It can be a chore getting dinner on the table every night. To help, we’ve got easy solutions involving big-batch cooking and a thoughtful use of leftovers.
SWEET & SOUR VEGGIE NOODLES
Prep & Cook 25 mins | Serves 4
400 g packet Hokkien noodles
1 medium red onion
2 large zucchini
1 large carrot
1 large red capsicum
2 tsps peanut or vegetable oil
440 g can pineapple pieces in juice
¼ cup white vinegar
1 tbsp cornflour
½ cup tomato sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
4 green onions (green shallots), sliced thinly
½ cup fresh coriander leaves
2 tbsps crispy fried shallots
1. Place noodles in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over noodles. Stand noodles for 1 min, then drain, return to bowl and separate noodles.
2. Slice the onion finely. Cut the zucchini and carrot into julienne (long thin strips). Cut the four sides off capsicum and slice into strips.
3. Place a large deep-sided frying pan over medium-high heat with the oil inside. When hot, add the vegetables to the pan and stir-fry for 3 mins. Remove from pan.
4. Meanwhile, drain the pineapple pieces, reserving the juice. Add the pineapple and the noodles to the pan and lower the heat.
5. In a measuring jug, place the reserved pineapple juice, vinegar, cornflour, tomato sauce and soy sauce. Mix thoroughly with a fork until smooth. Pour into the pan and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 mins or until thickened. Return vegetables to pan to heat through.
6. Remove pan from heat and transfer noodles onto a serving platter. Top with green onions, coriander leaves and crispy fried shallots.
VEGETABLE NOODLE OMELETTE
1. Make a second batch of the Sweet & Sour Veggie Noodles.
2. Preheat oven to 180 C. Whisk 8 eggs in a large bowl and stir through noodle vegetable mixture.
3. Place a large frying pan over medium heat, pour in 1 tbsp of oil and add the egg and noodle mixture. Cook for 4 to 6 mins or until the egg is starting to set. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 10 to 12 mins or until just firm.
4. Remove from oven and serve omelette topped with thinly sliced green onions, crispy shallots and coriander leaves.
5. Serve with some kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) or hot chilli sauce, if desired.
Shop in bulk to get discounts, but don’t freeze in bulk. Instead, spend a little time after shopping to divide meat up into meal-sized portions before freezing. To make dinners extra easy, cut up the meat or marinate it so it’s ready for cooking.
Casseroles, curries, braises and stews freeze really well. Make a double batch and freeze one for another night.
Label and date frozen food – it will last for about three months in the freezer.
Get creative with leftovers. Bolognaise sauce makes a great topping for jacket potatoes; leftover curries can be turned into pasties; leftover roast dinners make delicious sandwiches or can be delish toppings for ramen.
If there are eggs in the house, you can make a meal. Use them to create a frittata or an omelette, using other ingredients in the fridge.
"Reserve 2 lamb shanks and 1 1/2 cups of sauce for the recipe extension."
CURRIED LAMB SHANKS
Prep & Cook 3 hours | Serves 4 plus leftovers for pies
½ cup plain flour
½ tsp salt
¼ cup curry powder
¼ tsp ground white pepper
6 large lamb shanks
¼ cup olive oil
3 large brown onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
400 g can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsps brown sugar
2 cups beef stock
2 tbsps chopped fresh coriander
1. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Combine the flour, salt, curry powder and pepper in a large bowl. Place each shank in the bowl, in turn, and coat it well with the flour mixture. Put the shanks on a plate, reserving the flour mixture.
2. In a large heavy-based frying pan, heat 1 tbsp of the oil over high heat. Brown the lamb shanks, three at a time, on all sides and transfer to a large ovenproof casserole dish with a lid. Repeat with 1 tbsp of the oil and rest of the lamb shanks.
3. Lower the heat in the frying pan to medium and add the last tbsp of oil. Cook the onions and garlic until soft, but not brown. Add the onion mixture to the casserole dish with the tomatoes and brown sugar.
4. Whisk the beef stock into the remaining flour mixture and add to the dish. Cover, and place in the oven for about 2 hours or until the lamb is very tender.
5. Remove the lid and cook for a further half an hour. The meat should be soft and the gravy thick. Serve four of the lamb shanks sprinkled with coriander and with steamed rice, if desired.
