It has been a chaotic few months but we are just about settled in our new house in the country and I have been itching to post something.  So, I thought it about time to jump back into tastyshoestring.  A simple little recipe to start with and kick things off.  Labneh is a cheese made by straining yoghurt allowing the whey to slip away and the yoghurt to thicken until a soft, but tangy cheese is formed.  It is so easy to make and versatile too, I am going to show you a basic savoury labneh  but you can easily switch it up omitting the salt to create a neutral option that can be used for desserts.

Start with a good quality natural, pot set, full fat yoghurt.  The brand I use comes in a 750g tub to which I add 10g/1.5tsp salt but you can play around with the amount and add the salt to suit your taste.

Mix together until smooth.

If you have a jelly bag it is perfect for this, if not don’t worry a simple square of muslin or cheese cloth does the job and can be picked up for a couple of dollars.  I use a piece approximately 45x90cm then fold it in half to make a square of 45x45cm double thickness.  Drape it over a bowl big enough to take the volume of yoghurt.

Pour in the yoghurt and salt mixture.

Take opposite corners and tie them together, make sure they are secure enough to take the weight the yoghurt.

Next thread the handle of a wooden spoon, skewer or chopstick through the knots and suspend over a high sided mixing bowl or stock pot.  It needs to be raised off the bottom of the vessel, so the whey can drip away freely.

Simply cover and set aside for 12-24 hours depending on how firm you want your labneh. I leave mine out on the bench top but you can place it in the fridge if you prefer. The longer you leave it the more whey that drains and the firmer the labneh.  Feel free to give it a gentle squeeze while it is in the bag and when you like what you feel it is ready!

Untie the knots and open up the bag.

And there you have it you have made a deliciously creamy, slightly sour, yoghurt cheese.  Now to pretty it up and add some zing.

It is delicious on its own but my favourite is to sprinkle a little sumac along with some freshly grated lemon zest and a little drizzle of olive oil.

It is so good simply with some crusty bread or spread it on toast for breakfast and top it with some smoked salmon for a treat on the weekend.  Serve it with crudités for a light snack or in a sandwich with some salad.



prep time: 5 mins, Total time 12-24 hours
serves 10, cost per serve $0.25


  • 750g/3 cups Full Fat Natural Yoghurt
  • 10g/1 1/2tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp sumac (optional)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest (optional)
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil (optional)


  1. Mix the salt and yoghurt together.
  2. Pour the mixture into a jelly bag or fashion your own using a square of muslin and a wooden spoon or chopstick (see above).
  3. Leave to drain for 12-24 hours.
  4. Sprinkle over the lemon zest and drizzle the olive oil then it is ready to serve.

Once made it will keep for a week in the fridge and can be topped or mixed with whatever you fancy.  The sumac and lemon zest is just a suggestion, just treat it like you would a tangy cream cheese.


Light and Fluffy Wheat Bran Pancakes


Oscar my eldest is always asking me for pancakes and I am always finding excuses not to make them, lets face it traditionally they are not the healthiest breakfast option and I feel like they aren’t the most time friendly of dishes either.

Oscar is 4 and 1/4 now and for a while has been at the “but why?” stage. I am finding it increasingly difficult to fob him off with feeble reasons as his growing mind is continually finding solutions to my lame excuses .  With regards to the pancakes he said “Couldn’t we just make healthy ones then?”  Who am I to argue?

I went in search of healthy pancake options that didn’t involve a tonne of ingredients that I could easily whip up on a weekday morning.  I mashed a few ideas together and after a little trial and error I think we nailed it!  These humble little pancakes are super quick and easy to pull together and the result is light and melt-in-the-mouth, plus they have the added bonus of being packed with the fibre regular pancakes are lacking.

