Slow-cooked Mexican shredded beef recipe

When we get into the early parts of summer, I start to get really lazy and fall out of love with being in the kitchen. It’s hot. I don’t want to be hotter. I haven’t built up my tolerance for warm weather and so I abandon the cooker. I usually end up with lots of grilled food and salads, fresh fruit desserts and sweet corn on the cob. But there’s always the allure of roasted, stewed and baked foods that require a modicum of sweat equity, as it were, if you want to cook for yourself and avoid breaking the budget with takeaways. Enter the crock pot: a delightful convenience that also works magic on meats with the low and slow method.

I used to think it couldn’t be that important to sear meats before putting them in the crock, but for the sake of one dish dirtied, it’s completely worth the additional flavor. The secret to searing is to just leave it alone; place a steak or piece of poultry onto the pan and don’t even think about wiggling it for a couple of minutes at least. It really does make all the difference to the depth of flavor, even after all of the spices added. I use a jar of salsa verde to cover the meat, but if you can’t find green salsa, you can use any tomato-based salsa that you love to the same effect. I add dry spices towards the end of the recipe to taste, based on the flavor of the beef and salsa, after a few hours. Each salsa is unique, so it will flavour the beef in its own right; however, it’s mostly used for the acidity in the tomatoes, which help to break down the beef and keep it super tender.

This is a favorite when steak is on sale. I know I can make it last for many more meals than 6 steak dinners, and the kids will eat it once it’s wrapped in a burrito. I’ll usually make my refried beans to go with this (early in the morning if it’s a scorcher), but you can have a lovely meal with just this beef in a wrap, over a salad, or topping nachos. I used a healthy portion of the shredded beef to make enchilada casserole when my parents came over for dinner: an easy layering of corn tortillas, beef, refried beans, cheese and enchilada sauce. My husband routinely puts the cold beef on a sandwich for lunch, and I’ve been known to toss some into my scrambled eggs. The versatility is endless, and it’s just incredibly delicious. Hope you love it!

Slow-cooked Mexican shredded beef

You’ll need:

  • 4 to 6 good-sized lean steaks, your favourite cut (or whatever is on sale)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 24oz jar of salsa verde (or salsa of choice)
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, to taste
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder, to taste (I like chipotle powder)
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder, to taste
  • Up to 2 teaspoons salt, to taste
  • Up to 1 teaspoon granulated/caster sugar, to taste
  • ½ cup rough cut, fresh coriander/cilantro, to taste

The method:

Allow your steaks to come to room temperature and dust (dry rub) with the dry spices listed on the first half of the list.

Warm your pan and the oil before adding the steaks for searing. Avoid moving the steaks to allow a good colour to develop, usually 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

steaks in pan

Layer the seared steaks into the crock pot with the salsa, coating the bottom of the crock pot with about 1/3 of the jar of salsa and the remainder over the top of the steaks.

salsa verde

Seal the lid and allow the steaks to stew on high for 4–6 hours. You’ll barely have to look at this until a couple of hours in, when you might want to stir the steaks a bit to make sure everything’s covered.

beef in crock pot

After 3–4 hours, when you get the chance, take two forks and try to pull some of the steaks into smaller pieces. Don’t worry if it still seems a bit tough – just cover it up again and try after another hour. Once it’s easy to pull the meat apart with two forks, go ahead and shred up as much as you like, leaving larger pieces for texture according to your preference.

There should be plenty of beef stock and salsa remaining after 4–5 hours, so that it’s covering the meat in a runny sauce. Taste the sauce to see what you’ve created with your chosen salsa. If you love it as is, leave the sauce to reduce a bit and you’re done. If you want to vamp it up a bit, now’s your chance. I add the second half of the list of dry spices while there’s still a fair bit of liquid, to ensure it’s incorporated. I enjoy the smokiness of chipotle powder and smoked paprika added at the end, and sugar to taste to enhance the spice.

It couldn’t be easier, but you can make this your own by try different salsas, adding shredded carrots and onions, or upping the heat index with fresh chili. Any way you shred it, it’s gonna be a winner.

Not Your Average Tuna Salad

In the early days of summer, I haven’t got a lot of salad materials on hand, but the warm days call for cool dinners. This is a recipe I can whip up with cupboard and fridge staples, but adds a fresh, crunchy salad feel to a tuna pasta dish. I start out with veggie spiral pasta, tinned tuna and mayo, but this recipe might surprise with a sweet note of balsamic vinegar and the crunch of raw broccoli.

