MEAL INSPIRATION FROM THE DINNER LADIES

 

We are thrilled to share with you five fabulous recipes from  Dinner Ladies, Sophie Gilliatt and Katherine Westwood. The Dinner Ladies have been preparing and delivering freshly cooked meals to homes around Sydney since 2007.  

Following the launch of their bumper cookbook you can now prepare and enjoy their mouth-watering recipes at home. Fill your fridge and freezer with 170plus delicious creations and share your efforts with grateful friends and family. All recipes will keep in the fridge for a few days and many can be frozen. 

 

 

Madras Beef Curry
Serves 4   Prep time 30 minutes   Cooking time at least 2 hours 15 minutes

A beefy crowd-pleaser, full of roast spices, the warmth of chilli, the sour-sweetness of tomato and vinegar and the smooth roundness of coconut milk. Cook the diced beef very gently in a fresh spice paste until it falls apart at the pressure of a fork and finish the curry with toasted coconut and fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves.

 

Make ahead: The whole recipe can be made ahead and kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Garnish with freshly shaved coconut and fresh coriander leaves before serving.

1 tablespoon peanut oil or other mild-flavoured oil
2 brown onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 x 3 cm (11/4 inch) piece ginger, grated
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 handful curry leaves
1 heaped teaspoon ground turmeric
1 heaped teaspoon ground chilli
1 tablespoon ground coriander, toasted
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, toasted
1 teaspoon tomato paste (concentrated purée)
400 g (14 oz) tinned chopped tomatoes
800 g (1 lb 12 oz) stewing beef, such as shin, chuck or blade, diced into 3 cm (11/4 inch) cubes
375 ml (13 fl oz/11/2 cups) coconut milk
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 tablespoons desiccated (shredded) coconut
90 g (31/4 oz/1 bunch) coriander (cilantro), leaves only, coarsely chopped, reserve a few whole leaves to garnish

To serve:
shaved fresh coconut or toasted desiccated (shredded) coconut
steamed basmati rice or Spiced Rice (right)
Cucumber-Yoghurt Sauce 

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy-based saucepan and cook the onions, garlic and ginger with a fat pinch of the salt for 10–15 minutes till soft, stirring frequently.

Add the curry leaves, turmeric, chilli, ground coriander, cumin, tomato paste and chopped tomatoes to the onions, and combine. Season the beef with the remaining salt and stir through. Cover with the coconut milk and vinegar and cook till tender. The cooking time will depend very much on the beef – start checking to see if it is tender after 2 hours, but it may well take more than 3 hours, especially if you’re using shin.

To finish, stir through the desiccated coconut and chopped coriander.

Serve with shaved fresh coconut or toasted desiccated coconut, steamed basmati rice or spiced rice, and a handful of coriander leaves. A cooling cucumber-yoghurt sauce on the side is always welcome.

Spiced Rice
Bright yellow rice, flecked with whole spices and studded with peas, always looks celebratory and lifts a curry out of the everyday. It’s also about as quick to make as plain steamed rice and means you can get away without a vegetable dish (maybe just a raita for good luck). For four people, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a saucepan over medium–low heat and throw in 2 cloves, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and 1 cinnamon stick and fry till the cumin seeds darken. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric, then 400 g (14 oz/2 cups) basmati rice, stirring to coat with the spices. Cover with 750 ml (26 fl oz/3 cups) of water, bring to the boil, then add 140 g (5 oz/1 cup) thawed frozen peas, cover the pan tightly with a lid and turn the heat down to the barest simmer for 20 minutes. Take the lid off, fluff up with a fork and remove the cinnamon stick and cloves (if they’re easy to find) before serving.

 

 

Vietnamese Chicken Salad
Serves 4–6   Prep time 30 minutes   Cooking time 20 minutes

For us, this is the definitive Asian salad: healthy, low-fat,  low-carb and packed with flavour, crunch and other positive,  go-getting qualities. If you poach the chicken breasts and prep the vegetables and dressing earlier, the whole thing comes together in moments – perfect for a midweek summer dinner.

Make ahead: The chicken can be poached up to 2 days ahead and kept in an airtight container in the fridge. Alternatively, poach a few breasts at the same time and, when cool, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or put them in a zip-lock bag and freeze for up to 3 months – pull one out to defrost whenever you need some for a salad or sandwiches. The dressing may be made up to 1 week ahead and stored in an airtight jar in the fridge. The salad, minus the dressing and the nuts, can be made up to 2 days ahead and kept, refrigerated, in an airtight container.

