Archive for Ham/pork

The end of parenting? It feels like it here.

Last year I looked at my kids and realised that they were growing up. Quickly.

All those hours of blood (theirs), sweat (mine) and tears (all of ours), spent on my parenting quest were reaching a crescendo. While I know that parenting never ends (just ask my mum, who still parents me brilliantly at 76), it was apparent that the first phase of raising kids was almost done. Miss F catches two buses to get to school. Mr M&P walks himself home. Both wash their own hair, wipe their own bums and can unpack the dishwasher without breaking stuff. There’s no more cuddling at the school gate or overt PDAs.  Especially in front of tween friends. I mean, like, muuuuuuummmm, like, you are, like, WAY embarrassing.

And I reached that curious point where I realised it’s time to take charge of my own life and try to negotiate my way back into my career. To update my qualifications I’ve headed back to uni for a bit of postgrad study. It’s a big culture shock considering the last time I studied I didn’t even have an email address, but so far the challenge is stressful awesome.

But I was kidding myself that I’d have to time to do it all. The kids, while increasingly independent still need constant care. There’s the domestics, a part-time graphic design job and this business to tend.

Which leaves bugger-all time for blogging. Especially about cooking, which I’m doing less of. So over the next few months my posts may dry up. Do keep popping by – as I find favourite new recipes I’ll be sure to share (like this insanely good stirfry, below).  They’ll probably be healthy, tasty  & quick meals that suit my older kids. If that appeals to you, you might want to subscribe so you don’t miss any.

And of course if your focus is still toddlers and fussy eaters, there’s always all the lovely cookbooks that you can buy here at my shop.

For me, this Vegie Smuggling journey has been entirely worth all the effort. Watching my kids happily tuck into a huge range of healthy food is one of my proudest parenting achievements.



Super easy stirfry

2 tbsp peanut oil (or olive oil is fine)
2 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp oyster sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp freshly grated ginger (use the jar stuff if you prefer)
1 red onion, diced
500g pork mince
1/2 eggplant, peeled, finely diced (I mean it – about a 5mm dice)
1 red capsicum, diced
1 small head of broccoli, cut into little florets or use a bunch of broccolini, slicing all the stalks thinly.
Snow peas

To serve: rice, coriander, basil, chives, chilli

Mix the oil, sauces, garlic and ginger in a ceramic or glass bowl. Add the mince and use a spoon (or your hand) to combine everything well. If you have time, leave this mix to marinate (you can leave it all day if you like).

Heat a wok or large frying pan over your highest heat. Add a splash of oil and stir fry the onion for a couple of minutes until turning translucent and golden. Pop in the mince and use the spoon to break up lumps and brown it well. Chuck the eggplant into the pan. It will suck up any pork fat and after 3-4 minutes will be soft and yum. Don’t rush this stage – the eggplant just gets gorgeously gooey and takes up all the flavour, so make sure you cook it well now (uncooked eggplant is gross).

Finish by adding in the capsicum and broccoli for a couple of minutes, before mixing through the snow peas.

Serve over rice and top with plenty of fresh herbs & chilli (kids might like to skip this bit).

Serves 2 adults and 2 bigger kids.


Like this recipe? Check out my cookbooks to find a bunch more meals that your family will love.

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Why you don’t need to detox this year

If only I had overly rouged, high cheekbones, it could be 1984!

If only I had overly rouged, high cheekbones, it could be 1984!

This morning, lucky followers of my instagram account were treated with this picture. On waking I was delighted to realise that while I definitely had sore feet (from dancing), my head was only slightly sore even after copious amounts of bubbles (it is a rare day that the hangover gods smile on me). Most importantly, I’d woken to find that my slightly-cloudy head was coifed with a perfectly done, 1980s, Dynastry-style do.

