A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe

Thomas Keller

Recipes for the Seasons

I’ll be honest, cooking is most definitely not my first love, but growing food is.

In order to put a half-decent meal on our family table, I combine the “have-to” with the “love-to” and find that using ingredients grown in our backyard garden not only changes the way I approach food, but our own-grown produce dramatically improves the flavour of our meals and, in the process, has created an incredibly positive shift in my mindset when it comes to cooking. 

My kids also eat better meals (I have a very fussy family – with food allergies to make it even more interesting!)

I envy those people who love nothing more than to spend time in the kitchen, designing incredible meals that their near-perfect family celebrate and enjoy.  However, this reality is certainly not mine, nor does this state of culinary bliss belong to many others.

Growing food successfully, and seeing that food ingredient become the hero in our meals makes an almost unbearable task an absolute joy.  Sharing in the food growing and cooking experience with my kids is ultimately the (organic) icing on my healthy cake!

So, from one reluctant chef, please enjoy these easy meals and ideas.  I feed a growing family of 5, and add what I need according to who’s in the house that night.

Any feedback, successes or traumas are most welcome anytime.  Remember, I’ve felt your pain.  Drop me a line anytime at: clare@clarevoitin.com.au

Yours in food …

Clare

Beef Curry

This has been my one and only birthday meal since I was 10 years old. It’s my Mum’s recipe and creates that ‘coming home’ feeling for me. For those who know me well, they will be astonished that I’m prepared to share the recipe. It’s simple, smells incredible when it’s cooking and is my true definition of ‘comfort food’.

The ingredients may seem a little strange, but trust me, the sweetness of the fruit works perfectly with this dish. This one also tastes even better the next day, so make a double batch, as it will last in the freezer for up to three months.

Enjoy!

Serves 4-6

1kg chopped beef blade steak

100g plain flour

Salt and pepper

2 medium brown onions, chopped

1 clove of garlic, crushed

2 large tomatoes

2 red apples

2 bananas

1 tbsp Keen’s Curry Powder

1 tbsp tomato chutney

1 tsp allspice

2 cups of liquid beef stock

50-75g butter (you may need to use extra for the onion/garlic)

A big squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

Fresh coriander leaves (optional)

 

Divide the blade steak into 2 portions. In an extra-large sandwich bag, add the flour and a good twist of salt and pepper. Add half the beef to the seasoned flour and shake vigorously until all of the meat is coated.  Do the same with the second batch and set aside.

Place half the butter on a medium-high heat in a large non-stick saucepan and add half of the beef. Brown the meat for 3-4 minutes on all sides until caamelised.  Remove beef, set aside, and repeat with the rest of the beef.

Turn the heat down to low and add the onions and garlic (and another knob of butter if you need). Sweat for 5 minutes.

Add the curry powder, allspice and 1 tablespoon of the leftover seasoned flour that you used to coat the beef. Cook, stirring continuously for 4 minutes, ensuring the onion mix is evenly coated with the curry powder and flour.

Roughly chop the tomatoes, apples and bananas and add to the saucepan with the chutney and coat with the spice and flour mixture.  Return the browned steak to the saucepan.

Pour in the beef stock, stir well and bring to the boil.

Redcue to a simmer and cook covered for minimum 2 hours.  Alternatively, transfer to an ovenproof dish and cook in an oven at 180°C for 2 hours.

Serve with a squeeze of lemon and fresh chopped coriander, if desired.

 

Frittata

This is one of the easiest dishes to put together for a quick lunch or dinner. If you have your own chooks, chances are the key ingredients are all in your backyard. The beauty of this dish is that it can incorporate pretty much any veg that you have in the fridge or garden. If sweet potato is not your thing, try pumpkin or zucchini.

Serves 4-6

1 large sweet potato

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt / cracked pepper

6 free range eggs

1 cup of cream (or half milk/half cream)

1/3 cup grated parmesan

Bunch of spinach

1 leek, finely sliced

Sage leaves

Handful of soft fetta (Persian fetta is ideal, but any crumbed fetta will work)

 

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Peel the sweet potato and dice into 1cm cubes.  Spread out on a baking tray lined with baking paper.  Sprinkle with olive oil, sea salt and cracked pepper. Cook for 25 minutes or until soft.

