Care packages

Care packages

We are constantly being warned about the dangers of comfort foods; food that we turn to when we’re feeling down, food that fills more than just our hunger pangs. However, what if this is actually the point? Food has the ability to nourish more than just our stomachs.
At some time in your life, a dear friend or family member may need your help. Whether they have had a bad accident, a serious operation, or they are in the midst of a crisis, you can show them that you care, simply by cooking for them. Not only is it practical, it makes everyone feel good. Nothing tastes as good as a homemade meal kindly dropped at your doorstep. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. In fact, simple home cooking is the best, when it has been made with extra love and care.
Here are a few tips when making up a care package. Use disposable containers: they are easy to transport, store, reheat and no washing up required.
They are also practical as you can write any cooking or reheating instructions on the lid. Include a copy of the recipe: it lists all the ingredients (in case of allergies) and besides, if your friend likes what you have made, they may make it again.
Don’t forget to include vegetables or salad ingredients. You can prep these by washing, peeling and chopping. You can boil some potatoes, ready to be roasted.
I have included three recipes for you to make. Firstly, a simple chicken and corn soup that is perfect when you need nourishment, but don’t really feel like eating much.
The sticky lamb shanks take advantage of a cheaper, tasty cut and long, slow cooking rewards you with a delicious stew. And lastly, my mum’s recipe for meatballs in barbecue sauce.
So next time you are cooking, make up double the quantity and send some off to someone you love.

Mum’s meatballs in barbecue sauce

What could be more comforting than your mum’s recipe? If possible, ask your butcher to mince some topside. Make up a double quantity and package some up for a friend.

500g mince beef
1 cup soft breadcrumbs
1 onion, finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced
1 egg, beaten
salt and freshly ground pepper
½ (half) cup plain flour
2 tbs olive oil
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 tbs sugar
1 tbs worchestershire sauce
1 tbs white vinegar
few drops of Tabasco (optional)
1 tsp celery salt

In a medium bowl, place the mince, breadcrumbs, onion, capsicum and egg. Mix well and season with salt and pepper.
Place flour on a large, flat plate.
Roll mixture into balls and gently coat in flour.
Place oil in a medium frypan and heat. Add the meatballs and brown on all sides. Remove and set aside. Wipe out the frypan, then add tomato sauce, water, sugar, worchestershire, vinegar, Tabasco and celery salt. Stir to combine. Bring to boil, reduce heat, add meatballs and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes, turning halfway through.
Serve with rice or creamy mashed potato.

Serves 4.

Chicken and sweetcorn soup

This is such an easy soup. You can puree it smooth, leave it in delicious chunky pieces, or, like me, a bit of both. Use good quality homemade stock if you can, as it is nutritious and so easy to make. For a soup ‘to go’, package up the garnishes separately. Also good with fresh egg noodles; pack separately and send with heating instructions.

50g butter
2 leeks, washed and sliced
1 litre good quality chicken stock
3 fresh corn cobs, kernels removed
2 chicken fillets (500g)
salt and pepper
fried shallots to garnish
1 red chilli, sliced (optional)
fresh coriander leaves

Melt butter.
Add leeks and cook until softened.
Add stock and bring to the boil
Add chicken fillets and corn kernels and cook over a gentle heat until chicken is cooked, about 5 – 10 minutes.
Remove chicken.
Using a stick blender, puree the soup, leaving some chunky pieces for texture.
Shred the chicken with your fingers and return to the pan.
Ladle into soup bowls, garnish with fried shallots, chilli and coriander.
Serve with crusty bread.

Serves 4.

Middle Eastern Sticky lamb shank stew

Somewhere between a soup and a stew, this is chock-a-block with yummy vegetables. Delicious ladled over fluffy cous cous, serve with extra flat bread to mop up all the juices.

1 brown onion
2 celery stick
2 carrots
1 leek
60 ml olive oil
4 medium lamb shanks
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp ground fennel
1 tsp ground cumin
1 stick cinnamon
1 tbs harissa (optional)
pinch saffron
1 ½ litres chicken stock
400g Jap pumpkin
2 parsnips
2 large potatoes
Cous cous, to serve
½ cup fresh coriander leaves, picked

Preheat oven to 180C fan forced.
Chop onion, celery, carrot and leek into medium sized dice.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy based casserole dish and brown lamb shanks on all sides. Remove and set aside. Add diced vegetables to the pan and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, fennel, cumin, cinnamon, harissa and saffron and cook for a further minute. Return shanks to pan, add stock and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and place casserole in oven, uncovered for 1½ hours, until lamb meat is tender and falling off the bones.
Dice the pumpkin, parsnip and potato in medium dice and place in a large roasting pan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss to coat well. Place in the oven for 1 hour or until the vegetables are cooked and softened.
Remove the lamb and other roasted vegetables from the oven.
When cool enough to handle, gently pull away the lamb meat from the shanks and break into large pieces. Discard the bones.
Mix the roasted vegetables with the lamb.
Place a large spoonful of cous cous in a shallow bowl and ladle over the lamb and vegetables. Scatter over coriander and serve.

serves 4.