This is a super-fast midweek gem that satisfies a busy summer afternoon’s time constraints. With twenty minutes to boil the water and cook the pasta, you can prepare the tuna and broccoli in the meantime and throw it all into the fridge before football practice or a trip to the park. My kids surprised me by barely noticing the raw florets when they were first served this dish, and I think it adds lovely texture along with the numerous health benefits of eating raw. If you prefer to avoid mayo, feel free to use your favourite Italian dressing or even yogurt-based Caesar dressing for a tailored taste. Make it your own!

Not Your Average Tuna Salad Recipe.png

You’ll need:

  • 8oz/220g tinned tuna, drained
  • 12oz/340g veggie spiral pasta (or your favourite pasta for cold salad)
  • 3 tablespoons light mayonnaise (or more to your taste – I don’t like too much mayo)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (I use a garlic and herb mix with parsley)
  • ½ cup fresh broccoli florets (gently cut the fine top layer of a head of broccoli, keep the rest for soup)
  • 1 cup grated cheddar (finely grated more evenly distributes)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped gherkins or American style pickle relish (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pasta salad ingredients.jpg

The method:

Start a medium-sized pot for boiling water. No need for a giant pot – the pasta cooks as long as it’s covered. Add the dry pasta once you have a rolling boil and reduce the heat.

Drain your tuna well and scoop it into a large bowl that will accommodate the pasta as well.

Add the balsamic vinegar to the tuna and break it up very well before incorporating the mayonnaise.

Add the garlic powder, salt and pepper and mix well.

Slice the top layer of the broccoli to get just the tiniest bits for your salad and save the stalks for another recipe (soup is a favourite).

chopped brocolli.jpg

Drain your pasta once it’s al dente and rinse it with cold water to cool it quickly. Toss the pasta a fair bit to drain as much of the water from the spirals as possible.

Add the pasta to the tuna mixture and mix it well before adding the broccoli and shredded cheese. You can stir in your gherkins/relish at the end if you are adding that.

Give the salad a good toss to distribute the broccoli and cheese, but don’t overdo it or it might start to break down the pasta. Add more salt or pepper to taste before covering the bowl and putting it in the fridge until serving. It can be eaten straight away, but tastes refreshing for a hot summer dinner after about 30 minutes. Spice it up with some chili flake, or add more crunch with some bacon crumbles to make this an amazing party salad, too! Hope you like it … simple but surprising!

Spoonful of pasta salad

Veggie Curry with Lentils recipe

This is a curry recipe with cabbage, and before you x out of this page, let me just say it’s neither smelly nor stringy. I must admit I was slightly scared of cooking cabbage; coleslaw is great, but I’m not a big bubble and squeak fan, so my main experience with cooked cabbage has been bland, smelly and limp. That being said, cabbage is really good for you, and I’m always trying to find new ways of forcing veg ingestion upon my children, so when they turned their noses up at coleslaw, I thought I’d trick them into the rest of the slaw. I bought a big bag of pre-shredded cabbage and carrot that you’re meant to add dressing to for coleslaw, but it ended up helping create to most delicious curry.

My daughter is my biggest food critic, but she’s also my biggest fan if I make lentils for dinner. At 4 years old, she’s determined to polish off any vegetarian meal I make, convincing me she’s going to refuse meat any day now. As long as I have a half an hour to allow the lentils to soften, I’ll make this type of dish for lunch or dinner. This particular recipe took about 45 minutes from start to finish, but I was faffing a bit. The depth of flavour that the spices and cabbage add are gorgeous – sweet and savoury, and a little bit creamy. I hope you’ll give it a try, even if you don’t think you like cabbage, because I was surprised by how sweet and tender it was in this curry.

lessons.png

 You’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon veg oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup crushed or diced tomato (tinned is easiest)
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 cup dried red lentils (rinsed well)
  • 2–3 cups shredded cabbage (I used a coleslaw pre-shred with a bit of carrot)
  • 1 cup chopped coriander/cilantro (I use my scissors and just snip into the pot)
  • ½ teaspoon chicken (or veg) stock concentrate, or 1 dried cube
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4–6 cups of water to cover and periodically top up until the lentils are softened
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt

Veg curry ingredients

The method:

First things first: find a wide, deep pan and add the butter and oil over a medium-high heat.

Melting the butter.jpg

 

Once the butter is melted and the oil is warm, add your dry spices and give them a quick stir before adding the tomato and incorporating into the oil and spices. This will allow the spices to lightly fry without burning, and the tomato to reduce.

Add the chicken stock concentrate or cube and mix it into the tomato and spices; you’ll add water later, so don’t worry if it’s not fully mixed in.

