Boozy Beef (slow cooker)

Boozy beef - a pot full of yum.

Ladies and Gents I present to you a simple recipe that does NOT contain turkey!

 Yayyyyy!

This recipe started its life as Boeuf à la Flamande or Flemish beef, known in this particular household as Beef in Beer.

I got the recipe from a book called The Rustic Table and I adapted it for use in my trusty slow cooker – because why not? It does use a frying pan at the very beginning, but not for long and you can skip that step if you really want.

It’s incredibly simple and my meal of choice for small dinner parties, especially during winter.  A good dollop of this, served on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes, makes it much easier to brave the cold.

It’s just as good in the Australian summer – because beer.

Now beer is not a staple in this household, but The Boy went to great lengths to find just the right one for this dish. I actually can’t tell you which one he ended up getting, but it worked…

That’s not particularly helpful is it? Go with something dark, but not black, maybe – and this is a stab in the dark – something Belgian, and you should be fine. Having said that though, I have made this with apple cider and it was delicious, so don’t stress.

You’ll also want to get a few other ingredients, like beef and stuff.

Sorry. I’ll behave.

Ahem.

This is a recipe that can quite easily be made gluten-free for any coeliacs on your guest list. Simply use cornflour or cornstarch in place of the plain flour and you’ll be golden.

[edit: I’ve been reminded that beer is not gluten-free. I’m an idiot. Please ensure you use a brew that doesn’t contain malts or other anti-coeliac nasties. Cider should be fine.]

You’ll need one and a half kilos of boneless chuck steak that has been trimmed of its fat and cut into 2 cm cubes. If you don’t like handling meat simply ask the butcher to do this for you. Then place a good cup or so of your flour of choice into a large plastic bag and season it well with salt and pepper. This mix is used to coat your beef cubes. The flour will help to thicken your sauce once the liquid is added, so don’t skip the coating stage.

Basically, take a few of your cubes, add them to the bag of flour, pinch the top closed and shake it until they are covered in flour.

Coat your beef in seasoned flour.

Coat your beef in seasoned flour.

Or you could do the whole lot at once if you are short of time or patience. Like I did. (see above)

The end result.

The end result.

In your frying pan, melt a little butter and add some oil – the oil is there to stop the butter from burning. Now you want to gently fry your cubes of beef just long enough to brown them all over, but not cook them through.

This part can be skipped, but the caramelization that happens here will add a depth of flavour to your stew that makes it well worth doing.

Shake off each piece of beef as you remove it from the bag and place it gently into the pan. Only brown off a few cubes at a time as this will help to keep the temperature of the pan stable and help the meat to brown rather than steam.

Brown your meat.

Brown your meat.

When they are suitably tanned, remove them to a piece of paper towel to drain and continue the process until all of the beef is done.

The browned beef, resting.

The browned beef, resting.

I admit to putting the drained beef into the slow cooker pretty much as each batch is done, but I’m an experienced cook who knows what they’re about. Once I’ve got an assembly line happening, it’s all systems go. You may need to take it slower. Nevertheless, when your beef is all seared and sealed, dump it into your slow cooker. Mine was a 5 litre or 4 quart size. Turn the slow cooker to LOW and put the lid on while you do the next steps.

Make sure your frying pan is off the heat, but keep it handy. You’ll be using it again soon.

The next step is cutting up quite a few onions; 5 to be precise. You’ll want nice medium-sized ones – something you can hold easily in the palm of your hand. Peel them and cut in half, then slice into wedges so that they look like crescent moons.

Wear sun glasses or swimming goggles if your eyes are sensitive.

Wear sun glasses or swimming goggles if your eyes are sensitive. Not joking.

Get your pan back on the heat and, when it is warm enough, add your onions, stirring gently for five minutes or so. You want them to be just starting to soften and browning on the edges.

These are just starting to brown on the cut surfaces.

These are just starting to brown on the cut surfaces.

Using a slotted spoon remove them to the slow cooker too, leaving the juices in the pan. Place the lid back on the slow cooker and the pan back on the heat.

Add the herbs to the frying pan, along with some brown sugar, a touch of red wine vinegar and about 2 cups of beer. Stir, scraping the bottom of the frying pan to deglaze it.

You want to get all the crispy bits left from the browning process as they will add even more flavour to your stew.

Bring the liquid to a simmer.

It will smell amazing.

It will smell amazing.

Turn off the heat. Remove the lid from your slow cooker and pour the entire contents of the pan into it.

Your work here is done.

Your work here is done.

