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Making dips from scratch is a simple and fun way to add a special homemade touch when entertaining. You will find a selection of easy-to-make dips in The Food Book (pp. 176-181) including recipes suitable for vegans such as the roasted eggplant dip (p. 181), the carrot and cumin dip (p.180), for coeliacs and for people that are allergic to peanuts there is the roasted capsicum dip (p.179).

Chickpeas are an excellent base for dips—they are high in protein and fibre and complement a range of ingredients. A favourite of ours is the beetroot hummus. Here’s a recipe so you can try it at home.

Beetroot hummus dip


  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 150 grams beetroot, cooked and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • I teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
  • 2-3 teaspoons water

Place the ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth. To adjust the consistency of the dip, add in more water as desired.

The dip can be made a couple of days in advance and its lovely colour is certain to appeal to your guests. Drizzle with a little olive oil prior to serving with crackers, carrot and celery sticks.

Check out the many tasty dip recipes in The Food Book – there is sure to be one there that will tickle your fancy. With an array of vegetables in season, now is the time to get out your food processor and makes some simple, tasty starters!


The arrival of summer means we are often looking for lighter meals that require minimal cooking and preparation time. There is a chapter full of delicious salad ideas using seasonal salad ingredients in The Food Book (pp.202 – 219).

Salads can be served at any point throughout a meal – but are often served as the main dish of meals during summer. The choice of ingredients that can be used in salads are endless, but a favourite of ours, which is very  simple to prepare and suitable for vegetarians, is made by combining some rocket, toasted walnuts, canned lentils (drained) some goats cheese and slices of roasted pumpkin, splashed with balsamic vinegar. It is a perfect meal on a hot summer evening as it is quick and refreshing and contains a range of textures from the crunchy nuts to the smooth creamy cheese. If you do not want to do any cooking at all, you can always substitute the pumpkin with baby beets.

What ideas do you have for simple salads this summer?

Rocket and walnut salad

With its longer and sunnier days, spring is the perfect time to grow warm-weather loving plants such as tomatoes in your garden.

To get the best crop, plant the seedlings in an area where they will get full sun but be protected from strong winds, it is recommended you fertilise the soil and do not to plant the tomatoes in the same spot two years in a row, in order to prevent the accumulation of disease in the soil. The plants will also benefit from mulching. Tomatoes will also grow well in pots if you use a top-quality potting mix. Water the plants regularly and fertilise only when the plants begin to flower. Tomatoes turn red when they are ripe and ready to be picked.

We think nothing beats the taste of a freshly picked vine-ripened tomato. Simply slice and add to a salad or place on top of a dry biscuit to create a juicy and tasty treat.

What tips do you have for growing tomatoes? What are your favourite recipes for tomatoes?


Spring has certainly sprung, and with it a new season of fruit and vegetables. One such vegetable is the beetroot; with its firm, rich, naturally sweet, maroon-red roots and its lusciously green leaves it is a versatile, healthy and delicious vegetable. Beetroots are a good source of fibre, folate and vitamin C and it can be cooked in a variety of ways such as roasted, grilled, boiled or baked. They can even be served grated raw in salads and that’s just the roots! Did you know that the leaves of beetroots are also edible? You can use them in salads or stir-fries. But one of my favourite ways to use a beetroot is as a dip.

Here is a recipe for a delicious beetroot dip, so get in while they’re still in season; eating foods in season has lots of benefits in terms of health and nutrition, budget and environment.

beetroot dip

Roasted beetroot dip


  • 2 large beetroots, washed and trimmed
  • 1/3 cup chopped mint
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ¾ cup Greek yoghurt
  • salt and pepper


  1. Wrap each beetroot individually in foil and bake in the oven at 200°C for 40–60 minutes, until tender. When beetroots have cooled, peel and chop roughly.
  2. Place beetroot mint, garlic, lemon juice and spice into food processor and process until smooth.
  3. Place in a bowl and fold in yoghurt and season to taste.
  4. Season dip with salt and pepper and serve with dry biscuits and chopped vegetables.

