Adam Liaw's mushroom and spinach stroganoff bake, and cake tatin
I've always thought that the slow-food movement has a branding problem. These days, many of us want our food to be healthy, easy and tasty, but the phrase "slow food" seems to imply the opposite. Instead, it suggests long, laborious dishes, heavy stews that braise forever, and hours spent in culinary meditation at a kitchen bench in an idyllic country farmhouse. That's great for people who live in idyllic country farmhouses, but I have bills to pay and kids to feed.
One thing slow food gets right is that it highlights the tyranny of convenience foods, which sell us fake health, fake time, fake taste and an entirely fake promise of improving our quality of life. Convenience food sells us the lie that it's too difficult, or too time-consuming, to make basic meals. This is simply not true. Here are some food ideas for real, nutritious meals that won't trap you in the kitchen.
Mushroom and spinach stroganoff bake
A pasta bake doesn't need a lot of time in the oven. Rather, grill it just long enough to melt the cheese on top.
• 500g dry penne pasta
• 50g butter
• 1 onion, halved, thinly sliced
• 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 3 sprigs thyme
• 400g each Swiss brown and button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 3 cups baby spinach leaves
• 50g tomato paste
• 2 tsp sweet paprika
• ¼ cup plain flour
• 3 cups vegetable stock
• 250g sour cream
• ¾ cup grated cheese
• 2 tbsp finely shredded parsley, to serve
• freshly ground black pepper, to serve
• additional salad leaves, lightly dressed, to serve
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions until al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water and transfer to a 2½-litre baking dish. Rinse the saucepan and return to medium-high heat. Add the half the butter and the onion, garlic and thyme and cook until golden, about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Increase the heat to high, add half of the mixed mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are browned and softened. Transfer the contents of the pan to a bowl.
Add the oil to the pan, then stir in the spinach for a minute until it is wilted. Remove spinach from the pan and set aside, allowing any moisture released to drain away. Add the remaining mushrooms to the pan and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Return the first batch of mushrooms to the pan and mix well. Reduce heat to medium, add the tomato paste and paprika and cook for 1 minute, then add the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in the stock over medium heat until a thick sauce is formed (this takes about 5 minutes). Stir in the sour cream and wilted spinach and turn off the heat.
Preheat your grill to high. Stir one-third of the sauce through the pasta to combine, then pour over the remaining sauce to cover. Scatter very lightly with cheese and grill until the cheese is golden, about 5 minutes. Scatter with chopped parsley and serve with some green salad leaves on the side.
Adam's tip When cooking pasta for pasta bakes, you don't need to seriously undercook it – al dente is fine. It will soften further by absorbing moisture from your sauce.
Cake tatin. Photo: William Meppem
All the delicious, buttery, caramelly warmth of a tarte tatin, but in cake form. What's not to love?
• 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, quartered, core removed
• 1 cup caster sugar
• 100g butter (25g chopped, 75g melted)
• ¼ tsp salt • 1 cup self-raising flour
• 2 tsp ground cinnamon
• 2 eggs
• ½ cup milk
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• vanilla ice-cream, to serve
Heat your oven to 180°C. Cut each apple quarter into quarters again to create 16 slices for each apple. Melt ¼ cup sugar in a 26cm ovenproof frying pan over medium-low heat. Swirl the pan so the sugar covers the base and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Add 25g chopped butter and half the salt, swirling the pan until the butter melts and combines with the sugar. Add the apples and cook for 2 minutes each side, then turn off the heat. Using tongs, arrange the apple pieces into a radial pattern in the pan. Set aside.
Combine remaining ¾ cup sugar, flour, cinnamon and remaining salt in a large bowl. Whisk the eggs, milk, vanilla extract and 75g melted butter in a separate bowl. Make a well in the centre of the flour mix and pour in the milk mixture. Whisk until just combined. Pour the batter into the pan, then bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden and cooked through when tested with a skewer. Remove and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Turn the cake out upside-down and serve with vanilla ice-cream.
Photography by William Meppem. Food preparation by Breesa Swann. Styling by Hannah Meppem.