Sunday, 23 June 2013

A delicious (and budget friendly!) Shiraz

Cheap but extremely cheerful Aussie Shiraz! Fruity and spicy. Goes well with red meats, full flavoured dishes and not too bad on its own! 

Purchased (on special) at New World Thorndon, $11.99

Our no take-away's challenge and 2 budget friendly, make ahead recipes

In the interests of saving money to fund our house deposit we have decided to go take away free. For the foreseeable future anyway. It's getting me into a new routine of doing the shopping on Friday nights after work, cooking up a storm over the weekend and being well prepared for the week ahead. Friday night we were both super tired so it was mushroom soup and toast. Saturday night I did my favourite Thai chicken with fragrant rice recipe. Yum yum. Now, onto some make ahead recipes.

It helps that our budget also dictates that we don't go out over the weekend so there's plenty of time to cook! Right now I have 2 meals simmering away in my kitchen. Slow cooked beef, red wine and mushroom and chili con carne with a cornbread topping (a Simon and Alison Holst recipe) in the slow cooker. Both will do us 2 meals (dinners) and are easily freezable. Plus they're economical, healthy, easy and most importantly - tasty!

Beef, red wine and mushroom casserole - a recipe by me.

Chuck/stewing steak (I used 1 kg) cut into chunks
1 onion, diced
Button mushrooms (as many as you have on hand)
A slug of red wine
A few sprigs of thyme
Tomato paste (2 tbsp)
Worcester Sauce (2 tbsp)
1 can of tomatoes (I used Watties roast garlic and onion)
2 cloves garlic (left whole)
1 can cannelini beans, drained
Salt and pepper to taste
Frozen peas (add once cooked)

Chuck the beef (pun intended), onion, mushrooms, thyme and garlic into a casserole dish (LOVE love love my cast iron dutch oven!) In a mixing jug/bowl mix all wet ingredients together. Add the drained cannelini beans. Pour over the beef. You can, of course, brown the beef and onions before putting them in the casserole dish. But I'm lazy and I don't think it affects the taste too much. Season to taste. Place in a 150 degree Celsius oven for 3 or 4 hours. When nearly ready to serve add the frozen peas, let cook for a few minutes. Serve on something yummy like roast kumera or mash.

Slow cooker chili con carne with cornbread topping (an Alison and Simon Holst recipe I've tweaked)


1 onion, diced
Chipotle chillis in adobe sauce (I use 2 chillis chopped plus a few tsp of the sauce but I like it hot)
Garlic, 2 cloves, chopped
Minced beef, 500gm
Worcester sauce, a few glugs
Tomato paste, 2 tbsp
Salt and pepper
1 can chili beans (I use hot)

Spray slow cooker with a bit of cooking spray. Turn to high and put lid on to preheat.
In a frying pan brown the onion, garlic and chili in a dash of oil. When browned add to the slow cooker. In the same frying pan brown the mince, worcester sauce and tomato paste. When browned add salt and pepper and add to the slow cooker. Add the can of chili beans. Mix about. Put lid on and make the cornbread topping.

Cornbread topping (I have halved the recipe to fit into my smaller sized slow cooker)

1/2 onion, diced
25gm butter, softened
1/2 can corn kernels (with liquid)
1/2 C polenta / cornmeal
1/2 C milk
1/2 C self raising flour
1/2 C grated tasty cheese (I also add a bit of parmesan)
Salt and pepper

Add the ingredients in the order listed into a mixing bowl, mix well and spoon over the mince mixture. Sprinkle with a bit of paprika if you'd like a bit of colour on top.

Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. Don't lift the lid or the cornbread topping will get soggy from the moisture in the lid pooling on it!

I find the chili is often best the next day. When I store the chili I remove the cornbread topping as it gets a bit soggy if left in the fridge for a day or two.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

What we're eating this week

Here are our planned meals for the week...

Sunday: Panko crumbed fish, oven wedges and salad - a husband made meal.

Monday: Lasagne and veges

Tuesday: Jamacian Jerk chicken with pineapple and coriander rice, steamed peas and green beans

Wednesday: Bangers (sausages) and mash with caramelised onions, gravy, broccoli and peas  - a husband made meal

Thursday: Butterflied leg of lamb, Moroccan couscous and a medley of veges

Friday: Left-over lasagne, defrosted and devoured

Saturday: Shopping day!

Recipe: Classic beef lasagne

It's winter here now in Wellington and warm, comforting recipes are high on my agenda. An all time classic in our household: beef lasagne. Always made the day ahead so it has time for the flavours to develop, mmmm, and set in the fridge. An easy reheat and always goes a long way.

