Simon's Simple Recipes
So, over the years I've developed some easy recipes which take very little work, but are enjoyed a great deal by my family. And I thought ... why not share?
Beginners Tip. If you're not a confident cook, or don't even know the first thing about cooking and have to learn fast, I suggest two purchases: An electric rice cooker and a crock pot (aka slow cooker).
I know there are endless kitchen gadgets and gizmos, but these two really are useful. The rice cooker is simple ... you just throw in a cup of rice and three cups of water, press the button, and when it goes off you have a perfect side dish. It's impossible to burn it because rice cookers switch over to 'keep warm' mode when they're done, and if you get one with a steamer basket you can even put your chinese veggies in the top for 10-15 minutes at the end of the cooking time.
The crock pot or slow cooker allows you to put together stews, curries, soups and more, and because it cooks over a long period of time it'll turn the toughest piece of meat into melt-in-your-mouth flakes. Like the rice cooker, it's very hard to burn anything in the crock pot.
Useful Ingredients: There are some things every kitchen should have, including the following goods which keep for ages: Rice, olive oil, dried legumes (chickpeas, lentils, split peas - soak them overnight before using), spices (can't live without chilli, thyme, oregano, black peppercorns for milling, salt), pearl barley (add a handful to stews), various tins of veggies (I use tomatoes and red kidney beans most often. Tinned chickpeas are a crime against nature.)
Time savers and shortcuts:
• You can soak an entire packet of chickpeas overnight, then drain and simmer in fresh water for 40 mins the next day. Now divide them up into small zip-lock snack bags and freeze. Instant fresh chickpeas on demand!
• Cooked rice freezes and reheats really well. While the rice cooker is going, make double and freeze half.
• Stews and soups also freeze and reheat really well.
• When dealing with leftovers I like to divvie them up into one-person portions (e.g. a bit of rice + chicken + veg), layering the various serves in a ziplock sandwich bag (e.g. rice on the bottom, then the chicken, then some veg). I label these bags with the date and contents and then lay them flat in the freezer. They make perfect instant lunches or evening meals, and better still one person can have spag bol while another has chilli con carne and the third has fried rice and meatballs.
Microwave Porridge Recipe
Very quick breakfast, and healthy too.
(Adjust the following quantities to taste & to get the desired portion.)
1/2 - 1 cup quick oats (NOT the one-minute powder variety)
1/2 - 1 cup boiling water
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
Tip the oats into a microwave-safe bowl and add boiling water until they're just moist, but not swimming in it. Then tip in most of the milk. Microwave on high for around two minutes (I use 2m30s)
Remove from the microwave and pour the rest of the (cold) milk on top. Sprinkle with sugar. You can put the (hot) bowl on a side plate to protect your fingers.
I sometimes make porridge for four - just increase the quantities and microwave a bit longer.
When cooking porridge you don't want a sloppy, undercooked mess and you don't want to turn out bowl-shaped bricks either. The ideal consistency is somewhere in between. (You'll know if it's undercooked because the oats taste a bit dusty.)
Yes, really. There's a knack to good toast, and I've posted about it on my blog
You might also like to see the post about a piece of Happy Toast.
I'm currently putting together a how-to book containing updated and revised editions of all my articles on writing and publishing, plus a lot of new material. If you'd like to know more, follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter
I've not written any of my recipes down before (I just make things on the fly), so I'll keep adding more as I get the time. For now, here are a few to get you going.(And just as a bonus, my mum has chipped in with some of the wonderful recipes I was brought up on!)
Coming soon: wraps (turkish bread, various kinds), tacos, garlic prawns, chicken drumsticks (various), stuffed capsicum, chicken casserole, kebabs (skewers), goulash and meat pie.
Home made Beef Burger Recipe
1 egg, 1 small onion, 500gm low fat mince
Dash of salt and pepper
Optional: slice of toasted bread, cubed and crumbed
Chop the onion really finely.
Mix everything together in a bowl, using your hand to squeeze and mix the ingredients (You can get disposable gloves if this doesn't appeal.)
Shape into 4 large balls
Place in hot, oiled pan and press flat (about 2-3cm thick) with spatula
Cook each side until they're done all the way through.
Serve on buttered multigrain toast with a large helping of chopped lettuce and tomato.
