Archive for Red meat

Taking the spice challenge with this lamb pilaf

Along with a strong dislike of most vegetables, my delightful daughter has always been vehemently anti-spice. And while I’ve now gotten her to a point where she will eat a wide variety of vegies and a whole range of flavour profiles, she will still FREAK OUT if there’s anything in her dinner that makes her tongue HOT.

My workaround has always been to create mild versions of dishes that use small amounts of all the flavour spices but omit any ‘hot’ ingredients like cayenne pepper or chilli. Generally this has worked well. But following my theory that you should continually push kids just slightly out of their food comfort zone, I’ve continued to push her heat boundaries.

Finally a couple of years back I found a breakthrough dish – this nachos recipe which has a decent slug of sweet chilli sauce. She adores it to the point where she actually begs me to make it. That felt like a major achievement. But never one to rest on my laurels, I’ve continued to push with the amount and type of heat I can use. There’s been a few misses and a few hits, the latest being this lamb pilaf, which actually has a half teaspoon of chilli powder. I use a mild mexican one which adds a hint of oomph, but is still insanely child-friendly.

So the days of a vindaloo may still be far off, but on nights when the rest of the household is seeking a bit of flavour, I’m finding this dish is working well.

lamb pilaf vegie smugglers

Extra milk for Miss F who needs several glasses to sooth her burning tongue.

Lamb pilaf

1/4 cup pinenuts

2 tbsp oil of your choice (or use ghee)
400g lamb rump steaks, finely diced
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 – 1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1 finger eggplant, finely diced
1 cup basmati rice
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 small zucchini, grated
1 cup pumpkin, grated
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 cups beef stock (hot)
1 cup peas

Mint & parsley (optional)

Heat a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the pinenuts and stir and toast until golden (keep an eye on them, they go from raw to burnt in a jiffy). Remove & set aside.

Place a large saucepan over a medium/high heat. Add 1 tbsp oil and when hot toss in the lamb. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring regularly until brown all over. Remove and set aside.

Add the rest of the oil and reheat the pot. Toss in the onion and cook, stirring often for 4-5 minutes until turning golden. Add the garlic, spices and eggplant. Stir for another minute then pour in the rice. Combine everything really well before adding in all of the grated vegies. Carefully pour over the hot stock and add the paste. Return the meat to the pan, mix everything together and pop on the lid. Simmer on medium heat for 12 minutes until the rice is 95% cooked.

Quickly toss through the peas and recover for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave for another 5 minutes to allow the last of the liquid to absorb. (This dish does tread a fine line between uncooked rice and mush – you’ll need to use these times as a guide only and adjust to suit your kitchen’s cooking conditions).

Toss through the pinenuts and the herbs (if using).

Serves 2 adults and 3-4 kids.

family-food-made-fun

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A new slow cooker favourite

Have you ever played that game with your kids where you say a word and then they say the next word that pops into their little minds? It’s good for a laugh on a long car trip. Astonishing how often a word can be followed on by the word ‘fart’ (unless you have lovely daughters, whose vocabularies are possibly a little larger).

It makes you realise how many words really do belong together. I’ll play it with myself to demonstrate.

“Bert?” “Ernie”.
“Posh?” “Becks”.
“War?” “Peace”.
“Kylie?” “Botox”, “Jason”.

Likewise, there’s a long list of flavours that just belong together.

“Bacon?” “Eggs”.
“Macaroni?” “Cheese”.
“Fish?” “Chips”.

During the winter you could come over and I could offer you a warming bowl of lamb soup, but really it sounds pretty dull, doesn’t it? Lamb & barley soup however is a classic food combination that gets people seriously excited and for good reason. It’s fan-tas-ma-gorically good, especially when combined with a heap of vegies and chucked into the slow cooker for 8 hours. This recipe is one of those golden moments of family food since it’s easy to make (no browning anything, just chuck it all in), envelops your house in a day-long saliva-inducing fragrance and results in a dinner that requires diddly-squat effort throughout the afternoon.

Even better, this pulps up beautifully into baby food and toddlers can have this as more of a stew with some of the liquid drained off.

Really it’s one of those blissful kitchen moments. Enjoy.

lamb and barley slow cooker soup

I promise your family will devour this with glee!