Ensuring you’ve thoroughly rinsed the dried lentils, add these to the tomato mix and stir well.

Lentils cooking.jpg

Cover the lentil mixture with the shredded cabbage and add about 1 cup of your water. I find keeping a full kettle on hand the easiest for eyeballing the water additions. Reduce the heat to a medium-low while covered to save scorching the bottom.

Keep the cabbage on top without stirring it in and just cover it for about five minutes. This gives you the perfect chance to start your rice, or pull out the pita or naan for serving. I usually cook jasmine rice with chicken stock and a little garlic and herb spice, but that’s just because I like my rice to have flavour of its own.

Cabbage in the pan.jpg

Once the cabbage has wilted, and created some of its own water, give it a good stir to incorporate the lentils and check the water level.

Sprinkle in the brown sugar and add the coriander, and mix into the curry before adding about 2–3 cups of water, or enough to cover the mixture.

Incorporate the water before covering and allowing to simmer on medium-low heat for another 10–15 minutes. The cabbage will continue to reduce as the lentils soften, so you shouldn’t need more water, but keep an eye on your creation.

Once you’re satisfied with the tenderness of your lentils, reduce to low (or switch off the heat if you’re serving straight away) and add the Greek yogurt. This will mellow the spices and add creaminess to the curry.

Serve this over rice, or with toasted pita or naan bread.  Add a splash of lemon juice to your serving for a citrus burst and enjoy!

Closeup plated veg curry

Porky Pie recipe

Comfort food is delightful in the winter, when jumpers and jackets cover their calorific side effects. As we enter Spring, however, I try to lighten our meals a little, in anticipation of shorts and vest tops. This recipe is a mid-week crowd pleaser; not cottage, not shepherd’s, but porky pie. It’s a quick, healthy meal that doesn’t take more than 30 minutes from fridge to table.

Ground pork is lovely and lean, but still has fabulous flavour if you give it a chance to brown. I add chopped mushroom to the meat to add volume, texture and flavour, but the kids would never know it! This is a gluten-free recipe that could be vegetarian if you use Quorn instead of meat. The usual carrots and peas add even more veg, texture and freshness to this delicious favourite.

My kids aren’t fond of white potato mash – they prefer sweet potato, so I’ve made this with sweet potato mash many times and it’s wonderful. This recipe is more traditional, with white or yellow potato mash on top, but if you’re really pressed for time midweek, you can use instant mash potatoes to top the meat. This saves peeling, boiling and mashing yourself, and only involves the kettle and a bowl. For families with less pernickety children, the instant mash is a real timesaver, and adding a little dollop of crème fraiche or soured cream makes all the difference for the taste. The pork gravy tastes amazing no matter how you top it!

Porky Pie recipe.png

You’ll need:

  • 1lb ground pork
  • 1 cup chopped white onion (I use frozen)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup chopped brown mushroom
  • 1 cup chopped or grated carrot
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon chicken stock concentrate, or ½ cube dried chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup frozen sweet peas
  • Optional 1 additional tablespoon Worcestershire sauce near the end
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups of white potato mash (if not using instant)
  • 3-5 medium russet potatoes
  • 1 cup low fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional ½ cup shredded cheese

The method:

If you’re making your own mash, get a pot of water on the cooker to bring to the boil, and wash and quarter your potatoes so they’re ready to add to the water straight away.

Choose a nice wide pan for browning your meat and bring it to a medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions, ground pork and Worcestershire sauce and mix together, breaking up the meat and distributing the onions and sauce.

Leave the meat for a good 2 minutes to allow one side to brown deeply. Resist the temptation to stir as you want the flavour to stick. This is a great time to chop mushrooms and carrots.

Add the dry spices to the meat before your next stir and coat the meat before leaving it for another 2 minutes.

Add your chopped mushroom and carrot once the meat is mostly browned and mix into the mixture well.

Next, add the chicken stock and tomato paste, and perhaps a splash of water to help dissolve, but the meat and veg will have produced a bit of liquid to help stir into the gravy.

Porky Pie filling

Add the frozen peas and distribute into the mixture, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Allow the mixture to simmer covered for about 10 minutes.

While the meat is simmering, whip up your mash with either the kettle water and packet, or the boiled potatoes you’ve drained in the sink. If making from-scratch mash, I add the boiled potatoes back to the pan with the butter and use a fork to smash. I add 1% milk, and salt and pepper to taste. The handful of shredded cheese is optional, but adds colour and creaminess.

