Saturday, July 31, 2010

Beef and Ricotta Balls

Last night was my first night at home after being in the Dandenongs for three days at a libraryland retreat and after catching up at work later. I was exhausted. On my way home I decided I wanted meatballs in tomato sauce with pasta for dinner. So I stopped by the shops on my way home. Alas! When I got home I realized I didn't have any bread and I didn't want to cook rice.

I started making the meatball mixture anyway but it really needed something else. Voila! I saw some low fat ricotta in the fridge. I sometimes make salmon cakes with ricotta and wondered how it would go. It was fine. I would never have thought of making these meatballs otherwise, but they are really delicious. And just as well as there are more for tonight (or freezing).


Tomato sauce (previously prepared)
600gr minced beef
1 onion
1 egg
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon ginger
1 tsp Sambal Oelek
1 teaspoon ground cummin
Half cup grated cheese
150 gr low fat ricotta
Olive oil


Have prepared tomato sauce simmering on stovetop
Peel and chop onion finely and place in mixing bowl
Add minced beef and egg and mix (perhaps giving a taste of meat to hovering cat pictured above)
Chop and crush garlic and ginger and add to mixture
Add chilli, cummin, grated cheese and ricotta
Stir until completely integrated, preferably with hands
Place flour on flat plate
With soup spoon and hands shape meatballs and roll in flour
Heat olive oil in pan and quickly seal meatballs in batches
When sealed, add meatballs to tomato sauce which has been prepared previously and is simmering on stove
Simmer meatballs in tomato sauce until cooked
Serve with rice or pasta

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lentil soup with carrot and silverbeet

Yesterday I had to spend the afternoon at work, a semi-reluctant #saturdaylibrariansortoff, because a historic display celebrating 150 years of Hawthorn Library needed to be completed. No food shopping was done. As a result, cooking this weekend has featured around stuff that I had in the house. This variant on the more traditional lentil soup is the yummy result of my foraging and I am posting the recipe here at @mundoo's request.


2 400 gr cans lentils (ie 800 gr)
1 400 gr can crushed tomatoes
1 bunch baby silver-beet
2 carrots
1 tbs tomato paste
2 cloves garlic
1 tbs ginger
1 tsp Sambal Oelek
2-3 cups of water


Heat soup pot on stove and add canned tomatoes
Stir in tomato paste
Strain lentils and add to pot
Peel and crush garlic and ginger and add to pot along with Sambal Oelek
Peel and slice carrots and add to pot
Roughly chop leaves and stalks of silver-beet and add to pot
Stir to combine, add cup of water and bring to the boil
Simmer until all the vegetables are tender, adding more water as needed.
Serve with buttered crusty bread.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Beef stroganoff

Geraldine Dillon isn't much known these days but in the 1960s and 1970s she was well known in Melbourne as a cooking presenter and writer. She had a weekly cooking program on Channel 9 for years, gave demonstrations at Gas & Fuel and at Myers, she wrote for the Age and the Women's Weekly and had a regular cooking column in the Melbourne Advocate. My mother always watched her cooking program and, as it was on during the day (on Friday I think), I only got to watch it during the holidays. My mother used to jot down recipes while watching the program and sometimes we wrote into Channel 9 for a roneoed version. We also went off occasionally on holidays to see her real life demonstrations. We tried lots of her recipes in our family and these recipes were often the reason for us trying different recipes and ingredients. Apart from cooking with my mother, I am sure that Geraldine was one of the main reasons for my abiding interest in and love of cooking.

Recently I was asked by a young colleague if I had a good recipe for beef stroganoff, probably because a boomer would be expected to cook such a thing I speculated. Well, indeed, I had but I hadn't cooked it for decades. And there it was in my copy of the The Geraldine Dillon cookbook, published by Paul Hamlyn in 1974. That was the stroganoff that I had cooked, that my mother had cooked and that I had a vague memory of Bert Newton doing some skit about on IMT one night. However, I thought I really should try it again before giving it out.

I was also mystified by Tania's mention of a recipe with paprika in it. I didn't remember using paprika in beef stroganoff and sure enough there was no paprika in the Geraldine recipe. So I thought I would explore a little. I didn't Google. I just looked at a few of my own recipe books and discovered variants. Geraldine's recipe, which would have come through her Cordon Bleu background, had stock, tomato paste, mustard and sour cream along with the meat, mushrooms etc. She used stewing steak. Margaret Fulton, an Australian cooking icon (@margaretfulton - yes, she's on Twitter!) who was writing at the same time, didn't have mustard or stock but did have mushrooms and sour cream and used fillet steak.

