Lamb and Carrot Ragu

Not as hard as it seems. Really, I was surprised at how tasty it was considering I made it, and I’m bad at meat.

Lamb and Carrot Ragu

Lamb and Carrot Ragu

Inspired by a brunch I had somewhere in North Melbourne, but the recipe is mine

4 pieces round lamb bone chops – it has to be something with a bit of bone in it
8 tomatoes, chopped
2 carrots, diced small
1 red onion, chopped
5-7 cloves garlic, chopped
1.5 tablesp tomato paste
1 tablesp balsamic vinegar
1/2 teasp cumin seeds
3 bay leaves
1/2 teasp black pepper
Salt and sugar to taste

A pressure cooker

  1. Brown onion and garlic in some oil. Add the cumin seeds.
  2. While while that’s browning, chop the carrots. Then add the carrots.
  3. Same for the tomato – while the carrot browns, chop the tomato. Then add the tomato and a little salt.
  4. Mix it around and then close the pressure cooker lid. Pressure cook on high for around 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Clean the excess fat off the lamb. Open the pressure cooker (quick release), then add the lamb, tomato paste, black pepper, balsamic vinegar, and bay leaves.
  6. Close the pressure cooker, and cook on high for around an hour.
  7. Open the pressure cooker (quick release), then boil off the excess water until the sauce thickens. Taste and adjust the salt and sugar as needed.
  8. Serve over some small size pasta 🙂
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Porcini and Garlic pasta

I’ve been getting a bit lazy with writing my posts. But I still want to use this space to record recipes that tasted good. But I always feel as if to post, I need to write out some sort of grandmother story.

I decided that today I’m not going to, and make no apologies for neglecting the grandmother stories until I feel like writing them again.

Welcome to Lea’s recipe filing cabinet. Make yourself at home, nothing is in alphabetical order.

Porcini Garlic Pasta

Porcini and Garlic Pasta

Inspired by the funny packets of dried herbs you can get at the Italian supermarket, which you hydrate and it magically becomes a super tasty sauce. Unfortunately, we ran out and had to improvise. 

4-5 slices dried porcini mushrooms, crumbled
8 cloves garlic, chopped
10 large white button mushrooms, cubed
A small can of tuna steaks
1 teasp black pepper
Salt to taste

Fettucini for two

  1. Add the porcini and around half a cup of water to a frying pan. Heat it until the water boils off, rehydrating the mushrooms.
  2. Add a little oil and the garlic, and a bit of salt. Brown the garlic a little.
  3. Add the mushrooms and black pepper. Continue to cook until the water released from the mushrooms dries off. Add the tuna steaks and give it a swirl.
  4. Add the cooked pasta and mix it in over medium heat  so the pasta takes up the taste of the sauce.

Attempts to find tasty cheaper pesto: rocket hazelnut garlic pesto

I really like pesto but let’s be honest, I can’t really stomach paying a lot for a huge bunch of basil + pine nuts on a regular basis. For something like seafood, perhaps I would be more willing to pay. But not really for a herb and a nut, no matter how nice they are.

Hence the search was on to create a tasty pesto which doesn’t break the bank. Enter rocket.

Hazelnuts were substituted for the pine nuts, though I’m sure almonds and walnuts would be nice too, depending on what you can get cheaply at the time.

Cheese was removed because.. err well I ran out that day. You can put the cheese back in if you like but it masks the flavour of the garlic and hazelnuts a bit. Also depending on where you live, it might be costly too. Shavings of parmesan would probably be appreciated though.

Maybe my point is just that you can sub out basil for any green, and pine nuts for any nut, and cheese for something a bit pungent like garlic.

Or maybe I have no point and I just like garlic. That might be it too 🙂

Pretty green

Rocket hazelnut garlic pesto

Inspired by a pasta sauce a friend had at Crown Melbourne. Credit to the Kitchn for the idea of using rocket. 

A handful of hazelnuts, toasted
4-5 cloves of garlic
A big bunch of rocket
Salt, pepper, and chilli flakes to taste.