Slow cooker lamb & barley soup


I would urge you to make this according to the recipe without leaving anything out. All the ingredients meld to make a truly fantastic winter dish.

1 onion, finely chopped
1 fennel, finely chopped (please don’t leave this out – it is the KEY ingredient – if you truly think you hate it, then just use half)
2 carrots, peeled, diced
2 sticks celery, finely diced
1 cup peeled, diced sweet potato
2 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed (I give them a good thump with the side of my knife)
1 litre salt-reduced beef stock
400g can crushed tomatoes
1 fresh rosemary spring
1 fresh bay leaf (invest in a bay tree in a pot – hugely handy & the leaves are MUCH tastier than dried)
1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed, drained
2 lamb shanks

Put all the vegies into the cooker bowl. Toss to mix them thoroughly. Pour over the stock & tomatoes. Add in the herbs and barley. Push in the shanks.

Cover and set to low for 8 hours.

Just before serving, remove the shanks to a bowl, use forks to shred the meat. Discard the bones and mix the meat back through the soup. Discard the bay leaf.

Serve with a smattering of parsley & crusty bread.

Serves 2 adults & 3 kids

If you love your slow cooker, don’t miss my new cookbook that has a bunch of recipes with 3 sets of instructions – perfect for your slow cooker, pressure cooker or regular stove-top.

new-book-on-sale

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How to guarantee vegie-smuggling success (and a giveaway)

Some people like to smuggle vegies by cooking them, mashing them and re-adding them to dishes where they get cooked again and served to unwitting children. Have you heard of this method?

Unless your child is severely vegie-resistant and you’re looking for a starting point that guarantees success, I would avoid doing this. Why?…
1. By the end of this process, most of the vegie’s nutritional benefits are gone.
2. It’s too much work for time-poor parents to manage.
3. The kids don’t learn how delicious healthy eating can be.

I prefer a ‘chop chop’ method. Start with gorgeous fresh, raw produce and grate it or chop it into such small pieces that kids can’t easily identify or pick it out of their dinner.

People have complained to me, ‘but you’re not hiding the vegies – I can see them!’ to which I’ll reply, “yes, because you want your kids to realise that vegies are there, but to still eat them anyway’. If the little bits are all cooked together into a delicious and tasty whole meal, the kids will eat it (of course there are exceptions!) Mostly though, if they can’t identify exactly what vegie is what and if they’re enjoying the meal then their motivation to protest will be low.

The aim is to eventually get kids eating the way you do, so you might start off grating everything, but after a while you can move on to chopping and dicing things finely. Then the pieces can get bigger and bigger until you’re just cooking like normal. This process can take a couple of years and possibly you’ll have to backtrack if you push them too far (if you see them crying, with a huge chunk of zucchini on their fork, you’ll know that you need to go back to grating for a while).

So I recommend everyone take the time to buy a good kitchen knife and learn to use it (there’s a stack of videos online showing you how). You don’t need to be a whizz, just competent and safe. Buy yourself a good grater, too.

And also rely on gadgets to do the work for you. I use my mini-stick blender all the time. I use it to make breadcrumbs, chop vegies, whizz up homous and even make banana ice cream.

You can WIN this baby.

You can WIN this baby.

Luckily for one reader, today I’ve got an Avancer food processor to give away. In the larger machine you can make coleslaw, combine meatball mixtures, blend soups – all bound to give you vegie-smuggling success.

This meatball mix will be a doddle in it…

Hidden veg meatballs in an ALL VEG soup. Genius. And delicious.

Hidden veg meatballs in an ALL VEG soup. Genius. And delicious.



Italian meatballs

Make a double batch of these meatballs and freeze. They work great in all kinds of tomato soups and pasta sauces (like this one).

500g pork/veal mince
1 slice stale bread (any type)
2 tsp Italian herbs
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 carrot, peeled, roughly chopped
1/2 red capsicum, roughly chopped
1 egg, lightly whisked

Preheat the oven to 200C. Line your largest baking tray with foil and spray well with olive oil spray.

Use your food processor to make breadcrumbs with the bread. Also add in the garlic and herbs and blitz to get heavenly, fragrant breadcrumbs.

Quickly blitz the carrot, then the capsicum. Pop in the mince; toss the egg on top and pulse to bring the mix together. Pop on some kitchen gloves and roll meatballs and place on the tray. If you have the time and patience, keep them nice and bite-sized (plus they cook faster).