Three of our tips when making this recipe are:

  1. If running short on time, use drained, canned beetroot (although we do recommend using fresh beetroots)
  2. Other flavours that go well with beetroot include allspice, bay leaf, cloves, chives, dill, garlic, mustard seed, thyme, and citrus.
  3. To avoid staining your hands, wear rubber gloves when handling beetroots.

What ways can you include beetroot in your diet this spring?

This year National Healthy Bones Week Imagewill run from 4-8 August. This event, run by Dairy Australia, aims to raise awareness of the importance of dairy and other calcium-rich foods in maintaining healthy bones and preventing osteoporosis later in life. A diet rich in calcium, along with weight-bearing activity such as walking, is essential for developing and maintaining strong bones.

Stuck for ideas about ways to consume calcium-rich foods? There are plenty of great recipes in The Food Book that include a variety of dairy products, such as milk and cheese.

For a quick meal, try making a rich, creamy alfredo sauce (The Food Book p. 243) to serve with wide fettuccini or the store cupboard classic, tuna mornay (The Food Book p. 265) – both recipes contain parmesan, which has an intense and sharp flavour.

For those with a bit more time on your hands, try making some hearty and comforting fish pies with milk (pp. 272-273). Or you could make a deliciously smooth cheese sauce (p. 429) to serve over cauliflower or broccoli.

If you are feeling like something sweet, custard sauce made from custard powder and milk (p. 449) makes for a simple yet sumptuous addition to many desserts. You could add it to old-fashioned winter favourites such as stewed apples (p. 324), baked apples (p. 329) or the steamed jam pudding (p. 347). What ideas do you have for ‘saying cheese’ and consuming foods high in calcium during National Healthy Bones Week?

The winter chill has arrived and nothing is more comforting during the colder months than making an old-fashion pudding to warm the cockles of your heart. The dull and dreary grey days will vanish with delicious, comforting favourites like golden syrup dumplings, chocolate self-saucing puddings or the apple pie with lashings of custard and cream.

Lemon delicious is definitely one of our favourite puddings from childhood. Its layers of lemony sponge cake and creamy custard are just delicious – obviously that’s why it’s called a lemon delicious! With lemons plentiful in winter, it makes a perfect dessert (check out our recipe on p. 339 of The Food Book). However, have you tried substituting lemons with other citrus fruits such as limes or oranges or doing a mix of lemon and lime? These suggestions make a sumptuous yet refreshing change to a beautiful pudding. Also try adding 3 tablespoons of coconut with you mix in the flour for a tropical slant on the tradition favourite.

What puddings make you nostalgic during winter?

Lemon Delicious

Students with pomegranates

Pomegranates are an ancient fruit that are a great source of vitamin C, B-group vitamins and antioxidants; they grow on trees that are native to eastern Mediterranean, North Africa, Afghanistan and Iran but pomegranate trees are now also grown in Australia. Pomegranates are round fruits with a leathery red/orange rind; beneath this rind are membranous chambers full of red, juicy, sweet yet tart arils that also contain white, edible seeds. Many people may refer to the arils around the seed as the actual seed.

Pomegranates are in season in May so why not try some in your cooking? Pomegranates can be used in a variety of ways as the arils containing the seeds add an interesting addition to many dishes. Pomegranate arils can be sprinkled in salads or eaten by themselves! The juice of the pomegranate is used in cooking, both as a fresh juice and as a concentrated syrup, especially in Middle Eastern cuisine.

However, removing the aril and seeds from the pomegranate’s membrane can be a messy task for many cooks. Here is a suggestion to make this task easier:pomegranates

  • Cut the the crown end of the pomegranate and discard.
  • Score the rind of the pomegranate in several places—do not to cut the rind all the way through.
  • Place the pomegranate upside down in cold water and soak for ten minutes.
  • Break the rind of the pomegranate and remove seeds from the membrane — the arils containing the seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl.
  • Use a sieve to remove rind and membranes from bowl.
  • Drain the seeds with a sieve or colander.
  • Gently pat dry the arils with paper towel.
  • Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days.

If you’re looking for a simple, yet delicious recipe that uses pomegranate, try the following that includes limes, which are also in season now.

