In a stew

My emotions have been all over the place these last couple of months and I’ve found it so hard to get my blogging mojo back. I try not to be an oversharer on my blog, but I consider many of you as friends I’ve never met, and I really want to explain my absence and apologise for not having visited all your lovely blogs for a while. I’ve missed this little corner of my world!
My lovely, funny, generous dad passed away 5 weeks ago from cancer. This beef bourguignon stew was the last meal I cooked for him. Dad loved it. I’ve made it a couple of times since, and I’ve thought of him every time I’ve eaten it. I miss you dad.


[Recipe 1] BEEF BOURGUIGNON without WINE
transforms into
[Recipe 2] BEEF and MUSHROOM PITHIVIERS

I set myself a goal to cook up a flavoursome stew, minus the merlot, and this alcohol-free bourguignon came about after much experimentation.
Beef bourguignon without wine? Mais non! C’est impossible! Au contraire mon ami, it is not only possible, but trés tasty.
My recipe is loosely adapted from Stephanie’s in the Cook’s Companion and Margaret Fulton’s from her 1974 masterpiece The Complete Margaret Fulton. I doubled the orange peel, swapped the bacon for speck, and replaced the wine (and Margaret’s brandy!) with two secret ingredients – verjuice, which adds a sweet wine-like tartness; and a good slosh of balsamic vinegar. The other key to a great wine-free stew is full-flavoured stock. I squirreled away some home-made beef broth (thanks Tracey!) a while ago and this stew seemed a worthy reason to crack it open.
Regular readers will know I wouldn’t dream of making a casserole to serve 4. While the oven is cranked up, it makes sense to cook a huge quantity of Beef bourguignon (in two pots if necessary – see notes). It freezes beautifully, and can be put to use in the most beautiful Beef and mushroom pithiviers. Pithiviers are basically fancy French pies made with two layers of flaky puff pastry. You can use store-bought puff, but if you’ve not tried making your own, you simply must! Rough Puff is the easiest, quickest pastry to throw together; and you will never reach for the Pampas again, I promise! Mine is adapted from Clotilde’s recipe on Chocolate and Zucchini, the first food blog I ever followed and still one of my absolute favourites.
Have a lovely week. I’m off to catch up on some serious blog reading. xxx

Beef Bourguignon and mash. One Equals Two[Recipe 1] Beef bourguignon without wine

Ingredients (serves 12; ie. 3 meals for 4 people):
2–4 tablespoons olive oil
400g (14 oz) speck, rind and large areas of fat removed, chopped
1 kilo (2 lb) shallots (or pearl/pickling onions), peeled
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 kg (6 lb) blade steak, trimmed of large fat, cut into 5cm/2″ cubes
2 tablespoons (30g/1 oz) butter
2 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
1 cup verjuice (verjus)
1 litre (4 cups) good quality beef stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste (tomato concentrate)
4 x 10cm/4″ long pieces of orange peel
2 tablespoons fresh-picked thyme leaves
⅓ cup (80ml) balsamic vinegar
400g (14 oz) small button or cup mushrooms, trimmed, large ones halved
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
To serve:
Creamy parmesan mashed potatoes
Flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Steamed green veggies

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan and gently brown the speck for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl.
Add onions, and gently brown in the speck fat for 3–5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for one minute. Remove and add to the speck.
Seal the beef in batches until nicely browned, adding more oil as required. Remove beef and juices and add to the onions and speck.
Melt butter in the pan, add flour and cook, stirring, for two minutes. Add the verjuice and simmer for 2 minutes, scraping up all the lovely brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add stock and tomato paste, and simmer gently for 1–2 minutes, until the tomato paste has dissolved.
Lightly oil a large casserole or cast iron baking dish (see notes if your baking dish is too small to accommodate everything). Add prepared speck, onions, beef and juices. Tuck the orange rind pieces here and there, and sprinkle with thyme.
Pour over the verjuice and stock mixture.
Cover with a layer of foil and pop the lid on (or 2 layers of foil if you don’t have a lid).
Transfer to oven and cook for 2½–3 hours. Check if the meat is tender after 2½ hours by prodding it with a fork, then add the balsamic vinegar and mushrooms and cook for a further 30 minutes uncovered. If the meat is still firm and chewy, return it to the oven for an extra half hour before adding the vinegar and mushrooms.
Season well. Remove and discard any large pieces of orange zest (most will have deliciously dissolved).
♦ Divide beef bourgionon into three portions of approximately 1.15 kilo (2½ lb) each. Each portion of borguignon will serve 4 people. Reserve ½ portion (550g/1.2 lb) for the Beef and mushroom pithiviers.
Meanwhile, prepare creamy parmesan mashed potatoes. Divide amongst four serving plates, ladle over bourguignon, scatter with parsley and serve with steamed green vegetables.

  • Notes: The flavour of this stew is improved with time. I recommend making it on the weekend and refrigerating for up to 3 days. It can be reheated gently in a saucepan on the stovetop.
  • Unless you have a huge casserole baking dish like this one, which I covet; you can cook the bourguignon in two smaller casserole pots or Dutch ovens. Divide the onion/speck/beef mixture between the two pots. Add 1 tablespoon thyme and 2 pieces orange peel to each. Pour 2½ cups of the stock mixture into each pot. After the specified cooking time, add 40ml (2 tablespoons) balsamic vinegar and 200g (7 oz) mushrooms to each. When cooked, both pots of stew can be mixed together in a large pan or bowl before dividing into portions.
  • You can have your butcher cut thick 5cm blade steaks; or buy two small whole blade roasts and cube them yourself. You’ll need a very sharp knife!
  • Speck is smoked pork, cured in salt and spices such as juniper berries. It has a lovely intense flavour. Replace with kaiserfleisch or bacon if unavailable. If using lean bacon, add an extra tablespoon olive oil at the frying stage. 
  • Verjuice (or verjus) is made from the juice of unfermented grapes. One of my Australian foodie heroes, Maggie Beer, has been producing her verjuice since the mid 1980s. Hers is available world-wide, in large supermarkets and specialty food stores. Verjuice is beautiful sloshed into caramelised apples.
  • Beef bourguignon can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.

