Katering Syd Blog

#2 Mexican Lasagne

Today’s recipe comes courtesy of the late 1990s.  1997 to be precise.  July 1997 to be even more precise. 

Don’t ask me how I know the month and year in question, when I couldn’t remember if I locked my front door this morning, but I just do.

Note: I may or may have not had quiet, yet intense, anxiety attacks at work today, thinking that I forgot to lock the door, and, as a result, all the criminals (from the whole world!) were going to come in and have a thief party TODAY.  

Spoiler alert: the door was locked.

Anyway!!!

Mexican Lasagne is a family classic (my fam at least) and has been a favourite for all these years.  The first time I had it, my Mom and her friend prepared it together and both our families shared it at my parent’s old house.  My Mom’s friend and her family were moving back to Sri Lanka after they had lived in the USA for a few years.   For an unknown reason, Mexican Lasagne was their farewell meal from my family.

Since that first muggy night when I first ate it, it’s been a favourite of mine.  I subsequently brought the recipe with me to college, and then to Australia (when the recipe arrived in Australia, it was known as Mexican Lasanga.  Upon arrival, the name changed to Lasagne. Ahh, immigration, lol.) 

It’s super simple, relatively fast to prepare, and can feed a small army.  In these ways, it ticks all my boxes for a perfect meal.

I proudly share it here.

Mexican Lasagne
Ingredients

  • 1 package minced meat (beef or turkey)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can of undrained beans (pinto, black, kidney, any really!)
  • 1 green pepper, sliced into bite sized pieces
  • 1 small bottle of taco sauce
  • 1 can diced tomatoes plus, if needed, a half can of water
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of dried oregano
  • A few jarred jalapeños for heat (optional)
  • Small pasta (I usually use bow tie pasta, but elbow macaroni and the like also work)
  • Sour cream for garnish
  • Cilantro for garnish (optional)

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350F/180C.
  2. Brown minced meat, along with the onions and garlic. 
  3. Add beans, green pepper, diced tomatoes, water if needed, salt, oregano, jalapeños. 
  4. Cook and drain pasta according to directions. 
  5. Combine the pasta and the meat mixture to a baking dish and bake for 20 minutes. 
  6. Top with some cilantro leaves and a dollop of sour cream to the individual portions just before serving. 
  7. Eat. 
  8. Enjoy. 
  9. Repeat.  

I don’t have a photo, of the meal, I’m afraid, but here is a photo of the recipe in my first recipe book.  I started this particular recipe book in the Fall Semester of 2002, and quickly filled it with old family standbys and other interesting recipes I came across.  Several of the 52 Sunday Dinners meals will come from this book.  

If you notice that the original recipe and this one don’t match completely, you are correct!  That's because the above ingredients/method are the based on the latest batch I made last week.  I didn't have any tomato sauce, but I did have diced tomatoes at home.  The diced tomatoes were a beautiful addition and I will be doing that going forward.  Also, jalapeños!! :) 

PS – I don’t know why this meal is called Mexican Lasagne.  I’m guessing because of the taco sauce and the noodles.  Why is anything called anything?!  Who cares, because this meal is just so nice!

To start the year off right...

52 Sunday Dinners #1

Here’s my first recipe for my 52 Sunday Dinners Project.

Quick catch up – I try to cook a huge meal (some complex, some not so much) on a Sunday, which translates into leftovers during the working week.  If I am lucky, I only ever have to cook two-ish other meals during the week, which makes me a happy person.  I love cooking, but creating feasts after a long day at work is not something I’m into. 

So anyway, I wanted to start 2015 off on the right foot, so earlier this month, made my traditional New Year’s Beef Wellington with roasted potatoes and sautéed spinach.  This meal may have broken a record for longest dinner, because it lasted four nights.  That’s eight meals (2 adults x 4 nights)!! 

To disclose, I first came across the Beef Wellington recipe via Gordan Ramsay, but over the years, have made some little alterations here and there (and have included the alternations here and there below).  For all intents and purposes, the Beef Wellington recipe is his credit, but the potatoes and spinach are all from my own head.    

Note: while delicious, it is labor intensive and takes at least 3 hours to prepare (start to finish). It’s worth it, though, I promise.

