Slow Cooker Beef Ragu

I get so much joy out of sharing stories and recipes from my kitchen with you and yet, nights like tonight remind me why I am so very thankful you’re not actually here at dinner time with us. 

When I started this blog, I wrote a post called ‘Meal Time Madness’  and although that was nearly 3 years ago now, meal times are still just as mad. 

Here is a list of the most common things I would say on any given night at dinner time:

Your chair has 4 legs for a reason, please put them all on the floor.

Stop touching your brother. 

We don’t say that word in this house. 

Please don’t laugh when your brother says that word, it only encourages him. 

Don’t point a knife at your brother. 

Get out from under the table. 

Get back to the table.

Leave the table if you can’t behave. 

I don’t care if they say it at school, we don’t say it here.

Stop touching your brother. 

It’s someone else’s turn to speak, please listen.

We had your favourite last night. 

Yes, you have to eat all of it. 

There is no dessert.

What assignment is due tomorrow? How long have you known about it?

I don’t think that’s a nice name to call your teacher. 

Stop touching your brother. 

I said don’t swing on your chair. 

You are going to choke, please stop talking. 

Quick, put his hands above his head, someone get him some water! 

Please use your cutlery.

STOP TOUCHING YOUR BROTHER!

It’s a hands off policy at dinner, just like school. 

Don’t wave your knife around, you could stab somebody. 

Shhh, we are listening to how Dads day was.

Can you please help clear the table.

I know you did it last week, but it’s your turn again. 

You are about to spill your drink, please move your cup.

Can someone get the paper towel. 

I asked you to change so you wouldn’t get sauce on your school shirt. 

Please take off your shirt and put it in the laundry. 

One more piece of cauliflower and then you can leave the table. 

Any of those ring a bell with you? 

I truly believe that one of the most important things you need in parenting is PERSEVERANCE.

I love that word, but it conjures up images of sweat, tears, time, repetition, stress and tiredness. 

On any one of these discouraging yet normal nights, I picture going out to dinner with my grown sons in many years to come, enjoying their company, the food and wine and thinking ‘all those nights of the hard stuff was worth it after all.’

Let’s keep persevering friend xx

Slow Cooker Beef Ragu
Serves 6
A slow cooked tomato based sauce with tender beef, rosemary and garlic.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 hr
Total Time
5 hr 10 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 hr
Total Time
5 hr 10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 kilogram chuck steak, fat trimmed, cut into chunky pieces
  2. 4 carrots, chopped into small rounds
  3. 1 leek, white part only, washed and chopped
  4. 1/2 cup red wine
  5. 1/4 cup tomato paste
  6. 400 gram tin of diced tomatoes
  7. 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  8. 2 bay leaves (fresh or dried)
  9. a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary
  10. 3 garlic cloves, peeled, left whole
  11. To serve
  12. 500 gram packet of dried large shell pasta
  13. Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in the slow cooker, put the lid on and cook for 5-6 hours. (If your slow cooker has settings, LOW - 8 hours, HIGH - 4 hours).
  2. In the last 30 minutes, remove the lid and using 2 forks, shred the beef. If it is not falling apart, put the lid back on and cook a little longer.
  3. Cook the pasta according to packet directions, drain and toss into the slow cooker.
  4. Give everything a big stir and serve in bowls with fresh parmesan cheese and a side of steamed veggies or salad.
Notes
  1. Don't forget to remove the bay leaves and rosemary stalks before serving.
  2. The sauce can be frozen, without the pasta in it.
cook fast eat slow http://www.cookfasteatslow.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roasted Veg Salad (vegetarian)

We all have our list of ‘lazy meals’ that we go to when we can’t really bare to think anymore about what to feed the family. 

Although this salad looks a little fancy, it has become one of my ‘what to eat when I haven’t thought about what to eat’ meals. 

The beauty of this recipe, if you can indeed call it one, is that you roast whatever you have on hand or needs using up. The day I took these photos, it was tomatoes, capsicums, potatoes and sweet potatoes, and I threw some asparagus in for the last 5 minutes of roasting time.

