Archive for Ham/pork

You’re vegetarian, but the kids aren’t

So you’ve been a vegetarian for years, happily sitting on the bacon sidelines and letting the world of steaks, mince and roasts pass you by. But then you have a baby, who after a delightful vegetarian life reaches the 8-9 month mark and is ready for a bit more protein. What do you do?

Perhaps your reasons are ethical, environmental or just plain taste-based, you now have a bit of a dilemma about how to feed your family and do the best thing for your kids’ health.

There is no reason why you can’t raise vegetarian children. It does mean that you need to pay special attention to their diet to keep it nutritionally balanced. There’s a good article here and resource here to help guide you.

Kids need much less protein than we often think. Here’s a link to just how much they require. Often you can fill their need for animal protein with milk, cheese and eggs. Ideally though, you should take a visit to a nutritionist or dietician to ensure there is no deficiencies anywhere in your eating plan.

Possibly the biggest battle you’ll face is the opinions of concerned grandparents and friends who really can’t fathom that your little lovelies can survive without the occasional chop. And perhaps they have a point. Unless you’re being really vigilant, then it might be a good idea for the kids to get a little dose of animal protein and iron a couple of times a week. If you’re ok with this, then here are a couple of ways to do it without you having to handle meat too often.

Big batch and freeze it

Make double batches of bolognaise, fajita mince or chilli and freeze them in small portions. These lamb sausage rolls are also good. That night the kids can have their meat fix and you can enjoy your Indian-style tempeh all by yourself.

Versatile dinners

Heaps of dinners can be made to a point, and then modified to suit the meat and non/meat-eating members of your household. Cheesy pots can be customised easily, as can rice paper rolls (cookbook 2) and pasta bake (just make individual ones).

This recipe for Chinese meatballs is perfect too. Make a double batch and freeze them. Then next time you whip up a stir-fry, add a few reheated meatballs on top of the kid’s serve.

Remember, if handling meat is a problem for you, maybe ask the concerned grandparent if they wouldn’t mind whipping up a meatball care parcel for you from time to time. I reckon they’ll be so relieved that they’ll be happy to help.

vegie smugglers plum sauce chinese-style meatballs

Serve meatballs on whatever vegies and noodles you like. Top with another dollop of plum sauce and some coriander.

Chinese-style plum sauce meatballs

Canola oil spray
1 slice bread (any flavour)
1 large clove garlic
½ tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
1 zucchini
500g veal/pork mince
1 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp plum sauce
Sprinkle white pepper (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200C. Line an oven tray with foil and spray with the oil spray.

Use a food processor (I like my mini-one) to blitz the bread up into breadcrumbs. Add in the garlic and 5-spice and blitz so that all the crumbs are a garlicky-aromatic source of yum. Add to a mixing bowl.

Pulse or grate the zucchini and add the bowl. Also add in the mince and all the flavourings.

Wear kitchen gloves and mix this all together well (or you can do all this in a large food processor if excessive handling of meat makes you queasy). Roll into bite-sized balls and place on the oven tray.

Spray meatballs with oil spray and bake for 15 minutes. Remove, use tongs to carefully turn over, spray again and bake for another 10 minutes until cooked through.

Makes 30ish.

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The best way to smuggle… fennel (is in sausage rolls, of course!)

egg glaze for sausage rolls

Hide the sausage (roll).

So perhaps spring isn’t this vegie’s best time of year, but due to the supermarket’s supernatural powers, there were some good specimens staring at me the other day and I was inspired. Fennel is a divisive and often little loved vegie that even many adults baulk at. Not everyone loves the aniseed flavour. Which is a shame. When used well, it adds the best little dash of ‘noice & unuuuusssssual’ to a range of dishes.

After some thought, I decided the best way to entice you all to use it is to combine it with my most popular recipe of all time – sausage rolls. Consistently a winner with even the fussiest kids, a bit of puff pastry can hide a multitude of things – in this case it’s fennel, combined gorgeously with pork (which I don’t cook with often), apple, onion and carrot.

