Rich Tomato Pasta Bake

Nothing speaks to me quite like a wholesome pasta bake on a cold winter’s night. It’s a great standby as a midweek meal and if you double the recipe, you can freeze half for the next week!

Rich Tomato Pasta Bake 1

The name of this dish could be a tad misleading because it is not a vegetarian dish. It is made with lamb mince, although I recently made it with beef mince as well and both are equally delicious, but I found the lamb mince to be richer in flavour.We are truly blessed in New Zealand with the quality of our meat and veggie produce, and lamb is a firm favourite.

Using mostly pantry ingredients, it is an inexpensive meal to prepare and can be thrown together in a matter of minutes before being finished off in the oven. Enjoyed with a side salad, a little goes a long way.

1 – 2 Tbsp oil
500 g minced lamb (or beef)
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
250 g pasta shapes
1 x 410 g tin Italian style tomatoes (or add your own herbs to a plain one)
2 eggs
125 g sour cream
75 g Cheddar cheese, grated
fresh Basil leaves to garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Fry the onion for a few minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and minced lamb and fry for a further few minutes until the mince changes colour.
  2. Meanwhile, boil the pasta in plenty of water until just tender and drain.
  3. Drain any fat off the lamb, stir in the tomatoes and pasta (and herbs if adding). Spoon into an ovenproof dish.
  4. Beat together the eggs, sour cream and cheese and pour over the pasta mixture. Bake for about 20 minutes until bubbling and golden. Garnish with fresh basil.
  5. Obviously add salt and freshly ground black pepper if you feel the need, but there is sufficient flavour to enjoy this dish without over seasoning.


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Persimmon Pie

I had never heard of a Persimmon before moving to New Zealand, and I have to be honest, although they are a beautiful orange colour, it was a good few years before I tried one. Now I can’t wait for late Autumn when the shops are full of them. This juicy fruit looks a bit like an orange apple, although the flesh is far softer than an apple’s . Although the skin is thicker, it is edible and apart from the hard leafy bit on the top, there is no core to be discarded.

Persimmon PieOriginally a native of China, it has spread around the world over the last century and there are now about 200 varieties. Eaten fresh on it’s own or sliced into a salad, or even included in an energizing smoothie, you can’t go wrong. But recently I decided to substitute this in a peach pie that my step-Mom used to make and turns out, it also works really well as a stewed fruit. But you will want to peel it first though.

Baked in a cocoon of sweet short-crust pastry and smothered in freshly whipped cream, it’s easy to forget yourself and devour about half the pie. It’s one of those pies that is pleasantly sweet and light, and the perfect complement to end off a tummy-warming winter meal.

1 ready prepared sweet short-crust pastry pie shell
4 – 6 ripe persimmons, skinned and cut into slices/quarters
1 cup water
½ cup castor sugar
300 ml fresh full fat cream

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Prepare the fruit and place it, together with the water and sugar, into a saucepan over medium heat. Allow it to come to the boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about half an hour. The fruit becomes soft and breaks up quite a bit.
  3. While the mixture is bubbling away, prepare your pie shell, either making the pastry from scratch (Well Done You!) or use that frozen pre-made pastry that you purchased. Roll it into a single layer and place it into the pie tin. Add some baking paper and baking beads, dry beans, rice or pasta. All this does is hold the pastry into shape as it tends to make air bubbles otherwise. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the baking paper and beads/beans/rice/pasta. Return it to the oven for another 10 minutes or so. You don’t want to overcook it, just sufficiently baked to stop the fruit mixture seeping through the pastry, making it soggy.
  4. Remove from the oven and spread with the fruit filling. Return to the oven for a further ten minutes or until the sides of the pastry are a golden colour.
  5. Cool in the pie shell on a rack.
  6. Once the pie has cooled, whip the cream and spread it over the top of the pie.


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Roast Beef, Barley and Vegetable Soup

Ever wondered what to do with left over roast beef? We usually make sandwiches or wraps, but my latest fave is using it in a hearty vegetable and barley soup.

Roast Beef & Veggie SoupThe last few weeks has seen winter definitely arrive, but it’s been a special treat as we’ve had minimal rain. It’s my favourite kind of winter where the night time temperatures are very cold with daytime temperatures hovering around the 10 degree mark, but what’s made it truly exceptional this year is that we’ve had these glorious Highs settling over the country, so although it’s been cold with icy antarctic winds making their way northwards, we’ve had gloriously beautiful breathtakingly clear blue skies.

