Poultry in motion

[Recipe 1] CHICKEN, ALMOND and ZUCCHINI PATTIES transform into
[Recipe 2] CHICKEN MEATBALL and NOODLE SOUP

I think I’ll launch head-first into the recipes this week. I’m absolutely pooped, and for once my brain is empty of chit-chat. Did I mention we have a newish cat, Moe (named after Moe from the Three Stooges)? We rescued him from the Greensborough Cat Protection Society, and he’s lovely. He’s such a good sport with our boys, tolerating endless tummy rubs and being wheeled around in home-made carts. The only negative about him is his daily 5.30am loud wakeup miaowing. Ouch. Although I would kill for an extra 90 minutes slumber, I’ve turned this ritual into a positive. The rest of the house manages to sleep ’til 7am, giving me a blissful 1½ hours of ‘me time’ every morning to blog and cruise Pinterest with a warm cat on my lap. I’m doing just that, as we speak!
Wow, I still managed some chit-chat, even in my sleep-deprived state. Now, onto the recipes… this week I’m sharing two fab chicken dishes. First up is Chicken, almond and zucchini patties. These are super easy to make, cheap and cheerful, and my boys love them. By making a large batch of the chicken mince mixture, you can set some aside and make chicken meatballs to use in a lip-smacking Chicken meatball and noodle soup for a second meal.
A word of warning – my 6-year old was quite freaked out by the ‘weird white balls’ in the soup, so the second time I tested the recipe I browned the balls before plunging them into the hot stock, and he was quite satisfied. You can choose your method, but cooking the raw meatballs in the stock is quicker, and more authentic. The husband and I prefer them done this way as the flavour is more delicate, but you may find that your kids will be happier with ‘proper brown balls’.
Ciao for now. Moe is hollering for his breakfast and I need a second coffee. Have a lovely week. xx

Moe-the-cat!Chook, zucchini almond patties[Recipe 1] Chicken, almond and zucchini patties

Ingredients (serves 4 for 3 meals; ie. 2 batches of patties and 1 batch of meatballs):
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
1 leek, white part only, halved lengthwise, cut into long strips and sliced finely
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1½ kilos (3 lb) minced (ground) chicken
3cm (1¼”) piece ginger, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons very finely-chopped lemongrass stalk, white part only
3 medium zucchini (500g/1 lb), grated, squeezed to remove excess liquid
250g (9 oz) almond meal
3 eggs, beaten
½ teaspoon sea salt
Peanut or vegetable oil, extra, for frying patties
To serve with patties:
Sweet chilli sauce
Green beans with toasted pine nuts

Heat oil in a small saucepan and fry the leek and garlic over a medium heat for 3 minutes. Process cooked leek, 500g (1 lb) of the chicken mince, ginger, lemongrass, zucchini, almond meal, eggs and salt until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl, add the remaining chicken mince and mix well.
Divide mixture into three portions of approx. 800g (1¾ lb) each.
Shape 2 portions into 8 patties each (total of 16 patties). Reserve one portion of 8 patties for tonight’s dinner. Freeze the other portion of 8 patties for another meal.
Roll the third portion of chicken mince into about 36 walnut-sized balls, with lightly-floured hands (use gluten-free flour if required).
♦ Reserve the chicken meatballs for the Chicken meatball noodle soup.
Note: The mixture is quite soft and sticky, but it firms up nicely when cooked; and makes for lovely light-textured patties and meatballs.
For tonight’s patties, heat extra oil in a large non-stick frying pan and cook patties on a low–medium heat for 6–8 minutes each side, until golden brown and cooked through.
Serve patties with sweet chilli sauce and green beans with toasted pine-nuts.

  • Uncooked chicken patties and chicken meatballs can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge. Pat dry with kitchen paper before using, to soak up excess moisture.
  • This recipe makes two batches of patties, and one batch of meatballs. You could of course choose to make 3 batches of patties or meatballs instead!
  • For a change, the patties can be served in soft rolls with chilli slaw or sliced avocado and mayo.
  • Grated lemongrass can be purchased frozen from Asian stores. I keep a large block in my freezer and hack off a chunk when required.

Chicken meatball noodle soup

[Recipe 2] Chicken meatball and noodle soup

Ingredients (serves 6, leftovers are great for lunch):
200g (7 oz) thin fresh egg noodles
2 litres chicken stock, home-made or store-bought
1–2 tablespoons fish sauce (to taste)
4 star anise
4 kaffir lime leaves
2 teaspoons sesame oil
♦ 800g (1¾ lb) portion reserved chicken meatballs
1 bunch bok choy (or choy sum), leaves only, very finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh coriander (cilantro), to serve
3 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced, to serve

Place noodles in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water and set aside for 5 minutes to soften. Drain. Divide noodles amongst 6 deep serving bowls (or 4 bowls and 2 plastic containers if you’re saving 2 portions for the following day’s lunch).
Place stock in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add fish sauce, star anise, kaffir lime leaves and sesame oil. Turn heat down to low and simmer for 5 minutes, covered.
Carefully place half the reserved raw meatballs into the hot stock. Simmer gently for 6–8 minutes, until cooked through.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked meatballs to 3 of the serving bowls. Repeat with remaining meatballs.
Note: if liked, meatballs can be browned in a lightly-oiled frying pan before adding to the stock. See my notes in the introduction.
Remove and discard star anise and lime leaves.
Add bok choy to the stock and simmer for a further 2–3 minutes. Season to taste – if you’ve used store-bought stock, it may be salty enough.
Ladle hot stock over the noodles and meatballs, and serve with scattered coriander and chopped spring onions.

  • Dried star anise is available from the spice section of supermarkets, and Asian food stores.
  • Kaffir lime leaves can be purchased fresh or frozen from Asian stores. 
  • 1 small red birdseye chilli, finely sliced, can be added to adult serves.

Mash hits

[Recipe 1] SWEET POTATO and TUNA CROQUETTES with GREEN GODDESS SAUCE transform into
[Recipe 2] MINI SHEPHERD’S PIES with SWEET POTATO TOPPING
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I’m sitting here, mug of hot cocoa in hand, blogging and Pinteresting to my heart’s content. The lovely husband is away on his annual man’s weekend. This years’ theme was Japanese so they’re ploughing through episodes of The Samurai and Gigantor, chugging sake in front of an open fire. I sent him on his way with a load of Tsukune (teriyaki chicken meatballs) and Sweet potato, quinoa and edamame salad with miso dressing.*
I spent the afternoon with some beautiful lady friends (partners/wives of the men’s weekend gang), kids and dogs; chatting, eating and drinking wine. The boys and I feel very well-nourished. Thanks JC!
Now, onto cooking… this week’s recipes (and rather gaudy photos) feature mash! Mash is fantastic and it’s always worth making more than you need as you can use it in countless ways. Leftover potato mash is perfect for korokke (Japanese potato croquettes), mashed pumpkin can be hidden in chocolate muffins and sweet potato mash forms the base for gorgeous Sweet potato and tuna croquettes. The only tricky bit with these croquettes is the double-crumbing, a technique I stole from the Dutch. This makes for the most beautiful crispy croquettes, and the crunchy layer protects the molten cheesy filling.
I’m all for my boys enjoying vegetables in many configurations, so the occasional deep-fried treat is fine by me. These croquettes are excellent dunked into classic Green Goddess sauce – a concoction traditionally made with sour cream, tarragon and parsley. Personally, I find blended tarragon and parsley can taste a bit like lawn clippings; so I prefer a mixture of dill and mint. I also use yogurt in place of sour cream.
Reserve half the sweet potato mash to use as topping for Mini shepherd’s pies. You can use just about any meat-based sauce, stew or ragu as the base – I’ve listed my suggestions in the recipe. We especially love Bolognaise shepherd’s pies. They make a fab change from pasta, and my kids will hoover anything mini-sized. How cute are the Le Creuset mini baking dishes?? I borrowed them from my lovely neighbour, who has an enviable excellently-stocked kitchen. Thanks Tracey!
*I know I’m the quintessential 1950s housewife cooking for my man, but we fell into gender-stereotypical roles pretty quickly in our relationship I’m afraid. I love to cook (no, really)! He doesn’t, but is happy cleaning, fixing stuff and doing the gardening. I figure as long as the boys witness me cleaning the loo and their dad occasionally cooking, they’ll grow up to be well-balanced young men. Thankfully both our boys love cooking, something I’m very happy about!

Sweet potato and tuna croquettes[Recipe 1] Sweet potato and tuna croquettes with Green Goddess sauce

Ingredients for the mash (serves 4 for 2 meals):
650g (1½ lb) peeled, chopped, mashing potatoes (desiree, sebago, spunta, idaho or coliban)

650g (1½ lb) peeled, chopped, orange sweet potatoes
1 large garlic clove, crushed
tablespoons (approx. 30g) butter, chopped
⅓ cup (80ml) milk
¾ cup (75g) finely grated vintage cheddar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra ingredients for the croquettes (serves 4, makes 16 croquettes):
45g (1½ oz) almond meal
2 spring onions, green ends only, finely chopped (approx. ¼ cup)
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
1 x 185g (6 oz) can tuna in olive oil, drained
1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour, for dusting

4 eggs, beaten
2 cups dry breadcrumbs
Vegetable or sunflower oil for deep-frying
Green Goddess sauce, to serve

Place potatoes and sweet potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 15–20 minutes, until soft. Drain and return potatoes to pan. Add the garlic, butter, milk, cheese, salt and pepper and mash well.
♦ Reserve half the mash (600g/2 heaped cups) for the mini shepherd’s pies with sweet potato topping.
To the reminder of the mash add the almond meal, spring onions, sweet chilli sauce, lemon rind and tuna and mix well. Refrigerate mixture for at least one hour (and up to 1 day), to allow it to firm up.
Roll about 16 little sausage-shaped logs from the mixture. 
Double-coat the croquettes. Spread 1 cup of breadcrumbs out on a plate. Dredge each croquette in the flour, shaking off the excess. Dip into egg and coat well with the breadcrumbs. Refrigerate the croquettes for at least 15 minutes to help the coating adhere.
Repeat the entire coating process, using the second cup of breadcrumbs, so that each croquette gets two coats of flour, egg and breadcrumbs. Your hands will be a mess, but it’s worth the effort!
Deep-fry the croquettes in two batches at 180°C (350ºF) for 2–3 minutes, until golden brown. Don’t be tempted to cook them for longer, as they’ll start to split.
If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test whether the oil is ready by dropping a few breadcrumb lumps in the pot. They should sizzle as soon as they hit the oil.
Drain croquettes on kitchen paper and serve immediately, with Green goddess sauce.

  • Croquettes can be made in advance and stored uncooked in the fridge for up to 1 day.
  • Croquettes are best eaten immediately. They don’t stand up to re-heating in the oven as they lose their beautiful crispiness.
  • I’m not normally one to spruik multi-Nationals, however, Aldi’s ‘White Mill’ dry bread crumbs are magnificent! They contain rye, oats, barley, wheat bran, oat bran, linseeds, sesame seeds, amaranth and quinoa! And they’re made in Australia.
Mini shepherd's pies

[Recipe 2] Mini shepherd’s pies with sweet potato topping

Ingredients (serves 4):
800g (1.8 lb) bolognaise sauce (or lamb ragu or beef and guinness stew or chilli con carne)
♦ 2 heaped cups (600g) reserved sweet potato mash
1 egg, whisked

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Divide bolognaise (or ragu, stew or chilli con carne) amongst four 5cm (2″) deep 1 cup capacity lightly-oiled ovenproof dishes or ramekens.
♦ Spread evenly with reserved sweet potato mash and roughen the surface with a fork.
You’ll need about half a cup of mash for each mini shepherd’s pie. Brush tops lightly with egg.
Place shepherd’s pies on a baking tray. Bake in oven for 20 minutes, or until tops are golden.
Serve with a green salad.

Meet your baker

[Recipe 1] KEEMA ALOO (Indian spiced minced beef and potatoes) with GLUTEN-FREE DOSAS transforms into
[Recipe 2] SPICED BEEF and VEGETABLE MINI PASTIES
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I’m not normally an OMG-double-exclamation-mark type of girl but OMG!! I’ve been baking my butt off!! On Saturday we hosted a mega combined party for our boys – one turned 6 and the other 9 (still can’t quite believe we have a 9 year old).
Having a combo party was fantastic but the biggest job was the catering, including TWO birthday cakes. There were 30 kids + adults. Yikes.
Our freezer was positively heaving by Friday. I made a huge batch of tsukune (teriyaki chicken balls), 100 mini margherita pizzas, a massive tray of honey joys (yep, you can freeze them in case you were wondering) and 80 Spiced beef and vegetable mini pasties; plus platters of the usual party fare (fairy bread, fruit, guacamole, snags etc).
I’m a bit chuffed as my little pasties turned out beautifully, and there were quite a few requests for the recipe. My boys loved them, and they went down really well with both the adults and the kids at the party. They came about when I had a lightbulb moment while making a vat of my Keema aloo (Indian spiced minced beef and potatoes) – it’s the perfect pastie filler! I used store-bought shortcrust pastry too, so they were incredibly easy to make.
My boys adore Keema aloo (I’m yet to meet a kid who doesn’t like a minced beef based dinner). It’s perfect for kiddy palates as it’s lightly spiced; and adult serves can be jazzed up with kasoundi (this recipe is great), a finely chopped red chilli or a dash of Tabasco. It can be frozen too, so it’s perfect for a quick mid-week dinner.
We roll up the keema aloo in easy home-made dosas (Indian-style pancakes). My dosa recipe is based on one by Jamie Oliver – I omit the mustard seeds and use gluten-free plain flour. Gluten-free flour (I like Orgran brand) contains maize and rice flours, making for a lovely light dosa batter.
So, our freezer is now spookily empty, but the oven is remaining off for quite a while while I recover from my baking overdose.

