Power to the pantry

The Weeknight Cookbook, by Justine Schofield, published by Plum, RRP $39.99.
The Weeknight Cookbook, by Justine Schofield, published by Plum, RRP $39.99.
Justine Schofield cannot resist a look in the freezer and pantry on visits to friends' or family's homes.

''You'll find me sorting through their fridges, sniffing leftovers and uncovering the most unlikely treasures.''

Every opportunity she gets on her travels to indulge her nosy-parker behaviour she does.

''I've sifted through rows of stacked spices, and been delighted by memorable discoveries such as bottarga, gochujang, Chinese black vinegar, preserved seafood and pots of terrines and pates.''

In her latest book, The Weeknight Cookbook, Schofield, a contestant in the first series of MasterChef Australia and host of Everyday Gourmet with Justine Schofield (shown on Three Life in New Zealand), sets out to show people to ''never underestimate the power of a well-stocked pantry''.

''It will not only save you money in the long run, but will allow you to whip up magical creations with humble ingredients.''

She then adds vinegars, Asian sauces, nut milks, mustards and chilli pastes to give everyday raw ingredients the ''flavour-bomb'' effect.

Her fridge is also well stocked with cheeses, miso (which adds umami to many dishes), dressings, soups, stews and quick marinades.

Schofield is also a fan of a well-stocked freezer with not just the basics such as peas, spinach, pastry, stocks, mince, chicken and sausages but also leftovers. A whole chapter is dedicated to ''batch cooking''.

Each chapter includes a ''cheat sheet'' of easy and quick recipe ideas.

She hopes people will enjoy weeknight cooking more.

''Even with our busy schedules, it shouldn't be a chore. I've collated these scrumptious and speedy recipes to give you more time to savour sharing the food you prepare.''

This is my take on the old-fashioned creamed spinach. I love turning it into a decadent gratin that is made even more delicious with the addition of bechamel.


Photos: Jeremy Simons
Photos: Jeremy Simons
Spinach gratin

This is the perfect side to roast chicken or fish.

Serves 4-6

Prep 15 minutes

Cook 50 minutes

1.5kg English spinach (4-5 bunches)
2 tsp olive oil
20g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
250ml (1 cup) thickened cream
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
pinch of cayenne pepper, plus extra for sprinkling
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
salt flakes
80g Gruyere cheese, coarsely grated
50g panko breadcrumbs

Cut 6cm off the spinach stalks - it's OK if there is some stalk left.

Wash the spinach very well, then drain.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the spinach, a handful at a time, so it all fits in the pan. Bring back to the boil and cook for 1 minute. Drain in a colander and set aside to cool.

When the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much water as possible.

Preheat the oven to 200degC.

Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil and the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 58 minutes until softened with no colour. Add the cream and bring to the boil, then simmer, stirring frequently, until thick and reduced by a third. Stir in the mustard and cook for a further 1 minute. Remove from the heat, season with the cayenne pepper, nutmeg and a pinch of salt and add half the cheese.

Add the spinach to the cream sauce and fold through.

Mix the remaining cheese with the breadcrumbs and use your hands to rub in the remaining oil.

Spread the spinach mixture evenly into a 1.5-litre gratin dish.

Top with the breadcrumb mixture and an extra pinch of cayenne and bake for 2025 minutes until the top is golden brown.

You can substitute fresh spinach with three 250g portions of frozen spinach, or change the spinach for other leafy greens, such as silverbeet, Swiss chard or kale, or even cabbage. The kale and cabbage need to be boiled for longer (5-6 minutes), as they're a hardier leaf.

You could also use cheddar instead of Gruyere cheese, if you like.

Lamb cutlets with warm anchovy and caper dressing

It may seem like an unlikely pairing, but anchovies work very nicely with lamb.

In fact, they enhance the flavour of the lamb, giving it a kick of savouriness. This dish will not taste at all fishy, as once the anchovies are cooked they melt down to make a fragrant warm dressing. Fantastic with warm white bean puree, this is also delicious served with crispy roast potatoes.

Serves 4

Prep 15 minutes

Cook 10 minutes

80ml (⅓ cup) extra-virgin olive oil
12 lamb cutlets, French trimmed
salt flakes and freshly ground
black pepper
3 anchovy fillets
1 garlic clove, peeled
3 Tbsp baby capers in brine, drained, plus 1 Tbsp brine
2 large handfuls of rocket leaves (or any leafy green)

White bean puree
1 400g can white beans (such as cannellini), drained and rinsed
juice of ½ lemon
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
80ml (⅓ cup) extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of salt flakes (optional)

To make the white bean puree, place the white beans, lemon juice and garlic in a food processor and blitz until a thick paste forms.

With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil and process until combined. If the puree is too thick, mix in a little warm water.

Taste and add salt if required. Transfer to a saucepan, place over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until warm. Cover with the lid and set aside.

Drizzle 1 tablespoon of oil over the lamb and massage all over, then season with salt and pepper.

Finely chop the anchovies and garlic together and, with the side of your knife, squash them to make a rough paste. Alternatively, pound together using a mortar and pestle.

Heat a large heavy-based frying pan over medium-high heat, add the lamb cutlets and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown. You may need to do this in two batches. Transfer to a plate and set aside to rest for 5 minutes in a warm place.

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the drained capers and cook for 1-2 minutes until very crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the anchovy mixture to the hot oil and cook for 30 seconds, then remove from the heat and stir through the caper brine.

Place the cutlets on plates and add the peppery rocket leaves and a generous drizzle of warm anchovy dressing. Serve with the warm white bean puree on the side.

The white bean puree can be made a few days in advance and kept in an airtight container in the fridge. Before placing the lid on top, cover the surface of the puree with plastic wrap to ensure a skin does not form. Gently warm through just before serving.

Butterscotch apples with cinnamon crumble

Here, I've taken the concept of apple crumble, jazzed it up and given it a modern twist by serving the apple whole with lashings of butterscotch sauce. This is the perfect dessert after a Sunday roast, and it's super easy to make.

Serves 6

Prep 30 minutes

Cook 55 minutes

30g butter
160g brown sugar
250ml (1 cup) thickened cream}
3 Tbsp quick oats
125g blanched hazelnuts (or any nut of your choice), finely chopped
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
6 Granny Smith or Pink Lady apples

To serve
vanilla ice cream

Heat the oven to 180degC. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Place 20g of butter, the sugar and cream in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring regularly. Cook for 3-4 minutes until smooth and glossy. Remove the butterscotch sauce from the heat.

Combine the oats, nuts, sesame seeds and cinnamon in a bowl, pour over 3 tablespoons of butterscotch sauce and mix into sticky clusters. Roughly spread out on the prepared tray and bake for 12-15 minutes until golden and crisp. Allow the crumble to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, place the apples in a baking dish large enough to fit them all. Dot the remaining butter on top of the apples and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and pour the remaining butterscotch sauce around the apples. Bake for a further 20-30 minutes until the apples are tender when pierced with a skewer. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes (the butterscotch will be very hot).

To serve, place an apple on each serving plate and spoon over a generous amount of butterscotch sauce. Add a pile of crumble and serve with a scoop of ice cream.

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