  1. Blend the garlic and hazelnut into chunks.
  2. Fry the garlic-hazelnut mix with a little salt in some olive oil until the garlic is fragrant.
  3. Return the contents of the pan (including oil) to the blender and blend in the rocket. If the mixture is a little dry, add more olive oil.
  4. Taste, add salt, pepper and chilli flakes as needed.

Yet Another Lazy Pasta

Lazy pasta needs no introduction, it’s the staple of quick weeknight meals. Using only one pot and requiring only one ingredient to be chopped. If you eat it out of the pan, you don’t even need to wash a plate (I definitely don’t eat out of the pan *cough*). What more can you ask for on a busy day?

Well, I’d also ask for a single serving sized tub of chocolate mousse. Oh but yes.

This pasta is like the comforting old house slippers of the pasta world – easy, quick, warm, and makes you feel happy. I don’t think I’d want stilettos for dinner every night, but that’s another story.

Not so appealing, but beautiful all the same.

No shoes were harmed in the making of this dish.

Spinach and Cheese Pasta

A riff on this pasta, but slightly less sophisticated and more spicy. And based on what I had in the cupboard/freezer. Takes all of about 15 minutes to come together.

5 cloves garlic
A generous handful of spinach, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup grated cheese – I used cheddar is fine, if you use something stronger you can use a less. It’s really up to you.
2 teasp chilli powder – I probably used more than this
1/2 teasp basil
A pinch of salt

Pasta for one – I used macaroni

  1. Cook the pasta, set aside. Drain but let the pasta stay a bit wet – this helps the sauce come together later.
  2. Chop the garlic, and cook over medium heat in a little oil with a pinch of salt. After the garlic starts to brown, add the chilli powder and basil, and stir.
  3. Dump in the spinach (mine was still frozen and it defrosted in the pan). Stir until it warms up and wilts.
  4. Pour in the pasta and the grated cheese, stir until the cheese is melted and everything is nicely mixed together.

Leeks and Bouncy Prawns

Sometimes you want real food, and sometimes you make pasta. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying pasta isn’t food. All I’m saying is that the times I make pasta don’t seem to be the times when I’m exceptionally excited / ambitious about cooking. Pasta fulfills a very important role as “standby food”.

I make pasta when:

  • I’m tired and I can’t be bothered to cook
  • There is nothing in the cupboard and I don’t feel like shopping
  • I’m being cheap because I just bought something fancy and used up the rest of my food budget for the month
  • I want to do as little washing up as possible because it’s cold outside and I’m cold and washing up makes me cold (yes, I hate the cold)
  • I’m not really hungry but it’s dinnertime and the auntie who lives in my brain is forcing me to have a so-called square meal

Some like it hot Leeks are quite pretty somehow Bathing in icy water Yes chilli please And next the leek And the lightly cooked bouncy prawns Also tastes good cold, and for lunch tomorrow

I’m totally misjudging pasta here because it’s really quite satisfying. Especially when it has bouncy bouncy prawns in it.

boing boing boing

Chilli, Leek, and Prawn Pasta

Inspired by a combination of Taste.com.au, and The Age. Neither of them did exactly what I wanted though, much editing ensued.

3-4 servings of pasta – spaghetti or similar is better
2 leeks
5 cloves garlic
2 chillies
200g prawns – shelled
1.5 tablesp lemon juice, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan to sprinkle, I like lots

  1. Peel the prawns and let them sit in a bowl of icy cold water to ensure optimum bounciness while maintaining laziness. For a true bouncy prawn you apparently need to marinade at pH9.
  2. Cook the pasta. Drain and set aside. Keep a little cup of the pasta water.
  3. Dump the peeled garlic and chilli (with the stem and end cut off) into the chopper for a quick whiz. Start frying in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add a pinch of salt too.
  4. Slice the leek into rounds. Throw away the super hard green part. When the garlic goes golden, throw the leeks into the pan.
  5. Once the leeks soften, add the prawns. Keep going until they’re just cooked.
  6. Put the pasta into the pan and mix it all up. Add a little pasta water to get the sauce moving.
  7. Season with lemon, salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Remove from heat and sprinkle with parmesan. Toss and enjoy for dinner, and tomorrow’s lunch.