 

500 g (1 lb 2 oz) chicken breast fillets
1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) Chinese cabbage (wong bok), end removed, quartered lengthways and thinly sliced
300 g (101/2 oz) carrots, coarsely grated or cut into very thin matchsticks
6 spring onions (scallions), ends removed, thinly sliced
1 large handful mint, leaves only, coarsely chopped
2 large handfuls coriander (cilantro), leaves only, coarsely chopped
50 g (13/4 oz/1/3 cup) unsalted roasted peanuts, lightly crushed
2 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Vietnamese dressing
2 long red chillies, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
100 g (31/2 oz/1/2 cup lightly packed) light brown sugar
2 tablespoons white rice vinegar (or substitute cider vinegar)
100 ml (31/2 fl oz) lime juice (about 4 limes)
100 ml (31/2 fl oz) fish sauce

To serve: prawn crackers (optional)

Trim any visible fat or sinew off the chicken breasts. In a wide saucepan, bring 1.5 litres (52 fl oz/6 cups) of well-salted water to the boil over high heat and then add the chicken breast fillets. Turn the heat down to a low simmer and gently poach the chicken for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off, cover with the saucepan lid and let the chicken continue cooking for a further 10 minutes. Remove with tongs and allow to cool until it’s stopped steaming, then cover and refrigerate.

For the Vietnamese dressing, mix all the ingredients in a small food processor bowl or a stick blender container and blitz for a couple of minutes, until well blended. Taste for sweet/sour/salty balance and adjust to your liking.

When ready to serve, shred the chicken breasts with your fingers into rough, bite-sized pieces.

Mix the Chinese cabbage, carrots, spring onions, mint and coriander in a large bowl. Add half the dressing, half the chicken and half the nuts and seeds and toss it all together. Arrange on a platter and scatter with the remaining chicken, nuts and seeds, drizzled with the rest of the dressing.

Serve the salad on its own or with prawn crackers.
 

 

 

Spinach, Ricotta and Feta Filo Pie
Serves 4   Prep time 30 minutes   Cooking time 1 hour 5 minutes

This is a low-fat, rustic take on a traditional Greek spanakopita, with ricotta replacing some of the feta and just one spritz of olive oil on the pie’s ruffled top instead of the quite unnecessary – though we’d have to admit, quite delicious – melted butter on every layer. Filo itself is pretty healthy as pastry goes, containing only 3% fat as opposed to up to 50%
for puff pastry, making it a perfect Thinner Dinner pie.

Make ahead: The whole pie can be made 1 day ahead, wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated, before baking. It can also be frozen successfully – defrost before spraying with oil and baking as below.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
Defrost the spinach in a colander. Squeeze out as much water as you can and set aside.

In a medium frying pan over low heat, heat the oil and cook the onion with the salt gently for about 10–15 minutes, till sweet and soft but not brown. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the onion, garlic, spinach, herbs, nutmeg, egg, feta and ricotta. Feta’s saltiness can vary hugely so tastethe mixture for seasoning and adjust it to your taste.

Spray a 20 cm (8 inch) spring-form cake tin with olive oil spray.

Lay 2 filo sheets horizontally across the cake tin, patting them down into the tin. Take another 2 sheets and place them at a 90-degree angle across the first sheets. Turn the cake tin 45 degrees and place another 2 sheets across, horizontally, and another 2 sheets at a 90-degree angle. This all sounds very complicated and mathematical but it’s very simple – you should end up with the base of the tin covered by filo, with excess filo draped over the sides of the tin.

Spoon the pie filling into the centre and fold the filo over the top, as messily or as neatly as you choose – messy creates more brown ruffles.

500 g (1 lb 2 oz) frozen English spinach
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large brown onion, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 large handful mint, leaves plucked and chopped
1 large handful parsley, leaves plucked and chopped
1 small handful dill, leaves plucked and chopped
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 large egg, beaten
150 g (51/2 oz) good quality feta cheese, diced
150 g (51/2 oz) ricotta (low-fat if you prefer)
olive oil spray
150 g (51/2 oz/8 sheets) filo pastry
To serve :Greek Salad (opposite) or a tomato salad

 

 

 

Pancetta-wrapped Meatloaf
Serves 4   Prep time 15 minutes, plus 3 hours chilling in fridge
Cooking time 1 hour, plus 10 minutes resting

We’ve always loved meatloaf, slightly kitsch and ’70s though it is. This one – long since borrowed and adapted from 72 Market Street in Venice, California – is packed with flavour from a base of slowly cooked vegetables. For a pork-free version, use beef and skip the pancetta – it won’t be exactly the same but it’s still good.

Make ahead: The uncooked meatloaf can be completely made up to 1 day ahead, covered in plastic wrap and refrigerated, or frozen for up to 3 months (defrost before cooking). If you’re not using the mixture immediately, it is essential that the vegetable mixture is fridge-cold before mixing with the meat.

