Day 168, June 19 2016

Black Bean Burrito Bowls with Pineapple Salsa

Black beans are the best bean, although they run a very close race with the black-eyed bean. This is just personal opinion. There hasn’t been a poll or anything, although given the recent Australian election results, pollsters are probably considering their options, and a bean poll might seem like as good a poll topic as any.

If there was a poll, I’d vote black beans – we always have them in the house.

This recipe is a quick and easy way to knock up something to feed your little vegetarians. We served it on top of rice in Burrito Bowls, with pineapple salsa, salad, guacamole, and sour cream (see above). I also knocked up a Beef and Black Bean Chilli for the Resolute Omnivore, which took longer to make but was lovely. We love Mexican food and eat it at least once a week.

Spicy black beans (quick)

1 red onion, finely chopped – 10 cents

1 clove garlic, finely chopped – 2 cents

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained – $1

1/2 teaspoon cumin – 2.5 cents

1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes – 1.25 cents

1 tablespoon orange zest – free

1/2 teaspoon salt – 1 cents

2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander – free

1 tablespoon rice bran oil – 6 cents

Heat oil in a shallow frying pan. Add onion and cook for two minutes, then garlic and orange zest, and fry for about 1 minute. Tip in the beans, and toss around in the garlic and onions. Sprinkle with the spices and salt. Stir well and cook for a minute. Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons of water to moisten, and the fresh coriander. Check seasoning. Serve in burrito bowls or tacos.

Total cost: $1.22

Per person (serves 2): 61 cents

Pineapple salsa

1/2 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped – $1

1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce – 2 cents

1/2 bunch fresh coriander – free

Combine all ingredients. Set aside to macerate for an hour.

Total cost: $1.02

Per person (serves 4): 25 cents

I’ll post the Beef and Black Bean chilli recipe tomorrow.


Meal plans, Weeks 25 and 26

‘Write a daily blog,’ she said. ‘It’ll be easy,’ she thought.

It is easy to cook obsessively, not so easy to document it. Somehow there’s always something else to be done. IKEA to visit, for example, which I did this morning, joining the ranks of suburbanites looking for Swedish-designed homewares at reasonable prices. I took my eldest daughter, whom I have never been able to get inside the place before, and she was rewarded, as is the law, with a hotdog at the end. I was just happy to get out of there having bought only what I intended and nothing more. 

Plus coat hangers and batteries.

Point of the story is that time flies when you are buying vitemolla, and blogs do not write themselves. I know all seven of you are desperate.

Week 25

Saturday: Black bean burrito bowls (vegetarian)

Sunday: Chicken and sweet potato pie, salad

Monday: Dinner @ my parents’ (bless ’em)

Tuesday: Beef burgundy (non-vegetarian) and rice, quorn bourger for the vego

Wednesday Worst Day: Spinach omelettes (vegetarian)

Thursday: Pasta bolognese (non-vegetarian) and vegetarian bolognese 

Friday: Cooking fail night – Pie and chips (non-vegetarian), veggie roll and chips (vegetarian), peas

Week 26

Saturday: Election Night Homemade Pizza Party – this is how nerds geek it up, baby 🙌🏻🙌🏻

Sunday: Leftover pizza

Monday: ‘Masterchef’ lemon crumbed fish goujons and wedges

Tuesday: Vegetarian pasta

Wednesday Worst Day: Haloumi burgers (vegetarian)

Thursday: Honey soy chicken drumsticks and rice 

Friday night: Takeaway night

Pastry success!!!

If you have read this blog before you will know I love to bake, I love pies, and I am obsessed – obsessed – with learning to make pastry successfully. I have chronicled my pastry-related failures and my over-reliance on Mr. Pampas. I have blamed my warm hands, my small hands, my choice of a law degree instead of a four year apprenticeship in patisserie for my failure. 

The problem was probably all of these things, and one missing secret ingredient. An ingredient that my husband (who does have a four year apprenticeship in cooking under his belt) did tell me was the secret, and that I, in my arrogance and general squeamishness, refused to countenance.

The secret ingredient, ladies and gents, is lard. Yes, clarified pig fat. Vegetarians, leave the room, because this pastry is not for you.

Gross, man. Lard. If history has taught me nothing else, that’s for chicken fried steak, shearer’s cooks, and medieval puddings.

And the most amazing pastry in the world.

I found this recipe by Alton Brown on the Food Network website, that calls for just 2 tablespoons of lard in addition to the 6 tablespoons of butter. He also suggests freezing the butter and lard for 15 minutes before making the pastry, and then cutting it into small pieces before rubbing it into the flour. My wonderful Aunt gave me a stainless steel pastry cutter that cuts the fat into the flour, reducing the contact of warm hands with the fat, but you could also use a food processor.

