Hutchy Kitchen: Macaroni Beef

“There’s an important food culture at home of which I’ve either taken for granted or simply remained totally unaware. My family quite literally revolves around my grandparents’ Laminex-topped kitchen table, and it’s nice to be finally waking up to the craft and history behind that. So long as I care to look for them, there are perhaps as many moments, stories and recipes to be shared from home as there might be from my travels.”

The above comes from a previous post, A Fork in the Road, which I wrote back in May this year. I’ve since done a lot of thinking about my family’s food culture, and how I can begin to explore and express it. We’re a big bunch, you see; my mum is one of seven, which makes for rather sizeable family gatherings (on a monthly basis, no less!) and an even bigger spread to feed us all. There’s little fanfare – everyone simply brings a dish. It’s a potluck affair where plates are piled high, often balanced precariously upon knees (rarely is there enough table space for all!), and polished off quickly in time for seconds. And dessert. And countless cups of tea.

Now that I think about it – there’s really something quite special about standing in that dinner line. There’s a powerful sense of ritual there. I can’t help but feel a giddy sense of childhood as we quite literally line up in single file, empty plates in hand, poised to scoop up those familiars and favourites on which we grew up. I don’t even think any of the grandchildren, as grown up we are now, dare begin serving until one of the ‘adults’ has given the go-ahead. 

The food at a Hutchy gathering won’t win any awards for refinery or sophisication, sure. Rather, this food is comfort food. This food is the stuff that feeds many. These meals together have become one of our longest and most loved traditions, so really, this food is perhaps just one thing: family. And through a series of blog posts, I am going to share my family with you.

It’s as much a personal exercise than anything: I suddenly feel like it’s very important to learn and record this part of my family’s culture. And I’m beginning with a dish that stands out to me as one of the oldest, most prolific Hutchy recipes: Macaroni Beef.

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I like to think that my Grandma magically whipped up Macaroni Beef of her own creation; alas, when I asked her about this recently she told me she’d found the recipe somewhere or other many years ago. In any case, I think we ultimately consider it as hers. It’s simple, hearty and tasty. It is the definition of comfort food for me. I remember making it for Mat for the first time, and being quite stricken when he didn’t immediately love it. He later admitted I’d just gotten incredibly zealous with the mixed herbs – a bit of tweaking, and it quickly became a regular on our menu. I won’t lie – the passionate reaction he now has to a simple, simmering frypan of Macaroni Beef makes me a very happy Hutchy indeed!

I’ve been making my own Macaroni Beef for several years now, and I’m not sure at which point it happened – but it definitely started to taste ever-so-slightly different to Grandma’s. I think I just became more and more particular about the exact way I like it, right down to brand names and pasta shape. This is the version I’ve decided to share – not just because it’s easier to get blood from a stone than to get a precise recipe from my grandma, but because I like the way that for us, Macaroni Beef is kind of that great family dish that everyone can make their own.

And so, without further ado. The first instalment from the Hutchy Kitchen: Macaroni Beef.

Macaroni Beef
Serves 4
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 brown onions
  2. 4 rashers middle bacon
  3. 500g beef mince
  4. 1 tin / 420mL condensed tomato soup (I use Heinz Big Red)
  5. 2 cups / 500mL beef stock (I use Campbell's Real Stock - Beef)
  6. 300g pasta (I use Large Spirals pasta by San Remo)
  7. 1 Tbsp (approx.) mixed herbs (I use MasterFoods, and have painfully regretted ever using anything else)
Instructions
  1. 1. Dice onions and bacon (remove rind from bacon, but make sure to dice and include the streaky, fatty section alongside).
  2. 2. Using a large frypan, brown onions and bacon over medium-high heat with a little oil. Add half of mixed herbs about a minute into browning process.
  3. 3. Add beef mince. Break up mince with a wooden spoon and push through onion and bacon mix. Keep turning until mince is browned.
  4. 4. Add tomato soup and beef stock, and stir to combine. At this stage the contents of the frypan will look like a rather unappetising, brown meat soup. Hang tight.
  5. 5. Add remainder of mixed herbs, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for approximately 40 minutes. After this time the beef mix will have reduced to a wonderfully red, sauce-like consistency. Remove from heat.
  6. 6. Time the cook of your pasta (as per packet instructions) so that it is ready to add once beef mix has reduced.
  7. 7. Combine pasta and beef mix in frypan. Enjoy!
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Behold, the Schmalznudel

Before Mat and I discovered the glorious stroopwafel, there was the schmalznudel. It was in the lovely city of Munich that we would find this incredible little piece of pastry perfection. We asked our Airbnb host, Matthias, if he had any recommendations for a good breakfast in town, and he insisted we venture to one very special place.