My kids were licking the plate at the end of this dinner, which is a rare and joyous occasion (last time it happened was this spaghetti carbonara). Anytime such a miraculous event occurs, I thank the gods and quickly dash to the computer to jot the recipe down. Et voila, a new family favourite to add to your repertoire.

Since the recipe only needs a cup of fennel, you’ll have leftovers. While the kids might not be so keen on it raw, I’m happy enough to eat it up sliced in green salads. And it’s also delish in this beef cannelloni.

vegie smugglers pork fennel apple sausage rolls

Smells fantastic and are seriously delicious.

Pork, apple & fennel sausage rolls

5 sheets puff pastry
500g pork mince
2 slices wholemeal (or white) bread
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 carrot, peeled, roughly chopped
1 small Granny Smith apple, quartered & cored
1 cup fennel, roughly chopped
1 stick celery, roughly chopped
1 red onion, peeled, roughly chopped
Pepper
1 egg, whisked, for sticking and glazing
Sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200C. Line an oven tray with baking paper.

Remove the puff pastry from the freezer. Separate out 5 sheets. Score down the middle with a sharp knife and snap into two long rectangles. Set aside to thaw while you mix the filling.

Add the mince to a large mixing bowl. Use a food processor (I use my mini one) to make this prep really quick. Add the torn up bread and garlic to the processor and blitz to make lovely garlic breadcrumbs. Add to the mince. Blitz the carrot and add to the bowl. Repeat with all the vegies. (I do them all separately as they need different amounts of chopping time – eg, the carrots can handle a good blast, but just pulse the apple, to avoid everything turning into pulp).

Sprinkle everything with a stack of pepper, then use your hands (wear kitchen gloves) to combine the mixture really well. Roughly divide into 10, to give you a idea of quantities, then shape into sausages and place down the centre (lengthwise) of your pastry rectangles. Make sure the filling goes right to the edges so that no-one gets ripped off!

Brush egg down one side then use the plastic backing to help you ease over the pastry. Peel back the backing sheet and seal edges together firmly.

At this stage, I cut the backing plastic down the middle and wrap it around the rolls to protect the pastry from drying out while I finish off. Work quickly on the rest. Set aside what you need for dinner tonight, then roll each of the remaining ones in a layer of cling wrap and pop into the freezer. (I freeze them on a tray, then transfer to a zip lock bag for even more protection against freezer burn).

Cut tonight’s up into whatever lengths you like, place on the oven tray, brush with egg and sprinkle over sesame seeds (if using). Bake for 25-30 minutes until cooked through. Serve with salad and these chips.

Makes 10 sticks (about 40 pieces).

DEFROST THESE: for 24 hours in the fridge, then once totally thawed, cook as usual.

NO FOOD PROCESSOR? Then buy breadcrumbs from the shops, grate the apple, carrot and onion and super finely dice the fennel and celery.

If you LOVE sausage rolls, check out this lamb sausage roll recipe too.

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Over-run with ninjas and a prodigy cat.

Exhibit A (by boy)

I’m thinking that I should contact the Guiness Book of Records to see if my pet might just qualify for the ‘most prolific use of a texta by a feline’ category. He’s been busy, my cat. Diligently studying the penmanship of Mr Meat&Potatoes, he’s now able to replicate my boy’s ninja drawings with spooky accuracy. They’re everywhere. On the outside of any available cardboard box, littered throughout my ream of office paper and also on the wall right next to Mr M&P’s pillow on his new bunk bed. It’s uncanny.

Exhibit B (by boy)

I was complimenting the cat, noting the intricate line work and attention to detail when Mr M&P decided to set me straight. He disputes that Oscar the golden tabby is quite so clever. He says that whilst the cat shows an amazing amount of talent, most of the pictures are actually his. In fact, ONLY the ones drawn directly on the wall were done by the cat. So perhaps my call to the Guiness book folks will be to find out if there’s a category for ‘best duplication of ninja drawings (in biro) by a rescue pet’.

Exhibit C (by boy)

I’ll keep you posted on what they say.

Exhibit D (by cat)

Perfect for light fingered ninjas, these low-mess meals can easily be gobbled by kids on the run (from the truth)…

Tuna bites recipes smuggles zucchini

A perfectly mouth sized dinner.