Very nice with French mustard.
Can also fry some onion rings with the burgers.
Home made Meatballs Recipe
Follow the hamburger recipe, but form the mix into a couple of dozen small meatballs.
Cook in a frying pan, turning often.
Place meatballs in an oven pan and tip a jar of pasta or other tomato sauce over them. (e.g. Bertolli, Dolmio) Roasted garlic and tomato sauce is nice.
Bake for 20-30 mins
Serve on bed of rice (brown is wonderful for this.)
Shepherd's Pie (with sliced potato) Recipe
Apparently it's shepherd's pie with lamb and cottage pie with beef. Use either!
500gm good mince - I use heart smart ultra-low fat
1 medium onion
Two small/one medium zuccini (marrow) chopped up.
Two or three carrots peeled and chopped into 2cm pieces.
Three medium potatoes, peeled
Ingredients are flexible! Try substitutes like green beans, chopped celery, eggplant, peas, etc.
Heat oil in a frying pan
Add in the zuccini, carrot and onion
Sprinkle with a dash of salt and pepper
Optional flavouring: Add a pinch of saffron and a garlic clove, sliced.
Give the veggies 5-10 minutes on high, stirring to prevent sticking and burning. A little browning is good.
Tip the lot into a casserole dish.
Now brown the mince. I like to cook mince on a hot stove, turning and chopping it with the spatula so I get coarse lumps. I never add liquid at this stage, because that just makes slurry.
Thinly slice the potatoes - about 1/2cm each (1/4 inch)
Tip the mince into the casserole dish and mix with the veggies.
Add a cup or two of hot water.
Now push slices of raw potato down the sides, then layer the rest on top.
Sprinkle with parmesan (or plain cheese, if you prefer.)
Cover with lid or tinfoil and bake for around 1 hour. I use 180 C
Remove the lid/tinfoil and let the top brown for 20-30 mins on 160 C
(Microwave some peas or beans for a side dish)
Shepherd's Pie (with mashed potato) Recipe
As above, but put the potatoes on to boil before you start.
Mash the potatoes after the mince is cooked, and spread them on top.
Instead of cheese you can brush the mash with milk before cooking.
Chicken Rice Recipe
aka Hainan or Hainanese chicken rice - sort of.
One whole chicken breast per person (use asstd chicken pieces - e.g. drumsticks/wings - if you're on a budget)
Two chicken stock cubes
Approx one cup of rice per person
Ginger, garlic, fish sauce for flavouring
Hot chilli sauce (mild sauce for wusses)
One large cucumber
A tasty dish, easy to prepare and almost impossible to get wrong.
Set up the rice cooker with rice & sufficient water, as per manufacturer instructions
Half-fill a large saucepan with water, and set it to boil
Put the stock cubes into a mug and add enough hot water to cover them
Once dissolved, stir the mug of stock, then add half to the cooking rice
Add the rest of the stock, a teaspoon of ginger and one or two cloves of garlic to the saucepan
Once the water in the saucepan is hot, carefully add the chicken breasts (whole - don't cut them)
(Optional) Add a dash or two of fish sauce to the saucepan & the rice cooker
While the rice & chicken are cooking, cut the cucumber into 1/4 inch (5mm) diagonal slices.
The chicken will be firm when it's cooked, and will tend to float.
To serve, slice each chicken breast into 3/4 inch (2cm) wide strips across the grain and place onto a bed of rice. Add a serve of sliced cucumber and dash a tablespoon of hot chilli sauce to one side.
Save the chicken stock for future stews, pies or gravy.
Fish and Potato Patties Recipe
1/2 kg hake or some other cheapo fish (I often use leftovers. Grilled fish one night, patties the next.)
You must use fish with NO bones in it
4-6 medium potatoes
3-4 slices of bread
1 cup frozen peas & sweetcorn
A food processor. (The kind with razor-sharp whirling blades, not a blender)
Peel & boil the potatoes until tender. These take longest, so you can get them on the stove before moving on to the next bit.
If using uncooked fish (not leftovers), you want to poach it in a frying pan. Just put 1-2cm (1/2-3/4 inch) of water in the pan, bring to a gentle boil and simmer the fish. You don't want browned, fried fish, just soft & tender.
If using leftover fish, move to the next stage.