Beef and mushroom Pithiviers. One Equals TwoBeef Bourguignon Pithiviers. One Equals Two

[Recipe 2] Beef and mushroom pithiviers

Ingredients (makes 6 pithiviers to serve 6):
1 tablespoon corn flour (cornstarch)
1½ tablespoons hot water

♦ ½ quantity (approx. 550g/1.2 lb) reserved Beef bourguignon

½ tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 x 1¼ kg (2½ lb) quantity rough puff pastry OR 3 x 375g (13 oz) store-bought puff pastry blocks
Egg wash (2 egg yolks, whisked with 1 teaspoon water)
Easy spiced tomato chutney (or store-bought chutney), to serve

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Blend flour and hot water until smooth.
♦ Spoon reserved Beef bourguignon into a large saucepan. Add flour mixture and worcestershire sauce and bring to boil. Simmer gently, uncovered, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, until the meat starts to break down and the mixture is thickened. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until cold.
If using home-made rough puff pastry, roll out each prepared pastry block on a lightly floured surface to 5mm (.2″) thick. You’ll end up with 2 x 32cm² (12.5″) pieces of pastry. If using store-bought puff, roll out the three blocks to 5mm (.2″) thick.
Using a 12cm (4.7″) diameter plate, cut out 12 rounds from the puff pastry. Pastry scraps can be loosely stacked on top of each other (don’t roll into a ball or the pastry will lose its puffiness), and lightly re-rolled.
Divide cooled beef mixture amongst 6 of the pastry rounds, mounding up a bit in the centre. Leave a 1.5cm (.6″) border. Brush edges with egg wash and top with remaining puff pastry rounds, lightly pressing down edges to seal. Lightly brush with egg wash, and score a shallow radiating sunbeam pattern in the top with a very sharp knife. Pierce a small hole in the top of each.
Place pithiviers on an oven tray lined with baking paper, loosely covered with cling film and rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Bake pithiviers for 20–25 minutes, until golden and puffed. Serve with tomato chutney.

  • Cooked pithiviers can be stored in the fridge, covered, for up to 3 days. To reheat, place on a baking tray lined with baking paper, lightly cover with foil, and bake at 180°C (350ºF) for 15 minutes. Remove foil and heat for a further 5 minutes.

The lovin’ spoonful (4 ways with ratatouille)

[Recipe 1] RATATOUILLE transforms into
[Recipe 2] FETTUCCINE with RATATOUILLE TOMATO SAUCE and
[Recipe 3] RATATOUILLE PIZZA with PEPPERONI, CHILLI and ROCKET 
and
[Recipe 4] TOASTIES with RATATOUILLE, PESTO and MOZZARELLA 


Is there a simpler, more virtuous dish than ratatouille? Veggies, olive oil, fresh herbs and a dash of salt and pepper. That’s it! It really doesn’t take much extra time to make a large batch and ratatouille is one of the ultimate 1=2 dinners, or in the case of this post, 1=4.
Ratatouille freezes well too, so you can make the other meal suggestions at a later date.
We serve it up on the first night as is, lovingly spooned into deep serving plates and scattered with fresh basil; every last bit mopped up with crusty bread (ours was olive sourdough from Noisette).
My favourite further uses for ratatouille are as the base for a lovely Ratatouille pasta sauce (this can be blended smooth for children – see tips below recipe); and as a rich, thick spreadable sauce for pizza, scattered with rocket (arugula), chilli and pepperoni. Lastly, I can’t go past a 90s-style toastie stuffed with ratatouille, pesto and mozzarella. Délicieux!
There are endless other ways to use leftover ratatouille:
1 Stir through scrambled eggs, or use as a filling for a rolled omelette.
2 Use in place of caramelised onions in a goat’s cheese tart.
3 Blend with chicken or vegetable stock to make a hearty soup.
4 Add a ratatouille layer to a traditional lasagna.
5 Finely chop and add to chilli con carne or bolognaise sauce.
6 Use in place of tomato-based sauce on chicken parmigiana.
7 Mix ratatouille with pearl couscous, crumbled fetta and a small can of chilli tuna for a quick lunch (the husband and I enjoyed this last week)!
8 Blend ratatouille smooth and use as the base for wholemeal bread scrolls with cheese, great for kid’s lunchboxes (recipe to come).
Notes: In testing my recipe for quantities and cooking time, I found roasting and removing the skins from the capsicums made for a milder-tasting ratatouille, which, when blended for the pasta sauce, my boys much preferred. A traditional ratatouille features un-skinned capsicums, so feel free to omit the roasting stage, and add them raw to the pan along with the zucchinis, skins and all; but there will be a slightly bitter undertaste to your ratatouille.

