Day 333, November 5th 2016

Curry night

We love a curry in this house – this is partly how I was raised (my Grandfather was born and raised in India before Independence, and consequently we grew up eating legit vindaloo in a country town where lamb chops and mashed potatoes were the staples), and partly because chilli is a gift of the Gods and must be ingested on an almost daily basis. Where most families might have tomato sauce on their table, we have at least two kinds of chilli sauce at all times (plus two kinds of back up chilli sauce in the pantry just in case we ever run out). 

While I do use recipe books for some curries (the Magicke Curry Booke, or Spices Moste Potente, is a book passed on from my mother to all the kids in our family – I actually don’t know the title, author, or the publisher, but I believe it is out of print), most times my husband and I invent the curries that we eat. We use a few basic principles – onions, garlic, and ginger form the basis of most of our curries. After that, we tend to use a blend of the following spices in varying quantities: coriander, cumin, turmeric, garam masala, chilli, cardamom pods, bay leaves, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks. We don’t use coconut milk or cream or any almond meal due to our allergies.

This beef curry uses red lentils as a thickening agent, creating a thick gravy that is really tasty. It also uses only a small amount of beef, making it a low (er) cost and healthier meat-based dish (it’s still expensive compared to vegetarian or chicken dishes – red meat has increased in price significantly over the past 12 months, which is why I don’t cook with it often). If you have not used garam masala before, it is a spice blend, most commonly made of pepper, cloves, cinnamon, mace, cardamom, bay leaf and cumin. Don’t be tempted to substitute it for something else in recipes that call for it – garam masala adds a very specific flavour that can’t be replicated. It is easy to buy from most supermarkets or from Asian supermarkets. 

Beef and red lentil curry

3 Spring onions, finely chopped – free

White stems of three bok choy, chopped – free

1 piece fresh ginger, roughly chopped – 30 cents

1 clove garlic, finely chopped – 5 cents

1 tablespoon rice bran oil – 6 cents

300 grams blade steak, cut into cubes – $4.80

1 cup red lentils, washed – 50 cents

2 cups water or vegetable stock

1 teaspoon salt – 1 cent

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder – 2.5 cents

1 teaspoon ground coriander – 5 cents

1.5 teaspoons garam masala – 7.5 cents

1 teaspoon ground cumin – 5 cents

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric – 2.5 cents

8 cardamom pods – 5 cents

Heat the rice bran oil in a deep, ovenproof pot (I used my Le Creuset Dutch Oven – I have had this pot for 20 years and it is still going strong).  Slowly cook the Spring onions, taking care not to burn. Add the garlic and ginger and the bok choy, and cook for two minutes.

Add the beef and cook for five minutes. Sprinkle with the spices and add the cardamom pods. Stir well and cook for two minutes.

Add the lentils and stir well. Cook for two minutes, and then pour in the water or stock. Stir well and then place the lid on the pot and put the whole pot in an oven pre-heated to 170 degrees C.

Cook for two hours, checking regularly to ensure the lentils have not stuck to the bottom. Add more water if necessary, stirring well each time. Season with salt.

The lentils will have formed a thick gravy and the beef will be tender.

Serve with hot rice and pappadams.

Beef and Red Lentil curry (left) served with rice and Green Lentil and Kale curry


Total cost: $5.69

Per person (serves 4): $1.42

Meal plan, Weeks 44-45 2016

I am running behind with this blog, my apologies. Work, kids, life, Christmas, more work have all got the better of me and I will not reach 365 days by the end of the year. Oh well. My main goal in starting this blog was to get into a habit of writing regularly, and I am happy to have done this. I have also become a better cook, but sadly have not become a better photographer.