Keema Aloo (spiced Indian mince)[Recipe 1] Keema aloo (spiced minced beef and potatoes) with gluten-free dosas

Ingredients (serves 4 for 3 meals; or 4 for 2 meals plus 40 mini pasties):
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large red (purple/Spanish) onions, finely chopped
6 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 heaped tablespoon cinnamon
1 heaped tablespoon garam masala
2 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted, crushed with a mortar and pestle
2 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted, crushed with a mortar and pestle
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1½ kilos (3 lb) minced (ground) beef
3 large potatoes (approx. 750g/1½ lb), peeled, chopped into small pieces
2 large carrots, chopped into very small pieces (approx. 5mm/¼”)
7 tablespoons (140g tub) tomato paste (tomato concentrate)
1½ cups (375ml) water
2 x 400g (15 oz) cans lentils, drained, rinsed (or 2 cups cooked lentils – see tips below recipe)
2 cups fresh podded or frozen peas
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Home-made gluten-free dosas or store-bought dosas, to serve
Basic cucumber raita, to serve
Spicy accompaniment for adults (eg. kasoundi, finely chopped red chilli or Tabasco)

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cinnamon, garam masala, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and cloves; and cook for 1–2 minutes, until aromatic. Add mince and cook over low heat, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until brown. Break up the mince with a wooden spoon now and again. 
Add potatoes, carrot, tomato paste and water and simmer, covered, over a medium heat for 25–30 minutes. Add lentils and peas, and simmer for a further 15 minutes, covered, until liquid has evaporated and vegetables are tender. Add a splash more water if it starts to dry out too quickly. Season to taste.
Divide the the Keema aloo into plastic containers.
 The Keema aloo recipe will yield three portions of about 5 cups (1¼ kilos/2½ lb) each (1¼ kilos/2½ lb will serve four).
♦ Reserve 1 portion (5 cups/1¼ kilos) Keema aloo for the Spiced beef and vegetable mini pasties. The third portion can be frozen for another day.
Serve remaining Keema aloo with dosas and raita. Keema aloo can be placed into individual bowls, so people can roll up their own.

  • Keema aloo can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge and should be used within three days; or it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Serve the Keema aloo with steamed basmati rice instead of dosa, for a change.
  • 2 x 400g (14 oz) cans lentils, drained, will yield 2 heaped cups lentils. For 2 heaped cups cooked lentils, cook 1 cup dry lentils in boiling water for 45 minutes, until tender. Drain and rinse. I often cook up a load of lentils, and freeze them in 1 cup portions to use when required.

Spiced beef and vegetable pasties

[Recipe 2] Spiced beef and vegetable mini pasties

Ingredients (makes 40 – recipe can be doubled if required):
10 x 25cm (8″) sheets ready-rolled frozen shortcrust pastry, thawed
♦ 1 portion (5 cups/1¼ kilos) reserved Keema aloo
2 eggs, lightly whisked
Easy spiced tomato chutney, store-bought chutney or tomato sauce (ketchup) to serve

Preheat oven to 220°C (425ºF). Line two baking trays with baking paper.
Use a 10cm (4″) round pastry cutter (or trace around a 10cm/4″ plate or Milo tin) to cut 4 discs from each pastry sheet.
♦ Spoon one heaped tablespoon of reserved Keema aloo onto each pastie circle. Don’t be tempted to overfill them or they’ll pop open.
Fold pasties in half to enclose filling. Seal edges of pastry with water and use fingertips to gently crimp and seal. Place on the lined trays. Lightly brush the tops of the pasties with egg.
You can bake one batch while you prepare the remaining pasties if your oven won’t accommodate two trays.
Bake in hot oven for 15–18 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.
Serve hot with chutney or tomato sauce (ketchup).

  • If using refrigerated Keema aloo (not frozen), cooked pasties are suitable to freeze, for up to 3 months. Place baking paper (or plastic sheets from the pastry pack) between the layers. When serving, allow to defrost overnight in the fridge. Reheat in a hot oven, covered with foil, for about 10–15 minutes.
  • Instead of 10 sheets, you can use 8 sheets shortcrust pastry and seal the leftover strips of pastry together with water to make the extra 2 sheets.

It’s the veal thing

[Recipe 1] DUTCH VEAL ROLLS (blinde vinken) and BRAISED RED CABBAGE with APPLE (rode kool met appeltjes) transforms into
[Recipe 2] SWEDISH MEATBALLS with CRANBERRY and GOJI BERRY JAM
……………..
Reuban sandwich
“If it smells like someone let a wicked fart loose in your kitchen, you’re on the right track.”
I intended to make my own fermented sauerkraut for this post, but when I came across that particular comment whilst browsing food blogs, I chickened out. That, and reference to possible contamination by pesky microbes had me dishing up Braised red cabbage with apple (rode kool met appeltjes) instead. While not strictly sauerkraut as it’s not fermented; it comes pretty close in flavour. It’s my own take on my dad’s recipe – the cabbage is simmered in chicken stock with fresh apple, Dijon mustard and spices, and is quite delicious! You’ll find so many ways to use the leftovers during the week – this little picture shows our lunch at work on Thursday, photographed on a cutting mat (see tips/ingredients below the main recipe).
Braised red cabbage is the perfect accompaniment to Dutch veal rolls (blinde vinken). The name translates literally as ‘blind finches’, a classic quirky Dutchism. They’re lovely spiced logs of minced veal and pork, traditionally wrapped in paper-thin slice of veal, but I prefer to use pancetta. I also like to add grated apple (firm pear works well too). They’re simmered in stock and my boys LOVE them as they’re basically fancy sausages.
Cranberry and goji berry jam on sourdoughBy making double the quantity of Dutch veal roll mixture, you can serve up Swedish meatballs later in the week (or later in the month if you choose to freeze them)! Unsuspecting family members will have no idea this is the same mince mixture, rolled into balls. I’ve served them up Ikea-style (minus the horse meat); with mashed potatoes and home-made Cranberry and goji berry jam (I’d love to make Swedish lingonberry jam, but where on earth can one buy lingonberries in Australia)? I threw the goji berries in on a whim and they added a lovely tartness to the sauce. Goji berries are packed full of protein and vitamins, in fact they apparently contain 500 times more vitamin C than oranges! After much experimenting, I’ve found that simple is best with this jam. No need for vinegar, onion or wine. It’s gently sweetened with maple syrup and has a nice burst of zing from the ginger and lemon zest. Delicious! Recipe link is here. We spent 5 days at Apollo Bay Music Festival last week, and this jam went down a treat on sourdough smeared with White Castello cheese (pictured).
So, we didn’t miss the sauerkraut at all, but one day I’ll work up the courage to whip up a batch. Has anyone made it? If so I’d LOVE to know if it was a success, and if the resulting putrid-smelling kitchen was worth it.

Blinde vinken (Dutch veal rolls)[Recipe 1] Dutch veal rolls (blinde vinken) and braised red cabbage with apple (rode kool met appeltjes)

Ingredients for braised red cabbage with apple (makes 4 cups):
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small red (purple/Spanish) onion, finely chopped
2 large green apples, peeled and chopped into small pieces
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 small head red cabbage, shredded, inner core discarded
1¾ cups (435ml) store-bought or home-made chicken stock, plus extra ¼ cup if required
½ cup (125ml) apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon marjoram

2 tablespoons brown sugar
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Ingredients for Dutch veal rolls (serves 4 for 2 meals):

4 slices wholemeal bread, crusts removed, cut into pieces
½ cup (125ml) milk
500g (1 lb) minced (ground) humanely-farmed veal
500g (1 lb) minced (ground) free range pork
½ cup chopped parsley
1 small red (purple/Spanish) onion, very finely chopped
1 large green apple, peeled and grated

½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon marjoram
2 eggs, lightly whisked
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
100g (3.5 oz) thinly sliced pancetta
Olive oil, for frying, extra

1 cup (250ml) store-bought or home-made chicken stock, or veal stock
Pan-fried kipfler potatoes, to serve

For the braised red cabbage with apple (this can be made up to 3 days in advance):
Heat oil in a heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Fry onion and apple for 5–8 minutes, until onion is soft and transparent and apple begins to turn golden brown.
Add mustard seeds. Cook for for 1-2 minutes. Add cabbage, stock, vinegar, mustard, cloves, marjoram and brown sugar. Simmer over a low–medium heat, covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add a splash more stock if it is drying out. Season.
Set aside until required. Braised red cabbage can be served cold or re-heated gently on the stovetop. It improves with age so is best made at least the day before.
For the Dutch veal rolls (these can be made up to 3 days in advance, or frozen):
Soak bread in milk for 5 minutes, and gently squeeze out.
Place minced meat, parsley, onion, apple, spices and eggs in a large bowl. Add the squeezed-out bread. Mix well and season.
Divide mixture in half (approx. 650g/1.4 lb), and reserve one portion for the Swedish meatballs.
Roll the remaining veal mixture into eight log shapes. Wrap each in pancetta.
Heat olive oil in a large non-stick frypan. Add veal rolls and gently fry until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Cook in two batches if required, and return to the pan when cooked. Pour in stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 8–10 minutes. Turn the veal rolls over and simmer for a further 8 minutes.
Remove veal rolls from the pan and keep warm on a plate covered with foil. Bring pan juices to the boil and simmer until reduced by half. Drain in a fine mesh sieve. Set aside strained juices and reheat when required.
Serve the veal rolls and pan juices with braised red cabbage and pan-fried kipflers or thickly-sliced rye bread.

  • Uncooked Dutch veal rolls can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 1 month. Place baking paper between the layers. Defrost overnight in the fridge. Drain on kitchen paper to absorb excess moisture before cooking.
  • Braised red cabbage can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. The flavour improves with time.
  • Braised red cabbage is fabulous in a Reuben-style sandwich (pictured in the intro text) with Edam cheese, pastrami and Dijonnaise (2 teaspoons Dijon mustard mixed with 2 tablespoons mayonnaise). 
  • Braised red cabbage is also delicious served with pork schnitzels, Slow-cooked beef brisket, Pulled pork or served up Dutch-style, nestled on a bed of endive and potato mash with a big fat rookwust sausage resting on top (my Dad’s specialty).
  • If you don’t have the time or inclination, you can buy ‘kapusta czerwona’ (braised Polish red cabbage) by the jar at European delicatessens – the flavour is very similar to Dutch braised cabbage. Warm gently on the stove-top.

Swedish meatballs (Ikea style)

[Recipe 2] Swedish meatballs with cranberry and goji berry jam

Ingredients (serves 4):
Half quantity (approx. 650g/1.4 lb) reserved Dutch veal roll mixture
2 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
2 cups store-bought or home-made chicken stock
150ml (5 fl oz) cream (I use light cooking cream)
Creamy parmesan mashed potatoes, to serve
Cranberry and goji berry jam, to serve

Steamed green beans, to serve
Chopped fresh dill, to serve

Roll mixture into 20–25 walnut-sized balls. Refrigerate for 30 minutes if time permits.
Heat olive oil in a large non-stick frypan. Add meatballs and brown well on all sides, about 8 minutes. Cook in two batches, transferring to a plate lined with kitchen paper.
Add flour to pan, and cook, stirring for about one minute. Gradually pour in stock and cream and bring to the boil. Return meatballs to the pan. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until meatballs are cooked through.
Serve meatballs and their sauce with Creamy parmesan mashed potatoes and Cranberry and goji berry jam, with a side of steamed green beans. Scatter with chopped dill.

  • Meatballs can be frozen, raw, for up to 3 months. Place baking paper between the layers. Defrost overnight in the fridge. Drain on kitchen paper to absorb excess moisture before cooking.
  • If you don’t have a deep-sided non-stick pan; cook the meatballs in a shallow-sided non-stick pan first; and transfer them to a deeper pan for cooking in the sauce.
  • The Cranberry and goji berry jam is beautiful served with sourdough bread, spread thickly with White Castello cheese (pictured in the intro text).
  • Dried wild goji berries are available from health food stores or online from Loving Earth.
  • I always buy 300ml (10 fl oz) tubs of cream, and freeze the leftover 150ml (5 fl oz) cream in its tub. Nearly all my recipes that contain cream use 150ml. Allow the cream to defrost in the fridge overnight and use it for this recipe again or for:
    Caramelised onion and goat’s cheese tart or
    Chicken and leek pot pie or
    Creamy pumpkin fettuccine with toasted walnuts or
    Sticky date pudding with toasted hazelnuts or
    Roasted red capsicum and fresh herb tart

Great balls of fire

[Recipe 1] LAMB, PUMPKIN and LEMON KÖFTES transform into
[Recipe 2] SPICED LAMB MEATBALL and LENTIL TAGINE 
……………..
Hi all. Hope you had an excellent weekend. We went to a garage sale, attended two Christmas gatherings and set up the Christmas tree; so ours was full and fun.
I’m sitting here, wine in hand, feeling pretty great actually. We have a system in place (us old people like routines), where one night a week the husband heads back to the studio (ie. the place where we work) and gets out his easel and canvases for a painting session, while I sit here blogging to my heart’s content. I LOVE it. I write my weekly blog post, sort out recipes and fuel my Pinterest addiction; and he releases his creative juices. Bliss.
So… onto this week’s recipes… these two have been stuffed in my bulging recipe file for ages, and I was inspired to finally share them after reading Ali’s fab post recently. We had friends over for a simple BBQ a couple of weekends ago and lamb köftes (Middle Eastern football-shaped meatballs) were our glamorous replacement for hamburgers. They go down beautifully with adults and kids too. I like mine with pumpkin added and a dash of lemon rind for zing. You can plug them with almost any vegies though – I’ve made them in the past with grated carrot and even beetroot!
The accompanying tahini sauce takes seconds to make – the perfect task for young helpers. The 5-minute lentil and tomato salad is also a breeze to whip up. The harissa is optional, but I’m a harissa junkie, so I use it whenever I can. We recently discovered pilpel harissa in our local supermarket and it’s fantastic. Super spicy and intense.
The bonus with this köfte recipe is that you’ll end up with enough mixture to serve up a fantastic spiced lamb meatball and lentil tagine later. The meatballs freeze beautifully, so you can whip them out for a quick mid-week meal.
PS. The origin of the word köfte is the Persian word کوفته  (kufteh) meaning ‘mashed’. Just thought you’d like to know.