4 ways with ratatouilleRatatouille[Recipe 1] Ratatouille

Ingredients (makes 8 cups):
2 eggplants (aubergines), thickly sliced
Salt for sprinkling
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red capsicum (bell pepper), de-seeded, quartered
1 yellow capsicum (bell pepper), de-seeded, quartered
5 large portabella mushrooms, approx. 375g (13 oz), halved
2 tablespoons olive oil, extra
1 large red (purple/Spanish) onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 medium zucchinis (courgettes), thickly sliced
6 large very ripe tomatoes, peeled and de-seeded
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn; plus extra for scattering
½ cup fresh oregano leaves (substitute with thyme or more basil if unavailable)
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
Lemon wedges or balsamic vinegar, to serve

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Season eggplant slices with salt. Set aside for ten minutes. Rinse slices with water and pat dry with a clean tea towel. Brush slices with a little of the olive oil.
Brush capsicum skins with oil.
Place capsicum quarters skin-side down, and prepared eggplant slices, on a large baking tray lined with baking paper. Roast for 15 minutes. Place mushroom halves on a separate tray and roast, together with the eggplant and capsicums, for a further 15 minutes. Mushrooms can be placed on the shelf below if required. Total roasting time is 30 minutes.
Remove roasted veggies from the oven. Carefully drain any juices from the mushrooms, chop roughly and set aside. Roughly chop eggplant.
Place roasted capsicums into a plastic container, pop on the lid, and set aside for 10 minutes. Slip the skins off the capsicums and discard.
Meanwhile, heat the extra olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 4–5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add zucchini slices to the pan and fry gently for 10 minutes.
Add roasted eggplant, mushrooms, capsicums and prepared tomatoes to the pan, bring to a simmer, turn down heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove the lid for the last ten minutes if necessary.
Stir through fresh basil and oregano. Season to taste.
Serve ratatouille with thickly-sliced crusty bread; scattered with extra fresh basil and a good squeeze of lemon juice or drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
♦ Divide remaining ratatouille into 1-cup portions and reserve for Fettuccine with ratatouille tomato sauce; Ratatouille pizza with pepperoni, chilli and rocket and/or Toasties with ratatouille, pesto and mozzarella.

  • Reserved ratatouille can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Fussy kid tip: Kids may turn their noses up at the ratatouille, but will happily hoover it blended in a pasta sauce. You may like to whip up Recipe 2 immediately!

Fettuccine with ratatouille sauce

[Recipe 2] Fettuccine with ratatouille tomato sauce

Ingredients (serves 4):
400g (14 oz) dried fettuccine

♦ 1 cup reserved ratatouille, coarsely chopped
350g (12 oz) tomato passata (tomato purée)
2 leftover cooked good-quality pork sausages, thinly sliced (optional)
Grated Parmesan (or Grana Padano), to serve
Fresh basil, torn, to serve

Cook fettuccine in boiling water until al dente. Drain.
♦ Meanwhile, place reserved ratatouille in a small saucepan.
Add passata and simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
If using, add sausage slices and simmer for a further 5 minutes, until warmed through.
Stir sauce through cooked fettuccine, scattered with Parmesan and fresh basil.

Ratatouille pasta bakeFussy kid tip: Before adding the sausage slices, blend one or two cups of the ratatouille pasta sauce completely smooth. Add a dash of water or extra passata if it’s too thick. My boys happily eat this, completely oblivious to all those lovely hidden veggies!
Ratatouille pasta bake is another fabulous way to use this sauce (pictured left). Blend ratatouille tomato pasta sauce completely smooth, add peas and pan-fried bacon; and stir through cooked penne. Pour into a baking dish, scatter with mozzarella and breadcrumbs and bake at 180°C (350ºF) for 15–20 minutes.

Ratatouille pizza with pepperoni

[Recipe 3] Ratatouille pizza with pepperoni, chilli and rocket

Ingredients (makes 2 pizzas, serves 4–6):
Flour, for sprinkling
1 quantity wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough, formed into 2 balls
50g (2 oz) pepperoni, thinly sliced (25g/1 oz per pizza)
250g (½ lb) mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 small red birdseye chilli, de-seeded, finely sliced
50g (2 oz) wild rocket (arugula) leaves (25g/1 oz per pizza)
Ratatouille pizza sauce:
♦ 1 cup reserved ratatouille
2 tablespoons tomato paste (tomato concentrate)

Preheat oven to 250°C (480ºF).
♦ Make Ratatouille pizza sauce by blending reserved ratatouille and tomato paste until smooth. Set aside.
Place two pizza trays into the hot oven to warm up, for at least 10 minutes. This is an important step for crispy-based pizzas.
Sprinkle flour onto 2 sheets of baking paper. Place a dough ball on each. Roll out and press each dough ball into a large circle. Make the dough as thin as you can, as it will puff up a bit in the oven.
Spread each pizza base with prepared ratatouille pizza sauce.
Top with pepperoni and mozzarella; and scatter with chilli.
Carefully slide pizzas and baking paper onto pre-heated pizza trays and bake for 10–12 minutes until bubbling. Cook separately if they don’t fit side by side.
Remove from oven. Scatter pizzas with rocket. Serve immediately.

  • Fussy kid tip: Children may prefer their pizza served margherita-style with ratatouille tomato sauce and mozzarella only.

Ratatouille and pesto toasties

[Recipe 4] Toasties with ratatouille, pesto and mozzarella

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 large Turkish bread, split lengthways, cut into four pieces
75g (2½ oz) spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto
♦ 1 cup reserved ratatouille
125g (4½ oz) mozzarella, thinly sliced

Spread each piece of bread with pesto.
Fill with ratatouille. Top with mozzarella.
Cook toasties in a sandwich press or on a grill plate until mozzarella has melted and ratatouille is warmed through. Serve immediately.

  • Fussy kid tip: Blend ratatouille smooth for children; or serve their toasties with pesto and mozzarella only.
  • If your ratatouille is quite wet, you might like to drain it on kitchen paper first.

Hey pesto!

