What's Your Go-To Recipe?

Image: Simple As That

Regardless of your skill with the production of food, everyone has a backup, a go-to. So for this week's Off Topic, let's talk about the little ace everyone has in the hole.

A site that Tegan's been especially fond of over the years, in part for how good and yet simple the recipes are, is Smitten Kitchen. A lot of Smitten stuff has found its way onto our table in the past, either from us or our collective friend group, and one recipe that's become a staple is the salted butter choc chip cookies.

Tegan dropped a container of these near the office kitchen yesterday. The container was empty after six minutes.

For myself personally, I like having a couple of salads up my sleeve. The easiest one is pretty basic: cook mushrooms with some butter for a while, boil some peas, add some lemon juice to the mushies and some mint (or mint jelly if you're lazy), mix in large serving bowl, add some fresh spinach and a chunk of basil, feta or mozarella, and seasoning to taste. You can add a bit more oomph by throwing some roasted vegetables in there, but it's a good thing to take around to large gatherings and it goes down pretty well.

When I was younger (read: I enjoyed a lot more food) I also basically perfected how to make a gooey microwave mug cake in the office. With Nutella. I'd have cocoa, sometimes a bit of coffee, sugar, add just the right amount of milk, a dollop of that hazlenut goodness on top, and blitz away. Always a great comfort.

But what's your go-to when you're slaving away in the kitchen? Are you more a baker or dessert person, or is your go-to more of a savoury delight?


    Slow cooked beef strog. It's hearty, easy, and the kids love it. My recipe also has bacon, because...bacon.

    Fry up a chopped onion, garlic to taste (2-3 cloves for me), and a couple rashers o bacon.

    Place in slow cooker with two cups of beef stock, tbl spoon tomato paste, tbl spoon worcestershire sauce (i like a little more), and a bunch of chopped parsley.

    Coat beef in flour (I like big chunks, but stir fry strips also work), brown in frypan, then add to slow cooker.

    Slow cook all day, then add a tbl spoon or so of sour cream 5 minutes before you're ready to serve.

    Spoon over your favorite pasta (or rice) and enjoy!

      omg i forgot the mushrooms! Add a pile of chopped mushies to step one with the bacon.

        I basically make the same thing, but if the kids are over strog, then we turn it into a mussaman curry.
        Buy a cheap cut of meat, brown it the way you do, then chuck it in the slow cooker with a tin of Mussaman curry paste, potatoes, sliced onion, a cinnamon stick and some cardomom pods and some stock or water. Let it cook all day, then at the end add a bit of fish sauce, a tablespoon or two of sugar and some lime juice. Delish.

          Yes! This is also another fave of ours. Don't forget the coconut milk/cream, and palm sugar if you have it too.

    Bolognaise. Start with a lazy jar, add diced onion, a tin of baked beans, and a tin of diced tomoatoes, and its good for 3 or 4 meals. Few spices, maybe a chopped chilli or two (personal chilli bush, two = perfect heat/flavour) to add flavour, but that's about it.

    As a starter base, you can just use classic pasta (ravioli is my choice), slop it on mashed potato (try it, it seriously works), or rice (never tried it, but its just carbs like pasta or potato so should work), or make it Mexican by putting it on cornchips for a nachos variation, or taco shells.

    If you want to get fancy, you might use lettuce leaves to make a san choi bow variation, or just be lazy and put it on toast. It has so many uses that its an easy goto recipe for me. Main trick is the baked beans to add volume and protein on top of the mince.

      Never thought of using baked beans with bolognaise before :)

        Basically italian chilli con carne :)

          I was coming here to say chilli con carne. Or as it's known here chilli concern.

        Just something I tried in my younger years when looking for ways to stretch the budget, and like @poita says, its effectively a con carne. It just highlights how similar a lot of cooking is, and a handy reminder to look at ways to mix cultures for variety.

        I'm a big fan of fusion cooking, and bolognaise would probably be the most fusion friendly base I have come across. Which is why its my goto.