Week 44, November 5-11 2016

Saturday: Vietnamese Soup (vegetarian and non-vegetarian)

Sunday: Beef and red lentil curry, Fish curry, Green lentil and kale dal (vegan), brown rice

Monday: Vegetarian pasta with salad

Tuesday: Vegan white bean soup

Wednesday: Haloumi burgers (vegetarian)

Thursday: Herb and garlic pasta (vegetarian)

Friday: Out for dinner

Week 45, November 12-18 2016

Saturday: Spaghetti bolognese (vegetarian and non-vegetarian) and tabouli

Sunday: Birthday party leftovers

Monday: Vegetable curry (vegetarian) and rice

Tuesday: Vegetable curry (vegetarian) and rice

Wednesday: Red beans and rice

Thursday: Quesadillas

Friday: Quesadillas

Day 327, October 30 2016

Tabouli

Tabouli is my favourite salad. It was my grandfather’s ‘go-to’ recipe, and when I make it I think of him. I also love it because it is very healthy, super cheap (we grow our own parsley, spring onions, and mint so it costs us almost nothing to make) and it keeps well. When I make a big bowl of tabouli it will last several days in the fridge.

On this particular day, we served it with roast chicken and what we call ‘fuggets’ (vegetarian or faux chicken burgers that taste and smell like chicken nuggets – when I am in a pinch, I serve them to our little vego although I am not entirely convinced of their nutritional value). We also took it for lunch for the next day or two.


The key ingredients in tabouli are parsley, cracked wheat (also known as burghal or bulgar), tomatoes and mint. The important ratio is the parsley:burghal ratio – some people prefer more parsley, and others more cracked wheat. My grandfather was heavy on the parsley, and as you can see from the photo above, I tend to be slightly heavier on the wheat. It is entirely up to you, and happily it is easily adjusted to your taste. Just add more of either.

Ingredients

1 cup fine burghal, soaked in two cups cold water for at least one hour – 50 cents 

2 cups chopped parsley – free

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint – free

2 spring onions, finely chopped – free

4 small tomatoes, chopped – 50 cents 

1 Lebanese cucumber, diced – 30 cents 

3 tablespoons olive oil – 36 cents 

2 tablespoons cider vinegar – 10 cents 

Salt and pepper to taste 

Using a fine sieve, drain the burghal for at least half an hour. With clean hands, press any remaining water from the burghal. Place in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients, and mix well.

Total cost: $1.76

Per serve (serves 10): 17 cents 

Day 322, October 25 2016

Vegan White Bean Soup


We have had such a long Winter and a mild Spring (a Sprinter) that I have been cooking Wintery dishes all the way through October and into November. This thick, white bean soup is really a dish for cold nights by the fireplace, but we were eating it at the end of Spring (it freezes perfectly).

This soup is vegan, gluten free, and nut free. I served it drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, but you don’t have to – I just love the depth of flavour that adds to a soup or pasta dish, especially a bean dish.

Ingredients

2 onions, finely chopped – 20 cents 

2 carrots, peeled and chopped – 20 cents 

2 sticks celery, peeled and finely sliced – 30 cents 

500 grams Great Northern Beans, soaked and rinsed  – $3

4 tablespoons olive oil – 48 cents 

3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh rosemary – free

2 cloves garlic, chopped – 10 cents 

2 vegetarian stock cubes – 14 cents 

2 teaspoons salt – 2 cents 

8 cups water

In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions, celery and carrots. Cook on low for at least fifteen minutes, until the vegetables are soft, taking care not to burn. Add the garlic and rosemary. Stir and cook for another two minutes.

Tip in the beans, and stir well.

Pour over 2/3 of the water, and crumble in the stock cubes. Bring the water to the boil and then reduce the heat. Let simmer for two hours, checking the beans and the water levels occasionally, and stirring to ensure it is not sticking. 

Add more water as required. 

When the beans are cooked (test by mashing a bean with a fork – it will mash easily), remove from heat. Using a potato masher, roughly mash the soup. You want some to be chunky and some to be puréed. 

If you prefer a smoother texture, you can use a food processor or hand blender to purée all of it.

Check consistency, and thin slightly with some more water if desired. Return to the heat, and season with the salt. Reheat and serve drizzled with olive oil. 