Without further ado…

Beef Wellington

Ingredients

  • beef fillet of around 1kg – if this is too big to handle, cut it in half and you can make 2 small Beef Wellingtons at the same time, instead of one big one
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 250g  mushrooms
  • 50g butter
  • thyme
  • 100ml cooking white wine
  • 12-ish slices prosciutto
  • 2-3 puff pastry pieces, thawed if frozen
  • a little flour, for dusting
  • 1-2 egg yolks beaten with 1 tsp water

Method

Pre-heat oven to 200C.

Sear the meat on all sides in a large pan with a little bit of oil, butter and seasonings (garlic, salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, whatever you like). 

Once the meat has been seared, place the beef in a tray, brush with some of the pan drippings and roast for 15-25 minutes, depending on the size of the meat and how you like your meat (As a guide: 15-20 for rarer meats, and 25 for more well down).  Keep the pan and drippings for later – you will use this with the roasted potatoes.

Remove from the oven to cool, then place in the fridge for about 20 mins.

While the beef is cooling, chop 250g the mushrooms as finely as possible so that they feel like breadcrumbs.  You can put them in the hand blender, but be careful not to pulverise them and they start to liquefy!   

Heat 2T olive oil and the butter in a large pan and fry the mushrooms on a medium heat, along with the thyme, for about 10 mins stirring often.  The mushrooms will soften in this time and once they do, add a bit of salt, pepper and pour over the cooking white wine and cook until all the wine has been absorbed (~10 minutes).

The mixture (called duxelles) should hold its shape when stirred.  Cool the mushrooms.

Overlap two pieces of plastic wrap over a large chopping board. Lay prosciutto on the wrap, slightly overlapping, in a double row. Spread half the mushroom mix over the prosciutto, then sit the cooled beef on it and spread the remaining mushroom over the beef.

Use the the plastic wrap's edges to draw the prosciutto around the beef, then roll it into a sausage shape, twisting the ends to tighten it as you go. Pop with beef into the fridge again.

Get your puff pastry ready – the original recipe advises to roll it out, but I’ve never done this.  Once thawed, the puff pastry I get seems thin enough…2 pieces seems to be enough, but make sure you have a few spare on hand, just in case.

Take the beef out of the plastic wrap and sit it in the centre of one of the puff pastry pieces. Beat the  egg yolk (start with 1, but you can always add another one if needed) with 1 tsp water and brush the pastry’s edges, and also, the top and sides of the wrapped beef.

Carefully lift and drape the larger piece of pastry over the fillet, pressing into the sides. Trim the joins to about a 4cm rim. Seal the rim with the edge of a fork or spoon handle. Glaze all over with more egg yolk and, using the back of a knife, mark the Beef Wellington with long diagonal lines - be careful and don't cut into the pastry.

Place back into the fridge for the last time, for at least 30 mins and up to 24 hrs.

Brush the Wellington with a little more egg yolk and cook in a 200C oven until golden – about 25-30 minutes, again depending on the size of the beef and how you like your meat cooked.

Let your meat rest for 10 mins before cutting in thick slices.

Gordon Ramsay’s Beef Wellington recipe first found here: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2538/beef-wellington.

Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington

Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients

  • Potatoes, approximately ½-1 potato per person per serving
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • Bunch of parsley
  • 1-2 T thyme
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Olive oil, enough to coat the potatoes
  • Sprinkle of Parmesan cheese (optional)

Method

Place potatoes in a pot of cold water and bring them to the boil.  After 2-3 minutes of hard boiling, drain the potatoes. 

Sauté the potatoes in the pan where you seared the Beef Wellington at the start of this endeavour, for a couple of minutes.  Remove from heat and add the red onion, thyme, salt, pepper, olive oil, parsley and parmesan cheese, and combine well.

Cook in 180C oven for one hour, turning and mixing the potatoes halfway through.  The potatoes should be soft and ready to eat after the hour cooking, but if not, keep them in until they are cooked to your liking.

