Mr & Mrs Wilkinson’s top 5 family meals

Mr and Mrs Wilkinson. Picture: Patricia Niven

Pope Joan‘s celebrated chef Matt Wilkinson is the first to admit his Michelin-star training is no preparation for the stress of feeding a young family.

So he joined forces with his wife Sharlee Gibb (an accomplished cook and former boss of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival’s gastronomy program) and created a book full of recipes squarely aimed at busy parents – Mr & Mrs Wilkinson’s How it is at Home.

With their two boys Finn and Jay as their recipe testers, the Northcote couple have come up with more than 100 fuss-free, healthy recipes with useful chapters on lunch box fodder, Sunday baking sessions, weekly dinners, one-pot wonders and meals without the kids.

These are five of their favourite meals in the book. Try the tuna pasta… it’ll forever change the way you look at tinned tuna.

  1. Green Eggs

    1. Serves 1
    2. Ingredients
      1 large handful baby spinach leaves
      1 handful soft herbs (parsley, mint, chervil)
      2 free-range eggs
      Pinch of salt flakes
      Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
      1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
      50g goat’s cheese or feta, crumbled
      Buttered toast, to serve
    3. Method
      Preheat the oven to 180C.
      Throw the spinach, herbs, eggs, salt and nutmeg into a food processor and blitz for 20 seconds to combine.
      Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof frying pan over a medium heat. Pour the green egg mixture into the hot pan and use a spatula to bring in the set edges, letting the liquid mix run out to the side of the pan again. Scatter the goat’s cheese or feta over the eggs and cook for 2 minutes until the bottom is set.
      Transfer the pan to the oven and leave to cook for 8–10 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked through.
      Remove from the oven and serve immediately in the pan with toast on the side. I like to eat mine with sauerkraut or sweet chilli jam.
  2. Stir-fried pork & rice

    1. Serves 4
    2. With its gorgeous mix of salty and sweet, this is one of those great recipes that takes no time to cook and gets devoured by the kids. It’s great served as it is, though if you want you could always top it with some sliced chillies, fresh herbs, crunchy toasted nuts or even a fried egg. The eggplant here can also be replaced with other stir-fried veg in season like zucchini, cabbage or green beans.
    3. Ingredients
      500g free-range minced (ground) pork
      1 small eggplant, cut into 5mm dice
      2 tbs kecap manis
      1 tbs soy sauce
      200g jasmine
      Rice, rinsed in cold water
      2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
      Juice of 1/4 orange
    4. Method
      Put the pork, eggplant, kecap manis and soy sauce in a bowl, and mix together with a fork. Cover with a plate, transfer to the fridge and leave to marinate for 2–3 hours (removing from the fridge 20 minutes prior to cooking to take the chill off).
      Add the rice and 375ml water to a saucepan over a high heat, cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Once boiling, remove the lid and stir, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.
      Remove from the heat and leave to sit, still covered, for 10 minutes.
      Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or wok, add the marinated pork mixture and sauté for 10 minutes, using a wooden spoon to break up the minced pork into small pieces as you go, until the pork is cooked through and the eggplant is soft. Add the cooked rice and orange juice and toss everything together. Serve.A NOTE ON CHILLI SAUCE FROM MATT . . .
      If you are a couple and one of you likes chilli and the other doesn’t it can become hard. I always omit chilli from foods and add it when serving, especially now we have kids. With most cuisines like Italian, Spanish and South American, Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese this works well, and our pantry and fridge are stocked with an array of easy-to-find chilli sauces from around the world for adding to the meal at the end like this. With Indian-style hot curries, where there is so much complexity in the spices used and in the slow cooking and braising, it is hard to omit the chilli. I now make these sorts of curries at home with hardly any spice so we can all enjoy them.
  3. Bibimbap

