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I don't know about you but this year has made me tired. Recently I get to the end of the day and the last thing I want to do is think about what to make for dinner, let alone be in the kitchen cooking.


On Monday the kids asked what was for dinner and I stupidly said I don't know what would you like. One child said pasta, the other child wanted something with a baked potato and cheese as a side dish. Not exactly on the same page right! Enter in my next stupid question which was "who wants to make dinner tonight?" As always Miss Eme was keen to get in the kitchen so her idea of the jacket potato won.


This kid LOVES potato - Jacket potatoes were introduced to the kids by their Nana B on one of our many adventure trips to accompany our usual BBQs. The kids love scooping out the potato that is topped with butter and cheese. So with one child wanting pasta and the other wanting potato I told Eme she could make a loaded jacket potato.


Mosr people in my age group have memories of savoury mince. It was a bit of a staple in our childhood and always in our house served on toast or in toasted sandwiches. I explained to Eme that the mince was a bit like what you have with pasta and that it would be really good on a jacket potato.


So off we started, I cut up the vegetables and she scrubbed the potatoes and then cooked the savoury mince in the fry pan. The end result was so good. Fluffy soft potatoes filled with a sweet gravy of mince and vegetables, good sharp vintage cheese and a big dollop of sour cream on top.


Given how tired I was it was a relief to sit down to a quick and easy comfort food type meal. The best part of this dish was my 6yr old was capable of making it and everyone in the family devoured it and asked when Eme could make it again.


Don't be alarmed by the cooking time, that is solely the potatoes in the oven, the savoury mix can be made within 30 min.


If you are looking for a quick meal solution a jacket potato with fillings is a great way to take the hassle out of dinner time. Be creative with your toppings - chicken, mexican theme, asian theme, tuna, vegetarian are all great options and if you want to deviate from the traditional spud use a sweet spud instead!


Prep 15 min // cook 50 min


INGREDIENTS


500g mince meat

2 sticks of celery diced

1 onion diced

2 cups frozen peas, corn and carrot

1 zucchini grated

1 red capsicum diced

1 tin crushed tomatoes

1/4 cup red wine

2 cups beef stock

2 tbs tomato paste

2 tbs Worcestershire sauce

1 tbs dried mixed herbs

2 tbs minced garlic

4 large potatoes washed (or 1-3 for each person)

1 cup sour cream

1 cup grated cheese


METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

  2. Wash potatoes and pierce with a fork and cook in microwave for 10 min.

  3. Remove potatoes from microwave and place on a tray and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt over top and place in oven and bake for 45-50 min.

  4. While potatoes are cooking heat oil in pan and saute celery, capsicum and onion for 2 min.

  5. Add garlic and frozen vegetable mix and saute for a further 2 min.

  6. Add all remaining ingredients apart from the cheese and sour cream and mix together.

  7. Reduce heat to medium, season with salt and pepper and place a lid over the pan and let it simmer, stirring every now and then.

  8. When the potatoes are cooked remove from the oven and split open.

  9. Add mince mixture to the potato and top with part of the cheese.

  10. Place back in the oven for 2-3 min for the cheese to melt.

  11. Remove from oven add more mince mixture to the potato and then top with more cheese and a dollop of sour cream.


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With the borders opening and restrictions easing across the country everywhere I turn people are now starting to plan the festive season and their Christmas menu.


I made this dessert for our AFL Grand Final party earlier this year and it was a big hit with our guests (almost as much as Richmond winning another flag). More importantly my family down in Melbourne drooled when I showed them the dessert and a promise was made to re-create it if we got to Melbourne and with the border open I think I was the first one to book flights to Melbourne following the announcement that Queensland was "good to go".


So a little about this dessert. Its a mix of two of my favourite desserts that I like to make. The berries from the berry panna cotta recipe and the meringue from pavlova recipe. Each year I tend to make a pavlova for Christmas Day so this recipe means my tradition is still there just with a twist.


The berries at this time of the year are oh so sweet and the juice from boiling them prior to adding the meringue gives it an added depth of flavour.


Luscious berries!


You may ask why I named it rustic - well for two reasons. Firstly who has time to pipe meringue in the silly season so just dollop it on and secondly the juice from the berries can make it a little messy but that just adds to the flavour.



Perfect rustic meringue!


Serve it with some whipped cream on the side and your guests will think you are the dessert Queen (or King!).