Spray the meatballs with more oil spray and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the tray, carefully turn them over and return to the oven for 10 minutes more until golden outside and fully cooked through.

Makes enough for 2 adults and 2-3 kids, depending on what you add them into.

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WANT TO WIN THE FOOD PROCESSOR? You need to be a Vegie Smugglers subscriber, based in Australia. And since Avancer have given me the prize, you might want to check out all the Avancer products here. Simply enter by commenting below about which vegies you find the hardest to get your kids to eat. Entries close Thursday Oct 24, 8pm AEDT. ****THANKS FOR YOUR ENTRIES! AVANCER HAVE PICKED THE WINNER – CONGRATULATIONS ALISON WHITE, HOPE YOU ENJOY THE FOOD PROCESSOR!

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When mummy reaches Exorcist point…

Despicable behaviour, all around.

Despicable behaviour, all around.

After a slow and insidious build over the last month, this morning I stopped coping, my head started spinning and I started to yell.

It’s ages since I shouted at the kids and for weeks I’ve resisted, instead using all the positive parenting tools in the book. But I have been feeling increasingly as though I am getting nowhere with them. Finally it all got too much, I cracked the shits, did a bit of screaming and actually got their attention.

Do you ever have those moments where parenting is just too hard and you are totally sick of it?

And what has been the growing problem? It’s all been over the kid’s refusal to take their school responsibilities seriously. There’s a long and tedious list of tasks they’ve not done or done poorly and without any effort. My philosophy with schoolwork is that I’ll be informed about what they’re supposed to be doing at home and offer lots of support, but I won’t do any of it myself. I’d rather they hand in an absolutely rubbish assignment of their own doing rather than a bit of my handiwork.

But it’s frustrating, watching them be so half-hearted. This morning once I calmed down, we walked to school and discussed the serious nature of responsibility and I asked for their reasoning and thoughts on how we could make improvements.

Mr M&P declared that he prefers not to do schoolwork, because it is simply too boring.

Miss F decided that she’d cooperate much better if instead of earning stars (for our star chart), she just earned money. For instance, 20 cents for putting on her school uniform each morning.

In the spirit of respect I listened attentively and thanked them for their contributions. I explained calmly to Mr M&P that sometimes life is boring and he should get fucking used to it and develop a better attitude. Then to Miss F, I calmly explained that she didn’t have a hope it hell getting paid to getting dressed really is just an expected fact of life.

Sigh. Parenting. It’s hard yakka, isn’t it?

In the spirit of trying to make things easier, here’s our latest slow cooker favourite.

Saucy! Great for dipping into with bread.

Saucy! Great for dipping into with bread.

Slow cooker lamb chop casserole

1 tbsp olive oil
1kg lamb chops – I use forequarter or loin chops (chump chops need to have the fatty tail removed). For a bone free version, cube a 1kg mini lamb roast
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, thickly sliced
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp plain flour
1½ cups vegetable stock
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
800g diced tomatoes
Pepper
1 tsp sumac (don’t leave this out – it’s the essential ingredient)
1 fresh bayleaf (or 2 dried)
1 large turnip, peeled, diced
2 large carrots, peeled, sliced
1 cup peas

Heat the oil in a large stovetop to oven dish. Brown the chops on either side for 3 minutes or so. Remove and place into your cooker.

Reheat the pan and add the onions and celery, stirring often until softened (about 5 minutes). Add in the garlic for a minute until fragrant, then sprinkle over the flour. Cook it out, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. After a minute it will start to smell sweeter and you can slowly add in the warm stock, Worcestshire sauce and tomatoes. Stir well, season with pepper. Add the sumac and the bay leaf. Tip this into the slow cooker, then toss in the vegies (except the peas). Mix well.

Cover and set to low for 6 hours. (Or on high for 3 hours should work too, although I’ve not tested this method).

Remove, check that the meat is cooked and the vegies are tender. Mix in the peas, re-cover and leave to sit for 15 minutes more.

Serve with bread or over pasta or mash.

Serves 2 adults and 4 kids.

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50 shades of appliances (and a July giveaway)

Last winter I had a short and intense love affair with my slow cooker. At first I was a novice and a bit nervous, but I overcame my slight hesitation once I experienced some food thrills. I swooned as I discovered that I could make beef stews, fabulous dumpling topped casseroles and even chicken satay and it ONLY TOOK 8 HOURS. Sigh.