‘Schmalznudel,’ he said. “A Munich institution. Ask any local, ‘where is Schmalznudel?’ – and they can tell you exactly where it is.”

Matthias attempted to describe the exact nature of a schmalznudel, though in the end we couldn’t settle on anything wholly familiar. What we could discern was that it was fried and doughy. We were intrigued at once. 

Though affectionately referred to as ‘Schmalznudel’, the little bakery is in fact called Café Frischhut. You’ll find it right by Munich’s wonderful daily food market, Viktualienmarkt, making it a very convenient stop for the visiting foodie. The bakery boasts just four different pastries – striezerl, krapfen, rohrnudel and most importantly, the famous schmalznudel:

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A ring of fresh, deep-fried dough circling a thin, almost transparent dough film; the schmalznudel is kind of like a large, flat doughnut. Direct from the fryer – you can observe the chef working his magic with impressive speed and skill through the shop window – the cooked pastry is wonderfully warm and full of the most incredible, rich flavour. Matthias had told us that a schmalznudel should be doused generously with sugar, and the waitstaff were also quite particular about this. I was of course very happy to oblige. We spied several locals on nearby tables upending that sugar dispenser with a vigour to behold!

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Over the course of a couple of visits, we also tried the krapfen (above), a doughnut filled with apricot jam, and the striezel, which is essentially a long, stick-like version of schmalznudel. Everything is fresh and hot, so the pastries have that wonderful crisp outside and a delightfully soft centre. The coffee is actually pretty decent too, which made for a couple of lovely, lazy Munich mornings sitting outside and happily basking in the schmalznudel buzz. It’s certainly very popular with Munich’s own; whilst we mostly found ourselves surrounded by greying locals (always a good sign), Schmalznudel is apparently also quite the destination for young folk on their way home after a big night out. A fresh schmalznudel sure sounds better than a dirty Macca’s run to me!

It was after our first visit, totally enraptured by the place, that Mat and I thought to Google the English translation of ‘schmalznudel’. You know something tastes damn good when the words ‘lard noodle‘ don’t sway your determination to return the very next day. Or ever, for that matter. Oh, dear schmalznudel: may our paths yet cross again!

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Schmalznudel – Café Frischhut | Prälat-Zistl-Straße 8, 80331 Munich, Germany

There’s Something About Stroopwafels

We need to talk about stroopwafels. 

Why, of all things, would I begin to recount six weeks’ worth of European adventure with stroopwafels? Good question. What I do know is that I can’t stop thinking about the goddamn things, and if any friend or family member ever travels to the Netherlands and returns without a packet (or five) for me, there will be severe consequences. 

Mat and I spent three days in beautiful Amsterdam to tie off our trip. A little weary after six weeks on the road, it turned out to be the perfect place to stop, unwind and soak in the last of Europe before our journey home. Amsterdam was just one of those destinations that made my heart sing. Tree-lined canals, cobbled streets flanked by those wonderfully tall, skinny houses, crossing the IJ by ferry to reach our little Airbnb houseboat, and an incredible world of cute little cafes and shops; the Dutch capital romanced us with a delightful, quiet charm.

And stroopwafels. 

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The stroopwafel, or ‘syrup waffle’, comes in two forms: the first is a large, freshly pressed treat usually found at bakeries and markets. We tracked down a small, canal-side bakery called Lanskroon – Google hinted this was one of the best places for a fresh stroopwafel fix, and it did not disappoint. As big as my plate, the stroopwafel consisted of two thin, crispy waffle layers with a thick syrup sandwiched in between. Fresh from the press, it was warm and crunchy and oozy, and tasted of caramel and toffee. It was divine. We shared Lanskroon mostly with elderly locals (through the trip, we realised this usually meant the discovery of some seriously top-notch eats), as well as a handsome little tortoiseshell-and-white cat. It was the perfect little morning pitstop.

