Gluten-Free Lasagne

When I told No. 2 son I was making a lasagne without pasta he was skeptical. You’ll be trying to get rid of the leftovers all week, he said. But it was a great success. Different to a traditional lasagne, but still delicious.

It comes from a new book called Simplicious which is all about using things up. It uses rice paper sheets instead of lasagne sheets and the sauce is thickened with cauliflower instead of flour, making it gluten-free and low in carbohydrates. But if you don’t have any rice paper sheets use any kind of pasta you have in your pantry – cooked in boiling water, unless it’s instant lasagne.

I’m not gluten intolerant, but you don’t need to be gluten intolerant to enjoy this recipe. It simply caught my eye because I had some rice paper sheets and nori (seaweed) sheets which had been sitting in the pantry forever and needed using up! I added cumin and sugar to the sauce and used mushrooms instead of grated pumpkin. Below I’ve offered a few other suggestions for varying the recipe to suit what you have on hand. It’s that kind of recipe – very adaptable!

Gluten-Free LasagneMeat Sauce:
1 Tbs oil
1 onion, finely chopped
500g minced beef or lamb
2 cups chopped mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp cayenne pepper or chilli powder
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 can diced tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp sugar (optional)
1 cup water
Cheese and Cauliflower Sauce:
1 cauliflower cut into florets
40g butter
½ cup milk
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
To assemble:
9 rice paper sheets
2 nori (seaweed) sheets, torn into pieces
2 cups baby spinach leaves
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large frying pan and cook onion, mince, mushrooms and garlic for 5-7 mins, stirring often and breaking up the mince. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 15-20 mins until thickened.

Meanwhile pre-heat oven to 180°C. Cook cauliflower in boiling salted water until tender then place in food processor with butter, milk and Parmesan. Whiz till smooth.

Grease a 22cm springform cake pan and line the bottom with baking paper. Spread a third of the meat sauce over the bottom, then 3 rice paper sheets, then a third of the cauliflower sauce. Next goes half the spinach leaves and half the nori. Repeat this again then finish with remaining meat sauce, rice papers and cauliflower sauce. Top with grated Parmesan. Bake 40 mins or until browned. Stand 10 mins then remove sides of pan. Serve with a mixed salad.

Serves 6

Variations and Substitutions:

  • Use a baking dish instead of a springform pan,
  • Use grated cheddar instead of Parmesan.
  • The original recipe uses 2 cups of grated pumpkin – I used mushrooms instead – you could also substitute grated carrot or zucchini (courgette).
  • To make a vegetarian version use 500g eggplants (aubergines) cut into small cubes instead of the mince.
  • If you don’t have any nori (seaweed) sheets just leave them out.

Kheema with Peas

When we had a house full of kids I made recipes using minced beef all the time. Lasagne, spaghetti bolognese, shepherd’s pie – they are all great ways to feed a family with just half a kilo of mince. Now there’s just the two of us I only buy mince occasionally – otherwise we’d be forever eating leftovers!

This recipe was posted recently by Jill Dupleix, a well-known food writer in Australia. I love anything with peas so I decided to make it, adjusting the quantities to go with half a kilo of mince rather than the 750g she used.

It’s very quick to make and sure to be a hit with all the family.

Kheema with Peas1 Tbs oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, crushed
500g minced lamb or beef
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 Tbs grated ginger
½ tsp each turmeric, coriander
¼ to ½ tsp chilli powder or flakes (optional)
1 tsp garam masala
Two cups water or stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp sugar
2-3 cups frozen peas
To serve:
Chopped fresh coriander
Steamed Rice
Indian bread such as Roti
Plain yoghurt

Heat oil in a large frying pan and cook onion and garlic until soft but not brown. Add meat and cook for 5 mins, breaking it up as you go, until browned. Add remaining ingredients except peas and simmer for 20 mins. Add peas and cook for a further 5-10 mins, or until peas are cooked and Kheema is thick.

Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve with rice, bread and plain yoghurt on the side. Warm the Indian bread by heating for a minute or so on each side in a dry frying pan over moderate heat.

Serves 4

Variations: use a drained can of beans or chick peas instead of the green peas.