During the week when we are rushing to get out the door we simply top them with some fresh fruit and a dollop of yoghurt or a drizzle of maple syrup (or both!), but if time is no object then a poached egg, some bacon and grilled tomato or banana works pretty well too!  Then there are the mornings where time is in such short supply a ‘grab and run breakfast’ is required.  On these occasions I like to toss some chopped apple and a teaspoon of cinnamon or some sliced banana and a handful of cacao nibs (or dark chocolate chips) into the batter, when they are cooked they are the perfect excuse not to skip breakfast.

They are delicious cold as a snack too, just think, less fat and sugar than a cookie!  They can be made in advance too and they keep really well.

Start by mixing the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Crack in the eggs, pour in the milk and a little oil, then mix until combined, then ladle a little into a non-stick pan.

I don’t have a non-stick pan so I usually use my sandwich press, which I love because the heat is gentle and constant so I can almost forget about them while I get on with the multitude off other morning chores us Mum’s have! When you start to see little bubbles start to appear on the surface they are ready to be flipped.

Cook for another few minutes and they are ready.

Serve them up hot with some fresh fruit and yoghurt and a drizzle of maple syrup or top them with some eggs and bacon.

Light and fluffy Wheat bran pancakes

Prep time: 5 minutes, cook time: 10 minutes
Makes 12 pancakes, total cost:  $2.25 ($0.19 per cake)


  • 120g/3/4 cup plain flour
  • 50g/1 cup wheat bran
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp raw or coconut sugar (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 250ml/1 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp rice bran oil or other neutral oil


  1. Place all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine.
  2. Crack in the eggs, pour over the milk and oil then mix altogether until you have a smooth batter.
  3. Heat a non-stick pan or sandwich press then ladle 1/4 cup of mixture onto the hot surface.
  4. Using the back of the ladle spread the mixture to make a nice round pancake.
  5. When small holes start to appear they are ready flip.  Turn them over and continue to cook for another few minutes, or until golden brown on both sides and cooked through.
  6. Serve with a topping of your choice, hot warm or cold!

Note:  These pancakes keep for 3 days in the fridge or a month in the freezer, so make a double batch and if you want to reheat them simply pop them down in the toaster until piping hot.

Overnight Oats with Peach and Blueberries

I was introduced to overnight oats a year or so ago but was never really bitten by the bug.  Recently though a friend told me about Bircher Muesli which is a form of overnight oats.  You start with  rolled oats and soak them in apple juice overnight, in the morning you mix in some grated apple, top with yoghurt, et voilà!  I  tried it and it was delicious just a wee bit sweet for my taste.  I thought I would give it a go with some coconut water and given that NZ is experiencing an apple famine I thought I would add in some peaches and blueberries which, are very much in season and just exploding with flavour.

I love the fact that you can prepare them, for the most part, the night before and they are perfect for a transportable brekky, simply soak the oats in a jar and top with fruit and yoghurt before you head out the door.   If you need one more reason to try overnight oats, let it be known that they are pretty healthy too!  The soaking activates the oat germ, initiating the sprouting process making them easier to digest and generally better for you.

I like to use a mix of steel-cut oats and rolled oats. If you haven’t had steel-cut before they look a little different to regular rolled or quick oats.  Instead of being submitted to pressure and steam the oat groats are simply sliced into two or three sections.  They tend to have a lower glycemic index but are otherwise nutritionally very similar to the other types.  The reason I like them though is they have a chewy almost nutty  texture and stand up to the overnight soaking.  If you can’t find them you can just double the amount of rolled oats you use.

In a medium bowl combine the oats and coconut water.

Cover and leave in the fridge overnight.

Divide mixture into two bowls and top with yoghurt, diced peach, blueberries finally scatter over the chopped almonds.

 If you want to make them totally transportable or ready to roll for the following day simply build the layers in a straight sided jar, screw or clamp the lid on and you are set.

