Spicy Korean Beef in the Slow Cooker

If you have a slow cooker and are time poor then this recipe, adapted from one by Nigella Lawson, is for you.

Nigella uses brown rice. I used pearl barley and added some toppings. We love pearl barley, which you can use as a substitute in most recipes which call for brown rice.

500g minced beef
1 can chopped tomatoes and 1 can water
1¼ cups pearl barley (or brown rice)
¼ cup Sriracha chilli sauce (or another chilli sauce/paste)
¼ cup soy sauce
1 packet 250g beansprouts
To serve: 
Sour Cream
Grated cheese (I used cheddar)
Chopped fresh coriander

Place minced beef, tomatoes, water, pearl barley or brown rice, chilli sauce and soy sauce in a slow cooker. Stir to combine, then cook on low for four hours, stirring a couple of times. When the pearl barley is tender it’s ready. Place beansprouts in a bowl. Cover with boiling water, stand for one minute then mix into the meat mixture. Allow to heat through for 15 minutes.

Serve as it is or topped with sour cream, grated cheese and coriander. Can be served in wraps or taco shells or on top of corn chips.

Additions: if liked, add a drained can of corn or a couple of cups of frozen peas about half an hour before serving. I also added a splosh of dry sherry. Why not?

Beef Casserole with Spring Onion Mash

A good beef casserole accompanied by mashed potatoes to mop up the gravy is the sort of comfort food we all enjoy as the weather gets cooler. These old-fashioned dishes take us back to our childhood and Mum’s cooking.

This casserole doesn’t contain any tomatoes or herbs, allowing the flavour from the mushrooms and the sherry to shine through. It can be made in the oven or in a slow cooker.

Beef Casserole with Spring Onion Mash

2 Tbs oil
1 kg lean stewing beef such as chuck steak
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
150g speck or bacon cut into chunky pieces (lardons)
2 onions, peeled and chopped
3 carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
250g mushrooms, wiped and thickly sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups water (only 1 cup for Slow Cooker)
1 beef stock cube
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
½ cup dry sherry or red wine
Spring Onion Mash:
1 kg potatoes, peeled and cut into even-sized pieces
25g butter
¼ cup milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3-4 spring onions, thinly sliced (optional)
To serve:

Chopped fresh parsley

Trim beef and cut into 3cm cubes. Season. Heat 1 Tbs oil in a large frying pan and brown half the meat all over until nicely caramelised. Put beef into a heavy Le Creuset-type casserole with a lid or into a Slow Cooker. Repeat with remaining oil and beef. Add the lardons to the pan and cook, stirring until light brown. Add onions and cook for 3-4 mins stirring regularly, until starting to soften. Add carrots, mushrooms, garlic and a touch more oil if necessary and continue to cook for 3-4 mins. Tip vegetables into the casserole with the beef.

Add water, stock cube, Worcestershire sauce and sherry or wine. If using a casserole dish cover and cook at 150°C for two hours or until meat is tender and sauce has thickened up. If using a Slow Cooker use only one cup of water, cover and cook for 3-4 hours on High or until meat is tender and sauce has thickened.

Casserole will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days or you can eat half and freeze the rest. Reheat, check seasoning and serve garnished with chopped parsley and accompanied by Spring Onion Mash to mop up all the gravy.

Spring Onion Mash: cook potatoes in boiling salted water for 20 mins or until tender. Drain thoroughly then mash with a potato masher, adding the butter and milk. When smooth and creamy season with salt and pepper and fold in the spring onions if liked.

Serves 4-6

Grilled Steaks with Board Dressing

This dressing to serve with grilled steak is prepared on a chopping board, while the steaks are cooking. It comes from a website called Certified Angus Beef and takes an ordinary steak to another level.

I have heard several well-known chefs say that steaks should be seasoned with salt and pepper a good hour before cooking. Since I adopted this advice I have found that it really does make a difference to the flavour of the meat. If you only have time to make it half an hour, so be it, anything is better than nothing.

4 rib-eye steaks each weighing 200-250g
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup fresh parsley
8 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
2-3 leaves fresh sage
2 small sprigs fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic
1 spring onion or shallot
3 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar or glaze
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp soy sauce (optional)

Season steaks on both sides with salt and pepper at least an hour before cooking. Preheat grill or barbecue to medium high.

Place the herbs, garlic and spring onion or shallot on a chopping board and chop very finely, adding a little salt and pepper and one Tbs of the oil.

Cook steaks to desired doneness then place them on top of the herb mixture, turning to coat. Cover loosely with a piece of foil and leave for 5 minutes while you mix the sauce. In a small bowl mix the mustard, balsamic vinegar or glaze, soy sauce (if using) and 2 Tbs olive oil.

