Cafe fare in your own home

Trying to decide what to have for lunch during lockdown has been getting more difficult as time goes on, but Auckland cafe owner Fran Mazza has plenty of inspiration for some cafe-inspired lunches that also fit perfectly in a lunch box for work and school when the children go back.

Even better, the Reuben sandwich gives you a great excuse to cook a piece of corned silverside for a yummy comforting dinner the night before. Serve with Kiwi classic sides of cabbage and mashed carrot and parsnip.

Beef empanadas

Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied
My friend Kirk tried to convince me, back in the days of Salvation Kitchen, that I should make empanadas instead of pies; his Mexican wife at the time agreed it would take a lot less time than the multiple steps it took to make a pie. Of course, he was right — although it took some convincing on his behalf before I agreed to try these. You can use either puff pastry or savoury pastry. You can make mini ones, too — great with a dipping sauce for canapes if you’re into that sort of entertaining. We make these lunch-sized, and you can fill them with anything. We’ve used beef, but you could use lamb, chicken, vegetables, lentils, anything. They are best served hot, but are still really good cold.

Makes 12

1kg onions

2 Tbsp canola oil

1kg Wagyu beef mince

1 Tbsp paprika

1 Tbsp ground cumin

1 tsp chilli flakes

1 quantity Savoury pastry

1 egg


Finely dice onions and cook in a pot with 100ml of water until the water has evaporated and the onion has cooked. You don’t want any colour on the onion. Place in a sieve to remove excess liquid.

Heat a frying pan with oil and saute mince until just browned, then add onion and cook until mince has cooked through. Mix in paprika, cumin and chilli flakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool in the refrigerator.

Roll out pastry to ½cm thick. Cut into large circles, approximately 20cm across. Place filling on one half of each pastry circle, fold remaining pastry over to make a half-moon and crimp around the edges to seal. Place the empanadas on a baking tray lined with baking paper, making sure they have space around them.

Whisk egg and brush empanadas. Rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 170degC. Bake empanadas for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve warm with a good spoonful of your favourite relish or chutney

Morning glory muffins

Personally, I’m not a huge muffin fan, but these muffins are so good that I feel I should reconsider! They are like light mini-carrot cakes, and so good warm with butter. You can freeze these and reheat them in the magic oven (microwave) — perfect for work or school lunches.

Makes 6

½ cup plain flour

1½ cups wholewheat flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

¾ cup firmly packed soft brown sugar

½ tsp salt

1 cup canned apples, juice drained off

½ cup canola oil

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

1 apple, peeled and grated

2 cups grated carrot

¼ cup raisins

¼ cup dried cranberries

½ cup coconut chips


Heat oven to 190degC. Grease a six-hole Texas muffin tin and line with paper muffin wrappers.

Sift flours, baking powder, baking soda and spices into a large mixing bowl. Add sugar and salt and mix in.

Using a food processor or stick blender, process canned apples until smooth. Add apple puree, oil and vanilla to dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Add remaining ingredients, and gently fold together until all the ingredients are combined.

Divide batter evenly between prepared muffin wrappers. Bake for 12 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 170degC and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and serve warm.

Toasted Reuben

A great toasted sandwich is a totally underrated item in the culinary world. I’m a huge fan of the sandwich in many of its forms. I remember seeing mountains of sandwiches in Italy, stacked one on top of the other in the local delis, and filled with prosciutto, provolone, mortadella, eggplant ... I could go on forever, but a great sandwich can be life-changing. Here’s one of our favourites; have this with home-made tomato soup and you’ll be in food heaven. Make sure you dip your toasted sandwich in the soup for extra yum-value.

THE BOOK - Feed Me Feed Me, by Fran Mazza, published by Random House, RRP $50.
THE BOOK - Feed Me Feed Me, by Fran Mazza, published by Random House, RRP $50.

Serves 4

Corned beef

1½kg piece of corned silverside

1 onion, sliced

2 carrots, sliced lengthways

1 bay leaf

2 tsp soft brown sugar

1 Tbsp malt vinegar

6 whole cloves

1 tsp black peppercorns

To assemble

1 loaf rye bread

1 quantity Aioli

1 jar (200g) sauerkraut

handful of baby spinach

100g Swiss cheese, sliced


Place all the corned beef ingredients in a pot, and add enough water to cover the silverside. Bring to the boil over a gentle heat, then turn down and simmer for 4-5 hours or until the beef is falling apart. Discard the vegetables and liquid.

Preheat oven to 180degC.

Slice the bread longways. Smear with aioli and place sauerkraut and baby spinach on top. Slice corned beef and place on top of vegetables. Lay cheese on top of corned beef and cover with another piece of bread.

Place in oven on a baking tray and bake for 5-8 minutes or until the cheese has gone all gooey and melted. Yum


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