Cook this: Cheeseburger pasta

Yes, you read the post title correctly; no, it’s not a typo. Cheeseburger pasta. As in, pasta that magically tastes like a cheeseburger.

I was not aware this was a thing until a few weeks ago when a friend said she was making it for dinner, and given how much I love a good cheeseburger, I obviously had to give it a go. I had low expectations because I didn’t want to be disappointed, but I can happily say that I ended up with a huge bowl of pasta that tasted exactly like a good old cheesy… amazing!

I asked my (admittedly few) Instagram followers if they’d be interested in seeing the recipe, and the overwhelming response was “YES!” so here it is, slightly tweaked from the original my friend shared.

 

 

INGREDIENTS (makes 6 serves):
– 500g beef mince
– 1 small brown onion, thinly sliced – or, if you’re fructose intolerant like me, 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
– 400g dry macaroni or other small pasta
– 3 cups beef or vegetable stock
– 400g tin of diced tomatoes
– 3/4 cup ketchup
– 1/3 cup yellow mustard
– 1-2 cups (depending how cheesy you want it) grated cheddar or strong tasty cheese
– diced tomato, red onion, and/or pickles, to serve

 

METHOD:
1. Heat a large, non-stick pot over medium heat and spray with cooking oil. Add the mince and onion, and cook until the onion softens and the beef browns.

2. Add the pasta, stock and tinned tomatoes, give it a good stir and bring to a simmer until the pasta is cooked through (the liquid should be almost completely absorbed by that point).

3. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the ketchup, mustard and cheese, until the cheese is melted through.

4. Serve it up and top with the diced tomato, onion and pickles. Close your eyes and imagine it’s a cheeseburger. It basically is.

Cook this: beef bourguignon

Winter is here. Properly. It was a long hot summer, and in the current COVID-19 haze, I just want to sit at home in my pjs and dressing gown, and eat warm comfort food. Maybe you do, too.

I wanted to share this beef bourguignon recipe from my cookbook, because it’s one of the best winter comfort foods I know – I first ate real beef bourguignon in a little bistro in Paris back in 2013, and it was the first time I understood why people make such a fuss over French food. It was magnificent.

My version isn’t quite the food of the gods they’ll whip up for you if you ever have the pleasure of dining at Le P’Tit Troquet, but it’s easy enough to make for yourself. And make sure you make a huge pot of it, because left overs.

Ingredients:
• 500g chuck steak
• olive oil
• 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
• 1 onion, roughly diced
• 3 cups red wine
• 2 cups vegetable stock
• 2 large carrots, peeled & sliced
• 500g button mushrooms
• 3 celery stalks, chopped
• 5 bay leaves
• 2 tsp dried thyme leaves
• ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
• mashed potato, to serve

Method:
1. Roughly dice the steak and season with salt and pepper.

2. Heat a large pot over high heat and add enough oil to coat it. Cook the steak (in batches if necessary) for a few minutes, until browned.

3. Add the garlic and onion, and stir for a minute or two, until fragrant.

4. Next, pour in the wine and stock, bringing the pot to a boil.

5. Reduce to a simmer and add the vegetables, bay leaves and thyme. Stir through, place the lid on the pot and simmer for 3 – 4 hours (until it reduces and thickens a little), stirring occasionally.

6. Serve with mashed potato and a little fresh parsley sprinkled over the top.

 

And if you’d like to see more recipes inspired by my travels and the wonderful people who’ve fed me around the world, you can get a copy of my book from $9.99 right here!

Bone broth: What it is, how to make it & why I’m trying it

So, I’ve been drinking a cup of bone broth every afternoon for the past 17 days. And as odd as I thought the prescription of it was for my gut problems, my time spent investigating it on Google has informed me that its actually becomming a bit of a “thing” right now. There are dozens of articles and posts already swimming around out there from multiple perspectives/health issues, so I’m going to add my experiences and health perspective to the pile, too.

