Archive for Red meat

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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Mystic mum predicts the future

I predict this wise-looking guy will NEVER ACCURATELY time anything.

I predict this wise-looking guy will NEVER ACCURATELY time anything.

Unlike my entirely credible astrologer sister, my basis for claiming psychic status is more a result of consistent proof, that when it comes to my family, I WILL ALWAYS KNOW how things are going to turn out BEFORE they happen.

Like when, on New Year’s Eve, I let my kids stay up until 2am. I predicted that the next day they would both have silly accidents, end up crying and need to be carried to bed by 7.30pm. AND I WAS RIGHT. And when, on that same night, I drank an innocent enough looking thimble full of Jagermeister, I predicted that I would start 2013 with a hangover. AND I WAS RIGHT.

Since I’m so consistently right and all-knowing, I’m thinking of changing my name from ‘mum’ to ‘oracle’. Life would then sound like this….

Child [yelling from other room] “ORACLE. WHERE ARE MY SLIP ON SHOES?”
Mum [calmly] “One is behind your bedroom door and the other under the dining table.”

Child [yelling from other room] “ORACLE. MR M&P IS USING MY YELLOW TEXTA WITHOUT ASKING.”
Mum [calmly] “Let it be so, and avoid feckless squabbles.”

Child [standing by bedside, whispering to oracle as if oracle is awake, even though oracle is asleep] “Oracle…”
Oracle [on waking] “IF YOU ARE GOING TO ASK ME ANYTHING ABOUT WHEN YOU CAN PLAY SKYLANDERS, I SUGGEST YOU GET OUT OF HERE NOW”.

And child exits room immediately without another word; such is the wisdom and grumpiness foresight of oracle.

It goes along with my ability to see my child pick their nose and eat it BEHIND ME. My knowledge that I’ll need a packet of wipes in my bag if we’re going to eat choc tops at the cinema, and that each and every time I reveal that THIS IS THE NIGHT FOR A HAIRWASH, my kids will cry and scream as though I am releasing a plague of locusts upon them.

I can also predict that this week I won’t have any time to whip up anything new, so this recipe is from Vegie Smugglers 2, a fabulous book that you all should buy. I can predict, that this is the link you will need to do just that.

rice paper rolls

I predict the adults may want to add in fresh chilli.



Beef & peanut rice paper rolls

1 tbsp peanut oil
1 onion, finely chopped
500g lean beef mince
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp minced ginger
1 yellow capsicum, seeded, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled, grated
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp fish sauce
White (or black) pepper

To serve:
10 rice paper rounds
Crushed roasted peanuts
Bean sprouts
Spring onions, cut into sticks
Cucumber, cut into sticks
Dried rice vermicelli (prepared according to packet directions, rinsed under cold water, drained)
Mint and coriander leaves, to taste (I like lots)
Sweet chilli sauce
Lime juice

Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. (Cooking over a higher heat cooks off the liquid, keeping the mixture quite dry.)

Cook the onion for a couple of minutes, then add the mince, garlic and ginger. Toss through until the mince is brown, breaking up lumps as you go. Add the capsicum and carrot and stir for another couple of minutes.

Add the soy sauce, sugar, fish sauce and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the mince is thoroughly cooked.

Prepare the rice papers according to packet directions. Start by adding a few tablespoons of the meat mixture to the paper then add whichever ingredients you like, roll up and enjoy!

MAKES 10

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So hot back then – nachos from the nineties

I don’t know about you, but back in 1991, nothing said ‘mature’ quite as much as popping out to the new Belaroma Café for a ‘cup of chino’ and a bagel. It was a 15-minute drive away, but cafes were a bit few and far between back then. Sure, there was the Grace Brothers cafeteria, where you pushed your tray along the metal shelf and ogled cling wrapped bits of black forest gateau but nothing competed with the Belaroma in terms of sophistication.

