Braised Pork Meatballs

With a packet of mince in the freezer and some canned tomatoes and pasta in the pantry you can make any number of delicious meals without going shopping – spaghetti bolognese, lasagne, meatloaf or meatballs to name a few.

Saw this recipe in an old Delicious magazine and got all nostalgic for a time when I used to make meatballs a lot, when we had kids at home. And it was indeed delicious.

Braised Pork Meatballs

Meatballs:
1 kg pork mince
¼ cup sultanas, roughly chopped
¼ cup toasted pine nuts, roughly chopped
2 Tbs grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
1 Tbs roughly chopped fresh marjoram leaves
Pinch nutmeg
Finely grated rind 1 lemon
½ cup breadcrumbs (using day old bread)
1 egg white
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2-3 tsp sugar
Sauce:
¼ cup olive oil
1¼ cups chicken stock
2 cans (400g) chopped tomatoes
250g cherry tomatoes
2 bay leaves
Juice of 1 lemon
Steamed green vegetable, such as beans, peas, broccoli
Cooked pasta

Mix all ingredients for meatballs and form into about 16 meatballs with wet hands. Place on a plate and chill for about 30 mins.

Heat half the oil in a deep frying pan and cook half the meatballs on all sides or until they are nicely browned, then remove. Repeat with remaining meatballs. Tip off excess oil. Place stock in the pan with the canned and cherry tomatoes and simmer for a few mins. Return meatballs to pan with bay leaves, cover and cook for 20-25 mins or until meatballs are cooked through. From time to time spoon sauce over the meatballs and add a bit of water if it’s getting too thick. Stir in the lemon juice, top with extra parmesan and serve with a green vegetable and some pasta.

Serves 6

Mid-week Wraps

This is a delicious way to serve minced beef for a mid-week family dinner. Incorporating lots of healthy vegetables, it looks very colourful arranged on a large platter, so everyone can help themselves. Serve in wraps or tortillas, or accompanied by Indian roti or pita breads.

Add some chopped fresh chillies to the sauce if you want to liven it up a bit, but it’s more likely to appeal to small kids without. To keep everyone happy serve the chilli in a small dish, so people can add their own.

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2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise using a mandoline
About 4 Tbs olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 red capsicum (pepper), finely chopped
1 eggplant, finely chopped
500g minced beef
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground chilli
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp paprika
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 beef or vegetable stock cube
2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
To garnish:
Baby tomatoes, halved (optional)
Coriander leaves
2 avocados, halved
Sauce:

½ cup coconut cream or sour cream
Juice of 1 lime or ½ lemon
Paprika
Salt to taste

Pre-heat oven to 150°C. Place sweet potato slices in a single layer on 2-3 baking trays lined with baking paper and brush on both sides with oil. Bake for an hour or more, turning them over and swapping the trays round from time to time, so they cook evenly. Remove from the oven when they are crisp.

Heat 1 Tbs oil in a large frying pan over moderate heat. Cook onion, garlic and capsicum until soft then remove from pan. Add another 1 Tbs oil to the pan, increase heat and cook the eggplant until golden, then remove from pan. Add mince and spices and cook stirring until meat is browned. Return the fried vegetables to the pan with the tinned tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, water and stock cube. Simmer for 15 mins or until thick. Season to taste.

For the sauce mix all ingredients together. Arrange sweet potato chips around the edge of a serving platter and tip the beef in the middle. Nestle the avocado halves and a small dish containing the sauce in the mince. Garnish with the baby tomatoes (there are none in the photo because I had run out), coriander and a shake of paprika.

Serves 4

 

Roast Sweet Potatoes, Pears and Chick Peas with Prosciutto

Regular Café Cat readers will know that I’m a great fan of roast vegetables and love trying new combinations. This dish using sweet potatoes and pears, combined with chick peas and topped with crispy prosciutto is a real winner.