 

WHAT IS BONE BROTH?
Its exactly what it sounds like, actually. A broth made by simmering marrow bones in water for several hours (like, 12 hours minimum). While the health hipsters have only just climbed on board the broth train, my Italian family (and many more like mine) have been doing this for generations. Having mostly grown up in small towns and provinces around Italy, and not being particularly wealthy, my ancestors had to learn to use every single part of the animals they had to slaughter in order to feed their families, and that included the bones. As kids, we’d always get a bowl on mum or Nonna’s brodo when we were sick – the old-school, uncool, billion year old, Italian, original bone broth.

WHY IS IT A THING NOW?
Let me back track a little so I can answer that question properly…

I’ve been plagued with gut issues for around 5 years now, bounced back and forth from doctor to specialist and back again, trying everything that’s been suggested and prescribed to absolutely no avail.

A few weeks ago, at my wit’s end, I went to another appointment, this time with a naturopath specialising in gut issues. All I could tell her for certain was that in recent hospital tests, I had tested negative to coeliac and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), extremely positive to fructose malabsorption, and had a history of severe lactose intolerence as a baby.

Among several supplements that I was to try, I was also prescribed a modified GAPS diet for a few weeks, which for me, includes the following guidelines:
– no sugar or processed foods
– no gluten
– no grains
– no cow’s milk products
– bone broth, kefir and sauerkraut daily

As the name suggests (Gut And Psychology Syndrome), it’s now been well documented that there is a strong link between the gut and the mind, with a rather high incidence of people suffering from depression and anxiety also suffering from gut disorders. Exhibit A, me.

So back to the original question – why bone broth? It’s believed that the gelatin in the broth (that comes from those long simmered bones, particularly knuckles and joints) can be incredibly helpful in healing dodgy gut lining. It’ also said to help boost the immune system, which is great for those of us with gut issues, as our immune systems are generally not in prime condition. While there are certainly more studies needed to verify these claims of good, there are certainly no harmful side effects to drinking a cup of broth each day, and with the staggering numbers of people who swear by it and nothing to lose, I figured I’d give it a go – couldn’t make my current game of Russian Roulette every time I sit down to eat any worse!

HOW DO YOU MAKE IT?
How long is a piece of string? My investigations led me to a ridiculous amount of recipes, all with slight differences in ingredients and method, and all claiming to be the right way of doing it. I call bullshit and came up with my own recipe, combiming the plethora of online advice I found, what I remember from my childhood, and plain common sense. I will say though that this is a long process, with the broth simmering for at least 12 hours, soma slow cooker would be much easier and safer than a pot on the stove!

I did two versions, one beef and one chicken. I suspect the beef broth (made with marrow bones that the butcher sliced into smalled pieces for me and a few ox tail bones) was closer to what it’s “meant” to be like; once cooled, it formed a gelatinous mass with a nice layer of fat hardened over the top. The chicken one (made using the carcass of a roast chicken we ate for dinner) was a lot thinner – no jelly, no fat layer. They both tasted pretty good on their own, to my surprise (and relief), and would make great soup bases.

Beef Broth Recipe
– 1.5kg beef marrow bones, cut up by the butcher so the inner parts are exposed. Knuckles and joints are great, so is cartilage and fat and meat; use it all!
– 2 carrots
– 3 celery stalks
– 5 brown mushrooms
– 8 bay leaves
– 1.5 tsp turmeric
– 1.5 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1. Heat the oven to 220°C. Place the bones on an oven tray, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 30 minutes.

2. Take the bones out of the oven and place them into your slow cooker, along with all the other ingredients. Fill the slow cooker with enough water to cover the bones, set on low heat, put the lid on, and ignore it for 12 – 18 hours. I’ve been putting mine on before dinner and turning it off the next morning at breakfast time.

3. After it’s cooled a bit, I ladel my broth through a sieve into empty peanut butter jars to freeze. Some websites recommend glass jars, but I’m not willing to risk them in the freezer!

HOW DO YOU EAT/DRINK IT?
I’ve been taking my jars out of the freezer and putting them in the fridge to defrost slowly over 24-36 hours. Then, I take it to work in a travel mug, sprinkle a little salt in it, heat it up around mid afternoon in the microwave for 2 minutes or so, and sip it down!

It can be used as a great soup base if you’d rather incorporate it into a meal, and a lot of people also prefer to have it in the morning with their breakfast, but I like it in the afternoon when I tend to get the nibbles.

