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Kale, glorious kale!

Man I love kale!!! Don’t you?
I know it’s not as trendy as it was a couple of years back, but this leafy green gets my vote every time! I love it finely chopped in a salad or roasted until crispy in the oven!

I know some people who put it in smoothies daily and readily use it in stir-fries. So versatile and actually one of the healthiest things you can put in your body. Jam packed with b vitamins and iron (just eat some vitamin C alongside to get the full potential). high in fibre means that it’s filling, but it’s low in calories so ideal for people who want nutrient density.

Kale crisps (chips)

Call them what you want, thee lightly charred pieces of heaven rarely make it onto our dinner table – they are devoured in the kitchen before we even plate up! For 2 people as a side

300g Curly kale
1-2 tbsp Olive oil
Generous pinch of salt

Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Chop the kale into evenly sized pieces – about 1-2 cm square, removing the stem. Place onto an oven tray in a single layer. Drizzle over the oil and then massage the oil into the leaves for even coating. Sprinkle evenly with the salt. Pop in the oven for 8-10 minutes or as needed to achieve lightly charred and crispy chips. The kale will shrivel up as it cooks, so it’s a good idea to stir once in a while for even cooking. Pay close attention at the end so that they don’t burn, and remove them from the oven in batches as they cook.

Kale slaw

A nice and simple slaw with a stunning dressing!
For 2 people as a side

For the dressing:
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tsp lemon zest
4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp mayonnaise (optional)
Pinch of salt and pepper
For the slaw:
300g kale (curly or other), chopped
1/4 red onion, sliced
1 carrot, grated
1 red apple, grated or finely chopped
30g pumpkin seeds

Combine the ingredients for the dressing in a large salad bowl. Taste and season as desired. Tip: make the dressing ahead of time to allow the flavours to marry. On a chopping board, chop the kale finely, removing the stem. For a sweet and easy to chew slaw, keep chopping for 1-2 minutes. Finely slice the red onion. For a sweeter onion, submerge sliced onion in white vinegar for 30 minutes before using in the salad, then drain well before eating. Coarsely grate the carrot and apple, alternatively chop the apple very finely. Add to the dressing in the salad bowl and turn through, coating well. Sprinkle in the pumpkin seeds and serve immediately.
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Free Recipe Friday: Giant Yorkshire pudding with pan-roasted rump steak and gravy

Sometimes, not too often, I just want some real traditional cooking put in front of me! My husband could eat this sort of food on the daily, so he obviously rejoices! My grandmother always maintained you couldn’t whisk the pudding mix too much. She also made it the day before and put it in the fridge overnight to ensure the mix had a lot of air in!

For the Yorkshire pudding:

4 tbsp Rice bran oil 300 g Self-raising flour ½ tsp Salt ¼ tsp Black pepper 2 Egg 200 ml Whole milk ½ cup Water

For the steak:

600 g Rump steak Rice bran oil for frying Salt and pepper to taste

For the vegetables:

2 Carrot, sliced 1 head Broccoli, cut into florets

For the gravy:

1 Beef stock cube 1½ cup Vegetable water 1 tbsp Cornflour Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 220°C. Add the oil for the Yorkshire pudding to an oven dish and place on the top rack in the oven. For the Yorkshire pudding, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Make a well in the centre of the flour. Break the eggs into the well and begin to whisk them, using a hand-held or electric whisk. Incorporate the flour from the sides slowly to prevent lumps forming. When the mixture becomes firm, start adding all the milk and water gradually, whisking constantly. Set aside in the fridge until the oven pan is heated. Remove the pre-heated pan with the oil from the oven (or carefully slide out the top oven rack partially). The oil should be smoking hot at this point and you will need to work quickly to prevent it from cooling. Pour the batter evenly into the oven tray. Place high up in the oven and cook pudding for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown, crisp and puffed up. The cooking time will depend on your oven, as well as the size of your oven pan, so keep a close eye on it from 15 minutes onwards. Use a skewer or toothpick to check if it’s cooked – the skewer will come out clean when it’s done. Cook the steak while the Yorkshire pudding is in the oven. Heat an oven-proof frying pan to a medium-high heat on the stove top. Rub the steak with a little oil and season generously with sea salt and coarsely ground pepper. Once the pan is very hot, add the beef and sear for 2 minutes on each side. Cover pan loosely with foil, pop in the bottom of the oven and cook for 10 minutes for medium rare or longer for more well done. Bring a small pot of water to the boil while cutting the carrot into half-moon shapes and the broccoli into florets. Once the water is boiling, add veg to the pot and cook for 2-3 minutes. Reserve some cooking water before draining the vegetables. Cover with a lid to keep warm. Once the steak is cooked, remove from the oven and the pan and rest under tinfoil for 5 minutes while making the gravy. Place the pan back on the stove top and bring to a medium heat. Crumble in stock cube and 1 cup of vegetable water and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add cornflour to a further ½ cup of vegetable water and mix into a paste. Add to the gravy and allow to thicken for 1-2 minutes. Incorporate the juices from the resting steak to give the gravy extra flavour. Taste and season, adding more vegetable water if needed. To serve, remove Yorkshire pudding from the oven and slide onto a large board (or serve straight from the oven pan). Slice the steak into thin pieces and load into the middle along with veges. Drizzle the gravy over it all just before serving and tuck in.
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Meatball vs frikadelle