But the options are endless – beetroot, pumpkin, leeks, onions, carrot, zucchini – if it’s in your fridge or cupboard, wash it, chop it into even chunky sized pieces and throw it on the tray. 

Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and scatter with  some fresh or dried herbs – rosemary, thyme or oregano are often my choice for veggies like these. 

If you cut them into small-ish chunks they should only take about 30 minutes in a 200 degree oven. 

I like to let them cool for a moment, before tumbling onto a platter of mixed salad leaves. You could leave it at this and it would be fabulous, or to snaz it up a bit, add some goats cheese or fetta. 

It is such a versatile dish – eat it on it’s own or alongside some protein like chicken, red meat or fish. 

I often try to do a little extra, because a container of these veggies, cold the next day makes for a quick and yummy lunch. 

Here’s to finding new inspiration to keep feeding our families without going mad!

E x

 

 

 

Florentines (gluten free)

I created this recipe a few weeks ago when I was asked to bring something for dessert to a friends house, whose family is mostly gluten free. 

As usual, it was after a forage in the pantry where I spied flaked almonds and craisins that needed using and suddenly the idea of a florentine biscuit came to mind. 

Because I have tried to create a refined sugar free version, you will find that the usual ‘toffee-like snap’ of a florentine isn’t there, but my taste testers assured me that it didn’t matter at all. They still taste like nuts and caramel and chocolate!

Putting a plate of these in the middle of the table at the end of big meal was just the perfect, not too sweet way, to finish. 

Florentines
Yields 20
A thin, chocolate coated biscuit of nuts and dried fruit.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 200 grams flaked almonds, finely chopped
  2. 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  3. 1/2 cup craisins, (dried cranberries) chopped
  4. pinch of sea salt
  5. 1/2 teaspoon of orange zest
  6. 3 tablespoons gluten free plain flour
  7. 50 grams butter
  8. 2 tablespoons rice malt syrup
  9. 100 ml double cream
  10. Coating
  11. 100 grams good quality dark chocolate, (70-85%) chopped and melted
Instructions
  1. Preheat fan forced oven to 160 degrees celsius.
  2. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.
  3. Place butter, rice malt syrup and double cream in a small saucepan.
  4. Stir until butter has melted and bring to the boil.
  5. Once boiling, pour over dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  6. Leave mixture to sit for a few minutes.
  7. Place heaped teaspoon amounts on baking trays lined with baking paper. You many need to use your hands to help shape each circle.
  8. Flatten each one with your hand or the back of a spoon. I like mine thin, so no more than 1/2-1cm thick is good. Make sure you leave enough room for them to spread a little.
  9. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, or until spread a little and golden.
  10. Leave to cool completely on trays.
  11. Once cool, dip one side of each biscuit in melted chocolate and leave on a wire rack (with a tray underneath to catch the drips!) until set.
Notes
  1. Store biscuits in an airtight container for 3-4 days. They will get softer over time. If it's very hot, store them in the fridge.
cook fast eat slow http://www.cookfasteatslow.com/

Torta Chocolate (and Tales from Tuscany)

Every now and then, dreams come true. 

Ever since I was a little girl, I had dreamed of one day visiting Italy. There’s always been something about Italy that has had me captivated; it’s food, people and their love of big-hearted hospitality are just some of the things I love about it.

So, when we were invited to join some friends for a holiday to a Villa in Tuscany, it finally felt like the right time to pack up the family and head to Europe. 

Like everyone, we’ve had our fair share of holidays that haven’t quite lived up to expectations. 

But from the moment we landed, this one met and exceeded them at every turn. 

After 3 days in glorious Venice (recipes to come from there later), we headed to Tuscany and embarked on a week of sight seeing, walking, touring, eating, drinking and immersing ourselves in everything Italy. 

Our base was Villa Gourmet, an old but beautifully restored villa with ample space for our 3 families. Surrounded by acres of olive groves, vineyards and sunflower fields, this Villa felt like home from the moment we arrived. Most meals were eaten at the pool house, which had it’s own kitchen and wood fired pizza oven. 