[Recipe 1] SPINACH, WALNUT and ROASTED GARLIC PESTO transforms into
[Recipe 2] TWO DIFFERENT PESTO PIZZAS
……………..
The school holidays have come to an end. Sidney, my scrumptious 5-year old, starts school for the first time tomorrow – his little uniform is sitting on the couch and it makes me well up just looking at it. I’m back at work tomorrow too, so cooking for me at the moment is all about stocking the freezer with easy bits and pieces for quick dinners.
I know there are probably one billion pesto recipes floating around in cyberspace, but mine is pretty ace, even if I do say so myself. The walnuts and roasted garlic make it extra tasty, and it’s full of vitamins as there is a load of spinach mooshed up in it too. Pesto freezes really well, and also keeps excellently in the fridge for up to 1 week. There is no need to add a layer of oil as some recommend. This pesto retains its vibrant green colour due to the splash of lemon juice. I prefer to add the parmesan to the pasta later as pesto keeps better without it.
My boys absolutely love pesto pasta, and it’s easy to add a few vegies to the pasta cooking water, such as peas; or even tiny broccoli florets.
This recipe makes 3 generous serves of pesto, so you can set some aside for two different pesto pizzas later in the week; one for mature tastebuds with roasted cauliflower and chilli; and a kid-friendly version with bocconcini and cherry tomatoes, which we like to call ‘the fancy margherita’. My wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough recipe is here. I make this dough often, and the pizza bases freeze well (see tips in the recipe).
PS. Do you like my ‘tablecloth’? It’s actually wallpaper. I’m extremely excited as I found a huge book of vintage wallpaper swatches in my local oppie last week. Be prepared for some kooky table covers in the coming weeks! 

Spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto[Recipe 1] Spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto

Pesto ingredients (serves 4 for 3 meals):
1 cup (100g) walnuts, chopped
3 tightly-packed cups (100g) baby spinach leaves, chopped
4 tightly-packed cups (3 large bunches) basil leaves
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 cup (250 ml) olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Ingredients for tonight’s pasta:
400g (14 oz) dried spaghetti
1 cup frozen baby peas (or fresh peas)
50g (1¾ oz) parmesan cheese, grated, plus extra (shaved) to serve
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 150°C (300ºF). Wrap unpeeled garlic cloves in foil and roast for 40 minutes. Set aside.
Whizz the walnuts with a stick blender (in batches) or food processor until finely chopped – take care not to blend them for too long or you’ll end up with a paste. They should retain some texture. Set aside.
Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves from their skins and add to the remaining pesto ingredients. Blend in batches, with a couple of tablespoons oil added each time. Place into a large bowl as you go. Add the crushed walnuts and mix thoroughly.
Divide pesto into 3 portions of approximately 150g (5 oz); or 2 portions of 150g (5 oz) and 2 half portions of 75g (2½ oz). You’ll need 1 full portion of pesto for tonight’s spaghetti. The rest can be frozen – see tips below recipe.
Cook spaghetti in boiling water until al dente. Add peas to the same pot for the last 2 minutes cooking time (if using fresh peas, add to the pot for the last 4 minutes). Drain spaghetti and peas,
reserving ¼ cup of the cooking water, and place into a large bowl.
♦ 
Add 1 full portion of spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto, parmesan and reserved cooking water; and toss together. Season to taste. Serve immediately, scattered with extra shaved parmesan.

  • Pesto can be stored in a tightly-sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge. When using pesto with pasta, add parmesan just before serving. Pesto keeps better without the parmesan added.
  • Smaller pesto portions (for sandwiches, salad dressings and scrambled eggs) can be frozen in ice cube trays. Transfer the frozen cubes to a plastic container, and pop back in the freezer.
  • Both the garlic cloves for the pesto and the cauliflower for the pizza can be roasted up to 2 days in advance. They can be baked alongside other vegetables and stored in a container in the fridge until required. 
  • The basil and spinach leaves should be very well dried after washing so your pesto isn’t too watery. You can use a salad spinner, or pat them dry with a clean tea towel. Don’t worry about bruising the leaves – you’ll be pulverising them anyway!
  • This recipe can be varied by replacing the walnuts with cashews, pine nuts or pistachio nuts.
  • Baby tip: You can make pesto for older babies at the same time, by blending a handful of spinach leaves (about 60g/2 oz), 1 large basil leaf and a small undrained 95g (3 oz) can of low-salt tuna in springwater (or a small cooked fish fillet and a splash of water). Freeze in ice cube trays and defrost as needed. Serve with couscous (blended if required).

Pesto, cherry tomato and bocconcini pizzaPesto, roast cauliflower and chilli pizza

[Recipe 2] Two different pesto pizzas

Ingredients (serves 4–6):
1 quantity wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough, or 2 large store-bought pizza bases
250g (9 oz) home-made pizza sauce, or tomato passata (puree)
♦ Half portion (75g/2½ oz) reserved spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto

Pizza 1: Bocconcini, pesto and cherry tomato (‘fancy margherita’).
6 cherry bocconcini*, halved

8–10 cherry tomatoes (or mini Roma tomatoes), halved
Fresh basil leaves, chopped, for scattering
Pizza 2: Roast cauliflower, pesto and chilli
¼ cauliflower, cut into florets (about 1 cup florets)
½ tablespoon olive oil, for roasting the cauliflower
6 cherry bocconcini, halved

½–1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (to taste)

Preheat oven to 250°C (480ºF).
Place two pizza trays into the hot oven to warm up, for at least 10 minutes. This is an important step for crispy-based pizzas.
If using home-made wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough, sprinkle flour on a sheet of baking paper. Roll out and press each dough ball into a rectangle. Make the dough as thin as you can, as it will puff up a bit in the oven.
Spread each pizza base with home-made pizza sauce, or tomato passata.
♦ Drizzle each with spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto.
For pizza 1: Top prepared pizza base with bocconcini and cherry tomatoes.
For pizza 2: Blanch the cauliflower florets in a pot of boiling water, covered, for 2–3 minutes. Drain. Dry thoroughly in a clean tea towel. Place into a bowl and toss with the olive oil until well-coated. Arrange the florets on a baking tray lined with baking paper (you can use one of the pizza trays). Sprinkle with salt. Roast in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Top prepared pizza base with bocconcini halves, followed by roast cauliflower, and chilli flakes.
Carefully slide pizzas and baking paper onto pre-heated pizza trays and bake for 10–12 minutes until bubbling. Cook separately if they don’t fit side by side.
You may need less cooking time if using pre-cooked store-bought pizza bases.
Remove from oven. Scatter pizza 1 with fresh basil. Serve pizzas immediately.