I seem to recall being there ALL THE TIME once I got my drivers license and could meet up with friends at the shocking hour of 9pm on a Tuesday! The freedom was delicious.

But perhaps we overdid it a little. I don’t think I’ve eaten a piece of carrot cake since 1993 and I can’t even say the word ‘nachos’ without a touch of scorn, so cemented is it to 1992 in my memories. But determined to be open minded in my quest for new family food, last week I whipped up a version of the tex-mex classic. Lo and behold, it was a MASSIVE hit, with the light-eating Miss F getting through two whole plates of it. I guess there was a reason why it became so popular, after all.

And it’s another recipe that can be made ahead and then assembled whenever you need.

Enjoy it; I’m off to dig through carrot cake recipes…

Corn chip lures, with all the healthy bits melted on top.



Nachos

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
500g lean beef mince
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
3-4 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1×2 tbsp tomato paste sachet
1 carrot, peeled, grated
½ green capsicum, finely diced
400g borlotti beans, rinsed, drained
400g can chopped tomatoes
½ cup water

To serve
Corn chips (buy the ones from the health food isle)
Avocado
Tomato
Grated cheese

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Saute the onion until golden, stirring frequently. Add in the mince and use the spoon to break up any lumps until it is all browned.

Add in the garlic, cumin, oregano, sweet chilli and tomato paste. Mix in the carrot, capsicum and beans and combine well.

Pour over the tomatoes and use the half-cup of water to swish out the remnants of the can. Bring to a simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Taste and season if need be.

Set aside, ready to use whenever you need it.

To compile the nachos, either…

Add a few chips to a plate (don’t give them too many!). Spread over a layer of mince, scatter the tomato and avocado, sprinkle with cheese and microwave until it is hot and the cheese just melted.

OR

Make one big family serve on an oven tray (lined with foil) and bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and golden.

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Mmmmmmm mince

It’s just a fact, isn’t it, that once you have kids, you start filling your trolley with all sorts of new things. Actually, even the fact that you have a trolley and not just a nifty, easy basket is a dead-set giveaway that times have changed. No more baskets with pate, marinated feta and Brie for dinner. No, now it’s nappy boxes, huge bunches of bananas (no matter what the price) and MINCE.

Generally it is the easiest way to get meat into kiddies. You can make patties, meatballs, stir-fries and fajitas. And these days you’ve got a choice of flavours to rev things up a bit.

While I try my hardest to keep my recipes as appealing to adults as possible, I do admit that this savoury mince is more of a ‘kid’ dish. Adults might be uninspired by a lack of sophistication here, but doubts will be eased by the flexible nature of this dinner. It’s easy to make and can be made ahead and popped into the fridge, ready to be served with pasta, on potatoes, in toasties or over rice (my favourite choice). It also freezes really well in little containers that can be defrosted quickly on tricky days when You. Are. Only. Just. Holding. It. All. Together.

Best yet, you can switch vegies to suit your family. And while you won’t find it on the menu at any restaurant anytime soon, with enough coriander and fresh chilli on top, it’s yum enough for an adult mid-week meal too.

Yes, i know, a watermark. Hope this doesn’t bother anyone too much.

Savoury mince

500g beef mince
1 onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 zucchini, grated
1 carrot, peeled, grated
¾ cup mushrooms, finely diced
½ green capsicum, finely diced (red capsicum is also yum and makes a more colourful dish)
1 cup beef stock
2 tbsp Worcester sauce
1 tbsp BBQ sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp corn flour
½ cup peas

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Brown the mince, stirring and breaking up lumps as you go. Remove and set aside.

(If you pan is now dry, add a bit of oil) Add the onion and celery to the pan and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes until starting to soften. Throw in the garlic for a minute before adding in all the rest of the vegies.

Once they’re all mixed through and starting to cook a bit, return the mince. Once that’s all mixed through, pour in the stock and sauces. Combine really well.

Put your corn flour in a cup or small dish. Spoon some of the cooking liquid into the cup and stir until you have a nice, runny, lump-free paste. Pour that back into the mince mixture and combine well.

Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so, until everything is cooked through. Remove from the heat and mix in your peas.

Serve with rice or pasta. Use to top baked potatoes or fill toasties.

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“What would my mom do?”

I’ve got a parenting dilemma on my mind, so I’ve been surfing the net and having a think about ethics, decision-making and how to raise ‘morally courageous’ children.

There’s a nice PBS story here (watch the video) about a fella who spends his life teaching people how to make ethical decisions. Not just any old decisions, but life’s tricky and less obvious ones. When a question has two right answers, which one is REALLY right?

He advises taking the ‘stench test’, which is a gut level response to something. How badly does does a particular response smell? And beyond that you can take the ‘mom test’ which is “what would my mom do?” Which is great advice, except when you’re the mom and you don’t know what to do.

Not that my problem is large – it’s just that Miss F has qualified for the next round of her year 2 public speaking competition. Which of course isn’t the problem. The problem is that her speech focuses on what a MEANIE her mum is, and spins an entertaining story of her horrible mum FORCING her to do ballet instead of karate. It’s a thrilling tale, full of arabesques and kung-fu kicks that was a hit with the 7-year-olds. And now in the next round, I can go along to cheer her on.

The problem for me is that the entire speech isn’t true. Not a word. She doesn’t do ballet OR karate. She does netball. And that was her choice. So do I stand in a hall and cheer her on as she slags off her mum in front of 3 classes of kids and their parents? Do I suck it up and clap and cheer for her at the sake of my own humiliation?

The STENCH TEST tells me that I have to. Other ethics articles I read talked about keeping a strong sense of ‘ethical goals’ in mind. Which for me, means that I want to be a supportive parent and regardless of subject matter, I need to be there for my child. The WHAT WOULD MY MOM DO test is tougher. My mum would definitely have been there. But to be fair, I would never have made a fictitious speech out of being mad at her. Tricky.

Your dilemma this week is simpler. Do you make this beef goulash in a pot in the oven or in your slow cooker? It’s another yes/yes decision and whichever you choose, there are instructions below. Best yet, there is no stench test, just a delicious aroma to enjoy.

Finish up winter with this delicious dish.

Beef goulash (two ways)

2 tbsp olive oil
3-4 tbsp plain flour (omit this for slow cooker)
1 kg chuck steak, cut into 2-3cm cubes
2 onions
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 large carrot, peeled, diced
1 parsnip, peeled, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp brown sugar
1 litre beef stock (slow cooker variation: ½ litre)
400g tomatoes
¼ cup tomato paste

You need a stove to oven casserole dish for this version of the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 160C.

1. Heat the oil in your casserole dish over medium/high heat. Toss the steak in the flour to coat. Shake off excess and cook in batches, turning to brown on all sides. Remove and set aside. Repeat until it is all done. (Take your time, it’s worth doing this properly – I always get this bit underway then chop up the rest of the vegies in between turning). Remove and set aside.

2. Add more oil to the pan if needed and sauté the onions, celery and carrot for 3-4 minutes until starting to soften. Add the parsnip then the garlic, stirring constantly.

3. Return the meat to the pan. Sprinkle over the paprika and sugar. Cook for another minute or so before pouring over the stock, tomatoes and tomato paste.

Cover with a lid, transfer to the oven and cook for 2 hours.

Remove, season to taste and serve with pasta, peas and sour cream.

SLOW COOKER VARIATION.

Heat a frying pan over medium/high heat. Add some oil and follow step 2 from the regular recipe. Pour this mix into the base of your 5.5-6 litre slow cooker.

Toss the meat in the paprika & sugar then pop straight into the cooker (yay – no need to brown). Pour over ½ litre stock, 400g tomatoes and ¼ cup tomato paste.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

SERVES 2 ADULTS & 6ish KIDS (or you’ll probably get enough for two family meals – stock the freezer).

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