One for the kids: chicken meatballs and alphabet soup

I have a confession to make. I generally cook for myself. I cook the things that I like to eat, with little regard for whether others will like it or not.

By “others” I don’t mean my immediate family. Of course I think about what they like. If I didn’t feed them food they appreciate, I’d never hear the end of it! I cook to avoid complaints from my husband and children. Which sounds terrible.

That means that most of what I cook is now food for adults. My children at 12 and 13, eat most of what my husband and I eat. The notable exception being anything with too many vegetables in it, in the case of my 12 year old son.

So this week, I decided to be less selfish. To think about those of you that may have children younger than mine.

There’s two things I know to be true:

  1. Every child likes L’Authentique Chicken Chipolatas or Chicken and Bacon sausages.
  2. Every child likes alphabet soup.

What’s not to like about pasta shaped like letters, creamy tomato soup, and real chicken sausages with no nasties? Good for parents and kids.

Serves: 4-6 (depending on size of child and hunger)2017-06-28 11.04.46 v1

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
2 sticks celery, finely diced
2 x 400g tins crushed tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup alphabet pasta
1/4 cup cream
Salt and pepper to taste

6 L’Authentique chicken chipolatas or chicken and bacon sausages

  1. Heat oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Add onion, carrot and celery and cook, stirring until vegetables are soft.
  2. Pour over tinned tomatoes, stir to combine and cook until tomatoes are thick and reduced to mush, and liquid almost all gone.
  3. Add chicken stock, stir to combine, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cook pasta to manufacturer’s instructions. Drain, refresh with cold water, and set aside.
  5. When soup is cooked, blend until very smooth (you may need to push through a sieve). Adjust seasonings to suit your children, then add cream and stir to combine.
  6. Remove skin from sausages. Roll each sausage into three small meatballs. Heat oil in a fry pan over a medium/high heat and cook the meatballs in batches until golden brown and cooked thoroughly.
  7. To serve, ladle soup into bowls with pasta. Top with as many meatballs as your children can eat!



Luganega Sausage Orecchiette with Broccoli

This recipe was inspired by my friend Charlotte’s lovely step-father Les, who makes a version of this as his signature dish. When he heard I was planning to make this, he even provided the Oricchiette pasta! Thanks Les x

It was a perfect excuse to try L’Authentique’s latest creation – an Italian Luganega pork sausage, with parmesan, fresh garlic and white wine. I tested some of the sausages at Farro yesterday for them, and we sold out in minutes! They’re that good.

If you can’t find Luganega, feel free to exchange for a good pork and fennel sausage instead.

Serves 6 generously

500g orecchiette pasta2017-05-19 09.12.45 v1
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
500g Luganega sausage (approx 2 packs)
1 red capsicum, cut into small dice
1 cup chicken stock
1 head broccoli, cut into small florets
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Salt/Pepper to taste

  1. Heat a large pot of salted water. When boiling, add the pasta and cook to the manufacturer’s instructions
  2. Meanwhile, in a large heavy based frying pan, heat the olive oil over a moderate heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until onion is soft (about 5 minutes)
  3. Using a small sharp knife, split the sausage casing, and remove the sausage from the skins. Add the sausage meat to the pan, and cook, using a wooden spoon to break up.
  4. Add the chicken stock and capsicum, and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the broccoli, stir to combine and cook for another 2 minutes
  6. Add the cream and parmesan and cook until the cheese has melted and combined
  7. Add parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Toss through the pasta and garnish with extra parsley and grated parmesan.

The trials and tribulations of school holidays. With a cheesy, tomato-y, chicken pasta bake.

School holidays are a consistent chore. To be fair, it was worse when I was working full time, trying to make plans for what to do with kids over what seemed an eternity.

Now I’m home, they’re home, we get under each other’s feet, and my brain gets muddled with all the stuff they need. I forget that it’s just them on holiday and not me. I forget that I should still get out of bed when the alarm goes off. I forget that there are still chores to do, blog posts to write, exercise to be done.

All normal routine goes out the window and the days drift by. I go to bed very night berating myself for what I didn’t achieve during the day, only to wake the next morning, and let it all drift by again. The washing piles up, plates pile up, crumbs, carpet stains and cat fur take on a life of their own.

