Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A productive morning

The weather has been so hot over the last few weeks, I’ve been giving my kitchen a wide berth. We’ve been dining on salads and anything I can think of that doesn’t take long to cook.

Finally, though, the weather has changed. It is 20 degrees cooler and raining. Bonkers! Today was a good day to get back in the kitchen and get ahead with some cooking.

“Getting ahead” cooking is important to me. I work as a casual (substitute, relief, supply) teacher, and often don’t know whether I’ll be working or not that day when I get up in the morning. Having something in the freezer ready to go for dinner that night is one way I can limit the stress of those last minute calls.

So today I’ve made Bolognese sauce, pesto, chewy cranberry bars and wholemeal date muffins for what I call lunchbox treats, and beer bread for dinner tonight. I also made some passionfruit ice cream. The Bolognese sauce and date muffins will go straight into the freezer. The pesto will go into the fridge to be eaten over the next few weeks.

The Bolognese sauce is made entirely in the microwave. Purists might scoff, but my mother is a ridgy-didge Italian and this is her recipe. Great for when you don’t have the time or inclination to tend a simmering pot. The use of the food processor means that the kids can’t pick out pieces of celery or carrot. Bonus.



500g lean beef mince

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

½ cup tomato paste

1 onion

1 stick celery

1 carrot

2 cloves garlic

salt, pepper

sprig rosemary

1 bay leaf


Place the beef mince in a microwave proof casserole dish. In a food processor place the tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, celery, carrot, garlic, salt, pepper and rosemary with about a cup of water. Process until the vegetables are finely chopped. Pour into the casserole dish with the beef and pop in the bay leaf. Microwave on high for about 20 minutes. Give the sauce a good mix and add more water if needed. Microwave for another 20 minutes. That’s it.

This sauce is best made a day before needed, or freeze.

The beer bread is another super-quick recipe that takes all of, oh, about 3 minutes to get into a hot oven. I’ve been making this bread for years, but a version of the recipe appeared in this month’s delicious magazine. Eat this within 24 hours of baking.


450g or 3 cups of self-raising flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 bottle lager beer


Preheat your oven to about 200 degrees. Sift flour into a large bowl with sugar and salt. Add beer and stir to make a wet dough. Place dough into a greased, lined loaf tin (mine is about 25 cms x 10 cms). Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden on top. The loaf is done when it makes a hollow sound when you tap it on its bottom.

The loaf in the picture is topped with sunflower seeds and cheese.

The pesto is my first batch of the season. Here is how I use it:

The most basic use is on cooked pasta, one that my children insist is their favourite dinner. Any leftovers (I wish) I eat cold as a pasta salad the next day for lunch with the addition of a few chopped vegetables.
In risotto. Sometimes this is eaten hot, but more often I will eat this cold as a salad.
On pizza bases, to make pesto pizza. This is a great nibbly for barbies.
On chicken breasts. I’ll cover chicken breasts in pesto sauce and bake for 20-30 minutes.
As a sauce for roast lamb.
Dolloped into vegetable soup, especially minestrone type soups.

Over the next few weeks I’ll have a few pesto making sessions. These will end up in the freezer, to be eaten through the winter months. Sure, the colour isn’t great but the taste doesn’t suffer too much.


Linda said...

Wow, I am really impressed how quick you got the pesto done. Well done!

We have been having pesto on unusual things, I think even a pumpkin pasta. I think they are all on the Taste site. I had a couple of jars from my Italian Chrisco hampers or the Castle one I can't remember.

Paola said...

As you can guess, I love pesto. It is one of the best things about summer, along with mangoes, cherries and figs!