Lamb koftes with tahini sauce[Recipe 1] Lamb, pumpkin and lemon köftes

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 red (purple/Spanish) onions, very finely chopped
3 teaspoons ground coriander
3 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 kilo (2 lb) minced (ground) lamb
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon rind
200g (7 oz) butternut pumpkin (butternut squash), grated and chopped
4 large eggs, lightly whisked
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra to garnish
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil for frying
Harissa, to serve (optional)

Store-bought pita breads, to serve (or try Sawsan’s fab recipe)
Tahini sauce, to serve
5-minute lentil and tomato salad, to serve

Heat oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 3 minutes. Add the ground spices and cook for 1–2 minutes until aromatic. Allow to cool slightly.
Add cooled spiced onion to the minced lamb in a large bowl; along with the lemon rind, pumpkin, eggs, parsley and breadcrumbs. Moosh thoroughly with your hands.
♦ Reserve half the spiced lamb and pumpkin mixture (850g/1¾ lb or 3 tightly-packed cups) for the Spiced lamb meatball and lentil tagine.
Prepare your köftes. Divide the mixture into 14 portions and shape each into a football-shaped log. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a low heat. Add the köftes and cook, turning occasionally, for 8 minutes or until cooked through. Köftes can also be cooked, over a low heat, on the BBQ.
Place koftes on a large platter and serve with harissa (if using), pita breads, tahini sauce, and 5-minute lentil and tomato salad.

  • It’s very important that your onion and pumpkin are chopped as finely as possible, or your köftes and meatballs will be crumbly.
  • You can of course use the köfte mixture to make a double quantity of köftes, or double quantity of meatballs, as preferred.
  • Harissa is a North African hot chilli sauce, available at specialty food stores, Middle Eastern grocers and select supermarkets.
  • Uncooked lamb and pumpkin köftes and meatballs can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen with baking paper between the layers, for up to 3 months.

Lamb meatball tagine with couscous

[Recipe 2] Spiced lamb meatball and lentil tagine

Ingredients (serves 4):
♦ 850g/1¾ lb (3 tightly-packed cups) reserved spiced lamb and pumpkin mixture

1 tablespoon olive oil for frying
2 teaspoons tomato paste/concentrate
700ml (24 fl oz) tomato passata (tomato puree)
400g (14 oz) can lentils, drained and rinsed (or 1 cup cooked lentils – see notes below recipe)
1 cinnamon stick
⅛ teaspoon ground chilli powder (or more – to taste)
Salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
Chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve
Half a preserved lemon (skin only), rinsed and finely chopped (optional)
Greek-style natural yogurt, to serve
1¼ cups instant couscous

♦ Roll the reserved spiced lamb and pumpkin mixture into approximately 26 small meatballs (use 1 tablespoon of mixture for each ball).
Refrigerate for half an hour if time permits. 
Heat oil in a large non-stick saucepan over medium heat, and fry meatballs in two batches, until browned all over, about 3 minutes. Remove meatballs, and place on kitchen paper.
Place ½ cup water, tomato paste, passata, lentils, cinnamon and chilli into a large heavy-based saucepan and simmer, covered, over a low heat for 15 minutes, or until thickened. Stir occasionally. Add meatballs to the sauce and simmer for ten minutes, covered, until cooked through. Remove and discard cinnamon stick. 
Season to taste.
Meanwhile, prepare couscous. Bring 2 cups of water to the boil. Stir in the couscous, cover, and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes, until water is absorbed. Fluff up with a fork.
Serve meatball tagine over couscous, scattered with parsley and preserved lemon (if using), with a good blob of yogurt on the side.

  • Left-over tomato paste can be frozen in teaspoon or tablespoon lumps, individually-wrapped in cling film; ready to plop into your next pasta dish.
  • Freeze leftover parsley stalks, and use in sweet tomato pasta sauce or home-made chicken stock.
  • 400g (14 oz) can lentils, drained, will yield 1 heaped cup cooked lentils. For 1 heaped cup cooked lentils, cook ½ cup dry lentils in boiling water for 45 minutes, until tender. Drain and rinse. I often cook up a load of lentils, and freeze them in 1 cup portions to use when required.

Loafing around

[Recipe 1] BEEF and PUMPKIN MEATLOAF transforms into
[Recipe 2] OVEN-BAKED BURGERS with THE LOT
……………..
Daggy dinner alert! Meatloaf!
We secretly love meatloaf. It’s right up there with tuna casserole in the retro dinner department, but honestly it’s really good. Leftover meatloaf is soooo tasty too, sliced thinly in sandwiches, with chunky relish and rocket (arugula). It’s great for picnics and lunch on the go. My boys just love it.
Make double the beef and pumpkin mixture and you can conjure up some fab oven-baked burgers with the lot* to have later in the week. These are perfect for a quick weeknight dinner and they’re roasted so they’re less fatty than fried burgers.
The burger recipe makes 6 patties. You can freeze the two unused ones, uncooked. I love having spare burgers in the freezer for the kids, for those nights when the husband and I are craving a big fat steak.
I know the ingredients list looks a bit long and spooky, but it is so easy to put together, I promise. Everything is basically thrown into a big bowl and mooshed up.
The mixture is full of hidden pumpkin and grated carrot. You can trick it up and experiment with it too. Over the years I’ve replaced the 2 cups of grated pumpkin with cooked lentils, tiny cauliflower florets, grated zucchini (courgette)… you name it!
You can of course use the mixture to make two meatloaves instead, or indeed two batches of burgers. Both freeze really well uncooked.
*Is ‘burger with the lot’ an Australian expression? I’m not sure. In old-fashioned burger places here, it refers to a hamburger containing all the available fillings; which can often mean it will include pineapple, a fried egg and sliced beetroot!

Beef and pumpkin meatloaf[Recipe 1] Beef and pumpkin meatloaf

1 large red (purple/Spanish) onion, very finely chopped
½ tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon sea salt + freshly cracked black pepper
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce

1 kilo (2 lb) minced (ground) beef
500g (1 lb) minced (ground) pork
2 large carrots, finely grated
200g (7 oz) peeled butternut pumpkin (butternut squash), grated (equal to 1½ cups)
1½ cups dry bread crumbs
1½ cups chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)
Easy spiced tomato chutney (or store-bought chutney), to serve 
GLAZE:
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Heat oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cumin seeds and cook for 2 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.
With a hand-held whisk, lightly beat the eggs, salt, pepper, milk, Dijon mustard, worcestershire sauce and sweet chilli sauce until combined.
Add to the minced beef and pork in a large bowl, along with the carrot, pumpkin, breadcrumbs, parsley and the cooked onion and garlic. Mix thoroughly with your hands.
Reserve half the mixture (1¼ kilos or 4 tightly-packed cups) for the oven-baked burgers with the lot.
Press remaining mixture into a lightly-oiled loaf pan, and turn out onto a tray lined with baking paper. You can pat the mixture into a free-form shape if you prefer, but I find using a loaf tin as a mold works beautifully.
Make the glaze by mixing the ingredients in a small bowl. Brush all over the meatloaf.
Bake for 60–70 minutes, until lovely and crisp on the outside and cooked through.
Allow to rest for ten minutes. Cut into thick slices and serve with steamed vegetables or salad, and tomato chutney.
One meatloaf yields 8 thick slices.

  • Cooked beef and pumpkin meatloaf can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge and should be used within three days. Uncooked meatloaf can be frozen, whole (in a loaf tin to retain its’ shape), for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge and cook per instructions. Glaze just before cooking.

The ultimate burger. With hidden veggies.

[Recipe 2] Oven-baked burgers with the lot

4 soft wholemeal (wholewheat) buns, warmed in oven, toasted, or lightly char-grilled
♦ 1¼ kilos (4 tightly-packed cups) reserved beef and pumpkin meatloaf mixture
Olive oil, for brushing (or olive oil spray)
Easy spiced tomato chutney (or store-bought chutney), to serve
CHOOSE YOUR EXTRAS:
Lettuce
Sliced cheese
Sliced tomato
Whole cornichons or sliced pickles
Sliced avocado
Thinly sliced red (purple/Spanish) onion or caramelised red onion jam

Preheat oven to 220°C (425ºF).
Shape reserved beef and pumpkin meatloaf mixture into 6 patties. Freeze two for later!
Place onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Brush or spray patties lightly with olive oil.
Roast patties for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes.
Layer burgers and your chosen extras on each bun base. Pop the tops on and serve.
Makes 4 (plus two extra patties for freezing!)

  • Uncooked patties can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge and should be used within three days, or they can be frozen, with baking paper between the layers, for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge and bake per instructions.

Pasta la vista [2]

[Recipe 1] FULL-OF-VEGGIES BOLOGNAISE (recipe posted here) transforms into
[Recipe 3] GRAND FINAL DAY MINI MEAT PIES
……………..
Our Grand Final* is on this Saturday but I’ve gotta confess that I’m not a football fan. I went to one match when I was 13, deciding there and then that I didn’t ever need to relive the experience.
Most sport-related activities don’t really float my boat; but I do like the charged, slightly mental, atmosphere on Grand Final day though. Friends usually drop in to watch the whole damn exciting thing on TV with us; ploughing through mountains of food. These mini meat pies, topped with cut-out pastry footballs, go down a treat. Perfect finger food!
The pies are super easy to whip up as they use store-bought pastry. They’re also relatively healthy as they’re made with a reserved portion of Full-of-veggies bolognaise (originally posted back in February), which is plugged full of veggies and lentils. Enjoy! Have a beaut weekend readers. Hope your team wins!
*Overseas readers: The Grand Final is the end-of-Season championship game for Australian Rules Football, mildly akin to the Super Bowl or World Cup, but with a speck of the budget. If you’re not familiar with it, Aussie Rules is probably the weirdest game you’ll ever have seen. Grown men in tiny shrunken shorts kick, punch and throw a misshapen ball around. If a goal is scored, a man in a silly outfit gesticulates from under the goal posts.

Grand Final mini meat pies

[Recipe 3] Grand Final Day mini meat pies

Ingredients (makes 20 mini pies):
4 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
1 kilo (2 lb) reserved full-of-veggies bolognaise
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
5 sheets frozen shortcrust pastry, thawed
3 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Tomato sauce or Easy spiced tomato chutney, to serve

Preheat oven to 220°C (425ºF).
Grease 2 x 12-hole standard-sized muffin pans (you’ll need to grease 20 holes).
Blend flour with 3 tablespoons hot water to form a smooth paste.
Spoon reserved full-of-veggies bolognaise into a medium-sized saucepan.
Add flour paste and bring to boil. Simmer, uncovered, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, or until thickened. Stir in worcestershire sauce.
Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until cold.
Using a 10cm (4-inch) round cutter, cut out 20 circles from the shortcrust pastry. Press into prepared pan holes, covering them with a tea towel as you go, to prevent them drying out.
Brush inside pastry cases (this prevents them going soggy), and the edges, with egg.
Divide cooled bolognaise mixture among pastry cases.
Using a 7cm (2¾-inch) round cutter, cut out 20 circles from the puff pastry. Place on top of pies. Press edges together to seal. Cut out little football shapes from the puff pastry scraps and place one on top of each pie. You can score little lines for the laces on top too, if you have the patience. Brush tops of pies with egg, and prick with a fork.
Bake for 15–20 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown.
Serve with tomato sauce or Easy spiced tomato chutney.

  • If you don’t have a 10cm (4-inch) round cutter, trace around a lid with a sharp knife (a lid from a 450g tin of Milo is the perfect size).
  • The Grand Final Day mini meat pies can be cooked the day before and stored in the fridge.
  • If using fresh full-of-veggies bolognaise (not frozen) you can freeze the cooked mini meat pies, between sheets of baking paper, for up to one month. Thaw overnight in the fridge. To reheat pre-cooked pies, place the pies on a baking tray and bake at 180°C (350ºF) for 15 minutes, or until heated through.

So hot right now

[Recipe 1] MIXED BEAN and BEEF CHILLI CON CARNE transforms into
[Recipe 2] CHILLI BEAN and BEEF SOFT TACOS
……………..
I’ve just returned from a conference thingo in Sydney. I missed my boys madly, but it was such a treat being all by myself for two days. I totally cleared the cobwebs; strolling the streets of Surry Hills, perusing little galleries and bookshops and reading the *entire* paper in bed from cover to cover. Had some ace food too – will post photos soon.
Thought I’d dish up a couple of super-simple, super-tasty recipes ‘I prepared earlier’ (man I love saying that). First up is good old Mixed bean and beef chilli con carne, a recipe originally given to me by an ex work colleague (thanks Marisa!) and which I’ve heavily tweaked over the years – mine features cooked dried beans instead of tinned, extra spices and a good dash of blackstrap molasses. It’s one of our favourite family dinners.
Chilli con carne freezes well. It’s perfect served simply with steamed rice, and you can create an entirely different meal later by spooning it into soft tacos (see recipe 2). Enjoy!

