Lazy Sunday: weekend cooking

November 28, 2011

Sunday is my favourite day for cooking, especially as the weather warms up. It helps that the Addison Road grower’s and farmer’s market happens on Sundays, and is within walking distance from our house. My favourite Sunday morning involves a couple of lazy coffees and checking out the recipes in the weekend papers for any inspiration, then tootling off up the road with my big ol green Rolser (we have had this old workhorse for over a decade, and it’s done service as an off-road camping equipment buggy and firewood collecting vehicle, among other things – it’s completely indestructible!) to fill up with market goodies. 

I especially like Sunday cooking if I’ve been away as I have been a bit lately – last week at the fab Varuna, The Writer’s House where I got to hang out with some excellent writers and artists (like this and this and this) and make a start on my new novel (ugh). Then tomorrow I’m off again, this time to Melbourne (would love any of you to pop in to this event and say hi if you’re free?) and then away again elsewhere on the weekend.

What with all the coming and going, a good solid Sunday’s worth of messing about in the kitchen not only means a fridge full of lunch goodies for the week, but more importantly it just makes me feel right. It’s the best way I know to get that home-and-grounded feeling that makes me feel I’m in my right skin again.

Yesterday’s market haul included a couple of kilos of organic tomatoes, some hot smoked salmon, a few eggplants, a little bag of dutch cream spuds, a bunch of beetroot, some zukes, a couple of gorgeous-looking red capsicums I couldn’t resist, a dozen eggs, couple of bunches of kale, onions, six mixed lettuce seedlings and some olive oil soap. At other times I might stock up on nuts and dried fruit, maybe throw in some good bread and a bit of cheese or yoghurt. I like Marrickville market because it’s relatively pretension-free, though it is growing a bit crowded for easy strolling these days …

Anyhoo – once home I bunged on the boil the chickpeas and white beans that I’d had soaking since Saturday, and thought about what to do with everythign. First stop was to chuck the eggplants on the barbecue for some good smoky baba ghanoush, swiftly followed in the food processor by the chickpeas for some hommous (I never made good hommous until I struck gold with the lovely Fouad’s foolproof recipe here, which I use every time).

Then I bunged the beetroots and capsicum in the oven for roasting. The roasted, peeled capsicum I tore into strips and tossed in with a salad of chickpeas, garlic, herbs, lemon & oil, and the beetroot I made into the salad below.

With the kale, I made half a fantastic dish – it was pretty good, but as I failed to include a couple of crucial ingredients I don’t want to post it here until I get it right! Ever have those moments where you’re halfway through a dish and thinking, ‘This would be great if there was just a little crunch … oh, that’s right. In the recipe there is a little crunch…’ So stay tuned for that one, which I’m going to try again tonight I think – with all the ingredients this time!

All this stuff made for a lovely impromptu Sunday night dinner with our friend miss J, my sister and her bloke whose birthday it was last week. Miss J made an incredible beetroot and chocolate cake – fudgy, velvety and gorgeous – in honour of the birthday boy, and I roasted a nice organic chook and served all these veg things on the side.

The hit of the evening was the beetroot, both in the cake and in this walnut, beetroot and feta salad. I have till recently been a bit confused about walnuts – for some reason they, alone among all the nuts, invariably give me a small, unpleasant and instantaneous pain in the upper stomach as soon as I eat them. Don’t really understand this and am loath to investigate too much in case I am banned from eating delicious things – so my preferred tactic has always been to grin and bear it.

Recently, though, someone on Twitter – I can’t remember who, so if it was you, remind me! – suggested caramelising walnuts in balsamic vinegar. This not only makes some deadset delicious crunchy bombs of divinity, but weirdly seems to have eradicated the gutbusting pain on ingestion. Everyone’s a winner!

Roast beetroot, balsamic walnuts & marinated feta

  • 3 beetroots, roasted in foil for about an hour or until tender
  • handful walnuts (on advice from Saint Maggie Beer I keep all nuts in the freezer now to prevent rancidity & pantry moth)
  • olive oil
  • about 2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar
  • sea salt & pepper
  • 1 tablespoon or two marinated feta (I usually have a jar of this stuff in the fridge but it would be a piece o’piss to make yr own – must investigate!)
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  2. When beetroots are cool enough to handle, slip the skins off and cut into quarters or biggish chunks.
  3. Lightly toast the walnuts in the oven until just crisp but not coloured. As mine came straight from the freezer they took about 10 minutes but be careful not to burn them – burnt nuts are hideous and inedible. If your walnuts are whole, break them up a little with a wooden spoon.
  4. In a small frying pan over a medium heat, toss the walnuts in a little olive oil and the vinegar, cooking till the liquid has evaporated. Set nuts aside to cool for a few minutes.
  5. Toss the beetroot with the warm nuts, and season well with salt.

