Thai Basil Beef

Serves: 4

Looking back on it, every blog here that is mince based, starts with something like: mince is the best, mince is our favourite, mince is our last meal, etc.

Because its true.

Any which way, we love it and Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai minces are up there as our favourite weeknight meals.

You’ve been at work, it’s raining, it’s on Monday and yet… you’re having spicy mince for dinner!

This Thai Basil Mince is super easy and you can’t overdo it on the basil front.

It is also healthy, even if you do have it with a cup of boiled Jasmine rice which… because it is Monday… you should.

Enjoy!

Ingredients

1 tbsp sunflower oil
500gm ground beef mince
2 shallots, diced
1 red capsicum, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 birds eye chillies, thinly sliced
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
1 lime, juice and zest
1 cup basil (Thai basil if you can)
2 spring onions, thinly sliced, to garnish
Chopped peanuts and crispy fried shallots to garnish
Jasmine rice to serve

Method

  1. Heat the oil over a medium-high heat in a heavy saucepan or wok and cook the beef mince and shallots until the meat is cooked and browning; about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the capsicum, garlic and chillies and cook until fragrant; another 2 – 3 minutes
  3. Add the fish sauce, sugar, lime and basil and cook until the basil starts to wilt; about a minute. Taste test to make sure the balance of salty, sweet and sour is right.
  4. Garnish with the sliced spring onions, chopped peanuts and fried shallots. Serve with rice.

Italian Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Serves: 4

I’m not sure how you couldn’t love meatballs and I’m especially unsure how you couldn’t love these ones: with the herbs, the cheeses, the pine nuts (and some extra pistachios we added) and more grated Parmesan to serve, they’re awesome.

Prepare the meat mixture in the morning, head out to lunch and come Saturday night, open a bottle of red, put some music on and enjoy some truly excellent meatballs and sauce.

Seriously, they’re excellent.

Ingredients

3/4 cup olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2/3 cup pine nuts, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
40gm parsley, roughly chopped
5g basil or rosemary, roughly chopped
2 tsp fennel seeds
2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus extra to serve)
Grated zest of 1 large lemon
1 egg
500gm minced pork or beef

Sauce

2 x 400gm tinned tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine

Method

  1. Heat half the olive oil in a saucepan and cook the onion and pine nuts over a low heat until the onion is soft and the pine nuts are golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more and then set aside to cool.
  2. Put the herbs, fennel seeds, breadcrumbs, ricotta, Parmesan, lemon zest and egg in a bowl and add the mince. Add the cooled onion mixture, season well with salt and freshly cracked pepper and mix until all the ingredients are combined. Set aside the mixture to rest in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.
  3. Roll the meatballs about the size of a walnut and flatten slightly to make it easier to cook on both sides.
  4. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the meatballs until golden on both sides; do two batches if necessary in order to avoid overcrowding. Remove and set aside.
  5. For the sauce: Add the tinned tomatoes and wine to the saucepan over a medium heat, breaking up the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes. Gently add the meatballs to the sauce and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes.
  6. Serve with a good sprinkling of Parmesan and some fresh basil leaves.

Banc’s Sweet Corn and Basil Soup

Serves: 4

This is a truly sublime soup and one I have served plenty of times at the beginning of a dinner party.

It is from the famous Sydney restaurant, Banc.

I have served it both hot and cold and plenty of times, I have been asked for more. Indeed, I had a cook-off with a mate a few years back where we both did three courses each and this soup was a comprehensive point-scorer in my favour.

Prepare it beforehand and chill in the fridge.

And seriously blow them all away.

Ingredients

4 fresh corn cobs
200gm diced onions
50ml cream
50ml diced butter
1 small bunch fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

  1. The stock: Peel and remove all the outer stalks from the cobs. Using a knife, remove all the corn kernels from the cobs and reserve. Cut the cobs in half.
  2. In a heavy-based pan, melt half the butter and add half of the diced onion. Sweat the onion for 5 minutes on a medium heat without allowing it to colour. Add the cobs and a good pinch of salt and cook for a further 5 minutes without browning.
  3. Add 1.5 litres of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the stock to infuse for a further 30 minutes before passing it through a fine sieve, discarding the cobs and onions
  4. The soup: In a heavy-based pan melt the remaining butter and add the remaining diced onion. Sweat the onion for 5 minutes on a medium heat without allowing to colour. Add the corn kernels and a good pinch of salt and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  5. Add the corn stock and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes until the corn kernels are tender. Pour in the cream and continue to cook for 5 more minutes.
  6. Remove from the heat and blend the soup in a blender until smooth. Add roughly chopped basil and season with salt and pepper. Leave the soup for at least an hour – ideally overnight in the fridge – to allow the flavours to infuse, before passing the soup through a fine sieve, pressing hard on the corn to extract as much flavour as possible. Season once more and serve hot or cold.

Thai-style Chicken Meatballs in Broth


Serves: 4
Another simple, successful, David Herbert weekday number… healthy too.

Keep the calories for the weekend.