Peach and Blueberry overnight oats

prep time: 5  minutes previous night + 5 minutes in the morning
serves 2, cost per serve: $1.50


  • 45g/1/4 cup steel-cut oats
  • 45g/1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 180ml/3/4 cup coconut water
  • 2/3 cup thick set or Greek style yoghurt
  • 2 peaches
  • blueberries
  • 2 tbsp almonds, chopped


  1. In a medium bowl combine the oats and coconut water.
  2. Cover and leave to soak overnight in the fridge.
  3. Divide the soaked oats between two bowls or jars and top with the yoghurt, fruit and chopped almonds.

You can soak the oats overnight to 48 hours and once constructed your ensemble with keep fresh for 24 hours.

Mix it up, try soaking the oats in milk or juice, change the fruits and nuts also try adding in some spices or nut butters to make it richer.  I will be experimenting for sure, the possibilities are endless.

Summer Fruit Ice Blocks

We have had such a disappointing strawberry season this year.  It started with an invasion of slugs that chewed through each and every berry at the point of ripening.  I spent many an evening out with tongs and a bucket on the hunt for these slimy, little critters but no matter how many I caught more seemed to evade me.  After several weeks I gave up and bought some slug pellets, they worked almost instantly and within days we started reaping the rewards.  For about two weeks we were getting nearly a punnet a day and it was awesome but then our resident thrush invited a couple of friends over and between them they hatched a plan to break into our netted strawberry patch.  On a daily basis I would find at least one of them in there, literally drunk on strawberry and as I ushered them out they were completely unfazed by my presence.

The birds seem to realise however, that the season (in our garden at least) is coming to a close and very graciously left the final harvest to us.  So yesterday I went with Oscar to pick the last few berries and we decided as it was such a hot day, that we would guzzle down a couple each before combining the remainder into some delicious, creamy yet refreshing ice blocks.

It only takes minutes to cobble together.  Hull the strawberries and peel the banana, halve the nectarine and remove the stone.  Place all of the fruit into a blender along with the coconut cream and honey if using.

Blend until smooth then pour into moulds.

Place in the freezer and leave to freeze for at least 4 hours.

Summer fruit ice blocks

Prep Time: 10 minutes, freeze time: 4+ hours
yield: 750ml/3cups, cost: $6.00


  • 400g can coconut cream
  • 200g hulled strawberries
  • 1 medium banana
  • 1 nectarine or peach
  • 1 tsp runny honey (optional – depending on the sweetness of the fruit)


  1. Place all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Pour mixture into moulds and freeze.
  3. Depending on the size of the moulds they will take around 4-6 hours to freeze.


Sprouted Puy Lentils

The title will either inspire you or make you curl and turn in disgust.  If you are the latter, bear with me because not so long ago I felt the same way about sprouts in any shape or form, but a while back I was chatting about them with our playgroup leader who is a wealth of knowledge on the subject and she suggested trying lentils as the flavour is milder than some other sprouts, almost nutty.  I felt compelled to give home sprouting a go.  Well I was a convert and the whole process is so ridiculously easy, you don’t need a green thumb or even the vaguest idea about gardening you just need something to sprout (in this case puy lentils), a vessel in which to sprout in (glass jar, bowl, tray, plate etc.), some water and a dark place to keep your little babies while they are germinating.

Continue reading “Sprouted Puy Lentils”

Courgette Soup with Garlic and Rosemary Croutons

I don’t know about New Years Resolutions but I do like a fresh start which the beginning of the year offers.  The only trouble is I tend to treat December as a month of anything goes, food wise anyway!  It gets progressively worse as the month goes by, culminating in a week of total wickedness involving copious amounts of chocolate and other such evils, mainly of the festive variety.  My theory…you have to get them gone before the “fresh start”!

So the “fresh start” has arrived and I am craving fruit and veggies.  Our courgette plants began producing over the festive period and I have found myself with a couple of kilos, so I thought I would make a quick soup to cleanse body and soul, starting the New Year off on the right foot!

