Tag Archives: dinner

DES ALPES

So for Ben’s Big Family Pre-Christmas Dinner Instead of Doing Gifts Bash, we went to Des Alpes in Mitchelton.

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I used to live around the corner from here but NEVER ate here because I didn’t think they had any vego food judging by the walk-past menu. Turns out they have a vego AND a Gluten Free menu online AND can cater for vegans. Admittedly, that meant for three years we went to the awesome Mexican place across the road (which also happily caters for vegans) and Delicatezza next door which did a mean pot of soy chai and had the loveliest owner ever. Anyway, I digress.

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Nine adults and two kids turned up and, I have to say, I was impressed. Admittedly, they brought out a seafood pancake instead of a vego one and I had to wait for my meal to be cooked again, but they handled out big group well.

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Ben and I shared the cheese fondue for an entrée. Ok, it wasn’t the one we ate in Paris (at a place call Pain Vin Fromage if you ever want to go!) but it was pretty good and fun to eat. I had the vego pancake which came with ricotta, spinach and walnuts with a tomato sauce and cheese on top. It was ok, but I was blown away with the potato rosti that was served with it.

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Ben ordered the French Rosti that came with pear and blue cheese. Yum. He loved blue cheese and enjoyed his meal.

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This place is not cheap- I think the food and drinks Ben and I ordered came to $75ish (one entrée for two, two mains, a German beer and corkage for Ben’s local beers), I really liked the restaurant overall and would come back to try their creamy mushroom vego pasta, to eat more rosti and to umm and ahhh over their amazing sweets menu. Perhaps just with Ben for a romantic date?

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Des Alpes on Urbanspoon

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PLOUGH INN

So I’ve been here years ago for an engagement party and for the odd drink, but never to seriously eat. A friend asked me along for a catch up with people and, I have to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. I’d looked at the menu and you could get breads, chips, a salad or two, vege lasagne and a vege platter for two. Not particularly inspiring, especially for the prices.

But I was surprised and really enjoyed my food.

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I only have the one picture that’s semi decent as we had to get tucked into this straight away, but for $34 we got crumbed brie (ermagerd), stuffed greed olives, field mushrooms with feta, bread, sweet corn, haloumi and spring onion fritters, and beer battered potato scallop with house made relish, avo salsa and chive creme fraiche.

Everything was delicious, surprisingly filling and we fought bitterly over the brie. Twas an epic battle.

Plough Inn on Urbanspoon

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SWAMPDOG FISH AND CHIPS

So fish and chip shops are not normally the most veg friendly places. Have you ever been to the typical FnC shop and seen the vegetarian fare? Potato cakes, pineapple fritters and, if you’re lucky, a sad vegetarian pattie passing for a burger. I was sitting with a friend who had ordered food at Swamp Dog and realised I had to go back.

A few days later I was sitting with Ben trying the fresh huge salads and yummy chips with housemade aioli.

We ordered the mixed salad- half Greek salad, half Asian salad. They were both delicious.

There was so much food we had to take some home.

Fresh food from a fish and chip shop? Hell yeah.

Swampdog Fish and Chips on Urbanspoon

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Vego Dinner Party for Non-Vegos

So I had some work people over for a dinner party. None of them were vego or ever ate much vego food, so I wanted to impress. No pressure.

I think cooking for non-vegos is an interesting challenge. I want them to be full, but I don’t want to simply replace a steak with a mock-meat and most importantly, I want it to be delicious.

After thinking about my guests, I decided to compromise on the mock-meat rule and serve vego sausages.

The other great thing about my choice is that most of it can be taken care of in advance and all you need to do is cook the polenta and serve up the icecream at the end.

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The main course was a recipe I found in the newspaper years ago. It’s a Matt Preston recipe I adapted for vegos by swapping the sausage for vego sausage. I forgot to add on my menu that it would be served with a fennel salad with a tomato mustard dressing and a rocket salad. The first time I made this, I used regular mushrooms instead of porcini and it still turned out brilliantly. As you can see, the page is a bit worn and splattered from use.

