A lovely pilaf

Frankly, the colder, darker and wetter weather has conspired to reduce my gardening interest and exploits. The beanstalk appears to be actually creating multiple beans at once (huzzah!), and the peas are shooting up cheerily, but apart from herbs that continue to party (thank you basil and mint!), and my need to harvest our peanuts (hopefully this weekend, photos and post to follow!), there is more going on in my kitchen than my garden, and I know that you all can’t wait too long without an update!!

An economic and time-saving tip from me, that you’ve probably noticed already in terms of my recipe suggestions – always make more of a meal than you need, so you can use it again!! I am also trying to make a Sunday soup for lunches during the week, and a Sunday night meal that can be used for a Monday night meal – nothing more relaxing than not having to cook every night, and knowing that you’ve got good healthy food available!! This recipe below even exceeded quantity expectations and powered on for Tuesday’s lunch as well, so even better!!

I also love a good one-pot wonder (more of them will follow as winter continues), as you can do the cleaning up while you wait for it to cook, then you can relax and watch Masterchef and assorted crime shows in peace 🙂

I am in no way an expert on pilaf, and this recipe may distress foodies who make it far more authentically, but it’s flavourful, full of veggies, healthy and easy, so all big ticks in my book!! I love the sweetness of the currants with the savouryness of everything else. It originally came from a Taste.com recipe, but I’ve amped up the veggie quotient and enjoy it much more. And also, inexplicably, the original recipe suggests you roast the veggies, then bake the pilaf, then combine, when really, you could probably do both at once, as they cook for a similar time – we haven’t tried that yet, cos we only realise it after having completed the recipe (d’oh!), but I’m sure it would work out well, so let me know if you try it! So, you can probably do Step 2 before Step 1, and then Step 3 combines both.

I use a big casserole dish that can go on the stove and in the oven, so it is a two pan meal, one for roasting veggies, one for everything else!

Beef Pilaf
Serves 6-8ish, depending on how hungry you are!

Pilafy goodness

Pilafy goodness

250g punnet cherry tomatoes
1 eggplant, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
400g lean beef mince
1 cup SunRice Basmati Rice, well rinsed
2 1/2 cups reduced-salt chicken stock
1/4 cup currants
3 green onions, thinly sliced
A handful of baby spinach
Natural yogurt, to serve

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini on tray. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons oil and season with pepper. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes or until tomatoes collapse.
2. Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in a large, heavy-based casserole over medium-high heat. Add curry powder, cumin, cinnamon and mince. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in rice.
3. Stir in stock and bring to the boil. Cover and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. (Can combine with Step 1).
4. Stir in tomatoes, currants, green onions and baby spinach. Cover and stand for 5 minutes.
5. Spoon into bowls. Serve with natural yogurt dotted on top, and enjoy!


Pilaf!And yes, these photos are taken at work, I often forget to photograph when we eat for dinner, so you get to see my lovely work lunch space, ie my desk!

Pilaf, with yogurt added prior to eating!

Pilaf, with yogurt added prior to eating!

I also think this would freeze quite well, as it is quite moist, and can lend itself to whatever other veggies you feel like roasting together!


Perfect porridge

As the weather finally makes its peace with winter (and it is especially cold and rainy here at the moment!), I find myself moving away from my summer/autumn staple of muesli or overnight oats, and onto my favourite snuggly breakfast, porridge!! (Or as North American readers know it, oatmeal). I love the warmth and creaminess of porridge for breakfast – an ad a few years ago for a brand of oats described it like a warm hug, and I agree!!

There are many different ways of making this wonderful breakfast a reality. For me, I find that instant oats are a bit too sweet and not as filling for me to use, although that is how I started my love of porridge as a teenager. So, I make my porridge every morning, and really, it’s not as hard as it sounds, 15-20 minutes from go to whoa, the majority of that time not spent anywhere near the stove! I love stewed fruit on my porridge in the morning, so I make a large batch each weekend of whatever is in season or I’m enjoying (pears, apples, rhubarb, berries, prunes are an unfortunate but required addition of late!) and keep in the fridge.

I have taken lots of photos of the process to aid my explanations 🙂 I use a wooden spoon to stir, as I don’t like to scratch my nice saucepans!

Perfect porridge

This is mainly to explain how I do it and what I like – you can of course substitute any of the ingredients for your personal preference, experiment, it’s fun!

1/2 cup Rolled oats (not instant oats)
1/2 cup full cream milk
1/2 cup water
1/3-1/2 cup stewed fruit – I put enough to cover the bottom of the bowl, so it’s not a scientific measurement!
Vanilla yogurt – I used to add milk, but am preferring the creamier yogurt addition – again, add whatever you want!

1. Place oats, milk and water in a saucepan. Feel free to add a bit more liquid if you like it a bit more liquid, I often add a few splashes extra of milk. This can of course work with no milk and only water, but I like the creaminess of milk.
2. Put saucepan onto a pretty low setting on the stove – you don’t want it to be simmering or bubbling, just gradually warming up and soaking, so you might need to experiment with your hotplates to work out which one works best at what temperature.

This is Step 1

This is Step 1

3. Wander off and do whatever you need to do – I do steps 1 and 2, then step into the shower and get dressed, and return approx 10-15 mins later depending on how slow I am, which is why you don’t want it bubbling or else it will burn. But it is perfectly safe to leave, it will be fine! The longer you leave it, the more liquid is absorbed, so it will cook quicker, but be less liquidy in the end product, so, again, work out what you prefer, and what you have time for – you don’t need to leave it at all, but it will take longer to cook, and I find that the oats aren’t really soft enough, so it can be kind of chewy if you don’t leave it warming for at least 5-10 mins.

After leaving for your preferred time period, it looks a little soaked, and is starting to steam a little.

After leaving for your preferred time period, it looks a little soaked, and is starting to steam a little.

4. When you’re ready, turn hot plate to high, and keep on high until porridge is bubbling – I like to have the bubbles come from the outside and meet in the middle, this usually takes around 1-2 mins.
Boiling up ...

Boiling up …

Now at optimal boiling point - stir and reduce heat!

Now at optimal boiling point – stir and reduce heat!

5. Stir, then turn back down to low (probably one notch lower than your original setting at step 2). Stir regularly.
6. Porridge may bubble up, just stir it down again.
Porridge while cooking away

Porridge while cooking away

7. Use the time while waiting for your porridge to finish cooking to get everything else ready for breakfast – I warm up my stewed fruit and get my coffee sorted. I also stir the porridge regularly, so I can see how it’s going.
Here is my stewed fruit, I warm it in the microwave for around 35 seconds as I like everyone to be hot when mixed together.

Here is my stewed fruit, I warm it in the microwave for around 35 seconds as I like everyone to be hot when mixed together.

Porridge is almost done - see milk around the side?

Porridge is almost done – see milk around the side?

8. Porridge is done when it’s at the consistency that you like – I like it creamy looking but without any obvious milk still hanging around.
This is how I like it, milk all evaporated!

This is how I like it, milk all evaporated!

9. Serve your porridge with whatever additions you like – I’ve been adding a bit of flax seed, a bit of All Bran, some cinnamon, and yogurt recently, but you can add nuts, cereal, sweet things like honey or brown sugar if you prefer – I find the sweetness of the stewed fruit enough for me nowadays!
The finished product!

The finished product!

10. Enjoy!!
And then I mix it all together to eat it - yummy!!

And then I mix it all together to eat it – yummy!!

So there you have it, my perfect porridge recipe! I also put the pan to soak after serving, just to ensure that it’s easy to wash at the end of the day (because I don’t do dishes in the morning!)

What do you like for winter breakfasts?