    1. Bibimbap is a Korean dish that translates as ‘mixing rice’, and is usually topped with beef and vegetables. This is one of our favourite meals for throwing together on a weeknight as we can use whatever we have in the fridge.
    2. Ingredients
      1 tbs soy sauce
      1 tsp sesame oil
      1/2 pear, grated
      4cm piece fresh ginger, grated
      1 garlic clove, crushed
      1 tsp raw (demerara) sugar
      300g beef steak (skirt, flank or hanger), cut into thin strips
      200g jasmine rice, rinsed in cold water
      80ml extra virgin olive oil
      1 carrot, cut into thin matchsticks
      1 tsp sesame oil
      1 tsp black sesame seeds
      1 zucchini, sliced diagonally
      1 corn cob, kernels removed
      1 tbs soy sauce
      1 tsp honey
      1 handful leafy greens, thick stalks removed
      1 tbs kecap manis
      4 free-range eggs
      To serve…
      Add kimchi/sauerkraut/pickles and chopped cashew nuts.
    3. Method
      Make the marinade by mixing the soy sauce, sesame oil, grated pear, ginger, garlic and sugar together in a bowl. Add the beef strips and leave to marinate for 30 minutes.
      Add the rice and 2 cups of water to a saucepan over a high heat, cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Once boiling, remove the lid and stir, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to sit, still covered, for 10 minutes.
      Meanwhile, heat 1 tbs of the olive oil in a large frying pan or wok over a high heat. Add the marinated beef and cook, tossing to ensure it cooks evenly, for 3–4 minutes. Remove from the pan and transfer to a warm plate.
      Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan together with the carrot matchsticks and sesame oil. Cook, tossing, for 2–3 minutes, then remove from the pan, sprinkle with the sesame seeds and keep warm. Add another 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan, throw in the zucchini and stir-fry for 2–3 minutes, then add the corn kernels, soy sauce and honey. Stir-fry for 2 minutes then remove from the
      pan and keep warm as before.
      Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, throw in the leafy greens and the kecap manis and stir-fry for 1–2 minutes, then remove from the pan and keep warm. (Rinse the pan with water to remove any residue.) Lastly, add the final tablespoon of olive oil, making sure the pan is hot and break the eggs separately into the pan. Fry for 3–5 minutes to your liking, then remove from the heat.
      Build your bibimbap bowls starting with the rice on the bottom, then adding the beef and vegetables around the bowl as separate components. Add condiments like kimchi, sauerkraut or pickles and scatter over some chopped cashew nuts if you like (I do). Add a fried egg to each bowl and serve.
    4. Tip
      If you like chilli, try putting a little gochujang (Korean red chilli paste) on the top of your bowl when serving.
  4. Jo’s tuna pasta

    1. Serves 4
    2. The recipe comes from Jo Courtney – friend, farmer and one half of Bridge Farm Organics with her husband, Trevor. They grow amazing asparagus and rhubarb that I have been using for years. The original recipe comes from a lady, Mrs Lorenzetto, who used to look after Jo when she was a young pup.
    3. Ingredients
      500g penne, fusilli or casarecce
      100ml extra virgin olive oil
      1 white onion, finely diced
      3 tbs tomato paste
      2 tbs vincotto or balsamic vinegar
      45g good-quality tinned anchovies in oil
      185g good-quality tinned tuna in oil
      Freshly grated parmesan cheese, to serve
    4. Method
      Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, add the pasta and cook according to the packet instructions until al dente. Drain the pasta over a bowl, reserving the cooking water, return to the pan and set aside.
      Heat the oil in a separate saucepan over a medium heat, add the onion and cook for 3–5 minutes until softened. Add the tomato paste, vincotto and anchovies together with the oil from the tuna tin, reduce the heat to low and cook gently for 5–8 minutes, until the onions are nicely caramelised. Add the tuna and a few splashes of the reserved pasta cooking water, increase the heat to high and cook for 10–15 minutes, adding extra splashes of the pasta water as you go, until the sauce has a thin paste-like consistency.
      Tip the sauce into the pan with the pasta and toss together thoroughly to coat. Divide among bowls and scatter over lots of grated parmesan. Serve.
  5. Chicken, pineapple & bacon skewers

    1. Makes 8
    2. Food on sticks is always a winner for the boys. This particular combination was made up by Finn and is a perfect combination of sweet and salty.
    3. Ingredients
      500g free-range boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 32 equal-sized pieces
      Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
      1 rosemary sprig, leaves removed
      Pinch of salt flakes
      2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
      1/2 pineapple, peeled and cut into 24 equal-sized pieces
      8 free-range bacon rashers, cut into 24 equal-sized strips
    4. Method
      Soak 8 bamboo skewers in water for 5 minutes.
      Put the chicken, lemon zest and juice, rosemary leaves, salt and olive oil in a bowl and mix together well. Leave to marinate for 10 minutes.
      Thread the chicken, pineapple and bacon pieces onto the skewers, alternating between the ingredients, starting and finishing with a chicken piece. Transfer the skewers to a hot barbecue or chargrill pan and cook over a medium heat for 8–10 minutes, turning every minute or so, until cooked through.

This is an edited extract from Mr & Mrs Wilkinson’s How It Is At Home (Hardie Grant Books, RRP $49.99) which is available in stores nationally.

Photography credit – Photography © by Patricia Niven


Mr & Mrs Wilkinson’s top 5 family meals