After about 10 minutes, taste the pork and add one more splash of Worcestershire to taste. I love the flavour, so add that last minute splash before it goes into the oven. You’re fine to use salt and pepper to taste if you prefer.

Pour the meat mixture into the bottom of a baking dish (I use a square non-stick) and cover with your mash.

Spreading potatoes on porky pie.jpg

Slide the pie into a preheated oven at 200C/400F for about 15 minutes. It doesn’t take long for bubbles, so an additional baking tray underneath is advised. Allow the pie to cool slightly before serving and enjoy!

Porky Pie close-up.jpg

Sparkly Mummy

Restaurant-worthy refried beans for tacos & more

I am a true Mexican food fanatic. I grew up in Los Angeles, so it’s part and parcel of my childhood. I usually rate a restaurant based on their refried beans; maybe it’s silly, but if they can’t get these right, I’m usually less than impressed with the more complex dishes. As the mum of two small children, I don’t have a lot of time to soak beans from scratch, but this recipe using tinned pinto and black beans is so tasty, you’ll hardly know the difference.

Refried beans can be pretty calorific if you use traditional methods, like including pork fat or lard as your “fat”. For sure it tastes amazing to use drippings, but I can’t handle that much grease, and I don’t keep lard on hand. For this recipe, I use 50/50 butter and veg oil for frying the onions and spices, and the flavour is just as rich. My daughter loves these beans so well, she asked for a bowl to herself. I like them in tacos and burritos, or with a handful of tortilla chips for dipping.  This may be a side dish or the star of the show, but it’s easy and fresh. I doubt you’ll go for tinned refried beans again.

mexican

You’ll need:

  • 425g/15oz tin pinto beans
  • 425g/15oz tin black beans
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon veg oil
  • ¼ cup chopped white onion
  • 1 heaped teaspoon mild diced chilies (I use a small tin of fire roasted diced chilies for flavour, not heat)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp chicken stock concentrate, or 1 stock cube
  • 3-4 cups of water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

The method:

Open and drain your beans, but don’t rinse them so that you keep some of their own liquid.

draining-beans

In a wide pan, bring the oil and butter to heat together over a medium-high heat before adding your onions.

Coat the onions in the oil/butter and begin to lightly fry before adding your diced chilies and dry spices.

stirring

Allow the spices and chilies to fry lightly for about a minute before adding the drained beans.

adding-the-spices

Coat the beans with the onion mixture and bring to temperature, allowing the bean liquid to begin to evaporate/reduce. This offers a little frying to some of the beans, before we cover the lot with stock.

Add your chicken stock concentrate and enough water to just cover the beans. Give it all a good stir, cover the pot and reduce to a medium-low heat.

Once the beans are boiling away, covered in a pressure cooker environment, they’ll soften even more, and take on the spices and chicken flavour. I usually allow them to boil for about 20 minutes, topping up the water if it begins to stick on the bottom.

Cooking beans.jpg

After 20 minutes or so, uncover and bring out the potato masher, if you want to crush the beans. You don’t need to do this, but the smooth consistency of restaurant beans won’t be matched without some smashing.

Beans in the pot.jpg

Once I’ve mashed the beans, I add another ¼ or ½ cup of water to loosen the beans and help them cool down. I go another step and use my food processor to blitz the beans once they’ve cooled a little, especially when using black beans. If you’re only using pinto beans, they’ll likely smash easily enough with the masher.

Blended beans.jpg

Once I’ve whizzed the beans, I add salt and pepper to taste, but the chicken stock and butter add sodium, so be sure to taste before piling on the salt.

These refried beans are ready to eat as is, or you can roll them up in a tortilla, serve with rice or chips, or put them into tacos like we did last night. I also made a quick batch of taco meat using ground turkey, and the kids gobbled it up. I hope you’ll enjoy these as well as we do, and have fun making your own restaurant-style beans.

Bean tacos.jpg

Sparkly Mummy

Gorgonzola Potatoes recipe

As a parent of two young children, I am mindful of the foods they eat, and the types of processed foods and chemicals that come into their diet. I try my best to cook from scratch, so I know how to pronounce the ingredients, and so my kids can see their mum using ingredients instead of packets. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not nearly perfect, and of course there are days that require a fast food emergency or a frozen pizza hail Mary. I try to minimise the chances by cooking baking trays of food that can be used and reused and frozen and reused later. This dish is a great example.