Quinoa with pomegranate salad


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1 Spanish onion, finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons sultanas
  • 100 grams feta, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon coriander, roughly chopped
  • I tablespoon Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon mint each coriander, roughly chopped
  • 3 limes (or lemons), juiced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  1. Cook quinoa in stock until light and fluffy-cooked quinoa will still have a bit of bite. Leave to cool.
  2. Meanwhile toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan until lightly golden.
  3. Mix lime juice with oil, sugar and herbs to make dressing.
  4. Combine the quinoa with pine nuts, pomegranate arils, onion and sultanas.
  5. Drizzle with dressing and toss before serving.


It’s Easter time! And you know what that means? Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate! It’s a glorious time where we can all indulge a little in our favourite cocoa treats. When we think about chocolate and Easter, most people immediately think of chocolate eggs and bunnies, but there are also a plethora of other chocolate treats you can make.

 Perhaps consider making a Chocolate and Marshmallow WeetbixSlice (recipe below), it’s a delicious alternative to traditional homemade chocolates that you can share with family and friends over a cuppa. This slice is a favourite of The Food Book team as it has a crunchy chocolate base topped with deliciously smooth marshmallows. It will be a definite winner with young and old this Easter.

Chocolate and Marshmallow Weetbix™ Slice



  • 3 Weetbix, crushed with hands
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 125 g butter


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 tablespoon gelatine dissolved in a little water (or equivalent gelatine leaves)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • few drops of pink food colouring (optional)
  • ½ cup desiccated coconut


  1. Preheat oven to 180oC and grease a 20cm square tin.
  2. Crush Weetbix with your hands and add to mix together with flour, coconut, cocoa and brown sugar.
  3. Melt butter and stir through dry ingredients.
  4. Press mixture in tin and bake for 20 minutes, and allow to cool.
  5. Make marshmallow by dissolving sugar in the water in saucepan over a low heat.
  6. Add gelatine (or gelatine leaves) and stir until dissolved.
  7. Allow to cool before adding vanilla extract (and colouring) and beating with an electric beater until thick and light.
  8. Pour over biscuit base and allow to set.
  9. Sprinkle with coconut and cut into squares.

Have you seen kale in the vegetable aisle lately? Chances are you would have, it is one of the ‘on trend’ vegetables this autumn. Kale is a variety of cruciferous vegetables. It has thick stems and typically curly, green leaves that do not form a head. Like many green leafy vegetables, kale is a nutrient powerhouse — it’s a great source of many nutrients including fibre and vitamins A, C and folate. It is very similar to a cabbage so can be prepared in a similar way — it can be served raw as part of a salad or served cooked. However, unlike many green leafy vegetables, kale is very robust and needs dressing (and time!) to soften its leaves if eaten raw.

Pick up some kale next time you are doing your vegetable shop and try these two simple recipes. They’re quick, they’re tasty and they’re healthy!


Tasty balsamic kale salad


  • 1/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries, roughly chopped (or currants)
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 2 bunches kale, washed and sliced (remove tough stalks before slicing)
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 60 mL olive oil
  • 20 mL seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese


  1. Whisk balsamic vinegar, olive oil, rice vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper together.
  2. Stir in cranberries and pour over sliced kale and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes
  3. Toss through Parmesan just prior to serving

Kale with oyster sauce


  • 2 bunches kale, washed and tough stalks removed and leaves cut in half crossways.
  • 60mL oyster sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 50 mL light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 20 mL vegetable oil
  • 10 mL sesame oil


  1. Mix together oyster sauce, garlic, soy sauce and sugar until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Place vegetable oil and sesame oil in a frypan and heat on high for 30 seconds and pour over kale
  3. Drizzle oyster sauce mixture over kale and serve immediately.

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching!

The reason as to why Valentine’s Day is celebrated on 14 February has been debated by various theories, myths and legends over the years; as to which one is true, who knows?! But we do like the idea that Valentine’s Day, with its notion of romantic love, flourished during the Middle Ages with its tradition of courtly love.

