Not exactly cheap……Whitebait Fritters

Once a year, I allow myself a special treat. No, it’s not Chocolate! It’s WHITEBAIT!

Now there is no way, that Whitebait, even in NZ, counts as cheap – unless you catch it yourself that is!

I remember in my childhood, standing in the icy running water in the mouth of the Waikanae River, right beside where my grandparents were living at No 1 Field Way, with a Whitebait net and a bucket.

How exciting when you lifted the net and tipped all the little wrigglers into the bucket. It was normal  to go home with half a big metal bucket full of whitebait. I know we had fritters packed with whitebait, which is why it’s always been disappointing if I’ve ever ordered Whitebait fritters when out, to find a big lump of dough with a couple of whitebait somewhere in there!

However, there’s got to be a balance doesn’t there? If you’re constantly eating on the cheap, it can become a bit of a grind. You start to feel a bit blue and fed-up – so guess what happens then?

You have a blow out. You end up spending more than you really ever wanted to, on things that you don’t really need, and all because you’re feeling deprived.

So, every so often, if I’ve been tight enough with the rest of the budget, I allow us a treat! Having the odd treat stops you feeling so deprived, and so you’re less likely to go on a binge shop!

Whitebait is so expensive, it’s a once a year treat. Scallops might also be allowed once a year. While they’re not exactly cheap, if you compare it to the price of going out for dinner, you come out way on top. That’s how I justify it to myself! And I do have to be extra stingy for the rest of the week, so that it can happen.

Anyway, there’s not much to cooking whitebait. Usually an egg, a tiny bit of flour, mix and cook on a non-stick surface.

This year, however I tried a recipe which separated the egg, and only used the white, which you beat until stiff. I actually really liked these fritters, because the whitebait have such a delicate flavour, that an eggy taste can dominate it. However, without the yolk, that flavour comes through much more strongly, so that you get much more of the whitebait taste.

I used Annabel Langbeins recipe. 

Mine looked slightly different to hers. Maybe she could afford more whitebait! I had 100g of the little wrigglers. And NO, you are not allowed to cut their heads off!

Whitebait Fritters

  • Servings: 2
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  • 2 egg whites, beaten to soft peaks
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 heaped tsp flour
  • 1 cup fresh whitebait
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil and 1 tbsp butter to cook

Whisk egg whites to form peaks.  Add salt, flour and whitebait and gently fold to combine evenly.
Heat the oil and butter and cook heaped dessert spoonfuls of the mixture over medium heat until golden and puffy, adding extra oil and butter to pan between batches as needed.

Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

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Kumara and Corn Fritters

These are my favourite fritters.

The recipe comes from the Food in a Minute website. I made the mistake of not measuring the kumara (sweet potato) and put in far too much. This made the fritters very tender. They still tasted great though, but hard to turn and lift.  I also probably overdid the chives. Don’t buy chives by the way. They grow like mad. Don’t even buy the original plant – ask someone who has some in the garden, if they’ve got some they can give you.  Mine grow almost wild and I keep replanting odd bits that pop up all over the place because I use them a lot in Cheese and Chive Muffins.

Kumara and Corn Fritters

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients

  • 410g can Cream Style Corn
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs (thyme or chives are great here)
  • ½ cup self raising flour
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ½ cup roughly mashed cooked cold kumara
  • 1 egg, separated
  • butter or oil for pan frying

Method

  1. In a bowl mix together the  Cream Style Corn , ginger, herbs, self raising flour, milk, mashed kumara and egg yolk.
  2. In a clean bowl beat the egg white until stiff. Fold the egg white and kumara into the mixture.
  3. Heat a little butter or oil in a non-stick frying pan (the butter helps to crispen the outside) and cook large spoonfuls over a low to moderate heat for about 3 minutes each side.Serve with crispy grilled rashers of bacon, grilled tomatoes and a drizzle of golden syrup.

Bean there, done that!

You know how you get home late after a rehearsal (or sports training or….) and you’re tired and hungry and really don’t feel much like cooking dinner, but you want something that’s easy and nutritious and filling.

This is that recipe! You serve it in ramekins, with a bean mixture in the base, topped with an egg, which you then bake in the oven to finish off.

Big Beans

  • Servings: 2
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Ingredients

1 450g tin butter beans, drained and rinsed

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 slices middle bacon, chopped,  (or 1 very thickly sliced piece cut into lardons – cut off bits sold cheaply are good for this)

1 cup stock – your flavour choice

3 eggs – or the number of baked eggs you would like.

Method

Heat oven to 160 degrees C

Using a non-stick medium sized pot, brown the bacon. Add the celery and cook for a few minutes. Stir in the butter beans, and the cup of stock. Simmer for a few minutes until the beans are hot.

Put the mixture into a pie dish or separate ramekins. We have a big one for my big-eating husband, and a smaller one for myself. Using the back of a spoon, push a dent into the bean mixture and break an egg into the dent.

Bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. I prefer my eggs runny inside, but the white cooked, so it’s a bit of a fine line when you take it out, but that’s up to you!

Enjoy!

Ports of Auckland Tour

It’s worth while checking up on what your local Councils and their various arms have to offer.