Served with a roast for a large crowd, or served with Polish sausage for a quick midweek meal, this is an easy dish that tastes extravagant. Using baby potatoes cuts the cooking and prep time, and my flourless cream sauce is gluten-free and fail proof. I strive to incorporate grown up flavours into my recipes. Even though they’re geared towards my 4- and 6-year-old, my husband and I still have to eat dinner! I find introducing the kids to more complex flavours, like stinky cheese, is best done in stages. With this in mind, please feel free to up the stinky ante and go for all gorgonzola in the recipe, but I’ve done a 50/50 with a sharp cheddar to mellow the blue cheese.

This recipe takes just over an hour, but it’s broken up with waiting for the potatoes to boil, and later the oven takes over. As a busy mum, I manage this midweek around washing up, potty breaks and sibling rivalries. The cheese sauce is so simple, and I can walk away from it if I have to without fear of burning. I cook gluten-free meals for my husband, but I’ll never go back to a flour-based sauce again after adopting this method. We like this with kielbasa and steamed broccoli, but it can be served with any number of meat/less varieties. I usually pop the sausage into the oven below the potatoes so they finish together, and it’s scrumdiddlyumptious. Hope you like it!

Gorgonzola Potatoes.png

You’ll need:

  • Large pot 1/3 full of water (approx. 1 ltr)
  • 15-20 baby (new) white and/or red skin potatoes (I half-filled a 9×13 glass baking dish)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup chopped white onion (I use frozen)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • 1 ½ cup chicken stock (I used a teaspoon of concentrate dissolved into water)
  • 1 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups single cream (or half & half)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Large baking dish to single-layer the potatoes in the sauce

The method:

Bring to the boil a large pot full of the potatoes and water. Allow to boil for 10-15 minutes until just soft, slightly beyond parboil.

Boiling the potatoes.jpg

If you’d like to use a second pot, you can start the cheese sauce now, but I usually get something done while I’m waiting and then reuse the pot while the potatoes drain and cool.

Drain the potatoes and allow to cool slightly for minor handling. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F.

I use the same pot to now melt the butter and onions and allow to lightly fry on a medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes.

Onions in the pan.jpg

Add the dry spices and fry with the onions for about 1 minute before adding the chicken stock.

Allow the chicken stock to reduce by a third for about 5 minutes over a medium high heat. 

Add the gorgonzola and cheddar and stir into the stock until it’s melted and incorporated, about 1-2 minutes.  

Add the cream and stir into the sauce, reduce the heat to low and allow the sauce to simmer for 3-5 minutes. Have a taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Don’t worry if it looks like a little oily – as it reduces it will thicken up. Once the sauce covers only the mostly boiled potatoes, they will soak up the sauce so nicely (I promise).

While the sauce is reducing, the potatoes will have cooled and you can either use a cutting board, or my lazy method of toss and slice in the colander.

Cutting potatoes.jpg

Once you’ve halved (most of) the potatoes, gently transfer them into the cheese sauce to coat them well.

Pour the potatoes and sauce into a baking dish (greased if metal). If you’ve missed a couple of potatoes in the toss and slice, this is your chance to slice away before putting the dish into the oven. The baby potatoes are so creamy themselves, it’s nice to keep larger chunks, so I don’t go crazy. 

Gorgonzola potatoes going in the oven.jpg

Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes, or until golden on top.

My family love this dish, and it’s lovely to see them embracing stinky cheese. We had it this week with sausage and broccoli, then again with fish and peas. I’ll freeze a portion for easy midweek reheat, or it will go perfectly with a Sunday roast. I hope you find your favourite combination!

Sparkly Mummy

Layered enchilada casserole recipe

I grew up in Los Angeles, and Mexican and Latin foods are comfort foods for me. For over a decade, I lived in the UK, outside of London (where there would have been wider choice of ingredients), and I struggled to find the ingredients for most of my favourite dishes. I even imported things like roasted, diced chillies, and chipotle spice via home visits or care packages from my mum. These days, however, even a local Tesco has a good chance of having most of the ingredients for this recipe – the times, they are a’changing.

I am a big fan of enchiladas. They’re especially nice for my husband’s wheat/gluten allergy, as they’re a corn tortilla dish instead of flour. The enchilada sauce (basically watery chili powder) can be bought in a tin or jar, and it saves a step and a pan. You can buy enchilada packs in the supermarket, and it should have corn tortillas and the red enchilada sauce. If you prefer to use Quorn over beef, it’s also vegetarian, and you can also substitute refried beans for meat for the same result.