Today Valentine’s Day has become a day where lovers express their love for each other through the giving of flowers, the offering of chocolates and the sending of greeting cards – these cards were known as ‘valentines’ in the fifteenth century!

Some people believe that this day is increasingly commercial in its emphasis on expensive gifts; rather than giving your Valentine’s store-bought gifts, have you thought about making some simple yet special treats instead this Valentine’s Day? Not only is something homemade an inexpensive gift, but nothing says ‘I love you’ more than when you make something from the heart.

Here’s an idea for a special treat to make:

Cupcakes decorated with butter icing and cashous or sprinkles

Valentine CupcakesYou only need some basic cooking skills to make the cupcakes – see the cupcake recipe on p. 402-403 of The Food Book.

Make a batch of butter icing by beating 200 grams of softened butter until light and creamy, adding 6 cups of sifted icing sugar and ½ cup of milk – beat until smooth.

Spread or pipe the icing on the cooled cupcakes and decorate with cashous or sprinkles. We prefer keeping the icing plain and using coloured cashous and sprinkles but you may like to tint the icing with a colour or top it with uber-gorgeous Persian fairy floss- now that would make a love statement!

You can also pick up some coloured patty pan papers to match your decorations, or decorate your cupcakes by piping a heart shape on each cupcake or the initial of your lover – let your imagination run free! The cupcake will look and taste amazing whatever you choose to do.

What ideas do you have for other gifts you could make for Valentine’s Day?

Boy, it has been hot! Summer has definitely arrived, and brought along with it record-breaking temperatures. We, The Food Book Team, have not only been looking for ways to cool down, but also ways to make your summer eating pleasurable. Nobody wants to be slaving over a boiling stove for hours in a 40 degree day, so if you are looking for recipes that will help you stay cool and not heat up the kitchen, think about making some frozen treats like icecream or sorbet. There is a delicious recipe for Easy Icecream on p. 335 of The Food Book – just add some flavouring ingredients at step 3  to add your own personal twist, we’ve been enjoying some icecream with chopped mango and mashed banana.

What ideas do you have for frozen treats to keep you cool in summer? We’d love to hear it!

However, if you do have to cook, the trick is to cook early in the day when it is cooler, keep the meal in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat and then use the microwave to heat it up. Frittatas are a good idea during the heat, they can be made early and served warm or at room temperature. The Vegetarian Frittata on p. 140 of The Food Book makes a deliciously light meal for a hot evening, especially when served with a fresh garden salad (try the Green Garden Salad recipe on p. 205).

If it is simply too hot to cook, then consider using fresh seasonal produce to make delicious, yet substantial salads (so you do not wilt in the kitchen). The Food Book has lots of easy-to-prepare salads you could try. Tabbouleh (p. 212) is full of fiber and bite – burghul can easily be substituted for quinoa for a bit of variety. The delightfully refreshing Watermelon and Feta Salad (p. 208) is perfect for that hot summer day – the salty creaminess of the feta and the toasted crunch of the walnuts are the perfect match for the sweet, juicy watermelon. 

What ideas do you have for quick summer meals?

Watermelon & Feta Salad


As the festive season rapidly approaches, some of us (actually, probably most) will still be madly running about trying to get organised. In lieu of braving the hoards of frantic shoppers, perhaps consider a homemade gift? There are plenty of simple treats you can make for the festive season that are easy, personal and impressive.

If you are looking for a quick last minute gift, try making Christmas Rum Balls – modify theChristmas Rum Balls recipe on p.376 of The Food Book by adding one finely chopped 50g Cherry Ripe bar and one finely chopped 50g Peppermint Crisp bar at Step 2 and reducing the amount of coconut to ½ cup. These treats make the perfect gift when bundled together and wrapped up nicely.

Another idea is to make the gingerbread people on p.382 of The Food Book, make your gingerbread people festive by “dressing” them up in Christmas attire – green and red icing with small Christmas-coloured lollies are particularly effective. Alternatively, you can cut the dough into a range of Christmas shapes such as stars and stockings and decorate with icing – simple, yet delightful.

What other ideas do you have for edible Christmas gifts?

