There isn't a single home in the country that hasn't felt the gravitational, emotionally draining pull of "what the heck should we cook for dinner?". And when Mother Nature rears her head with dramatic force, causing floods and chaos, off the back of a pandemic and a world peace crisis, that question feels heavier than ever. The ebb and flow of life can sometimes be unkind; shelves have been emptied and our bodies drained of reserves.
But there is energy to be found in giving a helping hand. It is a heart-warming pleasure to witness and be a part of humanity first-hand. Small acts of kindness connect us to community.
And I firmly believe a meal dropped at the door truly does bind us. It offers comfort at a time when the soul needs just as much feeding as the belly. There is nothing like a warm meal, a deep enfolding dish that offers not only sustenance but an element of safety and reprieve.
A successful doorstop dinner should cater to a range of appetites, sit happily in the fridge for a day or two, and be reheated or assembled at a moment's notice with little to no brain- or man-power required. Bonus points if the food can be eaten cold, warm or hot.
The following meals are a mix of these. They will hold in the fridge, can be easily doubled or bulked out to feed more mouths, and can be reinvented as lunch or whatever meal is required.
If you make your risotto in a pressure cooker or slow cooker with the pressured risotto function, it will be a little dryer than your stove-top stir, meaning it is immediately ready for arancini. If a risotto is too wet, the arancini collapses and has no holding power, so many recipes call for risotto that has dried out slightly. If you don't have access to these kitchen appliances, I would recommend making the risotto the traditional way and leaving it overnight in the fridge before assembling the arancini. I also oven-bake rather than fry the arancini – less faff, less oil splatter and less attention is required. Trust me, a hands-off arancini is a win for all. Yes, the addition of cheddar is completely untraditional but it adds glue-like binding power for the rice, and makes this a pure celebration of all the cheeses you can incorporate in a single dish.
- 50ml olive oil
- 60g butter, coarsely chopped
- 1 brown onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 1 litre chicken stock
- 80g grated parmesan
- 100g grated cheddar cheese
- 1 cup bolognese sauce (homemade or bought)
- 1 small ball of buffalo mozzarella, torn into small pieces (or individual bocconcini balls)
- ⅓ cup flour
- 1 large egg, lightly whisked
- 1 cup panko crumbs
- roasted tomato sauce or passata
- oregano leaves
- Heat the olive oil and half the butter either in your slow cooker or in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until pale and translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the rice and cook until toasted, about 1-2 minutes. Add the stock and if using your pressure cooker, set to the risotto function and cook for 12-14 minutes. Alternatively, if using stovetop method, add the stock gradually, and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring regularly and adding stock until the rice is cooked through. For the slow-cooker, cover and cook on high for 1-2 hours, or until the stock has been absorbed and the rice is tender.
- When the rice is cooked, add the remaining butter and stir through, followed by the parmesan and cheddar.
- While the rice is still warm, add the bolognese and stir to incorporate. (If using the stovetop method, rest the risotto in the fridge overnight, before assembling the arancini.)
- Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced (200C conventional). Bring the risotto to room temperature if it's been firming up in the fridge.
- Using your hands, scoop out a large golf ball-sized amount of the rice mixture and roll into a ball. Indent the ball with your thumb and add a piece of mozzarella (or a ball of bocconcini) and encase the cheese in the risotto mixture. Place on a tray and repeat with the remaining rice and cheese.
- Roll the balls in flour, then beaten egg, followed by panko crumbs to coat, shaking off excess. Place on an oven tray lined with baking paper and bake for 20 minutes, turning gently halfway through to get a nice even brown crust.
- Warm the tomato sauce and place in serving bowls. Top with arancini and extra parmesan and oregano. Serve piping hot.
Briefly steaming the broccoli helps retain its green colour. Photo: Katrina Meynink
Charred broccoli pesto
I love to drop this one off with a few serving options – it's great stirred through some cooked burghul as much as it is over pasta. Leftovers elevate any sandwich and it can sit unloved (but covered) in the fridge for several days.