I take these things as A SIGN. To wake up on New years day with perfect 1980s hair must definitely be a sign that IT’S GOING TO BE A GREAT YEAR. And such an auspicious segue from the holiday season to the regular year can only mean one thing – that’s it’s time to pull my finger out and get back on the blogging horse. Really, there’s no reason to delay it any longer. I’m so caught up on LIFE, that even my plastics cupboard has been tidied. I’ve got a stash of inspiring recipes scribbled down and my fingers are itching to get back computering. A bit of a break has been good for the soul and has gotten my juices flowing again (TMI?!).

The first thing I’m doing this year is to buck the piety trend and tell everyone that they can take their detoxes and healthy eating resolutions and shove them up their well-intentioned jaxies. Abstemious doctrines hold no lure for me this year. After watching several friends endure entirely heartbreaking years last year, I see no reason to squander good fortune. We are blessed and surrounded by abundance and this year I plan to enjoy every morsel of things that make me feel good. Food should be nourishment, colour, seduction and joy, not a cause for anxiety or stress or avoidance.

Feeding your family full of healthy and delicious meals can be a satisfying and life affirming task. Don’t believe me? Stick with me this year and I’ll prove it.

Starting here, with this simple pesto risotto. It meets so many Vegie Smuggling criteria. It’s DELICIOUS. If you grow basil, then this is pretty cheap. Finishing the cooking in the oven makes it insanely EASY and my pesto-loving kids will hoover up a full bowl of this without question (helped along by the lure of crispy proscuitto).

Eating well is a privilege we can all enjoy, all the time.

Happy New Year!

Happy food.

Happy food.

Pesto risotto

Make this vegetarian by leaving out the prosciutto and use vegetable stock.

50g butter
1 red onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 zucchini, grated
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 & 2/3 cup arborio rice
4 cups (1 litre) hot chicken stock
1½ cups frozen peas

1 bunch basil
¼ cup grated parmesan (the posher the better)
¼ cup pine nuts
4 tbsp olive oil

proscuitto (optional)

Use a stove to oven dish with a lid for this recipe (like a Le Crueset).

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Heat your pot on the stove over medium heat. Melt the butter. Add your onion and celery and saute for 5 minutes, stirring often. Toss in the garlic and zucchini for 1 minute, stirring well the entire time.

Rain in the rice, pour over the stock. Mix well. Pop on your lid, transfer to the oven and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.

Make the pesto by adding the basil, cheese, nuts and oil to a mini food processor and blitzing thoroughly. Set aside

Remove the pot from the oven. Carefully remove the lid and scoop out a few grains to check that they’re basically tender. If still hard, return to the oven for another few minutes. If almost ready, tip in the peas and pesto. Quickly stir it in, recover the pot let it sit for another 5 minutes.

Serve with more grated parmesan, crumbled proscuitto and pepper.

NOTE: crisp the the proscuitto by laying it in a single layer on a tray and baking in the hot oven while the risotto rests.



Like this recipe? Check out my cookbooks to find a bunch more meals that your family will love.

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Meat-lover’s pasta bake

If you’re vegetarian, skip this post and just click here for a vegetarian pasta bake recipe. Everyone else can stick around to enjoy this carnivorous dinner which feeds an army and keeps pasta-loving kids extremely happy.

The secret ingredient in this dish is… pate…. yes that’s right, chicken livers. I kid you not, a dollop of the stuff mixes through the sauce and after simmering and baking gives the most delish-but-can’t-quite-pinpoint-what-it-is flavour. If you’re unsure how your family will take to it, start with just a tablespoon and see how they go.

And the reason for including a random bit of offal? Iron deficiency can be a major problem for kids, often undiagnosed, causing lethargy and a range of other issues. The best way to avoid it is by eating iron-rich foods. A fantastic source of iron is liver, but there is almost zero chance that anyone born after 1965 will cook with it. Reflecting this, even buying it can be tricky, with it being phased out of supermarkets over the past few years. (Specialty chicken shops will usually stock them).

Even for me, an occasional pate is the only time I cook with livers. So as a challenge, I originally worked up this recipe using them, tossed in with the mince. It’s tasty and really economical and if your family enjoys the flavour then you might want to give that variation a try.

