Foody Almanac: Extra thyme

At the beginning of every footy season I make the same pledge. Not to change teams – that’s a never. Not to stop watching this year – that usually comes around the June long weekend.

No, it’s a constructive pledge, made in good faith. And, as any resolution should do, it lasts as long as my resolve, which, generally, is a few weeks.

The pledge is to fill the season with the smells of home cooking. Thus putting all of that time to good effect – it essentially means (football) results don’t matter. If I can put good food on the table, fill the freezer with simple reheats or kids’ lunches, I will be encouraged to watch footy, potentially as much as I want.

I think I may have disclosed earlier that the Tiger curse lays heavily on my kitchen. And, as evidenced by last night’s dramatics*, it’s just not possible to combine watching Richmond and constructive cooking. (Destructive eating… hello, old friend!)

So the cooking comes into play as required, generally as a post-game stress reliever, or a pre-game nerve preventer. (B)eater-blocking.

Well, it’s week 1 and I am master of my own domain. In play we have:

  • Pete’s table-topping pop-up beef stew
  • Pete’s sneaky beans
  • Pete’s oh! pears

Pete’s table-topping pop-up beef stew

Wake up hungry. Go to the butcher on Good Friday (ah, Marrickville, you perfect ville).

1kg of blade. Cut chunky, say 1.7m cube. Who cares, it’s Easter. Start with an onion, chopped in accordance with mood. Lightly sweat over a mild heat, lid on, cast iron French pot. Smash a garlic clove and dice the bugger, add to the onion. Reserve one garlic clove (raw) and eat if going to the Dendy later. Add the meat and brown. You can coat the meat in flour first, but lazybones will just chuck a table spoon in and stir to make a gravy. Add paprika.

Let this ferment over low-medium heat for 15 minutes while you revisit the empty fridge. Take the scungy carrot and dice it. Voila. Hide a zucchini and dice half of it. Take all the mongrel tomatoes you can find and roughly chop those, chuck it in.

At this stage, add Worcestershire sauce. Enough to make your heart stop. Just enough.

Drain a tin of lentils while the kids are high on chocolate. They won’t even notice. Chuck half of that in. Half a tin of diced tomatoes, juice and all. Splash of quality red. Salt and pepper.

By now you’re oven should be nicely 200. Drop it to about 170.

Pop some baking paper over your masterpiece. Lid on, in we go, say 90 minutes. If you’re not rushed, just turn the heat off after that, let the frog slowly boil into a caramel everythingness.

Serving options:

  • If alone, eat straight from pot! Don’t stop till you get enough.
  • Plated with mash.
  • Cooked a glorious second time, in a pie.
  • If rushed for time or don’t give a flying freddo frog, add a square of pastry to the stew/mash plate, and pretend you saw it on Foxtel.

This will freeze with ease, but eat it, it will smell so good!

Pete’s sneaky beans

This one’s a great work lunch microwaver, or easy dinner for kids – could even be tacoised if required.

Half an onion and a garlic clove (avoid the extra fresh one unless going to the Chauvel that night.) Chuck in the second half of the tin of tomatoes above. Get that all tight and saucy, thick and swimmable. Grate the half a zucchini and add with the half a tin of lentils above. Plus salt and pepper. Let that bumble along for 15 mins with the lid on.

Add two tins of red kidney beans, including the sauce; add a bit more salt and pepper.

Cook lid on for 20-30 mins until thick and contestable.

Chuck into meal size portions, cool safely, and freeze until required.

Pete’s oh! pears

Wait till the buerre bosc pears are on special, $2-3 a kilo. Buy them a week ahead so they unconcrete a bit – get them out of the crisper for a couple of days.

We usually cook 6. Core, and peel if you want.  Baste with a sugar/vanilla syrup. Sit in a ceramic baking tray with arses covered in the syrup – make sure you coat the core hole, too.

Cook on that beautiful residual heat from the stew – start at around 150 for 30 mins or so, then drop down to 100 for another 30, then turn the stove off and just let it be.

Re-baste with the syrup every 15 mins or so, until you get bored.

These are great served hot with custard, ice cream etc. But we like ours cold, with hot porridge, so store them in the fridge until the perfect autumn breakfast moment.

From this you should get dinner for four (stew) plus a couple of piefuls leftover; 3-4 work lunches; and a cracking dessert for four plus a couple leftover for breakfast.

Next week, it’s the Tigers and the Pies on Friday night, so cooking might be Saturday night – it’s going to rain for much of the week, so I can feel a soup coming on.

Until then, happy cooking, happy eating, enjoy Shane Watson’s final moments, and I hope your team wins, unless it is Adelaide, Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Fremantle, Geelong, Gold Coast, Hawthorn, Melbourne, North Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Sydney, St Kilda, West Coast, Western Bulldogs or Western Sydney.

About Peter Warrington

Richmond fan; Kim Hughes tragic; geographer; kids' book author; Evertonian; Manikato; Harold Park trots 1980; father of two; cat lover, dancer with dogs; wannabe PJ HArvey backing vocalist; delusional...


  1. C. Pete


    Your beans are similar to a staple at Chez Harms: known affectionately as Mexican Slop. Onions, add tomatoes and capsicum, Mexican beans, kidney beans (can even add baked beans). Serve on a bed of glow-in-the-dark corn chips with lettuce, tomato, cheese, sour cream and/or guac. A few jalapenos as well – for the adults.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Another top class entry for the Foody Almanac Pete. I might give that lentil idea a go.

    I sometimes resort to the slow cooker on match days, as my first ever match report mentioned.

  3. crankypete says

    an Almanac cookbook for Christmas… every fan’s dream. …

  4. crankypete says

    Swish we have a slow cooker upstairs bought but never opened. I might give it a crack one Tiger Sat arvo game, I can do all the prep before the nerves set it. your recipe sounds great. except for pumpkin. it’s the no prior opportunity but holding given anyway of the vegie world.

  5. Did the lamb roast last night – but slowed everything down for the final quarter of the Port game. Unfortunately St Kilda turned down the heat as well, although it was reassuring to see Port get things going after a very slow start. I still think they will feature.

    Veges were beautiful. Kids have discovered roast onion.

  6. yum! i’m hungry just thinking abut it. and yes I imagined the Saints pulling off the great upset, and from that point they stopped as if shot (really just trying to nobble anyone who threatens a Tiger top 8 slot, which is about 15 teams at the moment.)

    I reckon I will have made it when the girls beg for roast garlic, sucked out of the clove (could be a potential memoir title.=?)

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Footy+beef stew= winning. Great work Pete.
    Like Chris Lilley, big fan of sneaky beans….

  8. E.regnans says

    Superb, cranky.

    I’ve often wondered how to constructively use “that” carrot.
    Mood-related cooking suggestions and tasks (onion chopping, pear attendance) right up the right alley.

  9. Lashing of Mag Pie served up on Saturday night. A humble dish best eaten cold.

  10. Hopefully seconds of pie on friday night.

    i’m thinking aspirationally re friday night but the other consideration with night baking etc is the time required for a proper cooldown etc bvefore refrigeration. it was this that turned me off my great propsoed Ashes cookoff last winter. Oh, and falling asleep. And Watto being dropped. And them not picking Ahmed. other than that, I was keen!

    it’s got quick and easy but amazing soup written all over it, resting for the last quarter, as I hope Richmond are able to…

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