 

SO, HAS IT MADE ANY DIFFERENCE?
Honestly,  it’s hard to tell… one thing I have noticed though is that while I’ve been experiencing severe stomach pain and bloating most afternoons for a very long time now, I actually haven’t really had that while I’ve been on this GAPS diet, which has been wonderful! Whether it’s the bone broth though, or the probiotics, kefir, sauerkraut, gut relief supplement, foul tasting herbal elixir, or a combination of the lot, I don’t know. But I figure I’ll stick with it a little while longer!

Cook this: Olive bread

Husband never used to like olives. Until he tried them again a while ago. And he discovered he actually did like them, a lot. He noticed a handsome looking olive loaf last weekend at a bakery we stopped for tea and coffee at, and requested I make a loaf; far be it for me to say no, so I threw together a quick easy loaf, and it turned out pretty darn good. Pretty easy to make, as well…

Ingredients (makes 1 loaf):
– 500g plain flour
– ½ tbsp salt
– ½ tbsp dried yeast
– 1 heaped tbsp dried rosemary
– 475ml warm water
– 1 cup pitted olives of choice – I used kalamata

 

Method:
1. Combine the flour, salt, yeast and rosemary in a large mixing bowl, then stir in the warm water. Once combined, mix in the olives.

2. Cover the mixing bowl in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

3. When you’re ready to bake, take the dough out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature.

4. Preheat the oven to 220ºC, grease a loaf tin and place the dough into it (alternatively, line an oven tray with baking paper and shape the dough into a free form loaf). Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, or until baked through; the easiest way to test it while it’s still in the tin is to tap the bread – if it has a hollow sound, it should be baked through.


I’d highly recommend serving it fresh out of the oven, topped with prosciutto and fior di latte cheese. Amazing!

Cook this: Eggplant, tomato & beef stew 

One of my best friends told me about this recipe she found on taste.com.au last week, and it sounded amazing for the cold weather hitting Melbourne at the moment. I also love eggplant and slow cooked chuck steak, but haven’t used them together before, so I was pretty keen on trying this out.

I’ve been bulk cooking a lot lately, too; making big meals of 8 – 10 servings so I can freeze extras for those mid-week dinners I can’t be bothered cooking. This is a perfect recipe for bulk cooking – it reheats really well, and you can add in whatever grains you want when you’re ready to eat, be it pasta, cous cous, rice, bread, whatever! My version is also very vegetable heavy, because they’re good for you, especially in winter when our immune systems are being put to the test and we’re prone to rely more on heavy meals and not get enough healthy stuff in.


Ingredients (10 serves):
– 1kg beef chuck steak, cut into bite-sized cubes
– a little plain flour, to coat steak in
– 2 garlic cloves, crushed – of, if you’re fructose intolerant like me, use garlic infused oil
– 2 tbsp dried oregano
– 2 tsp ground ginger
– 1 tbsp tumeric
– 1 tbsp sweet paprika
– 1 tbsp smoked paprika
– 1 tbsp cumin
– 2 tsp mustard seeds
– 10 tomatoes, roughly chopped (preferably vine-ripened)
– 3 cup vegetable stock
– 2 mild red chillis, roughly chopped
– 4 large eggplants, diced
– 3 large zucchinis, halved lengthways, then chopped

 

Method:
1. Add the steak and flour into a large mixing bowl and toss to lightly coat.

2. Heat a large saucepan and add a little olive oil (plain or garlic infused), enough to just coat the pan. Add the beef and cook, stirring, for 5 – 10 minutes, until browned.

3. Stir in the oregano, ginger, turmeric, paprika, cumin, mustard seeds, and a little salt and pepper.

4. Next, add the tomatoes, vegetable stock and chilli, stir to combine, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, covered, for an hour. After an hour, remove the lid and simmer for another 20 – 30 minutes while it thickens up, until you’re happy with it.

5. While the stew cooks, heat up the oven to 200°C and lightly spray two large baking trays with cooking oil. Add the vegetables between the two trays, spray again with a little more oil and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over them. Bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes, until cooked through.

6. Once the stew is done, stir the vegetables through and serve with grains of choice – I like cous cous, but a good piece of crusty bread to dip is a great option, too!