But I figured the number of liver-lovers was minimal and I hate posting recipes that no one will try, which is why I’ve substituted the pate instead. It’s a good way to introduce the flavour to see if it’s an ingredient you might be able to incorporate more of in the future.

One for the carbivore/carnivores

One for the carbivore/carnivores

Meat-lover’s pasta bake

500g pasta
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion
3 cloves garlic, crushed
500g veal/pork mince mix
1 carrot, peeled, grated
1 cup mushrooms, very finely diced
1/2 green capsicum, finely diced
50-100g chicken liver pate (remove any jelly topping. Or make your own basic pate from the recipe in my latest cookbook)
800g can chopped tomatoes
Bay leaf
1 1/2 cups grated cheese (pizza mix is good)

Cook the pasta according to packet directions, set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease an extra large lasagne dish – the one I use is 28x32x6cm (or use two smaller ones)

Heat the oil in a frying pan over med/high heat. Fry the onion for 3-4 minutes until starting to soften. Add the garlic for 30 seconds or so until fragrant. Tip in mince. Use your spoon to break up all the lumps in the mix and keep everything moving well.

Once the meat is all browned, add in the carrot, mushies and capsicum. Stir through the pate and add the can of tomatoes. Combine really well, add the bayleaf and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat, cover and leave it cooking for 15-20 minutes.

Pour the sauce through the cooked pasta. Season well, mix in 1 cup of cheese. Tip it into your lasagne dish, top with the rest of the cheese and bake for 20 minutes until golden.

Serves 2 adults and 6-8 kids (leftovers make great lunches)

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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.


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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You’re not a cheapskate, you’re just ‘penny wise’.

Ah euphemism – how I love you. I’ve always loved the way you can put a spin on nearly anything to make it sound nicer. Like rather than admitting that I’m stuck in routines now that I’m edging closer to middle-age, I much prefer the idea that I’ve got certain ‘traditions’ that I like to follow. Like having a cup of tea and a biscuit at 8.30 most nights. That’s not boring at all, is it; it’s just a lovely tradition, right?

With my love of talking things up, perhaps I should embark on a future in politics. After last weekend’s Senate debacle I’m contemplating starting up the Vegie Smugglers party. I only need one policy. I think it’ll be fresh vegies for all and a weekly-easy-to-cook recipe. Once I’ve got my politician hat on, the euphemisms can continue – in these times of economic uncertainty, we’d all never be broke, just fiscally challenged.

So to help bring us back into surplus I’m not offering you a budget or cheap dinner this week. Nope, I’m stealing the label from the cover of one of the ritzier interior decorating magazines and calling this a ‘penny wise’ recipe.

Using sausages as an ingredient is ‘fiscally responsible’ and if you use Peppercorn sausages then you’ll be at the deadset posh end of the pennywise scale.



Sausage pasta

350g spiral pasta (just cook the whole 500g bag, use about 2/3 in this recipe and then you’ve got handy leftovers for lunchboxes or maybe make these frittatas later in the week)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large brown onion, finely diced
375g Peppercorn Food Company Italian sausages, sliced
1 small eggplant, peeled, finely diced
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 large carrot, peeled, grated
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp Italian herbs
800g can chopped tomatoes
1 cup baby spinach
Olives (optional)
Parmesan (optional)

Cook pasta according to packet directions, set aside.

Heat half the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the sausages and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add in the onion for several minutes, stirring often until golden. Pour in the rest of the oil then pop in the eggplant and continue cooking the mixture, stirring often. After another 3-4 minutes, the eggplant should have softened, and the sausages should be thoroughly cooked. Pour over the vinegar and stir through.

Tip in the carrot, garlic and herbs. After a minute pour in the tomatoes. Swish out the tin with 1/4 cup water and add that to the mix, too. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Mix in the spinach for another minute until wilted. Add the cooked pasta in and heat through.

Serves topped with olives and Parmesan. Adults might also like a splash of Tabasco sauce, anchovies and a good whack of pepper.

Serves 2 adults and 4 kids

*Peppercorn Food Company supplied these sausages, and I’m happy to recommend them. Go and like up their Facebook page.