Vegie Smuggling chicken sausage rolls

Known to be a ninja favourite.

Okonomiyaki recipe

And they’re bound to love these.

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Divide and conquer with minestrone

Imagine if Australia was as fiercely food-parochial as Italy. Or maybe we are? In the same way that you’ll never get a risotto alla Milanese in Naples, you’ll be hard pressed to find a souvlaki in Sydney and you’d NEVER find a chiko roll in Bondi. Unless you were being cool retro, in which case you’d be having to eat it whilst wearing Le specs, your favourite pair of Okanuis and it would probably we served on a bed of shrimp foam. Hmmmm, ok, it might happen.

Anyway, regional food division is FIERCE in Italy, never more apparent than in their minestrone recipes. For me, being a bit of a bogan Australian, I like a classic winter-time thick soup – a cuddle in a bowl that warms my toes.

Controversy surrounded this soup in my house – both husband and daughter were unimpressed by the addition of cabbage. She thought it ‘gross’, he thought it ‘farty’. Mr M&P loved it all and so did I. So I’m leaving it as an optional ingredient and you can make the judgement call for whatever will suit your household.

Buon appetito!


Minestrone Soup

Olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
150g pancetta, diced
1 large carrot, peeled, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp tomato paste
400g can crushed tomatoes
1 ½ litres vegetable stock
1 zucchini (optional – they’re not great at this time of year)
Handful green beans (again optional, due to seasonality)
¼ small cabbage, sliced thinly (optional – see above)
½ cup peas
400g tin borlotti beans, rinsed, drained
¾ cup soup pasta (like rissoni)

Heat a large pot on medium heat. Add the oil and the onion, fry, stirring regularly for a couple of minutes. Add the pancetta, carrot and celery and continue to soften for 5-6 minutes.

Toss in the garlic for another minute, before adding the paste, tomatoes and stock. Stir well, bring to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes or so.

Add in the zucchini (if using), cabbage (if using), peas, beans and pasta and cook for another 8-10 minutes until everything is tender and delicious.

Season well with salt & pepper. Scatter over parsley and parmesan and serve with breadrolls.

With all the vegies, this makes enough for 2 adults and 4 kids.

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Supermarket memory games and Boston baked beans (TOOT TOOT)

So lucky I write these things down…

I’ve developed this amazing memory game for forgetful mums like myself, in need of some intellectual challenge. It goes like this…

Spend about 30 minutes menu planning for the week, then writing out a comprehensive shopping list with every single thing you need, vaguely sorted into aisle order. This will make your grocery shop as simple as possible so that you can spend the entire time on autopilot, letting your brain drift off elsewhere, like a beach, with a handsome man giving you a foot rub and thoughtfully applying sunscreen. ANYWAY. Pack the lunchboxes, get everyone dressed and off to school. Drive to the supermarket, remembering the reusable bags. Find a parking spot near the entrance, grab your bags, grab a trolley, roll into the store and spend the next few minutes checking every pocket like a flapping idiot before clearly remembering that the list is sitting on the kitchen bench at home.

Good game? I love it. I play it ALL THE TIME.

Yes, I know, there are apps to sort out this aspect of my life, but I’m old fashioned and find the act of writing lists surprisingly soothing. And generally the act of writing a word sticks it into my memory, which is handy, considering I’m now going to shop for a full week’s food without MY LIST.

Perhaps I should be pleased that my pass rate on this game is about 96%. The fun ‘marking’ bit of the game is when you get home, check through the list and realize that you‘ve only forgotten two things. FUCK FUCK FUCK. Almost always crucial items, which entails shifting meals around so that Tuesday’s dinner now becomes Monday’s, and Tuesday’s entertainment will be heading back to the supermarket for two missing items.

The silver lining is that today is only Tuesday and yet in a feat of time travelling mastery, I’m able to post a meal that I planned for Tuesday, since I had to make it on Monday. The fish sauce, which I needed for Monday night’s dinner will be procured today and used to make Tuesday night extra tasty.

