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.

A few more changes to the blog…

After returning to the blog a few weeks ago, I’ve had a chance to really think about what I want my little corner of the internet to look like. It seems that it’s time now for it to evolve a little, to become a space where I can integrate all three of my loves: travel, writing and photography. I’ve changed the name of the blog, Documented By Jess, to reflect this (but I haven’t changed the URL to make things easier for links etc!), and if you head to the main menu, you’ll see some new options…
TRAVEL: You’ll find all of my food and travel writing up to this point under the BLOG section of my menu. All of my new travel blog posts (and yes, I am working on lots of new ones!) will live here, so if that’s the reason you visit, it’ll still be here for you!
WRITING: You’ll find a few submenus in this area including other places my writing has been featured, and both fiction and nonfiction pieces I’ve written. Writing has always been such a love for me, and I realised that I’ve only been sharing on here a small facet of what I write about. Putting on my big girl pants now and getting ready to share more of what I write.
PHOTOGRAPHY: I started carrying a little film camera around everywhere at a very young age – then the world went digital. I’ve recently returned to film photography in addition to using my DSLR and iPhone to capture my world; rather than starting yet another Instagram account or blog, I’ve decided to use my blog’s Instagram account to share more of my photography. Head to this area to meet my cameras and follow the link to my Instagram account for more.
If you’re still here, still reading (even if only sporadically) after all this time, thank you. As I’ve said before, I started this blog for me, as a space I could record moments of my life, but every person who comes here to share in my stories means the world to me.

Cook this: 5 ingredient lemon coconut shortbread

We’ve all been in COVID-19 induced isolation, so we’ve all been spending some quality time with our kitchens. And when I noticed our lemon tree had gone bonkers a few weeks ago, I turned to my trusty, 888 page-long CWA CLASSICS cookbook for help. Classic shortbread is nice, but shortbread with lemon and coconut is better, so here’s my spin on a classic…

Ingredients:
• 250g softened butter
• ¾ cup icing sugar
• ⅓ cup desiccated coconut
• finely grated zest of one lemon (I used a Meyer lemon from the tree in my backyard)
• juice of one lemon
• 2½ cups plain flour

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C and line a lamington tin with non-stick baking paper.
2. Beat the butter and icing sugar together until creamy, then beat in the coconut, lemon zest and juice.
3. Sift in the flour and stir to combine – you might want to use your hands to bring the dough together.
4. Press the dough into the lamington tin as evenly as you can, then place into the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes – you want it  JUST golden, not browned!
5. Cool the shortbread in the tin for 2 minutes, then transfer it carefully (leave it on the baking paper) to a cutting board. Cut it up into squares while it’s still hot, then transfer the shortbread, still on the baking paper, onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

And we’re back!

Wowwww this feels so weird… it has been a really long time since I last sat in front of an empty WordPress post to start writing. Call it COVID-19 isolation madness, call it the often mind-numbing monotony of being a new stay-at-home-mum, call it the inevitable pull of my love of storytelling calling me back. But here we are, back in front of the keyboard. Now, where to start…

A lot has changed since I said my temporary farewell back in November 2018, and I guess the first thing you’ll notice is that I’ve changed up the layout of this site. The standard first step of the “fresh start, fresh look” routine. The other big change is that I am thankfully no longer pregnant – our little guy, Jasper, came along in January 2019, as planned… sort of.

In no way associated with the crippling sickness I experienced throughout the pregnancy, Jasper was born with a rare medical condition requiring an almost 2 month-long stay in NICU, almost 8 months of being tube fed, and a few rounds of pretty nasty surgery. He has a few more operations coming up and we still have a very busy schedule of regular specialist appointments. Which might explain why I’ve stayed away from here for so much longer than I’d originally intended; becoming not only a new mum, but essentially a low-level nurse overnight took up a lot of time and energy. That said, I didn’t stay away from writing all together – I’ve spent the last 12 months researching medical journals and writing a book about Jasper’s condition. It’s so uncommon that we struggled to find any information on it, so I decided to put my forced time at home to use and work on a resource that might help some other scared new parents in the position we were in. It’s almost done and should be due for release in the next few weeks, so watch this space! All the drama and continual medical appointments aside, I’m now an exhausted but proud mum to a very sweet, sassy, funny little boy who doesn’t know the meaning of giving up 🙂

There have been other changes, too, of course. But the one solid that’s remained is my love of travelling and documenting and story telling. It’s going to be a slow re-start for me, so posts will be few and far between for a while. Step one for me will be getting my blog’s Instagram account back up and running; over the next few weeks, you’ll start seeing some more action over at @ordinarygirl.blog – I’ll be posting some of my personal travel throwbacks, re-visit some of my older posts, share some of my favourite places, and post some great travel book recommendations to help everyone get their travel fix while we’re all in lockdown and start the ideas flowing for post-COVID travel plans. For those of you still receiving and reading this, thanks for sticking around 🙂 it’s good to be back!