Roast Sweet Potatoes, Pears and Chick Peas with Prosciutto

1 large or two smaller sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large thick wedges
3 large pears, unpeeled and cut into six or eight, lengthwise then cored
1 can chick peas, rinsed and drained
About ¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper
100g thinly sliced prosciutto (I used Aldi Black Forest Ham)

Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Place all ingredients except prosciutto in a large bowl and mix well. Line a large shallow baking tray with baking paper then spread the vegetables over the tray in one layer. The paper is to make washing up easier but is optional. Bake vegetables for about half an hour or until cooked and starting to brown around the edges. Re-arrange them halfway through cooking time, so they cook more evenly.

In a non-stick frying pan put a tiny bit of oil then cook the prosciutto until crispy. Serve on top of the vegetables.

Serves 3-4

Variations: use pumpkin instead of sweet potato, apples instead of pears, thinly sliced bacon instead of Prosciutto. To make the dish more substantial serve it on a bed of lightly dressed rocket and scatter some crumbled feta or goat’s cheese over the top. Vegetarians can just leave out the prosciutto.

Mushroom Tarte Tatin

The French are famous for an upside down apple tart called Tarte Tatin. Apples are cooked with sugar and butter in an oven proof frying pan, topped with puff pastry, baked in a hot oven, then inverted onto a serving plate, so the apples are on top and the pastry is underneath.

This is a mushroom version. As you can see in the photo, I only had ordinary button mushrooms in the fridge. It would be even nicer with a few exotic ones thrown into the mix, but it was still scrumptious.

Use bought puff pastry or Nigella’s quick food processor version as I did. Serve with a lightly dressed rocket salad.

40g butter
1 Tbs olive oil
500g sliced mushrooms (preferably a few different kinds)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2-3 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (or Nigella’s quick version)
To serve:
Chopped fresh parsley or thyme
Crème fraîche or sour cream
Rocket salad

FullSizeRender (1)Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Thaw pastry if frozen or make Nigella’s..

Heat butter and oil in a 20-25cm non-stick ovenproof frying pan. Make sure the handle is ovenproof too.  Add mushrooms and cook, stirring for 5 minutes until softened. Add garlic, thyme and seasoning and continue to cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring often, until mushrooms are golden and liquid has been absorbed.

Roll out pastry thinly if you are not using a ready-rolled version. Cut out a circle a bit bigger than the circumference of the frying pan. Place pastry on top and tuck the edges in all the way around. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Cool for a few minutes then invert onto serving plate.

Serve warm or at room temperature garnished with fresh herbs, a dollop of crème fraîche and a rocket salad.

Serves 6

Barbecued Baby Octopus

Whenever I serve baby octopus I think of my dearly departed Dad.

Kenf

His name was Kenneth but in the family he was always known as Kenf. For someone brought up on a very traditional British diet Kenf was quite adventurous when it came to eating. He loved Chinese food and spicy curries. In fact he pretty much ate anything you put in front of him.

My parents came over from the UK to visit us in Paris and I decided to serve baby octopus. As we finished our meal I glanced up and although he didn’t say anything I could tell that he wasn’t impressed.

“What do you think?” I enquired. “Well if you really want to know” he replied “I thought it was like eating Dunlop rubber”.

Maybe they were a bit chewy, but I didn’t think they were that bad! Since then I’ve found this recipe which isn’t chewy (thanks to the red wine) and I often wonder if it would have met with Kenf’s approval.

If you like things spicy you add a bit of finely chopped fresh chilli.

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1 kg baby octopus (fresh or frozen)
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
250ml (1 cup) red wine
1 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs sweet chilli sauce
1 Tbs tomato sauce (ketchup)
1 Tbs olive oil
To serve:
Chopped fresh coriander
Olive oil

If using fresh octopus clean thoroughly, rinse and drain well. If using frozen octopus thaw, rinse and drain.

Place balsamic vinegar and wine in a saucepan with the octopus. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 mins. Drain, discard the wine and place octopus in a bowl with the soy, chilli sauce, tomato sauce and olive oil. Stir to combine.

Heat BBQ to high and cook the octopus for 5-6 mins, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and crispy on the edges. Serve on a bed of rocket or with steamed rice, garnished with coriander and a drizzle of oil.

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a starter

Chicken with Apricots and Sweet Potatoes

This easy recipe is perfect for a mid-week family dinner.