      Definitely with you on this one. I go with a pepper, cumin, chilli, and oregano spice mix I grind up myself.

      Also, I'll finely dice up a carrot (super fine if you have good knife skills), and throw in a can of corn. Give it a go. Works mighty well.

        My other goto recipe in winter is just a basic soup starter from Woolies, with some diced meat browned off, and a tin of corn (kernals, baby, or sweet, doesn't matter) added (or the diced tomatoes again), but I've never added corn to bolognaise. I'll give it a go. I can see why it and carrot works, and you even see farmhouse varieties with them anyway.

        I used to work in a restaurant as a kid, so my knife skills are pretty decent, so can usually get the dicing super fine when warranted. Its my normal approach with onions anyway - I like it when they effectively disappear, just as much as when they're obvious.

        With spices, my chili's by themselves add just enough flavour to work, but I do add some Italian spices when I remember, so effectively the same thing. Was thinking of adding a touch of paprika at some point, but my try cumin instead.

        Think I'll have to bookmark this page, theres some great ideas :)

          Well, in that case, don't dice the carrot so fine it disappears ;). It's nice to see some orange in the end product, along with the yellow from the corn. Makes for a more visually riotous bolognaise, which I find fun.

          Cumin _makes_ this dish! Don't be afraid of being generous. A few teaspoons per 500g of mince bring a nice earthy aroma to the dish, and I think the slight bitterness compliments the tomato. Nice idea on the paprika. I'll have to try that out.

    Chicken Schnitzel.

    Chicken breast. Plop it down on the board, slice in in half parallel to the board. Now you have two, the same size but thinner.

    Three bowls for dipping. First one is plain flour. Then one with egg and milk (1tbsp of milk per egg). Final one is bread crumbs. Add herbs if you wish to that one.

    When going between bowls, one hand for wet, one for dry. Or mix it up and get your hands caked with multiple layers of breading.

    In a hot pan, one tbsp of butter and one tbsp of oil. We use canola or rice brain oil. Cook, then turn and cook until golden brown. Chuck in the oven to finish off if they were super fat and not cooked all the way through.

    Now the sauce to go on them. This sounds weird as hell but is super delicious. One tbsp of mayo to 1 tsp of american style bright yellow mustard. Stir up and adjust ratios to taste. Slather all over the top and enjoy with some light salad or something.

    Lemon Risotto.
    Basically dice up an onion, crush up half a dozen cloves of garlic.
    Put a saucepan of chicken or vegetable stock on the heat, and chuck some bay leaves in it, and some thyme.
    Cut up some mushrooms (I like to use a few different types) and zucchini and juice and zest a lemon. Finely cut up some parsely, and make sure you have some fresh grated parmesan on hand.
    Pour yourself a glass of dry white wine and take a few sips.

    Fry the onion in butter until clear, add the garlic and then a cup of risotto rice of your choice and fry the rice in the butter for a few minutes, stirring the whole time.
    Add a cup or so of the white wine to the rice, and stir until some of the moisture has been absorbed.
    Pour a cup of stock into the pan, and stir until it the rice has soaked it up.
    Add the mushrooms and zucchini and another cup of stock.
    Have another sip or two of wine, and keep stirring.
    Keep adding one cup of stock at a time, and stirring until absorbed, the rice will absorb 3 to 4 times its size, so one cup of rice requires 3 or 4 cups of stock.
    Keep going until the rice is nearly soft, then turn off the heat.
    Cut up some butter (about 50gm or so) into pieces and scatter it over the risotto, stir it in as it melts. Chuck in some parmesan and stir it through, put as much in as suits you (I throw a handful in). Stir in the lemon juice and the parsely,
    Taste and add some pepper or more lemon or parsely as required.
    Put the lid on the pan, and let is sit for a few minutes, then serve when hot.

    This is always my go to, it has very few ingredients, and there is enough wine left over to share a glass or two with the meal. It's easy to cook, but you are tied to the stove, constant stirring is a must.
    It's an easy risotto base and you can add whatever takes your fancy, pumpkin, seafood, chicken etc.
    Damn, now I'm hungry.

