Beef Bourguignon

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This is the type of dish to make when you want to potter around the house and be very happy to peek in on a dish every now and again to check it and add a few more things, and after a few hours be remarkably delighted with the end result. This traditionally French dish is so lovely and complex in flavour – meaty and mushroomy, gravy, thymey and winey. My good friend Edrea and I wanted to cook something together, and after many flicks through one of my new favourite cooking and baking books, The Great Australian Bake Off, this is the one we finally settled on. Originally designed as a pie filling, we adapted it to make a pasta dish instead. Alternatively, you could make the pie version (which would be equally delicious I presume and come on, who doesn’t like pie…) if you were keen on making some pastry as well. So get your day planned and cook up this delicious beauty – we filled our waiting time with watching P.S. I Love You – whatever takes your fancy!

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Ingredients

  • 750g chuck steak, cut into small chunks
  • Plain flour (to coat the steak in)
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 350mL red wine (nothing too fancy – I bought a $3 bottle which actually turned out wonderfully)
  • 250mL beef stock
  • 250g button mushrooms, finely sliced
  • Pasta (to serve, such as fettuccine – a nice thick one)
  • Fresh thyme

Essential kitchen items

  • Large pot/saucepan (to cook all your ingredients in)
  • Small saucepan (to reduce down the wine)

Preparation

1. Toss the beef in the flour and season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan. Add in the meat pieces a little at a time and fry for around 2 minutes until they have browned slightly. Then remove onto a plate.

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2. Turn the heat down and stir in the onions and garlic. Cook down for about 10 minutes   until the onions are very soft.

3. In a separate small pan, simmer the red wine until it has reduced by about one-third (I hadn’t actually ever tried this technique before, but it worked! You can test how much it has reduced down to by pouring the wine into a measuring jug after about 10-15 minutes. The aroma is delicious too, think mulled wine!) Once the onions have cooked down, stir in the wine, stock, beef, and thyme sprigs. Bring to the boil for a few minutes and then lower the heat, covering the dish and cooking gently for 1 hour, stirring from time to time. During this time, the mixture should take on a new taste, colour and texture, and begin to look for like a gravy.

4. After the hour, add in the mushrooms and let simmer, uncovered, for another hour. Add salt and pepper as needed. Towards the end of simmering, and when the gravy is nice and thick, put on the pasta and cook according to packet instructions.

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5. Voila! You are done!

Here’s a few of my other it’s Spring-but-why-does-it-still-feel-like-Winter?? recipes you can enjoy – Healthy Veggie Lasagna and Pea and Fancy Ham Soup

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Rich Passionfruit Cupcakes

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Father’s Day calls for a special baking treat and this time around I was in search of yummy cupcakes. Passionfruit is such a wonderful flavour and one that I should use more of! These are really easy to make, so simple, understated and unpretentious, yet packing a punch in rich passionfruit flavour. If you want to make this recipe at any given time but it’s not passionfruit season, passionfruits are too expensive, your supermarket doesn’t have them – whatever reason it might be – you can simply use passionfruit out of a can as I did! The result it perfect and you’re not compromising on flavour in any way.

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This recipe will make about 16 cupcakes, depending on your cupcake pattie size.

Ingredients

Filling

  • 180g unsalted butter, softened
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 125g cream cheese, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon passionfruit pulp (or a whole passionfruit)
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 30g plain flour
  • 60mL milk

Topping

  • 300mL whipping cream
  • 1 and ½ tablespoons icing sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons passionfruit pulp (or 2 whole passionfruit)

Essential kitchen items

  • Muffin trays
  • Cupcake patties
  • Electric hand held beater

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Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Beat the softened butter, sugar and vanilla together using an electric mixer until the mixture is light and creamy.
  3. Add in the eggs one at a time and beat between each addition.
  4. Add the softened cream cheese and passionfruit pulp and beat again.
  5. Sift the flours together then add to the mixture, alternating with the milk.
  6. Now you’re ready to fill the patties and bake – for 15 minutes!
  7. Meanwhile, beat together the whipping cream and sifted icing sugar. It’s important to sift the icing sugar to avoid your icing being lumpy. Make sure you watch it combine together and don’t over whip or you could soon be creating butter!
  8. Once your cupcakes have finished baking, remove from the oven and place onto a wire rack to cool completely – this will take about 1 hour.
  9. Pipe or spread, as you please, the icing onto the cooled cupcakes, then drizzle with the passionfruit pulp.