Chilli con carne[Recipe 1] Mixed bean and beef chilli con carne

Ingredients (serves 4 for 5 meals – recipe can be halved if you don’t have the freezer space):
250g (1¼ cups) dried red kidney or black (turtle) beans, soaked 8 hours or overnight
250g (1¼ cups) dried borlotti (Roman) beans, soaked 8 hours or overnight
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 brown onions, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 kilos (4 lb) minced (ground) beef (not too lean)
3 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons smoked paprika (pimentón)
4 x 400g (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 cup (250ml) beef stock
¾ cup (210g) tomato paste (tomato concentrate)
1 teaspoon dried chilli powder (or more – see notes below recipe)
1 large red capsicum (bell pepper), de-seeded, finely chopped
2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses*
½ cup fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped, plus extra to serve
2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
To serve:
Steamed basmati rice
Chopped avocado
Corn chips (optional)

Drain soaked beans and place into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cover with water. Bring to the boil. Simmer for 50 minutes, covered, until tender. You should be able to squish a bean easily with your fingers. If still a little firm, simmer an extra ten minutes and test again. Drain and set aside.
Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add mince and cook over low heat, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until brown. Break up the mince with a wooden spoon now and again. Carefully drain off most of the excess fat.
Add the cumin and paprika and stir until aromatic, about 1 minute.
Add tomatoes, stock, tomato paste and chilli powder and simmer, covered, over a low heat for 30 minutes. Add cooked beans and capsicum and continue cooking, covered, for about 30 minutes. Stir often. Remove lid and simmer for a further 15–20 minutes, or until thick. Stir in molasses, salt and coriander and mix well.
♦ Reserve 4 cups (1 kilo/2 lb) Mixed bean and beef chilli con carne for the Chilli bean and beef soft tacos.
Divide the remainder of the Mixed bean and beef chilli con carne into labeled plastic containers (see storage tips below).
Serve warm Mixed bean and beef chilli con carne over steamed basmati rice, scattered with extra coriander and chopped avocado.

  • The Chilli con carne recipe will yield approximately 5 serves of about 1 kilo (2 lb) each (1 kilo will serve four), depending on whether you’ve used cooked or canned beans. I love making a massive vat of chilli con carne, but if you don’t have the freezer space, it’s easy to halve the ingredients. Chilli con carne can be stored in the fridge and should be used within 3 days; or it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • If unavailable, dried borlotti beans can be replaced with cannellini (white kidney) beans, navy beans or black-eyed beans.
  • Cooking dried beans is not as painful as it may seem – I often cook mine in the morning while we’re having breakfast, so they’re ready to use at dinner time. If you’re really pushed for time though, you can replace the cooked dried beans with 2 x 400g (15 oz) cans cannellini (white kidney) beans and 2 x 400g (15 oz) cans red kidney or black beans, drained and rinsed. Canned beans will become a bit mushy after simmering, but the finished dish will still be delicious.
  • *Blackstrap molasses is available from health food stores and from the health section of large supermarkets. It contains high levels of calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium; and lends a rich sweet taste to savoury dishes. It’s commonly used in baked beans and licorice! You can also use it in BBQ sauce which goes beautifully with pulled pork. If unavailable, it can be replaced with dark brown sugar or even maple syrup, with an extra dash of black pepper to counter the sweetness.
  • You can dial up the chilli for more heat. I find one teaspoon of chilli powder is just the right amount for children. Chopped fresh birdseye chilli or a dash of hot sauce can be added to adult serves. Very young children may like a spoonful of natural yogurt or sour cream stirred through.
  • Baby tip: You can make a little pot of ‘Baby con carne’ at the same time. It freezes well in ice-cube trays. Use a small amount of onion, minced beef, chopped and de-seeded fresh tomatoes, grated carrot and cooked beans. You can also add chopped liver for an iron boost! Add water (or home-made chicken stock) and simmer until thick. Puree until completely smooth, or mash it up for older babies. Older babies may also like a dash of cumin added and grated cheese on top.

[Recipe 2] Chilli bean and beef soft tacos

Ingredients (serves 4):
10–12 white corn tortillas

♦ 4 cups (1 kilo/2 lb) reserved mixed bean and beef chilli con carne
To serve:
Sour cream (optional)
Lettuce or very finely shredded red cabbage
Diced tomatoes
Chopped avocado or guacamole
Hot sauce  

Heat and lightly oil a char-grill plate on the stove-top. Warm the tortillas until lightly charred.
♦ Heat reserved bean and beef chilli con carne in a saucepan. Spoon into the warmed tortillas. Fold over to enclose.
Arrange the suggested sides in sharing bowls on the table. Serve soft tacos immediately.

Rowdy, with a chance of meatballs [2]

Sophia Loren Cookbook cover[Recipe 1] BEEF, PORK and RICOTTA MEATBALLS transform into
[Recipe 3] LASAGNARONI
……………..
Have been spending way too much time faffing around on Pinterest lately. It’s a glorious time-waster, but where else would I have discovered this photo of Sophia Loren? It’s from her 1971 Cookbook, In Cucina Con Amore (In the Kitchen with Love), which I covet so badly.
The photo segues quite nicely into an Italian-inspired dish don’t you think? This is the third recipe to use reserved portions of beef, pork and ricotta meatballs and sweet tomato pasta sauce. It’s a fab cheesey lasagna-like macaroni dish, which I’ve named Lasagnaroni. My boys positively hoover it, and the whole family have minutes of fun playing Find the meatball.
If you’re feeling creative go ahead and bestow your own fancy name upon it, for everyone’s amusement. We like Soccer balls in the mud or Monster eyeballs in the swamp. Buon Appetito.

Macaroni cheese with meatballs

[Recipe 3] Lasagnaroni with meatballs

Ingredients (serves 4-6):
2 tablespoons olive oil
♦ 1 quantity (approx. 600g/1.3 lb) beef, pork and ricotta meatballs
♦ 1⅓ cups (600g) sweet tomato pasta sauce (or store-bought)
400g (14 oz) dried macaroni (or short-cut bucatini)
1 cup frozen peas (or fresh, shelled – see notes in recipe)
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon (15g/½ oz) butter
2 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
1¼ cups (310ml) milk
1 cup (100g) grated Gruyère cheese
½ cup (50g) grated mozzarella, for scattering
½ tablespoon olive oil, extra, for drizzling

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Lightly oil a large casserole dish and set aside.
Place remaining olive oil into a large non-stick frypan.
Add beef, pork and ricotta meatballs and brown well on all sides.
Pour in sweet tomato pasta sauce and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 8–10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, cook macaroni in boiling water until al dente. Don’t overcook it as it will continue to soften in the oven. Add frozen peas for the last 2 minutes boiling time (fresh peas will need about 4–5 minutes). Drain macaroni and peas and set aside.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add flour, and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Gradually add the milk, stirring continuously. Return to the heat and stir for about 3–4 minutes until thickened. Add Gruyère and mix well.
Place half the cooked macaroni and peas into the prepared casserole dish. Pour over meatballs and tomato pasta sauce. Season.
Layer the remaining macaroni and peas on top. Pour the Gruyère sauce over the top, and scatter with grated mozzarella. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes, until golden. Stand for 5 minutes before serving.

  • I love Gruyère and nearly always have it in the fridge. If unavailable it can easily be replaced with grated extra tasty cheese.
  • Leftovers can be taken to work for lunch, or to school in a thermos. Microwave or reheat in a low oven, covered in foil.
  • If you don’t have a deep-sided non-stick pan; cook the meatballs in a shallow-sided non-stick pan first; and transfer them to a deeper pan for cooking in the sauce.

A yen for chicken balls

[Recipe 1] TSUKUNE (Japanese teriyaki chicken meatballs) transforms into
[Recipe 2] TERIYAKI NOODLES with BOK CHOY and CHICKEN MEATBALLS
……………..

Tsukune (Japanese teriyaki chicken meatballs)
are ace. Their flavour casts me back to Tokyo a few years ago, where the husband and I had a regular nightly pilgrimage to local izakayas for skewered yakitori chicken and other tasty morsels. *sigh*
I’ve played around with the ingredients and measurements in this recipe a lot, but the original recipe was given to me by my lovely lady friend Janet, who always has a bowl of tsukune at her gatherings. They’re perfect party nibbles as you can make them well in advance, bung them in the freezer, and defrost them the night before they’re required. They don’t need fancy plating – pop them in a bowl with a pot of toothpicks and watch them disappear. I have some waiting in the freezer as we speak, for my son’s upcoming 5th birthday party.
Be sure to reserve a portion of tsukune and sticky glaze (see the orange diamonds in the recipe for quantities) and you can conjure up a super tasty, very quick dinner later, Teriyaki noodles with bok choy and chicken meatballs. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, my 8-year old rates this recipe a 10, along with bolognaise, lamb nut rice and ‘curry’ (butter chicken if he was forced to nominate a particular one).

Tsukune (Japanese teriyaki chicken balls)

[Recipe 1] Tsukune (Japanese teriyaki chicken meatballs)

Ingredients (makes 60 balls; ie. 3 portions of 20 balls + 3 portions of teriyaki glaze):
1 tablespoon peanut (or vegetable) oil
1 leek, white part only, halved lengthwise, cut into long strips and sliced finely
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1½ kilos (3 lb) minced (ground) chicken
3 teaspoons sesame oil
2½ cm (1”) piece ginger, finely chopped (about 1½ tablespoons)
1 large carrot, finely grated (on zester holes)
1 large egg, beaten
6 spring onions (scallions), white parts only, thinly sliced (reserve dark green parts for serving)
½ cup (75g) sesame seeds, toasted
3 heaped tablespoons white miso paste
3 tablespoons corn flour (cornstarch)
Peanut (or vegetable) oil, extra, for frying
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, extra, for serving
Sticky teriyaki glaze:
½ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup mirin
¾ cup firmly packed (150g) brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt (preferably fine sea salt)

Make the mixture:
Heat oil in a small saucepan and fry the leek and garlic over a medium heat for 3 minutes. The leek shouldn’t be completely soft, just aromatic. Transfer to a very large bowl.
Add the chicken, sesame oil, ginger, carrot, egg, spring onions, toasted sesame seeds, miso paste and corn flour. Mix well.
Roll the tsukune mixture into walnut-sized balls. Use lightly-floured hands as the mixture is quite soft and sticky (they firm up beautifully on frying though)! Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight if time permits.
Fry the balls:
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Fry the tsukune in batches until browned all over, about 8 minutes. Transfer them to a large bowl as you go. If your stove-top is wide enough, you can have two frypans going at once to expedite proceedings.
Reserve ⅓ of the cooked tsukune (about 20 balls or 500g/1 lb) for the Teriyaki noodles with bok choy and chicken meatballs.
Make the glaze:
Meanwhile, make the sticky teriyaki glaze by combining the ingredients in a small bowl.
Reserve ⅓ of the sticky teriyaki glaze (⅔ cup) and set aside for the Teriyaki noodles with bok choy and chicken meatballs.
Simmer the balls:
Return the remaining tsukune to the frypan(s) and add the remaining sticky glaze. Bring to the boil, turn down heat, and simmer, continuously stirring, until lovely and sticky and glistening, about 10 minutes. You may need to do do this in two batches, using half the glaze for each batch, if you’re working with one frypan only. The tsukune should be quite saucy – don’t reduce the sauce too much or they’ll dry out.
Serve:
Arrange tsukune on a platter or in a serving bowl, scattered with extra toasted sesame seeds and chopped green ends of spring onions. Serve with toothpicks.

  • This recipe makes a huge serve of tsukune, about 60 balls in total, essentially three serves of 20 balls and three serves of sticky teriyaki glaze. You’ll be reserving one serve (20 balls and ⅔ cup sticky glaze) for Recipe 2. The remaining two serves (40 balls and 1⅓ cups sticky glaze) will feed about 10–15 people as finger food. You can easily make a smaller overall quantity by using ⅓ or ⅔ of the listed ingredients (most ingredients are in multiples of 3). Even with a smaller batch, one egg is fine, just use a small egg!
  • If time permits, the chicken mixture can be prepared the night before and refrigerated.
  • Tsukune are fab served as part of a DIY bento box, or as a light Summer dinner. Add cooked sushi rice on the side, a small bowl of pickled ginger and steamed asparagus or Asian mixed-leaf salad
  • Cooked, glazed (or unglazed) tsukune can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge. They can be lightly warmed in a microwave before serving, or served at room temperature.
  • Reserved sticky teriyaki glaze can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 2 months.
  • Miso paste is available refrigerated from Asian grocers. Use the leftover paste to make Roasted pumpkin and mixed seed salad!
  • You can toast your own sesame seeds, or cheat and buy them pre-toasted from Asian and Middle Eastern food stores.

Tsukune noodle stir-fry

[Recipe 2] Teriyaki noodles with bok choy and chicken meatballs

Ingredients (serves 4):
600g (1⅓ lb) fresh hokkien noodles

1 tablespoon peanut (or vegetable) oil
1 medium carrot, chopped into small match-sticks
1 small red capsicum (bell pepper), thinly sliced
♦ 1 serve (⅔ cup) reserved sticky teriyaki glaze
♦ 1 serve (500g/1 lb) reserved cooked tsukune (about 20 balls)
1 bunch bok choy, washed and very well dried, leaves trimmed and thinly sliced
Toasted sesame seeds, to serve
1 small red birdseye chilli, de-seeded, finely sliced, to serve (optional for kids)
Spring onions (scallions), finely sliced, to serve

Place noodles in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water. Stand for 2 minutes. Separate noodles with a fork. Drain in a large colander and set aside.
Heat oil in a wok over high heat until just smoking. Add carrot and capsicum, and stir-fry for 1–2 minutes. Remove from wok.
Add reserved sticky teriyaki glaze and reserved cooked tsukune. Simmer on a high heat for 6 minutes until sauce is reduced and thickened, and tsukune are warmed through and glistening.
Stir through prepared noodles and bok choy and toss over medium heat for 1–2 minutes until noodles are heated through and bok choy has wilted. Return carrot and capsicum to the wok. Divide amongst four bowls, scatter with sesame seeds, chilli and spring onions and serve immediately.

  • You can vary this recipe easily by replacing the bok choy with chopped baby spinach; or by adding bean shoots or steamed broccoli florets.

Bam-ba-lamb

[Recipe 1] LAMB and SPINACH PILAF with TOASTED PINE NUTS
transforms into
[Recipe 2] LAMB and PINE-NUT SAMBUSEK
……………..