While the fish & potatoes are cooking, put the bread in the toaster. (I use the bits from the ends of the loaves) Set to low, and do it two or three times to really dry it out. You don't want dark brown toast, so you can let it cool between toastings. When it's ready, throw the toast into the food processor and turn it into coarse breadcrumbs. Then tip the breadcrumbs out of the processor into a large tray or dish. I know you can buy breadcrumbs, but these are fresh and coarse rather than super-fine and stale.
Rinse the cooked potatoes in cold water, then put the potatoes and fish in the food processor. Don't overfill it - I usually have to do this in two halves. (Remember, you've already taken the breadcrumbs out at this stage!)
Blend until smooth, then empty into a large mixing bowl. Microwave a cup of frozen peas and corn for two minutes, then add to the bowl and stir with a fork to mix it all up.
Place the ball in a baking tray and press it down (gently) into a flattened disk. Repeat until you've turned all the mix in the bowl into patties.
Now sprinkle the patties generously with olive oil, and put in a (preheated) oven at 180 deg C for about 15 mins. (All the ingredients are cooked, so you're only browning the outside.) By this stage they should be golden brown with the oil sizzling in the pan, rather than collapsed and grey-ish. If they're not brown, give them another 10-15 minutes (and maybe turn the oven up a little.)
Once they're browned on top, turn the patties over with a spatula (carefully), and give them another 15 minutes or so on the second side.
Serve with steamed chinese veggies, a dollop of mayonnaise, and bread & butter. Kids will devour them, and they'll taste 100% better than shop-bought varieties. It's also much healthier than fish & chips, and you can feed four people for about $6 or $7.
"Crummy Chicken" Recipe
(Don't blame me, the kids named it.)
One or two chicken breasts, skin off, or similar qty diced chicken meat
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated cheese
One small onion, chopped
A dash of grated chilli (optional)
Cut the chicken breast into 1" cubes, toss with most of the breadcrumbs, the parmesan and the chilli.
Place chicken in a deep, rectangular dish (eg. the sort of thing you'd bake a deep, rectangular loaf in), add the onion and stir it all around. Then spread the grated cheese on top and sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs.
Bake in a medium hot oven for 90 minutes. The top should go brown & crusty, and you should be able to see the juices bubbling if you're using a glass oven dish.
I like to serve this with fresh English spinach and boiled potatoes, or maybe a quick garden salad.
(Allow one chicken breast per 2 people. Increase the quantity if the breasts are very small or the people are very large.)
DIY Chicken Nuggets Recipe
I wouldn't eat pre-packaged chicken nuggets if you paid me, not when I can make these for half the price and twice the goodness.
You'll need a couple of chicken breasts, skin off, (preferably partially frozen)
Breadcrumbs (you can buy these or make them by crushing well-toasted bread.)
Oven chips (You're entitled to these thanks to the fat you saved by avoiding processed nuggets!)
Optional: dried chilli or Tuscan seasoning.
Line a couple of oven trays/dishes with greaseproof paper.
Preheat your oven to 180 C.
Cut the breasts into slices, maybe 1/3 inch (1cm or so). Then cut them across so you end up with rough squares.
Beat the egg in a bowl, add a bit of ground pepper.
Put all the chicken in the bowl and mix it around so it's all coated with egg.
Dump a generous amount of breadcrumbs into a larger bowl, stirring in chilli and/or Tuscan seasoning as required.
Take the chicken pieces one by one, lay them on top of the breadcrumbs and throw some more on top.
As you coat each square of chicken, take it from the breadcrumb bowl and lay it in the oven tray. Leave a small gap around each one so they don't stick together.
When all the chicken is done, put both trays in the oven on the middle and/or lower racks. At this stage I usually put one tray of oven chips in as well (top rack)
After 10-15 mins, turn the chicken pieces over. When you put them back in the oven put the lower one on the middle rack, and the middle one on the lower rack. This is to cook them evenly. While you have the oven open you can take the chips out and then them over, putting them back in the top rack.
After another 10-15 mins check whether everything is done. (You can take a tray out, cut one of the chicken pieces in half and make sure it's a solid white colour all the way through - no pink.)
Serve with microwaved peas and corn, or perhaps a nice salad.