Place the lid back on and turn the dial to HIGH and cook for 3-4 hours, or leave it on LOW and cook for 4-6 hours. Do all your washing up and walk away until you need to prepare your side dishes.

The sauce will thicken as it cooks.

Boozy beef - a pot full of yum.

Boozy beef – a pot full of yum.

Remove the Bay leaves and serve over mashed potatoes or with a creamy polenta. Some steamed asparagus spears or Bok Choy will provide an ideal splash of green.

This will keep quite nicely in the refrigerator for up to 5 days once cooked.

Boozy Beef (slow cooker)

  • Servings: 6 -8
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients

1.5 kg boneless chuck or shoulder roast, well-trimmed of fat and cut into 1 inch cubes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup Plain flour (or corn flour if gluten intolerant)

¼ cup unsalted butter

¼ cup olive oil

5 medium onions, cut into thick wedges

3 garlic cloves, sliced (or 3 teaspoons garlic from a jar)

2 bay leaves

¼ tsp dried thyme

2 tbsps brown sugar

2 tbsps red wine vinegar

2 cups Belgian ale or dark beer (or coeliac friendly cider)

Method

Place the flour into a large plastic bag and season well with salt and pepper. Add the beef to the flour a few cubes at a time and toss to coat well.  Remove from the bag, shaking off the excess flour.

In a heavy-based, fairly deep frying-pan, heat the oil and melt the butter over medium-heat.

Brown the beef cubes a few at a time to avoid crowding, turning to colour them on all sides. Each batch will take about 5 mins. Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon to drain off excess fat on paper towel.

Remove the pan from the heat and place the beef into a large (3-5 litre) slow cooker set to LOW.

Place the pan back on the heat and add the onions, tossing until they are beginning to soften and brown on the edges. This will take around 5 minutes, add more butter or oil if necessary.

Add the onions to the beef in the slow cooker.

To the frying pan add the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, brown sugar, beer and vinegar. Bring to a simmer while stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze it.

Once it has started to simmer, remove from the heat and pour it over the onions and beef in the slow cooker.

Replace the lid and cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours, or leave it on LOW and cook for 4-6 hours.

Sauce will thicken in the pot.

Remove bay leaves just prior to serving. Spoon over mashed potatoes or polenta for a simple, filling meal.

Keep in an air tight container in the refrigerator for 5 days once cooked.

 

 

 

 

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Cheesy Spinach Parcels

I simply adore toasted pine nuts.

I think I mentioned a little while ago that the Budget Bounty household now has a plot at the local Community Garden.

This has been an adventure over the last few months as we have managed to grow things quite well, without actually growing anything to harvest, viz our Brussels Sprouts were overwhelmingly Brussels with nary a sprout in sight. *sigh*

We have, however, cracked the Silverbeet growing thing. You might call it Chard, or Spinach or some such, but I grew up calling this particular leaf Silverbeet. It’s thick, it’s squeaky (!) and we have oodles of it – although I think it may be about to go to seed.

I also don’t like it very much. Don’t tell The Boy, please.

He does like it. Very much. So, having returned from our last visit to our patch with several armfuls of the stuff, I had to find something to do with it all! There was no way it was all going to fit into the refrigerator and the weather we are currently experiencing would see it wilt to inedible in no time. So I cooked it.

I washed it, shook it dry, tore the leaves off the stems and crammed them all into my largest pot, with the lid on and over the lowest heat – and just let it all wilt. I ended up with this.

Cooked Spinach

Cooked Spinach

Looks attractive, dunnit?

I now had a large glass container full of spinach to contend with, but there was no rush to do it. A breather had been orchestrated. Yay.

I wanted to make a Spanakopita that I had made before from www.Food.com (way back when it was still Recipezaar) but I just don’t have the energy right now to give it the attention it deserves. So I searched the Interwebz and my recipe books for things-that-look-like-a-thing-but-aren’t-quite and got overwhelmed by it all.

I bought Feta cheese, I bought Ricotta cheese, I thought about buying Filo/Phyllo pastry and then mentally backhanded myself for even considering it, so I bought puff pastry instead… and I still didn’t know what I was going to do.

This is Not. Like. Me.

So I took bits from everywhere and basically made something up. The something I made up was a hit with The Boy, who took one mouthful and exclaimed, “You have to post this!”

This is me, doing as I was told.

Let me start by saying you could use Filo pastry for this if you wished. I just don’t have the co-ordination to deal with it at the moment. I used a 1 kg packet of puff pastry sheets that I had thawed in the refrigerator, and they did the trick beautifully. If you want to make your own, then all power to you.

