Warm Turkey and Rice Salad

I found a stuffed turkey roast for $2.83 today. The cheapskate in me was beyond thrilled, and suffice to say, tonight was destined to be a winner winner turkey dinner.

The beauty of this recipe – which I’ve had in my back pocket for many years now – is that it is so hands off and easy. Sure, the turkey takes over an hour to roast, but you cook it in the container it’s sold in, and while it does its thing, you’re free to do as you please. Then, with all of 5 minutes of active cooking time, which you can do any time within the next 24 hours (although if your bird cost you less than 3 dollars, I recommend cooking and eating it immediately!), the most simple ingredients become something truly wonderful. It’s a 500 calorie dinner that fills you up and feels like it should be a whole lot naughtier, and still yields leftovers for the next day (or to be fought over by the husband and nearly-teenager, as is so often the case in my house now).

Of course, you can cook the rice from scratch… but you do lose a little of that lazy-dinner feel in doing so. And sometimes, we all need a lazy dinner!

Ingredients

900-1.1kg stuffed turkey roast (my favourite one to use is the Ingham Turkey Thigh roast with apple stuffing)

450g microwavable brown rice

200g cherry tomatoes, halved

1 medium zucchini, diced

60g baby spinach

1/3 cup craisins

Method

  1. Cook turkey to package instructions – expect about an hour and a half. Rest for 30 minutes, and either refrigerate until required or continue to step 2.
  2. Microwave rice to package instructions. Allow to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, roughly chop turkey and stuffing into bite sized pieces, and set aside in the pan juices.
  4. Heat a frypan over high heat, spray lightly with oil. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, add turkey to pan and cook to heat through.
  5. Add zucchini and tomatoes, and cook for 2-3 minutes until starting to soften.
  6. Add the rice, and mix to combine and heat through.
  7. Remove from heat and stir through craisins and spinach. Allow spinach to wilt, then serve.

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Grilled Capsicum and Barley Salad

It’s a cruel trick that the universe likes to play; one week, I’m bored and feel I have nothing to do in my life, the next, I’m run off my feet working, studying, mumming, wifeing and existing. I never seem to hit a happy medium. Of course, on those busy weeks, meal planning becomes all the more important (once you work out where to squeeze it in, that is), otherwise it’s the perfect storm for falling back into some reaaaaalllllly bad habits that are best left back in 2017.

As such, Sunday afternoons are for meal prep. I long ago worked out that the best antidote for a case of The Mondays is a killer work lunch, and this salad, adapted just a little from my current cuisine-crush Ottolenghi, is just that. If you’re after something to look forward to, take your pick from the nuttiness of the barley, the sweetness of the onions and capsicum, the tartness of the lemony dressing, the saltiness of the feta, the sharpness of the olives… the list goes on. Every mouthful is just a little bit different, and while it’s 6.30 on a Sunday night, and I won’t be eating it for another 18 hours (and 2 meals!) from now, I’m already looking forward to it.

At 355 calories a serve, this is slightly higher than my usual lunches (but much less than Ottolenghi’s, as he uses 5(!) tablespoons of oil) , however it’s so wholesome and real, that it won’t leave you reaching for the cookie jar at 3pm. It’s very much worth the extra 50-80 calories to me. It’s just disappointing that I didn’t double the recipe – it only yields 2 serves, and I fear my husband will steal my Tuesday lunch!

Ingredients

100g raw pearl barley

2 cups vegetable stock

200g capsicum (I like to use yellow and orange baby capsicum), sliced into strips about 2cm thick.

3tbs black olive slices, drained (or 10 black olives, sliced)

1 onion, thinly sliced

Spray oil

Dressing

1tbs olive oil

1tbs honey

1tbs lemon juice

1tsp oregano

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp paprika

1 small clove garlic, minced

Salt and pepper

20g feta, to serve

Method

  1. Add stock and barley to a medium sized saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes, until the water has been absorbed and the barley is tender but still has some bite.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the grill/broiler on high. Line the rack of the grill/broiler with aluminium foil, spray lightly with oil, and spread capsicum in a single layer over the top. Grill for about 15 minutes, until softened and charred to your liking (a little smokiness is wonderful, here).
  3. While the capsicum are grilling, spray a small frypan with oil, and cook onions over a low heat until soft – it should take about the same time as the peppers.
  4. When everything is done, combine in a bowl. Stir in the olives.
  5. To make the dressing, combine remaining ingredients (except for the feta) in a jug. Slowly pour over the barley, and mix well to combine.
  6. Top with feta and season with lots of black pepper.

