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
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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

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.

Slowly does it

[Recipe 1] HUTSPOT met KLAPSTUK (DUTCH MASH with SLOW-COOKED BRISKET) transforms into

One of my fave childhood meals was Hutspot met Klapstuk, which translates literally as ‘hotch potch with slap piece’ (so charmingly Dutch)! Hutspot is a messy mash of potato, carrot and onion. It ain’t pretty (Google ‘hutspot photos’ and face the horror), but it is delicious! Both my Oma (grandma) in Holland and my mum made it often. Oma had a special electric heated contraption that would sit in the middle of the table, where she would place the hutspot, beef and gravy in serving pots so we could help ourselves.
Klapstuk actually refers to beef cut from the rib but I prefer brisket as it’s so juicy and flavoursome (I still refer to it as klapstuk though, because it’s just such an excellent word).
The brisket needs a long slow cook. Everything is bunged in the pot, so it’s a cinch to throw together, especially if you have a serve of my easy home-made BBQ sauce waiting in your freezer. This forms the flavour base for the stewing liquid – admittedly a little more Texas-style than traditional Dutch, but so tasty. The BBQ sauce freezes well and it makes a large quantity. It’s perfect for pulled pork too.
I like to cook the brisket the day before it’s required. By resting it in the fridge overnight, and removing the firm layer of fat the next morning, it can simply be re-heated when required. I recommend cooking it on a Sunday, so dinner for Monday and Wednesday is sorted.
Reserve half the cooked brisket as planned-overs, and you can whip up a batch of brisket sliders, stuffed with creamy Russian potato salad and sliced gherkins. Delicious! Yep, I’ve unashamedly leaped onto the slider craze. They’re so ace, and so kid-friendly; and I feel a bit like Cher in Moonstruck serving up mini food for dinner. Enjoy!

Slow-cooked brisket and Dutch mash[Recipe 1] Hutspot met klapstuk (Dutch mash with slow-cooked brisket)

Ingredients for the slow-cooked beef brisket (serves 4 for 2 meals):
1.75 kilo (3.8 lb) beef brisket
1 cup home-made BBQ sauce
1 cup beef stock
1 cup water
Ingredients for the Dutch mash (serves 4):
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
750g (1½ lb) brown onions (4 medium), peeled and finely chopped

1 kilo (2 lb) potatoes (4 large), peeled and chopped
500g (1 lb) carrots (6 medium), peeled and finely chopped into small pieces
500g (1 lb) orange sweet potato (1 large), peeled and chopped
Sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 150°C (300ºF).
Place beef into a small, close-fitting, ovenproof pot. You may need to cut the meat in half. Mix home-made BBQ sauce, stock and water together and pour over the beef until well-covered. Place into the pre-heated oven and bake, covered, for approximately 3 hours; until the beef is very tender. Turn the beef over once, half-way through the cooking process. Test to see whether beef is tender after 3 hours. It should be easy to break apart with tongs. If not, return to the oven for a further 30 minutes and check again.
Remove pot from the oven and set it on a board to cool slightly, for an hour. Place in the fridge overnight.
The next day, scrape the thin layer of fat from the top and discard. Remove the brisket from the pot and divide into two portions. Return one portion to the cooking pot for tonight’s dinner.
Reserve the other half of the cooked brisket (about 2 cups/500g/1 lb) and ½ cup of the cooking juices for the Beef brisket sliders with Russian potato salad.
For tonight’s dinner, place the pot with beef and juices on the stove top. Simmer over a low heat, covered, stirring often, for 20–30 minutes, until brisket has softened and is warmed through.
To make the Dutch mash (hutspot): heat the 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 the potatoes, carrots and sweet potato. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Drain. Mash, until combined and lumpy (Dutch mash should be rustic and not too smooth). Season.
The mash can be re-warmed in its pot when the beef is ready to serve.
To serve, pile a mound of hutspot onto each serving plate. Make an indentation (‘kuiltje’) in the top of the Dutch mash, ladle some of the pan juices into the kuiltje and place lightly-shredded brisket on top with a splash more of the juices. If liked, you can blend the remaining pan juices with a stick blender, and pour into a gravy jug. Serve and enjoy.

  • Reserved slow-cooked brisket can be stored in the fridge, covered, for up to 3 days.
  • For 2 kilo (4 lb) of brisket, the cooking time should be increased to 3½ hours.

Beef brisket sliders with Russian salad

[Recipe 2] Beef brisket sliders with Russian salad

Ingredients (serves 4):
12 mini bread rolls
2 cups (500g/1 lb) reserved cooked beef brisket, shredded; + ½ cup pan juices
Russian potato salad, to serve
12 dill gherkins, halved (or 24 whole small cornichons)

Split the mini bread rolls lengthways.
♦ Lightly warm the reserved slow-cooked beef brisket. This can be done in the microwave. Drizzle with the reserved pan juices, cover with cling film (or a lid), and microwave on high for 1–2 minutes. Don’t make it too hot! Stuff the mini breadrolls with the warmed brisket. Top with Russian potato salad and sliced gherkins. Serve immediately.

  • Fussy kid tip: My 5-year old isn’t too keen on Russian salad so I serve his sliders with sliced avocado, grated carrot and tomato sauce (ketchup).
  • I buy my mini bread rolls from Breadtop.

Great balls of fire

[Recipe 1] LAMB, PUMPKIN and LEMON KÖFTES transform into
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.

The pie’s the limit

[Recipe 1] BEEF and GUINNESS STEW transforms into
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’.

The frying Dutchman

[Recipe 1] VEAL OSSO BUCO transforms into
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
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.