Store bought Puff Pastry. Sue me.

Store bought Puff Pastry. Sue me.

Then I got out my food processor, because knives and I are not a good combination right now.

Into the processor bowl went various things, starting with 100 g of the cooked spinach – weighed after I had squeezed most of the water out of it.

Cooked, squeezed spinach in a bowl I later managed to break.

Cooked, squeezed spinach in a bowl I later managed to break.

Then I added a drained can of chickpeas. These were some I had canned myself with the addition of a touch of Cashew Za’atar, but a normal store-bought tin will do just fine. I put these in because I wanted to add a depth of flavour and texture. I was worried that, if I just made it with cheese, spinach and puff pastry, it would be a little insipid and watery. This would make it more filling and ground it a little (I hoped).

Add some chickpeas

Add some chickpeas

Then I added 100 g each of Feta and drained Ricotta.

Prepare to be blended.

Prepare to be blended.

And whizzed it all up to a nice puree.

Gotta love technology.

Gotta love technology.

Then I decided that I didn’t want it to be all bland mushiness inside and toasted up a spoonful or so of pine nuts to stir through.

Stir them through, don't whaz them!

Stir them through, don’t whaz them!

About this time, I turned the oven on and retrieved the pastry from the fridge. Which is when I had to figure out how to attack this. The pastry sheets look kind of uninspiring. But I got one out, keeping it on the dividing sheet of plastic – which later came in quite handy.

Blank canvas.

Blank canvas.

I figured that one sheet would make two good sized pastries or hand pies. So I got out a sharp knife and scored it down the centre.

Let’s just skip over the fact that I then dropped the knife and it plunged, tip-first, a good centimetre into the hardwood floor right beside my foot…  Ahem.

The pastry and said knife.

The pastry and said knife.

I meditated for a bit, then filled a coffee mug with some cold tap water. I dipped two fingers into this and ran them around the outermost edges of the pastry sheet and on either side of the score line, rewetting as necessary.

Then I very precisely dolloped some of the puree into the middle of the top of the pastry strips. Like so.

Behold! The dollop!

Behold! The dollop!

For those who want to know the precise volume of the dollops – I dunno. Try about ¼ – ½ a cup’s worth.

You’re welcome.

Then I folded it in half, bottom to top, still leaving the plastic attached. Once the corners were matched, I pressed down quite firmly with my fingertips, going all around the outside and down both sides of the middle score line. Then I peeled the plastic back.

Look what I did!

Look what I did!

I wanted them to brown up a bit while they cooked, so I broke an egg into a small jug and beat it a little with a fork for an egg wash. First though, I grabbed another fork and pressed quite firmly around all the edges with it. Then I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper and transferred the parcels onto it.

I don’t have photos of this, but I slid an egg flip under them and turned them bare-side down onto my other palm. This let me remove the rest of the plastic. Then I placed them with that side down onto the baking sheet.

Ready to go.

Ready to go.

I could only fit two on to the sheet as I didn’t wish to crowd them. Using a pastry brush, I glazed them with the egg wash and popped them in the oven for 15 minutes.

It worked.

I'm quite pleased with that, really...

I’m quite pleased with that, really…

Then I immediately plated one up and served it to The Boy. History was made.

This is a bread and butter plate, so they are quite large.

This is a bread and butter plate, so they are quite large.

I baked another four to have as lunches throughout the week. The rest I flash froze after glazing. Then, when they were chilled sufficiently, transferred to a large bag for longer term storage. I’m not quite sure how long they would take to cook from the freezer, but I’m going with 30 minutes until proven wrong.

Cheesy Spinach Parcels

Cheesy Spinach Parcels

Enjoy.

Cheesy Spinach Parcels

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients

1 kg packet puff pastry sheets (you want 6), defrosted.

100 g of cooked spinach, squeezed as dry as you can (you can use frozen spinach from the supermarket, defrosted)

400 g tin chickpeas, drained

100 g feta cheese

100 g ricotta cheese, drained a little

1 tsp dried dill (optional)

¼ cup pine nuts (optional)

Cup of luke warm water for sealing

1 egg, beaten slightly

Method

Note: Keep the packet of puff pastry in the fridge. Remove one sheet at a time and replace the rest of the packet in the fridge while you are working with that one. This will keep the pastry relatively firm and make it easier to work with.

Preheat the oven to 220ºC/450°F.

Line one or two baking sheets with baking paper.

