The secret ingredient is love

As the kids sat watching Masterchef last night, I cooked homemade meat pies.

They wouldn’t save me from elimination in a sudden death round.

But the eldest drifted into the kitchen during an ad break and sweetly said: “How do you make your pies taste so good?”

“The secret ingredient is love,” I joked.

Actually, it’s kinda true: meat pies aren’t my ideal dinner, but I make them because know how much the kids adore them.

I have an undeserved reputation as a kitchen whizz. Every now and then I come up with something delish, but I’m more about maximum flavour with minimum effort. Fiddly stuff like sifting flour bores me to tears.

So watching those would-be chefs on Masterchef putting themselves through the ringer on the show fills me with awe. That will NEVER be me.

These days, since the only recipients of my food are two children, I don’t even try very hard with my dinners any more.

Once upon a time I pored over recipe books, snipped ideas out of magazines and slaved in the kitchen. I was even a food blogger for a while at Kidspot.

Then dinner became a marital battleground, with me insisting on being the General. I have no idea why I acted that way or how I didn’t see the disharmony it was causing. It was probably a way of trying to control things as they collapsed around me.

I’d leave ingredients and strict instructions for the meals I wanted my ex to cook on the evenings he was home first. I’d express my displeasure when he didn’t do things the way I thought was “right.”

As a form of subtle rebellion – I think – the dinners he cooked became bland and thrown onto the plate.

It’s a vastly different story now: he’s obsessed with cookbooks and makes all his sauces and curry pastes from scratch. I’m quite dazzled by some of the dishes he creates.

I’ve gone the other way: meat pies, sausages and mash, simple pasta dishes.

DD isn’t really into my cooking, he’s very kind about it when I make him something, but I’ve never blown his tastebuds out of the water. So we usually go out for dinner, eat takeaway or nibble on crackers.

When I’m alone for the night, I’ll drift into the supermarket and grab ingredients for a dish that’s purely for my tastes.

On Monday it was a variation of ma po do fu.

The problem with cooking up a big dish of ma po do fu just for yourself is that you have to eat it for lunch leftovers for the rest of the week. So I won’t be in the mood for it again for a while. But it really is quite delish.

RECIPE: Ma po do fu


500g bean curd

peanut oil

1 tablespoon bottled ginger

2 garlic cloves, crushed

4 spring onions, chopped

400g minced pork

1 red capsicum, diced

1 zucchini, diced

1 cup chicken stock

1 tablespoon of chilli bean sauce (available from Asian speciality stores or well-stocked supermarkets)

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

1 tablespoon of soy sauce

1 tablespoon of cornflour

2 teaspoons of sesame oil

METHOD: Heat oil in a wok or heavy-based frying pan. Saute garlic, ginger and spring onions for 1 minute. Add mince and stir-fry, breaking it up until it’s no longer pink. Add capsicum and zucchini, stir fry for a further minute or two. Mix stock, chilli bean sauce, tomato paste and soy sauce in a jug together. Pour in pan and simmer 5 minutes. Mix cornflour with a little water and stir into the sauce until it boils and thickens. If it’s still a little too runny, repeat. Gently stir in the bean curd. Heat through, stir in sesame oil and serve with rice.

And …

RECIPE: Easy-peasy meat pies


1 tablespoon rice bran oil

1 onion zizzed in a food processor

750g beef mince

2 1/2 cups beef stock

1 tablespoon tomato paste

Cornflour to thicken

1 tablespoon worchestershire sauce

puff pastry sheets (each sheet will make 2 pies).

METHOD: Saute onion in oil until softened. Add mince, breaking up lumps with back of spoon until browned. Stir in stock, sauce and tomato paste. Bring to boil, stirring. Mix some cornflour in water to form a paste, then add to the mince, stirring continuously until the meat mixture thickens. Simmer uncovered for five minutes. Cool. Heat pie maker. Defrost pastry sheets. Cut pastry circles, place large one in pie maker, fill with mince. Place smaller circle on top. Cook until golden. If you don’t have a pie maker, poor you, get one! The kids will love you for it.

8 thoughts on “The secret ingredient is love

  1. I love ma po tofu but I’ve never made it at home. I wonder, if you could freeze portions so you don’t have to eat it every day for a week? A forgotten portion of ma po tofu one day when you’re craving it sounds delightful.

  2. Try freezing the ma do po fu in portion sizes so you can have it over the course of a few weeks rather than for the rest of the week?

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