Most of the time, if you order an enchilada plate in a restaurant, it’s dripping with cheese and sauce, and can be a little overwhelming. This recipe misses none of the flavour, but includes the all-important hidden veg and goes a little easier on the cheese. Casserole presentation allows for several more servings in the baking dish, and is so much easier to put together than trying to roll up each enchilada. I even let the kids help me layering the tortillas, meat, cheese and sauce in assembly line fashion. It’s delicious fun, topped off with a bit of soured cream and salsa or a side salad – the whole family will be coming back for more.

Plated enchilada vertical.jpg

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup chopped white onion (I use frozen)
  • 1 tsp veg oil of choice
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp fresh or dried garlic minced
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp chipotle pepper powder
  • 1lb lean minced beef
  • ½ cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup chopped coriander/cilantro (frozen or fresh)
  • I packet of small corn tortillas (approximately 10-15 used)
  • 1 8oz jar or tin of enchilada sauce (if you can’t find ready-made, it’s pretty easy to make)
  • 3-4 cups shredded mild cheese (Double Gloucestershire and Red Leicester are lovely for this)

The method:

To begin, I add the onions and dry spices to a hot pan with a bit of oil. Once the onions are coated, I add the beef and mix it all together in the pan.

Fry off the mixture, browning the beef and onions together. This will keep the spices from burning and allows the meat to absorb all of those flavours.

Enchilada casserole ingredients

Once the beef is mostly browned, add the carrots and coriander with about 1/3 cup of water and reduce heat to simmer.

While the beef simmers and reduces, you can begin to layer the casserole in a baking tray.

Add a couple of tablespoons of the sauce to the bottom of the baking dish before adding a layer of tortillas. I usually cut some of the tortillas in half to fit nicely against the sides.

Add a layer of shredded cheese onto the tortillas, and then a layer of meat, before covering with another layer of tortillas. Top the tortillas with another couple tablespoons of the sauce before the cheese the next time to wet them.

kids helping assemble enchilada casserole

Repeat once or twice, depending the depth of your baking dish. The last layer should be just sauce and cheese, for a nice crispy, gooey cheese top.

Bake uncovered at 180C/350F in the top 1/3 of the oven for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden. Allow to rest for 5 minutes or more to cool before serving.

enchilada-casserole-in-the-oven

I usually add a dollop of soured cream and some hot sauce to mine, but the kids like it just the way it is!

Sparkly Mummy
Link up your recipe of the week

Midweek Moussaka recipe

Autumn is a great time to try harvest foods like aubergine and make casserole bakes that warm the house. Greek food is something I rarely make at home, preferring to indulge at a restaurant or friend’s home, but this moussaka recipe is hard to resist. Moussaka is a bit like Greek lasagne: usually layered, meaty and loaded with cheese. The béchamel sauce may be daunting, but I’ve made this recipe a mid-week version that will hopefully calm your aversion. Something magical happens in the oven when the sauce thickens and browns across the top – it’s absolutely worth a try.

My family enjoy this dinner so much. I don’t think there’s anything better than sweet and savoury to get kids interested. The meat is browned with cinnamon and balsamic vinegar, and the béchamel is creamy with milk and parmesan cheese. The aubergine, or eggplant, is lightly fried in olive oil, but I use cubes rather than taking the time to thinly slice for layering. The final product is worth every ounce of effort, and I guarantee this moussaka recipe takes less than most. Even if you think you don’t like aubergine, I think you’ll be surprised at how flavourful, hearty and delicate this dish really is.

Midweek Moussaka Recipe

You’ll need:

  • 2-3 aubergines/eggplants peeled and cubed
  • 2-4 TB olive oil
  • 1 lb minced beef (the leaner the better so you don’t have to drain)
  • 1 cup chopped white onion
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 8oz tin of tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cups warm milk
  • ½ cup salted butter
  • 6 TB all-purpose flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1-2 cups grated parmesan cheese

The method:

To begin, peel the aubergines and cube them into 3 cm/1 inch cubes. Some say you should salt the aubergine to absorb water … I usually can’t be bothered, but give it a try if your eggplant seems particularly wet.

cooking-the-aubergines

In a large pan, warm a tablespoon or two of olive oil before adding about half of the aubergine cubes. Be sure to leave space between pieces and fry off in two or three batches. Allow the slightly golden-edged aubergine to rest on kitchen roll while you finish batches and the meat.

Once you’ve spent ten minutes or so lightly frying the cubes, you can reuse the pan for the beef.

Add the chopped onion, minced beef and dry spices to the pan with what remains of the oil and any aubergine bits.

Cooking mince for moussaka.jpg

Allow the meat to brown nicely before adding the tomato sauce and balsamic vinegar. Bring to the boil before reducing the heat to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Now is a good time to preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

While the meat simmers and reduces, it’s time for the béchamel sauce.