Chicken Thighs in Red Wine Recipe
You'll need a tray of chicken thighs (no skin or bone)
Alternative: use chicken drumsticks
2 cups red wine
Preparation starts in the morning, or the night before. Put the chicken in a baking pan and pour the wine over it, then sprinkle with seasoning and garlic granules. (Tuscan seasoning is Salt, Garlic, Pepper, Rosemary and Parsley in descending quantities)
Put the tray in the fridge, covered, and leave it until you're ready to start cooking.
Chicken thighs have a lot of fat in, so before you start cooking I suggest you drain the wine marinade into a mug then put something in the baking tin to keep the thighs off the base of the pan. I use a pottery roasting rack but a wire rack of some kind will do. It just has to fit down in the bottom of the pan so the thighs aren't boiled in fatty liquids.
Another hint: when roasting I always line the baking dish with tinfoil, which makes it much easier to clean later.
Preheat the oven to 160 C and put the tray in, covered with tinfoil.
After half an hour, put the jacket potatoes in the oven (see recipe here)
Lift the tinfoil covering the chicken and carefully pour half the cup of wine stock over it.
After one hour, remove the tinfoil covering the chicken. Slowly pour the rest of the stock over the chicken.
After 90 minutes (1 1/2 hours) everything should be done. Enjoy!
Chilli Chicken Strips Recipe
One to four chicken breasts, skin off, (preferably partially frozen)
Bottle of hot chilli sauce (preferably the one with seeds in)
The large supermarkets in Australia often advertise 1kg of skinless chicken breast for $10. I usually pick up 2-3 trays and put them in the freezer, and 1kg will easily feed four with a chunk of leftovers (great in crusty rolls with lettuce and tomato.)
If you get the chicken out of the freezer the night before and leave it in the fridge, it should be about right for slicing by mid-morning. So, rinse then slice the chicken breast lengthways into 1/4" (5mm) thick strips.
Smother the chicken with chilli sauce, turning & tumbling the strips to coat them all
Now cover them with clingwrap and leave them in the fridge for a few hours, until you're ready to cook & eat.
I usually start by putting the rice cooker on with enough rice for four, and I prepare some greens (for steaming or stir-frying) or a salad.
To cook the chicken, heat up some oil in a pan and fry the strips in batches. You want enough to cover the base of the pan, no overlap. Keep moving them around so they don't stick, and turn them over once. You'll know when to turn them - the pinkish meat will be white all over as the heat comes through from underneath. You're not trying to fry them brown and crispy, just cook them so they're done.
As each batch is done, pile them on a pre-warmed plate. You may need to add a bit more oil to the pan between batches. Don't have the heat so high that the oil and chilli burns or sticks.
Two or three chicken breasts will go a long way, particularly with all the chilli. If you're trying to stretch the meal (or your budget), just give them more rice. It's very tasty with a splash of soy.
There you have it - a delicious meal for about $3 a head including the rice, veggie and chilli sauce. Way cheaper than takeaway, and very healthy. Hardly any preparation or cooking time either, and if you make a double batch you can freeze one for later.
Albondigas (Pork Meatballs) Recipe
Cooked in the microwave for a quick meal
300-400 gr. Minced pork
6 tablespoons minced parsley
2 cloves minced garlic
Dash of soy sauce
1 tablespoon minced onion
2 slices bread
2 tablespoons Milk (or water)
1 egg, beaten
Salt and pepper
Cut crusts off bread, put slice on plate and add milk (or water).
Put all other ingredients in bowl, add soft bread, mix well.
Make small balls, bit smaller than golf ball, and put 12 round edge of plate.
Microwave for 3 mins on high.
While cooking, make another 12 on another plate so you can put those in when 1st lot are done. Carry on until all done.
Put tomatoes and dash of soy in saucepan and heat.
Drop in pork balls, and heat through for 5 mins.
Serve on rice, with green salad or green beans/peas.
Spanish Paella (Alicantino) Recipe
(Stretches the definition of a 'simple recipe' to the extreme, but it's great once you know what you're doing)
There is no One True Way when it comes to the Spanish national dish ... Paella. Every region uses its own ingredients and the results are wildly different. Because I grew up in the Alicante area, my family used to make this version ... more or less.