    Chili Bacon Penne

    400g Penne cooked per packet instructions.

    Sautee on medium until onion becomes translucent: 1 finely chopped red onion, 3 cloves garlic, 3 de-seeded and finely sliced cayenne chilies.

    Add: 3 rashers rindless short cut bacon (diced) and sautee for 2-3 minutes.

    Add: 4 roma tomatoes (roughly diced), sea salt, ground black pepper to taste.

    Simmer covered on low heat for 10 minutes, then break up tomatoes, add cooked pasta, mix up and add some fresh basil. Serve with parmesan.

    Last edited 20/02/18 12:37 pm

    Coconut Pulled Pork
    Grab a good hunk of pork (shoulder/leg is best). Brown it in a pot, then reduce the heat and add a can of coconut milk and some beef/chicken stock until it's sitting nicely in the liquid. Cook on a low heat for 4-6 hours, moving the meat occasionally.
    Once that's done, pull the pork out and pull it apart with forks. Once you have a pile of pulled meat, spoon the broth into the meat to moisten it and add flavour.

    This is such a good and easy recipe. You can use the pork in tacos, burritos, salads etc. It goes incredibly well on a brioche bun. Good for summer BBQs, etc.

    Armoranth, Ironshroom and Dragon Horn.

    Satisfaction for 30 minutes.


    I'm trying to follow a diet prescribed to me by my strength and conditioning coach, so at night for dinner, I generally eat the same thing. Chicken and vegetable pasta - https://i.imgur.com/vpB6DP6.jpg (please note, the numbers I specify can be changed for your own needs, or if you're cooking for multiple people)

    - 400g of skinless chicken breast
    - 200g of mixed vegetables (fresh or frozen)
    - 100g of pasta (any kind of pasta)
    - 200ml of low fat pasta sauce (Dolmio brand is just fine, as long as its low in fat)

    Fill an appropriate pot with hot water, then set on the stove at a high setting for the water to boil. Once the water starts boiling, add in your pasta and a table spoon of olive oil. Stir occasionally. Be sure to keep an eye on both boiling water and time of your pasta being cooked (for me, I like to boil pasta anywhere between 10 -15 minutes).

    While the water is boiling, dice up your chicken breast with a sharp knife on a cutting board. Cut into small, one inch cubes. Season with salt and pepper.

    If you're using frozen vegetables, steam them up in a microwave (and appropriate glass container), if you're using fresh, cut 'em up on a board.

    If you're using frozen vegetables, once they're done, get them out of your microwave and strain them in a sink using a colander.

    Set a pan on the stove and pour a table spoon or two of olive oil on the pan. Set the stove to high and wait a minute or two.

    Throw your vegetables on the pan, grill for about two minutes. Use a plastic spatula and insure the veggies are always moving. After that, throw down your chicken onto the pan and grill until all the pink is gone. Again, use your plastic spatula and insure the chicken is always moving.

    Once the chicken is completely cooked, drop the stove's heat down down to a low-medium, and pour in your 200ml (or more, or less) of your pasta sauce. Stir into the chicken and vegetables, allow to simmer with occasional stirring.

    By now, your pasta should be boiled and ready to be taken out (maybe it was done earlier). Carefully pour the hot water and pasta in the colander, in the sink (if you used frozen veggies, you can use the same colander). Insure there is little to no water left, then pour the pasta into the pan with your chicken/veggies/sauce. Use your spatula to stir, insuring that you're glazing your pasta with the sauce. Do this for a minute or two.

    Turn off the stove and use the same spatula to serve food to bowl(s).

    Last edited 20/02/18 1:08 pm

      As a variation, try pan frying the diced chicken breast with onion and garlic, add vegies, and a tin of diced tomatoes instead of the pasta sauce.

      I usually use capsicum and mushroom instead of mixed vegies, but they're basically the same thing. Served over ravioli. tortellini, etc is so easy and filling.