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If you love this recipe you’ll also equally enjoy my Orange and Poppy Seed Muffins

Mini Nutella Calzones

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These tiny morsels of deliciousness are so chocolatey and flaky that consumption should be banned for some nutella crazy nuts like myself. Big Bear linked me to a picture of these heavenly pillows of yum but there was no recipe attached unfortunately. So in the kitchen I went to attempt a re-creation and jazz it up with a few ingredient alternatives! They’re so easy to make as well. A simple matter of cutting up your pastry, scooping in a spoonful of nutella, and popping it into the oven to puff up. If you’re like me and want to experiment until your heart’s content, you can try heaps of ingredients. For these one’s I used mini marshmallows, peanuts, white chocolate chunks, coconut flakes and peanut butter. For a ‘healthier’ option, I would recommend small chunks of fruit like strawberries and banana.

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Planning a dinner party or kids birthday? These are simple and can be easily prepared ahead of time and left in the fridge until it’s time to bake them. The beauty is that even though the main flavour is nutella, your guests will be happily surprised by the other delights you pop in, making it a fun evening of flavour guessing.

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This recipe is also very kid friendly and will keep a house full of them entertained when you’re hosting a birthday party. Re-invent the cupcake decorating party and make it a calzone party! Kids can add their own flavour combinations, and hey, you’ve got dessert sorted as well!

Ingredients

  • 1 packet of puff pastry (6 sheets) – defrosted so it’s malleable (this will only take around 15 minutes)
  • 400g jar of nutella
  • Fillings – mini marshmallows, white or dark chocolate chunks, variety of nuts such as chopped hazelnuts, peanuts or almonds, peanut butter, coconut flakes, variety of fruit such as strawberries and banana, hundreds and thousands, glazed cherries – use your imagination!
  • Icing sugar for dusting
  • Oil to grease the pastry cutters

Essential kitchen items

  • Plastic pastry cutters
  • Lined baking trays

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

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2. Using a plastic pastry cutter takes out all the guesswork of creating the perfect shape and is very kid friendly. These pastry cutters in the pictures above and below are really easy to work with and give you a perfectly shaped calzone every time. They also come in different sizes! Open up the medium-sized cutter and push the base of it into one corner of the puff pastry. Repeat 3 times to use up all the pastry. You can play around with the other cutters to see how much pastry you can squeeze out of the sheets. Using the medium-large size cutters I find you get about 4 circles per sheets.

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3. Peel the pastry off the plastic lining and now lay the pastry circle on top of the crinkled side of the cutter (remember to grease this side first to avoid the pastry sticking to it). Spoon in your ingredients. I find less is better to start off with to avoid overfilling the pastry and creating leakage – start with a teaspoon first and work from there. Clamp the pastry cutter together so it closes up the calzone and creates a nice crimped effect.

4. Gently peel the calzone off the cutter and place onto a lined baking tray. Pop into the oven at 200 degrees and bake for around 15 minutes – they should be lovely and puffed up with a nice crunchy golden colour. Once they’re done, take out of the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes – the filling will be hot and the pastry might deflate if you try to sink your teeth in too soon.

5. This recipe will make at least 24 calzones if using 6 sheets of puff pastry.

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“Green banana’s” smoothie

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I’m always trying to find new and interesting ways of adding veggies into my everyday eating. I’m happy to say that this delicious smoothie gets me off to the right start for the day. It also gives me an awesome injection of essential nutrients first thing in the morning – fibre, iron, vitamin C, potassium, protein and calcium.

Ok…so there are no actual ‘green bananas’ in this smoothie I whipped up over the weekend. I guess it’s more the ‘vibe’ of the drink.

Many of the smoothies I make are a bit of a blend of leftovers lying in the fridge, freezer and/or pantry (i.e. no strict measurements observed). This was a little experiment which worked out deliciously well. And, it’s almost vegan for you vegans out there (sans honey).

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Ingredients

  • Handful or more of baby spinach
  • 1 small green pear
  • 1 banana
  • Handful walnuts
  • Handful bran
  • 1 cup soy milk (I used Vitasoy  Soy Milky Lite)
  • Squeeze of honey (teaspoon)
  • Water, as needed, to blend

Whizz up everything in a blender and enjoy.

I love the creaminess and the flavours and textures in this smoothie. Sweetness from the banana and pear which lightens up the bitterness of the baby spinach, nuttiness from the walnuts, and creaminess from the soy milk. I usually include bran as well to increase my fibre intake and to add a slight crunch to the smoothie.