ImageDid you know that there are even more recipes on The Food Book app? My niece Charlotte discovered the Christmas pudding recipe on the app, and with a little help, made a gorgeous pudding, which is now in the refrigerator, ready to be reheated on Christmas Day.

Check out what extra recipes are on the app now, but don’t forget to come back and let us know how you went!


Summer is coming! The days are getting longer, the nights are getting warmer and our appetites are getting bigger – this can only mean one thing – al fresco dining!

Kebabs for the summerHaving a barbecue is the perfect way to prepare a delicious and fuss-free dinner outside during the summer. Barbecuing has always been a popular way of cooking food in Australia, because food cooked over a flame lends itself to a delightfully charred and smoky flavour that you simply can’t substitute. Traditionally, we have barbecued sausages, hamburgers, steaks and kebabs but these days more and more Australians are getting adventurous with the types of foods they cook on their hallowed grills. Kofta, satay pork and kangaroo are some of the things that are finding their way onto the barbecue, along with scallops, calamari and vegetables such as corn, asparagus, zucchini, eggplant and sweet potato.

Why not try it for yourself? Check out pp 300-321 of The Food Book for great barbecuing recipes and ideas.  But here is a delicious barbecued asparagus recipe to help kick-start your barbecue. It’s straight-forward to make and only needs items commonly found in the pantry, so you can easily add it to your repertoire of barbecued foods.

Simply barbecued asparagus


  • 500 grams asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Drizzle oil on asparagus and place on hot barbecue plate.
  2. Cook for 3 minutes and then season with salt and pepper before serving.

Another delicious asparagus recipe with a few extra ingredients is described below. It sure beats the traditional sliced onions and potatoes on the barbie!

Barbecued asparagus with balsamic vinegar


  • 500 grams asparagus, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons(60 mL) balsamic vinegar
  • 23 tablespoons (40 mL) lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon (20 mL) olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon (20 mL) soy sauce
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Crush garlic and mix with balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil and soy sauce in glass casserole dish (long enough to place asparagus )
  2. Add asparagus and cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to marinate for at least 30 minutes
  3. Drain marinade and place asparagus on hot barbecue plate.
  4. Cook for 3 minutes and then season with salt and pepper before serving.

How do you like to spend these long summer nights? Do you have a favourite barbecue recipe you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!

Children having a picnicIt’s Spring Racing Carnival time! Even if you are not a race goer, it’s still spring and that means it is time to be outdoors! The weather is perfect for packing a picnic, whether it’s to your local park or for a day out at the races. There are lots of delicious and simple-to-prepare dishes that you can make which will only need one hand to consume – leaving the other free to hold a book, a fishing rod or even a glass of bubbly.

One idea is to make the Layered Picnic Loaf on p. 156 of The Food Book. Consisting of a whole loaf of bread hollowed out and filled with layers of tasty ingredients – it is the perfect picnic fare. Another idea is the open sandwich – the topping possibilities are endless – you can have beans and artichoke; smoked salmon and avocado; or even pear and blue cheese. For even more suggestions have a look at pp. 154-155 in The Food Book.

An open sandwich

Spring is also time to try some new recipes. Have you tried making capsicum and cheese bites? They are simple to make and can be easily stored.


  • 1 red capsicum
  • 1 yellow capsicum
  • 2 tablespoons basil pesto (try the recipe on p. 431 of The Food Book or a commercial variety)
  • 4 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 4 tablespoons fresh ricotta
  • 16 basil leaves


  1. Combine pesto, cream cheese and ricotta cheese together and set aside.
  2. Cut both the red and yellow capsicums lengthwise into 2.5 cm strips.
  3. Cook capsicum strips under a hot grill until skin blisters, and then remove and cover with plastic wrap until they cool. Peel away the skin and discard.
  4. Place the capsicum strips on a chopping board and position a basil leaf in the centre of each strip.
  5. Place approximately one teaspoon of pesto mixture end of each capsicum strip and roll up and secure with a toothpick.
  6. Refrigerate prior to serving.

What simple ideas do you have for foods to pack for the Spring Racing Carnival or to take on a quiet picnic?

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