In a food processor bowl, combine spinach, chickpeas, feta and ricotta cheeses.

Add dried dill, if liked. Other spices or herbs may be used according to your preference.

Process until the chickpeas are fully incorporated.

Remove to a small bowl.

In a small frying pan, toast the pine nuts over a low heat until lightly browned and fragrant. Approx. 3-4 minutes. Watch them carefully to avoid scorching.

Add pine nuts to contents of bowl and stir through.

Take one sheet of puff pastry. Using a sharp knife score down the middle, dividing it into two rectangular strips of equal size.

Using the cupful of warm water, dampen your index and middle fingertips and run them around the outer edges of the pastry surface as well as down both sides of the centre score line. This will help the pastry joins to seal and avoid the filling leaking out during baking.

In the middle of the top half of each strip place several large spoonfuls of spinach and cheese mixture. The exact amount will depend on the size of the pastry sheet you are using.  It should be around ¼ – ½ a cup of the mixture.

Then fold the bottom of the pastry sheet (including the plastic lining) over the filling, matching the corners and pressing firmly. Using your fingertips, press each edge together including the one with the fold. You should have two nicely sealed pockets of pastry.

Peel back the plastic.

If you wish, you can now use a fork to crimp the edges you just pressed together with your fingertips. This is optional, but may give you a much better seal.

(And it looks pretty 😉 )

Transfer the pastry packets to a lined oven tray with the crimped edge upwards. You may only be able to fit two to a tray.

Take a pastry brush and paint the top of each parcel with the beaten egg. It doesn’t need to be done thickly.

This will help to get a golden finish on the pastry as it bakes.

Bake in oven for 15 minutes and eat immediately or remove to a rack to cool.

Prepare the next lot of parcels as the previous batch bakes.

To store: cool thoroughly on a rack before placing in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Eat within 3-4 days.

To freeze: prepare up to the egg wash stage. Place on a flat surface in the freezer and leave for 30 minutes. Once frozen, transfer to a sealed container or freezer bag.

To reheat from frozen: place in a 220°C/450°F oven for 30 minutes until puffed and golden brown.

To serve: May be eaten on its own as a light meal or lunch or served with a salad for a main course.

Jam drops (Thumb-print biscuits)

Jam drops

Jam drops are an old-fashioned biscuit that remind me of my childhood any time I see them. They were a standard addition to my lunch boxes throughout our primary school years, and I’m pretty sure they still are for a number of lucky kids today.

I remember that, when I was little, I used to have a ritual of nibbling very slowly around the edge of these biscuits until only the jam-filled centre was left –  leaving the best till last.

These are some of the easiest biscuits you will ever make. They aren’t a cookie. They should be crisp – not soft and cakey like a cookie is. This relative hardness is what makes them such a good lunch box treat as they won’t turn to crumbs during the journey to school.

You can fill them with whatever jam you have and like; strawberry jam is traditional. However, you could also use your own home-made lemon butter and I have used dulce de leche quite successfully. It’s up to you.

You can also make these quite easily with children as your apprentices. If you are in the grips of an ‘OMG it’s the school holidays and they are looking bored, help me!’ panic attack, then here you go. I’ve even included instructions for cleaning up along the way.

You’re welcome.

The first thing to do is to decide which jam you are going to use.

Home made jams

Home made jams

This recipe is ideal for using up the last few teaspoons of a jar that has been lurking unloved in the refrigerator for a while – because no one ever  wants to use that last little bit, do they?

I didn’t have anything that was opened and so I decided to use one of the jars I had put up earlier this year.

The Boy prefers things that aren’t marmalade, so that narrowed it down to the crabapple jam. Easy.

Begin by creaming together the room-temperature butter and the sugar.

Cream butter and sugar.

Cream butter and sugar.

Then add a pinch of salt, a splash of vanilla extract and two eggs. Beat again.

Add eggs and flavourings.

Add eggs and flavourings.

In a medium size bowl, sift together some plain flour and baking powder.

Sift together the flour and baking powder.

Sift together the flour and baking powder.

Add the flour to the butter mixture and stir well to combine.

To help keep your kitchen under control, fill the bowl you sifted the flour into with warm water and washing-up liquid/dish soap. Now is the time to put any electric mixer away. Wipe it down (if necessary) and place the beaters in the bowl of water along with any measuring cups and spoons you have used.

Turn your oven on to 180°C/350°F and line a baking tray with paper.

