Food and travel go hand-in-hand for Anna Rodriguez. A former airline employee married to a pilot, this globetrotting couple and their children regularly travel to exotic hotspots such as Jamaica and Bali—where culinary inspiration is only a passport page away. “We’re very lucky,” Anna says. “Travelling allows us to experience food we may not necessarily get in Doha, including street-side snacks and fine restaurant cuisines.”
Travelling also inspires Anna’s cooking at home and provides a great opportunity for stocking her kitchen cupboards with spices and products from the countries they visit.
It helps to have children who are adventurous eaters. “Luckily both my kids enjoy trying new food. They don’t always like everything, but they’ll give it a go,” she says.
Learning to cook
Originally from Poland, Anna was lucky to have access to freshly grown produce from her family’s vegetable garden.
“Looking back now, it was a lovely experience,” she says. “Every spring we would be in the garden, planting seeds in pots to grow cucumbers and tomatoes for our salads.” Incorporating fresh, healthy ingredients into her dishes is a must for Anna.
She learned to cook by watching her mum and grandmother prepare wholesome, traditional Polish foods like potato dumplings, called pierogis. But influenced by her life abroad, Anna’s style evolved into something different from her mum’s.
“I lived in England and saw lots of different cuisines, which influenced my cooking at home,” she explains.
“Now my children are my biggest influence,” she says. “I try to make our meals as healthy as possible. I think it’s important in today’s world to cook a healthy family meal and sit together. We lead such busy lives and sharing a meal together is a great way to catch up.”
It’s not only travel and family that inspire Anna’s cooking style. One of the world’s top chefs is a firm favourite as well.
“I absolutely love Jamie Oliver!” she says. “His recipes are generally quite straightforward and use simple ingredients that are easy to find. I love his duck with orange sauce, which I make for special occasions, and his pastas are excellent for kids. There are so many recipes that suit the whole family.”
For Anna, food is a passion and also a way to encourage a healthy lifestyle. “I love cooking and being in control of what the children are eating,” notes Anna. “Food is important for their energy levels and concentration. It’s one of my ways of looking after them and giving them a good start to life.”
Zrazy Polish beef roulade
A hearty meal with flavours from Anna’s homeland of Poland
- 8 slices of rump steak, 1-cm thick
- 1 tablespoon of jarred mustard
- 2 pickled dill cucumbers, cut into eight thin strips
- 1 large onion, cut into thin half-rings
- 1 tablespoon of whole-wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon of cooking oil
- 250ml of beef stock
- Spread a thin layer of mustard on one side of each steak
- Place two pickle strips and two slices of onion on top of the mustard-side of the steaks
- Carefully keeping the pickles and onions inside, roll each steak into a tube shape and secure with a toothpick. Lightly coat each steak roll with whole-wheat flour
- Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and brown beef rolls on all sides. Remove rolls from pan
- Add the stock to the same pan and bring to boil. Simmer for 1 minute
- Return beef rolls to the pan. Cover and cook on low heat for about 40 minutes, adding water or more stock as necessary
- Remove from pan and serve with boiled or mashed potatoes
Serves four to six
This British classic is a family favourite, perfect for batch cooking and freezing
- 1 tablespoon of cooking oil
- 500g lean minced beef
- 1 finely chopped onion
- 150g of frozen garden peas
- 1 sachet of cottage pie seasoning mix (Anna prefers Colman’s brand when available.)
- 300ml of cold water
- 900g potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
- 100ml milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the minced beef and vegetables. Saute until the beef is lightly browned
- Thoroughly mix the seasoning mix sachet and 300ml of cold water. Add it to the minced beef and vegetable mixture and bring to a boil. Spoon the mince mixture into a large, ovenproof casserole dish
- While the beef mixture is cooking, cook the potatoes in a pot of boiling water for about 10 minutes or until tender. Drain the potatoes and mash with milk and butter
- Spread the mashed potatoes over the top of the mince mixture and fluff with a fork
- Place the casserole under the grill (or broiler, depending on what you call it) to lightly brown and crisp the top
- Remove from oven and serve either on its own as a one-dish meal or with a light salad
Anna’s Top Tips
- Precook meals such as lasagne or cottage pie and separate portions into smaller tubs to store in the freezer—perfect for times when you need a fast and fuss-free meal
- Blanch fresh veggies and store in the freezer for quick and easy access. This is a great way to have a range of veggies on hand at anytime
- Design a weekly set menu and shop ahead to help reduce grocery costs and limit food wastage