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The second type of stroopwafel is a smaller, softer version, bought by the packet in stores. We picked up a packet of about ten in a busy sweets store called Metropolitan, located on Warmoesstraat right by the Red Light District. It wasn’t until we arrived back in Australia that we busted it open, at which point we realised what fools we had been for bringing home only one packet. These snacks are the bomb. And according to strict Dutch lore, there is a very special way one must eat these stroopwafels. You see, their size is quite conveniently appropriate to that of the rim of a coffee cup. After preparing a hot drink (coffee, tea, hot chocolate – anything goes!), one should rest a stroopwafel atop the coffee cup for about five minutes. Over the course of these five minutes, the steam from the hot drink softens both the lower waffle half and the delicious, caramel filling inside. The result is chewy and oozy and again, divine. And oh, the aroma! These stroopwafels had a hint more cinnamon to them, which I loved. It was a truly glorious week of nightly cuppas and stroopwafels before that final, bittersweet ritual, I can tell you.

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Really, that’s it for our little talk. Guys, stroopwafels are freakin’ amazing – if you ever have the chance, you should eat and/or buy as many of them as you can. Seriously. I’m not kidding on this one. And if anyone happens to know of a good supplier in Melbourne…

Europe: The Story, So Far (Part Two)

… And then there was Italy. And Slovenia. And they were wonderful. A few Instagram snaps, for those who missed:

(And don’t forget to take a peek at Part One!)

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Step 1: arrive in Italy. Step 2: obtain gelato // Sunset by the beach in Levanto // Beautiful Vernazza, one of the five towns of the Cinque Terre // When in Liguria, one simply must eat pesto!

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The stunning view of Chianti from our Tuscan hilltop Airbnb // Gelato tasting at Perché No! (Italian for ‘Why Not!’) in Florence // More gelato at Grom in Venice // The saddest little lion in all of Venice?

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The Bridge of Sighs in Venice // Our Urban Adventures Cicchetti of Venice Tour group demonstrating that we are, in fact, very much capable (according to strict Venetian law) of drinking more wine //  The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation (in all its fabulous pinkness) in Ljubljana, Slovenia // Pretty little detail in our Ljubljana Airbnb

Little Wanderings - Europe So Far 10 Gorgeous view over Ljubljana, as discovered on Ljubljana Bites and Sights with Urban Adventures // Ljubljana: Europe’s leading dragon-friendly city // A picture-perfect view: Lake Bled and Bled Island // More of stunning Slovenia, at Vintgar Gorge

Europe: The Story, So Far (Part One)

Well, Europe has been amazing. And believe me, I’ve been dying to write about it. My poor little blog has been ever in the back of my mind these past few weeks! Parisian streets, Swiss landscapes and Italian shores are, as it turns out, quite an inspiration. It’s just that, well – I’m rather used to having a lot more down-time whilst on the road. As a seasoned solo traveler, I’m pretty accustomed to taking dedicated time out to reflect and chronicle my journeys. This is my first trip with a companion in six years, though, and I’ll be honest: I just haven’t had the discipline to write with another person around. Solo travel allows you to shut off, take half a day and withdraw without much consequence. Traveling with a companion is a constant distractor and motivator, though – and I’ve decided to wholeheartedly welcome that!

Right now, however, I’m sitting by a little river out the back of a guesthouse in Grünau, Austria, and I can’t help but get caught up in a little writer’s whimsy. At this point, I know I’ll be telling most of our Europe travel tales when back home in Melbourne – but I thought I’d at least check in with some photos from the trip so far. Instagram followers will have seen these already, but for those not on the ‘gram – here’s a little glimpse of the adventure so far:

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Melbourne International Airport // Keizersgracht canal, Amsterdam, as seen from our breakfast table at Bagels and Beans // The gorgeous view from our Parisian Airbnb // My first Berthillon ice-cream in Paris

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Jardin des Tuileries on an overcast Paris day // Canelé from the original Maison Kayser on Rue de Monge // Notre Dame Cathedral and Île Saint-Louis from Pont de la Tournelle – a gorgeous view we passed every day // A quiet street in the Marais district of Paris

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A rainy day wandering along the Seine // The most divine éclairs from L’éclair de Génie, Paris // A most handsome Eiffel Tower at night // Croissant, of course: more spoil from Maison Kayser

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Oh, you bet we did Disneyland Paris! // The heavenly ‘Plénitude’ from Pierre Hermé // A crazy, wonderful lunch at La Petite Rose des Sables // Madame Zouzou, our extraordinary host at La Petite Rose des Sables

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The tiniest elevator we ever did see, leading up to our Paris Airbnb // Following The Owl’s Trail around Dijon // Europe road-trip essentials: Haribo Dragibus // The little town of Thun in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland

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The rainclouds follow us to Switzerland… // View from a bridge over the Aare River in Thun // Waiting for the clouds to clear over the mountains at our Airbnb in Thun // New travel snack: chocolates from Switzerland’s Maison Cailler

(For more: Part Two!)

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