One of my favourite Melbourne restaurants is Abla’s. Abla Amad herself is considered Melbourne’s Queen of Lebanese cooking, and her signature dish is Djaj a riz (chicken and rice cooked with lamb and spices). It’s a taste sensation! I cooked it once and it was divine, but too time-consuming for a midweek family meal.
Lamb and spinach pilaf with toasted pine nuts is my cheat’s version. It’s packed with veggies, and is super quick to throw together. I go through stages of making it once a week, and have been serving it up to my boys since they were toddlers. Mine doesn’t contain chicken so purists should avert their gaze, but leftover chopped roast chook can be stirred through before serving.
By doubling up on the spiced lamb mixture, and reserving half the toasted pine-nuts; you can whip up a batch of excellent Lamb and pine-nut sambusek (Lebanese pastries) for lunch or a light dinner later in the week. My boys adore these. Look for the orange diamonds in the recipe for instructions on how much to set aside as planned-overs. Enjoy!

Lamb and spinach pilaf. One Equals Two

[Recipe 1] Lamb and spinach pilaf with toasted pine nuts

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter (approx. 20g)
1 small red (purple/Spanish) onion, very finely chopped
750g (1½ lb) minced (ground) lamb
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
(Note: you’ll be reserving half the above ingredients, cooked, for Recipe 2)
1¼ cups (250g) uncooked long grain white rice (or basmati), rinsed and drained
3 small carrots, grated
3½ cups chicken stock, store-bought or home-made
3 cups (100g) baby spinach leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
1 cup (130g/4½ oz) pine nuts, toasted

Heat oil and butter in a heavy-based, deep-sided frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook onion for 3–4 minutes, until just soft. Add lamb and cook for 5 minutes, breaking up the lumps really well. Carefully drain off any pan juices.
Add spices and stir well. Cover and cook over a very low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice, until aromatic.
At this stage, scoop out half the spiced lamb mixture, about 1½ cups (250g/8 oz), and reserve for the Lamb and pine-nut sambusek (see recipe 2 below).
To the remaining spiced lamb mixture (in frying pan) add rice, carrot and stock. Stir and bring to the boil. Turn down heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add spinach and cook, uncovered, for a further 3–5 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid absorbed. Stir occasionally. Season well with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, toast your pine nuts
Reserve half (65g/2¼ oz) of the toasted pine nuts for the Lamb and pine nut sambusek.

Serve pilaf with pine nuts scattered on top.

  • To save time, the nuts can be toasted, and the spinach chopped, while the rice is cooking.
  • Half a 400g (15 oz) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or lentils; drained and rinsed, can be added with the rice for variety. Freeze the extra half can (drained and rinsed) in a small plastic container, for up to 3 months.
  • Leftover chopped roast chicken can be added with the spinach, for the ultimate meat fest!
  • Planned-overs (reserved spiced lamb mixture and reserved toasted pine nuts) can be stored separately in the fridge for 3 days; or frozen in sealed containers for up to 2 months.
  • If you purchase 1 kilo (2 lb) of minced lamb, you can use the leftover 250g (½ lb) to make mini lamb parmesan burgers for the kid’s lunchboxes. Add 1 small finely grated carrot, ¼ cup (25g) grated parmesan, 1 egg and ¼ cup dried breadcrumbs. Mix well and shape into 6 little burgers. Fry, allow to cool, and freeze until required. Defrost overnight, and serve in dinner rolls with tomato sauce. Kids will happily devour these cold.

Lamb and pinenut sambusek

[Recipe 2] Lamb and pine-nut sambusek (Lebanese pastries)

Ingredients (makes 12):
1 quantity wholemeal (wholewheat) sambusek dough

1½ cups (250g/8 oz) reserved spiced lamb mixture

65g/2¼ oz) reserved toasted pinenuts, lightly crushed with a mortar and pestle
1 large tomato, seeds and liquid scooped out, chopped
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses (replace with lemon juice if unavailable)
Vegetable oil for brushing
Tahini sauce, to serve

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Prepare wholemeal sambusek dough. While dough is resting, make the filling.
Place reserved spiced lamb mixture and reserved toasted pinenuts (crushed) into a bowl. Add tomato and pomegranate molasses. Mix well and set aside.
Line two large baking trays with baking paper.
Divide the pastry dough into two balls. Roll out one ball of dough (leaving the other in the covered bowl) on a lightly floured surface until quite thin, about 2–3mm (⅛-inch).
Using a 15cm (6-inch) round cutter (or tea-cup plate), cut out 6 circles from the dough.
Moisten dough edges with a little water. Place 1 tablespoon of lamb filling into the centre of each circle. Take two sides of the circle and pinch together to make a triangle. Lift the bottom of the circle towards the centre and pinch all three edges firmly together. Photo instructions below. Gather up scraps of dough and knead together as required.
Transfer sambusek to one baking tray, and brush each lightly with oil.
Repeat process with remaining dough and transfer to the other baking tray.
Bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown.
Serve with tahini sauce.

  • Swap trays part-way through cooking if your oven is not wide enough to accommodate the 2 trays next to each other. Or bake one tray of sambusek, while you prepare the other!
  • Cooked sambusek can be frozen, for up to 3 months. Place baking paper between the layers. When serving, allow to defrost overnight in the fridge. Reheat in a hot oven, covered with foil, for about 5 minutes.
  • Pomegranate molasses is available from specialist food stores, large supermarkets and Middle-Eastern grocers (such as Gourmet Grocer, A1-bakery, Simon Johnson, Essential Ingredient or Oasis bakery).

Folding sambousek

Porktastic [2]

[Recipe 1] PORK, PINE NUT and PANCETTA MINI MEATLOAVES transforms into
[Recipe 3] PORK and FENNEL CANNELLONI
……………..
I’ve had a bit of a mental week and am now completely pooped; so it was with some gratitude that I peeped into the freezer and spotted a planned-over portion of pork and pine nuts (how’s that for alliteration)! I’d reserved it from making Pork, pine nut and pancetta mini meatloaves a while ago.
In a moment of madness, I threw caution to the wind and used the mixture for a Pork, fennel and spinach cannelloni instead of Fusilli with pork sausage and lentils and it was so yum. So… I figured I’d save myself the trouble of posting the usual two recipes, and share this one with you instead.
You’ll find the original recipe post here. It yields about 1½ kilos (3 lb) of pork and pine nut mixture – you’ll need ½ kilo (1 lb) for this cannelloni recipe, and the remaining 1 kilo (2 lb) can be refrigerated or frozen to make the Pork, pine nut and pancetta mini meatloaves (or two more dinners of fusilli or cannelloni) at a later date. This pork and pinenut mixture is fab to have in the freezer, as you can whip it out on a weeknight for a super-quick no-brainer dinner.

Pork, fennel and spinach canneloni

[Recipe 3] Pork, fennel and spinach cannelloni

Ingredients (serves 4–6):
700ml (24 fl oz) tomato passata (tomato puree)

♦ 500g (1 lb) reserved pork and pine nut mixture (uncooked)
250g (8 oz) fresh ricotta
¼ cup (25g) grated parmesan or romano
250g (8 oz) frozen spinach, thawed, liquid thoroughly squeezed out
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
250g (8 oz) fresh cannelloni sheets (or lasagna sheets – see notes after recipe)
1 cup (100g) grated mozzarella

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Lightly grease a 6cm deep, 32cm x 22cm (12½-inch x 8½-inch) oven-proof lasagna-style dish. Spoon one cup of passata over the base.
Place reserved pork and pine nut mixture in a large bowl. Add ricotta, parmesan, spinach, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
Moisten each cannelloni sheet separately in a bowl of cold water before using.
Spoon about ¼ cup pork and ricotta mixture along the short side of a cannelloni sheet. Roll up to enclose the filling.
Repeat procedure with remaining cannelloni sheets. Arrange the cannelloni seam-side down in a single layer over the passata.
Pour remaining passata over cannelloni. Scatter with mozzarella. Cover with foil (make it ‘tent’ up so it doesn’t stick to the cheese) and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, turn oven up to 200°C (390ºF), and bake for a further 15–20 minutes, until golden and bubbling.
Serve with a simple salad or Roasted pumpkin and baby carrots with cumin – this can be cooked in the oven alongside the cannelloni.

  • If cannelloni sheets are unavailable, you can use fresh lasagna sheets. Cut 6 lasagna sheets into twelve 10cm (4-inch) x 15cm (6-inch) pieces.
  • You can freeze grated mozzarella (in 1 cup/100g lots) for up to 3 months.
  • Unused cannelloni and lasagna sheets can be frozen in a ziplock bag for up to 2 months.
  • Squeeze out as much liquid as you can from the thawed spinach – I pop it in a sieve above a bowl and push down hard on it with the back of a spoon.
  • Use measuring cups with handles for easy scooping of messy filling ingredients!Measuring cups with handles

The frying Dutchman

[Recipe 1] VEAL OSSO BUCO transforms into
[Recipe 2] DUTCH VEAL CROQUETTES
……………..
A couple of weeks ago, on the road to Bendigo for my mum’s 70th birthday with a car-load of fellow Dutch folks, we passed a hand-painted sign on the side of the Calder highway and a collective shriek rang out in the car: ‘DUTCH KROKETS $5’.
I skidded to a halt and we just about bolted inside. Jos and Coby Jansen, the proprietors of the tiny Junction Hotel (built in 1874) in Ravenswood, have a menu of house-made Dutch specialities including poffertjes (tiny pancakes), uitsmijters (soft bread, ham and a fried egg) and Krokets.
Dutch veal croquettes (Hollandse kalfs kroketten) are one of my favourite Dutch fast-food treats. My dad often cranked up the deep fryer to make a batch for lunch. There are food vans all over Holland selling the ubiquitous Broodje Kroket – a soft white roll stuffed with French mustard and a crunchy deep-fried log, containing the most delicious molten, creamy, meaty filling. In Amsterdam krokets can be bought warm from little vending machines, nestled individually on squares of kitchen paper.
Coby from the Junction Hotel was lovely enough to share her kroket recipe with me; which I’ve modified slightly to make for a more chunky, meaty filling. Also, instead of making them from scratch, I first made a beautiful (even if I do say so myself) Veal Osso Buco, which we scoffed for dinner with a mound of creamy parmesan mashed potatoes. The addition of orange zest to the Osso Buco intensifies the flavour and cuts through the richness, alleviating the need for a zesty accompaniment like gremolata.
By saving a couple of chunks of the Osso Buco, (see the orange diamonds in the recipe for details); you can whip up a batch of Dutch veal croquettes easily. Oh my gawd they’re so good. The only tricky bit is the double-breading but this is important for the crisp-factor, and also to ensure they don’t split open during cooking.
Eet smakelijk iedereen (eat well everyone)!

Dutch krokets sign

Veal Osso Buco[Recipe 1] Veal Osso Buco

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
1½ kilos (3 lb) humanely-farmed veal shanks, osso buco-style (cut into thick 2½ cm/1-inch slices)
3 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra
2 brown onions, finely chopped
4 medium carrots, chopped into small pieces
2 sticks celery, thinly sliced
75g (2½ oz) bacon, fat removed, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup (250ml) red wine
400g (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
1½ cups (375ml) beef stock
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons tomato paste (tomato concentrate)
Salt and freshly-cracked pepper
Creamy parmesan mashed potatoes, to serve
Chopped flat-leaf parsley to serve

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Place veal shank pieces and flour in a large plastic bag. Toss to coat, and shake off excess flour.
Heat oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook veal in batches (adding a splash more oil when required) for 3 minutes each side until well-browned. Transfer to a plate.
Add onion, carrot, celery and bacon to the pot, and 1 tablespoon more oil if required. Cook, covered, for 15 minutes or until vegetables start to soften. Stir occasionally. Add garlic and cook for a further 3 minutes, uncovered, stirring regularly. Return veal to the pot. Add wine, bring to the boil, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Transfer vegetables, veal and juices to a large oven-proof, flame-proof pot.
Combine tomatoes, stock, orange zest, oregano and tomato paste. Pour over veal and vegetables. Season.
Cover tightly with foil (or a lid, with foil underneath) and cook in pre-heated oven for 1½ hours. Test to see whether veal is tender. If not, return to the oven for a further 15 minutes and check again. The meat should be falling off the bones.
If there is a bit too much liquid, place pan on the stove-top and simmer, uncovered, for a further ten minutes.
Reserve 2–3 cooked veal pieces for the Dutch veal croquettes. You’ll need about 1½ cups/350g (¾ lb) of actual meat, so roughly break it away from the bones and plonk it in a cup (or weigh it) to make sure you reserve enough!
Serve osso buco on a bed of creamy parmesan mashed potatoes, scattered with parsley.

  • Osso Buco can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge and should be used within three days; or it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Leftover pan juices from stews like this can be blended and turned into a lovely rich soup for lunch. Add a bit of leftover shredded meat and vegie chunks after blending.
  • When using store-bought stock, I love Moredough Kitchens variety (available from independent food stores, delis and butchers all over Australia). It’s real stock, sealed in a pouch, with nothing yucky added. Definitely worth the expense. The veal stock is fab. And no, they didn’t pay me for my testimonial! I find supermarket chicken stock is mostly fine (I prefer Campbells), but supermarket beef stock is too overpowering and caramel-ish in a dish like osso buco. Moredough stock has a more subtle, home-made flavour.