How to brew different types of tea

Last week I took an awesome class through Laneway Learning called The Art of Tea Brewing, Flag & Spearhosted by the lovely Cheryl from . And it got me thinking that a big reason more people probably don’t enjoy tea is because they haven’t had it made properly. There’s actually a bit more to it than pouring boiled water into a mug and throwing in a tea bag, and there’s a hell of a lot more to it than those stale black tea bags your nanna has in the back of the pantry.

I thought I’d do a quick run through of a few different types of tea this morning, and how to brew them, based not only on some of what I learned last week, but also from what I’ve learned making and drinking tea around the world, so that you get the best tasting cup possible!

*** I will preface this guide by saying that you should always check the instructions on your tea first, as they may specify the exact time and temperate for steeping – this guide is more a general rule of thumb for the most popular types of tea. I also generally use one heaped teaspoon of loose-leaf tea to make one cup, 2 heaped teaspoons to make a 500ml pot. ***

 

Black tea

Why drink it: For a great, caffeine-lighter alternative to coffee as a morning or afternoon pick-me-up, and for benefits that include digestive tract health and lower stress levels.
Water temperature:
Boiling water, 100°C. This is the exception to “it’s not all just boiling water” rule.
How long to steep: Depending on how strong you like it, around 3 – 6 minutes.
Favourites: Storm In A Teacup’s Breakfast Tea is my all-time go to. Also adore Fortnum & Mason’s Royal Blend for an afternoon cup,  Clement & Pekoe’s Assam Leaf Corramore for a morning cup, and English Tea Shop’s Organic English Breakfast tea bags when I can’t use a teapot.

 

White tea

Why drink it: To help with everything from oral health to anti-aging to diabetic symptom relief – it’s a versatile one.
Water temperature:
 Around 80°C.
How long to steep: 2 – 5minutes
Favourites: I’ve actually never gotten into white tea, so if you have any recommendations, I’d love to know!!

 

Green tea


Why drink it: Green tea is packed with antioxidants, will still give you a bit of a caffeine kick, and reputedly has benefits ranging from reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease to improving brain function.
Water temperature: Around 60 – 75°C. A very basic rule of thumb is to fill about a quarter of the cup or pot with cold water, the rest with boiling water.
How long to steep: Again, it can vary so check the specific tea’s instructions, but generally only a minute or two, otherwise it can get quite bitter. You’ll also find some green teas can be infused two or three times, but you’ll only need 10 – 30 seconds for the second infusion.
Favourites: Ippodo’s Genmaicha is a delicious blend of green tea with toasted rice, Storm In A Tea Cup’s Matcha Laced Sencha is a great way to try matcha without going the whole hog, Twining’s Lemon Drizzle is a delicious special treat cup, and my absolute favourite (and splurge purchase) tea is Ippoddo’s Mantoku Gyokuro, which is just heaven in a cup.

 

Rooibos tea

Why drink it: Because rooibos is caffeine-free, it’s the perfect option to drink at night – it’s also packed full of antioxidants, and helps support strong bones with higher levels of manganese, calcium and fluoride. 
Water temperature:
 90 – 100°C.
How long to steep: 5 – 7 minutes.
Favourites: The Old Tea Shop’s Rooibos Caramel, and T2 Tea’s Red Green Vanilla

 

Oolong tea

Why drink it: Not quite as high in caffeine as black tea, this drop is reported to help increase metabolism (therefore aiding in weight loss), and decreases inflammation. 
Water temperature:
 80 – 100°C.
How long to steep: 3 – 5 minutes – this is another one that can deal with multiple infusions, which are often said to get better as they go.
Favourites: Wall & Keogh’s Milk Oolong and The Spice & Tea Exchange’s Coconut Oolong

 

Herbal tea

Why drink it: Herbal tea benefits are almost unending – it all depends on what kind of herbs you go with! Herbal teas can be used to help in everything from detoxing the body from harmful nasties, helping to de-stress you before bed, assisting in healthy pregnancies and energising you before a big day.
Water temperature:
 100°C.
How long to steep: 5 – 8 minutes. Herbal tea is also great to cold steep for iced tea – just add cold water instead of boiling water, and steep it in the fridge overnight.
Favourites: T2 Tea’s Mint Mix makes an awesome iced tea as an alternative to plain boring water, Yarra Valley Chocolaterie’s Cocoa Tea Relax is a delicious dessert tea, and Monique’s Apothecary’s detox.me is amazing to help get your liver and kidneys working properly again.

 

And if you’d like some more tea-related business this cold, foggy Melbourne morning, we’ve got tea-infused porridge to make at home, matcha magic cake for dessert, some great winter teas, and my favourites from around the world!