I love mushrooms in any form. Mushrooms are rich in B vitamins, are excellent sources of micro elements like selenium and copper and rich in antioxidants. For as long as I remember I used to make mushroom ragout with cream and in my quest to make more of my recipes plant based, I experimented with options and came up with this recipe as it has the richness and creaminess of cream but it is vegan.

I find instant polenta is easier to work with and does not get lumpy as easily. In my experience I have always found that it requires way more water than recommended on the packet. Another trick I found is that if your polenta is too runny, then cook for longer. The creamy polenta is not vegan as I add some grated parmesan cheese in the end. Maybe you can omit the parmesan and see if you like it.

Mushroom Ragu with Creamy Polenta


500g mushrooms, cleaned and sliced 4-5mm thick

50g shallots, chopped

100g onions, finely diced

10g dried shitake mushrooms

1 teaspoon Marmite

50g cashew nuts, soaked for 30 minutes in 200ml hot water

2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2-3 sprigs of thyme

2 tablespoons brandy

½ teaspoon brown sugar

Salt and pepper

2 cups or 300g instant polenta

30g butter, cubed

30g parmesan cheese, finely grated or on microplane


Rinse the shitake mushrooms and soak in 50ml hot water from a freshly boiled kettle for 15-20 minutes. Set aside.

Blitz the cashew nuts along with their soaking liquid in a food processor until creamy. In a small jar of food processor or spice grinder, add the shallots, shitake mushrooms including the soaking liquid and marmite. Process to a fine paste.

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large fry pan. Fry the onions, thyme and garlic for 8-10 minutes. Toss the mushrooms in and mix well so that the aromatics stick to the mushroom pieces. Increase heat to a high and pour in the brandy. Be very careful and set the alcohol alight by using the flame from the stove or lighting a match. Once the alcohol has burnt off, lower heat to medium and fry the onions. Season with salt and pepper.

Once mushrooms look cooked, add the shitake mushroom paste and sugar. Mix well and check for seasoning adjusting as needed.

Pour in the cashew nut cream. Mix well and if sauce is too thick, add hot water spoon by spoon until desired sauce consistency is achieved. Fish out the thyme before serving. Keep warm while you prepare the polenta.

Cook the polenta as per instructions on the packet. Remove from heat and stir in the butter. Once butter cubes are incorporated, you can mix the parmesan cheese.

Serve a scoop of polenta and top it with the mushroom ragout. Serves 4 as a main meal.


In a formal Italian meal, risotto is served as a primo or first course and then the secondi or meat course follows. Obviously there is a lot of eating over the course of the evening /night happens. I like the risotto to stand on its own so I pack it with lots of flavour even though I say so myself! I may serve a small starter or a dessert when I make risotto.

This was a big hit with my family and I urge you to try it. The success of your risotto depends on your stock. I like to make my own stocks and if you are after any stock recipes, hit the search bar.

Pea and Prawn Risotto


300g Carnaroli or Arborio rice (risotto rice)

400g large or jumbo prawns, (16-20 numbers)

150ml dry white wine

1.125 litre fish stock preferably home made

40g butter, divided

20ml olive oil

1.5 cups thawed peas, divided

2 tablespoons parsley pesto

150g finely chopped onion

Continue reading “PEA & PRAWN RISOTTO”


Potato Gnocchi

We love gnocchi in our household and this recipe is my take on Gordon Ramsay’s home-made gnocchi recipe. It is a little time consuming baking the potatoes first and then making the gnocchi, but I assure you that the end result is satisfying and so delicious. Make it for a special occasion to show how much you care for a loved one.


4 large floury potatoes like Agria

100 grams ricotta

120 grams plain flour

2 egg yolks

2-3 thyme sprigs

Continue reading “POTATO GNOCCHI”


Pumpkin Gnocchi

When we were newly married, my husband used to surprise me by cooking special one off meals. On one such occasion, he made the most perfect pumpkin gnocchi. Alas, we didn’t save the recipe. I have been wanting to replicate the same for many years and after lots of trial and error, this recipe works and thus ending my quest for the perfect pumpkin gnocchi recipe. This is slow cooking and perfect if you want to spend a Sunday afternoon lovingly preparing for the family for dinner.


1kg pumpkin (I used a piece of crown pumpkin with the blue grey skin)

2 teaspoons olive oil

450 grams flour plus more for rolling out gnocchi

1 whole nutmeg, grated freshly

½ teaspoon white pepper

A couple of pinches of sugar




These are my favourite dumplings. The origins are a bit sketchy but the name means priest stranglers. The story goes that a gluttonous priest in Florence swallowed the dumpling whole, choked as a result and hence the name.

Don’t worry these dumplings are so soft and delectable, there won’t be any choking only wanting more!!!


500 grams ricotta, drained

200 grams Parmesan cheese, finely grated

½ nutmeg, grated

600 grams of spinach, leaves only

Continue reading “STROZZAPRETTI”


Eggplant Parmigiana

Did you know that this classic Italian dish has its origins in Campania, Sicily? People tend to associate Parmigiana to Parma in the north but now you know. There are several variations and you can do it with breaded meat but in our household we prefer the vegetarian version with eggplants. The process is long but I assure there is nothing technical or hard and the end result is very tasty. Remember good things take time!