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I’m pretty organised in the kitchen. I didn’t spend all day on this and I didn’t go any prep the day before, which I’ll also try to do if there are lots of steps.

I didn’t start shopping until after midday.

I went to the Swiss Deli Cafe on Boundary Street and bought porcini mushrooms and a nice piece of Australian pecorino.

At Coles, I bought the rest of the ingredients.

At home, I broke the prep into stages: Chopping and veg prep, making the dressing, making the sauce, preparing everything for later.

Chopping and veg prep:

From left to right: Onion waiting to go into the sausage sauce, bowl ready for tomato prepping, fennel all cut and ready to store until the night, scraps bin. I used my food processor to get the fennel sliced finely. Chunky fennel is a bit intense. In the other photo are porcini mushrooms soaking. When drained, you reserve the liquid for the sauce and chop the mushrooms finely. They smell amazing! Regular mushrooms are fine too.

Making the dressing:

The dressing a combination of the tomato gel sacks discarded from the sauce (from about 4 good sized tomatoes), a squeeze of lemon, 1/2 tsp of mustard and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. You strain the dressing to remove the tomato seeds and press the gel through the sieve to get the most flavours.

Making the sauce:

Very easy. Brown two onions in olive oil and a little butter, add the sausage and brown, add the porcini, add the tomatoes, cook whilst stirring for a few minutes, add the porcini soaking water and simmer (I reserved half of the liquid for reheating).

Preparing everything for later:

Firstly I lined up my extra porcini water, measured out my polenta, grated my parmesan for the polenta, shaved my pecorino for serving, chopped and crumbled my dutch gingerbread biscuits, did the dishes, and left the kitchen. The fun part is preparing the table.

I didn’t start any prep until 3, but had from 5-6.30 to get ready and relax in time for our guests to turn up at 7. After cheeses and entrees (which my guests brought along with a bottle of Mumm champagne!), I cooked the polenta (which takes 20-30 minutes but as our kitchen and dining are the same room, remains social and easy to do).

I didn’t take a photo, but to serve, I grabbed a big board and tipped polenta down the middle, making a well. The sauce got pored over the top and then the pecorino goes on top. As it’s plonked down on the table, it got many “oohs” and “ahhs”, which is pretty much crack to a home cook. Eight people were invited, six turned up, but there was enough for about 10 reasonable eaters (or 6-8 starving people). We couldn’t finish nearly all over it and I sent people home with leftovers.

Sweets were chopped gingerbread biscuits with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream and gingerbread crumbles over the top, with a shot of black coffee poured over, affogato style. It’s super easy, requires no baking or fuss and was delicious. The coffee (a triple shot long black bought earlier in the day at a local cafe) runs over the ice cream into the biscuit below and makes it all gooey. Heaven.

As I clear plates, I rinse and stack them. When guests are gone we take out the rubbish, tidy everything away and wipe down benches and tables. It was too late to do dishes without disturbing the neighbours, but they are neatly stacked and ready to go the next day. This is the cooking equivalent of taking your makeup off before bed- it saves you a lot of heart ache, even if it’s a pain sometimes.

This is really a fancy, maximum impact dinner for little work.

Leave out the dairy in the polenta and sausage sauce topping and choose vegan cheeses and ice cream and it’s a vegan meal, too!

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THE BURROW

So I love Alice in Wonderland. It was read to me often as a child and a beautiful full-coloured illutrated version was given to me by my nanna and pop for my 7th birthday (obviously Lew Carroll wrote it, but this version was illustrated by Greg Hildebrandt). I still have the book, the plastic cover that protects it and the caterpillar bookmark I made to use just for that book.

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When The Burrow opened up on Mollison Street in West End, I got it. Even if the rabbit’s feet on the logo has nothing to do with Alice in Wonderland, I don’t care. I pretend it does.

The location used to be a Turkish restaurant, but it really shines as a pizza and beer bar. The backyard, side yard, verandas and  upstairs space are well-utilised to create nice pockets to sit and eat and drink in.

