casserole / stew

Lamb shanks with quinces and chickpeas

Lamb shanks with quince and chickpeas

I’m in Motherland 1 (NZ) at the moment for family stuff, with Bro and I flying into Auckland yesterday. The parents picked us up from the airport, and it wasn’t long before the fussing started.

“Did you bring a coat?

It’s really cold here.

Where’s your coat?

No, it’s really cold. Why didn’t you bring a coat?” (This last question to Bro – I did bring my coat, cutting out 200% of the fussing.)


Pressure cooker black bean spare ribs

My mum and I cook completely different meals. Growing up, dinner almost always consisted of steamed rice, two or three accompanying dishes, and Chinese soup. When I think about it, my mum has quite an amazing repertoire of dishes in her memory. She can churn out tons of things in her sleep – all Cantonese home cooking and food that you will rarely find at restaurants. Interestingly, it’s also the kind of food that I don’t cook for guests, because I associate it with family eating. Like it’s too simple to serve to other people. Weird right? It’s a bit silly because although it’s mostly simple food, Cantonese home cooking is delicious.


Pressure cooker butter chicken

Butter chicken

The best kitchen item we’ve bought this year has been a pressure cooker.

It’s fantastic! I can’t believe I resisted one for so long. We purchased an electric one because it also doubles as a slow cooker. It’s a massive beast of a machine, but I keep it out on my kitchen bench because I use it at least once a week. I love being able to throw a stew in there and have it ready in 30 minutes. It is so, so good.


Chicken and potato curry with roti

chicken curry

I don’t normally like using curry pastes that come from a jar. They’re very convenient, but I find the taste a bit odd. One problem is that it never tastes the way I think it should (ie good!) but the worst part is that there always seems to be either a sour or chemical taste to them. I’ve tried a few different brands and they all seemed odd.

I’m never buying Indian curry paste again. I’ve successfully tried a few recipes for Indian curries that were delicious. They were time consuming and contained a gazillion spices, but the depth of flavour was infinitely better than jar curry. I’d rather cook curry on a special occasion than put up with ick curry.

But I’ve never had any success with cooking Thai curries. Even from scratch, my curry pastes are insipid, one dimensional and uninspiring. Such a disappointment. I should keep trying.

As for Malaysian curry – I’ve never tried making it. The “outside kitchen” (ie when Alastair “cooks” and goes out to buys food) does such good laksa and nasi lemak, that I’ve never bothered trying. But the other week I had roti in my fridge, and no time to cook a proper curry. I decided to use a jar of laksa paste in the pantry that I bought a while ago (Por Kwan brand, bought from an Asian supermarket). I added in a few things and it actually tasted really good! Have I been wrong about jar curry paste?

Chicken and potato curry

2 onions, sliced
The white part of a stalk of lemongrass
Half a jar of laksa paste
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
400gram can of coconut milk
200ml water
6 chicken drumsticks
1 teaspoon fish sauce

Cook the sliced onions on low heat until soft (about 15 mins). Crush the stalk of lemongrass with your knife and throw that into the pot.

Add half the jar of laksa paste and the potatoes. Stir to combine and cook until fragrant.

Add the coconut milk and water, then the drumsticks. Bring to the boil and then simmer until the chicken is cooked and tender (about 30 minutes).

Stir in a teaspoon of fish sauce and serve with flakey roti. (If serving with rice, you may want to thicken the sauce).

Sausage and lentil casserole

Sausage and lentil casserole

It is a good thing I have a large pantry. If I had to list items that one could always find in my pantry, we would be here for quite a while.

But despite the fact that my pantry is chockablock, once I started cooking lentils, I knew that here was an item that I would always have in stock. It’s safe to say that I am quite fond of the humble lentil.

However, that fondness does have a line. The week I made this casserole, I was eating lentils for FOUR DAYS afterwards. And while they tasted even better the day after, as they had soaked up all the flavour from the sausages, four days is a bit much. Therefore, the recipe below is the recipe I should have cooked. The original had 2 cups of lentils, which is just insane. Unless you enjoy eating lentils for four days in a row.

I think this was adapted from a recipe on

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 tablespoon olive oil
8 beef sausages
1 large brown onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup dried brown lentils, rinsed
2 dried bay leaves
3 cups chicken stock (or enough to cover)
Can of tomatoes
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
Small bunch of dutch carrots


1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook sausages, turning, for 5 minutes or until browned. Remove to an ovenproof casserole dish. Wash the dutch carrots and chop off the tops. Place them into the casserole dish with the sausages.
2. Add onion, and garlic to pan. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft. Add lentils. Stir to coat in onion mixture. Add bay leaves and stock. Bring to the boil. Pour lentil mixture over sausages. Cover and cook for 1 hour.
3. Add tomatoes to casserole. Cover. Cook for 30 minutes or until lentils are tender. Remove from oven. Discard bay leaves. Stir in parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.