Slice steaks downwards, while they are on the herb mixture and arrange the meat on 4 serving plates or one large platter. Scrape the herbs and any pan drippings into the bowl with the dressing and whisk to combine. Spoon dressing over the steaks and serve.

Serves 4

Slow Cooker Shredded Beef

Shredded slow-cooked beef makes a great filling for wraps or to serve with rice, potatoes baked in their jackets or roti.

1.5 to 2kg beef brisket
2 Tbs honey
2 Tbs tomato ketchup
1 Tbs tomato paste
2 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs Sriracha chilli sauce (optional)
2 Tbs vinegar or lemon juice
3 tsp hot English mustard

Place meat, trimmed of any excess fat, in a slow cooker. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over the meat. Cook on Low for 10 to 12 hours, turning from time to time. The beef is ready when it’s so tender it’s falling apart. Use two forks to shred the meat.

Serve as a filling for wraps or taco shells. Side dishes of grated cheddar, sour cream, shredded lettuce, avocado or guacamole and onion and tomato salad go well.

Serves a crowd

Moussaka

When I started cooking, any recipe using eggplants involved salting the slices and leaving them to drain, in order to remove any bitterness. You then had to pat them dry and fry them in oil. Eggplants are a bit like blotting paper and will soak up as much oil as you give them. More recent varieties of eggplant seem to have eliminated the bitterness and browning the slices in the oven means you don’t need to use too much oil.

This recipe was given to me by my friend Margaret when we were all posted to Tel Aviv, many moons ago. Like a big lasagne, it’s a great choice for feeding a crowd. All the preparation can be done ahead and with a big salad and some crusty bread you’re all set.

1kg eggplants, sliced 1cm thick
1kg minced lamb or beef
2 chopped onions
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 Tbs olive oil
1 400g tin tomatoes, chopped (or equivalent in fresh tomatoes)
500g mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 Tbs chopped parsley
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 heaped Tbs tomato paste
½ cup water + 1 beef stock cube
Olive oil for brushing or spraying
Grated Parmesan cheese
Sauce:
30g butter
30g plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1½ cups milk
2 beaten eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200°C. Arrange eggplant slices on two large oven trays lined with baking paper. Spray on both sides with olive oil, or use a brush. Cook for 20 minutes, turning once, or until golden brown on both sides.

Heat oil in a large frying pan and cook onion and garlic until soft. Turn up heat and add meat and mushrooms and cook stirring until meat has browned. Add chopped tomatoes (skinned if fresh), herbs, tomato paste, cumin, stock cube and water and season to taste. If the frying pan isn’t big enough put everything into a deeper pan. Simmer 10-15 minutes, adding a little more water if necessary.

This recipe is enough to make two large moussakas or one extra large one, as shown in the photo. If preferred, make half the recipe. Fill each dish with layers – meat sauce sprinkled with a little grated Parmesan, eggplant slices, then meat sauce and more Parmesan, then remaining eggplant slices.

For the sauce, melt butter in a non-stick pan, add flour and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes. Gradually add the milk, stirring until thick before you add more. Season to taste. Remove from the heat and add the beaten eggs last. Pour sauce over the top of the moussaka and spread out evenly. If you’re making it early in the day, refrigerate at this stage until you’re ready to bake. Bake for 40-50 minutes at 200°C, or until browned and bubbly. Stand for 10 minutes before cutting. Can be completely cooked a day ahead, kept in the fridge, then just reheated.

Serves 10-12

Quick Pasties Using Roti Paratha

I bought a packed of 8 frozen roti paratha from an Indian grocery store and used them to make these meat pasties. They were amazing. The best meat pies I’ve ever made.

If you can’t find Indian roti paratha, buy puff pastry and cut out big circles about 15cm or 6 inches in diameter. I thawed the roti, filled them, pinched together the sides at the top, brushed them with beaten egg, then baked them at 200°C for just over half an hour.

As for the filling, you can use your imagination. I used some leftover roast lamb from a slow roasted shoulder, mixed with leftover gravy and leftover roast pumpkin, all cut into 2cm cubes. I served the pasties with hot English mustard and a mix of peas and asparagus.

You could look for a Cornish pasty filling online and use that, or use this beef casserole recipe, or this recipe which uses oxtails – just take all the meat off the bones.

For a seafood pasty use this recipe for Seafood Mornay, without the breadcrumb topping. It’s one of the most popular recipes on this blog.

Best Beef Burgers

When we were a family of five, spaghetti bolognese and lasagne were regulars on the week-day menu. Now there’s just the two of us we don’t eat a lot of mince. Every now and then, however, I like to make burgers. Like everything else you make yourself, they are so much tastier than the ones you get in fast food outlets, especially if you use top quality, lean minced beef. And it’s the additions, such as mustard and grated Parmesan, which make all the difference to creating a great burger.