As you know all to well by now, I grew up in Sweden. My Mama is as Swedish as can be and as a result i basically have meatballs running through my veins… I think meatballs are not only delicious to eat, but als o super therapeutic to make. There’s just something about rolling something in your hand repeatedly while gazing out the window…

Ok that sounded weird, but I’m gonna put it out there.

This recipe that I am about to share with you is not technically a meatball, but a frikadelle. So what the frik is the difference? (pause for laughter).

To my knowledge from my upbringing the Danish word for meatball is frikadell, and traditionally these are cooked by steaming or boiling as opposed to frying, which is customary for the Swedish meatball köttbulle (kött= meat bulle = ball or roll).

Upon googling frikadelle, a bunch of Belgian and Dutch recipes show up, so it’s no coincidence that the recipe I am about to share with you comes from South Africa, where the Dutch have a big influence over both language and cuisine. Debby, who used to work in the recipe development team, is a passionate South African, so I 100% credit this recipe to her. The only slight change I have made is to add a couple of extra servings of vegetables on the side, because that is how I roll (see what I did there?!)

Next week this recipe features on the Family Menu, because every time it does, it gets a 5-star review.

South African frikadelle with marble mash and onion gravy

For the frikadelles:

500 g Beef mince and beef sausage meat (can be pork sausage meat, but this week is a pork free week in the family bag)
2 tsp Frikadelle spice mix (see below)
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup Breadcrumbs
1 small Brown onion, grated
2 clove Garlic, crushed
1 Egg, beaten
2 tbsp Rice bran oil for frying

For the onion gravy:

1 large Brown onion, sliced
2 cup Beef stock
Black pepper to taste

For the marble mash:

400 g Orange kumara, diced
600 g Red kumara, diced
4 tbsp Butter, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

For the vegetables:

1 head Broccoli, chopped
½ head Cauliflower, chopped
Butter (optional)

For the spice mix:

1 tsp Ground coriander
½ tsp Ground nutmeg
½ tsp Allspice powder

Method:

For the frikadelles, mince mixture in a large mixing bowl. Chop the onion for the frikadelle very finely, or grate coarsely, and finely slice the onion for the gravy – keep separate. Add spice mix, salt and pepper, breadcrumbs, onion, garlic and egg to the mince, and mix together with your hands or a wooden spoon. Roll into golf ball sized meatballs and set aside.
  Handy hint: Keep hands wet when rolling meatballs to stop the mixture sticking to your hands.   Get started on the marble mash. Scrub the kumara, then dice into 2-3 cm pieces. Place in a large pot, just covered with water and bring to the boil. Cook for 10 minutes or until soft. Drain the water from the pot and mash until smooth. Add the butter and salt and pepper to taste, then mix for another minute. Cover with a lid and set aside until the meatballs and gravy are ready to serve.

  Fry the frikadelles while the kumara is cooking. Heat oil to a medium-high heat in a large heavy based pan. Add the meatballs and fry all over until golden brown and cooked through – about 6-8 minutes. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon, set aside and keep warm. If you don’t have a large enough pan to fit the meatballs comfortably, fry in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Retain the juices in the pan for the gravy.

  For the vegetables, bring a medium pot of water to the boil. Cut broccoli and cauliflower into small florets, and chop some of the stem. Add to the boiling water and cook for 3-4 minutes, then drain and toss with butter if desired.