Take small spoonfuls of batter and roll into small balls the size of walnuts…or use a 1″ ice cream scoop, like I do.  Don’t overcrowd the tray as the batter contains butter and will spread as the butter melts…

Using a (well-washed) thumb of a nearby child or the end of a wooden spoon handle, make an indentation in the top of each ball. Don’t go all the way through to the tray.

Make little cups for your jam.

Make little cups for your jam.

Now, carefully spoon a little bit of jam into each dent.  If you are the adult, you may wish to do this or risk having most of the jam licked off fingertips instead of going into your biscuit!

Fill your cups.

Fill your cups.

Bake for 15 to 20 mins until golden brown – check after 10 minutes.

While your first tray is in the oven, prepare your second batch of biscuits and then do the washing up that has been soaking in the bowl of warm sudsy water. You’ll have plenty of time.

Baked jam drops.

Baked jam drops.

Allow to cool on a rack. Remember hot jam can BURN. Do not eat the biscuits until they are properly cool.

If you are the responsible adult, the best answer to the question, “When can we try them can I have one?” is after the last batch is baked. You’ll get at least three trays of eight from this mixture.

The jam when I started...

The jam when I started…

As you put the last batch into the oven, add the bowl and jam spoon to the sink and wash them up. All the washing up is now done. Wipe down the benches while the last tray of biscuits is in the oven.

You probably won’t need to wash the trays if you have been using baking paper. Just let them cool and put them away later. Unless, of course, you are an Outstandingly Conscientious Domestic engineer – in which case, go ahead. Ahem.

Serve with milk or a nice cuppa. Store in an airtight container for as long as you have any left.

This is my mother’s recipe.

Jam Drop Biscuits

  • Servings: makes 24
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients

125 g butter, room temperature

¾ cup (165 g) sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch salt

1 cups (300 g) plain flour

2 tsps baking powder

1/3 cup (100 g) jam or jelly of your choice

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two baking trays with paper.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together.

Add the salt, vanilla extract and eggs and beat well.

Into a medium-sized bowl sift together the flour and baking powder.

Add the sifted flour to the butter mixture and stir until well combined.

Roll tablespoons of the mixture between your palms to make small balls about the size of a walnut.

Place balls onto prepared baking trays, leaving room for them to spread as they bake.

Use your thumb, or the end of a wooden spoon handle, to make small indentations in the top of each ball.

With a teaspoon, spoon a little jam into each dent – Don’t overfill.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, checking after the first 10 mins. They are done when golden brown.

Allow to cool thoroughly before eating.

Store in an airtight container.

...and the jam left when I was finished.

…and the jam left when I was finished.

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Howdy do,

Today was very productive as far as the kitchen goes.

Yesterday, saw a lot accomplished elsewhere: lawns mowed, lawns fed, loads of laundry, etc. Oh and the Accidental Cat decided that I was okay and we were going to be friends after all. Naw!

Jam drops

Jam drops

Today, I harvested some silver-beet from our ‘allotment’, went out to take my first steps on our land – now the big, water-filled barriers to the development have been removed (and did a private little ‘happy dance’ in the rain) – then came home and baked biscuits and put dinner in the slow cooker, before The Boy reappeared from his travels.

So, dinner tonight was some slow-cooker Mongolian Beef that I jazzed up a bit – because that’s how I roll.

Do you remember the red basmati rice that I purchased way back here?

Red Basmati Rice.

Red Basmati Rice.

Yeah. I’d forgotten about it too until I came upon it during a small (very small)  tidying frenzy yesterday. So tonight I cooked it up with some regular basmati. Then, during that last five minutes off the heat, I put the smallest of the silver-beet leaves that I harvested today into the pot and replaced the lid. That way they wilted a little without cooking too much.

Red and White Rice and Silver-beet.

Red and White Rice and Silver-beet.

It all looked very pretty in the bowl. Then I topped it with the beef, and it tasted pretty darn good. The recipe is a keeper, I think.

Slow-cooker Mongolian Beef

Slow-cooker Mongolian Beef

So now, I’m going to sit down and write a post about those biscuits for all of you in the Land of Oz with kids on school holidays and the weather snapping cold again.

See how I think about you?

Naw!

Traffic lights = antioxidants galore.

Hi everyone,

sorry I wasn’t on last night. I had my semi-annual review with my neurologist yesterday. This is an occasion which takes a lot out of me emotionally, so I came home and curled up into a small ball before the television and stayed there. Surrounded by cats.

Toasted sandwiches were had for dinner.

Today, however, I greeted the dawn mid-morning with renewed vitality and went out to shop.