Continue reading “Courgette Soup with Garlic and Rosemary Croutons”

Roast Veggie Couscous Salad

Our little Christmas tree is up and the living room is decorated modestly but secretly I struggle to feel very Christmassy when it is summer time (despite having been south side for 12 years!).  What I do love about Christmas here though is all the BBQs and potluck get-togethers where everyone brings a plate to share and catches up over some good food.  This week we have two, one for Oscar’s kindy and the other at Playcentre.

It has been a mad week so I need quick and easy, but still delicious of course.  I am on dessert at Playcentre so thought I might make a Quinoa Chocolate Cake but for Oscar’s kindy we have been asked to bring a savoury dish so I am going to make this couscous salad which can be knocked up in a flash.  The veggies can be roasted the night before along with the sunflower and pumpkin seeds.  If you haven’t cooked with couscous before you are in for a treat.  It is ready in minutes and only requires minimal effort to make it something pretty darn tasty. Continue reading “Roast Veggie Couscous Salad”

Apricot and Almond Breakfast Loaf


The sun is shining and it is officially summer, plus check it out…my little tomato flowers I posted about last week withered and in their place perfectly formed, pale green spheres are growing.  Not long before we will be tasting the sweet, juicy fruits of our labours.  Very exciting!

As well as marking the start of summer the 1st of December also marks the beginning of the  craziness leading towards the festive period.  I normally enjoy the build up but this year I just want to curl up in a ball and wake up in January.  I am totally frazzled and it is only the very beginning.  Time to get organised, starting with make ahead breakfast.  This loaf is packed full of oats, apricots and almonds and can be eaten on the go, ensuring you don’t skip the most important meal of the day.

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Braised Lentils with Kumera


Every year I plant some orange Tumbling Toms, they are a cherry tomato that is happy growing in hanging baskets as well as window boxes and containers alike.  I grow a few full sized heirloom toms too.  Each have their unique qualities and I love them all, but these little tumblers are particularly special.  Not only are they so sweet and juicy but are always the first to fruit so, for me they signify the start of summer and all the delicious produce that will follow.  Well you can imagine how excited I was when I spotted not one but two little flowers blossoming with all their might despite the stormy and unseasonably cold week we have just had.


Braised lentils may not seem like summer fare, but as I mentioned before the weather has seemed more autumnal than late springlike and to be fair I love lentils in any shape or form at any time of year, they are full of cholesterol lowering fibre, a good source of protein, minerals and B-vitamins as well as being a pretty cheap way to put a delicious meal on the table.  They are also fairly quick to cook, when compared to other dried legumes, most of which require soaking prior to a lengthy cooking time.  Most importantly for me at the moment though, is that I can make a  one-pot meal that suits the whole family including Giddy my little 7 month old who is venturing further into the world of solid foods but still needs something easy to eat and gentle on the tummy. Continue reading “Braised Lentils with Kumera”

Banana and Walnut Loaf


I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks so first and foremost big apologies, but I have a good excuse…my Dad who I hadn’t seen for 3 years is over visiting from the UK!  My love of food comes from him so it goes without saying over the past two weeks many nostalgic dishes have been cooked and shared.  Feeling like it was time to work off a few of the calories consumed, yesterday morning we all headed out early to do a loop of the Goldie Bush Scenic Reserve.  It is an awesome walk which Oscar (my nearly 4 year old) loves.  There are several waterfalls, river crossings and because it has been wet, so much mud we were virtually swimming in it.  goldie-bush

The loop takes around 3 hours (longer when if you have a little one that adores mud!) so a break for a bit of morning tea somewhere along the way is always welcomed.  A thermos of hot tea accompanied by the sweetest and juiciest tangelo I have ever tasted and a generous slice of banana bread boosted our energies for the remainder of the trip.

This banana bread has been a regular in our house for several years, it is so moist and is really easy to make.  I like the addition of walnuts for a bit of crunch and to give you a little break from the sweet banana.  It is also great way to use up overripe bananas. The recipe makes two loaves – as with most of my baking I like to do double batches to make the most of the oven being on, but you can halve it quite easily. Continue reading “Banana and Walnut Loaf”