Four foolproof family-friendly recipes from Colin Fassnidge's new cookbook

Pub favourite: Chicken schnitzel with cabbage and fennel slaw.
Pub favourite: Chicken schnitzel with cabbage and fennel slaw. Photo: Alan Benson/Plum

Colin Fassnidge knows about good family food. In the Irish household he grew up in, life revolved around cooking and the dining-room table.

"Both my parents cooked, and it was in this atmosphere that I knew I wanted to be a chef," the Sydney chef and television presenter says in his new cookbook The Commonsense Cook

Now a father himself, Fassnidge has more recently turned to the food he grew up with – "achievable food that warms the heart and makes people happy".

Colin Fassnidge's new book.
Colin Fassnidge's new book. Photo: Alan Benson/Plum

He believes anyone can learn to cook – all you need is a good grounding in the basics and commonsense know-how to develop a repertoire of family favourites.

"Sometimes it feels like we all take cooking a little too seriously, making it a lot harder than what it is," he says. "Cooking should, above all, be fun and taste good."

Here are four recipes to bring enjoyment to family and friends.

Chicken schnitzel with slaw

The humble chicken schnitzel is a firm pub favourite, but when it comes to recreating it at home it's surprising how many of us struggle to achieve the same result. So here is my foolproof chicken schnitty recipe that's packed with texture and flavour. I highly recommend serving it with my zingy cabbage and fennel slaw – it makes the perfect accompaniment.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 chicken breast fillets
  • 300g (2 cups) plain flour
  • sea salt and freshly ground
  • black pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • splash of full-cream milk
  • 1.5 litres vegetable or canola oil
  • cabbage and fennel slaw (see below), to serve
  • lemon wedges, to serve
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Schnitzel crumb

  • 500g dried breadcrumbs
  • ½ bunch of sage, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • 100g (½ cup) red quinoa
  • 200g (2 cups) rolled oats
  • 100g poppy seeds
  • sea salt and freshly ground
  • black pepper

METHOD

  1. To make the schnitzel crumb, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Slice through each chicken breast horizontally, being careful not to slice all the way through, then open up the fillets so they look like a book. Working with one chicken breast at a time, place each fillet between two large sheets of plastic wrap and gently bash with a small mallet or rolling pin until 5mm to 1cm thick. Be careful not to bash the fillets too thinly, otherwise they will fall apart when cooking.
  3. Place the flour in a large bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Whisk together the beaten egg and milk in a separate large bowl.
  4. Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or large saucepan to 180C fan-forced (200C conventional) on a kitchen thermometer.
  5. Working with one schnitzel at a time, dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour, then coat in the egg wash. Transfer to the bowl with the schnitzel crumb and press the mixture onto the chicken until completely coated. For an extra-crispy schnitzel, return the chicken to the egg wash, then coat in another layer of the schnitzel crumb.
  6. Add the schnitzels, one by one, to the hot oil and cook, turning occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until crisp and golden on the outside with an internal temperature of 60C on a kitchen thermometer.
  7. Using a slotted spoon, remove the schnitzels from the oil and drain on paper towel. Keep warm.
  8. Season the schnitzels with salt and pepper, then transfer to plates and serve with the slaw and lemon wedges on the side for squeezing over.

Tip: Any leftover schnitzel crumb can be frozen for next time.

Serves 4

Chicken schnitzel with slaw
Cabbage and fennel slaw
Peas, lettuce and pancetta
Chorizo and white bean bake
This is an edited extract from The Commonsense Cook by Colin Fassnidge, published by Plum, RRP$39.99. Photography by Alan Benson. 
Single use

Perfect for warmer months. Photo: Alan Benson/Plum

Peas, lettuce and pancetta

This light, warm salad is sweet, salty and creamy all at the same time. It's the perfect accompaniment to meals in spring and summer.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 50g smoked pancetta, skin removed, diced
  • ½ bunch of marjoram, leaves picked
  • 200g frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 iceberg lettuce, finely sliced
  • 1 radicchio, finely sliced
  • sea salt and freshly ground
  • black pepper
  • juice of 1 lemon

METHOD

  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat, then add the onion, garlic and pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add the marjoram and cook for 2 minutes, then stir through the peas until heated through.
  2. Add the lettuce and radicchio and cook, stirring, until the leaves are half wilted. Season with salt and pepper and stir through the lemon juice, then transfer to a serving dish and take to the table.