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What’s your secret?


Do you have a dirty little secret? I’ve got a few. Like this secret pen stash. So sick am I of having my stationery pinched that I’ve had to resort to hiding it away from the prying eyes of my family.

Also, I’m having a bit of a secret EOFYS sale. You can shop at the Vegie Smugglers store and receive 10% off everything before June 28, midnight. Just enter discount code EOFYS10.

What do you think of my girlfriend who has a secret credit card? (Just so that her husband can’t put an exact dollar value onto her personal purchases.) Do you think it’s ok to keep a financial secret from your spouse? I actually think this is a pretty big secret.

Much more innocently, today’s recipe has secret vegetables. As do all my recipes. I like my kids to eat healthy and develop an enjoyment of savoury flavours without too much fuss. Sure, they eat lots of recognisable vegies too, but sometimes a few secrets are ok.

Since these wontons are a bit fiddly to make, they seems like a perfect recipe for the school holidays. Get that dextrous child labour those gorgeous children of yours to help you out.

The kids will have fun wrapping these.

Get the kids onto wrapping these.

Basic Pork Wontons

This recipe uses half a supermarket tray of mince. Feel free to make a double batch and freeze half of the mixture raw, ready to wrap and steam another day.

2 spring onions, roughly chopped
3 button mushrooms
½ carrot, peeled
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp sweet chilli sauce
250g pork mince
Packet of 30 gow gee (or wonton) wrappers

Use a food processor or mini food processor to blitz together the vegies, garlic, ginger and sauces.

Add in the mince and blitz to a paste. Scoop heaped teaspoons of mixture into the centre of your wrapper. Use a finger dipped in water to wet half the circle, fold over and press well to form a seal.

Bring a saucepan of water to a strong simmer. Steam dumplings over it in a steamer basket or tray for 8-10 minutes until cooked through.

Serve these as is with soy sauce or in an Asian-style broth with some other vegies.


No food processor? Just finely chop, grate and mix ingredients in a bowl.

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June giveaway (and why I love bread)

Wasn’t there a lot of pressure a while back to give up bread? I was still working in magazine-land at the time and naught a model nor stylist nor photographer would DARE have it pass their lips (but then joyously they discovered QUINOA and were saved from the evil rampaging of processed carbs).

Me? I’ve always loved bread and have never had issues with it. A warm crusty baguette is pretty much as good as life gets. Sourdough downright seduces me and I find it IMPOSSIBLE to walk through Townhall station without grabbing a Luneburger loaf.

In the burbs I’ve always been happy with Bakers Delight bread, particularly the cape seed and the hi-fibre, low-GI white, which is a great option for the kids. So when they got in touch and asked to team up I was more than happy. You can see my recipes on their website here

In return, they’ve given me a bunch of prizes for my June giveaway. Up for grabs are two vouchers for $40 each and 5 kids merchandise packs which include a ruler, pencil case, pencils & lunch bag.

To enter you must be in Australia and you must be a Vegie Smugglers subscriber. Check out the Bakers Delight website and then comment below about which of their products is your favourite and what you like to do with it (stay nice!).

I’ll start… this is what I do with a slice of low-GI white…

Bread tart cases.

Bread tart cases.

Easy egg tarts

Cut a big round of bread from a slice, push it into a greased muffin tin, spray with oil and grill until a bit golden. Then pop in some prosciutto and cherry tomato before cracking in an egg (in a smaller muffin hole, you won’t fit all the egg-white). Then bake until set to your liking and sprinkle over salt, pepper, parmesan and parsley.

And there you have it, a gorgeous, quite posh looking egg tart, done with the minimum of fuss. Your turn…


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May giveaway time

Quinoa salad, made Mr M&P friendly with SAUSAGE.

Quinoa salad, made Mr M&P-friendly with SAUSAGE.

Forget the bowlo meat raffle – this month my giveaway PUTS IT TO SHAME. The Peppercorn Food Company are giving one Vegie Smugglers reader the chance to have the ultimate meat-fest with a prize pack crammed full of their sausages, rissoles and meatloaves.