  • Bocconcini are small, white mozzarella cheese balls, packaged in water. Cherry bocconcini are very small, the size of a cherry strangely enough! They’re available at most large supermarkets and delicatessens. Replace with sliced mozzarella if unavailable.
  • Leftover pizza is of course excellent for lunch the next day!

Hot for teacher

[Recipe 1] ZA’ATAR (Middle Eastern spice mix) transforms into
[Recipe 2] MANOUSHE BI ZA’ATAR (Lebanese pizza with za’atar) 
……………..
Our house was like a mini spice market last weekend. We made an absolute mega batch of Za’atar, mainly for my boy’s teachers for Christmas. It was 37 degrees (99°F) outside on Saturday – blech – the perfect weather for indoor action. The boys were on filling and lid-application duty, and we had music blaring in the background. See two songs from our playlist* below.
I’ve based my Za’atar recipe on this one, and added cumin and cinnamon – not really authentic additions, but they make for a smoother tasting za’atar methinks.
Za’atar is my favourite Middle Eastern spice blend – it’s oh so versatile! You can scatter it on roast vegies, use it as a dry rub on meat, sprinkle it over fatoush or fetta salad, or stir it through Greek yogurt as a quick dip. One of my favourite brekkies is scrambled eggs sprinkled with za’atar, served in a wrap with fresh tomato and rocket (arugula). Honestly, when we have a batch in the cupboard, it gets scattered on just about anything!
Recipe 2 is another beautiful, simple way to use Za’atar, Manoushe bi za’atar (Lebanese pizza with za’atar). We buy this regularly from Oasis and A1 Bakery, but when time permits, we love making our own.
If you’re not particularly crafty, or you don’t have the time (understandable at this mental time of year) a jar of Za’atar is an easy, inexpensive home-made gift. I bought all the fabric scraps at the swoon-worthy Amitié Textiles – some were already cut to size! Popped down to Oasis to stock up on bulk spices and numerous other items. I always end up with a bulging basket there. The spice section is mind-boggling, and the baked goods and sweets are impossible to walk past. Well worth the drive. Have a lovely week folks.
*If you need some background music while you’re mixing and measuring, you could listen to the inspiration for my blog post title, the very bad (in a good way) Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher. The drum intro is the perfect accompaniment to frenzied spice pounding. Or… for something more exotic, and because she’s named after the main spice in Za’atar, you could try the absolutely fabulous Yma Sumac (her real name is actually Amy Camus, but she niftily reversed the letters).

Jar of home-made zaatarZaatar label[Recipe 1] Za’atar (Middle Eastern spice mix)

OPTION 1: Bulk quantity (makes 16–17 cups, to fill 16–17 average-sized jars)
3 cups (150g) thyme
3 cups (150g) marjoram
3 cups (150g) oregano
1½ cups (150g) sesame seeds, toasted
5 cups (600g) fine-blend sumac
¼ cup (6 tablespoons) cinnamon
¼ cup (6 tablespoons) cumin
¼ cup (6 tablespoons) fine sea salt

OPTION 2: Small quantity (makes 2½ cups)
2 tablespoons thyme
2 tablespoons marjoram
2 tablespoons oregano
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
¼ cup fine-blend sumac
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Place thyme, marjoram, oregano and sesame seeds into a large bowl and mix well. Blend in batches in a food processor or with a stick blender. Don’t blend it too fine, just break it up a bit. If you’re making the smaller quantity of Za’atar, you can use a mortar and pestle.
Add sumac, cinnamon, cumin and sea salt and mix well. Divide za’atar into sterilised jars.
♦ Reserve 4 tablespoons za’atar for the Manoushe bi za’tar (Lebanese pizza with za’atar).

  • Sumac is a dark reddish purple Middle Eastern spice, made from the berries of the Sumac shrub. It has a tart, tangy flavour. It’s available in large supermarkets, specialty food stores and Middle Eastern grocers.
  • You can toast your own sesame seeds, or cheat and buy them pre-roasted from Asian and Middle Eastern food stores. 
  • Za’atar should be stored in a cool dry place, and will keep for 3–6 months.
  • Glass jars and lids can be sterilised by running them through your dishwasher on the hottest cycle, on the top shelf.

Zaatar pizza

[Recipe 2] Manoushe bi za’atar (Lebanese pizza with za’atar)

1 quantity wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough, or 2 store-bought pizza bases
2 tablespoons olive oil
♦ 4 tablespoons reserved za’atar
Tomato, Persian fetta and mint salad, to serve (optional)

Preheat oven to 250°C (480ºF).
Place two pizza trays into the hot oven to warm up, for at least 10 minutes. This is an important step for crispy-based pizzas.
If using home-made wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough, sprinkle flour on a sheet of baking paper. Roll out each dough ball into a circle, roughly the same size as your baking tray. Make the dough as thin as you can, as it will puff up a bit in the oven.
Brush each pizza base with olive oil.
♦ Liberally sprinkle reserved za’atar over each pizza.
Carefully slide pizzas and baking paper onto pre-heated pizza trays and bake for 10–15 minutes until golden brown around the edges. Don’t overcook the pizza, or you’ll end up with a giant biscuit! Have a peep after 10 minutes, and pop it in for an extra 5 minutes only if absolutely necessary. You’ll need less time overall if using pre-cooked store-bought bases.
Remove from the oven and serve immediately with Tomato, Persian fetta and mint salad.