Thankfully, this dish was a huge hit last night, which surprised me considering my kids are not big fans of tinned baked beans. Even better, the recipe uses treacle & mustard powder, items located but rarely used in my kitchen. I always feel good-homemaker-virtuous when I manage to run out of an ingredient before it reaches it’s use-by date.

Vegie Smugglers boston baked beans

Easy to make, freezes well, kids (and adults) love it.



Boston baked beans (with bacon & sausage)

4 sausages (tomato & onion flavoured ones are good)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion, peeled, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
150g bacon, excess fat removed, finely diced
2 tbsp treacle
2 tsp mustard powder (or 1 tbsp Dijon mustard would be nice, but I forgot to buy it)
400g can crushed tomatoes
400g can borlotti beans (rinsed & drained)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Bake the sausages for 25 minutes (turn once halfway through cooking) while you prepare everything else.

You need a covered casserole dish for this recipe – save time & washing up by using a stove to oven dish. Otherwise, fry everything off in a frying pan and transfer to an ovenproof dish…

Heat the dish/frying pan over medium heat. Add the oil. Chuck in the onion, carrot, celery and bacon and fry, stirring fairly often for 8-10 minutes until soft.

Add the treacle and mustard powder and combine well. Pour over the tomatoes, add in the drained beans, cover with a lid and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, let the cooked sausage cool enough to handle, then slice up.

After 30 minutes, remove the lid. Mix in the sausage and return the uncovered dish to the oven for another 10-15 minutes until thick and delicious.

Serve with green salad & a nice sourdough bread.

FEEDS 2 ADULTS & 2-3 KIDS.
__________________________________

If your kids like sausages don’t miss my sausage fried rice.

ON-SALE-GLUTEN-FREE

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Rice v. pasta

My first job was waitressing in an Italian restaurant.

The things I remember most about it were never remembering which way the coffee machine dial turned off (no-one ever told me ‘righty-tighty’), the embarrassment of returning to a table where I’d just been to admit that I’d just forgotten what they’d just ordered and one really busy night, after a quick loo break, running through the kitchen back into the restaurant with the back of my skirt tucked into my stockings.

Generally then, it’s safe to say that I was a crap waitress and the whole experience was vaguely traumatising.

For years afterward I didn’t touch pasta. And if I was held at knifepoint and ordered, “you must choose only one main meal carbohydrate for the rest of your life” I would happily marry rice and leave pasta, cous cous and potatoes behind forever.

Perhaps it’s karma then, for all the incorrect orders that I took, that my kids love pasta. I think nearly every kid in the whole wide world does. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that if your kid hates the stuff, they are weird. WEIRD.

Nutritionally, there’s nothing in pasta to get excited about. I’ve even seen it called BAD CARBS. Well said. Mind you, white rice falls into that category too so I guess my argument for rice is baseless and quite prejudiced. Did I mention that my kids don’t care about any of that and that they still LOVE PASTA? They do.

And so it’s been sneaking back into the house over the last few years. It’s still only once a fortnight or so, but now even I am a bit partial to a bolognaise or smoked salmon, dill & lemon or this spaghetti carbonara. On the scale of smuggling success, it’s fairly low, there’s little room to hide anything, but I still cram in spring onions and long strips of zucchini which just meld in(to the bacon fat).

It’s worth sharing, as it’s pretty much the only dish I’ve trialed this year that resulted in TWO EMPTY BOWLS, which is my version of THREE HATS, only better, cause there’s nothing to scrape before stacking the dishwasher.

vegie smugglers spaghetti carbonara

The pasta will win tonight.

Spaghetti Carbonara

3 eggs
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
400g spaghetti
2 tbsp olive oil
250g bacon, rind removed, large areas of fat removed, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
6 spring onions, sliced
2 zucchinis – use a peeler to slice into thin pieces, then cut vertically so that you have long spaghetti-like strands (whether you leave the skin in or discard it is up to you and what you need to do to get your kids to eat it).

Whisk the eggs in a small jug, mix through the cheese. Set aside.