Where to get the lard? Remember that I recently made a pork and apple pie from a roast shoulder of pork? After roasting the pork, I poured off the fat into a jar, to throw out after it had set. Usually I tip the fat from a roast into an old can and then throw it out, but this time I happened to use a clean jar and pop it in the fridge. Serendipity! My subconscious mind must have known I would find a use for it!

Clarifying lard is surprisingly simple. When the fat has set solid in the jar, it will separate into the white fat on top and the pan juices and other impurities at the bottom. Scrape the fat from the top and place into a saucepan with a cup of cold water. Heat the water, and bring to the boil. Simmer very slowly for about half an hour. Pour the water and fat through a fine sieve into a jug, and refrigerate overnight. The next day, scrape the clarified fat from the top of the water. Discard the water and any impurities in the water, and squeeze any excess water from the lard. Dry it on some paper towel. How much lard you have depends on how much fat you had in the first place.

The lard should be white and should smell clean. You can use it in cooking in place of butter or oil, but its real value is in baking.

Pastry shell before blind baking

Pastry shell after blind baking – the flakiness….

Day 162, June 13 2016

After five – yes, five – days of lying in bed nursing a sore back, I’m about ready to go bonkers. I’ve watched multiple docos and the whole first season of How To Get Away With Murder on Netflix. What I have learned from that show is that legal ethics classes are apparently sorely lacking in US law schools.

This curry was very unusual for me because I am not a ‘sweet and sour’ flavours person. I prefer sweet things to be sweet, and savoury things to be savoury. I’ll eat pineapple on a pizza if that’s what’s going, but it’s definitely not my preferred option. The Pork and Apple pie I made recently was definitely outside the box for me, but apple and pork are a tried and true classic flavour combo, so I gave it a whirl. A pineapple and chicken curry is something I have never made, and aligns in my mind with Apricot Chicken and all those other whacky 70s dinner party dishes that you find in old Women’s Weekly Cookbooks. These are probably not actually whacky to many people, but my mother was not a ‘sweet and savoury’ cook either, and I don’t think I ever tasted Apricot Chicken until I was an adult – when I did, I did not enjoy it. 

So why did I make this? I had some leftover diced fresh pineapple, I was bored and wanted to cook something new, and myhusband does enjoy sweet and savoury dishes on occasion. He and my eldest really enjoyed this. Me? It was tasty, but not my preferred option.

Don’t make this with canned pineapple, it will be terrible. The dish succeeds because of the firm, tart-but-sweet, fresh pineapple. Pineapples are plentiful and cheap in Australia because they are grown in Queensland pretty much all year round, and we can usually buy them for about $2, even in winter.

We served with rice and a vegetarian curry. 

Garam masala is an Indian spice blend. It can’t be substituted for anything else.

Pineapple Chicken Curry

500 grams chicken thigh fillets, cut into 3cm chunks – $4.50

1 tablespoon rice bran oil – 6 cents 

1 onion, peeled and finely diced – 10 cents 

3 cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely shredded – 30 cents 

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped – 4 cents 

4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed – 5 cents 

1 bay leaf 

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes – 2.5 cents 

1/2 teaspoon turmeric – 2.5 cents 

1.5 teaspoons garam masala – 7.5 cents 

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon – 1 cent

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin – 2.5 cents 

1/2 teaspoon salt – 1 cent

1 cup diced fresh pineapple – 75 cents 

1 cup water

Heat the oil in a deep, heavy-based frying pan, and sauté the onion until soft. Add the garlic, ginger, bayleaf and cardamom pods. Cook for two minutes, stirring, and then add the chicken to the pan. Cook for ten minutes until the chicken is golden:

Sprinkle with the ground spices and stir well. Cook for another two minutes. Add the fresh pineapple:

Stir well. Pour in the water and add the salt. Reduce heat and cover. Cook for 35 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the sauce has reduced. Check seasoning and serve.

Total cost: $5.95

Per person (serves 4): $1.48

Day 161, June 12 2016

Potato, Bacon and Roasted Fennel Soup

There’s nothing like five days of enforced bed rest to make you catch up on blog posts! Apparently, early-40s desk jockeys should not be weekend warriors. Or gardeners. My back muscles apparently are not used to, y’know, moving. Anyways, industrial strength pain killers and rest should put me to rights, and hopefully I should catch up on last month’s blog posts in time to fall behind again.

June is the short-lived fennel season in our neck-o-the-woods, when huge, aniseedy, crunchy bulbs of fennel can be bought for as low as 99 cents. Enjoy it while it lasts, peeps, because in only four weeks they are gone – or if not completely gone, what is left are woody and not anywhere near as juicy and sweet. Not to mention, the price increases fourfold. As with asparagus in the Springtime, I just enjoy it while it is plentiful and cheap, and wait a whole year for its return.