Total cost: $4.44

Cost per person (serves 10): 44 cents 

Day 320, October 22 2016

Pumpkin and Red Lentil Dal

This was a dish I invented to a) feed our little vego b) use ingredients I already had and c) make use of produce from our garden.

Our garden is not one of those over-abundant veggie plots that sustains the whole family without the need for modern intervention. We still rely on ye olde supermarket and fruit and veg shop for most of our produce needs. But I do love gardening and I’m not happy unless I’m growing something. 

View of my rhubarb and herbs – the rhubarb has flowered, which is that long white flower.


Anyways, this week I had spring onions and kale to use up. Kale grows like a weed, and before you know it you can’t give that stuff away. I always say that anything I grow in my garden is ‘free’ in my list of ingredients, although technically, I have paid for the water to grow it and for my own labour. But that was a pleasure. 

There is a hilarious book about ‘saving’ money while growing your own vegetables; it’s called The $64 Tomato by Bill Alexander. Let’s just say that ‘free’ is probably a gross miscalculation on my part.

The dal turned out delicious. The basic recipe is vegan, although I like it with a dollop of sour cream or yoghurt on top. It’s also nut free and gluten free, and cheap as chips.

Ingredients

5 spring onions (1/2 bunch), roughly chopped – free

2 tablespoons rice bran oil – 12 cents

1 thumb-sized piece ginger, grated – 20 cents 

2 teaspoons ground cumin – 10 cents 

1/2 teaspoon turmeric – 2.5 cents 

1 teaspoon ground coriander – 5 cents 

1 teaspoon garam masala – 5 cents 

1 cup red lentils, washed twice in cold water and drained – 50 cents 

1 cup finely diced pumpkin – $1

3 small potatoes  – 80 cents 

200 grams green beans, cut into 2cm lengths – $1.50

Small bunch kale, washed and roughly chopped  – free

2 cups water

Salt to taste – at least one teaspoon – 1 cent

Heat the oil in a deep pot and add the onions and ginger. Cook on a very low heat, taking care not to burn (spring onions can burn very quickly). Add the spices and the potatoes and pumpkin, and stir well. Cook on a low heat for two minutes until the spices are fragrant. Stir in the lentils, and ensure they are well coated in the spices. Pour over the water, and cook on a low heat for abut  twenty minutes, stirring frequently to ensure it does not stick. 

Check the potatoes and the lentils – they should be almost cooked or cooked by this point.

Add the green beans and the kale, and stir well. You can add some more water if you need to.

Cook until the beans are tender and the kale has collapsed. Season well with salt to taste. 

Serve hot with rice. 

Total cost: $4.35

Per person (serves 8): 54 cents 

Alas – I forgot to take a photo of this, which is a shame because it was very pretty, with sunset and green colours. Oh well. 

Meal Plan Weeks 42-43 2016

These were the beginning of some challenging weeks for us on the home front.As such there are some frozen meals, leftovers, and repetition in our menus from this time up until now — but this is how these menu plans roll; it’s what we eat, messy lives and all.

Week 42, October 2228

Saturday: Bhoona gosht (beef curry), red lentil and pumpkin dal (vegetarian), rice

Sunday: Sticky chicken drumsticks, red lentil and pumpkin dal (vegetarian), rice

Monday: Chicken noodle soup with rolls, Vegan White Bean Soup with rolls

Tuesday: Burrito bowls (vego and non-vego)

Wednesday Worst Day: Burrito bowl reruns

Thursday: Vegetable Lasagne

Friday: Beef curry, dal, rice reruns (thank goodness for freezers)

Week 43, October 29November 4

Saturday: Homemade pizza (vego and non-vego)

Sunday: Roast chicken, tabouli, fuggets (faux chicken nuggets – vegetarian)

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

Tuesday: Vegetarian pasta bake

Wednesday Worst Day: BLTs/ELTs

Thursday: Curries from the freezer – Beef curry, red lentil and pumpkin dal, rice

Friday: Monthly takeaway night

Day 313, October 15 2016

Brown Rice Pilaf

I invented this little side dish to accompany tandoori chicken and to bulk up the vegetarian curry my youngest was having. It’s vegan, nut free and gluten free.