Hmm, I thought, is this really an Anglicized version of a Russian dish or just some Anglo dish given a fancy name? So off I went to my trusty Time Life Foods of the World series - also dating from 1970s. Sure enough there in the book on The Cooking of Russia was a recipe for Bef Stroganov. The recipe was prefixed by the statement: "Bef Stroganov, created in the late 19th century for a Russian count, has become one of the world's famous dishes. The recipe that follows is the classic Russian version. The numerous European and American variations called Beef Stroganov do not in any sense reproduce the dish as it was originally made."

And the differences? Well, Margaret Fulton and Geraldine Dillon both use butter, whereas the Russian recipe uses oil. Apart from that the recipe is pretty similar to the Geraldine Dillon one apart from that she adds stock and powdered mustard, and the Russian recipe made up the mustard in water. It also didn't include tomato paste. However, I found another Russian recipe which this time had both the made up mustard and the stock as well as tomato paste, but no mushrooms though a footnote said that another variant included mushrooms. Both the Russian recipes called for fillet steak.

I decided after all this that the recipe I was still going to cook was the original Geraldine Dillon one. However, I am not very good at sticking to recipes so there were some differences. She said grilling steak: I purchased stir fry beef. She said stock (not sure what kind) I used low salt beef stock. And I didn't include the added salt. I normally use light sour cream but I got the full catastrophe. The Russian recipe suggested doing the meat in two batches as being essential. So I did this. Otherwise the recipe is Geraldine Dillon.


90 gr butter
1 medium onion
250 gr mushrooms
750 gr stir fry beef
2 tablespoon plain flour
1 cup salt-reduced beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon pepper
pinch mustard
1/2 cup sour cream


Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan and fry the finely chopped onion until golden.
Slice the mushrooms and add to the onions with a further tablespoon of butter.
Saute for 2-3 minutes, then remove the onion and mushrooms from the pan.
Add the remaining butter to the pan and brown half the meat strips quickly.
Remove from the pan and repeat with the rest of the meat.
Add the flour, stock tomato paste, pepper and mustard to the pan and bring to the boil.
Return the meat and vegetables to the pan, cover and simmer gently for 8-10 minutes stirring occasionally.
Once the meat is tender, add the sour cream the sour cream and heat.
Serve with rice or noodles.

So what was beef Stroganoff like decades after I had last had it? I found it pretty rich I must say with butter and sour cream but it's a good taste. As I am much more used to cooking with oil and normally only use low fat sour cream I might try another variant. But pretty tasty really.

Thanks for being the trigger for this trip down memory lane, Tania!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Veal and pork meatballs in tomato sauce

One of my very favourite meals is meatballs in tomato sauce. I usually make them with with beef or chicken but last weekend I got some veal and pork mince and thought I would have a go making meatballs with it.

I just wanted some fairly light flavours to go with the meat so I settled on parsley and parmesan. I wondered for a while if I had overdone the parsley, but once cooked the flavours all balanced beautifully. I used already prepared tomato sauce.


500 gr veal & pork mince
1/2 bunch Italian parsley
1 large slice bread
1 egg
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil
Splash red wine
Tomato sauce previously made


Place the bread in a bowl and cover with milk to soak
Chop parsley
Place the mince in a large bowl
Add parsley and squeezed out bread
Add egg
Grate Parmesan and add to mix
Stir all ingredients to combine
Meanwhile have tomato sauce simmering in large casserole
Roll up sleeves and use hands to ensure that meat mixture is combined
Place flour on flat plate
Using a dessertspoon take spoonfuls of the mixture, form into balls and lightly coat with flour
Heat olive oil in pan
Add meatballs a few at a time and quickly seal
When sealed, added to tomato sauce in casserole
Continue in batches until all meatballs sealed and added to casserole
Splash red wine onto hot pan and use to gather meat juice, oil and flour
Pour into casserole and stir
Cook meatballs in casserole on top of stove or in 180c oven for 45 minutes to an hour
Serve with noodles or rice.


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