Quick noodle dinners


photo Marina Oliphant

 There are oodles of noodles available at the supermarket and they can be easily put together for a quick meal.

Like their Italian counterparts, asian noodles are often made from wheat flour, with or without the addition of egg. These noodles can be white or yellow, thin or thick, and are available both fresh and dried.

Noodles can also be made from rice flour, buckwheat flour, potato flour and mung bean flour. Cellophane noodles are thin clear noodles made from mung beans. Buckwheat flour is used to make Japanese soba noodles.

When cooking, noodles can be steamed, stir fried, deep fried, boiled or served in soup.

There are no hard and fast rules about what type of noodles to use in a dish, so use your favourite or try something new.

They are perfect pantry ingredients –quick to cook and very versatile.

So whether you slurp them or twirl them on your fork, I hope you try some of these recipes, ‘cos then you really will be using your noodle.


Spicy prawn laksa


photo Marina Oliphant


A hot, spicy, soupy, noodle dish is perfect for this time of the year. Laksas are a great way to enjoy lots of different seafood. Use any combination you like. Add some kaffir lime leaves and sliced chilli for extra zing.


4 tbsp good quality laksa paste

400ml tin coconut milk

500ml chicken or vegetable stock

200g white fish fillet, cut in chunks

6 green prawns, shelled and deveined

200g (approx ½ packet) fresh asian noodles

1 small lebanese cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced

half cup bean sprouts

2 tbsp fried shallots

1 spring onion, sliced

handful fresh coriander to garnish


Heat laksa paste in a medium sized saucepan for a few minutes to release the flavour. Add coconut milk and stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to simmer and add fish and prawns. Gently poach for about 5 minutes until cooked.

Place noodles in a large heatproof bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Allow to stand for 2 minutes to heat through, then drain.

Place drained noodles in large serving bowls, pour over laksa and garnish with cucumber, bean sprouts, fried shallots, spring onion and coriander.


Serves 2.


Sichuan eggplant with noodles


photo Marina Oliphant

This recipe has been adapted from one that my daughter cooks in her school’s kitchen garden program. It’s a delicious vegetarian meal with a spicy kick from the Sichuan chilli bean paste. Add some mince pork or other vegetables for a variation.


4 small Lebanese eggplants (300g)

3 tbsp peanut oil

1 tbsp minced ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 stalks spring onion, sliced on an angle

1 tbsp Sichuan chilli bean paste

½ cup chicken stock

2 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tsp cornflour mixed in a little cold water

100g bean thread vermicelli noodles, soaked for 7 minutes in boiling water



Cut eggplant in half lengthwise, then slice into 1.5 cm pieces.

Heat oil in wok and stir fry eggplant until golden.

Add ginger, garlic, spring onion and chilli bean paste and stir fry for 30 seconds until fragrant.

Mix chicken stock with soy and add to wok with cornflour mixture.

Cook for about 1 minute to thicken the sauce.

Add noodles and toss together.

Serve immediately.


Serves 2.


pork and noodle stirfry


Another easy meal that makes a regular appearance for family meals. Use different noodles for variety. I have used fresh flat rice noodles for their delicate soft texture. Tamarind puree is available in jars from specialty asian stores, or you can use tamarind juice by soaking tamarind in warm water. (Tamarind is in a packet in the asian aisle of the supermarket). It gives a lovely sour taste. I finely shred the vegies with the mandolin, but you can simply slice them with a knife.


1 packet fresh noodles (about 400g)

2 cloves garlic

1 large mild red chilli, deseeded (optional)

2 tsp white pepper

¼ (quarter) red onion, finely diced

2 tbs rice bran oil

500g minced pork

1 tsp tamarind puree

4 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced

2 tbs brown sugar

2 tbs fish sauce

1 carrot, shredded

1 red pepper, shredded

1 cucumber, shredded

1 cup basil leaves

1 cup coriander leaves

deep fried shallots and crushed peanuts to serve


Place noodles in a large heatproof bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Allow to stand for a few minutes, stir to loosen noodles, drain and set aside.

Place garlic, chilli, pepper and onion in a mortar and pestle and pound to form a paste. (You can also use a food processor.)

Heat oil in wok, fry paste for 1 minute, then add pork mince and fry for a few minutes until browned. Add tamarind puree, lime leaves, brown sugar and fish sauce and cook for a few minutes. Taste and adjust flavouring. It should taste sweet and sour, spicy and salty. Now add carrot, pepper, cucumber and noodles. Toss well to combine.

Finally add herbs and remove from heat.

