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

Spinach and Feta Pastries

This recipe for Spinach and Feta pastries was one of my most popular posts, so here it is again. I’m travelling in Europe so there will be a few repeat posts while I’m away.

These are a great addition to lunch boxes, picnics and buffet lunches. They are also great to serve with drinks. Most kids love them and it’s a good way to get them to eat more green veggies.

Once cooked and cooled, if not serving immediately, you can keep them in the fridge for a few days or freeze them. They will just need a few minutes in a hot oven or an air fryer to heat up.

1-2 sheets bought puff pastry
Filling:
About 225g frozen chopped spinach, thawed (I used half a 450g pkt of spinach nuggets)
100g feta cheese, crumbled
¾ cup thinly sliced spring onions
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 egg
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Extra:
1 beaten egg to brush

Preheat oven to 200°C. Squeeze any liquid from the spinach then mix it with remaining filling ingredients. Cut out 12 squares of puff pastry, approximately 8cm or 3 inches square. I got nine from one sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry.

Lightly but thoroughly (mine got a bit stuck) oil a 12 hole muffin pan and place a pastry square in each. Place a rounded tablespoonful of filling in each, then go back and use the rest to top them up. If you have too much you could use another muffin pan and make a couple more but I found the mixture made exactly 12.

Pull the four pastry points over the top of the filling and pinch lightly together. Brush with beaten egg, then bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Serve warm or at room temperature. Can be kept in the fridge for 2-3 days and reheated for a few minutes in a hot oven or frozen.

Makes 12

Gluten-free Chocolate Nut Cookies

More and more people are avoiding gluten, so here’s a recipe for some delicious gluten-free chocolate cookies that everyone will love. If you’re also avoiding nuts, leave them out and add more chocolate chips.

1/3 cup cocoa powder
1½ cups icing sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tsp arrowroot
2 large egg whites
1 tsp vanilla essence
½ cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (macadamias, walnuts, pecans, almonds or a mix)
Maldon sea salt

With a hand whisk, mix the first six ingredients until smooth. Mix in the chocolate chips and nuts. I used macadamia nuts and didn’t chop them, so they were quite chunky. Line a large shallow baking tray with baking paper or use a silicone baking mat as I did. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Spoon the cookie mixture onto the tray, using about a tablespoonful for each cookie and placing in compact blobs. They will spread to about double the width.

Sprinkle a few flakes of Maldon sea salt on each cookie then bake for 12 minutes. Don’t overcook – they will firm up when cool and you want them to be a bit chewy in the middle.

Cool completely before removing from the tray and storing in an airtight container.

Makes about 15.

Anzac Biscuits

On the 25th of April Australians and New Zealanders remember those who have lost their lives in military conflict. The date of Anzac day marks the anniversary of the landing in Gallipoli (Turkey) during the First World War, when many lives were lost. The acronym Anzac stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Dawn services are held on this day in many countries, including France and Turkey.

Anzac biscuits were apparently sent by wives to soldiers abroad because they kept well during naval transportation. Nowadays they are made commercially, but many people make their own. There are some variations in the recipes so here is mine.

photo

1 cup porridge oats
½ cup plain flour
½ cup self raising flour
1 cup sugar
¾ cup desiccated coconut
125g butter
2 Tbs golden syrup (see note below)
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 Tbs boiling water

Preheat oven to 170°C. In a large bowl mix oats, flour, sugar and coconut. Place butter and golden syrup in a small saucepan and stir over gentle heat until melted. Mix soda with boiling water and add to the butter mixture, then mix into the dry ingredients.

Using your hands, place balls of about one tablespoonful of mixture on lightly greased oven trays, or trays lined with non-stick baking paper – 12 per sheet, not too close together as they will spread. Flatten them out slightly with a fork. Bake for 12-20 minutes, or until a nice honey-brown colour. Ovens vary. If you prefer them more chewy and less crunchy, remove from the oven a bit earlier. If on tins without paper, loosen while still warm, then cool on the trays. Store in an airtight tin.

Makes about 20

Note: unless you live in Australia, New Zealand or the UK you may have difficulty finding golden syrup. There are some online sites which sell British ingredients. I have tried substituting honey but it’s not the same.

Baked Potatoes in the Air Fryer

As kids we all loved baked potatoes and our kids loved them too. Try this quick and easy  “new take” on a retro recipe by cooking them in an air fryer. Vegetarians can leave out the bacon.