Serves 4

Chicken schnitzel with slaw
Cabbage and fennel slaw
Peas, lettuce and pancetta
Chorizo and white bean bake
This is an edited extract from The Commonsense Cook by Colin Fassnidge, published by Plum, RRP$39.99. Photography by Alan Benson. 
Single use

This one-pot wonder tastes better the next day. Photo: Alan Benson/Plum

Chorizo and white bean bake 

This bean bake is a one-pot wonder, and the end results are like a moreish warm hug. You can serve it on its own or as an accompaniment to your choice of protein. Alternatively, leave to cool, then toss through a dressing and serve as a salad or follow the tip below to transform it into a hearty soup. This is a dish that tastes even better the next day. You will need to start this recipe the day before you want to eat it.

INGREDIENTS

  • 300g dried white cannellini beans, soaked in cold water overnight
  • 80ml (⅓ cup) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 spicy chorizo sausages, roughly chopped
  • 100g smoked pancetta, fat removed, roughly chopped
  • 3 red onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic bulb, unpeeled, halved horizontally
  • 4 red capsicums, roughly diced
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, roughly chopped
  • 2 bay leaves (fresh if possible)
  • bunch of thyme, leaves picked
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 100ml white wine
  • 400ml passata

Cheesy breadcrumb and sage topping

  • 100g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 100g (1 cup) grated parmesan
  • bunch of sage, leaves picked

METHOD

  1. Drain the beans and give them a good rinse, then tip them into a large heavy-based saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, uncovered, for about 1 hour or until the beans are soft but not mushy. Remove from the heat and set aside. Do not drain.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced (200C conventional).
  3. Heat the olive oil in a flameproof casserole dish over low heat. Add the chorizo and pancetta and cook for 3-4 minutes, then increase the heat to high and cook for a further 2-3 minutes to give them a good bit of colour.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium, then add the onion, garlic, capsicum, carrot, fennel and herbs. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft, then stir through the smoked paprika, cayenne and fennel seeds. Pour in the wine and stir to deglaze the dish, then add the passata, the beans and just enough of their cooking water to moisten the mixture. Stir well to combine.
  5. To make the cheesy breadcrumb and sage topping, place all the ingredients in a blender and blitz until you have a fine green crumb. Tip the mixture onto the beans and spread out in an even layer.
  6. Transfer the casserole dish to the oven and bake for 40 minutes or until the topping is crisp and golden.
  7. Before serving, fish out the garlic halves and squeeze over the soft roasted garlic.

Leftovers: If you have leftovers, this bake makes a fantastic hearty soup for lunch the next day. Place the leftover bake in a saucepan and cover with good-quality chicken stock. Bring the mixture to the boil, then remove from the heat and blitz using a hand-held blender into a smooth soup. Serve with crusty bread.

Serves 6

Chicken schnitzel with slaw
Cabbage and fennel slaw
Peas, lettuce and pancetta
Chorizo and white bean bake
This is an edited extract from The Commonsense Cook by Colin Fassinidge, published by Plum, RRP$39.99. Photography by Alan Benson. 
Single use

Crunch and texture. Texture and crunch. Photo: Alan Benson/Plum

Cabbage and fennel slaw

A good slaw is a fantastic and simple way to give yourself a vegetable boost. You can pair a slaw with pretty much anything, but my personal favourite has to be a good chicken schnitzel. In this recipe, I've included fennel and silverbeet for a twist on the classic cabbage slaw.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 silverbeet leaves, finely chopped
  • 200g red cabbage, finely sliced
  • 2 red onions, finely sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and finely sliced from top to bottom
  • bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves and stalks roughly chopped
  • 300g whole-egg mayonnaise, plus extra if needed
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

METHOD

  1. Combine the silverbeet, cabbage, onion, fennel and parsley in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Stir through the mayonnaise, adding a little more if you prefer a wetter consistency.
  3. Transfer the slaw to a serving bowl. Add the lemon juice, season well with salt and pepper and drizzle over a little olive oil.

Serves 4-6

This is an edited extract from The Commonsense Cook by Colin Fassnidge, published by Plum, RRP$39.99. Photography by Alan Benson. Buy now