Five fuss-free family-friendly recipes from the Plan, Buy, Cook Book

Step aside macaroni cheese, pastitsio is on the menu.
Step aside macaroni cheese, pastitsio is on the menu. Photo: Bec Hudson/Hardie Grant Books

Home cooking doesn't need to be stressful or difficult. The Plan, Buy, Cook Book by Jen Petrovic and Gaby Chapman is about how to simplify your life and cut down the time spent on weekday cooking using a simple 4+2+1 formula.

The idea is simple. Cook four meals from scratch each week - two fast and fresh, two double-up meals (freezing half). Take two meals from the freezer and serve with salad, pasta, rice or vegetables. Round out the week with one super-simple meal – leftovers, toasted sandwiches or eggs or toast.

This system is not a diet – it's a way to incorporate better planning, buying and cooking-from-scratch habits for a fuss-free life.

Jen Petrovic and Gaby Chapman's new book.
Jen Petrovic and Gaby Chapman's new book. Photo: Bec Hudson/Hardie Grant Books

Here are five recipes everyone in the family will enjoy.

Pastitsio

Pastitsio, also known as pasticcio, is a fabulously tasty macaroni lamb bake. It is like a Greek variation of macaroni cheese. It is worthwhile buying a whole nutmeg instead of using ground nutmeg, as it keeps its flavour better.

Serves: 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 500g minced (ground) lamb
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg or finely grated whole nutmeg, plus extra for sprinkling
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 100g tomato paste
  • 250g macaroni
  • green salad, to serve

White sauce

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  • 50g butter
  • 50g (⅓ cup) plain (all-purpose)
  • flour
  • 750ml (3 cups) full-cream (whole) milk
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

METHOD

  1. Heat the oil in a medium to large saucepan and cook the onion until soft.
  2. Add the lamb and cook until brown, breaking up any lumps as you go.
  3. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and tomato paste to the meat and cook for a few minutes, stirring continuously.
  4. Add 250ml (1 cup) water, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
  5. Cook the macaroni in a large saucepan of boiling salted water according to the packet instructions. Drain and set aside.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced (200C conventional). 
  7. To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the flour and cook out for a few minutes.
  8. Gradually add the milk in small amounts, whisking continuously. Bring it back to the boil each time you add more milk.
  9. Once thickened, add the salt and continue to cook over a low heat for 5 minutes (this helps cook out the flour). Set aside.
  10. Place the macaroni in a 30 x 20 cm baking dish.
  11. Add the meat mixture and spread evenly over the top of the macaroni.
  12. Pour the white sauce over the meat mixture, then sprinkle with extra nutmeg and cook in the oven for 20 minutes.
  13. Serve immediately with a green salad.
Grecian beef 
Must run with extract from The Plan, Buy, Cook Book by Jen Petrovic and Gaby Chapman published by Hardie Grant Books, $29.99. Photographer Bec Hudson.
Single use print and online, must show proof to publisher before publication.

Choose your own adventure - beef or vegie. Photo: Bec Hudson/Hardie Grant Books

Grecian beef

The beauty of this Grecian beef dish is that both the meat lovers and the vegetable lovers in your house will be happy.

The meat adds a lovely flavour to the vegetables, and I often leave the beef for the rest of the family and just enjoy the vegetables in this great one-pot recipe.

Serves: 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 600g chuck steak
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or grated
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 1 celery stalk, finely diced
  • 1 zucchini, finely diced
  • 1 eggplant, diced
  • 1 red capsicum, diced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 4 flat-leaf (Italian) parsley sprigs, leaves picked, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 × 400g tin diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 100g (½ cup) jasmine rice
  • crusty bread, to serve

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan-forced (180C conventional). 
  2. Place a wide-based ovenproof pot on the stove. Heat half the olive oil over a medium heat.
  3. Sear the beef on both sides, then remove from the pot and set aside.
  4. Add the remaining olive oil to the pot and fry the onion, garlic, carrot and celery. Moisten with a little water and cook for 5 minutes over a low heat.
  5. Add the zucchini, eggplant and capsicum. Turn up the heat and cook until the eggplant is brown.
  6. Add the paprika, parsley, bay leaf and tomatoes with 500ml (2 cups) water, plus the salt and some pepper. Bring to the boil, then return the meat to the pot. The liquid should cover the meat and vegetables. Top up with more water if required.
  7. Place a piece of baking paper on the surface of the mixture, then cover the pot with a lid. Cook in the oven for 1½-2 hours. If your pot cannot be transferred to the oven, you can simmer the beef on the stove over a very low heat for 1½-2 hours instead. Turn the meat halfway through cooking.
  8. Check the meat is cooked by pulling a piece apart with tongs. It should fall apart easily. If doubling up the recipe, split the mixture in two and allow the extra meal to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate overnight before freezing for later use.
  9. Once the meat is cooked, add the rice, give the dish a stir and return to the oven for 15-20 minutes. Check the rice is cooked before removing from the oven.
  10. Pull the meat apart with tongs and stir to combine, then serve with bread.
Bean and barley braise
Must run with extract from The Plan, Buy, Cook Book by Jen Petrovic and Gaby Chapman published by Hardie Grant Books, $29.99. Photographer Bec Hudson.
Single use print and online, must show proof to publisher before publication.