This mix is our favourite. If you end up with too many burgers, freeze them raw, or cook them and reheat the following day for lunch. Sometimes I have mine with just half a bun, or no bun at all and find I don’t miss the carbs. Feed a family by making some oven fries in the oven, or in an air fryer to go with the burgers.

500g top quality minced beef
1 small onion, or ½ a large onion, very finely chopped
½ tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
1 egg
½ cup breadcrumbs (made from stale bread or use Panko crumbs)
1 tsp mustard (I use hot English)
2 Tbs grated parmesan cheese
Pinch grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 Tbs olive oil, to fry the burgers
To serve: 
4 burger buns, split and toasted
Lettuce, rocket or baby spinach leaves
Sliced tomato
Sliced red onion (optional)
Sliced cucumber or avocado or both
Mayonnaise or aioli
Fruit chutney, tomato ketchup or barbecue sauce (optional)

Mix all ingredients except oil and use your hands to shape into 4 evenly-sized burgers, the diameter of your buns. Refrigerate until serving time.

Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium to high heat and cook the burgers for 3-4 minutes each side, or until cooked to taste. Spread one side of the toasted buns with mayonnaise or aioli and the other with chutney, tomato ketchup or barbecue sauce. Serve the burgers in the buns with lettuce, rocket or spinach leaves, tomato and cucumber slices.

Makes 4 burgers

Rich Beef Casserole

If you follow this blog you may have seen that I recently bought an air fryer and used it to make some amazing roast pork belly with crunchy crackling.

It had been quite some years since I last bought a new kitchen gadget. Many people rave about their Thermomix, but I haven’t been tempted, happy to stick with my trusty Magimix food processor, an old-fashioned blender (for when I want a really smooth soup) and a Kenwood stand mixer (which must be getting on for 50 years old) for making meringues and Christmas cakes. It’s been on permanent loan from my friend Ferne since the 1980s!

An air fryer works like a mini fan-forced oven and I love it. The main advantages are:

  • not having to turn on the oven in the middle of summer when you’re trying to keep the house cool.
  • being able to cook a roast without having to clean the oven afterwards (an air fryer is quick and easy to clean)
  • producing crispy food such as French fries with only a smidgen of oil, or sometimes none at all

Today I discovered another use: browning meat before it goes into a casserole. Those who have done this will know that it usually involves browning the pieces in two batches and afterwards you need to clean the spattered hotplates. For today’s casserole I just put the sliced oxtail pieces in the air fryer, gave them 10 minutes at 200°C and Bob’s your Uncle, as they say in the classics. They came out beautifully browned all over.

Pressure cookers were all the rage when I got married many moons ago. Back then they weren’t electric and were probably a bit dangerous. Once the kids left home mine gradually found its way to the back of the cupboard and from there to the Op Shop. About five years ago I upgraded to an electric combined slow cooker and pressure cooker. I find it useful for making rich casseroles like this recipe, in a fraction of the time it takes in the oven.

2 kg oxtails, cut into thick slices (about 2kg)
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1-2 stalks celery, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup tomato paste
1 cup beef stock
250g (more or less) store-bought caramelised onion jam or relish
1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 cup red wine
2 tsp brown sugar
2 Tbs Balsamic vinegar
2 tsp porcini mushroom powder (from specialty shops) (optional)
To serve:
Sour cream (optional)
Fresh herbs

Place beef pieces in the basket of an air fryer and cook for 10 minutes at 200°C. If you don’t have an air fryer, brown the meat all over in a large frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil – you will need to do this in two batches.

Place the browned meat in a pressure cooker with remaining ingredients. If the juices left in the bottom of the air fryer look a bit fatty, discard them, or perhaps mix them with your dog’s next meal. Our golden retriever reckons it does wonders for those dry old biscuits. My oxtails weren’t very fatty, so there were just a couple of tablespoons of meat juices under the trivet of the air fryer and I added them to the ingredients in the pressure cooker. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, place the ingredients in a large casserole with a lid, or use a slow cooker.

Pressure cook for 45 minutes or cook for 2-3 hours in the oven set to 160°C, until the meat is falling off the bones. When cooking in the oven add a little more water if necessary during cooking time.

Serve garnished with a dollop of sour cream (optional), creamy mashed potatoes and roasted carrots (perhaps these carrots with harissa) or a green vegetable such as peas or beans.

Serves 6-8

Shepherd’s Pie with Black Pudding and Bacon

This delicious recipe for Shepherd’s Pie, slightly tweaked, comes from Prue Leith, now 81 years of age and one of the great British cooks of all time. It’s without a doubt the best Shepherd’s Pie I’ve ever eaten.

On the other side of the world, Margaret Fulton began the post-War crusade to improve what we were cooking and eating in Australia, closely followed by Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer.

