Winter Beetroot & Lentil Salad


In my family, we usually all pitch in and bring a dish to share at family gatherings. Usually the person hosting makes the main dish and we all bring sides to accompany it. Over the weekend, we had a very special lunch to celebrate the engagement of my Sister A and her very lucky fiance M. I thought about what to make, and decided to give myself a challenge: to create something using only the ingredients I had in the fridge.

So much food is wasted here in Australia, when all it takes is a bit of imagination to spare perfectly good ingredients ending up in the trash. I came up with this yummy salad of beetroot and lentils – perfect for this cold weather – that was inspired by a traditional Scandinavian dish I often make at Christmas time. It turned out so well I decided to share it with you today. I only had dry dill on hand unfortunetly, but if you have the chance use fresh.

450g canned whole baby beetroot
1 green apple
1/2 red onion
2 x 400g tins of lentils
3 tbsp oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 bunch fresh dill
1/4 cup light sour cream
salt and pepper

  1. Drain the beetroot and cut into bite-sized wedges. Place in a bowl and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp vinegar. Add 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill and toss well. Set aside.
  2. Peel and cut the apple into thin batons. Finely dice the onion and place with the apple in another large bowl. Add the lentils with 2 tbsp olive oil, mustard, 1 tbsp vinegar and 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill. Season to taste and toss well.
  3. In a serving bowl, alternate layers of the beetroot and lentils. Top with dollops of sour cream and more chopped fresh dill.

Serves 4

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Chicken Tikka Masala


As we welcome winter, there’s nothing I like more than a good curry to warm me from the inside out. One of my favourites is chicken tikka masala, a dish not traditionally Indian but created to suit anglo tastes. While the ingredient list might look long, it’s really only all the different spices which you can find side-by-side at any good supermarket.

1kg chicken breasts, diced into 3cm cubes
1/4 cup Greek yoghurt, plus extra to serve
2 tbsp ground smoked paparika
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp tumeric
2 tbsp canola oil
1 brown onion, diced
3 red chillis, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp ginger
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup cream
rice and fresh coriander, to serve

  1. In a small bowl, combine paprika, ground coriander, cumin, garam masala and tumeric.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, greek yoghurt and half the spice mix. Leave to marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  3. Heat canola oil in a saute pan and saute onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chilli, garlic and ginger and cook under fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining spice mix and stir until the spices become fragrant, about 2 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a blender and blending until smooth.
  4. Pour onion mix into a large saucepan. Add the tomato paste, cream, and 250ml water and bring to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, thread chicken onto skewers and grill on a hot BBQ until chicken is browned and only just done. Pull the chicken off the skewers and add to the curry sauce and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  6. Serve hot with rice, fresh coriander and extra Greek yoghurt.

Serves 4

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Get happy with a visit to Serotonin Eatery


After over-indulging in too many tacos, burgers and macarons, Melbourne has been struck by severe food guilt and is now obsessed with healthy living. Green smoothies by the bucket load are being downed by lycra-clad wellness warriors in the pursuit of achieving optimum health. We have even created a new word ‘fitzpo’, short for fitness inspiration to describe blogs and Instagram accounts dedicated entirely to clean living. Entrepeneur Emily Hazell is capitalizing on this sudden crisis of conscience by opening Serotonin Eatery, prescribing clean eating to improve the mental health of her customers.

Seratonin Eatery is just the first step in Hazell’s holistic approach to increasing our serotonin levels, a chemical found primarily in the gut that helps regulate mood, sleep pattern, appetite and other aspects of everyday life. Hazell believes that combining the right foods with exercise and a healthy lifestyle will help stimulate the production of the chemical and improve our mood. Along with serving nutritious food at the cafe, Hazell’s brother Gus Arundel offers fitness classes in the neighbouring Golden Square Bicentennial Park, while the final element will be wellness seminars due to start next year.

But this is more than just a fad for Hazell. After battling with depression five years ago, Hazell was determined to stay off medication by completely changing her lifestyle “I went through some mood slumps and did my own research into natural happiness and the word serotonin kept getting mentioned,” she says. “This is not about trends, fads, quick fixes or making money. This is about helping Australians with their health!”

While it’s an admirable ambition, there is no evidence yet to suggest increasing serotonin levels improves mood. But whether or not there’s any scientific backing, Serotonin’s healthy approach to food is sure to be beneficial.

The succinct breakfast and lunch menus focus on nutritious, plant-based options that celebrate veggies – that’s right guys, no meat here. “I am taking food back to its closest natural state and serving organic, raw, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free and meat-free options,” says Emily. “At Serotonin Eatery, the whole menu is nourishing, delicious and guilt-free.”