4 medium to large baking potatoes (Russets are a good choice)
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g butter
½ cup milk or cream or sour cream
1-2 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 rashers bacon, finely diced
2 spring onions, finely sliced
To serve:
Sour cream (optional)

Wash and dry the potatoes, prick them all over with a fork, then rub them all over with a little olive oil and salt. Place in air fryer and cook for 35-40 minutes at 200°C, turning halfway through, or until tender.

When potatoes are cool enough to handle – but still hot – cut them in half lengthwise and scrape out the middle into a bowl, leaving a 1cm thick shell. Mash the potato with the butter and milk or cream. Mix in half the cheese and half the spring onion slices and season to taste.

Divide the filling between the 8 potato halves and place them in the air fryer. Cook at 200°C for 6 minutes, then top with the remaining grated cheese and cook for another few minutes, until golden brown on top. Meanwhile fry the bacon dices in a non-stick pan until crispy.

Serve the potatoes garnished with the remaining spring onion and the bacon. If liked serve with a dollop of sour cream on top.

Makes 8 portions

Scotch Eggs in the Air Fryer

A hard boiled egg, wrapped in sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried becomes a Scotch egg.

There are various explanations regarding the origin of the name of these traditional British snacks. They were first mentioned in Britain in publications from the early 1800s, so they have been around for quite some time.

The advent of the air fryer makes cooking them so much easier and healthier. Instead of deep frying, just give them a quick spray with a can of oil before they go into the air fryer.

Served at room temperature they make a perfect addition to lunch boxes, summer buffets and picnics.

Serve with Spicy Tomato Sauce (recipe below) for dipping.

6 large eggs, hardboiled and peeled
600g pork sausages
1 very small onion, grated (optional)
1 tsp mixed dried herbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup (or maybe a bit more) panko breadcrumbs (or ordinary breadcrumbs)
Fresh herbs or thinly sliced spring onion to garnish
Spicy Tomato Dipping Sauce:
½ cup tomato ketchup
1 Tbs Worcestershire Sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbs vinegar
1 small onion, grated
1½ Tbs honey
½ tsp hot English mustard
2 tsp grated fresh ginger

While the eggs are boiling, remove the casings from the sausages and discard them. Mix the sausage meat with the onion, herbs, salt and pepper. Divide the mixture into six and flatten each portion into a circle about four inches (10cm) in diameter. Place an egg on each, wrap the sausage meat around the egg and pinch to close any holes an make a nice oval ball. Roll each one in beaten egg then breadcrumbs, patting them in to cover evenly. Can be made ahead to this point and kept refrigerated for up to several hours. My eggs were not very big so I hardboiled 7 rather than 6.

Place the Scotch eggs in an air fryer in one layer and preferably not quite touching. Spray lightly with oil then cook at 200°C for about 20 minutes. After 10 minutes turn them over and spray again.

Remove from air fryer when cooked and leave to cool. Serve cut in half, garnished with herbs or spring onion and with the sauce for dipping.

Makes 12 egg halves

Sauce: heat ingredients together in a saucepan, then cool. Use as a dipping sauce for Scotch eggs, sausage rolls and empanadas.

Crispy Air Fryer Chicken Burgers

Everyone loves crispy fried chicken, but few people these days are into deep fat frying. We know it’s not good for us.

The good news is that the recent arrival of air fryers in our lives has made it possible to achieve the same crispy finish without adding any oil – well, just a smidge from a spray can.

This recipe is simple and quick, not to mention healthy. A perfect mid-week dinner and one which will appeal to the kids. The photo shows the burger without the top of the bun, so you can see the filling. As you can see in the photo of the chicken on its own, it was really crispy.

4 chicken thighs
1/3 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup panko breadcrumbs (you might need a bit more)
1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
Spray oil (olive or canola)
4 brioche buns
8 Tbs mayonnaise, preferably home-made
A little chilli sauce such as Sriracha (optional)
1 avocado, sliced
Lettuce leaves
Thinly sliced red onion (optional)
1 tomato, sliced

Trim chicken thighs and open them out, so they are of an even thickness. Place the flour, egg and breadcrumbs in three separate bowls. Mix the salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and herbs into the flour. Coat the chicken pieces with the seasoned flour, then coat with egg and lastly the breadcrumbs, pressing them in well. Chicken can be prepared to this point and refrigerated for up to several hours.