Dutch veal croquettes

[Recipe 2] Dutch veal croquettes (Hollandse kalfs kroketten)

Ingredients (serves 4, makes 12 croquettes):
60 grams (2 oz/½ stick) butter
½ cup (75g) plain (all-purpose) flour
1 eschalot (shallot/scallion), finely chopped
1 cup (250ml) chicken stock, store-bought or home-made
1 cup (250ml) milk
1 sachet (10g/3 teaspoons) powdered gelatin*
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2–4 pieces reserved veal osso buco, finely chopped (about 1½ cups/350g/¾ lb)
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, very finely chopped
Vegetable or sunflower oil for deep-frying
French mustard, to serve
Coating:
1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour extra, for dusting (plus extra if required)
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup dry breadcrumbs

Make a roux by melting the butter in a small saucepan. Gently stir fry the eschalot until soft. Gradually stir in the flour with a wooden spoon until a paste forms.
Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in the stock. Simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes, stirring thoroughly, until the sauce is smooth and thick.
Add gelatin, nutmeg and mustard to the saucepan, stirring.
Add reserved, chopped Veal Osso Buco.
Season, and stir through parsley. Mix together thoroughly then transfer to a container with a lid and allow to cool completely, in the fridge.
Roll about 12 little sausage-shaped logs from the mixture, each about 3½cm (1½-inch) thick and about 7½cm (3-inch) long.
Double-coat the croquettes. Dredge each croquette in the flour, shaking off the excess. Dip into egg and coat well with the breadcrumbs. Refrigerate the croquettes for at least 15 minutes to help the coating adhere. Repeat the entire coating process so that each croquette gets two coats of flour, egg and breadcrumbs.
Deep-fry the croquettes in two batches at 180°C (350ºF) for approximately 3 minutes, until golden brown. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test whether the oil is ready by dropping a few breadcrumb lumps in the pot. They should sizzle as soon as they hit the oil.
Drain croquettes on kitchen paper and serve immediately, slathered with French mustard.

  • Dutch veal croquettes can be frozen, uncooked. Deep-fry from frozen for 4 minutes.
  • Croquettes are best eaten immediately. They don’t stand up to re-heating in the oven as they lose their beautiful crispiness. Believe me, I’ve tried!
  • Croquettes are excellent for a party. Double the quantity and make bite-sized croquette balls (‘bitterballen’ in Dutch). Deep-fry for 2–3 minutes, and serve on toothpicks with French mustard.
  • I’ve used powdered gelatin as it’s more readily available (and it removes the temptation for me to visit the Essential Ingredient where I always manage to empty my wallet). I reckon it’s worth using gelatin leaves when making delicate desserts like panna cotta, but for rustic croquettes, powdered gelatine is absolutely fine. If you insist on using gelatin leaves though, 1 sachet (8g/3 teaspoons) powdered gelatin is roughly equivalent to four gelatin leaves.

Rowdy, with a chance of meatballs

Dish for rings and jewelry[Recipe 1] BEEF, PORK and RICOTTA MEATBALLS transforms into
[Recipe 2] OVEN-BAKED TOMATO, SPINACH and MEATBALL RISOTTO

……………..
Nothing elicits a louder YUM from my boys at dinnertime than meatballs. These are lovely and light with the addition of ricotta. You’ll end up with four lots of beef, pork and ricotta meatballs with this recipe, so you can bung the rest in the freezer and defrost when required.
The trick with meatballs is to work the mixture with your hands first. The heat from your hands will soften the fat and help the mixture come together, preventing your meatballs from falling apart during frying. I take off my rings for this gross task, and place them in my little crying onion dish.
Recipe two is a fab Oven-baked tomato, spinach and meatball risotto, using reserved beef, pork and ricotta meatballs. Look for the orange diamonds in the recipe for hints on how many meatballs to set aside for this dish. This baked risotto is super-quick to make as there is virtually no stirring required. I know risotto purists will scoff, but I love a no-stir risotto. I’d much rather have a nice glass of red while my dinner cooks itself.

Meatballs with tomato pasta sauce

[Recipe 1] Beef, pork and ricotta meatballs

Ingredients (makes 100 meatballs; serves 4 for 4 meals):
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for frying meatballs
3 brown onions, very finely diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 kilo (2 lb) minced (ground) beef
500g (1 lb) minced (ground) pork
125g (4.5 oz) Parmesan cheese, finely grated
250g (½ lb) fresh ricotta
1 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1½ cups (125g) fresh sourdough breadcrumbs
1½ teaspoons salt
For tonight’s dinner:
1⅓ cups (600g) tomato pasta sauce (store-bought or home-made)
400g (14 oz) dried spaghetti
Extra grated Parmesan cheese, to serve 

Heat olive oil in a non-stick frypan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Place into a large bowl and allow to cool. Add minced meat, Parmesan, ricotta, parsley, eggs, breadcrumbs and salt. Using your hands, mix and squash the mixture together until well combined.
Using your hands, roll level tablespoons of the mixture into balls. Divide meatballs into 4 lots (approx. 650g/1.4 lb or approx. 25 meatballs for each lot), placing baking paper between each layer. Freeze or refrigerate until required.
Reserve one quantity (approx. 600g/1.3 lb) of beef, pork and ricotta meatballs for the tomato and basil risotto with meatballs.
Heat extra olive oil in a large non-stick frypan, over medium heat.
Fry tonight’s meatballs in two batches until browned and just cooked, approximately 8 minutes. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Wipe pan clean and pour in tomato pasta sauce. Add meatballs. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in boiling water until al dente. Drain.
Serve meatballs and tomato sauce warm, over spaghetti, scattered with Parmesan cheese.

  • Humanely-farmed veal can be used in place of pork.
  • Uncooked meatballs can be frozen for up to 3 months. Place baking paper between the layers. Defrost overnight in the fridge and drain on kitchen paper.
  • To make your own fresh breadcrumbs, remove the crusts from day-old sourdough bread and coarsely chop. Whiz in a food processor. Fresh breadcrumbs can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Instead of 4 lots of meatballs, use the mixture for 3 lots of meatballs and 1 lot of burgers. Simply shape 1 portion of the mixture into 4 or 6 patties and freeze until required. These burgers are delicious cooked on the BBQ. Serve in hamburger buns with lettuce, tasty cheese and tomato relish or caramelised red onion jam.
  • 
If you don’t have a deep-sided non-stick pan; cook the meatballs in a shallow-sided non-stick pan first; and transfer them to a deeper pan for cooking in the sauce.

Baked risotto with meatballs

[Recipe 2] Oven-baked tomato, spinach and meatball risotto

Ingredients (serves 4):
2 tablespoons olive oil
♦ 1 quantity (approx. 600g/1.3 lb) beef, pork and ricotta meatballs
1 small red (purple/Spanish) onion, chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped (approx. 5mm/1/4-inch cubes)
1½ cups (315g) arborio rice
400g (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
3 cups chicken stock (store-bought or home-made)
3 cups (100g) baby spinach leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese to serve
Chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick frypan, over medium heat.
Fry meatballs in two batches until browned and just cooked, approximately 8 minutes. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in an oven-proof (preferably cast iron) pot, on the stove-top. Add onion and carrot and cook for 5 minutes, until onion is softened.
Add rice and cook for a further 2–3 minutes, stirring, until grains are well-coated. Add tomatoes and stock. Bring to the boil. Remove from stove-top. Cover pot, and transfer to the oven.
Bake for 20 minutes. Remove pot from oven and gently stir in cooked meatballs, spinach salt and pepper. Return pot to oven and cook for a further 10–15 minutes or until liquid is mostly absorbed, spinach is wilted and rice is tender.
Serve, scattered with Parmesan and parsley.

It’s chapati and I’ll fry if I want to

[Recipe 1] KEEMA MATTAR (Indian spiced minced lamb and peas)
transforms into

[Recipe 2] BAKED FILO PASTRY SAMOSAS
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This week’s recipes are Indian. First up is Keema mattar. Keema is hindi for any type of ground meat and mattar are green peas. My version of Keema mattar contains carrot and cauliflower and is so flavoursome. It’s a fairly dry curry so it’s lovely served with yoghurt raita, and scooped up with home-made chapati (flatbread). You can whip up home-made chapati in a naan-o-second (sorry, can’t resist a bad pun) but you can of course use store-bought naan or chapati if you’re really pushed for time.
The Keema mattar recipe yields two large freezeable meals, each plenty for 4 people; plus an extra portion to be used as filling for delicious Baked filo pastry samosas, perfect for a weekend lunch or party nibbles. Look for the orange diamonds in the recipe for instructions on how much Keema mattar to set aside for the samosas.
Keema matter is a fab meal to take with you on holidays (even easier than bolognaise) as you need only bring a packet of chapati or roti to have with it. No need to muck around with rice or pasta. We’re off on our annual pilgrimage to the Apollo Bay Music Festival this weekend and I have a vat of Keema mattar in the freezer, ready to go. 
FOOTNOTE:
The lovely Michelle of formandreform blogged beautifully about cooking this meal. Check out her blog – she is one clever girl.

Keema mattar (Indian spiced mince lamb and peas). One Equals Two.

[Recipe 1] Keema mattar (Indian spiced mince lamb and peas)

Ingredients (serves 4 for 3 meals):
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 red (purple/Spanish) onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1½ heaped tablespoons fresh grated ginger
1 heaped tablespoon cinnamon
1 heaped tablespoon garam masala
2 tablespoons fennel seeds, toasted, crushed with a mortar and pestle
3 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted, crushed with a mortar and pestle
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 kilos (4 lb) minced (ground) lamb
1 long green chilli, de-seeded, finely chopped
2 large carrots, grated
1 small head cauliflower (or ½ large head), cut into very small florets
7 tablespoons (140g tub) tomato paste (tomato concentrate)
1 cup (250ml) water, plus extra if required
4 bay leaves
2 x 400g (15 oz) cans chickpeas (garbanzos), drained, rinsed (or 2 cups cooked chickpeas – see tips below recipe)
2 cups (500g/1 lb) frozen peas
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chapati (flatbread), store-bought, or home-made, to serve
Basic cucumber raita, to serve
Fresh coriander (cilantro), to serve

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, cinnamon, garam masala, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and cloves, and cook for 3 minutes, until aromatic. Add mince and cook over low heat, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until brown. Break up the mince with a wooden spoon now and again.
Add chilli, carrot, cauliflower, tomato paste, water, bay leaves and chickpeas and simmer, covered, over a medium heat for 25–30 minutes, until liquid has evaporated. Add more water if it starts to dry out too quickly. Toss peas into the pot for the last 5–10 minutes cooking time. Remove bay leaves. Season to taste.
Serve Keema mattar on top of chapati, scattered with coriander (cilantro), with raita on the side.
Divide the remainder of the Keema mattar into plastic containers (see storage tips below).
Reserve 3 cups (600g) Keema mattar for the Baked filo pastry samosas.

  • The Keema mattar recipe will yield three portions; ie. two serves of about 6 cups (1¼ kilos) each (1¼ kilos will serve four) plus a 3 cup (600g) portion to be used for the Baked filo pastry samosas.
  • Keema mattar can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge and should be used within three days; or it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Serve the Keema mattar with steamed basmati rice instead of naan, for a change.
  • 2 x 400g (14 oz) cans chickpeas (garbanzos), drained, will yield approximately 3 cups chickpeas. For 3 cups cooked chickpeas, soak 250g (9 oz) dry chickpeas overnight. Drain and cook in boiling water for 45–50 minutes, until just tender. Drain and rinse. I often cook up a load of chickpeas, and freeze them in 1 cup portions to use when required.

Baked filo pastry samosas. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 2] Baked filo pastry samosas

Ingredients (makes 20):
1 tablespoon corn flour (cornstarch)
4 tablespoons warm water

♦ 3 cups (600g) reserved Keema mattar

½ cup (50g) dessicated coconut
1 x 375g (12½ oz) packet (20 sheets) frozen filo (phyllo) pastry, defrosted in fridge overnight
Vegetable oil for brushing
Easy spiced tomato chutney, or store-bought chutney, to serve

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Mix corn flour and water together. Place into a small pan.
Add reserved Keema mattar to pan.
Add coconut and stir well.
Bring to the boil. Turn down heat and simmer until mixture thickens, about 2–3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Cut though all 20 sheets of filo pastry at once, with a sharp knife, into 3 long strips each measuring about 8½cm (3-inch) in width.
You’ll need three strips of pastry per samosa, making a total of about 20 samosas.
Place 1 tablespoon of the Keema mattar filling at the top end of a pastry strip and pull the left corner of the sheet diagonally to the right so that it forms the first little triangle. Keep folding the samosa over and over in the same way maintaining the triangle shape. After every third fold, brush a little oil on the pastry.
Repeat the procedure until all the samosas are ready, popping each on an oiled tray (with the last fold underneath), covered with a clean tea towel as you go.
Lightly brush the top of each samosa with vegetable oil.
Bake for 15–20 minutes, or until golden. Serve hot with Easy spiced tomato chutney.

  • Work quickly with the filo pastry, so it doesn’t dry out. Keep unused pastry portions covered with a clean tea towel as you work.
  • If using refrigerated Keema mattar (not frozen) this recipe is suitable to freeze. Freeze cooked samosas, for up to 3 months. Place baking paper between the layers. When serving, allow to defrost overnight in the fridge. Reheat in a hot oven, covered with foil, for 5–10 minutes.

Honey, I shrank the burgers

[Recipe 1] SCOTCH EGGS transform into
[Recipe 2] MINI BURGERS with HIDDEN VEGGIES
……………..
This week Scotch eggs morph into tiny Mini burgers. Scotch eggs have long featured on my ‘kooky UK meals to try’ list (along with Toad in the Hole, Spotted Dick and Bubble and Squeak), and a couple of months ago I gave them a burl. Delicious! As we’re coming up to Easter, I figured now was the perfect time to share them.
Scotch eggs are traditionally coated in sausage meat, but I just can’t bring myself to deep-fry a ball of sausage (easier to just rip my arteries out); so I use a mixture of beef and pork mince, which has more flavour, more iron and much less fat! I also throw in some mustard and onion for extra bite.
I’ve experimented with this recipe quite a bit, and although scotch eggs *can* be baked (lightly oiled at 200°C/390ºF for 25 minutes); they’re really much yummier deep-fried, with that lovely crunchy golden coating. I’m not at all adverse to the occasional deep-fried treat!
Double-crumbing is a technique I learned from the Dutch, and it makes for an extra crispy crust, whilst ensuring the scotch eggs don’t split open during cooking.
By making double the beef/pork mixture for the scotch eggs you can whip up a batch of gorgeous little Mini burgers with hidden veggies later. Look for the ♦ orange diamonds within the recipe, for instructions on how much beef/pork mixture to reserve for the burgers.
My beautiful friend, and Japanese culture junkie, Janet, introduced me to the tiny burger snacks at the ubiquitous Breadtop, an Asian bread/pastry chain popping up all over Australia. The bun itself is like a cross between brioche and a puff of air, and it holds a tiny cold hamburger patty, a smear of tomato sauce, a minuscule slice of cheese and a tiny leaf of lettuce. That’s it! Gone in two mouthfuls, but absolutely delicious. You can so easily make them yourself for the kids lunchboxes. Freeze the patties and little buns separately (you can buy the buns in bags of eight at Breadtop, or in bulk from Costco); defrost them overnight, and assemble in the morning. Two per child should suffice. Such a lovely change from boring sandwiches! They’re also perfect for kid’s birthdays, and adult parties (add a teaspoon of fennel seeds with the onion to ramp up the flavour).