Of course, when it’s served on the side of tandoori chicken it’s not vegan…


Ingredients

2 cups long grain brown rice, soaked in cold water for two hours and rinsed twice (this removes some of the starch and helps to keep the rice grains separate. You can skip this step if you don’t have time, but it was a weekend so I did it.) – 54 cents 

3 tablespoons rice bran oil – 18 cents 

1 clove garlic – 5 cents 

1 teaspoon ginger paste – 5 cents 

2 large sticks celery, finely sliced – 50 cents 

1/4 cauliflower, finely chopped – 50 cents 

2 small carrots, peeled and finely diced – 20 cents 

2 small potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 cm dice – 50 cents 

3/4 cup frozen peas – 25 cents 

3/4 teaspoon turmeric – 2.5 cents 

2 teaspoons cumin seeds – 10 cents 

2 teaspoons salt – 2 cents 

4 cups vegetable stock – free

Drain rice really well.

Heat oil in a large, heavy-based stockpot. Sauté the onion, carrots, celery, and potatoes gently  for ten minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and stir well.

Sprinkle the cumin seeds over the vegetables and allow to cook until they crackle.

Add the rice, and mix well. Allow the rice to toast on the bottom slightly but do not allow to stick.

Sprinkle with the turmeric and stir.

Add the stock, stir and allow to come to the boil. As soon as it comes to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the stock has mostly reused. Stir in the peas and continue cooking.

When the stock has reduced and the rice is tender, season with salt to taste. 

Serve as a vegan dish on its own or as a side dish.

Total cost: $2.37

Per person (serves 8): 29 cents 

Week 40 Photo Essay

Some weeks I cook dinner every night but I don’t post the recipes because either I have posted a similar recipe, or because there is just not anything really that interesting about what I cooked that night.

Some nights my husband cooks, and he is certainly not about to write down a recipe or photograph his efforts (he spent years as a chef writing detailed recipes and let’s just say he is over it). Some nights, I forget to take photographs, and sometimes I take photographs and the meals just look terrible – a beef stew just doesn’t photograph brilliantly on an iPhone, and I am not a great photographer at the best of times. As I said when I started this blog, this ain’t Pinterest.

But I thought rather than posting recipes from week 40, some of which I don’t have (except for yesterday’s Un-satay Chicken Wings), I would post a short photo essay of that week’s dinners.

Sunday, Day 307: Roast Chicken and Veg

chicken-in-bacon

I decided to roast the chicken on a trivet of celery and onions, and wrapped the chicken in streaky bacon.

The good news: it smelled amazing while cooking.

The bad news: the bacon shrank while cooking (der), so I ended up crumbling it up and incorporating it into the gravy. It was delish.

NB: you don’t eat the celery and onion trivet, they are there to impart extra flavour to the chicken while cooking.

Monday, Day 308: Beef stew and mash with steamed asparagus

beef-stew-and-grren-beans

Every time we eat asparagus, my kids have to listen to me chant: ‘I cuss, you cuss, we all cuss for asparagus,’ a punchline from an old Far Side cartoon. It is my favourite asparagus-related joke.

As I am the one cooking, I get to make the jokes. As they are the ones eating, they have to hear them.

Tuesday, Day 309 – We went out to Sushi Train while our youngest was at camp.

Wednesday, Day 310: Green chicken curry

thai-green-chicken-curry

We rarely eat Thai food as it usually contains coconut and other nut-related products, but we received a sample of green curry paste in the mail and it did not contain anything we could not eat. I had a can of evaporated milk in the pantry, and wondered if I could make a Thai curry without coconut flavours – turns out, it is possible. I occasionally buy the coconut-flavoured evaporated milk that does not have coconut in it, but I actually don’t like it much and we preferred this plainer style curry.