Meat Sauce
1kg of premium mince
2 small onions (or 1 large onion) diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
Dash of oil 
Thyme (I used 4 fresh sprigs)
Tomato paste (3 tablespoons)
Canned tomatoes (I used Wattie's roasted garlic and onion flavoured)
Worchester sauce (a few glugs)
1 large carrot, grated

Fry onion and garlic in a splash of oil. Add the meat and allow to brown. Drain excess oil/fat then add tomato paste, canned tomatoes and Worchester sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for a wee while then add the grated carrot. Mix around then set aside while you make the bechamel sauce. 

Bechamel Sauce
Butter (however much looks right to you, I used about 3 tablespoons)
Flour, 2 - 3 tablespoons
Milk, I used about 2 cups of milk (didn't measure, just eye-balled it)
Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon
1 pinch of nutmeg
Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup, grated

Melt butter in saucepan. Add flour. Whisk about well for 1-2 minutes. Add mustard. Whisk. Add milk. Whisk constantly until it thickens. Add nutmeg and seasoning. Take off heat and add parmesan cheese. Set aside to cool.

Assemble the lasange in a large oven proof dish. I like to start with a layer of the meat sauce, then the lasagne sheets, then the bechamel, meat, lasagne sheet etc finishing with a final layer of the bechamel and top with cheese. I used a mix of grated cheddar and parmesan shavings. 

Pop into the oven, covered, for 30 - 40 minutes. Finish off with a bit of grilling to get some good colour on top.

The finished product. I like my lasagne extra crispy on top... that might be code for I forgot about it for a minute and it nearly burnt. That's life!

I recommend allowing the lasagne to chill well before slicing it into individual portions, as it has a tendency to collapse on you! Reheat when needed. This is best the next day.

Restaurant Review: Mad Mex, Lambton Square, Wellington

My husband has been eager to take me to this great little Mexican place he found (his words) in Lambton Square. Lambton Square on Lambton Quay used to be this grotty little mall but it has recently had a huge makeover. It now has a food court and part of that is this little Mexican place, which is separated off a bit and has its own seating. It's kind of like Subway, you choose your style (burrito, soft taco, hard taco, quesadilla, nachos, toasted tortilla, naked burrito) then your meat, then your fillings and sauce. It's quick and a clever idea. Here's a link to their menu.

I was super excited, I love Mexican food. Having done my usual pre-visit perusal of the menu I already knew what I wanted. Soft shell tacos with shredded pork, all the fillings, guacamole and hot chilli sauce. It was $12.90 ($10.90 without the guac) and seriously delicious. Not just a little bit of deliciousness but a whole lot.  My husband had the chicken burrito and said it was excellent. We had these fun sodas that are made in Mexico. Mine was pineapple and had a slice of lime in the top, like you'd do with a Corona. I'd spied frozen margaritas ($7 all day Saturday, bonus!) and churros with chocolate sauce so we shared those for pudding. The margarita was good, lots of tequila in there but I find the frozen ones hard to drink (ice-cream headache anyone?) The churros.... phwoar! 2 huge sticks of cinnamon sugared goodness and warm dark chocolate sauce. Heaven.

I rate this a whole lot of deliciousness on the deliciousness scale.

Recipe - Thai style baked chicken with fragrant rice

One of my latest creations - a Thai style baked chicken which goes perfectly with this fragrant rice I dreamt up. The recipe came from having a whole lot of Thai ingredients in my fridge which were intended for tom kha gai soup but never made it... they were about to turn and I hate wasting expensive herbs. So I chucked them all together and came out with this rather fabulous recipe (if I do say so myself!)

Chicken thighs (boned or bone in - doesn't matter)
A tablespoon or two of good quality (preferably fresh) satay sauce (I used Mouthtraps, available in the chiller at good supermarkets)
A couple of red or green chillies, chopped
A handful (to taste) of coriander with stems, chopped roughly
A stalk of lemongrass, cut into thumb size pieces and bruised
A knob of ginger, grated
A splosh of fish sauce
A splosh of soy sauce
A small amount of palm sugar, grated/crumbled

As you can see I don't weigh or measure the majority of my ingredients!

Chuck all the ingredients except the lemon into a large snaplock bag and pop into the fridge to marinate for at least an hour. When you decide the chicken has marinated long enough, turn the oven on to 180 - 200 degrees and bake the chicken in an oven-proof dish until it is done. I usually turn the chicken thighs at least once during cooking.

Whilst the chicken is in the oven get the fragrant rice going. Here's my very simple fragrant rice recipe.

Rice - I use basmati
Cinnamon (powdered or quill)
1 star anise
A few whole cloves

Follow the usual absorption method but add a dash of salt, a pinch or a quill of cinnamon, a star anise and a few cloves to the water. Remove hard spices before serving. Yum yum.

Apologies for lack of photos, next time I make this (in the next few days I'm sure!) I'll edit and add some.