Prep 1.5 hours


INGREDIENTS

Tart

1 punnet each of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries

4 tbs white sugar

1 tbs lemon juice

Ready make shortcrust pastry


Meringue

6 egg whites at room temperature

2 cups castor sugar

Pinch salt

1 1/2 tsp white vinegar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence


METHOD

  1. Take the pastry out of the freezer and let thaw until it is pliable.

  2. Grease a tart tin with cooking spray and preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

  3. Line the tart tin with the pastry and pierce with a fork and put in fridge for 30min to chill.

  4. While the pastry is chilling wash the berries and hull the strawberries and place in a saucepan.

  5. Add the sugar and lemon juice to the berries and cook until it boils stirring occasionally for about 5-8 min until a syrup has formed.

  6. Remove from the heat and place in the fridge to cool.

  7. Remove the tart tin from the fridge and place baking paper over the pastry and add baking balls and blind bake for 10min.

  8. Remove the balls and baking paper and bake for another 5 min and remove and let cool.

  9. When the berry mixture has cooled strain the berries from the syrup reserving the syrup.

  10. Add the drained berries to the tart tin and then pour a little of the syrup over the top.

  11. Turn the heat of the oven to 150 degrees.

  12. Dollop the meringue over the top of the berry mixture and bake for 10-15min.

  13. Turn oven to grill and brown the meringue for 5 min.

  14. Remove from the oven and place in the fridge until ready to serve.

Meringue

  1. Place egg whites and pinch salt in a mixer and mix on high for approximately 5 min or until the egg whites form stiff peaks.

  2. With the motor running on high add sugar one spoon at a time and letting it fully mix into the egg whites before you add another spoon.

  3. When all sugar is added leave the mixer mixing on high for another 5min to fully dissolve all sugar.

  4. Gently fold in the vinegar and vanilla essence to the meringue mix.

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Its a block buster Grand Final Weekend coming up in Australia with the AFL Grand Final being played for the first time ever outside the MCG and under lights on Saturday night and the NRL Grand final is on Sunday night. Whether you support either team one thing is a given and that is millions of Aussies will gather on both nights to watch the games.


Almost as important as watching the game is the food that you will have whether it be as your own family unit or together with friends and family. Traditionally major sporting events in Australia are usually accompanied by a BBQ in the backyard with family and friends.


In America one popular sporting event foods to serve (other than wings and hot dogs) is Sloppy Joes. Sloppy Joes is a quintessential meal based around minced beef. Popular from the 1940s and is said to be named after a cook named Joe from Iowa.


Our very much loved American Au Pair told our kids all about Sloppy Joes and having tried them myself in America we set about making them and the verdict was they were great!


Seriously why wouldnt Sloppy Joes be great in the eyes of kids! They have the perfect mix of being messy and oozy, sweet and savoury in every bite and a similar texture to a bolognese sauce.


The thing I like about Sloppy Joes is that they are quick and easy to make, definitely do not break the bank balance, easy to make a double batch to turn them into another meal and you can really pimp them up to make them gourmet.



Whether it is rolls or wraps the kids will love Sloppy Joes!


So this Grand Final Weekend why not make your own oozy batch of Sloppy Joes and team it with some brioche buns or artisan brad rolls, make up some salad or a colesalw and sit and watch the Grand Finals in style!


One last word from this Victorian living in North Queensland - Yellow and Black! (aka Go Tiges!)


Prep 10 min // Cook 20min


INGREDIENTS

500g mince beef

½ capsicum diced finely

1 onion diced finely

4 cloves garlic minced

2 tbs tomato paste

1 tbs sweet paprika

1/4 cup tomato sauce

1 cup liquid chicken stock

1 tbs brown sugar

1 tsp mustard powder

½ tsp Worcestershire sauce

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

Pinch chilli flakes (optional)

1tbs butter

1 tsp olive oil

Bread rolls (Traditionally they are a sweet roll but choose your favourite)


METHOD

  1. Preheat oven grill, cut rolls in half and drizzle with oil and set aside.

  2. In a pan heat butter and oil over a medium heat and add the beef and break it into small chunks as it browns for about 5 minutes. When browned drain the excess liquid from the pan and transfer to a bowl.

  3. Add onion and capsicum and garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes.

  4. Add beef back to the pan and add the tomato paste and stir.

  5. Add tomato sauce, stock, mustard, Worcestershire, salt, pepper, chilli flakes (if using), sugar and paprika and stir well to combine.

  6. Cook over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes and while cooking grills the bread rolls until toasted.

  7. Remove meat from heat and serve in the toasted rolls!