They sent me a pack a few weeks back and it was good to remember that sometimes beef sausages taste like beef and pork ones taste like pork etc etc. I baked a beef meatloaf and we ate it sliced thin and cold on sandwiches, the pork one was cut up and chucked through fried rice. Some of the sausages were yummy on my quinoa salad (pic above, but I’m still tweaking the salad recipe) and the Italian ones were great in this sausage goulash. Don’t be scared of such a daggy sounding dish – it was a huge hit with the kids and anything that cooks in one pot is always a huge hit with me, too.

To enter, just comment below and let us know how you like to cook sausages for your family. Make sure you’re a Vegie Smugglers subscriber and also swing by the Peppercorn Food Facebook page (tell them I sent you).

Please note, that since the prize is perishable and needs careful refrigeration, the winner needs to lives in the Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth metro areas. Entries close 8pm AST, Sunday May 26. ***CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WINNER DABECS! NICE SUGGESTIONS ABOUT A GREAT SAUSAGE & PASTA RECIPE. HOPE YOU ENJOY YOUR MEGA MEAT TRAY!

Not too daggy for hungry kids.

Not too daggy for hungry kids.

Sausage goulash (no truly)

Usually in these saucy dishes, I’ll grate the carrot and zucchini, but I don’t recommend it here as it makes the texture a bit weird.

8 Peppercorn Food Italian sausages, thickly sliced (or if slicing raw sausage grosses you out, cook them whole and slice afterwards – takes longer but same result).
1 brown onion, diced
2 sticks celery, finely diced
1 large carrot, peeled, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
5-6 button mushrooms, very finely diced
1 zucchini, finely diced (peeled first if your kids hate green bits)
1/2 red capsicum, finely diced
1 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
800g can crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp brown sugar
Handful green beans, top & tailed & cut into 3cm lengths

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the sliced sausage and cook, stirring regularly for 10 minutes or so until cooked through. Remove and set aside.

Add in the onion, carrot and celery and saute for a few minutes, stirring regularly. Add in the garlic for another minute then also add the mushrooms, zucchini and capsicum. Cook the vegies, stirring constantly for another couple of minutes until they are all softening down nicely.

Scatter over the paprika. Stir and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Return the sausages to the pan then carefully pour over the tomatoes. Rinse out the can with about 1/4 cup of water and add that along with the sugar. Stir well. Bring to a simmer, turn the heat to low, cover and leave simmering away for about 5 minutes.

Remove the lid, add the beans. Taste and add pepper if you fancy it. Simmer for another couple of minutes then serve on pasta.

Serves 2 adults and 4 kids.

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Do your kids take you for granted?

Last year I was working two days a week, but since the closure of that magazine I’ve been home full-time. Luckily I have this business and a bit of freelance design work to keep me afloat.

I’d like to say the extra time at home makes me a better parent, but it doesn’t. I’m still snappy and impatient, although the house IS usually full of baked goods and the lunchboxes are a bit fancier.

Somehow I’m still just as busy, but the tasks I’m caught up in are more mundane. School canteen last Friday, netball gala day on Saturday, play dates over the weekend, parent supervisor at band yesterday and reading groups volunteer today. Apparently, once upon a time, there was a stack of mums to share all these tasks around. But these days we’re a bit slim on the ground, so out of obligation you pick up more and more (although I’m strongly resisting the P&C).

I don’t mind, I quite like it and maybe one day my kids will look back with affection at everything I did for them. It’s fair to say though, right now, they’re pretty comfortable taking me for granted and just expecting the house slave to be at their beck and call.

Being regular kids, they’ve phased in and out of periods of rudeness and have never been particularly thankful for my presence (perhaps that shows what a great job I’m doing at creating a secure environment). In the past I’ve not been bothered about it. When you’re working out of the home you have other stuff to think about. But when you’re parenting full time it’s hard not to take it all bit more personally. Finding job satisfaction at home can be difficult.