  • You can make smaller manoushe as hors d’oeuvres. Cut little rounds of pizza dough, about 7cm (2¾”) in diameter. A full quantity of wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough will yield about 40 mini pizzas. Bake at a lower temperature (220°C/425ºF) for 8–10 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn! You can see a picture of them here – they’re included in Bento box number 5.

The pie’s the limit

[Recipe 1] BEEF and GUINNESS STEW transforms into
[Recipe 2] CHUNKY BEEF and GUINNESS PIE
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Happy Fathers Day for tomorrow daddy readers! Beef and Guinness stew is the ultimate manly feast. It makes blokes positively thump the table in appreciation. We have a pot of it waiting in the fridge for dinner tomorrow night as the husband will be wanting to reclaim his manliness after spending the day at Anakie Fairy Park.
This stew is a cinch to whip up and it’s a definite plate-licker – my 5-year old adores it. The only time-consuming bit is waiting for it to cook, the longer the better.
For two meals from one, reserve half the stew and you can make a hearty Chunky beef and Guinness pie later, another certified man-pleaser.

Beef and Guinness stew with sweet potato mash[Recipe 1] Beef and Guinness stew

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
1.75 kilos (3.8 lb) brisket or chuck steak, coarsely chopped into 3cm (1-inch) pieces
4 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
Olive oil, for frying
2 celery sticks, chopped
3 red onions, thickly sliced
4 large carrots, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
440ml (15-oz) Guinness draught beer
2 cups good-quality beef stock
4 tablespoons tomato paste (tomato concentrate)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
4 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
Sweet potato mash, to serve
Chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Place beef pieces and flour in a large plastic bag and toss to coat. Shake off excess flour.
Heat oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook beef in batches (adding a splash more oil when required) for about 3 minutes, until well-browned. Transfer to a plate.
Add celery, onion and carrots to the pot, and 1 tablespoon more oil if required. Cook, covered, for 15 minutes, until vegetables start to soften. Stir occasionally. Add garlic and cook for a further 3 minutes, uncovered, stirring regularly. Return beef, and any juices, to the pot. Add Guinness, bring to the boil, and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
Transfer vegetables, beef and juices to a large oven-proof pot, preferably cast iron.
Combine stock, tomato paste and brown sugar. Pour over beef and vegetables. Add bay leaves and cinnamon sticks.
Cover tightly with a double layer of foil (or a lid, with foil underneath) and cook in pre-heated oven for 2–3 hours. Test to see whether beef is lovely and tender after 2 hours. If not, return to the oven for a further 30 minutes and check again. Remove and discard bay leaves and cinnamon sticks. Season well with salt and lots of pepper.
♦ Reserve half the Beef and Guinness stew, about 5 cups (1¼ kilos), for the Chunky beef and Guinness pie.
Serve remaining Beef and Guinness stew on a bed of sweet potato mash, scattered with parsley.

  • I’m no expert, but according to my extensive web-surfing it’s safe to serve properly-prepared meals cooked with beer (or wine) to children over 2 years old. This dish is cooked long enough for the alcohol to evaporate, leaving only harmless trace residues.

Beef and Guinness pie

[Recipe 2] Chunky beef and Guinness pie

Ingredients (serves 4-6):
4 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour

1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
♦ 5 cups (1¼ kilos) reserved beef and Guinness stew
2 sheets store-bought puff pastry or 1 x 375g (13 oz) puff pastry block, thawed
1 egg, whisked with 1 tablespoon milk, for brushing pastry
Easy spiced tomato chutney (or store-bought chutney), to serve 

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Grease a 24cm (9½-inch) 6-cup (1½ litres) capacity ovenproof pie dish.
Blend flour with 3 tablespoons hot water to form a smooth paste.
♦ Spoon reserved beef and Guinness stew into a large saucepan.
Add flour paste and worcestershire sauce and bring to boil. Simmer, uncovered, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, or until thickened. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until cold.
Cut 1 sheet of pastry in half and add these pieces to the edges of the first sheet, with water to seal, to make a large sheet. If using a block of pastry, roll out to 3mm thick. Place the pie dish upside down on the pastry. Use the dish as a guide to cut a circle of pastry about 1cm bigger than the dish. Cover the pastry disk with a tea towel while you make the plaited edge decoration.
Cut 5mm strips of pastry from the off-cuts. Using 2 strips, twist one piece around the other for a plait or rope effect. Continue until you have a long enough ‘rope’ to encircle the pie.
Spoon the cooled beef and Guinness mixture into the pie dish. Drape puff pastry circle over filling, and prick with a fork in four places. Press around the edge to seal with your fingertips. Wet the rim of the pastry top with water, and lay the knotted rope around the edge. Brush pastry with egg wash.
Bake for 20–25 minutes or until pastry is puffed and golden. Serve with Easy spiced tomato chutney and a green salad.

  • If you find you eat too much of the stew and don’t have 5 cups left for the pie, you can easily pad out the filling of the pie with sautéed mushrooms or small pieces of steamed potato.
  • Don’t be tempted to lay your pastry on the pie filling straight away, while you’re making the plaited edge decoration, or the pastry will become soggy. Assemble the pie when your edge decoration is complete.
  • If you have any more pastry off-cuts, you could cut out leaf shapes (or alphabet letters if you have the time and inclination). If you’re making this for Father’s Day, you could win some brownie points by cutting out ‘Dad’.