I love soup as not only do they warm you from the inside out, but the very concept is so versatile that I’m sure you could make a different soup for every day of the year. This particular soup begins with frying an onion, or leek if you prefer, adding sliced Portabello mushrooms (I love them for their depth of flavour), cubed pumpkin (skin and seeds removed, obviously), a litre of beef stock, a tin or two of tomatoes and their juice, a handful or two of raw barley and a few herbs and spices of your choice. Once boiling, you reduce it to a simmer, put on a lid and let it cook until the barley softens. A few minutes before the end, you shred the leftover roast beef, removing any skin and bits you don’t want floating around in a soup, and add it to the pot to reheat.

Served with dumplings, savoury scones or freshly baked bread and you have the perfect winter meal. It’s filling, healthy and delicious. And if you don’t have any leftover roast beef, make it anyway by throwing in an assortment of seasonal vegetables. Also great reheated the next day for lunch, although you’ll need to add more water as the barley will have soaked up  most of the liquid overnight.

1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 large onion or leek, chopped
150 – 250 g Portabello Mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 cups diced pumpkin
1 litre beef stock
1 – 2 tins crushed tomato (depends on how many you’re feeding)
Herbs of your choice, although there is sufficient flavour in the stock, roast beef and vegetables
Leftover roast beef

  1. Gently fry the onion or leek for a few minutes then add the sliced mushrooms and pumpkin.
  2. Add any herbs if using.
  3. Pour over the prepared stock and add the tinned tomatoes and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer gently for about 15 minutes or until the pumpkin cubes have softened.
  4. Add the shredded left over roast beef and serve.


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2-ingredient Ice-cream Muffins

Seriously, you did read that right. Ice-cream. Muffins do not get easier to make than these – they have two ingredients: ice-cream and self-raising flour. And it gets even better, you can use whichever flavour ice-cream you decide…or have on hand…so in this case, these are vanilla ice-cream muffins.

2-ingredient Ice-cream MuffinsThey also freeze very well so double or triple the batch and once cool, wrap each individual muffin in clingfilm and freeze it until firm. If your idea is like mine, meaning you’re thinking of adding them to school or work lunch-boxes, be assured that they will have defrosted by lunch-time. Although I unwrap mine so they don’t go soggy in the clingfilm. Just have them sitting on a paper towel or serviette.

I can’t wait to try other flavours of ice-cream, or just get creative and add lollies or fruit or passion fruit pulp or anything edible, really, to the mixture but then of course you can’t boast that they are two ingredient muffins!

I had a few spare M&Ms so added them to the top of some of the muffins but they didn’t last too well in the oven.  No matter, they still taste good.

250 g self-raising flour
500 ml soft vanilla ice-cream

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C and prepare a 12-hole muffin tray by greasing or using muffin cups/liners.
  2. Combine the flour and ice-cream in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth.
  3. Fill the muffin tray three-quarters full and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown.
  4. Remove from the muffin tray and allow to cool on a rack.



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No-bake Peppermint Cream Pudding

This is one of those puddings that leaves you wanting more, more and more; and whether you make a round crushed biscuit crust or use the whole biscuits to line a square dish, the end result has a beautiful smooth texture. The taste is not as sweet as one would imagine, and all topped off with the cool freshness of the grated peppermint chocolate.

No-bake Peppermint Cream Tart

I suppose it is more of a Tart than a pudding, but either way, you’ll thank yourself for making it. I like using the flat whole biscuits when I’m in a hurry as there is no messing about with crushing biscuits, adding melted butter, lining the tin/dish and then waiting a half an hour while it sets in the fridge. This way you simply lay the biscuits flat along the base of the dish, and stand the biscuits up along the sides. A square or rectangular dish works better if using whole biscuits, for pretty obvious reasons I think, and if you do have any spaces left where a whole biscuit doesn’t fit, simply cut the biscuits down to size and fit them in.

This is another South African favourite and uses two very South African ingredients; Tennis Biscuits and Peppermint Crisp; but if you don’t have a South African shop anywhere near you then just improvise and although the end result may taste a little different, I can’t imagine that it will be any less pleasing to the taste buds. We’re lucky here in New Zealand that a few of the mainstream supermarkets stock these products with the South African produce which is normally in the same aisle as other immigrant type foods (British, Asian, etc.).

I find the peppermint essence a little strong and as I don’t use it very often, I grate prefer to grate the whole chocolate bar and add half of it to the mixture instead of the peppermint essence.