It’s the small signifiers that show me when I’m doing well, like when a meal disappears. Which this stir-fry has done every time I’ve made it. It’s really easy too. You can marinade the meat all day and have everything chopped ready to throw together at dinnertime.

Which is good, since we’re out three afternoons a week. The kids having lives and me being their taxi driver and chief spectator. Sigh.

I never take an easy, tasty and popular meal for granted!

I never take an easy, tasty and popular meal for granted!

Pork stir fry

400g pork fillet (you used to have to go to the Chinese butcher for this cut, but I’ve seen it in regular supermarkets now – see here)
1/2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine)
1-2 tbsp peanut oil
1 red onion, sliced in half moons
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1/2 red capsicum, cut into strips
1 carrot, peeled, cut into thin diagonal slices
Handful of green beans, trimmed
Handful of snowpeas, whole or in strips
Splash extra of shaoxing wine

Rice & coriander to serve

Slice the pork into thin, 5mm strips. Toss in a bowl with the 5-spice and sauces. Cover and refrigerate for as long as you’ve got (I do this in the morning and leave it all day)

Prepare all your vegies before you start cooking.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over high heat (as hot as you dare).

Add your oil (do not leave the kitchen!). Cook the pork in batches, stirring often until totally browned but not quite cooked through. This will take 1-2 MINUTES. That’s all! Keep it undercooked. KITCHEN TIP: Do cook the meat in batches – it is so quick to cook that it only takes a jiffie and will be about 10 times yummier than stewed, overcooked pork.

Remove the last of the meat and set aside. Reduce the heat slightly, return the pan and add more oil if needed. Stir fry the onion for a minute or so then add the ginger, capsicum and carrot. Keep it all moving for another minute before adding the beans and returning the meat and all the juices.

Cook everything for another minute, adding the shaoxing if the pan gets too dry.


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The want-a-thon

Miss Fruitarian wants a turtle. And a hamster. She wants real wings, a DS and pony called Sparkle.

Mr M&P wants the Harry Potter Lego game for (my) iPhone. And a second console for the PS3 (for daddy) and as much Chima Lego as he can get his hands on (even after seeing only one ad).

I want a nanny, a saxophone with a ‘silent’ switch, no cellulite and a daily foot rub from Hugh Jackman.

Mr VS is diplomatically coy about his desires, but I suspect he wants an extra hour in each day, children (and a wife) who know how to tidy up after themselves and a few hours alone with Megan Fox.

The kids also both want broccoli that tastes like chocolate, a mum who doesn’t insist on quite so much fresh produce and a new system of eating that involves the couch and interlocking straws.

Meanwhile, when I put this dinner down in front of the kids the other night, they didn’t really want it. It’s brown. But luckily we have the ‘two bite’ rule – that is, if I’ve bothered to make them dinner, then they need to show respect and take two big bites. Then, after genuinely trying, if they still don’t like it, I’ll give them some bread, a banana or extra yoghurt instead.

Turns out after two bites, they did want this after all. Because it’s yummy and two bites was all they needed to discover that.

slow cooker pea and ham soup

Tastes great with last week’s cheese muffins.

Slow cooker pea & ham soup

1 1/2 cups green split peas, rinsed well
1 brown onion, roughly diced
1 large carrot, peeled, diced
1 potato, peeled, diced
2 sticks celery, sliced
1 fresh bay leaf
1 kg ham hock
8 cups water
3 tbsp parsley
2 tsp thyme leaves
1/2 cup frozen peas

Place the rinsed split peas in the bottom of your slow cooker. Layer the vegies over the top. Add in the bay leaf and plonk the ham hock in the middle. Pour over the water, cover and set to cook on low for 7 1/2 hours.

Remove the hock, transfer to a plate and shred off the meat. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Use a stick blender to make the soup a nice creamy consistency.

Return the shredded ham to the cooker along with the herbs and frozen peas. Leave for another half hour until the peas are bright green.

Serves 2 adults and 4 kids


If your family likes soups, try out these….
Pumpkin Corn & Lentil
Witches Stew
Chicken & Udon


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