We cycled through the walled city of Lucca, walked along the top of a 13th century Castle in Montalcino, wandered museums of Florence, and drank Prosecco looking over the fields of Tuscany. We tasted local olive oils, balsamic vinegar and wines and ate at restaurants with no menu where the owners just cooked what they loved and served it. 

We ate pizza, gelato, bruschetta, seafood and the famous Florentine Steak that Tuscany is known for. After long days out touring, evenings were spent with antipasto and wine by the pool where the kids swam until the sun went down, just after 10pm!

On an extra special day, which had been planned by my sneaky friends as a surprise for my 40th birthday (which happened to fall while we were away), we found ourselves Truffle hunting in the woods. 

We were then driven to the beautiful home and vineyards of a family who welcomed the 14 of us into their home and proceeded to cook us a 5 course lunch, with our truffles as a star ingredient. 

We ate Truffled Ravioli (the likes of which I may never have again), Truffled Burrata, and the most amazing veal I have ever had with a truffle sauce. 

When we truly felt we could eat no more, our hosts brought this slim yet decadent Chocolate cake to the table. Named ‘Torta Chocolate’, it is made with 5 ingredients and cooks in just 9 minutes. It is a rich and velvety cake, that looks quite humble, and yet is decadent to eat. 

The Italians we met and ate with on our trip truly welcomed us with a warmth and generosity of spirit that you don’t find everywhere. Their attitude is that life and food is to be celebrated and enjoyed, not just on special occasions, but on even the most ordinary of days. 

Our beautiful hosts happily shared their recipe with me and here I am, passing it on to you. My hope is that you will cook it for a stranger or a friend sometime soon and spend some time with those people, celebrating life around a table.  

Torta Chocolate
Serves 8
A rich, velvety chocolate cake that cooks in 9 minutes.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 eggs
  2. 150 grams butter
  3. 250 grams good quality dark chocolate (minimum 50% cocoa solids, 70% works the best)
  4. 1 tablespoon sugar
  5. 1 tablespoon plain flour (this also works with gluten free flour or almond meal)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius or 160 degrees fan forced.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate together, either in the microwave, 1 minute at a time, or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until the mixture is smooth and combined.
  4. Pour the mixture into a greased and lined round cake tin (approx 23cm) or the size of a dinner plate. It is supposed to be very thin.
  5. Cook for 9 minutes.
  6. As all ovens are a little different, at this stage you can check by moving the pan gently. The cake should be set on the outside, but have a very slight wobble right in the centre. Remove it from the oven at this stage and it will set further as it cools.
  7. If it doesn't seem set enough, put it back in for 2 minutes more and check again.
  8. Dust with cocoa or icing sugar to serve and enjoy on it's own or with double cream and berries.
Notes
  1. This cake can be eaten warm or at room temperature.
  2. If you do happen to over cook it, it will still be edible, but will taste more 'cake' like instead of velvety and smooth.
cook fast eat slow http://www.cookfasteatslow.com/

 

 

Chai-Spiced Brownies (gluten free, dairy free, low sugar)

Hey there….. it’s been a while I know. 

More than 3 months to be exact, since I sat and wrote to you and shared a new recipe from my kitchen. 

After posting a new recipe nearly every week for the past 2 years, I can’t believe the last 3 months have come and gone so quick. 

How have you been? 

I’ve been doing Life With a Capital L. Probably the same as you. 

I remember vividly sitting down with a cuppa towards the end of January and thinking through what was to come over the next few months and wondering How On Earth We Would Get It All Done. 

But as sure as the sun rose this morning, here I am. Sitting down in my quiet house, next to my warm fire and writing once again, with the last few months already in the past. 

There was no magic formula to managing the mayhem of the last few months. We tackled it the old fashioned way – one day at a time. 

We’ve had a few firsts in our house this year. 

My husband started a new job which has been super exciting and I finally got the courage up to enrol in a Masters of Teaching so I can take my love of food and cooking and teach it to high school students. I have been dreaming of doing this since my early 20’s, but each time I thought I about it seriously, it just didn’t seem to be a good time. 