We don’t really need that much at the moment, so I stocked up on baking supplies and bought a fair amount of meat – for us anyway.

H ere is the breakdown. For all my new readers *waves hello!* a gentle reminder that the prices are in Australian Dollars (AUD) so, if you are in the USA, you could probably comfortably halve the amount mentioned. Okay? Moving on then…

At Aldi was bought:

Dry goods.

   Dry goods.

  • 1 x 397 g tin condensed milk              $1.69
  • 1 x 400 ml tin coconut cream             $0.89
  • 1 x 225 g olive oil spray                        $2.99
  • 1 x 800 g tin apple pie filling               $2.99
  • 1 x 500 g baking soda                           $1.79
  • 1 kg Self-raising flour                           $0.75
  • 1 kg Plain flour                                       $0.75
  • 2 kg sugar                                                $1.79
  • 2 x 1 litre UHT milk                                $1.80
  • 2x largish sweet potatoes                   $3.38

Total = $18.82

I also bought meat at Aldi

Freezer stuffers

Freezer stuffers

  • 1 kg of middle rasher bacon         $7.69
  • 1.5 kg chuck steak                         $16.41
  • 500 g kassler steaks                        $4.78

Total = $28.88

Then I toddled off to the green grocer and bought the following:

Traffic lights = antioxidants galore.

Traffic lights = antioxidants galore.

  • bok choy                                           $1.59
  • zucchini                                             $3.92
  • pumpkin                                           $3.46
  • red capsicums                                 $2.38
  • cup mushrooms                             $2.50

Total = $13.85

Then I went to Woolworths and gathered a few things there:

  • 1 litre Soy Milk                                 $2.99
  • Tartaric Acid                                     $2.75
  • wonton skins                                   $2.60
  • Beer batter chips                            $3.00

Total = $11.34

Grand total = $72.89

Which leaves me $27.11 for anything else that may occur to me during the next fortnight.

I also bought a 1.5 litre (1 quart) slow cooker at Woolies for a student friend of ours who is doing it hard at the moment. It cost $20 and, if an opportunity to give it to them doesn’t present itself sooner, it will make an excellent Christmas gift. It’s only a few months away you know!

I’d not seen Kassler steaks before – so they were the “fun” thing for this shop. They’re thick slices of ham, and no doubt I shall find a use for them.

I bought the tartaric acid for the ginger beer I’m attempting to make; apparently it’s not the same thing as Cream of Tartar, which would be why my first attempt was rather lack lustre. Sigh.

The won ton skins will enable me to restock the freezer with gyoza-like dumplings at some stage. In fact, I might use some of the remaining money to get some chicken or pork mince and do that in the next few weeks. They’re a really tasty and easy lunch dish to have to hand.

I shall dice up the chuck steak and freeze in portions; some with marinade and some without. I have a new slow-cooker recipe for teriyaki beef that I really want to try and I can see that happening relatively soon.

The bacon will be divvied up and frozen in portions.

We do not currently need any of the flour I purchased – indeed there’s no room for any of it in the storage containers!  However, I want to make 4 pizza bases worth of dough to freeze and that will use a large chunk of what is there.  We used to buy wholemeal bases from the supermarket for around $3, but recently they have gone up to $5.50!  Buying those is just not happening when they are so very easy to make. I must do a post on them…

The Boy has decided to go camping tomorrow afternoon, so I shall be cooking for one this weekend. The mushrooms are a treat for me and I shall be including them in everything I possibly can.

Hasta mañana,

S.

Three can Curry in a Hurry

If only I ate a plant-based, whole-foods diet.

This is one of those dishes that you can throw together in a very small amount of time (about 20 minutes) and with a minimum of effort.

It relies on you having certain store cupboard ingredients and basic vegetable supplies to hand, but everything – and I mean everything – is completely flexible. All up it costs about $5 AUD to make.

The reason I call this a three can curry is because I use a tin of coconut cream, a tin of kidney beans and a tin of chickpeas in my version of it. You can use whatever beans you like: black beans; borlotti beans; cannellini beans, etc.

Given how quickly the first part goes, I would recommend doing a mise en place (oo er, fancy!) and having your base vegetables diced before you begin.

Also this recipe calls for the use of a curry paste. I tend to have a few of these in my pantry at any given time.

These were in my pantry at the time of writing...

These were in my pantry at the time of writing…

They cost about $2-$3 at Aldi and may cost a little more at other supermarkets. You don’t have to use the whole jar all at once, and they keep quite well in the refrigerator once opened.