        Oh yes, when I cook low FODMAP foods (for a family member who unfortunately has IBS), capsicums are some of my go to veggies. I don't use garlic or/and onion very often because 1 - it's high FODMAP and 2 - I get lazy.

        But I absolutely love the smell of grilled onion mixed with chopped garlic... add mushrooms. Oh yes.

    Mi Goreng stirfry.

    * 1 packet of Indomie Mi Goreng instant noodles (if you're really hungry, make it 2 packets)
    * Whatever veges you want to get rid of in the fridge. Capsicum, broccoli, carrot, onion, spring onion, and peas all work well.
    * Some chicken strips
    * One egg

    Prepare veges beforehand.
    Sit the noodles in hot water for 1.5 mins. Drain and set aside.
    Cook up the chicken with the Mi Goreng seasoning, chilli, and oil.
    Add the veges. Stirfry with the chicken for a few minutes.
    Add the noodles, along with some extra oil if needed.
    If you use capiscum, it's better to add it a few minutes after the noodles, so it keeps some crunch.
    When everything is almost ready, make some room and cook the egg, breaking it up and then mixing the cooked egg throughout the stirfry.
    Turn off the heat. Drizzle the Mi Goreng soy sauce over the lot, give it a few tosses, then throw it in a bowl and serve with a cold beer.

      Thumbs up because the recipe includes a cold one at the end.

    What I do is sometimes get a tin of soup, heat it up, poach an egg in it, serve that with a pork pie sausage roll.

      I've been there hombre, when I heard my wife died I could barely finish my lunch.

    I have a few no thanks to my mum. She used to love a lot of the dishes I'd cook, so they kind of became regular meals when I was living at home with them.
    Beef Stroganoff, taco's, spag bol, savoury mince, hot pot.... so many. None of which are really my go-to dishes anymore, cos I can't afford luxuries like food!

    gourmet baked beans.
    chop half onion fine and 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, fry in a pot. (onion is optional, i usually leave it out more times than i add it in)
    lachsschinken (german/austrian double smoked ham) chopped finely, lightly fry then pour in a can of heinz baked beans.
    then chuck in some finely chopped red capsicum, small handful of baby spinach.
    lightly toast 2 or 3 slices of bread, butter it with mainland, put a slice of cheddar on each, pour bean mixture on top and voila.

      That sounds delicious. I've tried similar with chorizo and mustard before, but not with the capsicum spinach or onion.

      Big fan of using baked beans as a starter, or to flesh out other meals. See above, I do it with bolognaise myself. But is such a strong option, and not an unhealthy one. As a diabetic, its an ideal option for me, given zero sugar, fat, etc, and good protein and fibre.

        oooooh, chorizo sounds amazing. great tip.
        i dont add baked beans to bolognese, but will add cans of black beans, 4 bean mix or chickpeas to flesh it out.
        a dollop of ricotta goes amazingly as a bolognese topper too as well as freshly grated parmesan, those two cheeses were made for pasta sauce!

          Once you pan fry the chorizo, the remaining oil is just so flavour packed you can use it for anything. Similar to bacon fat, just a little richer. So fry off the onion and garlic in it, add the beans, and its just gold.

          Black beans, etc, and the cheeses would all work as variations as well. I use mozzarella myself, it has more variety (pizzas, pasta bakes, lasagna, etc), but those two work as well.

    Don't really know what to call it. I adapted it from a Deviled Lamb Chops recipe.

    Chuck steak diced by the butcher. Brown it with a sliced onion and a tsp of crushed garlic (~1 clove) in a cast iron pot or dutch oven on the stove. Add a tin of tomato soup and a tbsp of american mustard, Worcestershire sauce, lemon/lime juice and a beef stock cube. Mix it all up and bring it to the boil. Then put the lid on and stick it in the oven for 45 mins to an hour.

    Serve it over garlic mash and it is the best meal on a cold winter night. It will also freeze really well so i'll often double the recipe and stash the left overs in the freezer for easy meals.

