When I am not mentally menu planning for the fantasy Bistro that I wish I owned with my favourite girl cousin by marriage, I am taming ankle biters. I am very lucky that this is a job I love and that it brings me a lot of joy. It also allows me on a Tuesday to bring my other love, cooking, into the classroom.
Cooking with children doesn’t need to be dull. It doesn’t need to involve chocolates, sprinkles and E numbers. It can be fun, yummy for both big and small and strangely rewarding when no child is hurt in the making of the dish!
This is one of my favourites. I cannot seem to name it, so the working title is:
While it’s important to embrace your new surroundings when moving to a new country, what’s really helped keep me sane (okay, maybe not SANE, but it’s at least kept me from rocking myself to sleep in a corner while I click my heels and whimper “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”) is being able to enjoy little bits of said home as often as is practically possible. Food makes me very happy, so how much better is food that also triggers fond memories and temporarily creates the illusion that if you yanked back your curtains you’d be staring at your own front yard, even if just for a few minutes?
I’m not big on Debonairs pizza (sorry tuxedo’d dudes!). I like my pizza like I like my catwalk models – thin, flaky and smelling faintly of smoke. But if there’s one menu item of theirs I crave on a regular basis it’s their Club Sub. It hits all the right spots and here, in particular, it reminds me of happy times back home with good company. This easy dinner is whipped up in a quarter of an hour. Just save a bit of Marinara sauce the next time you make and freeze it in portions (ice cube trays work great!) or buy a bottle of ready-made.
I must confess, I’ve been shoving it in. Food that is. When my husband ecstatically declared after a foray to the mall near our soon to be new home in China that he “Could buy cheese and ham!” I started going into panic mode. He was getting excited about cheese and ham? What does this mean for the foodie in me?? I have visions of living in a foreign country for years, deprived of a lamb chop. Of months dragging by with not an oozing wedge of Camembert to be seen. Of days spent pining for a piece of bread that contains less sugar than the average Checkers Sunday Morning Cream Cake Special. So I’m getting it in while the getting is good. And even if it’s all my favourite stuff, a surprising number of these dishes really could not be included here. (Like Royco’s Dijon Chicken with homemade chips and All Gold tomato sauce. It is my secret shame that a packaged pronto dish would feature on my list of last meals.) But these really should be. These moreish little mushroom morsels are hugely popular and disappear in a flash so make loads of them! It has been adapted from a recipe I saw in the Huffington Post one year when they featured the best snacks for the Superbowl. I don’t know anything about the original conceiver of this dish. All I know is that her name is Adriene. Thank you Adriene!
Serves: Well, it could serve just me. But probably 6 if I share.
2 punnets of small brown mushrooms (or 4 very large ones)
6 smoked sausages* (anything will do, as long as the texture is fairly chunky)
3 heaped tablespoons plain cream cheese
1 large onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup grated cheese* (preferably something like a Gruyere that melts nicely)
1T tomato paste
a bit of fresh oregano, finely chopped
3 T olive oil
3 T balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper
Wipe mushrooms clean with a damp cloth and pull out the stems and discard. Toss the mushrooms with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Spread out on a baking dish and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees C for 20 minutes. Set aside and cool.
Slit the sausage and remove the filling from the casings. Crumble in a dry heated pan and saute until golden brown. Break up into small pieces while it is cooking. Remove from the pan, reserving the pan fats and juices and aside to cool.
Add the onions to the pan, with a bit more oil if neccesary. Cook slowly until caramelized (about 20 minutes), deglazing the pan with a little water if you need to. Then add the garlic and tomato paste and cook for another minute.
Put the cooked sausage, onions and garlic, cream cheese, salt & pepper, herbs and the grated cheese in a bowl and mix well with your hands.
Line up your mushrooms in a greased baking dish with the core side facing up. Stuff each mushroom with a generous portion of the creamy sausage mixture.
Now put the baking dish in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees for roughly 20 minutes or until they are golden brown. (This dish can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and put in the cooler until you are ready to put them in the oven.)
Serve and stand back so you don't lose a finger. Blink and they're gone.
* You can substitute any good bangers for the sausage, but then be sure to use a smoked cheddar cheese.
I love this recipe for so many reasons. It’s easy, it’s flexible, it’s virtually impossible to mess up. I recommended it to a friend for her son’s birthday party recently and she absolutely loved it. So if a mother of three boys under three thinks it’s easy to make, then pretty much anyone can do it.
Bread dough (buy a bag from just about any supermarket bakery).
Marinara sauce (either buy ready made in a jar, or just blend a tin of Ishibo (tomato and onion mix everywhere else in the world) with a clove of garlic, a teaspoon of dried origano and salt and pepper).
Basil pesto (and / or bacon, feta, sundried tomatoes, chorizo, caramelised onions or whatever else blows your hair back.).
A cup of grated cheese.
250ml cream, seasoned with salt and pepper
On a floured surface, roll out the bread dough to roughly 8mm thick.
Smear the marinara sauce over the dough, stopping about 2cm from the edge. If this is starting to sound suspiciously like a pizza, then you're doing it right.
Add the rest of your toppings and pour over the grated cheese.
Starting at one end, roll the dough into a sausage. Cut into 1.5cm thick slices and arrange the spirals in a single layer in a baking dish.
At this point you can allow it to rise, or you can go straight to baking it. Pour the cream over the bread and bake in a 180°C oven for about 35 minutes.