Spray the base of an air fryer with oil, place chicken pieces on the base, in one layer. Cook for 15 minutes at 200°C, turning halfway through and spraying again. Chicken should be cooked after 15 minutes, but it may need up to another five minutes, depending on your air fryer and the thickness of the chicken. It will also take a little longer if chicken has been refrigerated.

While chicken is cooking prepare the other ingredients. Split the buns and lightly toast them. If liked, mix some  Chilli sauce such as Sriracha into the mayonnaise.

Spread mayonnaise on both sides of the buns. Fill with the crispy chicken, lettuce, avocado, tomato and onion.

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

Sticky Lamb with Loaded Sweet Potatoes

Lamb forequarter chops are about half the price of lamb cutlets. If you’re on a budget with a large family, you might want to try this recipe. Forequarter chops contain more fat than cutlets, but in this recipe it mostly dissolves during the cooking.

The sweet potatoes go well with the lamb. If preferred leave out the bacon. You think this recipe is going to serve more people, but the lamb is so tasty everyone comes back for a second helping! A green salad goes well with this family meal.

1 kg or up to 1.5kg lamb forequarter chops
Sticky Glaze:
2 Tbs honey
4 Tbs soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 Tbs chilli paste
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs rice wine vinegar
Fresh coriander to garnish
Sweet Potatoes:
1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes
1 onion cut into 8ths
3 Tbs olive oil
3 tsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
2 rashers bacon, diced
1 cob fresh corn
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cut the chops into 2 or 3 smaller chops by cutting lengthwise and avoiding the bones. Mix the glaze and use it to marinate the chops.  Put aside.

Peel sweet potatoes and cut into chunky chips. Place in a bowl with the onion, olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper and mix well. Tip into a large oven-proof baking dish and spread evenly. Put aside.

Dinner can be prepared ahead to this stage.

Preheat oven to 170°C. Arrange the drained lamb in a single layer on a baking tray and cook for an hour or until well-cooked and sticky as shown in the photo. Keep the glaze. Depending on your oven they might take a bit longer. Halfway through cooking time, turn them over, brush with remaining glaze.

Put the sweet potatoes in the oven at the same time as the lamb and cook for about an hour or until cooked through. Meanwhile cook the bacon for a few minutes in a frying pan. Add the corn kernels removed from the cob and continue to cook, stirring for a couple of minutes. About 10 minutes before the sweet potatoes are ready, top with the bacon and corn mixture, sprinkle with Parmesan (if using) and put back in the oven for the remaining 10 minutes or so.

Serves 4

Quick Falafel

When we lived in Israel in the late 1970s, we loved the street food called falafel. Crispy chickpea patties served in a warm pita bread pocket with humus, tomatoes, cucumber, and onion.

Falafel are traditionally made with chickpeas. Using a can doesn’t work – they end up mushy. This recipe uses red lentils instead of chickpeas which you just soak for an hour. The photo shows the falafel ready to fry – which is why they look a bit insipid. Next time I think I’ll make them a little bit smaller.

Falafel:
1 bunch parsley
2 cloves garlic
1 onion
1 cup red lentils soaked one hour in cold water then drained
1 tsp each ground cumin, coriander and salt
4 tbs chickpea flour (besan flour)
¼ cup olive oil + extra for frying the felafel
To serve:
4 pita bread pockets
Hummus (bought or home-made)
1 small cucumber, diced
2-3 tomatoes diced (or 8-10 cocktail tomatoes)
½ red onion, diced
Coriander or parsley, chopped
Avocado diced (optional)
Olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients for the felafel. I use the food processor to finely chop the parsley and onion, then add the drained lentils, spices, salt, chickpea flour and olive oil. Process just enough to get a chunky mixture. You don’t want it smooth. Form into 2cm flattened balls with damp hands.

Deep fry or shallow fry the falafel or spray both sides with oil and cook them in an air fryer for about 10 minutes, turning once about halfway through.

Meanwhile warm or toast the felafel pockets. Mix the cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, coriander or parsley and avocado if using. Add a little olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, fill each pita pocket with some hummus, cucumber and tomato mix and two or three crispy warm felafel.

Serves 4