I love to do a couple of things with fennel: slice it thinly and serve it in a salad with oranges and black olives; roast it and add it to a chicken or vegetarian pie (of course); but my favourite thing to do with it is to make soup. This is a non-vegetarian soup, but it can easily be made vegetarian by omitting the bacon and using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. The chicken stock gives the soup its silky quality, but a good homemade vegetable stock will be just lovely as well, and will turn this soup from an omnivore’s delight to a vegan feast.

The painkillers must be kicking in because I am rambling at this point.


2 medium onions, cut into eighths – 20 cents 

2.5 fennel bulbs, stalks removed, cut into pieces – $2.50

1 tablespoon olive oil – 12 cents 

8 small potatoes, peeled and chopped roughly – $1

4 slices shortcut bacon, chopped – $1

2 tablespoons olive oil – 24 cents 

1 litre (4 cups) chicken stock – free

In a baking tray, place the onions and fennel, and drizzle with the tablespoon of olive oil:

Roast the fennel and onion for 35 minutes at 180 degrees C

Bake at 180 degrees C for about 30 minutes, or until tender.

In a deep stockpot, heat the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil. Fry the bacon and the thyme together until the bacon is cooked but not crispy. If you are making vegetarian soup, skip the olive oil and bacon altogether, and add the thyme next.

Add the roasted vegetables and potatoes to the bacon and thyme mixture, and stir well. Pour in the stock. Bring to the boil, and then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook until the potatoes and fennel are soft. Remove from heat, and when cooler, purée the soup using a stick blender or a food processor. We use our bullet food processor and blend it in batches. Season to taste, remembering that the bacon will add salt, and reheat to serve. We ate this with homemade pizza and even our eldest, who ‘don’ like soup’ loved it.

Total cost: $4.06

Per serve (serves 6): 67 cents 

Day 160, June 11 2016

Eyeball Meatloaf

We are big fans of the TV show Bones. Booth, the FBI Agent on the show, hates that most American of dishes, meatloaf, because it is served with hard boiled eggs in the middle, and it reminds him of eyeballs. I’ve never made it much (our kids hate it) and I’ve never seen it made that way in Australia. On this date night though, I decided to  creep out surprise my husband by suggesting we watch Bones (we are still catching up on the last season) and I would make meatloaf.


I’ve got my eye on you, buddy

I’m not going to post a recipe – meatloaf is meatloaf, and this was nothing different or special, except that it stared back up at us. Frankly, I just posted it because I crack myself up.

Day 154, June 2 2016

Pork, Apple and Caraway Pie

We cooked a pork roast on day 153, using the Jamie Oliver Mothership Roast Pork recipe from the Save With Jamie cookbook. We were out of fennel seeds, so we used caraway seeds instead. We do not eat pork often, but I cooked it because I wanted to make this pie. 

I invented the recipe because one of my Facebook friends was having a pie fundraiser at her kids’ school and a pork and apple pie was on the list. Unfortunately she lives four hours away. I admit that I was tempted to drive the 8-hour round trip to buy a stack of pies, but even I had to admit that was bordering on the cray-cray. Therefore, I had to come up with my own, or go without – this was of course, unthinkable.


1 tablespoon olive oil – 12 cents 

1/2 leek, white parts only, finely sliced – 50 cents 

2 cups roast pork, chopped – free (leftovers, baby)

1.5 teaspoons caraway seeds- 15 cents 

10 sage leaves, halved – free

1 teaspoon chicken stock powder- 10 cents 

1 cup cloudy apple juice – 50 cents 

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons plain flour – 10 cents 

1.5 small pink lady apples, peeled and finely sliced – 30 cents 

1 blind-baked pie crust – $1 (guesstimate)

1 sheet puff pastry – 50 cents 

Heat the olive oil in a deep, heavy based frying pan, and sauté the leeks and sage leaves gently for ten minutes or until soft and pale golden. Add the roast pork and the caraway seeds. Toss with the leeks, and then sprinkle over the flour and the stock powder. Toss well to coat. When the flour has cooked for two minutes, pour in the apple juice and water. Stir well and reduce the heat. Let the sauce thicken and reduce, taking care to stir so that it does not stick. When the sauce has reduced to a glossy sauce, remove from the heat.

When the filling has cooled slightly, place it in the pie crust. I used the pie crust I made not super successfully the week before and froze ahead for those well-known pie emergencies, or pietastrophes. 