Perfect served with bread, yoghurt and chilli. Photo: Bec Hudson/Hardie Grant Books

Bean and barley braise

This bean and barley braise is a great, filling vegetarian meal, and makes a nice change from a meat braise. Perfect served with some bread, yoghurt and chilli. The pearl barley really bulks out the dish. Dinner done!

Serves: 6-8

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
  • 1 celery stalk, finely diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 flat-leaf (Italian) parsley sprigs, leaves picked, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 × 400g tin brown lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 1 × 400g tin borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 × 400g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 × 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 × 400g tins diced tomatoes
  • 500ml (2 cups) vegetable stock
  • 55g pearl barley
  • plain or Greek yoghurt
  • dried chilli flakes
  • bread, to serve

METHOD

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion, garlic, celery and carrot for about 10 minutes over a low heat.
  2. Add the parsley, bay leaf and spices and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the lentils, beans, chickpeas, tomatoes and 250ml (1 cup) water.
  4. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, bring the stock to the boil in a separate saucepan, then add the barley and cook for 20 minutes.
  6. Drain the barley, add it to the bean mix and cook for another 5 minutes. If doubling up the recipe, split the mixture in two and allow the extra meal to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate overnight before freezing for later use.
  7. Serve with yoghurt, dried chilli and bread.
Chickpea curry 
Must run with extract from The Plan, Buy, Cook Book by Jen Petrovic and Gaby Chapman published by Hardie Grant Books, $29.99. Photographer Bec Hudson.
Single use print and online, must show proof to publisher before publication.

Healthy and big on flavour. Photo: Bec Hudson/Hardie Grant Books

Chickpea curry

This is one of Gaby's share-house recipes from her student days. I made a few adjustments and added garam masala, which adds a great flavour to the dish.

Serves: 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or grated
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon ground chilli
  • 1 × 400g tin diced tomatoes
  • 3 × 400g tins chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or 330g (1½ cups) dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked
  • 1 quantity steamed rice or bread, to serve
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 100g (2 cups) baby spinach

METHOD

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, ginger and garlic and cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the spices and fry for 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of water if it starts to stick.
  3. Add the tomatoes and 300ml water and bring to the boil.
  4. Add the chickpeas and simmer for 40 minutes.
  5. When ready to serve, add the garam masala and stir through the spinach. If doubling up the recipe, split the mixture in two and allow the extra meal to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate overnight before freezing for later use.
  6. Serve with steamed rice or bread.
Crumbed chicken thighs
Must run with extract from The Plan, Buy, Cook Book by Jen Petrovic and Gaby Chapman published by Hardie Grant Books, $29.99. Photographer Bec Hudson.
Single use print and online, must show proof to publisher before publication.

So easy even the kids can cook it. Photo: Bec Hudson/Hardie Grant Books

Crumbed chicken thighs

Making your own crumbed chicken is so easy even the kids can cook it. We like to use chicken thighs as they are lovely and moist, however, you can also use chicken breast fillets. If using breast fillets, we recommend slicing them through horizontally to cook more evenly.

Serves: 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 75g (½ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 200g (2 cups) dry breadcrumbs
  • 600g boneless chicken thighs, fat trimmed
  • 60ml ¼ cup) olive oil vegetables or salad, to serve
  • lemon wedges, to serve

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced (200C conventional). 
  2. Place a sheet of baking paper on a large baking tray.
  3. Combine the flour and salt in one bowl. Place the eggs in a separate bowl next to the flour, and the breadcrumbs on a plate.
  4. Dip each piece of chicken first in the flour, shaking off any excess, then in the egg wash, then crumb the thighs on both sides with the breadcrumbs and place on the lined baking tray.
  5. Drizzle olive oil over the coated thighs on both sides, then place in the oven.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn and bake for a further 10 minutes until golden and cooked through.
  7. Serve with salad or vegetables and lemon wedges on the side.

This is an edited extract from The Plan, Buy, Cook Book by Jen Petrovic and Gaby Chapman published by Hardie Grant Books, $29.99. Photographer Bec Hudson.