Use whichever flavour profile suits your tastes – or experiment to determine exactly what your tastes are. Also, if you want to make your own curry paste, then go right ahead.

I’m not into a raging hot curry, but The Boy is. So, if I were making this just for him, I might use a Thai Green Curry paste or perhaps a Madras curry instead. The pictures you will see here use a Tikka Masala Paste. This is a sweet curry, it smells divine and has no heat to it – making it ideal if small children will be at your table.

Sorry it's blurry, I was rushing.

Sorry it’s blurry, I was rushing.

Now – and vegetarians look away – if you wish to add meat to this dish, feel free. I find that the beans suffice and the lack of meat is not actually something you think about. However, if you have a family member who requires meat to make a meal, you could easily add some diced bacon and sauté before adding the curry paste, or some diced rotisserie chicken just before serving.

After the liquid is added you are simply looking to heat things through and further soften the vegetables- you aren’t actively trying to ‘cook’ anything.

So, place a Dutch oven, casserole dish or a large saucepan over a low flame and heat about a tablespoon of butter with a splash of oil. The oil will stop the butter from burning. (Or you can just use all oil.)

Then add a teaspoon of crushed garlic (if you like it) and a diced onion.

Diced onion.

Diced onion.

Sauté until the onion is translucent, then add some diced celery, stirring continually. I used two largish stalks.

Celery for crunch.

Celery for crunch.

Add your carrots and go find your curry paste. We’ll wait.

Add carrots.

Add carrots.

You only want a tablespoon or two of the curry paste. It’s up to you how much you use – the flavour will get stronger with each spoonful.

Add it to the pan and allow it to fry gently for a few minutes. This will give you time to open a can of coconut cream.

Fry off your paste.

Fry off your paste.

As the heat works on the paste the aroma of the spices will be released. Be warned that, if you have chosen something that is very hot or full of chilli, you will probably start to cough uncontrollably if you breathe in over the pan…

Mix through.

Mix the paste through the vegetables, breaking up any lumps.

Mix the paste through the vegetables, breaking up any lumps.

Now add your coconut cream. I find it separates in the tin and add only the solid portion at first, reserving the liquid for if I find the sauce becomes too thick or is insufficient.

Spoon the solids into your pan.

Spoon the solids into your pan.

Don’t fret, the solid part will melt down to a thick liquid quite quickly.  As an aside, if you can’t find coconut cream (or are allergic) use a tin of evaporated milk instead.

It looks improbable, doesn't it?

It looks improbable, doesn’t it?

Once that is melted nicely and simmering gently, drain and add your beans.  I used kidney beans…

Looking good

Looking good.

…and chick peas.

Nearly done.

Nearly done.

Stir it all together and allow to simmer for 5 minutes or so.  This will give you time to set the table. It will also enable you to reheat any leftover/planned-over rice you may have in the refrigerator or to cook a sachet or two of microwave rice.

If you don’t have/want rice you could always cut a few potatoes into small dice and add them to your simmering pan. The dish will then be done when your potatoes are cooked.

I like to make my meals as colourful as I can – this ensures maximum flavour and nutrition. Think traffic lights: Red, yellow and green. This dish looks very yellow at this point, so I’ll add a diced red capsicum. This adds vibrant colour as well as crisp fruitiness.

A red capsicum or bell pepper.

A red capsicum or bell pepper.

And for greenery I have added kale, spinach or broccoli; like so.

Green for go..

Green for go..

I’ve also just added some frozen peas straight from the freezer.

Use what you have.

Use what you have.

When the peas are cooked, so is the dish.

Basically you can add whatever you have to hand. This meal is a great way to clean out the refrigerator before the grocery shopping has been done.

Serve over rice if you wish. However, be aware that this is very filling (beans, donchaknow) and will easily feed 6 people of normal appetite. So, I suggest you under-serve and allow seconds to avoid arguments with small people.

Three can Curry in a Hurry

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

oil

1 clove garlic, crushed (or 1 tsp jarred garlic)

1 onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

2 sticks celery, diced

2 tablespoons curry paste

1 x 400 g tin coconut cream or evaporated milk

1 x 400 g tin kidney beans

1 x 400 g tin chick peas

Other vegetables to taste: frozen corn, frozen peas, diced peppers or capsicum, kale, cavolo nero, broccoli, sliced cabbage, diced potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, etc…

Rice to serve.

Method

Place a Dutch Oven, casserole dish or large saucepan over gentle heat and add oil.

Add onion and garlic, frying gently until onion is translucent.

