrap and marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hrs, but overnight is much better.

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celcius and line a large baking tray with baking paper. Arrange the chicken in a single layer and cover with foil. Bake for half an hour. Remove from oven, remove the foil and drain any liquid from the tray. Brush the chicken with some of the liquid and return to the oven without the foil. Cook for another 20-30mins, brushing with the liquid every 5mins.

For the salad, on a large platter, arrange the lettuce, fruit, herbs and onion and crumble over the feta. Drizzle with a little of the light olive oil and white wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

Serve the chicken with the salad, cooked quinoa, lemon wedges and any leftover sauces from the cooked chicken.



Thai Apple Eggplant, Chicken and Cashew Curry

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Just a quick mid-week post here to share this tasty curry. It’s one of those recipes that is so lovely to make if you’ve got a quiet afternoon to yourself (rare at this time of year), to spend some time hanging out in the kitchen, drinking a nice cold vino and whipping up this  yummy meal. Also, the curry paste recipe makes twice as much as you need so that you can keep the other half for a night when your a bit less relaxed and you can just chuck in whatever you’ve got in the fridge and still end up with a yummy dinner.

I made this with the apple eggplants as they are abundant up in Darwin, but you can use any eggplant that is available in your area or even replace it with another veg such as zucchini or sweet potato, and you could replace the water spinach with regular english or baby spinach. It’s all about what’s available to you and hopefully grown locally!


Serves 4


Curry Paste
1 tsp peppercorns
2 tbs dried shrimp
1 tsp shrimp paste
4 coriander roots, chopped
3 stems lemongrass, white and light green part, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbs ginger, chopped
1 tbs galangal, chopped
1 tsp fresh turmeric, chopped
2 long green chillies, chopped
2 small red chillies, chopped
4 kaffir lime leaves, chopped
3 tbs fish sauce
2 tbs lime juice
2 tbs coconut vinegar
2 tbs coconut sugar
The rest….
400ml can coconut cream (don’t shake before opening)
1-2 cups chicken stock
500g chicken thigh, cut into 3cm pieces
500g thai apple eggplant, tops cut off, quartered, smaller ones, halved or left whole, the pieces should be around the same size as the chicken
1 large bunch water spinach, leaves picked (reserve the stems for a stir fry or something)
230g tin water chestnuts, drained, sliced
1/2 cup roasted cashews
1/2 cup coriander, chopped
1/2 cup thai basil chopped
Steamed long grain rice, to serve

For the curry paste, in a large frying pan, over medium high heat, fry the peppercorns, dried shrimp, and shrimp paste (wrap paste in a small foil parcel), for about 5 mins or until fragrant. Set aside to cool.
In a mortar and pestle or a small bender, pound or process the peppercorns, shrimp and paste with the remaining curry paste ingredients.
You will only need 1/2 of the paste for the recipe. Keep the other half in the freezer for up to a month.
Over medium high heat, In a large/deep pan, pour the top half of the can of coconut cream and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring, for about 10mins, until the cream splits from the oil. Add the curry paste (remember, only half of what you made), and cook, stirring, for about 5-10 mins or until fragrant.
Add remaining coconut cream, 1 cup of chicken stock, chicken, eggplant and water chestnuts. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 20mins or until chicken is cooked and eggplant is tender but not falling apart. Uncover, add the spinach and cashews and cook for another 5mins.
Take off the heat and allow to cool for about 10 mins. Stir through the herbs.
Serve with the rice.

Baked Okra with Spiced Stuffing (Vegan, Gluten Free)

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If you’ve ever heard anything about okra it probably hasn’t been anything good. It isn’t a commonly used vegetable in Australia despite it’s ability to grow well in a very hot climate. In Australia you will most commonly see it in curries or stir fries, which I’ve had a few of and thoroughly enjoyed. However, when they are cooked by this method they release a gelatinous fluid, great as a thickening agent but also a texture that lots of people don’t enjoy. So, to try something different, I started looking into some lesser known ways of preparing them and through some recommendations from friends, and some research, I came across a few recipes for stuffed okra or ‘ Bharwan Bhindi’. Bharwan Bindi is an indian dish of stuffed okra and is usually deep fired and served alongside curries and rice. I wanted to make them a little more healthy and so baked them, and rather than have them as a side, served them alongside other delicious deli goods, dips and flatbread as a kind of middle eastern mezze feast. It was so moorish and delicious. Fun to eat and share at a big table with some drinks and friends.