I’ll give you a pizza my mind

[Recipe 1] BAKED TANDOORI CHICKEN TENDERLOINS with RAITA transforms into [Recipe 2] TANDOORI CHICKEN PIZZA with FRESH ROCKET
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First up this week is Baked tandoori chicken tenderloins with raita. We love tandoori chook. It’s a little bit daggy, as I use tandoori paste straight from the jar*, but it’s so yummy, dunked into home-made raita and dished up with saffron rice and peas. Both my boys love it, although I rinse the 5-year old’s chicken pieces a tiny bit as they’re too ‘burny’ for him.
Reserve a few pieces of the baked tandoori chicken and you can whip up a fantastic Tandoori chicken pizza with fresh rocket later in the week. Tandoori pizza features in the ‘gourmet’ section of our local pizza place (and probably yours too) but it’s served with huge soggy plops of sour cream – so unappetising. We love it with a simple scattering of bocconcini, red onion and rocket; on a thin, crispy home-made pizza base.
I’ve included my recipe for tasty home-made pizza sauce, which is full of hidden pureed vegetables. I nearly always have a batch of it in the freezer. It’s a fab sauce to use for quick margherita-style pizzas for the kid’s lunchboxes – nothing better than cold leftover pizza for lunch!
My recipe for wholemeal pizza dough is in the Handy Guides section too. It contains wholemeal atta flour (chapati flour), which is readily available nowadays; and oat bran, so it’s relatively healthy. Making pizza dough is the perfect kid’s activity. My 8-year old sous chef loves kneading and rolling; and my 5-year old kitchen assistant is a top-notch sauce-spreader. The kneading also provides excellent incidental exercise – hey, I grab my physical activity wherever I can. I ain’t no gym bunny (although I probably should be).
*Supermarket tandoori paste is fine, although it contains lots of numbers. We love Curry Creations pastes. They used to have a shop at Prahran Market, but now sell online only. Their pastes are fab as they have no artificial flavours or colours and no preservatives. Well worth the extra expense.

Baked tandoori chicken[Recipe 1] Baked tandoori chicken tenderloins with raita

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
⅓ cup (80g) tandoori paste
⅓ cup (80g) Greek (or natural) yoghurt
1¼ kilos (2½ lb) chicken tenderloins (about 18 pieces)
Basic cucumber raita, to serve
Pico de gallo (fresh tomato salsa), mixed with rocket (arugula), to serve
Saffron rice with peas:
1 small red (Spanish/purple) onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1½ cups basmati rice
Large pinch saffron strands
2 cups chicken stock, home-made or store-bought
1 cup water, plus ½ cup extra
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup frozen baby peas

Combine the tandoori paste and yoghurt in a large glass bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Meanwhile, make the saffron rice with peas. Heat olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the rice, stock, 1 cup water and saffron. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Add an extra ½ cup water and the peas. Season. Simmer a further 5 minutes, until the rice is cooked through.
To cook the tandoori chicken tenders, preheat oven to 200ºC.
Place tandoori-coated chicken pieces on a tray lined with baking paper.
Bake for 10 minutes. Turn and bake for a further 5 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Be careful not to overcook them. Remove from oven and keep warm on the tray, lightly covered with foil.
Reserve about 350g (¾ lb) cooked tandoori chicken tenderloins for the Tandoori Chicken Pizzas with fresh rocket.
Serve the remaining chicken tenderloins with basic cucumber raita, cherry tomato salsa (mixed with rocket) and saffron rice with peas.

  • Chicken tenderloins, also called ‘chicken tenders’, are located under the breast of the chicken and are usually still weakly attached to the breast and easy to remove. They are super succulent and, dare I say it, tender! Most butchers sell them separately, but if unavailable, you can replace them with thick slices of chicken breast.
  • To make this meal more Wintery, swap the cherry tomato salsa for Roasted pumpkin and baby carrots with cumin. This can be cooked in the oven at the same time as the Baked tandoori chicken tenderloins.

Home-made pizza baseTandoori chicken pizza

[Recipe 2] Tandoori chicken pizza with fresh rocket

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 quantity wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough, or 2 large store-bought pizza bases

250g (9 oz) home-made pizza sauce, or tomato passata (puree)

About 350g (¾ lb) reserved tandoori chicken tenderloins, sliced
1 red (Spanish/purple) onion, very thinly sliced
4 or 5 bocconcini cheese balls, sliced
Fresh rocket (arugula) leaves, for scattering

Preheat oven to 250°C (480ºF).
Place two pizza trays into the hot oven to warm up, for at least 10 minutes. This is an important step for crispy-based pizzas.
If using home-made wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough, sprinkle flour on a sheet of baking paper. Roll out each dough ball into a circle, roughly the same size as your baking tray. Make the dough as thin as you can, as it will puff up a bit in the oven.
Spread each pizza base with home-made pizza sauce, or tomato passata.
Scatter each pizza with reserved tandoori chicken.
Top with red onion and slices of bocconcini.
Carefully slide pizzas and baking paper onto pre-heated pizza trays and bake for 10–15 minutes until bubbling. You may need less cooking time if using pre-cooked store-bought pizza bases.
Remove from oven and scatter with rocket. Serve immediately.