And GLASSES! So many GLASSES! Like every drop of water needs a fresh glass. Like my children may be poisoned by a glass that has been touched by the skin of another. They remember where the glasses live when they’re clean, but forget where the dishwasher is when they’re dirty. The dishwasher wears a cloak of invisibility, but it only works if you’re under 18, like some perverse joke from H Potter & Co.

As if having your own kids full time for two weeks wasn’t bad enough, kids at home attract other kids. Play dates, sleep overs, “hang out”s all require other people’s children. So far this holiday we’ve experienced:

  • NERF wars on an epic scale, upstairs and downstairs, inside and out;
  • Teenage toast making at 1am;
  • Light sabre battles, similar to NERF wars, without millions of foam bullets but significantly more likely to inflict pain and possible injury;
  • Loud sleep talking at 4am from teenaged friend;
  • Endless X-Box Kinect games, akin to having a army of pygmy elephants dancing an Irish jig on the ceiling;
  • 6am Instagram/Snapchat related squeals over boy of the week/shoes of the week/cat of the week

In all honesty, it’s cheaper for them to be at school. Other than food that I’d need to give them anyway, my only significant weekly kid-related expenses are fuel and bus fares. During the holidays, there’s movies, snacks, endless cries for sushi, McDonald’s, Starbucks, icecream, trips to JB HiFi to buy more attachments for the latest X-Box Skylanders scam, trips to H&M to buy more of anything really, trips out to the beach…..

But then, that’s the relief of school holidays. We have made a point of committing at least one week of each school holiday period to having a real family holiday. The trips to the beach or the mountain are when the kids can run, can reclaim their independence, where we can all have a break. Where we can reconnect with each other without the endless consumerism driven distractions. Where it’s really a holiday.

One week to go.


School holidays is a good time to experiment with dinners that are easy to prepare and tasty for everyone. I’ve added extra veg into this too, although my son managed to pick all the spinach out, as he does. Everyone else liked it though.

400g dried pasta (penne is good), cooked to manufacturer’s instructions2017-04-18 19.43.12 v1
2 Tbsp olive oil
750g boneless chicken thighs
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red capsicum, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (or crushed if it’s easier)
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/2 cup white wine
2 x 440g tins crushed tomatoes
2 cups baby spinach leaves
Large handful fresh basil leaves
1 cup grated mozarella, plus extra for topping
Salt and pepper

  1. Heat the oven to 200ºC
  2. Heat olive oil in a large heavy based frying pan over medium/high heat. Add chicken thighs and cook until browned. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Reheat pan, adding more oil if necessary, over low heat. Add onion, capsicum, garlic and oregano, and cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables are soft.
  4. Pour over white wine and allow to bubble up. Boil until reduced by half.
  5. Add tinned tomatoes and stir to combine. Bring to the boil, and cook until sauce is thick. This should take about 30 minutes.
  6. Slice chicken thighs into 1cm thick slices and add to sauce. Cook for another 5 minutes, then stir through mozarella, spinach and basil. Season to taste.
  7. Add cooked pasta to the pan and stir to combine.
  8. At this stage you can either transfer the pasta mix to a large baking dish, or leave it in the pan if it’s oven proof.
  9. Sprinkle over extra grated mozarella, and bake until the top is golden, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and serve.

Don’t believe the hype. And spaghetti with a sausage, mushroom and cream sauce.

A few weeks ago some friends and I were having a discussion about why I’d left my job in advertising. Amongst the many positive reasons (stress reduction, life balance, a love of food), I explained that I was a “people pleaser”. My desire to please people meant that criticism of my work, justified or not, left me feeling devastated, made me feel that I was letting my employers and clients down. That I wasn’t good enough.

My friend rolled her eyes – “Stop believing your own narrative”, she said.

When I asked what she meant, she talked about how we create a narrative for ourselves that gives us an excuse to explain away difficult situations in our lives. How this narrative becomes our “get out of jail free card”. How it allows us to level the blame at anyone but ourselves.

Of course, I resented what she was saying enormously. How dare she! Doesn’t she know how tough it was for me? Doesn’t she know that my former employer was an industry renowned bully? That my clients were some of the most difficult in town? That I’m just a really nice person who doesn’t deserve to be treated like that….

So many excuses. And she was right. The reality is that the only person making me feel the way I did was me. No one else can be held responsible for my feelings. I’m the one who feels them. I’m the one who creates the way I respond. The narrative is the story we tell ourselves to justify our responses, to give ourselves a reason to never change the way we respond.

