Archive for Red meat

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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Speaking in tongues (how to nag in several languages)

A top Aussie winter. Noice.

A good winter day in Australia isn’t too bad, is it? Even I concede that a sunny day of 18 degrees isn’t worth a rumble of dissatisfaction. And there’s been a stretch of them lately. Just beautiful cool clear days that magically lift me off the couch, away from carbs and float me off into the neighbourhood walking about and realising just how unfit I am.

It appears I’m not alone. The other day there were people out EVERYWHERE. Walking. With dogs. With friends. Laughing even. The joy of vitamin D! And of course people were flocking to their gardens – raking, weeding, smiling and just ‘being’ with nature.

The spell was broken though, by the cranky sounds of a mum screeching at her children. Let’s just say I’m familiar with the tone. As I got closer I realised that the words were in French and I couldn’t understand any of it. It was unmistakable though – the (well dressed) kids were giving the (well dressed) mum the shits.

Perhaps it was the general blissful tone of the day, but it did occur to me how much better pestering and nagging the kids sounded in another language. Lifting the everyday nasty into a realm of sophistication.

So with that in mind I’ve compiled a little phrase book with all sorts of useful sentences that you can whip out when your own English phrases are getting a bit well worn.

(French) Ne vous asseyez pas sur votre sœur.
(English) Don’t sit on your sister.

(Italian) Tirare su i pantaloni.
(English) Pull your pants up.

(Dutch) Leg de slak
(English) Put down the snail.

(Afrikaans) Raak nie.
(English) Don’t touch it!

(Russian) То, что вода или Ви?
(English) Is that water or wee?

With the discipline done, feed the kids this dish for dinner. It’s a ‘casserole’, which is much fancier than a ‘stew’, and technically it is different. A stew is cooked on the stovetop, a casserole in the oven. My kids like the flavor of this one, but not the texture of the butter beans, so when I serve theirs, I hack away with scissors until it’s all a jumble, then tidily plop a few dumplings on top. They eat it. Suckers.

Yum in any language.

Best ever dumpling-topped, beef casserole

Olive oil
600g chuck steak, cubed
Plain flour
1 onion, diced
1 leek, tough green bits removed, diced
2 carrots, peeled, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large parsnip, peeled, diced
3 cups beef stock
1 cup red wine (the better the wine, the better the casserole!)
1 tbsp Worcester sauce
1 cup peas
1 can butter beans, rinsed, drained

Dumplings
1 cup self-raising flour
60g butter, chopped into little cubes
2 tbsp parsley (I like the flavour of curly parsley in this)
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
1 egg
3-4 tbsp milk to bind

Use a large stove to oven dish (with a lid) for this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Heat the dish over medium/high heat. Toss the meat in flour & shake off excess. Add the oil and brown on all sides. Remove and set aside.

Lower to heat to medium, add more oil if necessary and saute the onion , leek, carrot and celery. Stir frequently for several minutes until the vegies start to soften. Add the parsnip for a minute or two more, then return the meat, add in the stock, wine and Worcester sauce.

Give it a good stir, removing any stuck bits to the bottom. Cover with a lid and transfer to the oven for 1 hour.

While that’s cooking, make the dumplings: In a large mixing bowl, rub the butter into the flour (no need to sift). Mix in the parsley, cheese and egg. Add enough milk to bind it all into a sticky dough. Wear gloves or use spoons to roll or shape the mixture into about 18 bite-sized balls and set aside.

After an hour, remove the pot from the oven and remove the lid. Stir in the peas and beans. Season to taste. Pop the dumplings over the top and return, uncovered to the oven for another 30 minutes or until the dumplings are golden and cooked through.

Serves 2 adults and 2 kids.

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Dad is fun. Mum is mad.