Now do two things at once…
1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and cook spaghetti according to packet directions. Drain, drizzle over half the olive oil and mix through (tongs makes this easier).

2. Heat the rest of the oil in a frying pan, add the bacon and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the spring onions, garlic and zucchini and stir until the zucchini starts to wilt (about 2 minutes).

Return the drained pasta to the saucepan, pour over the vegies and use the tongs to mix a bit, then pour over the egg & cheese mixture. Combine quickly, season and serve, topped with optional parsley, pepper and extra parmesan.

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ON THE SEVENTH DAY (A serious case of the ‘can’t be bothered’s)

Vegie Smugglers baked eggs

A dinner to cook when you're not cooking dinner.

A while back I surveyed a few of you to find out more about your cooking habits. Admittedly, it was probably completed by those of you who enjoy being in the kitchen (so is statistically a total sham), but I thought it was interesting to see how often each week you make dinner.

Not a single family reported that they cook every night of the week. Most reported cooking (in some semblance) 6 nights with a takeaway on the 7th (which was usually pizza).

I think this is an outstanding effort! Well done all of you who manage to put a homemade meal on the table 6 nights a week!

This fits the pattern at my place. ON THE SEVENTH DAY I have no motivation or intention to cook anything. For us, that night is Friday night. At about 4pm I come down with the most severe case of ‘I’ve-been-cooking-all-week-and-all-I-will-reach-for-from-the-fridge-now-is-wine’ and the children’s hunger becomes extremely uninteresting to me.

But the pesky little rascals still need to be fed.

Seeing as we submitted to the mega-mortgage last year, any decent takeaway is a bit too $$$ for the budget (and despite my temporarily uninspired state, I still can’t face giving them the nasty takeaway options on a regular basis) so I opt for the cheap and cheerful ‘cooking when you’re not cooking’ options which can be made in 10 minutes from start to clean up.

High on the list is toasties. Multigrain bread, cheese, avocado, a bit of whatever vaguely slimy cold meat is left from the week and I’ll even sneak in a bit of tomato.

Muffin ‘pizzas’ are popular too, and even a bowl of baked beans/spaghetti combo with toast soldiers.

But ever since our trip to the country, but kids are HUGE fans of eggs. I have embraced them like a new best friend.

So pretty they are, full of protein, minerals and iron (and cholesterol – but kids don’t need to worry about that). And they’re so easy to cook. Boiled with soldiers is always a hit, and when I’m feeling a bit fancy, I roll out these…

Ham & egg yummies

2 slices ham, chopped
4–8 cherry tomatoes
100g roasted capsicums and/or zucchini
4 eggs
Handful of grated cheese
Parsley leaves

Divide the ham, tomatoes and capsicum between four shallow ovenproof dishes. Crack over the egg (whisked or whole is up to you). Scatter with cheese and black pepper.

Preheat grill to medium and cook for 3–4 minutes until the egg is set. Serve with parsley and fresh bread or toast soldiers.

MAKES 4

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Easily replaced (the ingredients, not you of course!)

vegie smugglers frittata recipe

Switch the flavours in this frittata often to keep dinner interesting

Don’t we all love a versatile recipe! You might possibly think that I would be a very well-stocked and organized cook (considering I’ve produced two cookbooks) and often I am (I do try to menu plan and do one weekly shop), but quite often I’m a harried and hassled mother who find herself sifting through a range of recipes and finding myself one crucial ingredient short each time.

Which I why I try to shove as many flexible recipes as possible into my cookbooks. Sure, if you don’t have meat, the chilli recipe isn’t going to work out so well, but generally I’m more than happy for you to swap ingredients to suit both the taste buds of your family and the contents of your fridge.

This frittata recipe is a perfect example. Keep the core recipe true (eggs/flour/cheese/milk etc), but vary the meat & vegie flavours as much as you like. Just keep the quantities vaguely equivalent and you’ll be right.