Perhaps it’s flighty, but this winter, slightly bolder, I was looking for something new. After a taste of appliance life I was wanting more and I find now that I’ve been seduced away by something much more hardcore. Like a red room of pain that holds such threat and the promise of such pleasure I’ve been lured into the world of PRESSURE COOKING, where I can make all the same stuff BUT IN 20 MINUTES.

Admittedly there’s a time and place and both. Each has nuances to offer. I can’t imagine dumplings being so great in the pressure cooker and I can’t get my slow cooker to simmer away thickening a sauce in the way my pressure cooker does.

But why limit yourself to just one when you can swing and have the best of both worlds, right? Which is why this month’s giveaway prize is so totally exciting. It’s the Kambrook Pressure Express Digital Pressure Cooker, valued at $120 and it has all the joys of a pressure cooker PLUS a slow cook function. YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL.

I have the exact same model and it’s awesome. To get you inspired, here’s a recipe that originates in the Woman’s Weekly slow cooker book. It’s a great combination of flavours and works really well tweaked as a pressure cooker recipe.

Joy in 8 hours, or 20 minutes? Whatever takes your fancy.

8 hours, or 20 minutes? Whatever you can handle.



Pressure cooker Italian Beef Stew

1 cup red wine
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Italian herbs
2 tbsp olive oil
8 pickling onions, peeled but left whole
250g bacon
12 button mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
Pepper
1 kg chuck steak, cubed
1 bulb fennel, diced
2 large carrots, peeled, thickly sliced
1/2 cup grated pumpkin

Combine the wine, paste, vinegar and herbs in a bowl or jug and set aside.

Heat a large frying pan over a medium/high heat. Add the oil then brown the onions and bacon. Toss in the mushrooms and cook for several minutes, turning often-ish. You want to get nice browned spots on your onions and the bacon to be cooked through.

Toss over the garlic and stir for 30 seconds before adding in the tomato mixture. Bring it all to a strong simmer, then tip it into the pressure cooker along with the bay leaf, meat, fennel, carrots and pumpkin.

Following the safety instructions, seal the lid, bring to pressure and cook for 20 minutes.

Release the pressure. Serve over mash or pasta, topped with parsley.

Serves 2 adults and 6 kids.
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HOW TO WIN?

I’m thinking you need a challenge in order to win this fabulous prize. How about comment below with a rhyme or limerick or some clever sentence about how much you like to COOK. (see, it’ll be very easy for you to get the sponsor’s name in there – which might just make them happy enough to donate more prizes in the future). Other conditions? You must be living in Australia – you must be a Vegie Smugglers subscriber and I would strongly urge you to check out the Kambrook Facebook page and also check out their Perfect Pantry blog – which is no hardship considering it’s packed with great recipes.

Entries close next Thursday July 18 at 8pm AEST. **CONGRATULATIONS TO MELANIE WHO WON THE COOKER WITH HER LOVELY RHYMES….

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Mouse in the house

Crumbs for cutlets, not mice.

Crumbs for cutlets, not mice.

I found myself standing on a chair recently, squealing like a girl as a mouse that the cat had brought in scurried about. Luckily for me, my 8-year old daughter was home and could save me.

Fearless with creatures, she was onto it with such courage that even a nip to her finger from the pesky critter didn’t deter her from dispatching it outside. She’s also handy at rescuing penny lizards, cuddling guinea pigs and smothering her walls with posters of cute puppies and kittens.

She is so different to me that she’s sometimes a stranger. I gaze at her and am in awe of this growing and evolving person who is such a force of personality.

Perhaps it’s partly because they don’t look much like me, but I’ve never considered my kids to me ‘mini-me’s’. And there’s no chance that I’ll ever be one of those parents who pushes their own ambitions onto their kids – my ambitions wouldn’t suit them at all. I’ll just be happy if I can get to know them for who they are and get to share in the lives that they create for themselves.

The one thing however, that everyone in the family has in common is crumbed cutlets, which were a childhood favourite of mine and are just as popular with my kids now. It seems fitting to make them in this ANZAC week. It’s an important day and the weight of it is never lost of me. It seems like a good day to gather close those you love and feed them food that tastes like home.