Aglio Easio Pasta-o

Me and complicated food… We’re alright. Our relationship is somewhat like the one between you and that one friend you have, the too-cool friend, that you aren’t super close to, but when you hang out you have a pretty good time. But you don’t want to meet up more than occasionally. Because it’s tiring. It’s fun.. but being honest with yourself, you are a bit too lazy to meet up with them every day. Every week even. Perhaps once a month or so?

A healthy meal, ish

Don’t judge me. I like drinking tea in the afternoon and eating cheese and cake. And being a bum. This is a very cute place that Shobie and I went to, that serves good tea, and cheese, and apparently cake.

Eat all the pasta! Salad yums

Anyway. These recipes are more like your best, comfortable friends, the ones you don’t mind meeting up with loads of times, for tea, coffee, or random snacks. The ones that you don’t have to entertain or make awkward conversation with. You can just be (your weird self). I wonder what this says about me.

Aglio Olio e Pepperoncino

Yeah so I don’t have a source for this recipe, it was one of the first things I learnt to cook, and I kept trying until it worked. I think everyone makes this a bit too complicated.

Pasta for 2, boiled and drained – Spaghetti or linguine is best
4-5 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
Chilli – either a spoonful of flakes, or 1 or 2 fresh chopped red chilli. Both are fine, depending on what you have and how hot you want it.
Approx 1/4 teasp salt

Black pepper
A bit of hard cheese, like parmasan

  1. Get a big wok, and heat up a few tablespoons of oil. I use about 3-4 tablespoons for 2-3 portions of pasta. Turn the heat to medium, and let it get hot. If it starts smoking, turn take it off the heat for a bit and make the fire smaller.
  2. Put the salt into the oil. Sounds weird, but it makes the garlicky taste come out better.
  3. Drop in a piece of garlic. If it sizzles on impact, that’s good, put the rest in. If it sizzles then turns black and turns into charcoal, take the pan off the heat for a bit and turn it down. If nothing happens, and the heat is already on medium, DON’T TOUCH! Just wait a few minutes longer until it starts sizzling and dancing around in the oil. Then put everything else in (garlic + chilli).
  4. Keep the garlic on the heat until it turns golden, not brown. Then dump in the pasta and stir it around, still over the heat.
  5. Stir stirrrr, keep going until the pasta is all coated. If it looks dry, add a couple of tablespoons of water and keep mixing.
  6. Remove from heat, grind some black pepper on, and add a little cheese. Tadaa! Dinner in 15 minutes.

Salad with Balsamic Caramelised Onions

So this is the actual first thing I ever learnt to cook, because one of my jobs while cooking in uni with my friend Bar was to make the salad dressing. I couldn’t really be trusted with anything else. I distinctly remember a conversation with her in which I complained that it was not working, and she told me to turn down the heat and be patient because I was burning the onions. My impatient cooking philosophy in a nutshell: heat higher = cook faster, but try not to burn it.

Half an onion
2 tablesp balsamic vinegar
1 teasp sugar
Some oil to fry the onions

  1. Chop the onion into long strands.
  2. Heat oil in the pan – put it on medium.
  3. Dump in the onion and let it cook a bit.
  4. Throw in the balsamic and sugar.
  5. Stir and keep going until your desired level of caramelisation is reached.

Mum’s Homemade Lasagne

A firm favourite in my house when I was young was always homemade lasagne. I’m not entirely sure why my mother always chose to make lasagne, seeing as she doesn’t like to cook – it’s really quite involved. I’m not one to complain though.

I’m trying something new today. I’ve added this recipe in pictorial form. I find recipes like this easier to follow. Not sure if that holds true for everyone though. In case you don’t like it, here’s a cute picture of my dog. Feel better now?

This is one of my favourite things to eat at home, but you can enjoy it without me this time. I’m still slightly traumatised by a story I was told recently about how cows are slaughtered for meat, and how they jerk afterwards and kick their legs. Sigh. I guess in a couple of weeks or so I’ll come back to the second lasagne stashed in the freezer.