Carpaccio with Fig, Walnut Pesto and Goat’s Cheese Mousse

Aubergine is considered one of the best, if not the best, restaurant in Canberra, depending on whom you ask. Chef Ben Willis consistently uses four main ingredients to create his dishes. This contrasts with some other popular Canberra restaurants which, in my view, put too many flavours on the plate. The result is very “bitty” and not at all memorable.

This recipe was inspired by a dish I was served at Aubergine recently when we were celebrating our wedding anniversary. As part of a four course degustation, the serving was small so I’ve increased the quantities to make a more substantial and certainly more rustic starter or light lunch. The four main ingredients are beef, walnuts, fig and a creamy mousse. I’m not sure how they made the mousse so I had to guess.

A bottle of 2013 Hilltops Shiraz from Clonakilla, one of Australia’s leading small wineries located in the Canberra district, went well with this dish.

Carpaccio with Fig, Walnut Pesto and Goat's Cheese Mousse4 fresh figs
150-200g trimmed fillet of beef (see note)
150ml whipping cream
50g soft goat’s cheese
1 Tbs black sesame seeds or pink peppercorns (see note)
Extra Virgin olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
Walnut Pesto:
1 cup walnut halves or pieces
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Trim meat, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for an hour, then slice very thinly and press each slice flat with the palm of the hand.

Make pesto: place walnuts and garlic in food processor and chop finely. With motor running add oil through the feed chute until you have the consistency of pesto. Season to taste.

Cut tops off the figs and, if necessary, trim a little off the bottoms so they sit flat. Arrange one in the middle of four serving plates. Spread some walnut pesto in a halo around each fig, then arrange some beef slices on top, slightly overlapping.

Whip cream till thick then add goat’s cheese and whip just enough to incorporate. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Using two spoons or an ice-cream scoop dipped in hot water, arrange an “egg” of mousse on top of each fig.

Place black sesame seeds or pink peppercorns in a spice grinder or coffee grinder and pulverise. Sprinkle some over the goat’s cheese mousse and the beef.

Drizzle a little lemon juice over the beef and a little Extra Virgin olive oil around the edge of each plate. Serve with fresh bread or toast.

Serves 4

Note: to end up with a piece of trimmed fillet weighing 150-200g you will need to start with a bigger piece. I bought one kilo and after trimming ended up with the piece I used for the carpaccio, two nice thick steaks and a bag of strips to make Stroganoff, which I froze to use on other occasions.

Black sesame seeds are sold in Asian shops and pink peppercorns, which and not really peppercorns at all, are available at specialty shops such as The Essential Ingredient. Black sesame seeds would have made a better colour contrast to the beef, but I had run out so had to find something else in the pantry.

Tomahawk Steak with Whisky-Glazed Carrots

Aldi had Tomahawk steaks on special so I bought one. Never having cooked this cut of beef before, I had a look on Google and learnt that it’s the rib-eye or Scotch fillet with the bone left in.

There was a fair amount of fat on the meat so I decided to cook it simply, on a very hot BBQ, in order to render most of it off and crisp up the rest. The result was delicious and very tender.

Whisky-Glazed Carrots – an old recipe from the 1970s – and some good mustard completed the meal. We didn’t feel the need for potatoes or other accoutrements which might have detracted from the simple combination of succulent savoury beef with sweet carrots.

After a week of abstinence, a very good bottle of Padthaway Shiraz we had been saving for a special occasion, or in this case no occasion at all, went down a treat.

Tomahawk Steak with Whisky-Glazed Carrots1 Tomahawk Steak weighing 1.3-1.5kg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g carrots cut into sticks
Juice and grated rind 2 oranges
1 tsp sugar or honey
2 Tbs whisky
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbs butter
Snipped chives
To serve: your favourite mustard

Pre-heat BBQ on maximum for 10 minutes until very hot. For medium-rare, cook steak for 7-8 minutes each side, then a further 7-8 minutes each side. In addition, cook for about 5 minutes on the curved long side of the steak – you may need to hold it in place with some tongs while it cooks on this third side. Place on cutting board, cover loosely with foil and rest for 10-15 mins.