The working leek

[Recipe 1] CHICKEN, LEEK and CORN SOUP transforms into
[Recipe 2] CHICKEN and LEEK POT PIE
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I’m feeling knackered after a month of school holidays. A big bowl of Chicken, leek and corn soup always hits the spot. With these recipes, you’ll end up with enough soup to serve 8, and a lovely Chicken and leek pot pie, made from some of the cooked vegetables and chicken reserved from your soup preparation (look for the orange diamonds within the recipe).
The soup is extra good with home-made stock, if you have the time and inclination; but a good-quality store-bought stock is absolutely fine too. I used to make stock regularly, but my last horrific attempt is still indelibly etched in my brain. My mum offered to babysit my (then) newborn son while I had some ‘time to myself’. I decided, instead of op-shopping, reading or napping, that I would use my time for good instead of evil; and set about making a massive pot of chicken stock. It simmered for over 2 hours, filling the house with heady chickeny aromas. I placed a colander in the sink and proceeded to strain the beautiful lovingly-made liquid; not into a giant pot; but straight down the sink. As if it was manky pasta water. I didn’t exactly cry, but gosh did sleep-deprived me lament those wasted two hours.

Chicken, leek and corn soup

[Recipe 1] Chicken, leek and corn soup

Ingredients (serves 4 for 3 meals):
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 large leeks, white part only, halved lengthwise, sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 celery sticks, halved lengthwise, finely sliced
4 medium carrots, halved lengthwise, finely sliced
6 chicken breast fillets (about 1½ kilos/3 lb), chopped; or a mixture of breast/thigh
4 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from 4 large cobs/ears)
2 bay leaves
10 cups (2½ litres/85 fl oz) chicken stock, home-made or good quality store-bought
1 bunch bok choy (or ½ bunch silverbeet), green parts mostly, very finely chopped or shredded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dried fried shallots to garnish (optional)

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the leek, garlic, celery and carrots over a medium heat for 10 minutes, until leeks are soft. Transfer this vegetable mixture to a very large bowl.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the same pan, and gently fry the chicken for 6–8 minutes, until just cooked through.
Remove the chicken from the pan with a slotted spoon (leave juices in the pan) and add to the vegetable mixture.
Reserve half this vegetable and chicken mixture, about 6 cups (1¼ kilos), for the chicken and leek pot pie.
Return the remaining vegetable and chicken mixture (for the soup) to the large saucepan. Add the corn kernels, bay leaves and stock. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaves.
Using a stick blender, give the soup four or five whizzes only, to help it thicken. Don’t blend it completely smooth – be sure to leave lots of chunks for texture.
Add the bok choy and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Season to taste.
Ladle soup into deep bowls, scatter with dried fried shallots, and serve with crusty bread.

  • There is admittedly a lot of chopping required for this recipe, but remember, the end result is 3 meals for 4 people: 2 huge quantities of soup (each to serve 4–5 people) and 1 lovely pie! There is no need to prepare all the vegies and chicken before you start. Chop up the leek, garlic, celery and carrot first. You can chop up the chicken while these vegies are cooking. Remove the kernels from the corn while the chicken is cooking; and chop your bok choy while the soup is simmering.
  • Reserved leek, garlic, celery, carrot and chicken mixture can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months, so you can make the pie another time. There is nothing better than having a ready-made pie filling sitting in one’s freezer, for whipping out on a weeknight.
  • The chicken, leek and corn soup will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days (excellent to take to work for lunch), or it can be frozen for up to 3 months. This soup is also the perfect meal to give to a sick friend or new parents.
  • Pre-prepared thin egg noodles can be added to individual bowls before pouring in the soup. You’ll need about 200g (7 oz) noodles for four people. Soup should be frozen separately though (without noodles).
  • Fussy kid tip: The soup can be puréed completely smooth for fussy children.
  • Baby tip: Purée a cup of cooked chicken and vegetables with a small amount of stock for a delicious mash for babies. Freeze in ice-cube trays and defrost when required.

Chicken and leek pot pie

[Recipe 2] Chicken and leek pot pie

Ingredients (serves 4–5):
6 cups (1¼ kilos) reserved leek, garlic, celery, carrot and chicken mixture

½ cup (75g) plain (all-purpose) flour
1½ teaspoons dried tarragon (or thyme)
100ml (3½ fl oz) milk
150ml (5 fl oz) cream (I use light cooking cream)
2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 sheets store-bought puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, whisked with 1 tablespoon milk, for brushing pastry

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Grease a 24cm (9½-inch) 6-cup (1½ litres) capacity ovenproof pie dish.
Place vegetable and chicken mixture in a large saucepan, and warm gently. Add flour and tarragon; and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Gradually stir in milk and cream. Cook, stirring, over a low heat, until mixture boils and thickens, about 5–6 minutes. Stir in mustard. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes.
Place the pie dish upside down, on the pastry (cut 1 piece of pastry in half and add these pieces to the edges of the first sheet, with water to seal, to make a large sheet). Use the dish as a guide to cut a circle of pastry to fit, about 2cm bigger than the dish.
Spoon the chicken mixture into the pie dish. Place a pie funnel (if you have one) into the centre of the dish. Cut a cross in the centre of the pastry disc for the pie funnel (or prick pastry with a fork 2 or 3 times if you don’t have a pie funnel). Drape puff pastry circle over filling. Tuck overhanging pastry underneath to form a thick pastry edge. Press the edges to seal with your fingertips. Brush pastry with egg.
Bake 20 minutes or until pastry is puffed and light golden brown. Serve with steamed green beans and peas, or a green salad.

  • Fussy kid tip: My 4-year old loves this pie, but only if I omit the tarragon (or thyme) from his portion. I stir up his chicken filling in a separate little saucepan. Oh, the things we do.

Oh ragù, you’ve done it again

[Recipe 1] SPICED LAMB RAGÙ transforms into
[Recipe 2] MINI LAMB and MINT PIES
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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.