I’ve become the ‘writing lady’ at my kindy reading groups. Each week, armed with white boards, markers and plenty of patience (I stay firmly focused on getting home afterwards to a cup of tea and a sit down) I teach rotating groups of 5 year olds (the groups rotate, not the children) how to write beautiful sentences. Unlike my verbose writing style, I’m finding at this stage that their sentences are much more statement-like. Stating truths and myths from life as a kindy kid. It’s pretty interesting. Fact.

Today they had laminated sentence starters that they had to copy down and then they got to finish off with whatever words they liked. Conversation starters like, “I can…”, “I went…”, “My family…”. And of course “Dad is…”, and “Mum is…”.

Without fail, Dad was fun. Every time. Sometimes fun. One was funy. Another funne. One other funee. But always upbeat, jovial, joking, FUN.

Generally, Mum was mad. One mum was nortee (naughty). One mum was sad.

Now, I’ve noted in my own life, that dad is fun and mum is mad. So perhaps it is a universal truth. What do you think, is this the case at your house? Or maybe the genders aren’t important and actually it’s the primary caregiver that has the shits most of the time and whichever parent arrives home in time to read a book and have a cuddle at bedtime finds it much easier to remain AWESOME.

Or perhaps it was just a morning for clichés. Even without overhearing each other, the same word patterns got repeated again and again. Pretty much all the kids had also apparently been shopping or to the zoo on the weekend (“I went…sopig”), and they all like treats (“I like… pinc cak”).

Which seems like a perfect segue into food clichés, except we don’t cast such a negative connotation on them if we call them ‘classics’, which is what this beef stew is. It’s a slow-cooker classic, bubbling away for 8 hours in its glorious simplicity. I’ve been trialing a bunch of fairly similar ‘casseroles’ and this is my current favourite. This version (based on a Women’s Weekly recipe) is gluten free, but if you prefer to toss the meat in flour before you brown it, feel free – you’ll end up with a thicker gravy. If you don’t, make sure you pat the meat with paper towel to dry it off before you chuck it in the pan.

slow cooker beef stew casserole

Before I could photograph it, it was eaten or frozen…

Beef & vegie slow cooker casserole.

1.5kg chuck steak, cut into large chunks
Olive oil for frying
2 large brown onions, cut roughly
2 large (or 3 smaller) carrots, peeled, chopped into thick rounds
3 stalks celery, chopped thickly
2 medium parsnips, peeled, chopped into chunks
1 swede, peeled, chopped into chunks
4 cloves garlic, crushed (use fresh garlic)
¼ cup tomato paste
400g can diced or crushed tomatoes
1½ cups beef stock (Massel brand is gluten free)
2 Bay leaves
Half a bunch of thyme
1 zucchini, sliced into rounds (optional)
8-10 button mushrooms, sliced (optional)

Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium/high heat. Once hot, brown your meat in batches, turning to seal all sides (yes, this may take 20 minutes or so to get through all of the meat, but the flavour will be AWESOME, and you can chop up the vegies while you’re doing it). Tip each batch into a 5.5ish litre slow cooker after it’s done.

Add more oil then fry off the onions, carrot and celery for 2-3 minutes, then add the garlic for another minute (add it later so it doesn’t burn). Tip into the cooker.

Add more oil and fry off the parsnips & swede for 2 minutes. Take the pan off the heat, splash in a bit of stock to loosen all the yummy stuff stuck on the pan and and also tip this into the cooker, along with the rest of the stock, tomato paste & tin of tomatoes plus the herbs. Mix everything in, set the cooker to ‘low’ and leave for 8 hours.

If you’re out all day, then don’t worry about adding in the zucchini & mushrooms, but if you’re home after 6 hours, add these in, give everything a mix and leave it for another 2 ¼ hours (this extra cooking time makes up for you lifting the lid).

MAKES ENOUGH FOR 4 ADULTS & 6 KIDS

Have you got a link to a slow cooker recipe? Add it below – I’m going crazy with mine at the moment and am on the lookout for some tried and tested awesomeness.

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

ON-SALE-GLUTEN-FREE

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