- 2 tbsp plus ½ cup olive oil, or more as needed
- 1 head of broccoli, trimmed, roughly chopped into florets
- ¼ cup vegetable stock
- ½ cup pine nuts, toasted
- 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- handful basil leaves
- handful flat-leaf parsley
- Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan and place over medium-high heat. Add the chopped broccoli and cook for 4-6 minutes or until charred in spots. Try not to move the broccoli, you want colour on the heat-exposed spots, not an even all-over browning.
- Add the stock and cover the pan with a lid, this will briefly steam the broccoli to lock in the colour. Cook until the stock has evaporated, this should only take another minute or 2.
- Allow to cool slightly then add to a blender with the remaining ingredients and remaining ½ cup of olive oil and briefly blitz – there should still be some chunks through it. If it seems too dry, add a little more oil.
- Toss through some pasta and add some fresh basil leaves to serve. If delivering to friends, keep the elements separate so the recipient can assemble it fresh, with minimal effort and time.
Makes about 2 cups
This slow-cooked lamb can largely be left alone on the stove. Photo: Katrina Meynink
Slow-cooked lamb with cumin yoghurt and pomegranate
I love the negligence you can show this dish, and it ends up being a simple, comforting crowdpleaser every time. It freezes like a dream and only improves with age, in fact a few days in the fridge gives it an even deeper depth of flavour.
All she needs is a lovely potter on the stove and the occasional stir by you. The trick is blitzing the onion and spices in a food processor and liberally coating the lamb in the mixture. Let it sit for a few hours then slap into a Dutchie with everything else and leave her alone.
- 2 onions, peeled
- 3 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted
- 3 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds, toasted
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 large rolled lamb leg, deboned (about 1.8kg without bone), chopped into extra-large bite-sized pieces
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup pomegranate molasses
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 3 dried dates, pitted and chopped
- 500ml red wine
- 500ml beef stock, plus extra as required
- ½ cup tinned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1½ tbsp olive oil
- ½ tbsp sumac
- 1 cup Greek yoghurt
- ½-1 tbsp ground cumin
- pomegranate arils
- chopped pistachios
- coriander leaves
- Blitz the onions, toasted spices, garlic and cinnamon in a food processor. Scoop into a large bowl with the lamb and olive oil and turn to coat. If you have time, let it sit in the fridge for a few hours, even overnight.
- Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking.
- Place a Dutch oven over medium heat and once hot, add the lamb in batches, browning the meat on all sides, 2-3 minutes. Return all the meat to the pan and add the remaining ingredients. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 4-5 hours, giving it the occasional stir to prevent the meat from catching, and adding more stock if it seems too dry. It's ready when the lamb has broken down and the sauce has thickened.
- For the chickpeas, heat the one and a half tablespoons of oil over low heat in a frying pan. Add the chickpeas – be very careful, they will spit. Add the sumac and stir to coat. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes or until crisp.
- Mix the ground cumin through the Greek yoghurt to taste, and set aside.
- Serve the lamb , topped with crispy chickpeas, cumin yoghurt, pistachios, pomegranate arils and a scattering of coriander leaves, along with rice, pita bread or cous cous. If delivering to friends, keep the elements separate and include suggestions for adding a carb element.
These brownies just so happen to be gluten-free. Photo: Katrina Meynink
Chocolate, buckwheat and sea salt brownies
This, my friends, is brownie perfection. Deep mud-like fudge topped with the crisp and crunch and crack of a dried creek bed. The fact this is gluten-free is incidental, but the buckwheat flour is a must, it adds a glorious nutty background flavour. And the staying power puts it over and above most freshly baked goods.
- 280g unsalted butter, diced
- 400g caster sugar
- 100g brown sugar
- 5 eggs
- 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
- 125g unsweetened cocoa powder
- 160g buckwheat flour
- sea salt flakes
- Preheat the oven to 150C fan-forced (170C conventional). Grease and generously line a 30cm x 23cm x 5cm baking tin with baking paper.
- Cream the butter and sugars until light and pale, for at least 5 minutes – it's important not to rush this step. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla and incorporate, then add the cocoa powder and gently combine. Add the buckwheat flour and stir to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and generously sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle again with another pinch of sea salt. Allow to cool completely in the tin before lifting out and slicing.
- These brownies are best served at room temperature. They can be stored in an airtight container for 3 days at room temperature, and will last for a week in the fridge, just note they become quite solid once refrigerated because of their high butter content.