Scotch eggs. Via One Equals Two

[Recipe 1] Scotch eggs

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals; ie. 6 scotch eggs + 12 mini burgers):
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 brown onion, very finely chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
500g (1 lb) minced (ground) beef
500g (1 lb) minced (ground) pork
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried, if unavailable)
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
½ cup dry breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled

¼ cup plain (all-purpose) flour, for coating
3 eggs, extra, beaten, for coating
1¼ cups dry breadcrumbs, extra, for coating
I litre (34 fl oz) vegetable or peanut oil for deep-frying
Easy spiced tomato chutney (or store-bought chutney), to serve

Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 4–5 minutes, until soft. Drain on kitchen paper and allow to cool.
In a large bowl, mix together the cooked onion, mustard, beef, pork, thyme, salt, pepper, ½ cup breadcrumbs and 1 beaten egg. Process until well combined; or mix and mash with your hands.
♦ Reserve half the beef/pork mixture (about 2 cups or 600g/1¼ lb) for the mini burgers.

Divide the remainder of the beef/pork mixture into 6 even portions, patting each piece into a flat oval shape, the size of your palm.
Coat each of the 6 peeled, hard-boiled eggs in flour. Wrap each floured egg evenly in a portion of beef/pork mixture, making sure they are smooth and completely covered.
 Dip each mince-coated egg into the extra beaten egg, then roll gently in breadcrumbs until well-coated. Double-coat by repeating the egg and breadcrumb stages. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, reserving a couple of eggy breadcrumb lumps for testing the oil temperature.
Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Heat vegetable oil in a deep saucepan on the stovetop until it reaches 180°C (350ºF). If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test whether the oil is ready by dropping a breadcrumb lump in the pot. It should sizzle as soon as it hits the oil.
Deep-fry the scotch eggs (in two batches if necessary) for approximately 4–5 minutes, until golden brown and crispy.
Remove scotch eggs with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Place on a tray lined with baking paper paper and bake in the hot oven for 7 minutes (this will ensure meat is cooked through).
Serve warm or at room temperature with Easy spiced tomato chutney and a green salad or Green beans and toasted pine-nuts (pictured).

Mini burgers. Via One Equals Two

[Recipe 2] Mini burgers with hidden veggies

Ingredients (serves 4, makes 12 little patties):
1 medium carrot, grated on fine zester holes
1 small zucchini (courgette), grated, chopped, liquid squeezed out with your hands

2 tablespoons oat bran (or wheatgerm)
♦ 2 cups (about 600g/1¼ lb) reserved beef/pork mixture
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

To serve:
12 mini buns or dinner rolls
Butter or baby cos (romaine) lettuce
Thinly sliced cheddar cheese
Tomato sauce (ketchup)

Put carrot, zucchini and oat bran into a large bowl.
Add reserved beef/pork mixture.
Season. Mix and mash it all together well with your hands. Shape mixture into twelve tiny patties, about 5 cm (2″) diameter. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Heat extra oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry mini burgers until cooked through, about 2-3 minutes each side. Drain on kitchen paper.
Serve mini burgers in little buns with lettuce, sliced cheese and tomato sauce.

  • Cooked patties, and little buns, can be frozen with baking paper between the layers, for up to 3 months. Defrost as required, for lunchboxes.
  • Patties can also be frozen uncooked, for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge.
  • As these patties are tiny, it’s very important to ensure the onion, carrot and zucchini are chopped and/or grated into very small pieces or your burgers will fall apart when cooked. The tiny zester holes on your grater are perfect for carrot. I grate zucchini on the normal grater holes though as it gets too watery. Give the mound of grated zucchini a good extra chop afterwards to make the pieces smaller.
  • You can use this mixture to make four large patties instead of mini burgers. Pop them in the freezer for a quick mid-week dinner.

The bun also rises

[Recipe 1] PORK, GINGER and BOK CHOY FRIED RICE transforms into
[Recipe 2] LITTLE STEAMED WHOLEMEAL PORK BUNS
……………..
Pork, ginger and bok choy fried rice
is a quick and easy midweek dinner with an added bonus: by reserving some of the beautiful spiced pork mixture you can whip up a batch of fab Little steamed wholemeal pork buns for another meal! The pork mixture freezes excellently.
I love DIY Yum Cha and these little buns are super tasty, and quite healthy as they contain wholemeal flour. My boys just love them. In fact, my 4-year old has been known to need a lie-down after gorging himself on them.
The Pork, ginger and bok choy recipe contains basmati rice. Traditionally you’d use jasmine or plain white rice for a dish like this, but I love using basmati as it’s much lower GI. Here are the comparisons. Prepare to be amazed.
Low GI foods (slow energy release; ie. your best choice) = 55 or less
Medium GI = 56–69
High GI = 70 or more
Brown rice: GI 50
White basmati rice: GI 58
White glutinous rice: GI 86
White short-grain rice: GI 83-87
White jasmine rice: GI a whopping 109!

Pork and ginger rice

[Recipe 1] Pork, ginger and bok choy fried rice

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1½ teaspoons sesame oil
½ cup (125ml) hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons peanut oil
750g (1½ lb) minced (ground) pork
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
tablespoons grated fresh ginger
5 spring onions (scallions), white parts only, thinly sliced (reserve green parts for serving)
Note: you’ll reserve
of the above ingredients, cooked, for the buns in recipe 2.
1 tablespoon soy sauce, extra
1 bunch bok choy (or choy sum), leaves trimmed and thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, chopped into small match-sticks
4 cups cooked basmati rice, cooled (you’ll need 1⅓ cups uncooked rice)
½ cup (50g) bean shoots (bean sprouts)
1 small red birdseye chilli, de-seeded, finely chopped*
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves, to serve

Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil and hoisin sauce in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat oil in a wok over high heat until just smoking. Add pork, garlic and ginger and stir-fry until golden brown and just cooked, about 2 minutes. Carefully drain off any liquid – hold back the ingredients in the wok with a large pan lid, while you pour. Wipe any dribbles off the side of the wok so they don’t ignite!
Add the white spring onions and hoisin mixture and stir-fry for 1–2 minutes.
Remove wok from the heat.
With a large spoon or soup ladle, remove about ⅓ of the ginger pork mixture, or 1½ cups (325g), for the little steamed wholemeal pork buns. Set aside (see storage tips below).
Return wok to heat. Add the extra tablespoon soy sauce, bok choy and carrot, and stir-fry for 1–2 minutes, until bok choy wilts.
Add cooked rice, bean shoots and chilli* and toss over medium heat for 2 minutes until rice is heated through. Season to taste.
Divide amongst four bowls, scatter with coriander and chopped green ends of spring onions and serve hot.
*Chilli can be added separately, to adult serves only.

  • Cook double the rice and freeze half for next time. Cooked rice freezes really well, for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge, and break up with a fork before using.
  • Rice should be well-chilled before using in this recipe; and preferably made the day before and refrigerated (or defrosted overnight). If you have time, spread the rice out on a tray before using, and place in the fridge, uncovered, for at least 1–2 hours, to dry it out a bit. This will ensure your fried rice retains separate grains, and is not too gluggy.
  • Planned-overs (reserved ginger pork mixture) can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months, so you can make the buns another time.
  • Fussy child tip: I find both my boys will happily scoff this rice if it’s served without bean shoots, so I scoop out their serves before adding the bean shoots to the wok.

Little steamed wholemeal pork buns

[Recipe 2] Little steamed wholemeal pork buns

Ingredients (serves 4–6, makes 15 buns):
1 tablespoon corn flour (cornstarch)
2 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
♦ 1½ cups (about 325g) reserved ginger pork mixture
Bun dough:
½ cup (125ml) warm water + ½ cup warm water extra
4 teaspoons (2 x 7g sachets) dried yeast
¼ cup caster (superfine) sugar
1½ cups (225g) plain (all-purpose) flour
1 cup (150g) wholemeal plain (wholewheat all-purpose) flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon peanut oil
Sweet chilli sauce, to serve

Mix corn flour and water together. Place into a small pan with the Chinese 5-spice powder.
Add reserved ginger pork mixture to pan.
Bring to the boil. Turn down heat and simmer until mixture thickens, about 2–3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, make bun dough. Combine ½ cup warm water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Stand in a warm place for 5 minutes until frothy.
Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Stir. Add yeast mixture, extra ½ cup warm water, salt and oil. Stir to form a soft, sticky dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or until smooth. Place the dough in a large, oiled bowl. Cover and put in a warm place (see tips below recipe) for an hour or until the dough doubles in size.
Divide dough into 15 pieces (cut dough into 3 large pieces first, roll each into a fat log, then cut each of the 3 logs into 5 portions). Pop the dough pieces back into the covered oiled bowl as you work, to prevent them drying out.
Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, shape and flatten each dough portion into a 7cm round, about ½ cm thick.
Place a heaped teaspoonful of pork mixture into the centre of each round. Stretch dough up around the filling by pleating along the edges. Bring the pleats up and twist and seal them together at the top. This lovely, noisy little youtube clip illustrates the technique. Repeat the procedure until all buns are ready, popping them on a tray covered with cling film as you go.
Line a bamboo steamer with 5 individual squares of baking paper, or waxed cupcake paper liners (one per bun).
Place the first 5 prepared buns (these will have rested sufficiently while the others were prepared), smooth side down, into the steamer. Don’t overcrowd your basket or they’ll stick as they expand. Cover with steamer lid. Place steamer over a wok or pan of boiling water. Make sure the steamer doesn’t touch the water.
Cover and cook for 8–10 minutes, until puffed, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of a bun comes out clean. Repeat with remaining buns. Serve with sweet chilli sauce.

  • If yeast mixture doesn’t thoroughly froth it should be discarded, as it’s well and truly deceased. Try again with new yeast.
  • ‘A warm place’ to put your bowl of dough can be in a sink of warm water, in the laundry when your dryer is on, or even in a warm car!
  • Leftover little steamed buns can be stored in the fridge for up to two days. They are fab for lunch boxes.

Pasta la vista

[Recipe 1] FULL-OF-VEGGIES BOLOGNAISE transforms into
[Recipe 2] LASAGNA with RICOTTA and SPINACH
……………..
A recipe for bolognaise? Meh, I hear you uttering. I’m guessing you probably have a container or two of sauce tucked in your freezer prepared with your own fail-safe recipe. Thought I’d share my Full-of-veggies bolognaise recipe though, as it’s, well, full of veggies strangely enough; including lentils. It’s pretty delicious and my boys inhale it.
Instead of serving up spag bol over spaghetti week after week, I always set aside a portion for an ace Lasagna with ricotta and spinach (look for the orange diamonds in the recipe for instructions on how much sauce to reserve). I love a good lasagna, but wouldn’t dream of preparing one from scratch. With the sauce already made, it’s a cinch to throw this lasagna in the oven within half an hour. So, anyway, my secret bolognaise ingredient is lentils – what kooky ingredients feature in your spag bol?

Full-of-veggies bolognaise

[Recipe 1] Full-of-veggies bolognaise

Ingredients (serves 4 for 4+ meals):
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 brown onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 kilos (4 lb) minced (ground) beef (not too lean)
4 x 400g (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes
280g (10 oz) tomato paste (tomato concentrate)
1 cup (250ml) water
4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 large carrots, grated
2 zucchinis (courgettes), grated
1 x 400g (15 oz) can lentils, drained, rinsed (or 1 cup cooked brown or green lentils)
1 cup chopped parsley (to taste), plus extra to serve
1 heaped tablespoon brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g (14 oz) dried spaghetti (or as required for 4 serves)
Grated parmesan cheese to serve

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add mince and cook over low heat, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until brown. Break up the mince with a wooden spoon now and again.
Add tomatoes, tomato paste, water, bay leaves and oregano and simmer, covered, over a low heat for 30 minutes. Add carrot and zucchini and continue cooking, covered, for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove lid and simmer for a further 8–10 minutes, or until thick. Remove and discard bay leaves.
At this stage I like to give the bolognaise 2 whizzes (no more) with a stick blender to help it come together – this is optional of course. Stir through parsley, lentils and brown sugar. Season to taste.
Reserve 4 cups (1 kilo/2 lb) Full-of-veggies bolognaise for the Lasagna with ricotta and spinach.
Divide the remainder of the Full-of-veggies bolognaise into labeled plastic containers (see storage tips below).
Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in boiling water until al dente. Drain. Serve warm Full-of-veggies bolognaise over spaghetti, scattered with grated parmesan and extra parsley.

