A while a go I wrote about my lack of inspiration when it comes to serving vegetables as side dishes. Part of my problem in coming up with ideas is that I generally don’t serve meat and veggies all that often. I was not brought up in a meat and three veg family, though almost everyone else around me ate like that, a very country way of eating. For me as a cook I prefer dishes which encompass the protein and vegetable content, and then I just add some carbohydrate. It’s also much easier to hide the green stuff or add some extra vegetables for the girls. These are basically one dish wonders and here are my Top Five, the tastiest and most popular with the family.
1. Spag Bol
I am yet to find a dish which equals this one for popularity, taste and ease of cooking. I can do it blind-folded just about, I don’t have a recipe except for the one in my head and I find the trick is to cook it long and slow. I make it at around lunch time and let it go until we’re ready to eat. To make it a true one dish wonder I add grated carrot and grated zucchini and sometimes diced celery as well as sliced mushrooms to the normal beef mince, onion and tomato sauce. I’ve experimented with other vegetables but some tend to have too strong a flavour, like capsicum. This is a perfect meal if the girls are wanting dinner earlier than Mr Good and I. Once the sauce is going, all that needs doing in the crazy evening hours is cooking some dried pasta, or for an even quicker meal, fresh pasta.
2. Chicken, Carrot and Date Tagine
I found this recipe while I was searching for some new child friendly meals in the days when Miss Three was far less fussy, but not yet capable of wielding a fork or spoon with much skill. I remember those days with fondness, it seems so long ago. Miss Three was probably between 12-18 months, she was interested in trying new things and never pushed away her plate in disgust as is her way now. She happily ate anything and I was happily cooking up new things I thought would be easy for her to manage and still tasty enough for Mr Good and I to enjoy. Little did I know all that was soon to change, but at least I found this recipe to add to my collection before she turned. It’s another slow-cooked recipe, it’s full of fragrant spices, and sweetness from the dates. I use chicken drumsticks which are a hit with kids and I always cut the carrots into batons which can easily be picked up and eaten with the fingers if you’re so inclined. I usually serve this with cooked cous cous which is perfect to soak up the lovely sauce.
3. Baked Risotto with Spinach and Salmon
I have no idea where I picked this recipe up, but it has long been pasted into my recipe notebook and is appropriately grotty-looking having been used countless times. The idea is to make a simple risotto starting by sauteing a diced brown onion in two tablespoons of olive oil. Add two cups of risotto rice and then a total of three cups of chicken stock a bit at a time in the usual risotto way. Once all the stock is added and the rice cooked stir in 1/2 cup of cream and a mixture of parmesan and cheddar cheese, about a cups worth. Spoon half the risotto into the bottom of an oven dish, top with a layer of baby spinach (lots, about 750g which will wilt right down by the time it’s cooked). On top of the spinach put a 415g tin of red salmon which has been drained and flaked with a fork. Spoon over the second half of the risotto and sprinkle with grated cheddar and parmesan and a little paprika. Bake in a hot oven for about ten minutes until the cheese has melted and begun to brown a little. It’s a very cheesy dish so you might want to adjust the quantities and I always add as much spinach as I can get away with. Also great with a simple crisp salad (which perhaps means it’s not a ONE dish wonder, but the salad is optional so I’m sticking to it).
4. Boston Baked Beans
I use Stephanie Alexander’s baked beans recipe using dried borlotti beans. It takes an age to cook, especially if you count soaking the beans, so I always make a big batch to freeze. As well as the beans it includes tinned tomatoes, bacon, red and green capsicums carrot, herbs and spices and maple syrup stirred in at the end. You cook it in the oven for FOUR hours, but it’s so worth it. I’m dying to try this in the slow cooker.
5. Beef in Oyster Sauce
Actually this could have been any one of the many stir fries from my Thai and South East Asian Cookbook. I used to just make up stir fries as I went along and was always disappointed. Now I follow a recipe for the sauce and the basic method, but alter the vegetables depending on what’s in the crisper. The sauce in this case is dry sherry, caster sugar, oyster sauce, cornflour and a little water. Along with beef strips the suggested vegetables are carrot, celery and spring onions, but I usually add some capsicum and broccoli as well. This sort of reminds me of Australian-style Chinese that I had as a kid in our local Chinese restaurant. Served with steamed rice it is happily (or grumpily) devoured by the family.
Sorry about the photos for this one, I had great intentions of cooking and photographing these dishes over the last couple of weeks, but it just didn’t happen. Please feel free to use your imagination and picture these dishes ‘plated up’ Master Chef style as of course I would have done.
I’m sure Liz will have some fabulous photos to accompany her Top Five list, she’s far more organised than me.