The important thing to note with a paella is that it's not just a recipe, it's also entertainment. Cooked in a specialist paella pan, and taking maybe an hour from start to finish (plus 2-3 hours preparation time!), guests will wander past to see how it's doing and - in the case of other paella aficionados - offer advice. Note that preparation is the key, and you really want to practice with smaller sizes before inviting forty people round.
Paella pans come in various sizes, from tiny to several metres across. You can also buy a dedicated gas ring, but if your pan fits onto the grilling area of your BBQ you can make do with that. Note that authentic pans are not non-stick, they're not deep and they don't look like any other cooking pan. I just did a quick web search and this and this are exactly what you're looking for. You need the thin dimpled base to get the brown crust right.
So, that's the pan and heating out of the way. What about the ingredients?
Quantities vary depending on the size of the pan. An average sized pan (say, 50cm) needs 1 to 1.5 kg of rice, and enough of all the other ingredients to fill the pan. It doesn't matter how much you use of each ingredient - that's why every paella is different. If your guests are just going to pig out on paella, allow enough for several helpings. Salad and crusty bread make a good side dish.
The ingredients below are what I use for 10-12 people.
Meat & seafood
Large prawns (1/2 kg)
Chicken pieces (1/2 kg) (For smaller paellas I use chicken breast in large chunks. For bigger paellas, pieces of chicken with bones in.)
Squid Tubes (1/4 kg) (cut into rings - NOT crumbed!)
Mussels (in shells) (1/2 kg)
1 cup frozen peas
1 red & 1 green capsicum cut into strips
1 to 2 kg Arborio Rice - or medium grain at a pinch. (Do NOT use long grain, brown, jasmine or basmati!)
1 cup frozen green beans (Fresh runner beans are better. Whole.)
1 tin chick-peas (Dried ones, soaked, are better.)
2 or 3 Tomatoes
For the stock (This is made beforehand.)
1 Onion, chopped
Level teaspoon of Spanish paprika
Salt & Pepper
For the Paella:
A pinch of saffron
Fake saffron colouring
1/2 cup white wine
2 - 3 cloves garlic
1 or 2 tblspn tomato paste
1 cup olive oil
Stock (see below)
Lemons cut into wedges
In a large saucepan on the stove, boil the mussels & keep the juice. Boil some endy fatty trimmings of chicken with the chopped onion, plus salt & pepper, in 2 litres of water. Throw in the paprika as well. Then combine with the mussel juice. This is your paella stock, and it should be prepared an hour or so before you need it. (You want the stock simmering on the stove when you've started cooking the paella itself.)
Also, boil up a full kettle of water in case you need it to add to the rice. If you don't need it you can use it for coffee later.
The main event
Heat half a cup of olive oil in the paella pan, ensuring it's level. (Wily paella cooks will have got it level with a cup of water in the pan beforehand.) Fry the prawns with the chopped garlic then remove from the pan and set aside. (Optional - you can boil the prawns in salty water on the stove and skip right to the next step.) Add oil and fry the chicken pieces until brown, then add the green vegetables EXCEPT THE BEANS & keep stirring.
Once the vegies have softened, stir in the rice to coat with oil, then add all the stock, which should be at boiling point.
Add the squid, the tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir for a bit.
Add the white wine (half a cup or so) and the chick peas and stir well. Add the saffron and stir again. Add more hot water until experience tells you there is enough. (Right to the brim, usually, because you always try to stuff more in the pan than you should.)
At this stage the pan should be bubbling, and the rice should start to expand. Throw in half a teaspoon of fake saffron colouring and stir. The rice should turn a deep yellow colour.
Simmer on low to medium heat WITHOUT STIRRING until almost all the liquid has gone (15-20 minutes). From here on in, you do not stir the paella. The trick is to cook it without burning the bottom, while still achieving the brown crust. Use your nose and ears to smell for burning - if you hear the noise change from a gentle bubble to a dryish crackling, the heat is too high. You can add hot water to stop it burning, but go easy.
Before the water has disappeared, press the green beans in. They will soak up the flavour without going mushy and overcooked.
When the water has just about gone, remove the pan from the heat, arrange prawns on the surface & press mussels point-down into the rice around the perimeter of the pan. If you do this right the remaining water will ooze into the shells. Cover with newspaper or tin foil and let stand for 10 minutes.
Serve with wedges of lemon & crusty bread.
