Catering for all the family

No. 7 Balmac chef Penny Allan relaxes at home with  children  (from left) Billie, Rockie, Adelphi...
No. 7 Balmac chef Penny Allan relaxes at home with children (from left) Billie, Rockie, Adelphi and Carlos. Freddie is absent. PHOTOS: NICK BEADLE/STW STUDIO
As the turmoil of Covid-19 continues to swirl globally, here in our little corner of the world it is time to celebrate our wonderful food professionals. Rebecca Fox talks 
to No. 7 Balmac chef Penny Allan about the food her family of seven eats at home and how she and husband Billy, who does the cooking when she is at work, deal with differing likes and dietary requirements to keep everyone happy.

What is your favourite dish to cook at home?

Well my husband usually cooks most of the meals so when I’m home I like to cook up a treat — lots of baked items including sweet buns etc. My favourite meal to make is probably fresh tortilla wraps with various fillings, as all the kids have individual tastes.

What type of food do you cook for your family?

The thing I don’t do is meat and three vegetable-style meals. I like variety and I like the use of spices. There’s always a vegetarian option and for Carlos, my youngest, a kid-friendly option.

How did you discover the Middle Eastern flavourings you love to use?

My father is Lebanese and my mother is Greek, and she learned to cook a lot of Arabic meals. Middle Eastern food is by far the most accessible of cuisines to interpret here in Dunedin, and it is for me something that can be gently introduced, as a lot of it is just subtle differences.

How do your kids find these different flavours?

They are happy as long as it isn’t in every part of the meal — I always offer something plain to dilute any strong flavours, as all the kids have different tolerances. And when it’s too much, just add yoghurt!

What is your tip for making cooking for the family night after night easier?

I find that if I’m cooking, I make lots so I’ve got leftovers, and then the kids can choose what they’d like to eat the next night. Also, it’s good to have a soup or something just sitting in the fridge. There’s nothing wrong with a hot toasted sandwich and some soup on a busy afternoon with the kids.

How do you cater to different dietary requirements?

I have an 8-year-old who doesn’t like anything too adventurous and a 12-year-old vegetarian, so there’s always a variety of things on offer. I’ve often made bland vegetarian meals that are instantly fixed with sriracha and soy sauce.

What is your favourite comfort food?

I do love eggs fried in olive oil eaten with yoghurt and fresh bread.

What is always in your fridge?

Milk, cheese, unsalted butter, Greek yoghurt.


Middle Eastern minced lamb pizza with pomegranate

Makes 4 large pizzas

Pizza dough

1kg plain flour, sifted

2 tsp dried instant yeast

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp fine salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

550ml lukewarm water

4 Tbsp olive oil

Lamb topping

500g lean lamb mince

2 red onions, finely diced

4 fresh medium-sized tomatoes,

cores removed, diced

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp fine salt

1 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses

To serve

freshly squeezed lemon juice

cayenne pepper

Zaatar pizza

4 Tbsp sesame seeds

4 Tbsp dried oregano

4 Tbsp sumac

½ tsp turmeric

1 cup olive oil

To serve

flaky salt

fresh marjoram, thyme or oregano leaves


In the bowl of a stand mixer with a hook, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water.

Add the oil, salt, flour, and eggs.

Mix till you have a soft firm dough.

Cover the bowl with a towel, prove till doubled in size.

Divide the dough into 4, roll into smooth balls and set aside till needed.

To make the lamb topping

Heat the olive oil in a wide heavy-based pan.

Gently fry the onion, spices and salt till fragrant.

Add the lamb mince; fry till evenly coloured.

Add the chopped tomato and the pomegranate and cook out until you get a thickened sauce.

Allow to cool.

While it is cooling, preheat the oven to 200degC.

Roll out the dough portion on a lightly floured bench.

Transfer the pizza base to a round tray with baking paper.

Spread a quarter of the lamb mixture evenly over the base, leaving a 2cm rim from the edge.

With wet fingertips, fold the rim over itself to create a crimped edge – this helps to keep the sauce from running off the pizza.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the base is golden brown and the pizza looks evenly browned.

Remove from oven, immediately sprinkle with cayenne pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice — this step is essential to the flavour, so add as little or as much as you like but don’t skip this part. It makes the pizza very moreish.

To make the zaatar pizza

Roll out the dough portion on a lightly floured bench.

Transfer the pizza base to a round tray with baking paper.

Mix all the zaatar topping ingredients together and smear all over the pizza.

Poke a few holes into the dough with a fork.

Bake in a hot oven for 25 minutes or till done.

Finish with some salt and fresh herbs


2 cups unsweetened yoghurt

zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp flaky salt


Mix the ingredients together.

Strain through a cloth overnight.

Transfer to a clean container — discard the whey.

Chopped salad with cos lettuce

2 cos lettuces

1 bunch spring onion

1 telegraph cucumber, split lengthways,

seeds removed

1 punnet cherry tomatoes, quartered

½ cup fresh mint leaves

½ cup young celery leaves

salt and pepper

red wine vinegar

olive oil

1 tsp dried mint


Quarter the cos lettuces, wash and dry thoroughly

Chop all the ingredients to the size of the quartered cherry tomatoes.

Make a dressing with the olive oil and vinegar.

Add the fresh and dry chopped herbs.

Arrange the lettuce on a platter.

Mix the dressing into the salad.

Spoon the salad over the cos leaves.


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