That’s not to say that there aren’t situations beyond our control. We can’t predict the future, we can’t control the way others will act, we can only control the way we react.

I have a friend who is continually busy. So busy. So overworked. So unappreciated. So overloaded. For many years, I listened to her many tales of hours worked, pressure applied, late nights and early mornings in the office, too many deadlines, impossible to meet. It was odd though – she moved to different companies and the pressure and long hours remained. No matter where she worked, she told the same story of unappreciative employers, pushing her to work to breaking.

The reality is that my friend is the common denominator. I have no doubt that her job was intense, that the role was demanding. But she has never tried to change it. She’s accepted this situation as her narrative. It gives her a story to tell, makes her a sympathetic figure, means that she never has to take responsibility for the place she finds herself in. There are other people performing the same role across her industry, without these issues. This is not a professional problem, this is her problem.

Conversely, I have a friend who is in a very demanding role, at an extremely senior level in the corporate world. I’ve never been brave enough to ask what she earns (a lot!). I know roughly the value of her role, the vast sums of money and people she’s responsible for. She transacts with governments and heads of industry all over the world. On any given day, she can be flying in or out of New York, Shanghai, London, Tokyo, Auckland or Sydney. On top of that, she has a husband and two very active children. And friends and family who like to see her when she’s able.

It would be easy for her to cry busy. To complain that her work is crushing down on her, to tell everyone she doesn’t have time to spend. To prioritise her work above all else. But she doesn’t. She sets boundaries. She works so hard, but she also accepts that she chose this life, she chose this work, she chose a family. She doesn’t let busy become her narrative. She defines her life, rather than letting life define her. It’s part of what has made her so successful in so many aspects of her life.

It’s not just work. We apply our narrative to our romantic lives, our financial situations, our children, our friendships. There are so many stories of people who have overcome extreme hardship, while so many others retreat into themselves, looking for someone else to blame. Their parents, their ex-husbands, the government, a religious minority, a different ethnicity.

Two similar situations, two different responses. Another friend has now filled the role I previously held. Where I found the criticism crippling, she takes on board constructive criticism and makes the appropriate changes. She lets unjustified criticism fall off her, or fights to dispel it, if it’s important enough. While there are aspects of the role she doesn’t like (no role is perfect), she is thriving, where I was withered by my own narrative.

Our success in life is not the situations we find ourselves in. It’s how we react to those situations.

I am trying hard not to take every piece of criticism leveled at me as a personal attack. I’m trying less hard to please others, and am pushing back where I think it’s justified. I’m changing my narrative from being the woman who worked for a mean boss and a tough client, to being the woman who’s learnt a lot from her years in advertising and had some good times and some bad. And who’s really happy with the way her new life is going.


Serves 4

250g spaghetti, cooked to manufacturer’s instructions
2 Tbsp olive oil
450g L’Authentique Pork and Fennel or Toulouse Sausages (casings removed) or French Grind
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup cream
200g mushrooms, sliced
3 handfuls fresh spinach leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
salt/pepper to season

  1. Heat olive oil in a deep sided frying pan.
  2. Add sausage and cook, breaking up with a spoon until lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Reheat pan, and add garlic and rosemary. Cook until garlic is soft and fragrant. Be careful not to brown.
  4. Pour over white wine and allow to bubble up.
  5. Add cream and mushrooms, and cook until sauce is reduced by a third and starting to thicken.
  6. Return sausage to the pan, and stir through spinach and parsley.
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with hot spaghetti. Garnish with extra chopped parsley if desired.


I love that my daughter fights. And loves my 4 cheese pasta bake.

I love that my daughter fights against me. Me and anyone and everyone.

I love that she’s opinionated, strong willed and outspoken.

I love that she stands up for what she believes in, and she believes she’s the most important person in the room.

I love that her self confidence shines from every pore, that she loves her body and rejoices in her flaws.

I love that she completely owns her anxieties and depressions and will talk about them to anyone who asks.


I love that I have so much hope for her future. Hope that she will have the strength to fight any gender discrimination she faces when she goes to work. Hope that she will be able to fight off any sexual predator, that she will own her sexuality and wear it with pride, that she will never allow herself to be slut-shamed. Although I hope more that she’ll never have that experience.