I begin with using a microwave-safe measuring cup or bowl to warm the milk. Microwaving 3-5 minutes on high should do the trick, but you want to be sure the milk is nearly boiling.

In a non-stick pan, melt the butter and add the flour. I use gluten free, and may use a bit less than stated above, but the roux you create will be thick. Mix well with a rubber spatula until smooth.

Gradually add the hot milk, stirring quickly to smooth into the roux. This sounds intimidating, but it’s really going to come through for you.

Once the milk is fully incorporated into the butter and flour, allow it to lightly boil over a low heat and thicken slightly. Remove from the heat and mix in ½ cup of the parmesan.

Cooking bechamel and tomato sauce for moussaka.jpg

Now for the assembly: pour the partially-fried aubergine cubes into the bottom of a large baking dish. Sprinkle about ½ cup of the parmesan cheese over the top of the cubes.

Moussaka ready to bake.jpgPour the meat mixture over the aubergine and add another layer of parmesan sprinkle before pouring the beaten egg over the top.

Pour the slightly cooled béchamel sauce over the top and give it a little wiggle to settle the casserole before popping it in the oven.

Bake at 180C/350F for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the top is golden and solid. Allow the dish to cool before serving to preserve the layers, or dish up straight away if you’re not fussed about presentation.

Enjoy!

plated-moussaka

Sparkly Mummy

Recipe for Albondigas (Mexican Soup)

This is a recipe that’s been handed down in my family and adapted for family life. My grandfather, the chef of the house, would take the time to make meatballs, as the standard Albondigas is a meatball soup, but over the years I’ve fallen out of using that method. It is a different experience to have moist meatballs with broth, but this recipe maintains all the flavour without all of the fuss.

This recipe is my version of a traditional family chicken soup: perfect for a cold! It’s also a celebration soup; it’s on the back burner at most family gatherings or parties, ready for anyone to scoop up a bowl with a few corn chips and some guacamole on top. It’s truly a delicious, healthy dish that emits amazing aromas all day.

I serve this soup over rice for my kids, draining a fair bit of broth, but loading meat and veg onto the top. They love guacamole, and the promise of a few corn chips for dipping. My son especially likes shredded cheese on top, and my daughter likes soured cream. My husband and I prefer a nice deep bowl with a handful of corn chips crushed on top, a handful of shredded cheese and dollop of guac. The cheese gets gooey and gorgeous, and the corn chips soften, adding an almost enchilada flavour that’s divine.

This post includes my coveted guacamole recipe as well, so make sure you have a couple of ripe avocados on hand (or more), and a bag of salted corn chips for dipping. You can make this soup as thick or as brothy as you like, and it gets better as it simmers. It freezes well, if you make a big batch, and can be stored for quick dinners another day. If you’re only making this for a grown-up crowd, add plenty of chilli to kick up the heat – it won’t disappoint.

Mexican albondigas soup.jpg

You’ll need:

  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1-1.5lb ground/minced beef
  • 1 TB minced garlic
  • 1 cup chopped white onion (I use frozen)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • ½ tsp (or more) chilli powder or chilli flake (optional)
  • 1 tsp or 1 cube beef stock concentrate
  • 1 cup shredded/grated carrot (about one medium carrot)
  • 1 can chic peas/garbanzo beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 can chopped tomato (optional, but don’t use crushed – you want chunks of tomato)
  • 1-2 cups topped, tailed and halved green beans (I use frozen in a pinch)
  • 1-2 cups chopped coriander/cilantro with stalks (usually one good sized bunch)
  • ½-1 cup chopped red pepper
  • 2 med ripe avocados
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon (or more) garlic powder or fresh garlic
  • ½ teaspoon cumin or smoked paprika or both
  • Salt to taste
  • Corn chips, rice or tortillas for dipping (optional)

The method:

This recipe begins, like all great dishes, with garlic, onion and beef mingling in the pot, browning together with a bit of oil. The best method is stirring infrequently, allowing the beef to brown while the onions soften. I’m usually a “full-wack” cook, so I start out on a high heat and break up the beef with a wooden spoon.

After a couple of minutes, there should be a liquid forming from the beef and onion. Add your dry spices and mix into the beef as you continue to break the beef into small pieces for browning. Once it’s pretty well broken up, leave it sit on that high heat to give great colour and flavour. Don’t worry if the spices start to stick a little to the bottom, it’s all flavour that will come off with the addition of water.