Add a tablespoon of oil to a pan and cook the leek until browned. Remove from pan and set aside. Add spinach to the pan and cook until wilted.  Squeeze out all excess liquid and roughly chop (Note - any excess liquid in the spinach may slow down the cooking process).

Grease the baking dish (dish should be at least 5cm deep).

In a bowl, combine eggs, cream (and/or milk), black pepper and parmesan. Beat egg mixture lightly until combined.

Spread spinach and leek evenly around the bottom of greased baking dish. Pour egg mixture over the top of the spinach and leek, ensuring the mix spreads evenly through.

Sprinkle sweet potato, crumbled fetta and sage leaves evenly over the dish.

Add a final good twist of cracked pepper and bake at 160°C for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and soft to touch.

Note: Use flat leaf parsley or thyme if desired instead of sage.

 

Honeycomb

This three-ingredient recipe will be a hit with the kids and can add texture and excitement to any dessert. Mix through cheesecake, add to ice cream, or use to top waffles, pancakes or yogurt for breakfast. Once prepared, store in a cool dry place in an airtight container for up to a week.

Serves 8-10

500g caster sugar
5tbsp honey
2tbsp bicarbonate of soda

Put the sugar in a large heavy based saucepan and fill with water to make the consistency of wet sand. Do not stir as this can cause crystallisation.

Heat on high, brushing down the sides of the pan with a little water to remove any sugar that has stuck.

When the water has almost fully reduced and the caramel is just beginning to colour, add the honey.

When the caramel is a golden brown, and the water has entirely evaporated, leaving only the golden sugar, remove from the heat and whisk in the bicarbonate of soda.

Pour onto a tray over a silicone mat or greased baking paper, and leave to cool at room temperature.

Break into chunks and serve.

Variation …

Melt 100g of good quality dark chocolate in a glass bowl over boiling water. Break the honeycomb into rough chunks and dip half of each chunk into the chocolate. Place on a wire rack to set and dust with icing sugar.

 

Roasted Vegetables

Some nights, all you need are some simple veges to fill the belly.  A few meat-free nights doesn’t hurt anyone (even my meat-loving family). These veges are super easy to grow at home, and this meal only takes a few minutes to prepare.  Don’t limit yourself to just these veges either – zucchini, turnip, potatoes and even squash will also add to the flavour and nutritional value of this dish. 

Serves 4

3 large carrots

3 large parsnips

1 large sweet potato

2 large beetroot - fresh

2 handfuls of leafy greens (eg: rocket, spinach)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

 

Preheat oven to 200°C. Peel and chop all vegetables into even chunks.

Toss with olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper.

Place in oven and turn heat down to 180°C. Cook for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn, and cook for a further 15 minutes at 220°C or until crisp and browned on the top and tender.

Serve with shredded lamb and fresh salad or enjoy on their own.

 

Tomato Lentil Soup

This is a rich, surprisingly hearty meal that is perfect for the cold winter nights or during summer, when your tomatoes are straight off the vine. One of the best tips I can offer here is when you are measuring out the spices, package up a few extra batches and store in small containers or glass jars in your pantry. When you want to make this recipe the next time, just add the spices in one go straight into the pan.

Serves 4-6

100g red lentils, rinsed and soaked

1 litre of liquid chicken or vegetable stock

1 large onion, finely chopped

40g extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp each of ground ginger, ground coriander, ground cumin, sweet paprika and sugar

¼ tsp ground pepper

½ tsp ground turmeric

½ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp chili powder

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

800g fresh chopped tomatoes

1 tsp salt and pepper

½ cup of fresh coriander, coarsely chopped

Before soaking the lentils, pick out any unwanted stones / pieces then rinse and soak for 1-2 hours in the stock. (If you don’t have stock, the same amount of water will do).

Heat the oil in a heavy pan and sauté the onions on a gentle heat until caramelised.

Add the spices and sugar and sauté for 30 seconds. Add lentils with the stock (or water) and the tomatoes.

Bring back to the boil, then turn down and simmer for 40-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the lentils are very soft and falling apart.   Add extra water if needed.

Puree in a blender. Stir through fresh coriander and serve immediately.