Eggplant Parmigiana

3 large eggplants

Plain flour for dusting

100 ml of extra virgin olive oil

2 cups salsa di pomodori (recipe below)

150 grams Mozzarella cheese grated or sliced thin

50 grams of Parmigiano Reggiano



Slice the eggplant lengthways into 1 centimetre slices. You will have about 7 or 8 slices from each eggplant. Don’t make them too thin as they will disintegrate when you fry. Sprinkle each layer liberally with salt, as you place in a colander in a sink and leave for about 2 hours.

Slice the eggplant lengthways
Salting the eggplant

Preheat oven to 180oC while you prepare the salsa di pomodori and the eggplant.

 Pat dry with kitchen towel, dust lightly with flour. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a wide fry pan. Add the eggplant slices and fry briskly until browned on both sides. Do not crowd the pan. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Repeat with the remaining oil and eggplant slices.

Layering the Eggplants with salsa di pomodori

Use a lasagne dish, with alternate layers of salsa di pomodori, eggplant and Mozzarella cheese. Finish the last layer with Parmigiano Reggiano.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden. Serve hot as a main for four with crisp Cos lettuce salad or as a side dish to accompany meat for eight people.


500 grams of tinned plum tomatoes

1 onion finely chopped

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves of plump garlic finely chopped

1 carrot diced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon sugar

½ to 1 teaspoon chilli flakes

Salt and pepper

2 – 3 sprigs of fresh basil


Heat a saucepan and when hot enough add the olive oil, followed by the onion. Once onion is softened, add the garlic, chilli flakes, sugar, tomatoes, carrot and tomato paste. Salt to taste and grind plenty of black pepper. Stir with a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes. Add half cup water and bring to the boil. Partially cover and let simmer for 15 -20 minutes. Remove from heat, blitz to form sauce. Stir in basil if using.


Pan Roasted Vegetable Lasagne

Our household loves my lasagne. Over the years I have done several variations and this vegetarian version using winter vegetables is a big hit. Please don’t be alarmed by all the ingredients – it is relatively easy to make and I urge you to give it a try.

Pan Roasted Vegetable Lasagne

500 grams butternut squash peeled and cut into 3 centimetre cubes

3 leeks thoroughly washed and cut into 2 centimetre rounds

500 grams mushrooms sliced

1 large onion finely chopped

2 sticks celery, peeled and finely chopped

1 x 400 grams can of brown lentils drained and rinsed

6 plump garlic cloves finely diced

2 x 400 grams tin of plum tomatoes

½ to 1 teaspoon red hot chilli flakes

1 teaspoon dried oregano

6 to 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 cups of milk

4 tablespoons of plain flour

Salt and pepper

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

50 grams of butter evenly cubed

10 grams of butter evenly cubed

50 grams of Parmigiano Reggiano microplaned

400 grams of fresh lasagne sheets


Heat a large, heavy bottomed fry pan and once sufficiently hot add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Add the butternut pieces (a few at a time so as not to crowd the pan) and roast them until nicely caramelized on the sides. This is important as it gives a sweetness. Repeat until all butternut is roasted this way. Set aside. Repeat the same process for the leek rounds and then the mushrooms.

To make the sauce: Once the vegetables are pan roasted, add some more oil and fry the onions, celery and garlic for about 5-6 minutes. They should look soft and translucent. Squash up the tomatoes and juice and add this to the onion mixture. Add the oregano, chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Give it a good stir and simmer gently for about 10 minutes. If you feel the sauce is getting too thick, add about half a cup of water. Then add the lentils and continue simmering for a further 10 minutes. Once done cover with lid until needed.

To make the béchamel sauce: Heat up the milk in a measuring cup and have it ready. Heat a saucepan and add the 50 grams of butter. When butter is melted, add the plain flour and mix continuously so the flour and milk are incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste, reduce heat to lowest setting and start adding the milk little at a time while stirring continuously ensuring that milk is incorporated into the butter flour mixture. Continue until all milk is used up. If you don’t mix continuously, you will have a very lumpy béchamel sauce. Continue stirring and you will know that the sauce is ready to be used when it coats the back of your spoon. Remove from heat but keep warm.

Pan Roasted Vegetable Lasagne

In a deep baking dish (26 centimetres by 18 centimetres and 10 centimetres deep) start assembling the lasagne. Spread a layer of béchamel sauce and then the lasagne sheet. Follow this with a layer of the sauce followed by the vegetables and the béchamel sauce. Repeat until all the lasagne sheets, vegetables and sauces are used up. Remember you have to finish with a topping of béchamel sauce. Sprinkle the Parmigiano Reggiano. Dot the 10 grams of butter and place the dish in a pre-heated moderate oven (180 degrees Celsius) for about 40 minutes or until golden. Once cooked allow to rest for 30-40 minutes before serving with a fresh Cos lettuce salad. ( I normally just cut up the Cos or Romaine lettuce to bite size pieces and toss with lemon flavoured olive oil and squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon for a bit of zing just before serving). Serves four generously.