If you get this one right - congrats! It's a very tricky dish to get right, but a good paella is a work of art.
Cheat's Paella, Mock Paella, Stove top Paella, Tourist Paella Recipe
This isn't real paella but it's a decent rice dish all the same.The ingredients below are for 8 people. You can always put leftovers in the fridge and reheat. Our family tradition is to have reheated paella with a fried egg on top - the runny yolk and the rice are superb together.
Ingredient List Here are all the ingredients so you can print the list and tick everything off:
4 cups rice (Arborio is best, followed by short/medium grain. Do not use long grain or brown rice!)
Water to suit (as per rice cooker instructions
A pinch of real saffron
Dash of fake saffron colouring
Large prawns (1/2 kg)
Dash of olive oil
2 - 3 cloves garlic
Dash of olive oil
Chicken pieces (1/2 kg) (Chicken breast cut into chunks)
Squid Tube (1, cut into rings - NOT the crumbed squid rings you can buy frozen!)
1 teaspoon of Spanish paprika
Salt & Pepper
2 chicken stock cubes
2 cups hot water
1 Onion, chopped
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup frozen green beans (Fresh runner beans are better.)
1 capsicum cut into strips. Red or green, doesn't matter.
1 tin chick-peas (Dried ones, soaked overnight, are 100% better.)
2 or 3 tomatoes, or a tin of.
1 sachet concentrated tomato paste, or equivalent
Optional: 1/2 cup white wine
Optional: Lemons cut into wedges. (Don't cook these in the pan. You serve them with the paella so people can squeeze a little on their serving for extra flavour.)
The hardest thing about cooking paella on the gas stove is that frying pans aren't big enough to move all the ingredients around in, and gas elements aren't big enough to heat the entire base of the pan. When cooking paella you never stir it after the rice starts to set, which means you get a burnt ring in the middle if you try to cook in on the gas stove.
So, we're going to cheat by cooking the rice seperately, in a rice cooker.
Measure out 4 cups of rice and add enough water as per the instructions for your rice cooker
Add a dash of fake saffron colour (just sprinkle some on the water.)
Add a few strands of real saffron, if you have any.
Switch the rice cooker on and forget about it.
Now the rice is cooking, these are the remaining steps. (Each step covered in detail below)
Make up the stock
Start the prawns boiling
Fry the chicken and squid
Add the vegetables
Add the stock
Cook until ready
Tip in all the rice from the rice cooker and stir
Leave on low for a few minutes.
Now for the main part of the paella, which can be cooked in a regular frying pan. (Use the biggest you have.)
Make up the stock
Stock is essential for a paella. We're going to cheat by dissolving a couple of stock cubes in hot water.
I use a 1 litre measuring jug. You can do this any time and let it stand until you need it. It's easier to prepare the stock when you don't have ingredients burning in the pan.
Use a large jug so you can add some of the prawn water (below)
Cook the prawns
These prawns go on top of the paella when it's finished. Don't mix them in with the rest of the ingredients!
Normally you'd fry them in garlic, but we're cutting corners here.
Instead, heat up half a saucepan of salty water and add the prawns.
Let them simmer while you're making the rest of the paella.
Turn the heat off if they're done first.
You can add some of the salty fishy water to the stock.
Fry the chicken and squid
Warm the oil in the pan, add the chicken and brown it. It doesn't have to be cooked, just seal the juices.
Add the squid and stir it around while it cooks.
Add the paprika, salt and pepper, shaking it over the meat and stirring it in.
Add the Vegetables
Once the squid has turned a solid white colour, add the wine and all the vegetables one after another.
(If any of the veggies are still frozen, add them before the fresh and give them a little time to defrost)
Keep stirring so nothing sticks or burns.
When the veggies have been coated in flavour and oil, move to the next step.
Add the Stock
You can now add the stock to the pan.
Turn the heat down to simmer. Once everything in the pan looks done, you can tip in all the rice from the rice cooker. (Remember what I said about using a large pan?)
If there's no room, don't worry about it - serve the rice seperately.
If it DOES go in, stir well and cook on low heat for about ten minutes.
Take the pan to the table and lay the prawns on top.
Serve with wedges of lemon & crusty bread.
Easy crock pot (slow cooker) beef roast
Great for busy people. You can prepare the whole thing the night before, then cook it on the day.