Roasted Potatoes

Roasted Potatoes

Sautéed Spinach

Ingredients

  • Spinach – fresh or thawed, either works
  • 2 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • Dash of olive oil
  • Thin knob of butter
  • Parmesan cheese to taste

Method

Add olive oil to pan and when hot, add the butter and garlic.  Cook the garlic for a minute and then  add the spinach and cook until wilted.  Drain excess liquid (if necessary) and finally add parmesan cheese.

Mix and serve. 

Forget to take a photo to post online.

The End

52 Sunday Dinners

As a working lady, I usually get home around 6pm.  As a lazy person, this is too late for me to start cooking a complex meal, so during the work week, I rely on leftovers and dinners that are quick to prepare.  To get started for the week, I usually cook a big meal on Sunday, which will last a few nights.  For the the rest of the week, I prepare pastas, stir-fries, and other quick meals.

For a while now, I've been thinking about showcasing my weekly big meals with a project that I’ve dubbed 52 Sunday Dinners.

The short-term aim of 52 Sunday Dinners is to create a big meal (sometimes complex, sometimes not) to start the working week off, and reduce cooking time on worknights in general.  The long-term aim of 52 Sunday Dinners is to collect all the recipes and put them together in a book - self published or otherwise.

 I’m not quite ready to commit to a blog entry every Sunday (let’s be honest – my track record with posting is not, you know,  great), but I do commit to sharing 52 dinners on this little blog of mine over the next while.

Coming up in the next post: New Year’s Beef Wellington with roasted potatoes and sautéed spinach. 

Peace out, 2014

Well, 2014.  We reach the end.

You actually were not the worst, but you were FAR from the best.  If we must get technical, there was no full month where things were 'happy pappy', but it's not really your fault.  

It easily could have been 2013, or 2015!  So in the years to come, I'll try not to blame you, year, 2014.

Saying all that, PEACE OUT.  

I suppose in years to come, I will look back on you with amazement, but until then, I'll leave you right here in the past.

Oh HEY, 2015?!  Is that you?  Really?  I can't believe it!  I thought you were always so far away, especially when I was a kid.  

What the HELL will you bring? 

Round two

Well, here we are again, several months since my last post.  If there was ever anyone reading, they *must* be long gone.  Sorry for alienating you, dear reader.

I don't want to make excuses as to why I haven't posted anything here for months YET AGAIN, but I will, 'cause I can be mature like that. 

I point the blame that is the clusterf@#$ of 2014 so far: house renovations, a big death in the family (sigh), the current heatwave in Sydney, and Serial.

Renovations are done.  Heat wave is (maybe) done.  Serial is NOT DONE*.  And the death in the family?  Well that is done but the emotions that follow are not

ANYWAY, let's write clusterf@#$ off for now, in terms of the ol' blog.

Until then, here's the cover for my next cook book, lol:

#Thanksgiving2014

#Thanksgiving2014

 

*Do you have HOURS to kill?  Drop down the Reddit rabbit hole, and then email me to discuss!!

 

In which we make a triumphant return to the blogosphere

Dear Reader,

Let me take this opportunity to apologise for the lack of posts for the last few months.  I certainly haven't forgotten about you, but with a trip to the Motherland in March, the Stanley Cup Playoffs and FINALS in April, May, and June (#NYR2015), and that little matter of a house renovation going on as I type, you'd understand that I'm a bit, well, mental.  At least more so than usual.

A quick summary of some fun food over the last few months:

  • Beautiful oysters on a Wednesday night at Ulysses Folk House.
  • Making homemade mozzarella sticks with my sister.  
  • On my first full day back in Australia, I had to go to Melbourne for work.  I was completely confused due to jet lag and for dinner that night, ordered a tofu curry.  What arrived was neither tofu, or curry.  At least as I know both to be.  The meal was delicious but as I nearly fell asleep into the dish, I knew it was time to go back to the hotel.
  • Making pierogies for my in-laws.
  • Watching the house renovations progress and seeing the outline where the new kitchen will be - dreaming (yes, dreaming) about the first meal I'll make when I get back home.  

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to do much recreational cooking in the last while, but it's all good.  Eventually the new kitchen will be mine and then, it's party time.

$50 Food Challenge: Steak Tacos and the end

Last but not least, we’ve got Steak Tacos in our $50 Food Challenge.