1 packet Tennis Biscuits
1 tin caramel
1 tsp gelatin
3 Tbsp hot water
300 ml full fat cream
A few drops of Peppermint essence (if you have it but not essential)
1 Peppermint Crisp chocolate bar

  1. Pour the hot water over the gelatin and stir continuously with a fork until dissolved.
  2. Beat the caramel briefly until it is smooth. Add the gelatin water mixture and peppermint essence if using and combine.
  3. Grate the Peppermint Crisp chocolate bar.
  4. Whip the cream until thick and stiff. Fold through the caramel gelatin mixture using a metal spoon taking care to fold it in, not stir it in. You don’t want to break down the glorious puffiness of the whipped cream.
  5. Add half of the grated chocolate and fold through carefully.
  6. Line the square/rectangular dish with the whole biscuits and carefully pour in the mixture taking care to not lift the biscuits. Smooth the top and sprinkle over the remaining chocolate.
  7. Allow to set in the fridge for about 3 hours or overnight.
  8. Cut into portions and serve.


If you prefer the crushed crumb crust, simply crush the biscuits and add 90 g of melted butter, combining well. Use a food processor if you have one as it saves time. Spread the crumb crust along the bottom and sides of a spring form tin or pie dish and place in the fridge to set for a half an hour.


Beef Stroganoff

Stroganoff (or Stroganov) is said to date back to mid 19th-century Russia and is traditionally a beef dish, with either the strips or cubes of meat lightly coated in flour before being sauteed with onions and cooked in a sour cream sauce. There are now so many variations as this recipe spread throughout Asia after the fall of Tsarist Russia and then more particularly, after World War 2 when returning British and American servicemen took the recipe home with them. Some recipes call for tomato paste while others include a white wine version but either way, it is a great dish to add to any busy home chef’s repertoire.

Beef Stoganoff

Served with rice or pasta, it can either be cooked relatively quickly after a full day’s work using more expensive cuts of meat like rump or sirloin, or if you prefer, buy cuts like gravy beef or shin, casserole steak or even schnitzel which are full of flavour but are tougher cuts of meat, and let it idle away the hours in a crockpot. Apart from coating the strips (or cubes – I tend to stick with strips) of meat with flour and gently sauteeing them with chopped onion and button mushrooms, there really is very little work involved.

Instead of rolling the beef around in a bowl of flour which can be very messy, simply place the strips/cubes into a sealable plastic bag. Add the seasoned flour. Seal the bag and give it a little shake or fondle, using your fingers to separate the meat and ensure it all gets evenly coated, and then Ta Da!! No sticky gooey fingers!!

Add the sour cream last, stirring it through the sauce just before serving. This dish works well all year round and is healthy and full of flavour. A tip from me? If you’re using rump or sirloin, please please please don’t overcook the strips. You literally sizzle them in the pan for seconds before setting them aside and continuing with the onions and mushrooms. The more expensive meat should ideally still be pink as it will cook through when added back to the pan with all the sauce ingredients. You just want a little caramelisation as that adds a lot of the flavour. The other cuts will need to be cooked for a while longer or they will be rather tough. I like to mess with the stock quantity sometimes, by combining stock and red wine, but beef stock works just as well on it’s own.

500 g beef, cut into 1 cm wide strips
½ cup all purpose flour
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 medium sized onion, peeled and diced
2 Tbsp oil (preferably one without a strong flavour)
250 g button mushrooms or larger ones, sliced
1 cup beef stock
1 – 2 Tbsp tomato paste
½ cup sour cream

  1. Prepare the meat by cutting it into strips or use ready-cut pre-packed strips.
  2. Place the meat strips into a sealable plastic bag. Add the flour and seasoning. Shake or move the contents around until all coated evenly. Remove the meat strips from the bag reserving the flour.
  3. Gently saute the strips, a little at a time, in the oil until lightly browned. Set aside.
  4. Saute the diced onion, adding a little extra oil if necessary. Add the onions.
  5. Pour in a little of the stock to deglaze the pan of all the sticky, crispy bits of residue stirring gently.
  6. Add the tomato paste to the remaining stock and add to the pan, along with the meat. Simmer gently for a few minutes until the sauce thickens. If you prefer a thicker sauce, add a little of the reserved flour to the sauce and stir to ensure there are no lumps.
  7. Lastly, stir through the sour cream and adjust the seasoning just before serving.


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