Place into serving bowls and top with shallots and peanuts.


serves 4.





cooking with flowers

photo Marina Oliphant

Flowers lend a delicacy to cooking. Many flowers are appearing on restaurant menus, as more than a pretty garnish. You can buy punnets of edible flowers from select greengrocers and markets. Some of the flowers in your garden may also be edible, especially the flowers of culinary herbs and vegetables. The flavour of their flowers is often similar, but more subtle. If using the flowers, scatter over before serving, to add another layer of flavour to the dish. Violets, nasturtiums, lavender and rose petals are commonly used in cooking. Ensure that any flowers to be eaten haven’t been subjected to spraying with pesticides and trim off the bitter white ends of the petals. Flowers can also be used to make flavoured waters. Orange blossom water and rose water are used extensively in cooking. You can buy these beautiful looking bottles from select supermarkets, specialist food shops and delicatessens. The flavour is intense, so only a small amount is required. Look to Middle Eastern and Indian cook books for recipes using these fragrant waters. Don’t forget that several of your spices are actually from flowers too. Saffron is the stigma from the flower of the saffron crocus. And capers are buds from the caper bush. Cloves are dried flower buds too. So you have probably been using flowers in your cooking already. There’s no denying that adding flowers to a dish makes it instantly more appealing. When it comes to Mother’s day this year, be creative when you give your Mum flowers and cook her something fragrant. Of course, I’m sure that a traditional bunch of flowers wouldn’t go amiss, either.

orange blossom, pear and walnut salad


photo Marina Oliphant

3 ripe pears

2 ½ tbsp honey

3 cardamom pods, bruised

1 tbsp orange blossom water

2 tbsp verjuice

3 tbsp walnut oil

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

salt and pepper to season

100g walnuts

½ cup pickled onions

2 cups mixed lettuce leaves

handful fresh edible flowers

Peel and quarter pears, then remove the core.

Heat honey in frypan with cardamom, orange blossom water and verjuice.

Toss pears in mixture, then cook over low heat until soft and slightly caramelised.

Whisk walnut oil and vinegar to make a simple dressing. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large serving bowl, mix lettuce and pickled onions with salad dressing. Add pears and walnuts. Scatter over edible flowers and serve.

Pumpkin and saffron tart

photo Marina Oliphant

This recipe is based on a delicious pumpkin tart that I tried at Heronswood’s Fork to Fork café, in Dromana on the Mornington Peninsula. I have made it in a rectangular tin, but you could easily use a more traditional round tin. The quantity of pastry makes enough for 2 tarts this size, so freeze half and you will have pastry ready for another use.


500g pumpkin

½ onion, diced

50g butter

1 clove garlic, diced

few sprigs rosemary

pinch saffron threads

50g fine semolina

2 eggs

30g parmesan

sea salt and white pepper to season

2 tbsp pine nuts


200g chilled butter chopped

250g plain flour

125ml sour cream

1 egg yolk

Preheat oven to 200C.

Place pumpkin in oven and roast for 30 minutes, until tender.

To make the sour cream pastry, place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a dough forms. Remove, form into a ball and flatten slightly. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Remove pumpkin from oven and allow to cool, then scrape out seeds and discard. Use a large spoon to scrape out the flesh and place in a large bowl. Roughly mash to break up any large pieces.

Melt butter and cook onions, garlic and rosemary until softened and fragrant.

Place saffron threads in a small pan and cook over high heat for a few minutes until fragrant. Add saffron to onion mix. Remove from heat and mix with pumpkin. Add semolina and stir to combine. Puree with stick blender for a smooth consistency, or leave chunky for a more rustic style.

Mix in eggs, one at a time. Season well with salt and pepper then set aside.

Divide pastry dough in half (wrap up the other half, freeze and reserve for another use). Roll out sour dough pastry to 5mm thickness, to cover the base and sides of an 11cm x 34cm rectangular tart tin. Place in dish and trim around the edge with the back of a sharp knife. Patch any tears and holes with the pastry off cuts. Prick base of pastry lightly with a fork.

Cover base with baking paper and fill with pastry weights or rice. Blind bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and remove paper and pastry weights.

Place pumpkin filling into pie base and smooth the top. Sprinkle over parmesan cheese and pine nuts.

Bake for 40 minutes until golden and set.

Remove from oven and cool on wire rack before serving.

serves 4.

raspberry and rosewater panna cotta

2 cups (500ml) thickened cream

100ml milk

1 leaf rose geranium (optional)

5 tbsp caster sugar

one and a half leaves gelatine (Alba gold strength)

200g raspberries, plus extra for serving

2 tsp rosewater

pink rose petals to serve

Heat the thickened cream and milk in a small saucepan with rose geranium. Remove from heat and allow the delicate flavour to infuse for 1-2 hours.

Strain mixture through a sieve and return to the heat to warm gently. Add sugar.

Soak gelatine leaves in cold water for a few minutes to soften. Squeeze to remove excess water. Add gelatine to cream mixture and stir to dissolve.

Blitz raspberries in food processor. Add rosewater, then pour through a fine sieve to remove raspberry seeds. Pour raspberry puree into cream mixture and stir gently.

Pour into small dariole moulds.

Refrigerate overnight or until set.

To unmould, dip the moulds in a bowl of hot water briefly, then turn upside down onto small serving plates and shake gently to release the panna cotta.

Serve with rose petals and extra raspberries to garnish.

serves 6.