CURRIED LAMB PIES
1. Preheat oven to 220 C. Peel 300 g kumara (sweet potato) and cut into 1-cm pieces. Boil, steam or microwave until just tender.
2. Remove meat from lamb shanks; discard bones. Combine lamb and sweet potato in a medium bowl, divide mixture into 4 x 1-cup capacity ramekins.
3. Moisten the rim of each ramekin lightly with water.
4. Cut rounds of puff pastry 1 cm larger than the rim. Press pastry on pies.
5. Brush pastry with a beaten egg. With a sharp knife, make a cross in the pastry. Bake for 25 mins or until puffed and golden.
"Reserve onethird of the beef mixture for the beef ragu with pappardelle."
SLOW COOKER BEEF WITH MUSHROOMS
Prep & Cook 4 hours 30 mins | Serves 6 plus leftover for beef ragu
⅓ cup (50 g) plain flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground white pepper
½ tsp dried oregano
2 kg stewing beef (chuck or gravy beef), cut into 3 cm cubes
⅓ cup (80 ml) olive oil
2 large (400 g) brown onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
500 g button mushrooms, sliced thickly
⅔ cup (95 g) tomato paste
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1½ cups (375 ml) red wine
1 ½ cups (375 ml) beef stock
1. Combine the flour, salt, pepper and oregano in a large bowl and toss the beef through, coating all the beef cubes evenly.
2. In a large heavy-based frying pan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over high heat. Shake excess flour from beef. Brown one-third of meat on all sides and remove to bowl of a slow cooker. Repeat with 2 more tbsps of oil and beef.
3. Lower the heat to medium and add the last tbsp of oil. Cook onions and garlic until soft but not brown. Add mushrooms to pan and cook for 3-4 mins or until mushrooms have softened. Add tomato paste and thyme, and stir for 1 min. Pour in red wine, followed by beef stock; bring to boil. Tip stock mixture into slow cooker and cook, covered, on High setting for 3 hours. Remove lid and cook for a further hour, stirring occasionally, or until meat is falling apart. Serve two-thirds with mashed potatoes and vegetables, if desired.
BEEF RAGU WITH PAPPARDELLE
1. Coarsely shred remaining beef mixture. Place into a large frying pan over lowmedium heat; cook, covered, until hot. Meanwhile, cook 750 g fresh pappardelle in boiling salted water until al dente.
2. Drain pasta and add it to the beef mixture in the pan; toss gently to combine. Serve with grated parmesan and a few extra thyme leaves.
SALMON WITH LEMON CAPER BUTTER & SMASHED POTATOES
Prep & Cook 30 mins | Serves 4 plus leftovers for salmon rissoles
1.2 kg potatoes, peeled, halved
1 cup frozen baby peas
2 tsps olive oil
50 g butter
6 x 180 g fresh salmon fillets
2 tbsps baby capers, rinsed
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsps coarsely chopped fresh dill
1. Place the potatoes in a large pot of salted water and bring to the boil. Boil for 10 to 15 mins or until completely cooked through. Add the peas; cook for 1 min, drain. Using a fork, smash the potatoes coarsely.
2. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and 10 g of the butter. When the butter is foaming, place the salmon in the pan, flesh-side down, for about 3 mins or until golden. Season with a little salt and pepper. Turn the fish and cook for a further 1 to 2 mins, seasoning the other side as well. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fish. Remove the salmon from the pan and rest on a plate under foil.
3. Add the remaining butter to the pan and when it is starting to brown, add the capers and lemon juice, and stir to combine.
4. To serve, divide two-thirds of the potato and pea mixture onto 4 serving plates. Top each plate with a piece of salmon. Drizzle over butter mixture and half the chopped dill.
1. Flake the flesh of the 2 reserved salmon fillets and place in a large bowl with the remaining potato and pea mixture, and the rest of the dill.
2. Stir in a lightly beaten egg until well combined. Form the salmon mixture into 8 rissoles.
3. Roll in fresh or panko (Japanese) breadcrumbs. Shallow-fry in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat until browned on both sides and crisp.
4. Serve with mayonnaise, lemon wedges and salad, if desired.
PHOTOS: JOHN PAUL URIZAR/BAUERSYNDICATION.COM.AU