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Cook *this* at the weekend!

Here's a scrumptious Donna Hay weekend lunch recipe for you - and a chat with the super-chef herself. If we ask nicely, will she cook it too?

We love Donna Hay’s work – the Australian chef is big on fresh, healthy, robust ingredients, the recipes aren’t too tricksy and her gorgeously designed books are a thing of beauty. The mother-of-two lives in Sydney, but we managed to pin her down for a chat and get some culinary advice.

We’ve also pinched a recipe from her excellent Basics To Brilliance book. This one is a weekend wonder for when you can leisurely potter around the kitchen (with a glass of wine to hand, obviously) as not every supper has to be speedy, right? It’s a delicious slow-cooked beef brisket; the basic recipe for which can then be used in three different variations – so inspiration aplenty for those of us who are thoroughly bored of our own cooking (spag bol for the 8 millionth time anyone? Zzzzz). But first up, let’s chat…

Donna Hay

When you get home shattered and have to cook dinner. What do you rustle up in 5 mins?

You can’t go wrong with a 5-minute fridge frittata – sauté some onion and garlic, throw in whatever veg you have in the veg drawer (spinach, beans, peas) add whisked eggs and cook until set. I like to add feta or goat’s cheese and any herbs I have on hand too.

Any tips on getting children to eat more veg?

Get them involved in the cooking process if you can. Start with meals they love, like nachos or meatballs, and get them to help you prepare the fresh ingredients – grated courgette or carrots to go in the meatballs, or diced peppers to add to the nachos. They’ll be happier to eat something they have helped prepare. When my boys were younger, we also had a rule that they had to at least try something once before they said they didn’t want it – it worked surprisingly well!

We’re totally BORED of our own cooking repertoire – what’s your advice?

I’d say this is a very common problem! I’m constantly looking for inspiration in cookbooks, magazines and online, and I love ideas for making simple twists to meals I already love to prepare. I cook pasta for my boys once or twice a week, which is probably the case in a lot of households, but I look for clever ideas to make each dish a little different. You could buy your favourite sausages, remove the casings and roll up the meat to make mini meatballs to toss in a tomato sauce. Or try using a new ingredient – a jar of capers is a delicious addition to a creamy salmon and dill pasta.

What are the most useful ingredients in your kitchen?

I can’t live without an excellent quality Australian extra virgin olive oil, fresh free-range eggs in the fridge and frozen fruit such as berries and mangoes in the freezer for smoothies.

 What’s your food guilty pleasure?

Ice-cream. Always ice-cream.

 Your idea of food heaven? And hell?

Eating fresh fish and chips or sashimi on the beach with my boys is my idea of food heaven. Food hell? I am not a fan of the trend to make everything really over the top, such as supersize burgers, ‘freakshakes’ topped with doughnuts etc. I prefer things to be elegant and simple.

Do you ever get invited to dinner parties or are people too scared to cook for you?

There’s no need for people to be scared – I love being cooked for! I do enjoy going over to friends’ places for dinner, but more often than not, they are all over at my place.

Where do you eat when you’re in the UK? 

I love stopping in at the Wild Rabbit pub in Kingham, Oxon on the way to picking up produce at Daylesford Organic Farm. Plus, I adore the Selfridges food hall – I could spend hours in there. My favourite restaurants in London are The Palomar, The Clove Club and Claridge’s.

Thanks Donna! OK, break out the novelty apron, it’s time to cook….

The basic recipe – slow-cooked beef brisket (serves 4-6)

Beef brisket
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1.5kg beef brisket, trimmed and cut into 4 pieces (cutting it up reduces cooking time)
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 250ml red wine
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 500ml water
  • 750ml passata
  • 6 bay leaves
  • sea salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Heat half the oil in a large, ovenproof, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the beef and cook for 4–5 minutes each side or until browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the remaining oil, the onion and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, for 4–5 minutes or until softened.

Add the wine and cook for 3–4 minutes or until reduced by half. Add the stock, water, passata, bay leaves, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Return the beef to the pan, with any juices, and bring to a simmer.

Cover with a tight-fitting lid, transfer to the oven and cook, turning the beef halfway through cooking time, for 3 hours or until very tender.

Remove the beef from the sauce and place on a tray. Using 2 forks, shred the meat. Return the beef to the sauce and stir to combine. Remove and discard the bay leaves to serve.

The variations…

Brisket pot pies (makes 6)

Pot pie
  • 1 x quantity beef brisket, cooled slightly
  • 3 sheets store-bought puff pastry
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F). Divide the beef between 6 x 250ml-capacity ovenproof ramekins. Cut
6 rounds from the pastry to fit the tops of the ramekins. Cut a small cross incision in the centre of each round. Brush the edges of the ramekins with egg and top with the pastry, pressing the edges to seal. Brush the pies with egg and place on an oven tray. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden.

Pappardelle with brisket (serves 4-6)

Pappardelle with brisket
  • 1 x quantity slow-cooked beef brisket, heated through
  • 500g pappardelle
  • 50g finely grated pecorino
  • Black pepper
  • Fresh parsley, chopped

Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 6–8 minutes or until al dente. Drain well and return to the pan. Add the beef and toss to combine. Divide between serving bowls and top with the pecorino. Sprinkle with pepper and parsley to serve.

Beef and ricotta lasagne (serves 8)

Beef and ricotta lasagne
  • 1 x quantity beef brisket, heated through
  • 350g grated mozzarella
  • 100g finely grated parmesan
  • 960g fresh ricotta
  • 180ml milk
  • 450g fresh lasagne sheets
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Basil leaves, to serve

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Place the mozzarella, 80g of the parmesan, the ricotta and milk in a large bowl and mix to combine. Set aside. Line the base of a lightly greased 20cm x 30cm ovenproof dish with a layer of lasagne sheets, trimming to fit. Top with one-third of the beef and a second layer of lasagne sheets. Top with one-third of the cheese mixture. Repeat the layering twice more using the remaining lasagne sheets, beef and cheese mixture. Sprinkle the top layer of cheese mixture with the remaining parmesan and drizzle with the oil. Place the dish on an oven tray and bake for 35–40 minutes. Top with basil leaves to serve.

Basics to Brilliance by Donna Hay is published by 4th Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins, £25

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