    Last edited 20/02/18 2:16 pm

    Here's another recipe which is low FODMAP. A family member has IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and as such, we've investigated low FODMAP recipes to help them out. Here's one I put together, but to be honest the way to cook the beef is something I stole from Jamie Oliver.

    Steak, rice and veggies - https://i.imgur.com/Vw20NqK.jpg


    - Steak cut of your choice
    - Basmati white rice (any rice is fine, really)
    - Vegetables (red/yellow/green capsicum, potato and carrot)
    - Sesame oil
    - Honey
    - Olive oil
    - Salt and pepper
    - Butter (dairy/lactose/gluten free)

    1 - Using a steak cut of your choice, put it on a cutting board and wait for half an hour or so. This will allow the steak to drop to room temperature and thus, will be better to cook.

    2 - While waiting for your steak to drop in temperature, peel your potatoes and chop them up into tiny, bite sized chunks. Do the same with the remaining veggies.

    3 - Boil some basmati white rice in a rice cooker (or pot of boiling water on the stove, if need be), use as much rice as you want for however many people you're serving.

    4 - Throw all your chopped veggies in a bowl, apply a teaspoon of sesame oil, season with salt and pepper, mix using a spoon. Add a tea spoon of honey into the veggies, then mix again.

    5 - Apply a gentle amount of olive oil onto your steaks, rub the oil into the meat and then season with salt and pepper. Flip the steak and do it again.

    6 - Put a pan on the stove and put a table spoon or so of olive oil on. Heat the pan up to high and allow to heat up for one to two minutes.

    7 - Throw your veggies on and using a plastic spatula, keep the veggies moving. Do this for about two minutes, then drop the heat right down to a low setting. Stir every so often.

    8 - Put another pan on a separate part of the stove, apply a table spoon or two of olive oil. Put the heat to high, and allow to heat up for one to two minutes.

    9 - Get a tea spoon or two of your lactose/gluten free butter, put onto a small plate.

    10 - Put your steak(s) on this pan. Using a pair of tongs, pick up the butter you just collected and gently stroke it onto the surface of your steaks.

    11 - Now, in total you're going to cook your steaks for six minutes but, you're going to flip the steak after every minute. Every time you flip the steak, you'll apply a new layer of butter using your tongs. You'll flip the steak and re-apply butter a total of five times, cooking time six minutes in total.

    12 - After six minutes and flip flips, take the steaks off your pan, turn that stove off and put your steaks onto a separate plate. Allow to rest for one to two minutes.

    13 - Turn off the other stove with the veggies, turn off the rice cooker. Serve your veggies on top of your rice, and have the steaks beside it.

    Last edited 20/02/18 3:00 pm

    Pizza Toast!
    get some sliced bread, use tomato paste as butter, throw on some shredded cheese, then add some diced bacon, bit more cheese, then pop under the grill for 5min

    Sous Vide pork spare ribs:

    -Drizzle a small amount of liquid smoke over the ribs. Vacuum seal and Sous Vide for 24 hours @ 72°C.

    Plenty of different sauce recipes but I do one that's very similar to this: http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/kittencals-famous-barbecue-sauce-for-chicken-and-ribs-232433

    Get your bbq roaring hot, give the ribs about 1 minute a side on it and then throw the sauce on and give it a few more minutes (turning a couple of times and adding more sauce).

    Sous Vide is the key as it makes the meat melt-in-your-mouth type stuff.

    I cook up a dish I call the clogger, basically I microwave a kg of potatoes, mash them up, layer them with fried bacon, melt a bag of mozzarella over the top then add a container of sour cream. Can't have it very often though haha.

    Deconstructed Shepherd's / Cottage Pie

    Mince, onion, frozen veg, garlic, mixed herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme), cooked in Oxo & Bisto gravy, served with a side of mash. For days.

    pesto, it's dead simple to make & doesn't make much of a mess.. easy to make up a big jar of it & store it in your fridge for a week (or 2) of eating.. it's also highly adaptable & can be used as an ingredient for many kinds of meals; not just pasta.

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