These four women provided inspiration to aspiring cooks like me. However, I believe the real watershed came with the publication of the Australian Women’s Weekly cookbook in 1970. In the mid-1970s they started to publish a series of paperback cookbooks, covering a different topic in each book. Every few months another title was published and my friend Ferne and I waited impatiently for each one. The recipes were simple to follow with great photography and we both cooked almost every recipe in every book. We spent hours browsing through, jotting down the names of recipes and swapping notes after we made something. They published a book on Chinese cooking, Italian cooking and other cuisines we hadn’t seriously tackled before. Local supermarkets started to stock the ingredients called for in these “exotic” recipes, because people kept asking for them. The children’s birthday cake book was a huge hit with our kids, who often chose the cake they wanted months before the big event. Here’s an interesting article about this cooking revolution.

If you’ve never eaten black pudding, give it a go in this recipe. With the bacon it adds depth to the meat sauce, but you can’t tell it’s there. Black pudding is available in Woolworths and IGA supermarkets under the Clonakilty brand. Adding sweet potatoes to the traditional potato topping is also a winner. Use half and half or any ratio you prefer. Sorry I forgot to take a photo until we had eaten half of it!

2 Tbs oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
500g minced beef or lamb
100g black pudding, skinned and diced
3-4 rashers rindless streaky bacon, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes, including juice
1 Tbs tomato paste
½ tsp dried thyme
1 beef stock cube (I used an Oxo)
1 tsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Water or wine (red or white) as required (1 cup or more)
Topping:

500g potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
500g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
50g butter
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and cook the onion and garlic until soft but not browned. Add the minced beef, black pudding, celery and bacon and cook, stirring, for ten or more minutes, until nicely browned. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, stock cube, sugar and then simmer the sauce for 45 minutes, stirring often. As required during this time, add a bit more water or, if preferred, wine, so the sauce doesn’t stick. After 45 minutes it should be thick and syrupy. Season to taste then spread it in a lasagne-type dish, large enough to cover the meat sauce with the potatoes.

While the meat sauce is cooking, boil the potatoes and sweet potatoes in water to cover, with a teaspoon of salt for 15-25 minutes, or until tender. The sweet potatoes will cook faster than the ordinary potatoes. Cut them into larger pieces, so everything will be cooked at the same time. Drain well, add the butter and mash until light and smooth. Season with salt and pepper then dollop over the meat sauce and spread out evenly with a fork. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top. Dish can be prepared in advance to this point.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Bake the pie for about half an hour if the mixture is still hot, or about three quarters of an hour if it’s been made ahead and is cold. Serve with a salad or green vegetable.

Serves 6-8

 

Beef and Chestnut Casserole

When I was growing up in England in the 60s my mother regularly made a beef and chestnut casserole in winter, which we all loved.

She found the recipe on the back of an Oxo beef stock cube packet. Apart from beef, chestnuts and Oxo cubes I remember she added sherry or red wine, but I didn’t have the recipe. A couple of years ago I contacted the makers or Oxo cubes to see if they could help, but they couldn’t.

I decided to have a go at recreating this dish and here is the result. Simple but delicious. Served with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable it’s perfect for a winter gathering.

1.2kg lean beef (chuck steak, gravy beef) cut into 2cm cubes
2 Tbs plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbs olive oil
2 large brown onions, chopped
2 beef Oxo cubes, crumbled (or use another brand)
1 cup dry sherry or red wine
1 Tbs fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried
2-3 carrots, sliced (optional)
2-3 cups water
400g peeled chestnuts (see note below)
Chopped parsley to garnish

Mix beef with seasoned flour to coat thoroughly. Heat 1 Tbs oil in a large non-stick frying pan and brown the meat on both sides. Remove to a large casserole dish with a lid. Repeat with remaining beef and another Tbs of oil. Add to the casserole. Add the last Tbs oil to the frying pan and cook the onions, stirring often, until softened but not browned. Add to the casserole with the sherry or red wine, thyme, and carrots If using.

If you use fresh uncooked chestnuts you have peeled yourself add them now. If using cooked ones add them later.

Preheat oven to 150°C. Mix  2 cups of water into the casserole and bake for 2-3 hours or until meat is tender. Check and stir every hour or so and add more water if necessary. You want the casserole to be nice and thick. If using cooked chestnuts add them about half an hour before the casserole is ready.

If preferred, cook the casserole in a slow cooker for about 4 hours on High or 8 hours on Low. If using this method you will definitely need less water than when using an oven.

I like to make casseroles the day before serving as it improves the flavour. Reheat on the day with the addition of a little more water, if required.

Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with mashed potatoes (with lots of butter added) and a green vegetable.

Serve 6-8

Note: fresh chestnuts are fiddly to peel so I bought two 200g packets of peeled, cooked whole chestnuts made by a company called Cheznuts. At $12 a packet they’re not cheap but they were certainly convenient.