Meanwhile cook the carrots. Place in a saucepan with the orange rind and juice, sugar or honey, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until almost cooked. Remove lid, add whisky and butter and cook for a few minutes more, shaking pan often, until liquid has been absorbed and carrots are just cooked and slightly glazed. Add chives and serve.

Slice meat downwards, across the grain and serve with mustard and carrots.

Serves 4-6

Meatloaf with Mushroom Sauce

We ate minced beef at least once a week the kids were growing up. It’s cheap, easy to chew for small kids and makes a small amount of meat go a long way. Spaghetti bolognese, lasagne, meatballs, shepherd’s pie, beef burgers and various meatloaves were all favourites.

Now there are only two of us I don’t cook mince very often. If I did we’d be eating leftovers for several days. So this recipe is for the new generation of small people and their parents. Easy, quick and very tasty.

Meatloaf with Mushroom Sauce

Mushroom Sauce:
50g butter
500g mushrooms, wiped and sliced
2 level Tbs flour
pinch ground nutmeg
2 heaped Tbs tomato chutney
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup milk
1 cup breadcrumbs
½ cup fresh grapefruit or orange juice
¼ cup tomato ketchup
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 medium onion, chopped very finely
1 Tbs chopped parsley
1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 eggs
1 kg minced beef

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Heat butter in a frying pan and cook mushrooms stirring, for a few minutes until softened. Add flour, nutmeg, chutney and sour cream.

Mix all ingredients together for the meatloaf. Put half in a greased loaf tin, make an indentation and spoon in about one third of mushroom sauce. Put rest of meat mixture on top, then bake for about an hour. Stand 5 mins, pour fat off, tip out onto serving plate. Add milk to remaining mushroom mixture, heat and serve as sauce.

Note: if the kids don’t like mushrooms, don’t put the layer in the middle of the meatloaf and serve it all as an optional sauce. For a low carb version leave out the breadcrumbs or replace with some grated carrot or zucchini (courgette).

Variations: use lamb, pork or chicken mince

Serves 6

Beef Carpaccio with Walnut Pesto

This recipe was inspired by a carpaccio I ate recently at The European, a restaurant which opened in the Canberra suburb of Kingston in November last year. Unfortunately the establishment didn’t survive and recently closed its doors.

The carpaccio shown in the photo is probably larger than you would need as a starter. We had it for lunch.

Beef Carpaccio with Walnut Pesto

300-400 fillet of beef, trimmed (see note below)
Walnut pesto:
1 cup walnuts
1 small clove garlic, crushed
Pinch salt
About 1/3 cup olive oil
About 4 Tbs diced black or green olive flesh
About 4 Tbs coarsely chopped walnuts
Some microherbs or small coriander leaves
About 4 Tbs coarsely grated Parmesan
To serve:
Truffle oil or extra virgin olive oil
Lemon juice
8 quick Grissini (see below) or purchased Grissini

Make Grissini (see below). Trim meat and put in the freezer (see note below). Make pesto: place walnuts and garlic in food processor and process. With motor running add enough olive oil to make a thick paste, stopping halfway to scrape down the sides. This can be made ahead and keeps for at least a week.

Thinly slice beef (this is easier to do if the meat is semi-frozen) and arrange down the middle of four serving plates, in overlapping circles. Smear some walnut pesto down each side. You will probably have some beef and some pesto left over.

Sprinkle with the olives, walnuts, herbs or coriander and the Parmesan. Drizzle with truffle or olive oil and lemon juice to taste. Arrange two Grissini on top of each serving and serve with a salt and pepper mill.

Serves 4-6

Note: I bought a one kilo vacuum pack of beef fillet from Aldi, cut off about 500g from the wide end for the carpaccio and trimmed off the small amount of visible fat and tendon. I then rolled the meat tightly in plastic wrap to achieve a neat cylinder about 4cm in diameter. I put it in the freezer for a couple of hours, so it was semi-frozen and easy to slice thinly. I cut the rest of the beef into strips and froze it to make a Stroganoff.

Quick Grissini

Grissini are usually made with bread dough. This is a quick version.