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1 kg skinless boneless chicken thighs
2 Tbs olive oil
2 medium onions, finely slice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbs grated ginger
1 tsp each ground cumin, paprika and cinnamon
¼ cup fruit chutney such as mango or tomato
½ cup dried apricots, halved if large
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into wedges
1½ cups chicken stock
1 can chopped tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
To serve:
Chopped fresh coriander
Couscous

Trim chicken and cut into 2-3cm chunks. In a large deep frying pan heat oil and cook the onions and garlic over medium heat, stirring often, until soft but not brown. Add the ginger and spices and cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring. Add chutney, dried apricots, sweet potato, chicken stock and tinned tomatoes. Cover, lower the heat and simmer, stirring often for 20-30 minutes or until chicken is tender.

Sprinkle with coriander and serve with couscous.

Serves 4-6

Curried Eggs

I like eggs cooked any way at all – boiled, scrambled, poached, coddled or in an omelette or frittata.

Many years ago when we were living in Malaysia we were served some delicious curried eggs. The memory has stuck in my mind, so I decided to recreate this quick, easy and delicious dish. If there are just two of you the quantities are easy to halve.

Curried Eggs

8 hardboiled eggs, cut in half
3 Tbs oil
2 onions,finely sliced or chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbs of your favourite curry paste (more if you like things spicy)
2-3 tsp sugar
1 tsp turmeric
1 can coconut milk
1 can water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To serve:
Chopped fresh coriander or parsley
Steamed rice
Fruit chutney
Indian bread such as chapatis, roti or papadums

You want the eggs to be hardboiled, but don’t overcook them or they won’t be nice and creamy. About 12 minutes should be perfect.

In a large frying pan cook onion and garlic in the oil until soft, without browning. Add curry paste, sugar and turmeric and cook, stirring for a minute or so. Add coconut milk and water and simmer until liquid has reduced and sauce is slightly thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the hardboiled egg halves, cut side up and let them warm through. Garnish with coriander or parsley and serve with rice, Indian bread and chutney.

Serves 4

Roast Parsnips & Jerusalem Artichokes with Onion Puree & Parsley Oil

Also known as sunchokes or topinambours, Jerusalem artichokes belong to the sunflower family. In early winter, after the flowers have died down, the tubers can be harvested and eaten as a root vegetable.

We grow them in our veggie garden at the farm (you need a bit of space or they can take over) and while I like them, I have to agree that our kids’ nickname, fartichokes, is very appropriate. I prefer to use them in recipes where they’re combined with other vegetables, to reduce the windy effect.

Serve this dish with roast meats or as a side dish at a barbecue. If you don’t have any Jerusalem artichokes use more parsnips or substitute potatoes. The onion puree should have been a pale colour, but when the onions were frying I wasn’t paying close enough attention. Still tasted good!

Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Chilli

500g Jerusalem artichokes, cut into 2-3cm chunks
500g parsnips, cut into even-sized chunky sticks
2 Tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Onion Purée:
2 large onions, finely chopped
25-50g butter (you decide!)
3 Tbs cream or sour cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Parsley oil:
A handful of fresh parsley
A few leaves of spinach or rocket
Olive oil
Salt to taste

Mix vegetables with oil in a bowl and add seasoning. Line a baking tray with baking paper then tip vegetables onto tray and spread into one layer. Bake at 200°C for 30 mins or until tender and browned at the edges.

Meanwhile cook onions in the butter for 10-15 mins or until soft, stirring often. Place in food processor with cream or sour cream and process till smooth, then season to taste.

For the parsley oil, pour boiling water over the parsley and spinach or rocket, then refresh under the cold tap and squeeze out excess water. Place in food processor, then add olive oil with motor running until you have a bright green sauce. Add salt to taste.

Spread onion purée in serving dish. Arrange roast vegetables on top, then drizzle with the parsley oil.

Serves 6

Rice Pudding

Rice pudding made a regular appearance on the dessert menu when I was growing up in England. My mother served it with jam or baked until it formed a golden brown skin on top. Either way it was delicious. Sadly most of the desserts I grew up with have gone out of fashion. Indeed there are probably a lot of readers who have never tried a home-made rice pudding, let alone made one.