The smoothie is also fairly cold itself from the milk, but you can add some ice cubes or use chopped up frozen bananas instead.

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No-Bake Vegan Superfood Balls

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The. Ultimate. Superfood. Treat. It’s safe to say nearly everyone is on the superfood bandwagon now, and this recipe includes quite a few of the classics – chia seed and quinoa, along with some delicious foods cherised by vegans – medjool dates and nut butter, with some cocoa to add that hint of bitter sweetness. This is a super healthy and tasty snack to have mid-morning or as a little afternoon boost with a simple tea or coffee. Credit goes to a recipe I found trawling through some recipes Jamie Oliver has put together for Woolworths, with a few fancy alterations of my own. The texture is also awesome – soft and chewy from the dates and quinoa, with some crunch from the chunky peanut butter and chia seeds. Healthy, delicious….what more can I say?

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Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup quinoa
  • 150g pitted medjool dates
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 1 cup peanut butter or other nut butter of your choice (I used Sanitarium’s natural crunchy peanut butter –  contains only 100% roasted peanuts and nothing else)
  • 2/3 cup almond meal
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • Topping to roll the balls in – desiccated coconut, cocoa powder, melted dark chocolate, chopped nuts – be creative!

Essential kitchen items

  • Food processor
  • Large lined tray

Makes approx. 25-30 balls.

Preparation

  1. Cook the quinoa according to packet instructions. This will take around 10-15 minutes. Personally, I find the stove method works better, although I wish my microwave could handle quinoa a bit more! Once it’s cooked, scoop out the quinoa and leave to cool down in another pan/bowl.
  2. Process the dates and boiling water in a processer until a thick paste forms.
  3. Once processed, add in all remaining ingredients (except the toppings) and process well until it is thoroughly combined. At this stage the mixture should be soft, somewhat spongy and will hold its shape when moulded.
  4. Using damp hands, roll the mixture into balls, then coat with your favourite topping. Place onto a lined tray, then the fridge to chill.

These will keep well in the fridge in an air-tight container for 2-3 days.

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Healthy Veggie Lasagne

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Wanna eat lasagne without being afraid of putting on those lasagne kilos?? Then this is the recipe you want! Oh yes, you can make your lasagne AND eat it too. At only 400 calories per slice (yes, I actually did the math!) it’s wholesome and packed with essential veggies. Just compare that to some of those 900 or 1000 calorie lasagnes you get at restaurants. In addition to that, it’s super easy to make. I call it a 3 step process – heat the veggies, assemble the lasagne, and cook! It also freezes wonderfully if you have leftovers. And don’t worry about incorporating ‘light’ ingredients into the dish – it’s light on calories but not on flavour – promise!

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Ingredients

  • Dash of olive oil
  • 3 medium zucchini (thinly sliced into circles)
  • 1 brown onion (thickly sliced)
  • 1 cup light cheese, such as Tasty or Mozzarella (I used Woolworths Select Light Tasty)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese (I used Woolworths Select Smooth Light Ricotta)
  • 250g button mushrooms (thickly sliced)
  • Box of wholewheat oven-ready lasagne sheets (I used San Remo Wholemeal Instant Lasagne Sheets)
  • 2 cups pasta sauce (I used Woolworths Select Tomato & Basil Thick and Chunky Pasta Sauce)
  • 2 tomatoes (thinly sliced)
  • Black pepper
  • Parsley (optional)
  • Leaf salad or baby spinach (to serve)

This will make 6 generous, healthy and satisfying slices.

Essential kitchen items

  • Large skillet or pan
  • Baking dish to assemble and bake the lasagne in – approx. 32cm x 20cm x 6cm

Preparation

1. First step is to heat up the veggies a little to cook them through. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the onion, zucchini and mushrooms and cook for around 5 minutes until they have softened slightly.

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2. While the veggies are cooling, it’s time to assemble the lasagne and preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Line a sheet of baking paper in the base of the tray. Now repeat the following process three times (using one third of the ingredients at each step):

  • Lay out a few lasagne sheets so they are touching or overlapped slightly
  • Spread out the ricotta
  • Crack some black pepper over the ricotta
  • Spread out the cooked veggies
  • Drizzle over the pasta sauce
  • Lay on top the sliced tomato
  • Sprinkle over the tasty or mozzarella cheese
  • REPEAT 2 MORE TIMES
  • At the final layer, sprinkle over the parsley

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3. Cover the lasagne with aluminium foil and bake at 200 degrees for at least 45 minutes. Towards the end of cooking, remove the foil and let it cook some more uncovered. You’ll know when it’s ready when the lasagne sheets are nice and soft and have lost their stiffness.