Mini frittatas

Canola oil cooking spray
1½ cups cooked small pasta (such as macaroni)
1 cup cauliflower, chopped super-fine (so it looks like you’ve grated it)
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, grated
2 cooked sausages, finely chopped
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
2 tsp chopped herbs (chives and parsley work best)
6 eggs
¾ cup milk
1 tsp minced garlic
¾ cup self-raising flour

Preheat oven to 180°C. Spray a 12-hole muffin tin with cooking spray (this is a recipe that works fantastically well using silicone muffin trays).

In a large bowl, mix together the pasta, vegies, sausage, cheese, herbs, salt and black pepper.

In another bowl or jug, combine the eggs, milk and garlic. Use a whisk to stir in the flour and remove any lumps (give it a good hard stir and they’ll come out). Pour over the dry ingredients and mix well
to combine.

Divide the mixture evenly between the muffin holes and bake for 20–25 minutes or until golden and set.

MAKES 12
____________________________
If you like this recipe, make sure you try…
Tuna & rice puffs
Salmon Pikelets
____________________________

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Because we all feed our kids sausages

Perhaps you’re a bit posh and they’re lamb & mint, garlic and beef or the good old mystery-meat-who-cares-just-chuck-them-on-the-bbq variety, but chances are your kids eat sausages. Up to 70% of Australian households eat them once a week (or so says a highly credible internet post) including mine. They are Mr Meat & Potatoes’ favourite dish.

I’ve got no great problem with this. I like everything in moderation, including my health food and my junk food. And it’s because I cram as many vegies into the kids as I can most of the time, that I’m not too fussed when they like to eat something for enjoyment rather than nutrition.

But a plain banger on a plate can be a little boring, so here’s my suggestion for a top-aussie bastardised dish that combines the lure of a chopped-up sausage with some vegies and rice. Make it Jasmine rice. Even though it’s the bad choice in terms of GI – we’re living DANGEROUSLY tonight.

sausage fried rice from vegie smugglers

Diffuse the sausages in this dish that packs in some vegies too.

Sausage fried rice

4 good-quality fresh sausages (such as gourmet beef & garlic)
1 tbsp peanut oil
6 spring onions,
thinly sliced
½ red capsicum, seeded, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled, grated
¾ cup frozen peas
125g can corn kernels, drained
3 cups cooked rice (any type will do but jasmine or long grain is best)
3 tbsp soy sauce

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place the sausages on the tray and bake for 25 minutes or until cooked through, turning halfway through cooking. Set aside. When cool enough to handle, slice in half lengthwise then cut across to make half-moons.

Heat the oil in a large wok or frying pan over medium–high heat. Add the spring onion and cook for 1–2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the capsicum, carrot, peas and corn and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the sausage, rice and soy sauce and stir-fry until piping hot.

SERVES 2 ADULTS & 2 KIDS

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What the kids eat in…. Japan (part 1)

Let’s trawl the recipes of the world to come up with some new ideas about how to get vegetables into our children. Known as “Japanese pizza”, the basic okonomiyake is a delicious cabbage pancake. It’s a great lunch option – healthier than a toasted ham sandwich and as quick to make.

Okonomiyaki recipe

Sneak cabbage and carrot in with this super-quick dish.



Okonomiyake

4 tbsp self-raising flour
3 tbsp water
1 egg
¼ cup diced ham (optional)
½ cup grated Chinese cabbage, finely shredded
¼ cup peeled, grated carrot
1 spring onion, finely sliced
Canola oil cooking spray

Mayonnaise, to serve
BBQ sauce, to serve

Put the flour in a bowl, add the water and stir well to remove any lumps. Add the egg and mix well. Stir in the ham (if using), cabbage, carrot and spring onion.

Heat a small non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray. Add the amount of mixture you want to get the pancake size you desire. Keep pancake 1cm-thick or less (otherwise it will be soggy in the middle).

Cook 3-4 minutes each side until golden. Place on a plate. Cover with a thin layer of mayonnaise and a swirl of BBQ sauce. Serve immediately.

SERVES 1 ADULT OR 2 KIDS

MAKE IT PRETTY by cooking the mixture in silicone egg rings which come in a variety of shapes.

This recipe is from my Kitchen Collection cookbook!

This recipe is from my Kitchen Collection cookbook!

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