2 sheets bought puff pastry, thawed
4 Tbs finely grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lay pastry sheets on a work surface. Sprinkle with parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Press the cheese and seasonings into the meat with the heel of your hand. Cut pastry into thin strips about 1 cm wide then twist into spirals. Bake in a hot oven on biscuit trays lined with paper for about 15 mins or until golden brown and crisp. Turn them over halfway through the cooking.

Makes about 20

Beef Teriyaki

Beef Teriyaki is one of my favourite stir fry recipes. There are other stir fries I’ve made once or twice, but I’ve made this one dozens of times. It’s quick, easy and adaptable – just as delicious at room temperature as it is hot.

With the addition of lots of veggies, a small amount of beef goes a long way. Use Singapore noodles, Hokkien or similar. We find the amount of soy sauce is about right, but soy sauces do vary from brand to brand. If you find it’s a bit too salty make a note and next time use less soy sauce and make up the difference with water.

Beef Teriyaki500g beef – I use 2-3 thick rump or topside steaks
3 Tbs vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 large onion, halved and sliced
1 large red pepper, sliced
4 medium zucchini (courgettes) sliced or cut into sticks
2 medium carrots, cut into sticks
250g mushrooms, sliced
½ cup soy sauce
1 Tbs sugar
¼ cup dry sherry
450g packet of fresh, pre-cooked Chinese egg noodles (omit for a Low Carb meal)

Freeze steak a bit to make it easier to slice thinly. Slice downwards into paper thin strips. Dry well on paper towels. Heat oil in wok or large frying pan. Add meat and garlic and stir fry for 1-2 minutes over high heat or until browned. Remove meat from pan, leaving the oil behind. Add onion and stir fry 2 minutes, then add remaining vegetables except mushrooms and stir fry for 5 minutes or until al dente. Add soy sauce mixed with sugar and sherry. Meanwhile cook noodles in boiling salted water according to packet instructions. Return meat to pan with mushrooms and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Fold through drained noodles and stir fry for about a minute.

Note: if using dried noodles you will need only 125g and they will take longer to cook. If liked you can always add a touch of fresh chilli and substitute other vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, cauliflower or asparagus.

Serves 4

How to Cook Flank Steak

I recently attended the Fine Food Fair at the Sydney Convention Centre. As I was wandering round I saw a cooking demonstration about to start, grabbed a chair and sat down. The subject of the demo was how to cook cheap cuts of meat quickly, rather than by one of the slow methods we usually use with less tender cuts.

The chef was a Pom like me, so he called the cut of beef he was using skirt. Here in Australia it’s known as flank. He said there were five rules for the successful quick-cooking of flank steak:

  • use a piece of lean flank steak about 2.5cm thick
  • marinate for about 30 minutes in a mixture which includes lemon or lime juice
  • cook over high heat for 3-4 minutes each side, turning once, to achieve medium-rare
  • rest meat loosely-covered for the same amount of time as you cooked it
  • slice thinly downwards, across the grain

Samples were passed around and the results were impressive. The meat was tasty and surprisingly tender so I decided try it at home. At the demo they served it in bread rolls which they called Vietnamese Steak Sandwiches. We had ours on top of the salad.

You can use any combination of crunchy vegetables for the salad. I used one carrot instead of two and added one coarsely grated raw beetroot and some finely shredded red cabbage.

The marinade can also be varied with any herbs, spices or sauces that take your fancy.

1 piece of flank steak weighing 600-750g and about 2.5cm thick
Juice of ½ lemon or 1 lime
2 Tbs soy sauce or Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tbs fresh grated ginger or 2 cloves garlic, crushed, or bothphoto
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal
½ cup fresh coriander leaves
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
2 carrots, coarsely grated
Salad Dressing:
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp sugar
Pinch chilli powder (optional)
1 Tbs rice wine vinegar
1 Tbs water
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine marinade ingredients except salt and pepper, add meat, turn to cover and leave for 30 minutes, turning occasionally. At the demo they marinated it in a sealed plastic bag, but I just used a dish. Mix salad ingredients in a bowl and dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake.