Thursday, Day 311: Chicken noodle soup and bagels

chicken-noodle-soup-and-bagelsWho doesn’t love a bagel with cream cheese?

My husband made a real chicken noodle soup and a faux chicken noodle soup (using vegetarian chicken-style stock for our girl back home from camp) and we had a old-fashioned family style dinner together.

Friday, Day 312: Pasta Napoli

pasta napoli.pngMy kids will eat almost anything so long as it is hidden in pasta. Even our eldest, who ‘don’ like vegetarian food’ will happily scoff two bowls of vegetarian pasta so long as it has enough parmesan cheese on it.

Hehehe…the perfect crime.

So that’s it – a week of different but easy meals, some cooked by me, some cooked by my fella, most of which won’t be posted recipes because I have either posted them before or because y’all ready know how to make pasta with tomato sauce – and if you don’t, I am sure there are better recipes than mine out there on the interwebs.

Day 306, October 8 2016

Un-satay Chicken Wings

I may have mentioned we have a lot of allergies in our family: just in the immediate family we are allergic to tree nuts, peanuts, chickpeas, coconut, mango and sesame seeds. In our wider extended family (both sides) we have further allergies to tree nuts, peanuts, vinegar, gluten, eggs, dairy, latex, and probably some others I have forgotten to mention. It’s lucky we are all still around, quite frankly.

When we were at the Royal Adelaide Show a while ago, we discovered a product called  WOW Butter, a product made of roasted and ground soy beans made to taste pretty much like peanut butter. My kids were so excited, of course I had to buy some. Even if you aren’t allergic to peanuts, chances are your kids go to a nut-free school and this might be useful to you if your kids are missing peanut butter at school.

Anyway, my family has never eaten satay chicken, so I decided to invent some using WOW Butter. This does not really fall into the ‘cheap eats’ category, given WOW Butter costs $15 a jar, retail (*choke*) and I would not really recommend eating a lot of it as it is still pretty high in fat and salt. But the meat-eaters in the family got a kick out of it, and if you have a family like mine that swells up walking past the nut stand at the markets – it might be worth giving it a crack.

Ingredients

1 kg chicken wings, jointed

1/2 teaspoon each crushed ginger and garlic

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey

1/2 cup WOW Butter (roasted soy nut butter)

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons water

Combine everything except the chicken wings in a bowl and mix well until it forms a saucy consistency.

Place the wings into the bowl of a slow cooker.

Tip the sauce over the wings, and mix well.

Turn the slow cooker to ‘2’ and cook for five hours. Serve with rice or noodles, or oddly as we did, with potato wedges.

We use a gluten-free soy sauce (Fountain brand) so this was a GF and nut-free dish for all you fellow allergenic people out there.

As I said, this was not made to be a cheap dish so I am not posting the prices because the cost of the WOW Butter blows this out of the water. Ouchies.

Meal plans Weeks 40-41, October 8-21 2016

With our little vego at camp for one of these weeks, we took it easy on the vegetarian cooking front and also took the opportunity to take our eldest out to dinner at her favourite sushi place.

Week 40, October 8-14 2016

Saturday: Un-satay chicken wings, potato wedges, salad

Sunday: Roast chicken and veg

Monday: Beef stew and mash

Tuesday: Sushi train

Wednesday Worst Day: Thai chicken curry, rice, vegetables

Thursday: Chicken noodle soup and bagels

Friday: Pasta Napoli (vegetarian)

Week 41, October 15-21

Saturday: Tandoori chicken (non-vegetarian) and brown rice pilaf (vegetarian)

Sunday: Tandoori chicken (non-vegetarian) and brown rice pilaf (vegetarian)

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

Tuesday: Beef casserole, mash, steamed asparagus

Wednesday Worst Day: BLTs/ELTs

Thursday: Homemade pizza (vegetarian and non-vegetarian)

Friday: Green chicken curry and rice, with green beans and cauliflower