Ingredients

  • 500gm chicken mince
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 small chilli chopped
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, tough outer leaves discarded, soft inner core finely chopped
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • Vegetable oil

For the broth

  • 1.5 ltr chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 100gm thin egg or rice noodles
  • 4 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp chopped Thai basil
  • Soy sauce to taste

To garnish

  • 1 small red chilli, sliced
  • Coriander and mint leaves
  • Lime wedges

Method

  1. For the broth: bring the stock to the boil and add the fish sauce, star anise and ginger and gently simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the meatball ingredients; season and shape into walnut-sized balls.
  3. Heat a little vegetable oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and fry the meatballs for 5 minutes until golden brown. When they are almost cooked, add the noodles to the broth and cook for one minute and then add the spring onions, Thai basil, soy sauce and meatballs. Simmer for 2 – 3 minutes.
  4. Garnish with chilli, herbs and lime wedges.

Pad ka prao (minced pork, fried egg and rice)

Serves: 2

Read the ingredients and don’t over think it.

This is Monday done: street-style Thai.

Ingredients

1 tbsp sunflower oil
500gm pork mince
3 cloves garlic
3 birds eye chillies
1 small brown onion
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp kecap manis
1 tbsp oyster sauce
5 sprigs Thai basil leaves
2 eggs
Jasmine rice to serve

Method

  1. Cook the rice and set aside.
  2. De-seed the chillies and finely chop with the garlic and onion.
  3. Heat the oil in a medium-hot wok and fry the garlic, chillies and onion for 2 minutes. Add the pork and break up, working through until almost cooked through.
  4. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, fry the eggs until they have a slightly crispy base.
  5. Back to the pork, add the fish sauce, soy sauce, kecap manis and oyster sauce and stir through; reduce the sauces slightly and add the basil leaves. Stir and remove from the heat.
  6. Serve on rice with the fried egg on top.

Penne Pasta in Creamy Vodka Tomato Sauce with Mushroom (Pink Sauce)

Serves: 4

We live in Cammeray in Sydney and there has been this hole-in-the-wall pizza joint here since I was a kid catching the school-bus past many, many years ago.

Brick facade, large pizza-oven style window out the front, dark inside.

Until we moved to Cammeray, I had never been into the pizza place though I had always wanted to. Old-school pizza places are the best.

Our first meal there was memorable and for all the right reasons.

And it turns out that the place has been there since I was a kid, run by this Italian who cooked pizzas every night for 40 years or something.

Sadly, he passed away a year ago, though he left the restaurant to his nephew, who, when we arrived, was still finding his feet: cash only, several items on the menu not available, the poor guy cooking and serving and cleaning up.

But wow, his pizza and homemade pasta was just awesome.

And $50 with no corkage.

A real win.

Half-a-dozen visits since and he has found his feet, though the important elements remain. A dark, cosy, pizza restaurant with locals handing over cash for excellent pizzas. There is a second guy in the kitchen and a young girl taking orders and delivering the pasta.

We have mixed it up every time we have been there and last time we had a pasta similar to this one; mushroom spaghetti in a pink sauce: essentially half cream, half tomato.

I didn’t ask for the recipe though I found this one online and it is pretty much on the money.

Ensure you cook the alcohol off and you are left with a really wonderful dinner: pretty much what you would expect from a local, 40-year-old pizza joint that only cooks 6 pizzas and a rotation of the same number of pastas.

Do this some Saturday night and put your feet up.

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
½ medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 can tomatoes (400gm)
¾ cup vodka
½ tsp chilli flakes
Handful fresh basil, torn
½ tsp dried oregano
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup cream
¾ tsp salt
500gm penne (we used spaghetti)
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated to serve

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, and then add the onion and garlic and slowly saute until the onion softens. Add the tomatoes, vodka, chilli flakes, basil and oregano. Break up the tomatoes if necessary.
  2. Bring the mixture to a medium-heat and then reduce to a simmer and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the mushrooms and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  3. Add the cream and salt and continue to simmer ensuring that the alcohol is cooked out. Season.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta, drain and add to the sauce. Mix through and season again if necessary.
  5. Serve with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Greek Fisherman’s Stew

Serves: 6

Wow, this is a gorgeous stew and on every level.

It tastes amazing, it is simple to prep and it’s healthy enough. Mopped up with some crusty bread, we loved every bit of it.

I’d go as far as to say this could become one of your favourites.

There is literally nothing not to like. Just make sure you season well.

Surprise yourself with this 10/10.

Ingredients

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 small head fennel, diced
½ tsp red chilli flakes
2 large ripe, truss tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
1 tsp sea salt (plus extra to season at the end)
Freshly cracked pepper
1 cup dry white wine
250gm potatoes, peeled and diced
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 kg firm white fish, cut into 3cm pieces (we used Pink Ling)
12 basil leaves, torn
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp harissa paste (or hot sauce)
Crusty bread to serve

Method

  1. Warm the oil in a heavy saucepan over a medium heat and saute the onion and garlic until soft though not brown. Add the fennel and cook for a few minutes until softened. Stir in the chilli flakes and then add the tomatoes and salt and cook on medium for about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the wine and 2 ½ cups boiling water, bring to the simmer and cook for another 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Check the seasoning and add the lemon juice.
  3. Add the fish pieces and simmer on low until the fish is just cooked through; another 5 or so minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the mayonnaise with the harissa paste (or hot sauce).
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the basil to wilt it.
  6. Serve with a good dollop of the spiced mayonnaise and some crusty bread. And a good glass of cold vino of course.