A few years at boarding school in the UK put Matthew off all the traditional British milky desserts – rice pudding, tapioca, semolina pudding and custard. He was scarred for life and won’t touch them with a barge pole.

The weather was cold and miserable last week and I was feeling the need for some comfort food. So I made rice pudding and as Matthew doesn’t like it I ate the lot – for breakfast, for dessert or as a snack.

Rice pudding is such a flexible dish. Make it on the stove top, in the oven, in the microwave or in a rice cooker. Serve it hot or cold with jam, stewed fruit such as rhubarb or apples, or fresh fruit such as banana, blueberries or mango. Sweeten it with sugar, honey or maple syrup. If using sugar then add it when you cook the rice. If using honey or maple syrup, drizzle it on top when serving.

I usually zap a bowl full in the microwave and eat it with a drizzle of cold cream on top. Heaven, if you like that sort of thing.

Rice Pudding

1 cup short grain or medium grain rice
25g unsalted butter (optional, but it does make it richer)
4 cups (1 litre) milk
1/3 cup brown or white sugar (I use slightly less)
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped (or 1 tsp vanilla essence)
½ cup cream or canned evaporated milk
To serve:
Jam such as raspberry, strawberry or rhubarb (preferably home-made)
Or stewed fruit such as apples, peaches, rhubarb
Or fresh fruit such as banana, blueberries or mango

Place all ingredients except the cream in a saucepan, Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring from time to time, for 20-25 mins or until rice is al dente. Stir in the cream or evaporated milk and serve immediately while it’s hot, or chill and serve later, hot or cold. If preferred you can drizzle the cream or evaporated milk on top at serving time.

I prefer it hot, but it’s easy to zap a serving in the microwave.  Serve with jam, fruit compote or fresh fruit.

Serves 4

Rice Pudding made in a Rice Cooker
Place all ingredients except the cream or evaporated milk in a rice cooker and cook for one cycle, leaving it on the “keep warm” setting for 15 mins or so after it’s cooked. Add cream or evaporated milk and serve. Depending on the size of your rice cooker you may need to reduce the quantities so it doesn’t boil over. Mine is quite small so I have to reduce the rice to ¾ cup and the milk to 3 cups. Also I need to stir it a couple of times while it’s cooking, so it doesn’t stick.

Rice Pudding made in the Microwave
A really good way to use up leftover plain cooked rice. While rice puddings are usually made with short or medium grain rice, because they are stickier, any kind will do. Place cooked rice in a large bowl, so it won’t boil over. Add enough milk to not quite cover the rice and sugar to taste. Cover then microwave on High for 2-3 mins. Add cream or evaporated milk and serve. Or you can microwave it in individual servings.

Rice Pudding made in the Oven
Make rice pudding either in a saucepan (according to the basic recipe) or in a rice cooker or microwave. If made in the microwave you will need to use about 4 cups of leftover rice. Butter a shallow 6 cup baking dish, add the rice pudding and spread it out. If it seems a bit thick add a little milk and stir through. Dot with a little butter (about 30g cut into small pieces) and sprinkle with a little brown or white sugar. If liked a sprinkling of coconut flakes is nice. Bake in a hot oven for 25-30 mins or until browned on top and serve with a drizzle of cream.

Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Chilli

You either like brussels sprouts or you don’t. I love them and am quite happy to eat them simply boiled or steamed, with a knob of butter. I know quite a few people who hate them.

This Asian-style recipe raises the humble sprout to a whole new level. Who knows, it might even succeed in winning a few new fans.

Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Chilli

500-700g brussels sprouts
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs butter
1-2 tsp finely chopped fresh or dried chilli
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Trim sprouts and cut them in half lengthwise. Add to a pan of boiling salted water and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until al dente or almost cooked. Drain and run under the cold tap to keep a good green colour, then drain again.

Heat butter and oil in a large frying pan. Add chilli and garlic and cook, stirring for a minute or so. Add sprouts and continue to stir-fry for 5-8 minutes or until they are starting to brown a bit. Season to taste.

Serves 4-6