Mum’s Homemade Lasagne

I’m not sure where this recipe originally came from. I collected it by following my Mum around the kitchen with a notebook and a camera. This recipe makes 2 trays of lasagne. You can adjust the proportions of meat to vege, and the cheesiness of the sauce. It will still work. Not like it has to rise like a cake or anything. Creativity food!

Beef Mince

800g beef mince
2 carrots
6 tomatoes
2 peppers – red or green is fine
3 sticks of celery
2 yellow onions
2 whole heads of garlic
Chilli powder – optional
Salt & Pepper
1/2 bottle of Prego or another pasta sauce, OR
1 can of crushed tomatoes, and
3 bay leaves
1 teasp basil
1 teasp thyme
1/2 teasp rosemary
– Add more herbs as you like. You might need a bit more basil.

Cheese Sauce

1 litre milk
2 tablesp butter
3/4 of a block of Philly cheese / other cream cheese
400g grated cheddar
1/2 to 1 cup of grated parmasan
Any other cheese you like, these proportions aren’t fixed 🙂

A box of lasagne sheets
1/2 cup grated parmasan – to sprinkle on top
1/2 cup breadcrumbs – to mix with parmasan and sprinkle on top, optional

 1.

  • Dice the veges, garlic and onion.
2.

  • Defrost the meat.
3. 

  • Fry garlic until fragrant.
  • Add onion, fry until soft. Add a pinch of salt.
  • Add the meat, break it up and add salt, pepper and herbs (if using).
4. 

  • Keep frying the meat until it goes about this brown (see pic).
  • Add the vege and tomato, and stir it around.
  • Add the pasta sauce. Stir it around and keep cooking for a bit until the sauce boils down and the meat isn’t too wet. You can substitute for crushed canned tomatoes, use all fresh tomatoes (tell me how, I haven’t figured it out yet…)
5. 

  • Mix milk, butter, and cornflour in a pot over low heat.
  • Keep stirring, and take it off the heat when it reaches the consistency of thick cream.
6. 

  • Add the cheeses to the milk, and mix well. Don’t worry if there are still a few lumps, they’ll melt away in the oven.
  • Pour a thin layer of cheese sauce into an ovenproof dish.
7.

  • Add a layer of meat, then a layer of instant lasagne sheet.
  • Repeat! Try to get at least 3 layers of lasagne sheets, it’ll taste better
8. 

  • Finish it off with a layer of cheese sauce, and a layer of grated parmasan. You can mix the parmasan with some breadcrumbs if you’d like a bit more crunch.
  • Bake at 180 degrees C for about 45 minutes, or until the top goes nice and brown and the inside of the lasagne is piping hot.

Then… take a plate, and a big spoon, and enjoy 🙂 I like mine with lots of chilli flakes.

Also, this freezes really well in the bowl (just stick it back in the oven for a bit to heat up and crisp). Make sure you cool it to room temperature before putting it in the freezer, and defrost it to room temperature before putting it in the oven – so that your bowl doesn’t crack. I speak from experience.

On Computers, Shady Deals, and Pizza

I think I may have been forced into a corner. My brother, a tech whiz, has just demanded freshly baked pizza in return for fixing my computer. My computer won’t connect to the internet, which means he pretty much has me at his mercy. When one’s computer won’t connect to the internet, that’s basically like the armageddon occurring in your lap.

He says: “I’ll fix it for you, if you make me something nice.”

Of course, I suggested chocolate cake, because I wanted to have another go at the chocolate cake recipe from a few weeks back. I like chocolate cake, I could eat chocolate cake everyday. I’m quite eager to have another go at that to try and lighten it up. But it was not to be.

“I want something savoury and nice. I heard you make pizza. Make me pepperoni pizza!”

Despite feeling slightly smug, as this is the first time someone has asked for food as payment, I sag slightly. I know that pizza takes a bit of effort because you have to make the crust (well not really, it’s actually pretty fast, but it depends what time I get home from work and takes a bit of forward planning), and also he requested that the pizza to be delivered tomorrow (which is now today).