Wishing you a happy week.

Yum, and easier cooked in the oven.

Yum, and easier cooked in the oven.


Oven-baked crumbed cutlets


This recipe coats about 7 cutlets, depending on size.

Oil spray (canola or olive)
2 slices stale bread (grain or wholemeal is good)
1 tbsp LSA mix (optional)
20g parmesan cheese (the block stuff, not the powder)
2 tbsp fresh herbs (I like a parsley/chives mix)
1 egg, lightly whisked
Just under 1/4 cup plain flour

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line a tray with foil and spray generously with the oil.

In a mini food processor, blitz together the bread, LSA, cheese and herbs until you’ve got nice breadcrumbs. Place in a large bowl.

Pop your egg in a separate bowl and the flour in another. Season the flour generously.

Dust your cutlet in the flour, shake off excess, then dip in the egg until coated. Drain off the excess of that before placing it into the bowl of crumbs. Press over crumbs until totally coated then place onto your tray. Repeat with the rest. Spray them with oil spray then bake for 20 minutes. Remove, turn over carefully with tongs. Spray with more oil if they look dry and bake for another 10-15 minutes until cooked to your liking.

Cooks tip: don’t make this on the day you’ve mopped the kitchen floor – the crumbs do go everywhere, especially if the kids are helping.

Ready and waiting for you, in the VS shop.

Ready and waiting for you, in the VS shop.

PS. Did you see that my shop has had a rejig?

I’ve launched my new “10 quickbakes plus 10 sandwich spreads” e-book, which you can pick up for a mere $6.95. If you’ve never bought any of the e-books, check out my new bundles – there’s a complete pack with the deluxe multi-format meal planner or iPad users may prefer the special pack just for them – download the titles all straight to your device and read them in iBooks. Too easy! Visit the shop.

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I’d like to thank the world

I’d like to thank the academy for giving me this EVERYDAY LIFE award. Of course, I’m the one standing here receiving the award, but really it wouldn’t be possible without the contributions of a wonderful team of behind-the-scenes people.

I’d like to begin by saying thank you Japanese people for giving me sushi. And thanks to Italian people for pizza. I love you Korean people for bibimbap and the entire Indian subcontinent – I’d like to thank you all for every curry ever invented. Then there are the Thai folks – a heartfelt thanks to you for showing me the joys of tom yum goong and the Danish peeps, thank you for gravalax. Thanks to the Caribbean natives for jerking that chicken, and to the Mexicans, a huge thanks for all the things you do with beans and avocado. And a huge thanks to you all for making the effort to travel and meet me in Australia, making this such a fabulous, delicious place.

Apologies if I’ve forgetten anyone, but lastly, I’d like to thank our Middle Eastern friends, whose spice combination is the star of my favourite lamb kebabs.

A hint of the Middle East, to make your top-Aussie dinner, delicious.

A hint of the Middle East, to make your top-Aussie dinner, delicious.

Lamb mince kebabs

This is a great recipe to make now, before the good eggplants disappear and as promised, it’s another recipe that uses Allspice.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion, finely diced
500g lamb mince
2 cloves garlic
1 eggplant, finely diced (peeled first if your kids will object to the skin)
1 red capsicum, finely diced
1 tsp sumac
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp mild chilli powder (I use a mild Mexican one)

Extras

Flat bread or tortillas
cucumber
tomato
parsley

Heat a large frying pan over medium/high heat. Heat the oil then add the onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes until browning. Toss in the mince, stirring constantly, breaking up lumps as you go. Continue until it is all well browned.

Don’t worry about excess fat, because you’re now going to chuck all of the eggplant into it (YUM). Mix it through really well, then also toss in the capsicum.

Finally, scatter over your spices. Keep mixing until it all gets deliciously fragrant. Lower the heat and let everything simmer for 10-15 minutes until the eggplant has melded into the mince and your kids will be none the wiser.

This is a supposed to be fairly dry mince mix so that your wraps aren’t soggy. Spoon some into a flat bread or tortilla. Top with cucumber, tomato and parsley. I won’t tell if you want to also pop on some cheese or a drizzle of yoghurt.

MIX SHOULD FILL ABOUT 10 TORTILLAS

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If this looks good to you, try out my beef & lentil fajitas, or these beef & peanut rice paper rolls.

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