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Lamb Biryani

There are so many lamb biryani recipes out there, so I feel a bit lame adding my own spin on it, especially as it’s not the most authentic, doesn’t come with an awesome story about my mother and grandmother cooking it all through my childhood, and probably isn’t the best out there. But I’ve tried many biryani recipes, and this is by far my favourite to cook at home, so I’m adding it here for ease of access. Also, Master12 just declared it his favourite meal, and that’s pretty big coming from such a little foodie.

Then again, this IS the kid whose rating scale for the past 10 years has been thumbs up/thumbs down, and almost nothing gets a thumbs down, so…

Either way, it IS a crowd pleaser. The rice is fluffy, the lamb is melt-in-your-mouth tender, the spices are warm, and the craisins are a sweet, tart contrast. There were no leftovers, even though it serves 5 people, and only 4 people live here. Miss9 doesn’t eat as quickly as her brother and dad, and missed out, much to her chagrin. There was pouting. It was that good. It’s also relatively cheap (as far as lamb dishes go, and assuming you have a well stocked spice rack), very quick and super easy, and pretty low calorie at 480 calories per (not small) serve.

Ingredients

1/2 cup Greek yoghurt (plus 5tsp greek yoghurt, to serve )

500g lamb steaks, cut into small dice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste, this isn’t super spicy but does have a kick)

1 tsp cumin

1tsp garam masala

2tsp cumin

1/2tsp cloves

2tsp ground coriander

white pepper

Salt, to taste

1tbs olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

1 cinnamon stick

1 1/2 cups basmati rice

2 3/4 cups beef stock

1/3 cup craisins

50g baby spinach

1/3 cup flaked almonds

5tsp mango chutney, to serve

Method

  1. In a large glass or ceramic bowl, combine lamb, yoghurt and spices (except for cinnamon stick). Reserve.
  2. In a large fry pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cinnamon stick, and cook for 5 minutes until onion is soft and translucent.
  3. Add rice, and cook, stirring, for one minute.
  4. Stir in lamb mixture. Add stock and craisins, stirring to combine well. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes until water has been absorbed and lamb is cooked through.
  5. Turn off the heat and remove the lid. Cover the pan with a clean, dry tea towel and replace lid. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  6. Fluff the rice by mixing well. Add spinach and almonds, and stir until spinach has wilted.
  7. Transfer to bowls and serve, topped with extra yoghurt, mango chutney and black pepper.

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Beef and Bean Chilli pie with Cornbread Dumplings

I so often wonder what – if anything – my kids will think about the food they ate growing up. I grew up with solid, nutritious meals that were pretty typical of Australian households in the ’80s and 90’s: meat and 3 veg, sausages, and my very favourite, spaghetti bolognese. How I eat as an adult is SO different to how I ate as a child, and because I wasn’t a particularly adventurous eater growing up, I still feel I have a hell of a lot of learning to do. It pleases me that my kids already love trying new things and exploring the cultural elements of cooking, eating, and learning about food. I hope that this continues into their adult years, and that when they think back on it (do people other than me do this? Maybe not.), they recognise that a big part of the reason I’m always trying new recipes is because it’s important to me that they try new things and appreciate the origins and contexts of the food they eat.

Anyway, all that actually has little to do with this recipe, which isn’t particularly difficult or exotic. It’s just an insight into the things that run through my head when I’m cooking. Tonight went from “I hope my daughter likes this… I wonder if I’d have liked this when I was 9?” to something more existentially wanky.

It’s clearly a bit carby and cheesy, but still, it just hits 500 calories, which is reasonable. It’s a big recipe, in that it serves 6, but nobody will complain at lunchtime tomorrow! The original recipe from Womens Weekly Veg Night at Home was (obviously) vegetarian, but I swapped out two cans of beans for 500g lean mince, and honestly, I’m not at all sorry.

Ingredients

1tbs olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 medium yellow capsicum (any colour is fine, but yellow is my favourite), diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

500g lean beef mince

400g can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed.

2tsp cayenne powder (adjust for taste – this is spicy but bearable)

1tsp ground cumin

1tsp paprika

1tsp ground coriander

800g tinned diced tomatoes

1.5 cups beef stock

Cornbread dumplings

1.5 cups self raising flour

1.5 cups polenta

90g butter, chopped

1 egg

50g grated cheddar

100g corn kernels (frozen is fine, and don’t worry about defrosting them)

2tbs milk.

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C.
  2. Heat oil over medium-low heat in an oven proof skillet. Add onion, capsicum and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until softened.
  3. Add mince, and cook on high heat for 5 minutes, until browned. Add beans, tomatoes, stock and spices, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes until thickened slightly.
  4. Meanwhile, combine flour and polenta and rub in butter until it resembled very damp sand. Stir in egg, corn, cheddar and milk, to combine into a sticky dough.
  5. Remove the chilli from heat. Form 6 balls of dough and gently drop onto the chilli. Bake for 20 minutes, or until dumplings have cooked through and turned golden.

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