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You have to love the pizza names. With titles like The Kracken and Snoochi Bootchies (Jay and Silent Bob fans much?) you’re gonna have fun just reading the menu. We ordered a Mama Said pizza (Char-grilled eggplant, zucchini, asparagus, feta, roast capsicum & mozzarella) and a bowl of chips with relish and aioli. They were out of aioli so we got tapenade instead. Ben ordered too many different beers to mention, but the list is extensive. They pride themselves on finding interesting local and international craft beers and have a regular rotation on tap.

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Our food was timely and delicious. The pizza crust is homemade and thinnish, but with good flavours. The chips were like pizza: Even when it’s bad it’s good. But these were really good. I wanted to take that tapenade home and bed it.

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Downstairs, large wooden communal tables are used and it’s kind of nice. During busy times, it’s a little awkward to be put next to a large group on a communal table if you’re just two, but considering big share tables seem the way to go in Brisbane these days, suck it up (Please).

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On their lunch menu, there’s a pizza called the Stephen Seagull, which is Napoli base, mozzarella, topped with hot chips and aioli. It’s only available during lunch and, if you’re like me and enjoy both hot chips AND pizza equally, life changing. Order this pizza. Or lie and tell me you did.

Not particularly vegan friendly (unless you’re happy to order a vego without cheese, as I would be), this is a great casual option for a birthday or dinner with friends.

My suggestion? Book ahead and don’t be in a rush. This place is hugely popular and this can mean slow (though always nice) service.

 

 

The Burrow on Urbanspoon

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Leftovers rock- quick mexi potatoes

So I hate food waste. We throw out things like vegetables we intend to eat that eventually die in the crisper and last week’s dinner (which now looks scary so we sometimes turf the container too). We waste food for a variety of reasons (even if you don’t want to click the link, click the link because Dr. Karl wrote that piece and I love Dr. Karl). But it doesn’t have to be like that.

There’s one section of my extended family who don’t do leftovers. Food not eaten that night doesn’t get eaten. Either it goes straight into the bin or it goes into the fridge and then into the bin later. It’s weird. I love leftovers to the point where I plan for leftovers so I can have yummy lunches for the coming week or freeze portions to create a bit of variety at a later date.

Part of my planning for leftovers includes purposefully cooking a bit more veg than needed and the other night it was baked potatoes. I can’t stand turning on the oven for one or two tiny things, and maximising what you cook in the oven saves electricity and money. So cooking this recipe actually started about 2 days before I finally ate this dish when I rolled my spuds in foil and baked them in the oven until super soft.

This is not a recipe where you need ingredient amounts. You can even make LEFTOVERS SQAURED like I did here, where I added leftover beans to leftover potatoes. It’s a naturally gluten free recipe.

I added: leftover refried beans, tomato and cheese to a roughly chopped up baked potato in a baking dish of your choice. I added guacamole and spring onions to mine after it came out of the oven. Of course, you could add sour cream too.

I like this dish because it’s a little like nachos but uses less processed food. It’s great with sweet potato if you’re not a spud fan.

It’s also really nice done with Indian ingredients (leftover dahl and chopped veg with chopped coriander and a swirl of yoghurt on top after it has come out of the oven).

It’s not a gourmet dish by any stretch of the imagination but it’s solid food as healthy or revolting as you want to make it and is easy to produce in a big baking dish to serve as dinner or a side to something else.

Tuck in.

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Mum’s Birthday Weekend

So while I’m not going to post pictures from my mum’s birthday, I am going to post other nice moments from this weekend. Mum’s dinner went perfectly. Good food, wine and cake was had by all at Daisy’s Place on Steve Irwin Way on the Sunshine Coast. Although the clientele demographic seemed a bit older than places Ben and I frequent, it was superb service, great food and they were completely accommodating  of our arrangements for mum, like coming in early and decorating with roses, homemade Bunting and paper crowns and bringing out birthday cupcakes with candles (even though we ordered sweets off the menu as well).