If you’re after a healthy start to the day, there’s old favourite, porridge, served with red quinoa, poached pear and seasonal fruit with nuts and seeds ($17.00), as well as new favourite, smashed avo, served with chilli, feta and white beans topped with beetroot relish ($15.00). There’s also twice baked beans in a rich tomato sauce, with a side of powerkraut (that’s sauerkraut to you and I) and rocket, served with wholegrain danish rye. For $17.00 it’s a little on the expensive side, and with the optional poached eggs (+3.00) you won’t be getting any change back from a twenty for this humble dish.


For lunch, the zucchini linguine – raw zucchini noodles tossed with napoli sauce, cherry tomatoes, spinach and fresh herbs – is a healthy spin on traditional pasta. While it may shock a few nonnas out there, it’ll impress the lycra brigade. It’s a tasty dish, but again at $18.00 it’s a little on the expensive side.


And of course, what wellness cafe would be complete without a list of smoothies? Serotonin’s list of ‘bluices’ or blended juices, includes a delicious blend of pineapple, strawberries, banana and orange ($9.00). Served topped with shredded coconut, these are a meal in themselves.

MFF_Serotonin_SmoothieThere’s a lot to like about Serotonin: the space is beautiful, the staff are friendly, and there’s plenty of delicious guilt-free options to choose from. Is my life going to be improved by a serving of raw zucchini noodles? Probably not. But anything that gets us to stop and think about improving our mental health is a step in the right direction.

Serotonin Eatery
52 Madden Grove,
Burnley VIC 3121
(03) 9428 8256

Wed to Fri 7am‒4pm
Sat & Sun 8am‒4pm
(Kitchen closes at 3pm)

Click to add a blog post for Serotonin Eatery on Zomato

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Thai Style Pumpkin Soup w/ Tuna


Now that it’s getting colder, there’s nothing better than a nice warm bowl of pumpkin soup. But if you’re anything like me, even the largest bowl of pumpkin soup will only keep you full for about 5 minutes. The solution? Add tuna! That’s right. If you want to make your soup more of a meal, adding a tin of tuna and some garnishes is a great way to fill you up! You can even make the pumpkin soup ahead of time and freeze in individual portions, adding the tuna and garnishes later for a super speedy, healthy lunch.

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 brown onion, diced
3 tbsp thai red curry paste
1 large butternut pumpkin (about 2kg), peeled, cut into 5cm pieces

1.5L chicken stock (or use vegetable)

600g canned tuna in oil
100ml coconut cream
1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves
2 tsp chilli powder

  1. In a pan large enough to fit the cut pumpkin, brown the onion in the coconut oil until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add the curry paste and stir until fragrant, about 1 minutes.
  2. Add the pumpkin and enough chicken stock just to cover everything (you may not need it all). Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, and leave for 15-20 minutes until the pumpkin is very tender. Allow to cool slightly before blending with a hand blender.
  3. Divide the pumpkin soup amongst 6 bowls. Drizzle in some coconut cream, then top with tuna, coriander and chilli powder.

Serves 6

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Mexican Stuffed Eggplants


I’m a big fan of Mexican food and love a good burrito, but I always feel a bit guilty after eating them. So I came up with this recipe for Mexican Stuffed Eggplants to ease my carb guilt. Really easy to make, these guys are full of protein and veggies to make them a complete meal in themselves, and much better for you than the real thing (and are gluten free!). Serve them with Greek yoghurt and fresh coriander leaves, or even some guacamole if you like.


3 large eggplants
1 brown onion, diced
2 tbsp coconut oil
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
750g mince beef
30g sachets taco seasoning
3 tomatoes, diced
1 red capsicum, deseeded and diced
1 can corn kernels
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
50g grated cheddar cheese
plain Greek yoghurt & coriander leaves, to serve

  1. Preheat oven to 180C fan forced.
  2. Cut the stem off the end of the eggplants and cut in half lengthways. Using a spoon, scoop the flesh from the eggplant, leaving about a 5-10mm border. Discard the flesh or use for other recipes. Arrange the eggplant cut side up in 2 deep baking trays so they fit snugly.
  3. In a large saute pan, cook the onion in the coconut oil over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for another minute until fragrant.
  4. Add the mince to the pan with the taco seasoning and cook until the liquid appears and evaporates, about 5-10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, capsicum and corn and cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Season mince to taste.
  5. Divide the mince between the eggplant, sprinkle with pine nuts and cover with aluminum foil. Place in a moderate oven and cook for 60 minutes or until eggplant is tender.
  6. Remove eggplant from oven, sprinkle with cheese and place under the grill until cheese has melted. Remove from oven and sprinkle with coriander leaves. Serve warm with Greek yoghurt.

Serves 6

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