  Cook the gravy once the frikadelle are out of the pan, add the finely sliced onion. On a medium heat sauté the onion for about 3-4 minutes or until soft and a little browned around the edges. Add the stock to the pan, simmer steadily for 5-8 minutes or until the gravy reduces and thickens. Taste and season with black pepper as desired.

  To serve, place the frikadelles on top of the marbled mash and pour gravy over the top. Season with salt and black pepper at the table and tuck into this hearty South African dish.  
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Take it slow this winter – my top tips for using a slow cooker!

Use all the kit.

Our slow cooker menu is designed with optimal convenience and flavour in mind. We recommend that you have some other kitchen appliances on hand – such as a blender or food processor, as these may be handy for some recipes.

Safety first!

Place the cooker on a flat surface. My suggestion is to always use your slow cooker on a flat, heat-safe surface — like your kitchen countertop! — away from piles of loose papers or random kitchen towels, or where puddles of water might form (in other words, away from the sink or an open window).

Vintage style cooker?

So you’ve pulled out old aunt Berta’s cooker from the shed? That’s awesome! Please do me a favour and stay present for the first cooking session (after giving it a real good clean!). You don’t know what might happen. You can also check the heating element and calibration. Fill the slow cooker 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full with tap water (tepid, not too hot or cold), set it to the low setting, and then check with a food thermometer after eight hours. The thermometer should read at least 85°C. Personally I don’t believe in buying new stuff if it can be avoided so we have a hand-me-down from my mother in law and it’s great! Of course I have had to send some time getting to know the machine, and now we have a relationship for life.

Prepare in advance.

If you’re short on time in the morning, prepare everything you need for your slow-cooked meal the night before, put it into the slow-cooker dish, cover and store in the fridge overnight. Ideally the dish should be as close to room temperature as possible, so get it out of the fridge when you wake up and leave it for 20 minutes before turning the cooker on. If you need to heat your dish beforehand, then put the ingredients in a different container and transfer them in the morning.

Size matters.

Sorry lads, but it does… In the test kitchen we have found that using the right size slow cooker is pivotal to ensuring the cooking time is correct. If you slow cooker is a rather large one, it’s probably suited to 6-8 serves, where as a smaller one is suited to 4 servings. This makes a difference in that the surface area in a larger cooker will mean that a smaller portion will cook too quick, and may even end up drying out. Conversely, jamming too much food into a smaller cooker will likely slow down the cooking time because the poor thing will be overloaded.

To brownor not to brown?

We definitively recommend that you brown the meat (or other ingredients) when it gives the option to. It might not seem like a necessity but it’s well worth spending a few minutes at the start of the recipe to optimise flavour in your dinner. You’ll thank us later!

Low fat – full of flavour.

You don’t need to add a lot of oil to a slow cooker, the contents won’t catch as long as there’s enough moisture in there. You don’t need a lot of fat on your meat either. Normally when you fry meat, a lot of the fat drains away, this won’t happen in a slow cooker so trim it off, otherwise you might find you have pools of oil in your stew. This will give you a healthier result and it’ll still be tasty.

Leave it alone

Once cooking, leave the slow cooker alone. I mean seriously! Step away! Fiddling and stirring will only increase the cooking time and could possibly affect the end result. Slow cookers are designed to do their own thing so you don’t need to keep checking the contents. Every time you take the lid off it will release some of the heat, so if you keep doing this you’ll have to increase the cooking time.
Root vegetables that take longer to cook will need to go at the bottom of the pot – closer to the heat element, whereas softer ingredients such as capsicums can go at the top, so that they don’t end up cooking to mush.
If you are going to cook frozen food in the slow cooker, such as a frozen piece of meat, it is recommended by the appliance manufacturers that it is first defrosted, and that the rest of the ingredients you add into the pot are room temperature (stock, canned tomatoes, etc.) or slightly warmed. This is to ensure that all the food reaches the proper cooking temperature within a safe cooking time, as designed.
To ensure your food is cooked safely, the contents of the slow cooker all need to reach 60-70°C within two hours of operation. The newer slow cookers on the market do this fairly reliably because the sides and the bottom both have heating elements; older slow cookers usually just heat from the bottom, which can make them less reliable for cooking frozen foods. As with all appliances, refer to the enclosed manufacturer instruction booklet for clarity regarding your specific cooker.