That doesn’t mean now is a great time either. Life, Marriage and Motherhood have taught me that nothing is neat and straight forward. It’s messy, a juggle and full of lots of give and take and compromise and sometimes you just have to dive in and figure it out as you go. It dawned on me late last year that if I kept waiting for the perfect time, when all my ducks were in a row, I would never do it. 

So I am 2 subjects in and filled with excitement and sheer terror at the thought of getting through the next 4 years. I have been talking to myself a lot lately, and I am trying to follow the advice I often give the boys – don’t look too far ahead. Do what is right in front of you and tomorrow will take care of itself. 

Just to keep things interesting, we added 2  x children surgeries, 1 x child’s broken wrist, and decided to put our house on the market and sell it. 

We tackled it like any normal person would. With loads of lists, help from family and many more take away meals than I would usually admit to. Oh.. and lunch orders too. 

There was no spare time for coming up with new meal ideas or playing in my kitchen. If I wasn’t using my own website for recipes that take less than 20 minutes, I was sitting in our local shopping village, feeding the boys Subway at 6pm on a Wednesday night. 

It hasn’t been all chaos and drama. Recently we celebrated my husbands ‘special’ birthday, the one that starts with a 4….My husband loves the water, so after he spent a day sailing with a bunch of mates, the boys and I joined him for a night on a boat. It was a fun thing to do as a family after a pretty stressful few months and a great way to celebrate him. 

Despite still having uni work to do over Easter, we enjoyed a change of scenery at the Farm. A few days of rest and reflection and country air did us all the world of good. 

So that brings us to today. 

The idea for these brownies popped into my head while working on one of my assignments. 

Inspired by a recipe from Bourke St Bakery, I wanted to make a brownie that was moist and chocolatey, but didn’t have the normal 2 cups of sugar that are in most brownie recipes. 

The chai-soaked prunes are the star of this recipe – whilst you can’t actually taste the prunes, they are what makes these brownies ultra moist and sweet. The longer you can soak the prunes for the better. Overnight at the very least, but up to 3 days if you can handle waiting that long!

Replacing butter for almond butter, normal flour for gluten free flour, using good quality 70% chocolate (with no dairy) and using rice malt syrup to sweeten it just a little means that this becomes a recipe people on restricted diets can enjoy. 

My boys LOVE these brownies, but to make it school friendly, I will need to use normal butter instead of almond butter. I think 200 grams of unsalted butter would probably work fine. 

It’s great to be baking again.

E x

Chai-Spiced Brownies (gluten free, dairy free, low sugar)
A moist chocolate brownie with a hint of spice from chai tea.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups pitted dried prunes
  2. 1 chai tea bag
  3. 250 gram jar of almond butter
  4. 200 gram 70% or 85% good quality dark chocolate, chopped
  5. 1/2 cup rice malt syrup
  6. 4 eggs
  7. 1/2 cup gluten free plain flour
  8. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  9. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or essence
Instructions
  1. Place prunes in a heatproof bowl with the chai tea bag.
  2. Pour enough boiling water over to cover the prunes, no more than 2 cups.
  3. Remove the tea bag after 5 minutes.
  4. Cover with cling wrap and sit at room temperature for 2-3 days.
  5. Preheat oven to 170 degrees celsius.
  6. Line a rectangular slice tin with baking paper.
  7. Place chocolate, almond butter and rice malt syrup in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until chocolate is melted. (This mixture will be stiff and not 100% smooth, but it doesn't matter.)
  8. Place prunes and soaking liquid in a food processor, add the chocolate mixture and blitz for a few seconds till smooth.
  9. Add eggs and blitz till combined.
  10. Add remaining ingredients and process for 1-2 minutes.
  11. The mixture will be mousse-like and quite thick.
  12. Pour into tray and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until risen and it springs back when pressed lightly.
  13. Cool in tray for 15 minutes.
  14. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.
Notes
  1. This will keep for a few days in an airtight container.
  2. Place in fridge to extend it's shelf life, but eat at room temperature or slightly warmed for maximum flavour.
Adapted from Bourke St Bakery Cookbook
Adapted from Bourke St Bakery Cookbook
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