Posts tagged lamb

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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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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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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Because I’m a sucker for advertising, let’s all eat lamb this Australia Day

Well yes, I DO swat my blow-flys with this, actually.

Perhaps I’m an overly simple person, but I never mind advertising when it’s funny. And I think the ongoing Sam Kekovich campaign has been consistently good. Although I suspect this year might be jumping the shark – there’s really no justifiable reason to resurrect Barbie Girl (or Melissa Tkautz) under any circumstance. Having said that though, I will admit that the video is pretty good fun. The whole campaign has been amazingly successful over the years at making our national day and lamb synonymous. Well done advertising gurus.

So here’s my lamb contribution – a lamb sausage roll, which is two, top aussie concepts all rolled up into one gorgeous fabulous pastry covered piece of yum. And it sneaks a whole bunch of hidden healthy vegetables into the kids, too.

Happy Australia day to all of you top Aussies out there.

A sausage roll that Sam Kekovich would approve of.


Lamb sausage rolls

3 sheets frozen puff pastry
1 egg, whisked, for sticking and glazing
Sesame seeds

Filling
500g lamb mince
1 red onion, very
finely diced
2 tbsp pine nuts
1 carrots, peeled, grated
¼ red capsicum, seeded, finely diced
1 cup English spinach, shredded
¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp sumac
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup dried breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Separate out your puff pastry sheets. Score down the middle with a knife and snap into two long rectangles. Leave to thaw.

In a large bowl, combine all the filling ingredients. Use your hands to mix it all well.

Divide the mixture evenly between the six rectangles of pastry (roll the mix into sausage shapes to keep it firm). Roll one edge of the pastry over the mixture. Brush the other side with the egg, pull it over the top and press down to seal. Place on the tray, with the join at the bottom.

Brush the tops with egg, sprinkle over the sesame seeds and bake for 25 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Cut into thirds and serve with salad.

MAKES 18

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Other lamb recipes…
Lamb & feta meatballs
Lamb & bean rissoles
Shepherd’s pie
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Junior Masterchef is blowing my mind!

At Vegie Smuggling HQ, last Sunday night was spent watching TV with our jaws hanging wide open. Isn’t it a shock, to see a bunch of kids so young who can kick butt in the kitchen, sauteing, baking and slicing their way to foodie heaven? We’re all so protective these days and assume our little lovelies are so helpless that it’s refreshing to see competent kids, who’ve been well trained, concentrating and doing their thing with such aplomb. And putting the rest of us to shame. I mean, really, I doubt I could make Pierre’s Lamb Wellington that won the other night.

And isn’t it great, for younger kids to see these visions of accomplishment. Miss Fruitarian was grinning the entire time.

Why do I underestimate what my kids are capable of and wrap them in such thick layers of cotton wool? A while back, my Japanese friend shocked me by instructing in that helpful/harsh Japanese way that I must give my kids knives from the time they’re three. “They only cut themselves one time”, she assured me.

In some countries Miss F would probably of have a flock of goats under her control by now. Even half a century ago she would have been contributing to the household in ways more productive than her current “muuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmm, iiiii nneeeeeeeedddddddddddd youuuuuuuuuuuuuu”. Of course, I run to her to check what the emergency is and generally find that she can’t find her red texta, or she needs me to kill the microscopic spider on the bathroom floor. With renewed purpose, I’m going to work on getting my kids more domestically skilled and useful.

In the mean time, here’s my contribution to the Junior Masterchef ‘pie’ challenge, a vegie smuggling Shepherd’s Pie that hides potato, pumpkin, onion, carrot, celery and eggplant. Strangely enough, I didn’t see any of the Masterchef kids sneaking too many vegies into their masterpieces.

shepherds pie

Miss F may not herd goats, but she does love this Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s pie

Meat base
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled,
finely diced
1 celery stick,
finely diced
500g lamb mince
2 finger eggplants, peeled, finely diced
2 tbsp plain flour
2 cups beef stock
Splash of Worcestershire sauce
Squeeze of tomato sauce
2 fresh bay leaves
(or 1 dried)
Salt & black pepper

Mash topping
3 mashing potatoes, peeled, diced
500g pumpkin, peeled, diced
½ cup milk
Margarine, to taste

Canola oil cooking spray

For the meat base, heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion, carrot and celery until soft (5-10 minutes). Add the mince and brown, breaking up lumps as you go. Add the eggplant and stir.

Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock, sauces and bay leaves. Bring to the boil then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Season to taste.

Meanwhile, for the mash, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the potato and pumpkin and cook for 15 minutes until tender. Drain.

Preheat oven to 200C.

Mash the potatoes and pumpkin well, adding milk and margarine to achieve your preferred texture.

Divide the lamb mixture between a family-sized souffle dish and 4 x 1 cup ovenproof dishes (eat the family one tonight and freeze the smaller serves).

Spread mash over the top as evenly as you can.

Put all the dishes on one oven tray, spray the tops with cooking spray and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and bubbling.