My typical method of working myself up to cooking something even mildly difficult is to plant the idea, then dream about it for about a week, then finally get so excited/hungry that I decide I MUST HAVE IT and then spend a few hours in the kitchen, salivating over the food-in-progress. I don’t drool in my food, don’t worry, but I do eat quite a lot of raw ingredients. By this point, anticipation is hanging in the air like thick black smoke, and when the food is finally done it tastes all the more awesome, likely because I’m so overexcited about it rather than due to any real cooking skill. But, as you may have noticed by now, my unwritten weeknight dinner criteria is “lazy”, i.e., that any food produced should take less than an hour from chopping board to table. Preferably less than 20 minutes. Using fresh ingredients, if at all possible. Though frozen spinach and peas are still some of my best friends.

After clarifying that I will, in fact, not be willing to make my own pepperoni, I go back to my (borrowed) computer and look for my old pizza recipe. I wonder if, alone, I can actually pull off pizza again – I previously made it only once, when Bigfoot was with me in Singapore. Despite my obvious obsession with eating food, he’s actually better in the kitchen than I am. Difference between someone who grew up cooking, and someone who stumbled blindly into it due to greediness, I suppose. I bragged loads to my brother about said pizza last time, because he was somewhere far away and didn’t get to try any. I suspect this is payback time.

No, in all seriousness. There isn’t an excuse for bad pizza crust really. It isn’t rocket science by any means. Most people are more diligent about following recipe instructions than me, and should be able to do it. Especially if using normal flour 🙂

I always used to think that pizza was like the holy grail of kitchens, the one thing that only people who can actually cook can make. Really good pizza is like a beautiful phoenix rising from the ashes of a smouldering oven. Well, I suppose I only think of it that way because I’ve burnt quite a few freezer pizzas. But it’s different with real pizza! You get so excited that there is actually going to be fresh, crispy pizza that you sit on the floor in front of the oven door while it cooks. Well, of course I don’t do that, that would just be silly. I definitely just use the timer. Definitely, certainly.

Pizza notes: GF flour in this recipe doesn’t work that well. But if you really have to use it (I had to, in this instance, because my mum’s GF), it still makes a much better GF pizza than the commercially available pizza bases, which are rock hard.

Check out my previous attempt with normal flour for crust comparison:

In the same incompetent hands, you get that nice, crisp, puffy pizza crust. No excuses.

Also, my computer isn’t fixed yet. This doesn’t seem like a deal! Hmm.

Easy Pizza that even Lea can’t mess up

Pizza base is copied exactly from Smitten Kitchen. I’m too scared to mess with bread doughs. Use your own toppings.

Pizza

Makes 2 regular sized, thin crust pizzas. I like mine quite thin and crispy though so you might get less.

1.5 cups flour
1 teasp salt
3/4 teasp active dry yeast
1/2 cup room temperature water (add 1 or 2 tablesp more if needed to bring it together)
1 tablesp olive oil, and more to grease the bowl
Cornflour + baking paper
Pizza toppings!

  1. Mix together flour, salt and yeast together.
  2. Pour in water and olive oil, stirring til it clumps into a ball. Use your hands if you have to, or add up to a couple more tablespoons of water.
  3. Flour a flat clean surface, and knead the dough on that until it looks like a nice smooth ball. This should be pretty quick, a minute or two. If it doesn’t work so well, cover the dough with the bowl, and go off and eat some chocolate for a couple of  minutes. When you get back, you and the dough will feel much better about yourselves.
  4. Oil the inside of the big bowl you used, and dump the dough back in. Spin the dough around until all sides are covered with oil (stops it sticking), and cover with plastic wrap. Let it sit somewhere warm for a one or two hours. It should double in size.
  5. Put the dough back on the floured surface, and gently squish the air out. Fold into a ball (or balls, depending on how many pizzas you want), and let them sit under the upturned bowl for 20 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle cornflour on a sheet of baking paper, and flatten out the pizza.
  7. Add your toppings and sauces, don’t put too many or the inside of the pizza doesn’t cook nicely!
  8. Bake for 10 minutes until the crust is a bit blistered, at the highest oven setting. I put the grill on at the top of the oven to finish it 🙂