  • The Full-of-veggies bolognaise recipe will yield four serves of about 1 kilo (2 lb) each (1 kilo will serve four) and a couple of single portions too. I love making a massive vat of spag bol, but if you don’t have the freezer space, it’s easy to halve the ingredients.
  • Full-of-veggies bolognaise can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge and should be used within three days; or it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Besides B vitamins, lentils are high in protein, fibre and a variety of minerals. It’s so easy to plop them in bolognaise sauce. They take on the flavour of the other ingredients and are virtually imperceptible. You can add lots of other vegetables to this recipe – try adding small cubes of eggplant or sliced button mushrooms with the onions. You can also throw in chopped baby spinach with the lentils.
  • I love Australian garlic. The taste is superior to Chinese garlic; and imported garlic is fumigated with methyl bromide and often bleached too. Blech. Interesting article here.
  • Baby tip: while you’re making the spag bol, you can make a small baby-friendly portion in a little saucepan. Use similar ingredients, but omit the canned tomatoes, canned lentils and tomato paste (canned foods are generally too salty for babies). Replace with peeled and de-seeded fresh tomatoes, and water. For a burst of iron, throw in a chopped organic beef liver. Puree until smooth and freeze in ice-cube trays until required.

Lasagna with ricotta and spinach

[Recipe 2] Lasagna with ricotta and spinach

Ingredients (serves 6):
1⅓ cups (350ml) tomato passata (tomato puree)

♦ 4 cups (1 kilo/2 lb) reserved full-of-veggies bolognaise

3 eggs
2 heaped cups (600g) fresh ricotta
¼ cup (60ml) milk
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (100g) grated parmesan cheese
250g/10 oz packet frozen spinach, thawed, excess liquid completely squeezed out
375g (13 oz) fresh lasagna sheets
1 cup (100g) grated mozzarella

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Place tomato passata in a large bowl.
Stir in reserved full-of-veggies bolognaise.
Set aside.
Place eggs, ricotta, milk and salt into a food processor, and process until creamy. Add parmesan and pulse to just combine. Stir in spinach. Set aside.
Lightly grease a 6cm deep, 32cm x 22cm (12½-inch x 8½-inch) oven proof dish. Spoon half the bolognaise/passata mixture over the base. Top with a layer of lasagna sheets, trimming extra sheets to fit if necessary. Spoon over half the spinach/ricotta mixture. Add one more layer of lasagna sheets. Spoon over the remaining bolognaise/passata mixture. Top with another layer of lasagna sheets, then the remaining spinach/ricotta mixture. Scatter with mozzarella. You should have 8 layers in total:
LAYER 1 (bottom): Bolognaise, LAYER 2: Lasagna sheets, LAYER 3: Ricotta, LAYER 4: Lasagna sheets, LAYER 5: Bolognaise, LAYER 6: Lasagna sheets, LAYER 7: Ricotta, LAYER 8 (top): Mozarella.
Cover with a layer of baking paper, followed by a layer of foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove baking paper and foil and bake for a further 15–20 minutes.
Remove from oven and set aside for 10 minutes (this will help it hold its shape). Serve with a simple green salad.

  • If you purchase a 700ml bottle of tomato passata, you can freeze half in a labelled plastic container for next time; for up to 3 months.

  • Grated parmesan and mozzarella (in 1 cup/100g lots) can be frozen in ziplock bags for up to 3 months.
  • Unused lasagna sheets can be frozen in a ziplock bag for up to 2 months.
  • Leftover lasagna can be warmed in a low oven, covered in foil.

Oh ragù, you’ve done it again

[Recipe 1] SPICED LAMB RAGÙ transforms into
[Recipe 2] MINI LAMB and MINT PIES
……………..
With Australia Day almost upon us, I think meat pies are called for, don’t you? Instead of making them from scratch, I make a delicious vat of Spiced lamb ragù. The remainder of this sauce is divided up, refrigerated or frozen as planned overs (look for the  orange diamonds) and used later for beautiful Mini lamb and mint pies. Stick a little Australian flag in each pie and serve on a large platter with a bowl of chunky tomato relish (or tomato sauce) for dipping. Onya.

Spiced lamb ragù with tagliatelle

[Recipe 1] Spiced lamb ragù with tagliatelle and pecorino

Ingredients (serves 4 for 3–4 meals):
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 brown onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 kilos (4 lb) minced (ground) lamb, shoulder if possible
1½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

3 large carrots, cut into very small cubes
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
4 x 400g (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 cup (250ml) beef stock
½ cup (125ml) red wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½–1 cup chopped parsley (to taste), plus extra to serve
400g (14 oz) dried tagliatelle pasta (or approx. 625g fresh tagliatelle or pappardelle)
Shaved pecorino cheese to serve

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 3 minutes.
Add mince and cook over low heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Break up the mince with a wooden spoon now and again. Carefully drain off most of the fat.
Add cinnamon and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for a further 2 minutes.
Add carrots, celery, tomatoes, stock and wine and simmer, covered, over a low heat for 1 hour. Stir occasionally. Remove lid and simmer for a further 15 minutes, or until thick. Season to taste and stir through parsley.
♦ Reserve 1 kilo (2 lb) spiced lamb ragù for the mini lamb and mint pies.
Divide the remainder of the lamb ragù into labeled plastic containers (see storage tips below).
Meanwhile, cook tagliatelle in boiling water until al dente. Drain.
Serve warm lamb ragù over tagliatelle, scattered with grated pecorino and extra parsley.

  • The Spiced lamb ragù recipe will yield three serves of about 1 kilo (2 lb) each (1 kilo will serve four) and, if youʼre lucky, one or two single portions too.
  • Spiced lamb ragù can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge and should be used within three days; or it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Tagliatelle can be replaced with other flat ribbbon pasta, such as fettuccine or pappardelle.
  • Pecorino is a hard Italian cheese made from ewe’s milk, which goes beautifully with rich pasta sauces. If unavailable, replace with Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano.
  • Freeze leftover parsley stalks, and use in sweet tomato pasta sauce or home-made chicken stock.

Mini lamb and mint pies

[Recipe 2] Australia Day mini lamb and mint pies

Ingredients (makes 20):
4 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
1 kilo (2 lb) reserved spiced lamb ragù
2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
2–3 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves (about 20–30 leaves)
5 sheets frozen shortcrust pastry, thawed
3 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Tomato relish or Easy spiced tomato chutney, to serve

Preheat oven to 220°C (425ºF).
Grease 2 x 12-hole standard-sized muffin pans (note: you’ll need 20 pans only).
Blend flour with 3 tablespoons hot water to form a smooth paste.
Spoon reserved spiced lamb ragù into a medium-sized saucepan.
Add flour paste and bring to boil. Simmer, uncovered, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, or until thickened. Stir in worcestershire sauce and mint leaves.
Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until cold.
Using a 10cm (4-inch) round cutter, cut out 20 circles from the shortcrust pastry. Press into prepared pan holes, covering them with a tea towel as you go, to prevent them drying out.
Brush inside pastry cases (this prevents them going soggy), and the edges, with egg.
Divide cooled lamb mixture among pastry cases.
Using a 7cm (2¾-inch)  round cutter, cut out 20 circles from the puff pastry. Place on top of pies. Press edges together to seal. Brush tops of pies with egg, and prick with a fork.
Bake for 15–20 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown.
Serve with tomato sauce, chunky tomato relish or Easy spiced tomato chutney.

  • If you don’t have a 10cm (4-inch) round cutter, trace around a lid with a sharp knife (a lid from a 450g tin of Milo is the perfect size).
  • Join scraps of leftover pastry together and make little egg pies for breakfast or lunch. Grease and line standard-sized muffin pans with shortcrust or puff pastry. To make four, mix together 2 beaten eggs, a little chopped ham and grated tasty cheese. Pour into pastry cases (up to ¾ full). Bake at 220°C (425ºF) for 15-20 minutes.
  • The mini lamb and mint pies can be cooked the day before and stored in the fridge. If using fresh lamb ragù (not frozen) you can freeze the cooked mini lamb and mint pies, between sheets of baking paper, for up to one month. Thaw overnight in the fridge. 
  • To reheat pre-cooked pies, place the pies on a baking tray and bake at 180°C (350ºF) for 15 minutes, or until heated through.

Porktastic

[Recipe 1] PORK, PINE NUT and PANCETTA MINI MEATLOAVES transform into
[Recipe 2] FUSILLI with PORK SAUSAGE and LENTILS
……………..
Welcome folks. For my inaugural post I figured we’d start with some pork on our forks! The first recipe is for scrumptious (even if I do say so myself) Pork, pine nut and pancetta mini meatloaves. We call them, ahem, PPP Loaves. They’re kid-friendly as they’re quite sausagey, but the fennel flavour is sophisticated enough for adult palates too. My boys just love them.
The meatloaf recipe allows for a good stash of planned-overs (look for the orange diamonds); in this case a flavoursome pork and pine nut mixture to be set aside for two further meals of Fusilli with pork sausage and lentils. This is a super-quick dish (no chopping up or frying of onions required) and you can prepare it while the pasta is cooking. Delicious!
PS. If you’re feeling energetic you could make the pasta sauce while the meatloaves are baking. There’s nothing more satisfying than a bulk cook-up, and the resulting well-stocked fridge or freezer.
You could also choose to use the mixture for a double quantity of meatloaves (they freeze really well cooked, and are excellent sliced in sandwiches); in which case you’d double all the meatloaf ingredients from the breadcrumbs down.

Pork, pancetta and pinenut mini meatloaves

[Recipe 1] Pork, pine nut and pancetta mini meatloaves

Ingredients (serves 4 for 3 meals; ie. 1 serve meatloaves, 2 serves pasta sauce):
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 leeks, white parts only, sliced lengthwise, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 kilo (2 lb) minced (ground) pork
500g (1 lb) good-quality sausage meat
(see notes)
1 cup (70g) fresh breadcrumbs (2 slices day-old sourdough, processed)
1 medium carrot, finely grated on zester holes
½ cup (60g) pine nuts, toasted

2 eggs, beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8–12 large thinly-sliced pancetta pieces (approx. 150g/5 oz)
To serve:
Easy spiced tomato chutney (or store-bought tomato relish)
Green beans with toasted pinenuts

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook the leek for 6–8 minutes, until soft. Add fennel seeds and cook, stirring, for 1–2 minutes until aromatic. Allow to cool in a large bowl. Add the pork mince, sausage meat, breadcrumbs, carrot, toasted pine nuts and eggs. Mix well with your hands until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper and mix lightly.
This mixture will yield 2 kilos (4 lb) of pork and pine nut mixture. 1 kilo (2 lb) is required for the pork, pine nut and pancetta mini meatloaves.
Reserve the remaining 1 kilo (2 lb) of pork and pine nut mixture for the Fusilli with pork sausage and lentils (yields enough sauce to serve 8).

Grease eight ⅔ cup (160ml) capacity mini loaf pans (or friand, muffin or cupcake pans). Line each pan with pancetta, allowing the sides to overhang.
Divide 1 kilo (2 lb) of the pork and pine nut mixture among the prepared pans, pressing mixture down firmly. Fold pancetta over to enclose the filling.
Bake meatloaves for 30 minutes, or until cooked through.
Drain any juices from the pan and carefully run a knife around each loaf to loosen.
Serve sliced, with easy spiced tomato chutney and green beans with toasted pine nuts. You can toast the pine nuts for the meatloaves and the green beans at the same time.
Makes 8 mini meatloaves.

  • For good-quality sausage meat, slit open free-range pork sausages and squeeze meat from the casings.
  • Pancetta is cured Italian bacon made of pork belly meat, and is available at delicatessens. Replace with very-thinly sliced bacon or prosciutto if unavailable.
  • Refrigerate and use Recipe 1 planned-overs (uncooked pork and pine nut mixture) within 3 days. Uncooked mixture can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Meatloaf leftovers are excellent for lunch. Serve sliced in a sandwich with tomato chutney and cos (romaine) lettuce. Yum!
  • You can use any type of bread to make fresh breadcrumbs: white, rye, wholemeal (wholewheat) or – my preference – sourdough. Save scraps of leftover bread and freeze for up to 3 months, removing large pieces of crust before processing.
  • Dark green leek offcuts can be used in stock.

Fusilli with pork sausage and lentils

[Recipe 2] Fusilli (spiral pasta) with pork sausage and lentils

Ingredients (serves 8):
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, grated

♦ 1 kilo (2 lb) reserved pork and pine nut mixture
2 heaped tablespoons tomato paste/concentrate
2 x 400g (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes
2 x 400g (14 oz) cans lentils, drained and rinsed (or 2 cups cooked lentils – see notes)
2 cinnamon sticks
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for serving

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g (14 oz) dried fusilli (spiral pasta) per 4 people

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan, and add grated carrot.
Add reserved pork and pine nut mixture.
Cook over low heat, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Break up large lumps with a spoon, retaining a few mini meatball-sized chunks for texture.
Add tomato paste, tomatoes, lentils, cinnamon sticks and ⅔ cup of water and simmer, covered, over a low heat for 15–20 minutes, until thickened. Stir occasionally. Remove and discard cinnamon sticks. Stir through parsley and season with salt and pepper.
If serving four people, divide sauce into two portions of 1 kilo (2 lb) each. The remaining 1 kilo batch of pasta sauce can be refrigerated or frozen for another meal (see notes).
Meanwhile, cook fusilli in boiling water until al dente. Drain.
Stir pork and lentil sauce through fusilli. Serve, scattered with extra parsley.

  • Left-over tomato paste can be frozen in 1 or 2 tablespoon lumps, individually-wrapped in cling film; ready to plop into your next pasta dish.
  • 2 x 400g (14 oz) cans lentils, drained, will yield 2 heaped cups cooked lentils. For 2 heaped cups cooked lentils, cook 1 cup dry lentils in boiling water for 45 minutes, until tender. Drain and rinse. I often cook up a load of lentils, and freeze them in 1 or 2 cup portions to use when required.
  • Although this sauce is lovely served as is, feel free to add extra veggies such as grated zucchini (courgette), baby spinach leaves or chopped silverbeet (Swiss chard).
  • Freeze leftover parsley stalks, and use in sweet tomato pasta sauce or home-made chicken stock.
  • Reserved pasta sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. Note: if you’ve used frozen planned-overs of pork and pinenut mixture, pasta sauce should not be frozen.