SERVES 2 ADULTS & 6 KIDS

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I could have eaten Kermit…

G’day. I’ve been out in the bush. Super tops out there in the real Australia. Lots of drivin’, visitin’ stuff and good wholesome country fare…

Well actually the driving bit is true, about 1000 kms which in a country this size is nothing, but with two kids under 6 in the back it can be a challenge. I didn’t quite reach the stage of needing to place a wooden spoon on the dashboard, but it did get close. The travelling CDs I’d made worked quite well at keeping them entertained. I’ve been training the kid’s ears at the same time as I’ve been training their pallettes. They like everything from Steve Aoki to the Beach Boys. Although most of the time is spent clarifying song lyrics. “No mate, he’s actually singing ‘message in a bottle’, not ‘message in a bottom’ and, no, Johnny Cash walks the line, not a lion.

And visiting stuff, well lordy, did we what! We rode bikes at a zoo, saw model trains, visited massive adventure playgrounds and slipped into quite a few wineries for mummy and daddy’s sanity. And we spent a full day at a farm field day, learning about straw bale houses, composting, fencing systems and butchering entire animals. It was GREAT! Super-good fun for us city slickers.

But the good wholesome country fare… well, some good, some great, some bad. But SO much meat. Out and about it’s all meat with chips, or meat with potatoes, or meat with pastry. Obviously my little Mr Meat and Potatoes was pretty thrilled with the whole arrangement, but me? I would have killed for something green to munch on.

Perhaps getting roadside kiosks and bakeries to love lettuce is asking too much, but what about next time they whip up a meat and bread option, they try these little rissoles? Just so that we can sneak a few vitamins in while we’re devouring half a sheep.

Rissoles with yummy stuff smuggled inside!

Come home to these when you realise the grass isn't always greener.



Spicy lamb & bean rissoles

1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, diced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 cloves garlic, crushed
2 slices multigrain bread
400g can four bean mix, rinsed, drained
1 carrot, peeled, roughly chopped
500g lamb mince
1 egg
2 tbsp vegetable oil, for frying

To serve
Flatbread or burger buns
Cream cheese
Tomato chutney
Cucumber, sliced
Lettuce

Dig out the big food processor to make this recipe quick and easy.

Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes until softened. Add the cumin, coriander and garlic and fry another minute. Set aside.

Blitz the bread in the food processor into breadcrumbs. Remove and set aside.

Add the four bean mix and carrot to the food processor and whizz well. Add the onion mixture and lamb and blitz. Add the egg and breadcrumbs and blitz further until combined.

Use wet hands to form 5-6cm rissoles (warning – remove the processor blade before you handle the mixture!). Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Cook the rissoles for 4-5 minutes each side until cooked through.

Spread flatbread with cream cheese and chutney. Top with rissoles, cucumber and lettuce.

MAKES 16 RISSOLES

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Taste and nutrition the two most important cooking factors for ‘mom’

Deep in the internet’s bowels you can find statistics to back up just about any argument or theory. Babycenter.com has collected a bizarre range of survey results on a huge range of parenting subjects. Access them here. There’s facts about everything from brands of breast pumps to life insurance policies, but of course it’s the nutrition and food topics that pique my interest.

One survey asked 4000 moms to rate the importance of several factors when cooking for their families. The two most important factors were taste and nutrition. Yay! Congratulations to all of you mums who don’t want to compromise on flavour, even when faced with fussy feeders.

Another interesting result was that 51% of mothers were prepared to cook two dinners each night just to keep the peace. I understand how this situation evolves, but I just refuse to do it! I try to make all my recipes healthy and packed with vegetables, so we feel good about feeding them to the kids but with the addition of a couple of ingredients, the adults can enjoy a delicious meal too.

A good example is these lamb meatballs – the feta makes them very more-ish and they can be adapted to suit everyone. Plus, they cook in the oven, avoiding a big revolting mess, because cleaning up more than I have to is also something I refuse to do.

Lastly from the surveys, 39% of mothers find going online to be the most peaceful part of their day…

Lamb and feta meatballs

Don't cook two dinners, these lamb & feta meatballs will please everyone.

Lamb & feta meatballs with pasta salad

Both the cooked meatballs and salad can be kept in the fridge for up to two days

Meatballs
500g lamb mince
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 egg, whisked
2 tbsp chopped parsley, basil or oregano
100g feta, crumbled
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 small zucchini, grated
Canola oil cooking spray

Pasta salad
200g wholemeal pasta spirals
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 vine tomato, finely diced (or ½ punnet cherry tomatoes, halved)
½ cup basil leaves, chopped (optional but recommended)

Preheat oven to 200C. Line a large oven tray with baking paper.

For the meatballs, combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Use your hands to mix well, then roll into bite-sized balls and place on an oven tray. Spray meatballs lightly with cooking spray and bake for 10 minutes. Use tongs to carefully turn over, spray with more cooking spray and bake for another 5-10 minutes until cooked through.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling water according to packet directions, then drain. While still warm, toss through the remaining ingredients.
Serve the pasta in bowls, topped with meatballs. Sprinkle with basil leaves.

SERVES 2 ADULTS & 2 KIDS

FOR THE ADULTS Add extra ingredients to the pasta salad. Try olives, chopped anchovies, spinach leaves, toasted pine nuts and dried chilli.

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