A couple of onions
4 potatoes or a whole sweet potato (yam)
One of the cheaper beef roasts (I sometimes use corned silverside)
2 or 3 carrots
A cup of stock (optional - can just use water, salt, pepper)
Peel all the veggies and cut into rough, fairly large (1") chunks. If they're too small they'll turn into soup.
Put the roast in the middle of the crockpot
Put all the veggies around it
Pour the water over it
This is where you can put it in the fridge the night before, rather than having to prepare everything early in the morning when it's frantic.
I'd put the crockpot on Low at 10am. If you're normally out by then, use an electronic timer switch, telling it to come on at 10am and go off at 6-ish. (If it's just out of the fridge it should be okay sitting on the side for an hour, covered. Not in summer though.) You can also put it on High around 1pm instead.
It should be ready by 4pm (Low) or 5pm (high) but can sit for a couple of hours. It never burns in a crock pot because it doesn't get hot enough. I always turn the thing from High to Low when it's obviously cooked.
I put the crockpot on the kitchen bench well away from anything it could melt or set fire to (dishcloths, newspaper, breadboards, etc) - can't be too careful! If you're really cautious the first few times you can put it in the middle of the kitchen floor.
Leftover roast can be chopped into smaller chunks and reheated as stew with the veg.
You can roast a whole chicken but it does tend to collapse and you have to get all the bones out. I prefer chopping up chicken breast and making a stew or curry instead.
This seriously tasty Chorizo Stew recipe is a fantastic winter warmer
Very quick preparation, and the stew won't last long either. Great to reheat for lunches.
This recipe serves four, with leftovers. Alter the quantities to suit more or less.
Two chorizo sausages, mild or hot. (You can use fresh or cured.)
1/2 kg baby potatoes
1 large onion, peeled and chopped.
2 or 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
Two cups chopped snow peas, ends and stringy bits removed. (Can use green beans instead.) *
1/2 cup of tomato puree (or italian tomato sauce - NOT the ketchup kind!)
2 or 3 level teaspoons of spanish paprika
1 level teaspoon of piri piri **
Salt to taste.
1 litre hot water or stock (e.g. dissolve a beef stock cube or two in the water if you have them.)
* Don't add the snow peas until the very end.
** If you don't have piri piri, use 1/3 a level teaspoon each of chilli powder, lemon juice and garlic granules. Reduce the chilli if you have a wussy family who can't handle spicy food.
Heat one or two tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottom saucepan. (I use a pressure cooker minus the lid.)
Chop the chorizo sausages into 1/2 inch segments and fry until browned.
You can wash/peel/chop the onions and carrots while the chorizo is cooking.
Add the chopped onion, carrots and small potatoes (unpeeled). When the onion has softened, stir in the tomato puree and add the seasoning.
Turn the heat down and carefully pour the hot water in.
Turn the heat back up until the water boils, then set to simmer for maybe 40 mins.
When the potatoes are cooked through (stab one or two with a sharp knife), add the snow peas and give it another five minutes.
Serve with crusty bread. If there's any left (unlikely) it'll taste even better after a night in the fridge.
This stew uses leftover sausages for a quick five-minute meal
Alter the quantities to suit more or less people.
Half a dozen cold, cooked sausages. (ie. leftovers)
1/2 can of baked beans
1 can lentils/chickpeas/kidney beans/borlotti beans/etc
1 large onion, peeled and chopped.
1-2 teaspoons paprika
1-2 heaped teaspoons peanut butter (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste.
2-3 cups hot water
Heat one or two tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottom saucepan. (I use a pressure cooker minus the lid.) Add the chopped onion, peanut butter and paprika, and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the baked beans and lentils and fry for a couple more minutes, stirring all the time. Add the hot water and stir well.
Chop the cold sausages into 1 inch segments and add to the pan.
Turn the heat down and just cook long enough to warm the sausages through.
If you get it right the onions will be cooked but crisp, and the beans won't dissolve into mush.
Serve with crusty bread for dunking (and scraping the pan clean!)
Fabulous stir fry chicken with egg and pad thai noodles
This is a good budget recipe because it uses a little bit of good quality chicken and a lot of noodles & veg.