In respect for mum, I didn’t take blog photos, but amazing vegetarian food was had, like mushroom risotto, Greek salad, warm cheesy breads, astoundingly good pesto and a fantastic cheese plate for two. My sister ordered “beetroot three ways” served with goats cheese and loved it. They also had a great looking vege curry that I would have ordered in a flash had it not palm sugar (ahhh sugar, you strike again).

it was expensive, but what you would expect for $25+ mains: excellent local produce, care, attention to detail, excellent vege options (in fact, a vege chef!), and a great international and local cheese and wine selection.

The next day was election day but we had all voted early because of mum’s birthday (four of us were outside of our electorate) so we went to Envy Cafe at Cottontree for breakfast. Envy says it’s healthy but to be honest, I don’t understand why, as although they do fresh juices and smoothies and have vegetarian options, they serve bacon, no vegan options beyond toast, and beer battered fries at lunch time. I really liked the food and the service had improved since I first went there early last year, but I just don’t get the “healthy” tag.

I had a Pride juice (celery, parsley, apple, spinach; can’t remember the price) with a spirulina boost ($1.50) and poached eggs on toast ($10). Ben had coffee and my sister had the corn fritters. My mum got sourdough toast with marmalade and dad got fruit toast.

The service was prompt and friendly. My eggs were cooked ok (whites still a bit too runny for my taste) served with plenty of toast. My sister thought the corn fritters were ok, but apparently lives near “The best corn fritters on earth” in Melbourne, so she might be spoiled for choice! The toast servings were generous for everyone’s meals.

Overall, we thought everything was nice, we didn’t have any mistakes or problems even though there were six of us. I was impressed by the speed and friendliness of service. Just don’t get the “healthy” tag! Don’t get it at all!

Ben and I finished off the weekend with a wander around Eden Gardens nursery at Carseldine, which is just amazing and reminded us why you can’t just go to Bunnings Warehouse for plants and pots! Such care and expertise was really lovely and, as old lady as I am about to sound, makes for a relaxing and sweet-smelling wander. Plus there was a cat in a box in the gift shop.

Then it was time to relax, reflect, smile at the pretty flowers and drink too much coffee at Pear.

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So many Zzzzzs needed.

Daisy's Place on Urbanspoon
Daisy’s Place

Envy Cafe on Urbanspoon
Envy Cafe

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SPAGHETTI HOUSE

So Ben treated me to Spaghetti House on Boundary Street in West End. Isn’t he the best? Even with a Sunday dinner booking, we had to wait a little while (less than 10 minutes) because this place had a tight turnover every night of the week.

We were right out on the street, which was fun but less nice when a guy started harassing us for money. His son found him and took him away but it was kind of awkward. You really don’t get much of that in Australia, so I was waiting for the waiter to do it (like in Europe) but dealt with it myself. All good. Not the restaurant’s fault.

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We were served olives and bread sticks to start and I loved the serving ware- it was all quality stuff with nice touches like a bowl of salt crystals. Cute.

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We ordered a starter of buffalo mozzarella and pesto bruschetta which was very fresh and used very real ingredients.

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We also had this starter, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called and the menu is no longer online, so I can only guess that it’s pan-fried gnocchi in a creamy sauce. Take that, blogging professionalism. I do, however, remember it was great and we squabbled over the last piece.

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For our mains, the waiter advised us that their smaller plate size would be adequate and he was spot-on. We were stuffed and couldn’t imagine eating the large serve, especially with a starter. I ordered gnocchi (again!) with butter and sage sauce and parmesan and Ben ordered the Cacio E Pepe (Parmesan and pepper).

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We couldn’t believe Ben’s dish- served in a Parmesan lace bowl!

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They were really generous servings, but we managed it.

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Well, Ben almost managed it.

It was a good night with good service and ambiance and great food. I have read some other online reviews knocking the amounts of meat in dishes and sometimes the service, but we were looked after from start to finish. Perhaps a perk of the vegetarian choices. Next time, I would book a table for two inside and save the group booking for outside, as large groups on the street are less likely to be hassled by “interesting” locals.