Arrange the sliced apples on top of the pork filling, like so: 

When I say ‘arrange’ the apples, I really mean, ‘bung em on’

Top with the puff pastry. Glaze with some milk or beaten egg white, and sprinkle with poppy seeds if you like them. Bake in a hot oven for 20-30 minutes, or until golden.

Hello my precioussssss

Total cost: $3.27

Per person (serves 6): 54 cents 

Meal Plan, Weeks 22 and 23 2016

Now that uni has finished (and I passed, yay!), I am going to try to catch up. So here are our meal plans for Weeks 22 and 23. Luckily I keep a record of what we are going to eat on my iPhone Notes app, so I do know exactly what we did eat. I have also started recording my recipes on my handy iPhone, so my recipes are becoming more precise than ‘about a cup of’ or ‘roughly a teaspoon of.’ You might even see ingredients weighed and accurately measured (don’t all gasp at once).

With all my new found spare time, my husband and I did a lot of cooking over the weekend and made up big pots of chicken cacciatore, curries, beef burgundy, and soups. These served us well over a couple of weeks.

Week 22

Saturday: Caraway Pork Roast with roast vegetables (non-vegetarian)

Sunday: Pork, Apple and Caraway Pie (non-vegetarian)

Monday: Dinner at Mum & Dad’s (bless ’em)

Tuesday: Chicken curry, vegetable curry & rice (vegetarian and non-vegetarian)

Wednesday Worst Day: BLTs/ELTs (vegetarian and non-vegetarian)

Thursday: Sloppy Joes (vegetarian and non-vegetarian)

Friday: Monthly takeaway night

Week 23

Saturday: Meatloaf and salad (non-vegetarian), vegetable rolls (vegetarian)

Sunday: White winter soup (vegetarian), homemade pizza (vegetarian and non-vegetarian)

Monday: Chicken curry, vegetable curry, and rice (vegetarian and non-vegetarian)

Tuesday: Beef burgundy and mash (non-vegetarian)

Wednesday Worst Day: BLTs/ELTs (vegetarian and non-vegetarian)

Thursday: Chicken cacciatore and couscous (non-vegetarian, vegetarian schnitzels and couscous (vegetarian)

Friday: Soup and rolls (vegetarian)


How to fail at pastry (while really trying hard)

I’m still trying hard to improve my homemade pastry, and can I tell you that I am still failing? Maybe I just haven’t found the right recipe yet. I’m so obsessed that I now have not one, not two, but five different pie plates – I’m convinced that if I just have the right pie plate, all my troubles will be over. At least, those troubles that are pie-related. That is, Homer-troubles. 

I even bought gimmicky tins that have speed holes in them, that supposedly enable the heat to circulate around the crust, thereby reducing the horrible soggy pie effect. I should not be allowed to enter The General Trader with a fistful of dollars and no escort. I’m likely to stand in the baking section and ask the assistant: “What can you give me for this many?”

Did someone say ‘magic beans’?

Anyways, this latest attempt was what I would call a ‘low pass.’ We still ate it, but and the pie filling was delish, but truthfully the pastry I bought from the supermarket freezer was a lot better and cheaper than this.

You can tell from looking at it that it was a bit tough:

I give it a P2 at best

Back to the drawing board. I made this before I got my fancy speed holes pie plate. Maybe I will have better luck once I use that. I’m not a sucker at all…

Day 146, May 25 2016

Heuvos Rancheros

This recipe is adapted from a wonderful book a friend from California brought over as a gift for us in the 90s, called California Home Cooking, by Michele Anna Jordan. ‘Huevos’ is Spanish for ‘eggs’, and this is a lovely dish of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce. We served it with warm tortilla wedges on the side, grated cheese, sour cream, shredded spinach, and hot sauce.

My daughter chose this dish as her ‘Master Chef Quality’ dish of the week, and she and her dad made it together. It is vegetarian and gluten-free if you don’t serve it with tortillas or serve with corn chips instead. She was very proud of herself.


4 tablespoons olive oil – 48 cents 

2 onions, finely chopped – 20 cents 

1 teaspoon chilli flakes – 10 cents  

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped – 12 cents 

1 can chopped tomatoes – $1

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed – $1

2 teaspoons finely chopped oregano – free

8 free range eggs – $2.80

Salt and pepper to taste 

Fresh coriander, finely chopped – free

In a deep frying pan, heat the olive oil. Fry the onion and sauté until soft. Add the chillies and garlic, and sauté for about five minutes. Add the oregano and beans, and toss in the onion and garlic mix until well coated. Pour in the tomatoes, and a 1/4 cup of water, and stir well. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about five minutes. 

Carefully break the eggs into the sauce, trying not to break the yolks. Cover with the kid, and cook until the whites are set. Serve immediately, sprinkled with fresh coriander.

Total cost: $5.70

Per person: $1.42