Preheat BBQ or griddle to very hot. Drain steak and pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper on both sides. Cook steak for 3-4 minutes each side, turning once, until medium-rare. Remove from  heat, cover loosely with a piece of foil or a saucepan lid and leave to rest for 6-8 minutes. Slice thinly downwards, across the grain. If serving in rolls, split and lightly toast them. Mix salad with dressing.

Serve beef and salad in rolls or arrange on individual plates.

Serves 4

Note: if preferred just use your regular salad dressing instead.

Satay Beef in Lettuce Cups

This quick mid-week dinner will be popular with all the family. If you have young kids who don’t like things too spicy just leave out the chilli. If you don’t put too much filling on the lettuce you can roll them into parcels to eat with your fingers. Otherwise eat with a knife and fork. Serve the filling in wraps or pitta breads instead of lettuce leaves to make them more filling for growing kids. I like mine drizzled with Thai sweet Chilli sauce, as you can see in the photo.

Satay Beef in Lettuce Cups1 Tbs oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
500g lean beef mince
½ cup satay sauce (see note below)
1/3 cup beef stock
1 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs sherry
1 Tbs grated ginger
1 tsp sugar
1 small red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
½ cup chopped fresh coriander and extra to garnish
1 butter lettuce, washed and dried, leaves left whole
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Lebanese cucumber, peeled and chopped
¼ cup roasted  peanuts, chopped

Heat oil in a wok or frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and beef and cook, stirring, for 6 minutes or until onion is soft and meat has browned all over. Add satay sauce, stock, soy sauce, sherry, ginger, sugar and chilli and continue to cook for a minute or two until the liquid has almost gone. Add coriander. Season to taste – you probably won’t need any salt. Serve beef in lettuce cups garnished with cucumber, peanuts and extra coriander.

Serves 4

Note: I used Ayam brand Satay sauce but if you don’t have any substitute crunchy peanut butter – not quite the same, but it will do.

Beef Massaman Curry in a Slow Cooker

Of all the posts on Café Cat, the most popular to date is the Beef Korma cooked in a Slow Cooker. When people search on Google for a beef curry cooked this way, my recipe comes up first.

A slow cooker is the perfect way to cook a curry or a stew. As the meat cooks slowly the liquid doesn’t evaporate the way it does in the oven, so it’s best to add about a quarter or half the amount you would normally use. You can always add more later if necessary.

I’ve adapted this Thai Massaman Beef Curry by Bill Granger for the Slow Cooker. It’s nice and spicy, without being overly hot. If you’re going to serve it with rice, we didn’t think the potatoes were really necessary, so leave them out if you prefer.

Beef Massaman Curry in a Slow Cooker1 tsp crushed dried chilli
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tsp cumin seeds
Seeds removed from 5 cardamom pods
1 red onion, cut in half
6 cloves garlic
1 stalk lemongrass (white part only)
2 Tbs coriander roots
1 Tbs Tamarind paste
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1.2kg stewing beef (blade, shin, chuck) cut into 3-4cm pieces
400ml can coconut milk
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs fish sauce
¼ cup water
400g small potatoes, scrubbed and halved (optional)
To serve:
1 Tbs lime or lemon juice
Fresh coriander sprigs
2 Tbs roasted peanuts, chopped
Steamed rice

In a mortar and pestle pound the chilli, ginger, cumin, cardamom and 1 tsp salt until finely ground. In a food processor whiz the red onion, garlic, lemongrass, coriander root, tamarind paste and 1 Tbs of the oil, until finely chopped, then mix in the chilli-spice mix.

Heat remaining 1 Tbs oil in a large frying pan and brown the meat in 2 or 3 batches, for about 2 minutes each side, then place in slow cooker. Add the curry paste to the frying pan and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add to slow cooker with the coconut milk, sugar, fish sauce, potatoes (if using) and water. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until beef is tender. Stir every couple of hours, adding a little more water if necessary.

To serve: Add lime or lemon juice, check seasoning and serve garnished with the coriander and peanuts, with steamed rice on the side.

Note: If preferred curry can be cooked in a heavy casserole with a lid in the oven where it will take about 3 hours at 160°C. In this case increase the water to ¾ cup and add the potatoes, uncooked, about halfway through cooking time. For low-carb version omit the potatoes.

Serves 4-6