Leftovers? That’s a win!

For me the whole point of using a slow cooker is to get some leftovers for lunch or even another dinner. It’s a cook once eat twice type scenario, which is great for busy folk like me.
As with all food that gets stored in the refrigerator or freezer, leftovers from your slow cooker need to be cooled on the countertop to about room temperature before placing into the fridge or freezer for storage. Do this within two hours of finishing cooking. Do not put the hot slow-cooker insert directly into the fridge.
When it comes to reheating, do not reheat food in the slow cooker. Again, it can take too long for the food to come up to a safe temperature. Safety experts recommend reheating cooked food on the stove or by another quicker method, until steaming. After that you can place the food in a slow cooker to keep it warm for up to two hours.

Get creative!

For me slow cooking is about so much more than meat and three veg, although that’s nice too! I like to experiment with vegetarian dishes and different types of grains and even pasta!

Designed for ease.

We have designed most of our recipes to include as little hands on time as possible, as this is the beauty of slow cooking to me. That was you can enjoy a beautiful and flavourful meal which will fill your house with a stunning aroma, without being a slave to the stove for hours. So you can spend more time doing what you love. You’re welcome and enjoy!
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Seasonal eating in autumn and winter

Oh I just love this time of year! Anyone who knows me knows that I am a true autumn fanatic! The cold, chilly mornings and beautiful, sunny days. The rainy days when you don’t see the sun for a long time and the fire is constantly lit when someone is in the house. I love how relaxed this time of year can be and all the obligations seem to go away, I guess people become more recluse in winter. As much as I love to be social, this comes as a welcome break when there’s time for self-reflection and getting stuff done.

This time of year can be a hard time for people who like to eat seasonably, but I’m here to tell you it needn’t be! You might want to add a slice of tomato to your sandwich or some snow peas to your stir-fry, and capsicums grow all year around right?

Well, not quite. Sure, these days you can get more or less anything from the supermarket at any time of year, but that’s not the point.

Pumpkins – does it even get more autumnal?

For me, going to the Farmers’ Market, or connecting with some of our local growers is the best way to figure out what’s really in season. We do have some suppliers who continue to grow tomatoes and cucumbers all year around, and they use sustainable ways of heating a hot house so I don’t see a problem with sneaking the odd outlier into the menu (I’m no complete fanatic). However, I think it’s nice to make the most of what is grown within the seasonal window for many reasons.

A classic friend in the colder months – broccoli!

Here’s my top 5 reasons why seasonal eating rocks:

  1. The food is more likely to be locally sourced and thereby higher in nutritional content. No shipping around the country (or God forbid from abroad) equals less loss of nutrient. Bonus points for lower food mileage! Double bonus point! You’re supporting the local community at growers – you’re winning at life!
  2. All the colours of the rainbow are still there – just visit your local Farmer’s Market and you’ll find purple, green, orange, yellow, red and white. Including a bit of everything means you’re getting a varied nutrient profile. Win!
  3. You might get to try something new, how does a side of yakon, daikon, turnip or golden beetroot sound?
  4. Less sprays and nasties are used for seasonal growing. The produce that’s in season can handle the jandle of the weather’s antics so they don’t need a helping hand from artificial sprays. Whatever your thoughts are on organic eating, that has to make sense, right?
  5. It’s all about the taste. Ever eaten a tomato in the middle of winter? Does it actually taste like a tomato or do you have to use your imagination a lot?
Don’t disregard kale, it’s more versatile than you might think

Below is a list of simple substitutions for summer produce in winter.

Summer varieties of lettuces – kales and cabbages or winter lettuces (more hardy varieties)

Tomatoes – radishes and baby turnips, finely sliced

Cucumbers – fennel and sprouts

Capsicums – finely diced pumpkin or butternut, kohlrabi or turnips

Aubergines/eggplants – mushrooms

Courgettes – broccoli or broccolini

I encourage you to go out and find the most delicious, fresh seasonal produce and cook up a storm!

Of course we are only human and we do make the odd exception here and there…. Every now and then we throw in the odd tomato or cucumber, just to keep things interesting. Because that’s what we’re all about: interesting and delicious meals, with minimum fuss.

Have a great week and happy cooking!