Once your dry spices are in and the beef is browned nicely, add the beef stock concentrate and a splash of water, and mix in the beef.

Add drained, rinsed chick peas, shredded carrot, red peppers and tomato. I usually chop as I’m cooking, so the chick peas and tomato are easy to throw in first, then chopped carrots and peppers once they’re finished. If these go in after the water, it’s not going to change the flavour.

Add enough water to thoroughly cover the mixture and bring to a boil. I usually add the water after the chick peas and tomato have had a chance to fry off a bit. If the mixture is getting too dry, reduce the heat or add a splash of water at any time.

Add chopped coriander, reduce heat to med-low and allow to lightly boil for at least twenty minutes. This soup can simmer away for hours, but it’ll be ready in thirty minutes if you keep the lid on. Be sure to save some of the coriander leaf for your guacamole.

This may sound odd, but a dollop of fresh guacamole is delicious with this soup. If you’ve never added a cool topping to stew, you’re missing out. I love guacamole, and keep it pretty simple to let the avocado speak for itself, but some swear by adding a little Greek yogurt or soured cream and salsa to theirs, and it’s still delicious. This is my method, and I only add yogurt or soured cream if the avocado isn’t quite ripe, because it adds creaminess.

Mash 2 medium avocados in a bowl with a fork with lime juice, dry or fresh garlic and cumin and/or smoked paprika. Once the avocado is mostly smooth, add salt and give it a taste. You may find another sprinkle of any of these flavours as needed to taste, but try not to overdo it and mask the avocado. Sparingly add more lime juice, because it can overpower with citrus.

homemade guacamole

I rip up a small handful of coriander leaves left from the soup, avoiding stalks for this fresh side dish, and mix the leaves into the guacamole for a final smashy stir. I like my guac with bits of avocado, but you can smash until it’s completely smooth if you prefer. Best to taste test with a corn chip so you don’t go overboard with the salt.

If you’re feeding a crowd, amp up the quantities and I guarantee the guacamole will be gone by the end of the night. I usually put a tower of bowls, pile of spoons, a bowl of shredded cheese with the chips and guacamole beside the pot of soup at a party and let folks serve themselves. My kids will happily eat the soup over rice (drain the broth a bit), and my son likes smashing the chick peas in his bowl. It’s another fabulous, veggie-packed meal they scoff without hesitation. And if you’re sick of chicken soup, give this one a go … it’s sure to clear your head!

Mummy in a Tutu

Introducing The Mum Recipes

Fast, family-friendly food

The Mum Reviews says:

I’m not the best cook, and when I do make an effort, my kids are usually not impressed. So when my best friend suggested she might join me in the blogosphere, I bit her hand off. Because she CAN cook. Her kids even eat it. And it’s got vegetables! So she needs to share her secrets with the rest of us. In this post she introduces herself. Head on over to our About page for more about us, and watch this space for The Mum Recipes first recipe, Easy Cottage Pie.

Like a lot of mums these days, I try to balance my desire to feed my children healthy foods and my often overwhelming ennui. I make the effort to cook at least three times a week, and by cook, I mean something more challenging than hot dogs, baked beans and sweet potato mash. Perhaps it’s because I truly love to cook, but I suspect a lot of it is I find it a legitimate reason to tell my children to “get out of the kitchen!” for a much needed moment by the end of the day. It’s because I’m sometimes horrified when I have the spare moment to inspect an ingredients label on pre-made ready-meals, and realise my kids don’t actually like them when I’ve tried in a moment of weakness. What I’ve learned is to find a balance between the convenience foods available and making healthy meals.

I thought it might make cooking easier for some of the time-strapped mums out there that have all the best intentions, really want their children to prefer home-cooked meals to take-aways, but haven’t had the time to experiment like I have. I’m a stay-at-home mum with two small children (5 and 3) and a gluten-intolerant husband, so I’m no stranger to catering specialty meals. I did, however, make a rule a long time ago that my children were going to eat grown-up food. Nothing too spicy, no chillies just yet, but plenty of spice is a must. I used a food processor to liquefy spag-bol, lentils with rice, cottage pie, etc. As a result, my kids are pretty accustomed to garlic, onion and dry spices in most dishes. They don’t, however, realise just how many vegetables end up in their favourites.

In this blog, I’d like to introduce some tried and tested recipes, not just by my family, but recipes I’ve been asked again and again to share. I use frozen veg when I need to, I don’t mess around with name brands when generic will do, and I’m always looking for the easiest, quickest result for dinner time chaos. I hope you find the tips and recipes I’ll share here help ease the stress of cooking healthy, yummy meals.