[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] A[/dropcap] few months ago I was in Sydney visiting a friend. She reminded me of something I hadn’t thought about in ages…
It was Friday afternoon. She’d just got back from picking up the kids from school.
I had spent the day in the ‘big smoke’. I’d been lunching at a great new restaurant (Firedoor), shopping, and getting checked up by my dermatologist (a good idea when you live under the hole in the ozone layer).
As we sat chatting in her lovely new kitchen, drinking jasmine tea, Amanda mentioned that Fridays were her ‘night off’ cooking. That night they were having Japanese takeaway.
I remember feeling super jealous.
First because I adore Japanese.
But second because it made me realize I don’t have a ‘night off’ as such.
Where I live, in the middle of the Australian ‘bush’, there are plenty of kangaroos and gum trees (and deadly tiger snakes), but not many restaurants. In fact none.
Anyway on the way home it got me thinking about what I do when I don’t want to cook…
My 3 Options for a ‘Night Off’ Cooking
1. Cook ahead.
This is the obvious choice right? Either make double of something another night OR make something in advance that will store and reheat well. Like my 5-Ingredients Shepherds Pie below.
2. Picnic it!
This isn’t an option I take that often but after the success of my Birthday dinner this year, I’m definitely planning on playing the ‘picnic’ card more often.
Just go to your favourite deli. Stock up on good cheese, olives, salami.. whatever. And treat yourself to some really beautiful sourdough and lashing of butter (preferably ‘Kerrygold’ from Ireland). Dinner is ready.
3. Go for something super easy.
Especially now I’m pregnant and a bit short on energy I’m finding myself going back to my ‘5-Ingredients’ basic recipes for minimal effort meals.
My two favourite go-to collections are:
i. My print book ‘5 Ingredients 10 Minutes‘ that I have as the kindle version on my phone.
ii. My eCookbook ‘The Tired & Hungry Cook’s Companion‘, also saved on my phone.
What about you?
Got any tricks for when you want a ‘night off’? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
5-Ingredient Shepherds Pie
While traditional shepherds pie can be a bit heavy on the carbs, this almost ‘paleo’ version using cauliflower mash instead of potatoes is much lighter. But the best news is it’s still super comforting and one of those dishes the whole family will love!
enough for: 4-5
takes: 60 minutes
1 head cauliflower
1kg (2lb) minced (ground) beef or lamb
1 jar tomato passata or puree (3 cups)
6 tablespoons butter
salad leaves, to serve
1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and bring a medium pot of water to the boil.
2. Chop cauliflower into large bite sized chunks. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until cauli is really soft.
3. Drain and mix in half the butter. Then whizz using a stick blender or your food processor until smooth and creamy. You could mash with a fork but you’ll end up with a chunkier result.
4. While the cauli is cooking, heat a large frying pan on a high heat. Add beef and a little oil and cook, stirring until the beef is well browned. Add tomato passata and the remaining butter and bring to a simmer. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
5. Transfer the beef mixture to an oven proof dish (mine was 22cmx28cm / 8inx11in but it doesn’t need to be exact).
6. Top with the cauli mash, I didn’t go all the way to the edges so it looked prettier and allowed my mash layer to be thicker.
7. Bake for 30 minutes or until everything is hot and bubbling.
8. Serve with salad leaves on the side.
vegetarian – replace beef with the same weight cooked french style green lentils.
dairy-free – replace butter with olive oil or coconut oil.
vegan – combine the vegetarian and dairy-free options.
do ahead – you could make the pie up until step 5. Then cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze. Then to serve cook straight from the fridge (defrost first if frozen).
individual ‘pies’ – makes about 4-5 servings if you use individual dishes. They’ll need to be about 2 cups capacity each.
carb lovers / more substantial – use potato mash instead of or as well as the cauli. Or maybe serve on a bed of potato mash for those who need it. Also good with hot buttered pasta.
more veg – soften an onion, carrot, celery and some mushrooms before browning the beef. Add extra chopped raw veg to the salad leaves like carrot, snow peas and/or red bell peppers (capsicum).
What my wife and I do is make a big pot of spaghetti sauce. Then we take the sauce and we have spaghetti one night. We take the remainder of the sauce and we make a lasagna. We go ahead and cook the lasagna and then let it cool down and put it into the refrigerator. We let it sit for about two days and then we can just pop it in the oven and cook for a great tasting lasagna. For some reason lasagna always taste better after it has sat for a few days.
Yes most dishes like that taste better after the flavours have had a chance to really mingle :)
Do a slow cooker full of chili or stew, freeze the leftovers. Defrost and eat on you day off. I have several frozen slow cooker meals frozen. So convenient!
I have a pot of chilli in the oven right now :)
Oriental version of your Shepherd’s pie: Season the meat with cumin, cinnamon and some chili. Add mashed sweet potatoes and, when the pie is nearly done, some sheep or goat cheese (the soft, white kind you’d use for turkish food, very common here in germany).
That sounds soo good Conny!
Thanks for sharing :)
This looks amazing! I love this kind of food! Its just delicious and bakes you happy!!!
Thanks for the Recipe!
I love the idea of ‘baking you happy’ Katie!
Hi Michael. Thanks for Sharing the free e-book.
Can we use the contents of your ebook in our blog?
So that it can help everyone who visits.
Wow this looks yummy, Sheperd’s Pie is the best comfort food! We recently launched the world’s first online platform called visit.org, where you can book tours&activities with nonprofits, and at the moment we are giving away our cookbook with recipes from nonprofits for free to everyone who signs up here http://bit.ly/1WESVQ1 ! We would be honored if you could try one of our recipes Jules! :)
Hey Jules – just sent a post requesting an alternative for ‘tomato passata’ after the mouth-watering list of recipes including Moussaka. Found it listed for the above recipe, Shepherds Pie again (also for Lentil Balls!). Would it be as easy as blending fresh tomatoes? Would love to try your oh so easy and quick recipes – but do not have tomato passata on our shelves and would love to try a healthy/fresh/quick alternative. Hope to hear from you soon and to keep in touch via your blog x li
Hi Li! Sorry I haven’t been one the ball with the comments this year. You could use canned tomatoes instead or puréed fresh tomatoes with a few tablespoons of concentrated tomato paste to beef up the tomatoey flavours
Sunday night is my night off cooking. Dinner is usually eaten on a tray on the sofa with a good movie. The menu is generally a couple of hard boiled eggs, olives, cherry tomatoes, cheese, celery sticks, a couple of dips and some sourdough toast or crackers. A nice glass of wine and a couple of squares of 85% dark chocolate. Wash up in the morning. I love it.
sounds divine Irene!
Tonight I prepared it for the second time in one week. I appreciate the mild flavour! Most recipes these days call for extravagant and unusual spices, it was refreshing to try a traditional one. Everyone loves it and no one figured out it contains dreaded cauliflower. This one will become a staple. Three thumbs UP.
So glad you liked it Maria!