Put the onion, carrot, capsicum and celery in the bowl of a food processor and process till evenly chopped, pulsing and using a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan and add the vegetable mixture, garlic and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes or until the veggies are sweet and soft and most of the moisture has evaporated. Empty into a bowl and leave aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the pork and veal with the now cool vegetables, as well as the parsley, thyme, egg, breadcrumbs, nutmeg, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the tomato paste. Mix really well – clean or gloved hands will do the job most thoroughly – until the mixture is uniformly coloured with herbs and vegetables, adding more breadcrumbsif it’s too wet. Roll a small ball of the mixture, flatten it, and cook in1 teaspoon of olive oil in a small, non-stick frying pan over medium tocheck for seasoning. Adjust if necessary.

Take a 10 x 20 cm (4 x 8 inch)/1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cup) capacity loaf (bar) tin or terrine mould (a plastic takeaway container does the job nicely too) and line it with overlapping strips of pancetta. Fill the tin with the uncooked mixture and pat down well, so that the mix is evenly spread into the corners. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for at least 3 hours to firm up.

When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and linea baking tray with baking paper. Up-end the meatloaf on the baking trayto un-mould it like a sandcastle. If it’s proving stubborn, run a knife around the perimeter of the mould – it should slip out easily.

Put the tray in the centre of the oven and cook for 45 minutes. To test if the meatloaf is cooked, insert a skewer or sharp knife into the centre and lightly touch the end to your lip – if it’s not piping hot, return it to the oven for a further 5 minutes and test again. Alternatively, use a meat thermometer and check that it reads 70°C (158°F).

After removing from the oven, set aside for 10 minutes before slicing thickly and serving with potato, coleslaw and tomato chutney.

1 small brown onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, cut into 3 pieces
1/4 red capsicum (pepper), seeded and coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, cut into 3 pieces
2 1/4 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
550 g (1 lb 4 oz) minced (ground) pork and veal
1 small handful parsley, leaves and top stems, finely chopped
2 thyme sprigs, leaves stripped and finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
50 g (13/4 oz) breadcrumbs (use rice crumbs or gluten-free breadcrumbs if you’d like)
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons tomato paste (concentrated purée)
100 g (31/2 oz) pancetta, thinly sliced

To serve:
mashed or baked potato, or coleslaw
tomato chutney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kung Pao Chicken
Serves 4   Prep time 20 minutes   Cooking time 25 minutes

Originally, this was a spicy stir-fry, designed for last-minute cooking. We love the sweet–sour flavours of chilli bean sauce, vinegar, chicken and peanuts so much that we adapted the recipe so that it is a bit saucier (never a bad thing) and ableto be reheated.

Make ahead: You can make this recipe ahead and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for 3 months. For maximum freshness, add the capsicum, spring onions and peanuts at the last minute before serving. If you prefer chicken breast, you can use it in this recipe, but don’t make it ahead of time – it really doesn’t reheat well.

 

Whisk the egg white and cornflour together with a fork and coat the chicken in this mixture. Set aside in the fridge.

In a small bowl or jug, mix the soy sauce, chilli bean paste, rice wine, vinegar, sesame oil and sugar together to make the sauce.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the peanut oil in a wok over high heat. Stir-frythe chicken till it is just opaque – the cooking will finish later. Don’t worry if the cornflour mixture sticks to the wok – this will help thicken the sauce. Set the chicken aside.

Add a bit more oil if you need to, then fry the onion, garlic, chilli and ginger over high heat for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Return the chicken to the pan and pour in the sauce, stirring continuously to lift anything stuck on the bottom of the wok. Turn the heat down and simmer till the chicken is cooked – about 15 minutes. You may need to add some water – about 100 ml (31/2 fl oz) – so that nothing sticks, especially if you are making this ahead of time. The extra liquid will help you reheat the dish successfully.

Add the capsicum and spring onions, and stir through till everything is combined and brought up to heat.

Garnish with the peanuts and serve with steamed jasmine rice and stir-fried or steamed Asian greens

1 egg white
1 tablespoon cornflour (cornstarch)
800 g (1 lb 12 oz) boneless, skinless chicken thigh fillets, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons chilli bean paste
1 1/2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons peanut oil or other mild-flavoured oil
1 brown onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 long red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
1 x 5 cm (2 inch) piece ginger, cut into thin matchsticks
1 red capsicum (pepper), seeded and cut into 4 cm (11/2 inch) pieces
4 spring onions (scallions), ends removed, sliced into 3 cm (11/4 inch) pieces

To serve:
3 tablespoons unsalted roasted peanuts, lightly crushed
steamed jasmine rice
stir-fried or steamed Asian greens

 

 

 

 

 

Recipes and Images from The Dinner Ladies by Sophie Gilliatt and Katherine Westwood (Murdoch Books).