The Steak Tacos were taken from the Food Network (found via Twitter) and were super easy to make.

It wasn’t however, budget friendly, coming out at $27.24 with $6.81 per portion.  This surprised me – I thought that this would be the cheapest meal, but I guess avocados really are expensive.  

I guess the other thing is that the Steak Tacos didn’t last as long as I thought they would.  I thought we’d get 6 tacos out of the batch, but it was more that 3…and a bit.

This does mean that I’ve blown the $50 budget – the week total is $56.26.

D’oh!

In summary, it was a challenge to cook a week’s worth of meals under $50. I didn’t quite make it, but at least it was only $6.26 over.  I’ll definitely try again, and soon!

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$50 Food Challenge: JO's Spaghetti Puttanesca

Last week’s $50 Food Challenge started out strong, but can it end with me spending only $50 for the entire week’s worth of meals?

Next up, I made Spaghetti Puttanesca with Garlic Bread.  The recipe came from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals book (side note: lots of great recipes in there!).  I have enjoyed everything of Jamie’s that I’ve ever made, and this was no different.  It was super easy to make, and turned out delicious.  And lasted three nights, which was an added bonus, because by the end of this meal, it was Thursday!

The only disclaimers I have for this are:

  1. Coming from the 30 minute cook book, you'd expect it to take 30 minutes.  It took me 32, which isn’t too bad, however, his recipe also included some kind of dessert, so if I had done that, I would have been well over the half hour mark.
  2. Every time I make something of JO’s, the kitchen turns into a disaster zone.  Reading his fast recipes, and the way they flow, you can feel his frenetic energy, and the first time I ever make one of his meals, the kitchen really suffers and you have to add on the clean-up time.  So, with cleaning (not including doing the dinner dishes) all up, it took me 51 minutes.  Not too bad, still under an hour.

Total cost: $18.61 / Portion breakdown $3.10 (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday)

Week total to date: $29.02

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$50 Challenge: Ravioli and sauce

Ok, so let's get down to results of the $50 Food Challenge. 

To recap: I’ve challenged myself to cook a week’s worth of meals for $50 total.  Is it possible?

Here's the menu for the week:

  • Fresh ravioli and sauce (store bought)
  • Steak Tacos
  • Spaghetti Puttanesca

First up...

Sunday/Monday
Fresh ravioli and sauce

Full disclaimer: In our house, we cook these pastas as a treat.  These meals are more expensive than dry pasta and jarred sauce (yes, I utilise jarred sauce.  I’m NOT AFRAID TO ADMIT THIS).

There are several brands on the market these days, but this week, I chose the one that was on sale in my local supermarket, and chose Leggo's Beef Ravioli with Bolognese Sauce 

There’s no real mystery here: boil the water, throw the ravioli in.  Let them dance around for approximately five minutes, and then drain the water.  Heat the sauce in the microwave according to directions and then add to the cooked ravioli.  Top with parmesan cheese, if desired.

The cost verdict?

Total cost: $10.41 / Portion breakdown $3.47 for four dinners (two nights/two adults)

So far, so good. 

Giddy up. 

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$50 Food Challenge

I’m a big fan of food challenges.  Food challenges is a term that I coined* which means I’m making something difficult or new.  A couple of years ago in a personal blog, (which is now languishing on the interwebs), I chronicled a year of Food Challenges.  Each month, I made something I had never done before.

I suppose the latest food challenge was when I made pierogies a few weeks ago.

 I’ve been wanting to do a food challenge based on cost for awhile, and I am pleased to say that my dreams** are FINALLY coming to fruition – for the next week, I will be creating meals within a very strict budget.  

So, what does this mean exactly?  I will be preparing meals to last at least five nights feeding two adults, for under $50 total.   

Q: Why five nights, as opposed to seven (a full week)?  

A: You're very inquisitive!  I chose five because that's a standard work week.  Sometimes on the weekend, I don't cook due to social events, eating Ramen for dinner (to clear out the cupboard), etc, etc. 

Let’s see how we*** go, and check back here for full updates!

*I feel like Richard Lewis, coining the phrase from hell

**Are my dreams sad?

***I’ve dragged you into this, dear reader.  We’re all in this together!

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