So there you have it. But I want to use walnuts more in cooking – I do love their superb crunch and slight bitterness – so if you have any walnut favourites let me at em. And what about your weekend cooking – get up to anything interesting? Do share …….


  1. I have a delicious recipe that my family loves. Your post reminds me that now that mangoes are coming into season, I am definitely going to have to dust this recipe off and make the most of it. The recipe uses walnuts, so it might be another good one for you.


    Please don’t mind my including a link. Am not spamming just sharing.

    • Fab, thanks so much Tropicalmum- and you’ll never find me complaining about a shared recipe here!

  2. Hi Charlotte,
    Walnuts have been my cheap alternate to pine nuts when making pesto and a favourite when making a carrot cake. Thanks for the recipes above.

    • Thanks Helen – you have remindedme I have made muhummarah lately, which is red pepper & walnut dip – is verygood. And there was a little period when with almost any vegetable I had too much of I was whizzing it into a dip with garlic & walnuts! Spinach, carrot … and now pesto. Great idea.

  3. Hi Charlotte,
    I’m on a roasted beetroot kick at the moment too. Apart from the incredible earthy, nutty flavour, they are such a visual feast. Throw in orange segments or anything green or white – actually just about anything – and they’re like a fauve painting. A question about those yummy sounding nuts – do they need to be done every time or can you store them for short periods?

    • HI Louise – I am sure they would store just fine for a few days or longer, do you reckon? They are nicely sweet and stickyish – am sure they’d be fine in the fridge or whatever … thanks for the reminder about orange segments with beetroot. YUM.

      • We’re trying them tonight (to chuck into a rocket, pear and chevre salad) so I’ll do some extras, store them and let you know.

        • How were the nuts Louise? did it work?

          • Did it work? Amazing. I made some extra but we ended up gobbling them all down like the greedy-guts’s we are. So easy to make and we loved how they looked so burnished and glossy in the salad. Definite keeper that one. Thanks!

  4. Hello Charlotte, Good luck tomorrow – just wanted to let you know I LOVED Animal People. Thank you so much for writing it. I always wondered what happened to each of the children. The part about being accosted by Balzac had me squirming in my seat. And please come to Hobart! Fullers Bookshop down here are doing a great job – your book was in the front window for about a week and every week I go in Animal People is always prominently displayed with a lovely note about how good it is. Anyway, great book, keep ’em coming Charlotte. Cheers, Sam.

    • Ah, thanks Sam. that is very lovely of you. The folks at Fullers have been extremely supportive indeed, and I’d love to go to Hobart some time – maybe early next year we could wangle a little trip as my bro & fam live in Tassie too.

      Thanks for your kind wishes x

      • Gosh, that’s nice! Must warm you up like mulled wine getting a gorgeous little note like that, Charlotte – and Tasmania is, really, no matter what the bully states say, the food capital of Australia. Get down there and report back!!!

  5. Charlotte, not saying I don’t like rich choc cakes etc but I do like a cake I can really hoe into without feeling my gall bladder is sqirming.
    I have found a morish and tasty cake with all my favourite ingredients such as yoghurt, lemon etc with heaps of walnuts. It is an Albanian Walnut cake, and actually tastes better a day or 2 after baking. It is found in one of the very reliable Moosewood Resturant Cookbooks. So happy you love cooking like I do.

    • I love yoghurty cakes Nancy, and although have done plenty with almonds, never with walnuts – sounds extremely gorgeous, am going to track it down. Thrilled to be in touch again – you were one of the few excellent cooks in our crowd in those long, long-ago days of youth I recall! xxx

  6. Delicious sounding as usual, Shuckin’. I am going to raid your blog for inspiration as have recently been eating like a teenage boy and as a result feel all greasy and foul. I need healthful foods. Stat.

    • Me too, DoctorDi. I have been writing a magazine piece on ‘nose-to-tail’ eating and thus eating way too much meat. Craving salady and seafoody goodness, so stay tuned for more …

  7. Well you know I’m always fond of a beetroot recipe, but even I’ve never had a double beetroot meal. Salad and cake sounds fabulous – I’m quite envious. I’ve never tried roasting walnuts in balsamic, but sounds like a cracking idea.

    I also love that hummous recipe – such no-nonsense instructions.

  8. Hi Charlotte we use walnuts with goats cheese, roast pumpkin, puy lentils and anything steamed and green which we happen to find in the fridge vege drawer. We also put crushed walnuts in bircher muesi and in pesto sludge which lives in a jar in the fridge and gets poured on everything savoury!

  9. […] roasted beetroot with caramelised walnuts, feta & dill, a current favourite […]

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