There were tomato based sauces suitable for vegans (if asked for without the Parmesan garnishes) but the pasta was freshly made, meaning there was egg. You could always call ahead or, as I recently read one gluten free blogger do, bring your own approved pasta (although gluten free peeps would also need to carefully specify fresh cooking water). I find this idea fascinating and if anyone has done this, I’d be interested to know the restaurant’s response.

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Will I be back? Yes we will!

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Spaghetti House on Urbanspoon

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Tortilla Bake

So back in high school, my first job was working at a Mexican take-away shop in the food court of a shopping centre. I know. Magical. We made nachos with liquid cheese and crumbed chicken burgers with the corn chips that crushed and were left in the bottom of the tub. Tres authentic. Three afternoons a week and all day Saturday I would smile patiently at the lady and her adult son who would come in, order, eat most of the meal and then come back with a complaint and demand a refund (Dad taught me how to deal with them and I would make every step of the meal with them watching me, asking them if I was putting on too much salsa, if they wanted me to zap the final product so it was extra hot, etc. etc. Thanks Dad). On Thursdays, in the lull between afternoon and late-night shopping, I would clean every inch of tiles and counter, scrub out the deep-fryer and fold a million paper napkins around two million pieces of plastic cutlery. I would get free pizza and garlic bread from the (also now gone) Italian take-away next door at the end of the night. I was so special.

I started on 6.64 AU an hour and started saving for a car immediately. Later I saved for schoolies and then moving out to go to uni. My first boss was great but the couple who bought the business later were really nasty and didn’t like that another part-timer and I had been working there more than a year and therefore couldn’t be easily fired and were also getting on in age (17. Over the hill).

Even thought the other girl quit, storming out one lunch after being accused of stealing from the register (an embarrassment I would also later be accused of) and I was berated in front of customers if I was too generous in my servings, I stuck at that job until I moved to Brisbane.

AND YET…

I never liked Mexican food.

That’s right. Mexican was never as popular in Australia as it has been for a long time in the USA, because Mexican meant Old El Paso taco shells or tortillas, salsa and sachets of mince meat seasoning. There were no other brands to buy, you couldn’t get flat bread in the bakery of the supermarket yet and so it was quite expensive. Add to that I never liked cheese and (still don’t like) sour cream, I was not one to beg for Mexican for dinner. Hell, I didn’t even like corn chips and salsa at parties.

And I’m not sure what changed. I’d like to tell you a story about a friend’s mum who made amazing authentic Mexican taught to them by Indigenous people of Mexico’s highlands (does Mexico even have highlands?), but I can’t. I have no idea when my taste buds changed (probably when I stopped being such a picky eater) but I would place a bet and say it was probably nachos. White people love nachos 😉

One dish that I loved and began recreating from the take-away store was tortilla bake. We made a chicken and a beef on and people lost their minds over it. This tortilla bake is obviously vego, could be vegan if cheese was left out and could be healthier if I had used less cheese. It was supposed to be special and “what the hell”, we had the cheese to spare. These days, I see tortilla bakes all over sites like Pinterest but, back in 2001, this was the best you could get.

In pictures, with explanatory captions, is my current incarnation of tortilla bake.

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I have, from the left, a can of Mexi beans (basically kidney beans in sauce but we had no home made ones), chipotle sauce, corn, pre-cooked capsicum and onion, olive oil spray, tortillas.

I have, from the left, a can of Mexi beans (basically kidney beans in sauce but we had no home made ones), chipotle sauce, corn, pre-cooked capsicum and onion, olive oil spray, tortillas.

Spray the bottom and sides of a pie dish, cake tin or whatever dish fits your tortillas and place your first tortilla inside.

Spray the bottom and sides of a pie dish, cake tin or whatever dish fits your tortillas and place your first tortilla inside.

Start layering. You can see a layer of beans, capsicum and onions, and corn here. Change the ingredient to suit your budget and preferences.

Start layering. You can see a layer of beans, capsicum and onions, and corn here. Change the ingredient to suit your budget and preferences.