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Not a fan of zucchini or mushroom? You can substitute or add some other favourite veggies if you wish like grated carrot, thinly sliced eggplant or roasted capsicum.

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Orange and Poppy Seed Muffins

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Coming to the end of a big work project and the arrival of a friend’s birthday calls for some delicious celebratory orange poppy seed muffins. I seriously love the combination of orange and poppy seed together, or lemon and poppy seed for that matter, and it had definitely been a while. These I picked up from a nifty little book I had sitting on the shelf aptly titled Cupcakes: a fine selection of sweet treats. As often enjoyed, this super simple recipe is virtually a two-step process and baking time required is next to none.

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Ingredients

The batter

  • 40g poppy seeds, plus extra for decoration
  • 125 mL warm milk
  • 150g unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 185g self-raising flour, sifted

The icing

  • 200g unsalted butter, softened
  • 140g icing sugar, sifted
  • 3 teaspoons finely grated orange zest

Essential kitchen items

  • Hand held electric beater
  • Muffin tray/s to hold 15 muffins

Makes 15

Method

The batter

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line a muffin tray with your favourite muffin liners. Give the milk about 20 seconds in the microwave to warm up. Then combine the poppy seeds and milk together in a bowl, give it a stir, and set aside to gel up.

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Place the softened butter, zest, caster sugar, eggs, flour and poppy seed mixture (after about 15 minutes of rest) in a large bowl. Beat (with a hand held beater) on slow speed until everything is combined, then beat on high for a few minutes until thick, pale and creamy.

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Nearly done! Divide the mixture between your muffin cases and bake for 15 minutes. Test with a skewer or knife after this time to check if they’re ready. When they’re done pop out onto a wire rack to cool.

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Going in…

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…coming out!

The icing

Place the butter, icing sugar and zest into a large bowl and beat until light and fluffy and the graininess of the icing sugar has dissolved. Spread onto the cupcakes once cool and decorate as you please – I used some orange zest, poppy seeds and silver cachous.

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I can’t stress enough how good the citrus is in these muffins. It simply cuts through and will put a lot of other muffins to shame.

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Pea and Fancy Ham Soup

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A gorgeous green pea and ‘fancy’ ham soup that is perfect for the winter days. This recipe I adapted from Donna Hay’s book Fast, Fresh, Simple. and have doubled in quantity to serve 4. It forms part of the ‘fresh’ component of the book – classic recipes that have been taken, transformed and injected with new life. The result is fresh, light, creamy and easy on the wallet. This dish can be made in under 30 minutes, but as usual, most of the leg work is in the preparation.

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Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 brown onions, finely chopped
  • 3 cups (360g) frozen peas
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and grated (I used medium-sized sebago)
  • 2L (8 cups) vegetable or chicken stock (depending on your preference, I used vege stock)
  • ½ cup mint leaves (this is mostly for taste. I’m not a big mint fan so only used a few leaves)
  • 1 cup (250mL) single pouring cream
  • 1 cup defrosted peas (no need to microwave, just leave out to soften whilst cooking the soup)
  • Sea salt and cracked pepper
  • Enough prosciutto for 4 (2 slices per person is perfect, so 8 slices in total)
  • Crusty bread or toast to serve

Serves 4

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Preparation

  1. Heat up a saucepan over medium heat, then add the oil and chopped onion and cook until soft.
  2. Add the frozen peas, potato and stock and bring to the boil, cooking for 6 minutes or until the peas are tender.
  3. Add in the mint, cream and a generous crack of salt and pepper.
  4. Once this is all combined, place the mixture into a blender and whizz until smooth (this might need to be done in a few batches).
  5. Once blitzed, return the soup to the saucepan.
  6. Preheat a grill on high heat and grill the prosciutto for 1 minute or until crispy.
  7. Ladle the soup into 4 bowls. Divide up the defrosted peas and sprinkle into each. I added this element to the recipe as I found it nicer to have some sort of ‘bite’ to the dish against the smooth creaminess.
  8. Break up 4 of the crispy prosciutto into pieces and sprinkle into each bowl leaving the other 4 whole to serve. Serve with bread and enjoy.

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Donna Hay – fast, fresh, simple.