2017-03-25 20.03.48
Melie & I, March 2017

I love that she’s so brave that she told her science teacher off this week. There was an incorrect answer to a question in a recent test, so she pushed back. She got the extra mark, and got them to change the question for future tests. She also got the top mark for the test.

I love that she doesn’t accept when things are wrong, that she doesn’t back down, that she’s so smart that she can argue her case. And that she gets her own way.

I love that she’s an amazingly mature teenager, with incredible depth and insight.

I love that all of these things will make her an amazing, strong, forthright, outspoken, honest, opinionated, willful, NASTY woman (with thanks to Hillary Clinton…).

I love my daughter. She’s awesome.

4 CHEESE PASTA BAKE2017-03-27 15.44.57 V1.jpg

This is my daughter’s favourite dinner. Actually, if I’m honest, it’s macaroni cheese, but really. This is much more fancy, and about the same amount of work. If I was Italian it would be Macaroni Quattro Formaggi, but I’m not, so 4 cheese pasta it is. Enjoy.

500g dried pasta
500ml milk
2 x bay leaves
50g butter
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons thinly slice sage leaves, plus 12 extra
250g sour cream
150g blue cheese
100g ricotta cheese
100g mozzarella
50g parmesan, finely grated

  1. Cook pasta in salted water until al dente
  2. Heat milk and bay leaves until hot
  3. Melt butter in saucepan, add flour and cook 1 minute
  4. Whisk in hot milk and sage and keep whisking until thickened
  5. Whisk in sour cream, blue cheese, ricotta and mozarella
  6. Simmer until cheeses have melted
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper
  8. Mix cheese sauce and pasta
  9. Pour into baking dish and top with parmesan cheese and remaining sage leaves
  10. Cook in 200°C oven until golden (about 30 minutes)


Making the most of leftover roasts: Ragu with Pappardelle

As the weather starts to become more autumnal, a Sunday roast is reintroduced to our weekly dining schedule (which makes me sound so much more impressively structured than I actually am).

A decent sized leg of lamb is far too much for our family of four, which leaves meat for school lunches, and a multitude of leftovers.

So I use the leftovers to make at least one more meal, depending on the size of the beast I’ve cooked. A ragu makes the left over meat go a good way further, which we eat either with pasta, or thickened and used as a filling for pies. It’s even good on toast.

You can use any meat you have for this recipe – lamb, beef, chicken, pork or turkey all work well. Just use the stock appropriate for each animal (beef stock for red meat, chicken stock for pork or bird meat), the same for wine (red for red, white for white). If you have gravy left over, feel free to throw that it also, but make it up to the quantity below with  extra water. The herbs I’ve used here (rosemary and bay) can also be changed out for other woody herbs like thyme or oregano, and you can use chopped parsley or basil to finish.

This recipe also freezes well, so you can save it for another day.

Serves 4

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 carrots peeled and finely diced
2 sticks of celery finely diced
3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 sprig of rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 cup red wine
440g tin crushed tomatoes or passata
2 cups of stock or left over gravy made up to two cups with extra water
500g leftover roast lamb, chopped into chunks
Salt/pepper to taste
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
300g pappardelle, cooked to manufacturer’s instructions
Freshly grated parmesan and chopped basil or parsley to serve

  1. Heat olive oil over a medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic and saute until soft, but not browned
  2. Increase heat, pour over wine and allow to bubble up.
  3. Add rosemary, bay, stock (or gravy) and tinned tomatoes. Stir through chopped meat, bring to the boil.
  4. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until meat is very soft (ideally falling into ribbons). About an hour. Add more water if sauce becomes too thick.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Add balsamic vinegar, return to boiling and cook for 5 minutes. Taste to check that vinegar flavour has sweetened with cooking, adjust seasonings, and serve with cooked pasta.
  7. Garnish with parmesan and chopped basil or parsley.

In Season Now: Asparagus

The first time I see asparagus in store it feels like summer is finally on it’s way. Like strawberries, asparagus make me want to fire up the barbecue, pour myself a glass of something cold and refreshing, open up the doors and eat outside. Unfortunately October/November in Auckland is often not conducive to eating alfresco, unless you enjoy inopportune blasts of wind and rain…

That aside, asparagus feels like summer. The season is relatively short – local asparagus is only available from September to December in a good season. The heavy rain we’ve experienced this year has meant that we really haven’t seen local asparagus on supermarket shelves until October, and they have been much thinner stems than in prior years. offers a couple of pieces of sage advice when it comes to selecting and storing asparagus:

“Choose straight firm green stems. Insist on fresh, clean product with trimmed ends and a minimum of white butt. Fresh asparagus is ‘squeaky’ – when the spears are gently rubbed they squeak; old asparagus is rubbery and doesn’t squeak.”