Add celery and carrot, frying gently until celery softens.

Add a tablespoon (or to taste) of the curry paste to your pan and allow to fry for several minutes. The heat will start to release the aromas of the spices in the paste. Mix the contents of the pot together, breaking up any lumps.

Add the coconut cream or evaporated milk. If the cream has separated in the can, just add the solid part using a spoon but keep the liquid in reserve should you want more sauce later.

Mix well.

Add the kidney beans. Stir well.

Add the chick peas. Stir well.

Allow the curry to come to a simmer and leave for 5 minutes.

Add any fresh vegetables you wish and cook through.

Serve over rice.

Variations:

  • Add several diced rashers of bacon and fry off a little before adding the curry paste.
  • Add a cup of diced, cooked chicken after the chick peas. (or any other cooked meat.)
  • Instead of serving over rice, add 2-3 potatoes diced small after the chick peas. Cook until the potatoes are tender. Add water if necessary to ensure the potatoes are fully immersed.
  • Serve over cous cous instead of rice.

Double Chocolate Cookies.

The Boy's favourite cookies.

These are the cookies that are the way to The Boy’s heart. Every time that I make them for him he gets this far away look in his eyes and lights up like he’s just spotted a litter of kittens.

That’s good, by the way.

This recipe is basically a riff on the Condensed milk chocolate chip cookie recipe I have posted previously. I substitute a few tablespoons of the flour for dutch process cocoa, use chunks instead of chips of chocolate and add a sprinkling of sea salt. It all works.

I shall repeat the recipe with the tweaks in its entirety right here for you though. It will save lots of jumping about – although that may help you to deal with the calories…

It begins with creaming softened butter and caster sugar.

Cream butter and sugar.

Cream butter and sugar.

Then you whip in the condensed milk until combined.

Condensed milk joins the mix.

Condensed milk joins the mix.

Measure out your plain flour, add the cocoa ( I use Dutch process, but you don’t have to) and sift together with the baking powder.

Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder.

Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder.

Add the lot to your butter mixture and stir well.

That just looks sinful, doesn't it?

That just looks decadent, doesn’t it?

Now, you may choose to use choc chips for this part of the recipe. I use a ‘family-sized’ block of dark cooking chocolate that I have placed in a paper bag and smashed to smithereens with a meat mallet. If you wish to smash things too then you can use whatever heavy implement you have to hand. Enjoy this bit.

Add to the mixing bowl.

Add your chips or chunks of chocolate.

Add your chips or chunks of chocolate.

For a really special touch, add a good pinch of sea salt flakes. The touch of salt serves to intensify the chocolate flavour beautifully. I haven’t tried this with milk chocolate, but with dark chocolate it’s pure heaven.

Use a pinch of sea salt flakes.

Use a pinch of sea salt flakes.

Stir to combine.

Use a metal ice cream scoop with a 1 inch diameter to measure out the cookies onto a paper lined baking sheet.

Use a 1" scoop to measure out your cookies.

Use a 1″ scoop to measure out your cookies.

Press down gently on the top to flatten slightly and pop into a moderately hot oven for around 15 minutes. If you forget to flatten them, then bake for 20 minutes.

Not that I have ever forgotten this step, you understand. Ahem.

Leave them to cool for 5 minutes on the tray before removing to a cake rack to cool completely. They will still be soft when you take them out of the oven.

Also, DO NOT eat a hot cookie. Melted chocolate will burn. You have been warned.

Let your cookies cool completely.

Let your cookies cool completely.

Prepare to look for kittens.

Double Chocolate Cookies

  • Servings: makes 28
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

200 g (7 oz) butter, softened

75 g (2¾ oz) caster sugar

125 ml (4 fl oz) sweetened condensed milk

250 g (9 oz) plain or all purpose flour, minus 2 Tablespoons

2 Tbsps Cocoa

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp sea salt flakes

300 g (10 ½ oz) chocolate chips or chunks (or less, if you prefer)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

Line one or two baking sheets with baking paper.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until pale and creamy.

Pour in the condensed milk and beat to combine.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa and baking powder.

Add to the butter mixture and mix to combine.

Add the chocolate pieces and salt flakes and stir well.

Roll into tablespoon sized balls (or use an ice cream scoop) and place on the prepared baking sheets, leaving room to spread. Press down gently with your fingertips or a fork to flatten slightly,

Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden.

Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before transferring to a cake rake to cool completely.

Cookies will harden on standing.

A full cookie barrel is a happy barrel...

A full cookie barrel is a happy barrel…

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