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30-40 okra

4 tbs desiccated coconut

6 tbs chopped cashews

4 tbs sesame seeds

2 tbs chopped parsley

2 tbs chopped coriander

1 long red chilli, de-seeded, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp fresh turmeric, grated

1 tsp fresh ginger, grated

1 tsp each of ground cumin, coriander and garam masala

3 prunes, finely chopped

juice of 1 lime

1 tsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

salt and pepper

lime wedges, yoghurt, harissa, olives, hummus, flat breads and any other deli goods, to serve OR, serve alongside a dahl or other curry and some rice, raita and flatbreads. (all optional)


Pre-heat oven to 180 Degrees Celcius. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Wash the okra with cold water and pat dry with paper towel. Leave on a clean tea-towel to dry while you prepare the stuffing.

For the stuffing, combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and use your hands to really mix well and combine the flavours. Test if it’s wet enough by squeezing together in your hand, it should hold it’s shape. If it’s too dry and crumbly, add a little more oil.

For the okra, trim off the tops and cut a slit down one side, lengthways, without going through to the other side. Slide your thumb down through the cut to pry open enough space to put the stuffing in.

Use your fingers to press the stuffing into each okra, you will need about 1 tsp of stuffing per okra. Rub the outside of each okra with the mixture as well, it won’t stick but it will add flavour.

Lay them all on the lined tray, cut side up, and drizzle with a little extra olive oil.

Bake for 25-30 mins or until stuffing is dark golden and okra is tender.

Remove from oven and allow to cool on tray for 5 mins before serving on their own or with your choice of sides.


Kalamata, Sundried Tomato and Oregano Bread


This is the perfect weather to make bread, I sat the dough out on the verandah to rise and after the designated 45mins, it has risen beautifully to a big puffy ball. Finding a warm, draught free place is essential when making good soft bread. I’ve tried many bread recipes over the last few years and I’ve never found a better method than Dan Lepards’. His kneading method is very different to any I’ve come across before, most methods encourage a lot of kneading and being quite rough with the dough where Dans’ method encourages gentleness and more of an emphasis on resting times. If you want to know more about his bread making and other baking techniques I strongly encourage you to buy his book Short and Sweet, it’s very informative and interesting and everything I’ve made from it has turned out perfect.
This recipe isn’t from his book, it’s a mixture of a few different bread recipes I’ve used before as I just wanted to use up the small amount of olives and sun-dried tomatoes I had left over from an antipasto platter we’d had the day before. This then started my brain ticking and inspired some veggie burgers; Honey Roasted Eggplant and Haloumi with Roast Capsicum Sauce (click for the recipe).
Happy baking!


Makes 4 large rolls


2 1/2 cups bread flour (regular plain flour is fine though)
7g sachet dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tbs kalamata olives, pitted and quartered
2 tbs sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup luke warm water
olive oil


In a large bowl combine the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and dried oregano. Toss through the olives and sun-dried tomatoes. Add the water and with a wooden spoon, roughly incorporate into a ‘scraggly’ dough. Cover bowl with a damp tea towel and leave for 10 mins.
Lightly oil a clean work surface and hands. Bring the dough together in the bowl and turn out onto the work surface. Gently knead for 1 min. Return to the bowl and cover with tea towel again. Leave for 15 mins. Repeat this process twice more and then leave to rise for 45mins in a warm place. The dough should grow by at least another half.
Turn out onto work surface, oiled again if necessary, and knead briefly. Cut the dough into four even pieces and shape each into a round roll shape. Place on a lined baking tray, cover with the tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 45mins.
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celcius.
Once the rolls have risen, carefully cut a slit in the top of each roll and brush lightly with milk.
Bake for about 30mins, or until golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.