200gm packet of dried Pad Thai noodles
1 chicken breast cut lengthways then thinly sliced
1/2 large green capsicum (or 1 small one), cored and thinly sliced
6-8 spring onions - trim leaves off, cut white part into 1/2" pieces
2 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced.
1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters (can use 2 medium tomatoes)
1/2 large onion or 1 small one. Lay the half flat and cut thin slices from top to bottom.
2 garlic cloves
1 chicken stock cube
2 eggs, beaten in a bowl
Sesame oil for frying (can use plain vegetable oil, but I recommend sesame for flavour)
Thai fish sauce
Ketjap Manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce) - can just use ordinary soy.
Hot Chili sauce - or sweet, if you prefer
Salt & pepper
Fresh coriander leaves & stalks
Optional: 2 tablespoons rice wine
This recipe involves 1 wok or frying pan, 1 large saucepan, 2 metal bowls (one small, one large), and 1 strainer big enough for the noodles.
Heat half a large saucepan of water, and when it's boiling add the dried noodles. Keep an eye on the clock, because they'll need to be on for about 5 mins.
Put the stock cube in a mug and half-fill with boiling water from the kettle.
Heat a dash of oil in the wok and add the sliced garlic. When it's turned brown, add the chicken. At this point I sprinkle the chicken with fish sauce (about a teaspoon worth) and stir in a dollop of hot chilli sauce.
While the chicken is cooking, the noodles should be done. Pour them into the strainer and run cold water through them. Stand the strainer in the large bowl.
When the chicken is more or less done, transfer it into the now empty saucepan and put the lid on. It doesn't need to go over the heat.
Heat another splash of sesame oil in the wok, and add both types of onion, the capsicum and the carrot. At this point you can add the rice wine, if you have any. A dash of ordinary white wine would probably do just as well.
Cover the wok, and while the veg is softening you can beat the eggs in the small bowl.
Chop the tomatoes and coriander, and stir them (raw) into the saucepan containing the chicken. (Not the wok!)
Stir the stock cube in the mug, and also add it to the saucepan (not the wok).
At this point you can put the saucepan on low heat. The liquid will prevent it burning.
When the veggies in the wok have softened somewhat, tip the whole lot into the saucepan. They should still be a little firm, but not crisp.
Now heat up another splash of oil in the wok, and tip in the cold, wet noodles. Stir fry for about two minutes. They'll try and stick, so keep moving them around.
Push the noodles up the side of the pan, and tip the egg into the bottom of the wok. Stir & turn until you get a soft scrambled egg, then mix it right through the noodles.
Now empty the saucepan into the wok, add salt & pepper, give it a good stir and serve.
If your family is like mine, there will not be any leftovers.
Chicken Breast with coconut and peach
4 chicken breasts, cubed
2 stalks lemon grass
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 can tinned peaches (in juice, not syrup)
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cups soy milk
1 tspn peppercorns
1 teaspoon Laksa paste (Malaysian red curry)
Heat the oil and coconut, briefly toasting it before adding the chopped chicken. Cook it, stirring frequently, until you can't see any pink, then add the rest of the ingredients.
Turn the heat down and simmer for about one hour, making sure it doesn't go dry. (Just add more soy if it does.)
I serve this dish with steamed long-grain rice, salad, and chopped cauliflower fried in parmesan cheese.
I cook for 4 people. Adjust quantities as needed.
1cm = approx half an inch
500gm = approx 1 lb
pepper = freshly ground
oil = olive oil, which is all I ever cook with
Finally, a couple of tips for the inexperienced:
Approach cooking with confidence! The worst you can do is burn something, and that's not a problem if you have a tin of baked beans and some toast on standby.
Buy low fat mince! I know lean mince is more expensive than the fatty stuff, but you can always buy a smaller portion and blend it with potato, vegetables or even bread crumbs. With budget mince you're getting about the same amount of meat for your money - the rest is fat.
Experiment! You're not building a spaceship, and there's a wide range of tolerances with all ingredients. More or less, it really doesn't matter.
Don't invite dozens of guests for your first attempt! Make something easy for lunch, and if it works you can have the leftovers for dinner.
Start with single dish meals. No need to juggle pans, and only one dish to keep an eye on.
About the author: Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series, and works as a freelance writer. Simon is also a freelance programmer, and he designed and wrote all the software on spacejock.com (e.g. yWriter).