Add a layer of cheese (I thought I'd leave out that photo because I'm sure you know what cheese looks like) and then add a second tortilla. . I've then used the back of a spoon to smear a layer of chipotle sauce onto this tortilla. This can be done on the first tortilla too, depending on your tastes.

Add a layer of cheese (I thought I’d leave out that photo because I’m sure you know what cheese looks like) and then add a second tortilla. . I’ve then used the back of a spoon to smear a layer of chipotle sauce onto this tortilla. This can be done on the first tortilla too, depending on your tastes.

Add another layer of beans, veg and cheese followed by a tortilla until you fill your pan. Our dish is really shallow so we only get two layers. Then add a final tortilla, more sauce and top with cheese. Chuck that puppy in the oven until the cheese is cooked and it's hot all the way through.

Add another layer of beans, veg and cheese followed by a tortilla until you fill your pan. Our dish is really shallow so we only get two layers. Then add a final tortilla, more sauce and top with cheese. Chuck that puppy in the oven until the cheese is cooked and it’s hot all the way through.

It's good to let it rest and firm up after you get it out of the oven. If you can wait. Otherwise, serve with sides of your choice, like a green salad, corn cobs, or in our case, European styled cabbage and mushrooms. Yeah, I don't know why we chose that either.

It’s good to let it rest and firm up after you get it out of the oven. If you can wait. Otherwise, serve with sides of your choice, like a green salad, corn cobs, or in our case, European styled cabbage and mushrooms. Yeah, I don’t know why we chose that either.

AI AI AI.

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Getting Loaded

So it may be my Irishy-Scottishy ancestry, but I LOVE potatoes. I’ve never eaten a potato I didn’t like. Snack, meal, side, whatever. They don’t exactly have a sexy image or a brilliant healthy reputation, but I think that’s just because we don’t always do them justice.

This (loose and non-exact) recipe is neither sexy nor healthy, but it freezes well and tastes awesome. So just try it.

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Loaded Potatoes.

  • Small clean potatoes
  • A little milk and/or butter of your choice for mashing (soy or other non dairy versions work fine)
  • Cheese/s of your choice (I used a blue cheese and a Parmesan) (The amount you use will depend on how many potatoes you make)
  • Herbs of your choice (I used chives and garlic with the Parmesan and nothing with the blue cheese).
  • Salt and pepper.

You’ll also need foil, and cling wrap if you plan to freeze them.

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A freezer bag with my potatoes all ready to eat. No need to seal the bag as everything is individually wrapped.

  1. Wrap the potatoes in foil, pierce all over with a knife or skewer and bake them until tender. Save electricity by baking them with something else.
  2. When cool, unwrap and cut in half. Scoop out most of the centre with a spoon, but leave enough flesh in the skin to keep them intact. Set skins aside.
  3. Mash your potato flesh with the milk, butter, salt and pepper to your liking.
  4. At this point, I split the mixture in half because I was making two kinds of filling. You don’t have to do this if you’re just making one flavour.
  5. Add grated or crumbled cheese and herbs of your choice to the mixture. Make it as cheesy or as subtle as you wish. Mash in well.
  6. Carefully spoon and press mixture back into skins. They will probably be a bit mounded because you’ve added extra filling.
  7. At this point, you can either bung them back in the oven and bake them until they are hot and the cheese is melted, or you can prepare them for freezing. Take two halves and cling wrap together. Label with flavour and date and then freeze.
  8. To reheat, either allow to defrost in the fridge or microwave. You can either put them back in the oven or, in potato emergencies, just eat hot from the microwave. Serve alone or with other noms, such as a vegetarian chili (as in the bottom picture).

To be honest, I enjoyed the Parmesan and herb ones a lot more as the blue cheese ones tasted a little floury (delicious, but floury). I would probably add a mild cheddar or mozzarella to the blue cheese mix to add some moisture next time. These were great to grab on my way to work and let them defrost before lunch.

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Enjoy!

 

What other flavours do you think would work in loaded potatoes?

 

 

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