“Keep asparagus refrigerated with butt ends either wrapped in wet paper towels, stand up in a jar with 1-2 cm of water (like flowers in a vase), or alternatively wash, then refrigerate in plastic bags.”

So what makes asparagus good for you?

  • It’s a fantastic source of folate, with 5 spears offering 34% of the RDI. Folate is an important element for the production of red blood cells, and cognitive development. It’s especially important for pregnant woment to aid with feotal development.
  • It’s high in vitamins A, C, E and K. Vitamin A is important for organ function, C for immunity, E for red blood cell formation and K for for blood clotting.
  • It’s high in antioxidants, and is one of the top ranked fruits or vegetables for antioxidant properties. Alongside the above vitamins, it also contains good amounts of beta-carotene, the minerals zinc, manganese, and selenium, and glutathione (GSH), which is linked with the breakdown of carcinogens and other free radicals.
  • Of real interest is that it contains an element call inulin. Inulin has pre-biotic qualities, and is broken down in the large intestine, where it feeds our colonic bacteria. This makes asparagus valuable in aiding digestion. It’s also high in fibre.

To snap or not to snap?

A quick online search shows there’s quite a bit of debate around this one. I’ve always snapped the ends off my asparagus. Mostly it’s really fast and easy, since no utensils are required. One snap and you’re done.

There is a school of thought though, that this is a very imprecise method, and that you risk wasting quite a bit of the asparagus. An alternative is to trim the ends with a knife, or to peel the ends with a potato peeler to shave off the tough lower skins.

Blogger, One Creative Mommy, suggests that you don’t remove the ends from young asparagus, only if it’s mature, so the ends are woody.

Ultimately, I’m not sure there is a “right way”. It just depends how lazy you are (and I am).

Grilled asparagus

A few ways with asparagus

  • To be honest, I think the best way to eat asparagus is lightly steamed (for about 90 seconds in boiling salted water), dressed with a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of your best olive oil, a quick grind of black pepper and a sprinkle of sea salt.
  • Make a mayonnaise or hollandaise for dipping
  • For breakfast with boiled eggs, replace toast soldiers with steamed asparagus
  • Wrap lightly steamed asparagus spears with strips of prosciutto to serve with drinks
  • Alternatively, wrap asparagus in strips of streaky bacon, then grill until bacon is cooked
  • Go old school and make asparagus rolls with fresh lightly steamed and cooled asparagus, fresh white bread (crusts off please!) and mayonnaise mixed with extra lemon juice.
  • Add asparagus to your favourite green salad. To make this a meal, flake through some hot smoked salmon. Salmon and asparagus are brilliant bed mates.
  • Brush asparagus with olive oil and grill on a hot barbecue until just charred. Squeeze over lemon juice and drizzle with olive oil and serve

Or try this recipe, which my mother used to make in the 80’s when she had ladies for lunch. In those days it was made with tinned asparagus, but I think it’s even better with fresh.


1 bunch fresh asparagus (approximately 12 stalks), blanched, cut into 5cm pieces
500g dried pasta (I used penne)
500ml milk
2 x bay leaves
50g butter
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons thinly slice sage leaves, plus 12 extra
250g sour cream
150g blue cheese
100g ricotta cheese
100g mozzarella, grated (use an aged mozzarella, rather than fresh)
50g parmesan, finely grated

  1. Cook pasta in salted water until al dente (approximately 10 minutes, brand dependent)
  2. Heat milk and bay leaves until hot
  3. Melt butter in saucepan, add flour and cook 1 minute
  4. Whisk in hot milk and sage and keep whisking until thickened
  5. Whisk in sour cream, blue cheese, ricotta and mozarella
  6. Simmer until cheeses have melted
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper
  8. Mix cheese sauce with asparagus and pasta
  9. Pour into baking dish and top with parmesan cheese and remaining sage leaves
  10. Cook in 200°C oven until golden (about 30 minutes)