Day 327, October 30 2016


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.


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.


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.


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…


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


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


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


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.


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


Day 295-296, September 28-29 2016


Storm front

The storm front that hit our State on this day was unprecedented. It knocked out the entire power grid and left the whole State without electricity.

Fortunately for us, on this day I was working from home and had lit the fire. I had used my lunchbreak to make a pot of soup, and was able to transfer this to the fireplace when the blackout hit, ensuring we all had food for the evening. Our friends, who live in the neighbouring suburb, were able to come over and share the heat from our fireplace, and we had enough food for everyone. While the soup was not vegetarian, we did have sandwich fixings (not very interesting fixings, I’ll admit).

Our power returned three hours later, but our friends’ power remained off for almost three days, so the next day I made a stew and baked potatoes enough to share.

I don’t have photos, because we were saving our battery power for important things, like emergency calls.

This soup can easily be made vegetarian – just omit the bacon and use vegetable stock. It is also gluten-free, as I use a gluten-free bacon.

This soup would have been improved by the addition of some fresh thyme or rosemary, but there was no way I was stepping outside to pick some.

Blackout Soup

2 onions, finely chopped – 20 cents

2 stalks celery, finely sliced – 50 cents

2 carrots, peeled and finely sliced – 20 cents

2 sweet potatoes, peeled, quartered and sliced – $1

100 grams bacon, chopped – $1

1 cup red lentils, washed and soaked – $1

8 cups chicken stock – free

1 teaspoon salt – 1 cent

2 tablespoons olive oil – 24 cents

Heat the olive oil in a deep, heavy-based pot (fortuitously on this day, I used my Le Creuset cast-iron pot, which meant it was easy to transfer it to my fireplace).

Sweat the vegetables in the pot on a low heat until soft. This will take about ten minutes.

Add the bacon and cook for a further five minutes.

Add the lentils, and stir well.

Pour over 3/4 of the chicken stock, reserving the remaining two cups. You will need to add them as the soup thickens and reduces. Stir well and reduce heat to a low simmer. Allow to slowly cook for the remainder of a wintry afternoon, adding the reserved stock as required to loosen the soup.

When it comes time to serve, mash with a potato masher, leaving some of the vegetables ‘lumpy’ and some pureed by the masher. Add the salt and any remaining stock to loosen the soup, and serve with bread by candlelight with good friends.

Total cost: $4.15

Per person (serves 8 or six with extra helpings): 51 cents

Stormy Stew

1 kg porterhouse steak, trimmed of fat and diced – $10

1 onion, finely diced – 10 cents

1 cup chopped mushrooms – $1

1 cup chopped artichoke hearts in oil or brine – $2

1 clove garlic, minced – 5 cents

4 tablespoons olive oil – 48 cents

1/3 cup tomato paste – 50 cents

2 cups vegetable stock – free

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley – free

1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed – $1

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C.

Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a deep, heavy-based ovenproof pot. In batches, seal the beef in the pan, taking care not to crowd the pan (otherwise the meat will stew and not seal). As each batch of meat browns, remove to a plate lined with paper towel.

When all the meat is browned, set aside.

Turn down the heat.

Put the rest of the olive oil in the pan, and add the onion. Cook until golden, and then add the garlic and mushrooms and stir well. Put the meat back into the pan, and stir in the parsley and the tomato paste, coating the meat with the tomato paste. Add the artichokes, and stir well.

Pour in the stock and the beans and mix.

Place the pot in the oven and cook for 2-3 hours.

At the 1.5 hour mark, place a tray of scrubbed potatoes into the oven, ensuring you have extra potatoes for vegetarians.

Ensure you check the stew often to ensure it is not drying out. Add some water to the stew if required, and stir well.

At three hours, remove the pot from the oven, and allow the potatoes to continue cooking. Season the stew with salt and pepper and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Serve with steamed broccoli, butter, sour cream and cheese for the potatoes, and bread and butter.

Total cost: $15.13

Per person (serves 8): $1.89

Stir It Up Saturday: Christmas Big Day of Baking

Christmas baking is my favourite kind of baking. I start planning for it several months in advance, by adding an extra bag of dried fruit to my shopping trolley each week. I buy almost any kind: sultanas, glacé cherries, currants, Ye olde mixed dried fruit, dried apricots, pitted dates. Any and all of these things can and will be used when I start Christmas baking season. 

I love the traditional English Christmas flavours of dried fruit, brandy, mixed spice, and brown sugar. I make my own because we are allergic to nuts, and it is tricky finding a good fruit cake without almonds. Plus, funsies.

I always make Christmas fruit cakes. Then I decide if I am going to do mince pies, or some other Christmassy fruity thing. This year I decided to tackle traditional Christmas puddings, which are something I have never made before. These were surprisingly easy; if I had known they were that easy I would have been making them for years.

For the past couple of years I have also been making gluten free Christmas cakes as gifts for family members who are coeliac. This year I decided to also make gluten free puddings. These were just as simple as regular puddings.

I bake large cakes in traditional cake tins, and then I also use recycled large stainless steel fruit cans to make smaller cakes as gifts. I can’t recall where I picked up this idea; I have been doing it for years and the small cakes are the perfect size for gifts. I store them wrapped in foil in our cellar for a month before Christmas, and then depending on how much time I have, I either ice them with white ready-to-roll icing, or just tie them with ribbon and wrap them in cellophane and give them.

This recipe is nut-free, gluten-free, and vegetarian. Not vegan due to the copious butter and eggs of course. We use brandy or sherry because these are gluten-free. Some spirits such as bourbon may contain gluten. If you wanted to avoid the alcohol altogether, you could, by soaking the fruit in a couple of tablespoons of orange juice instead. We don’t actually drink alcohol, but I prefer the flavour of the brandy in the cake so I still use it. Most of it cooks out.

Gluten-free Nut-free Christmas Cake

Start the cake one week before you plan to cook it, and ideally one month before Christmas.

200 grams currants

400 grams mixed dried fruit

400 grams sultanas

1 cup brandy or sherry

Mix the fruit together. Pour over the brandy and stir. Cover tightly with cling wrap and place in a cool place for one week.

Fruit soaking in brandy

200 grams unsalted butter

200 grams brown sugar

2 tablespoons treacle or golden syrup

1 tablespoon marmalade or apricot jam

4 eggs at room temperature 

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

225 grams plain gluten free flour – I used ‘Well & Good’ brand because it has no chickpea flour (we have a chickpea allergy)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon each mixed spice and cinnamon

Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the treacle or golden syrup and marmalade or apricot jam, and mix well. Add the vanilla, and begin adding the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. After each egg is added, add a small amount of flour and beat well. Continue until all the eggs are added. 

Mix in the flour and spices and salt.

Fold in the fruit, scraping the bowl well to make sure you have all the brandy and fruit syrup. 

Make sure the fruit and cake batter is properly mixed.

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C (130 degrees fan-forced).

Grease and line a 20 cm round cake tin or up to four 825 gram empty steel fruit cans (washed with the labels removed).

If using one large pan, place cake mixture in the tin, spreading so the batter sits evenly. If using the cans, divide batter evenly among the cans.

Wrap the outside of each cake tin with a double thickness of baking paper or brown paper, and secure with a metal paper clip or cooking twine. 

Bake for 2.5-3 hours, or until a skewer comes out clean. 

Cool on a rack in the tin overnight. The next morning, turn out wrap in a double thickness of foil. Store in a cool place. Once a week, pour a couple of tablespoons of brandy over each cake.

Gluten-free fruit cakes

Next post: puddings!