We went on a cruise of the Waitemata Harbour yesterday – for free thanks to the Ports of Auckland which is owned by the City Council. They run a regular guided tour showing you the port from the sea, and informing you about upcoming projects, and giving you lots of info about the history of the Port as well.

You do need to book, so have a look at the website. There are still three tours available for this year. You do have to book ahead. I booked for this October tour in July. There were some peripheral expenses in terms of public transport to get there, and cups of coffee and snacks, but for what it was, it was yea cheap.

Photos!

Happy People Don’t Compare

Happy People Don’t Compare.

This is the title of a great column in the BITE section of the NZ Herald this morning. It was written by Life Coach, Louise Thompson . I’m a bit of a critical thinker, and I often DON’T agree with everything a columnist writes, but on this occasion I am 100% with Louise, as I think this relates very closely to the Cheapskates theme!

Being a Cheapskate, is, after all, a mind game. I’ve been finding I’m quite enjoying finding ways to be cheap, and if I find something particularly cheap, or have a particularly happy time “on the cheap”, it gives me a buzz!

Charles Dickens, in his book “David Copperfield” famously says,

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

It’s not about how much you’ve got, it’s about not spending money we haven’t got.

Having less than others, or less than you used to have, isn’t the issue, it’s having enough for what you need that matters.

Many of us on benefits, do not have enough for what we need. I’m seeing that, even if you’re as Cheapskate as you can possibly be, that you get one big bill for something unexpected,  that it totally screws up your budget. I don’t have an answer to that, except for paying things off a little at a time.  At the moment, my answer lies in selling things, but I guess there will come a point when you don’t have stuff left to sell.

However stressful that can be, I don’t think we should let it stop us being happy.

Write a list of the things that make you happiest.

First on my list, and I bet on most people’s lists, is your family/significant other/friends.

Spending time with the people we care about is absolutely the most feelgood thing.  I know the ones we love aren’t always near, but we can spend time with them on Skype. Even if you can’t afford the internet, you can always go to the library and write (and read) messages from your free web mail account. Make sure you choose things to do with your nearest and dearest that aren’t expensive. Share food, rather than eating out. Play silly games. Make music. Talk. I guarantee you’ll come away feeling richer for the experience, and with a deep sense of satisfaction.

Second on my list, is my spiritual well-being. 

Whatever your spiritual beliefs, spend time working on them. Whatever belief system you have, get more involved with it. Become a greater part of your spiritual community. Your spiritual well-being is not affected by a lack of money.  If you have a demanding group that is wanting a lot of your money, I suggest you change the group, because spiritual well-being is not finance dependent. You’ll find that your whole life is enhanced by living more in the spirit, and developing relationships with other people who share your belief system.

Third on my list, is my physical well-being.

Physical activity makes you feel good. There is no arguing this. It makes you feel good emotionally, it makes you feel good physically. It gets you out of the house and into the community. You meet other people doing the same things. You don’t have to spend money on it. Try a Green Prescription from the doctor – this gives you access to activities at a reduced price, and there may be low-priced exercise classes where you can meet others in the same boat.

Fourth on my list, is being close to nature. 

In Auckland, it is very easy to get close to nature. We are blessed with easy access to beaches and the bush. If you don’t have those nearby, there are always parks. Gardening is an activity many find a great deal of pleasure in. I’m not really one of those, but even I have a vegetable garden as that helps the food budget so much! Even if you don’t have a garden to plant things in, you can grow things in pots, or seek a community garden near you. Community gardens are great places for getting to know people who live in your area. Having your hands in the dirt is very grounding. Wear bare feet on the grass and the beach to ground you.

Fifth on my list, is eating! 

In fact, primitive beings that we are, eating is the one of the biggest priorities we have! Keeping the engine fuelled with healthy food to keep us going, is absolutely crucial. I’m finding as a Cheapskate, that this takes more time and energy to research and plan ways to keep the costs down than I really want to spend. However, being a foodie is an interest of many, which is I guess why TV programmes such as Masterchef and MKR have been so successful. Enjoy finding new dishes that are economical and tasty.

So, in Summary – don’t compare. Seek out the things that make your heart sing, and focus on those. Don’t waste time envying those who have more – money doesn’t buy happiness. Seek your happiness in small things around you. I guarantee those small things will lead to big happiness.

Holidays with Kids – 4 Top Tips

Yes, it’s School Holiday time! It’s lovely having the kids freed from all the routine and restrictions of school, and after-school activities, but what do you do with them?

Having a tight budget doesn’t mean there are restrictions on having fun! Once you explain to children that there is lots of fun to be had for free, then they are right on board with it. We then consider all the options, and they get to choose. That way there is no moaning from anyone!

TOP TIP 1: GET THE KIDS ON BOARD – if they’re brainstorming, and choosing, then they’re invested and you’re not dragging them anywhere they don’t want to go. If you can’t get agreement, take the top ones and draw them out of a hat. Do them all, just in a random order. 

Kids want to play. As the old Playcentre mantra went, Play is Children’s Work. They love to play. They also love to have adults play with them. There is no need to sit at home with the faces in the screen grumping at each other, as there are lots of places you can take children to, for FREE.

TOP TIP 2: INVESTIGATE LOCAL MUSEUMS AND ART GALLERIES- the Council pays people to do stuff with your kids FOR FREE. You can repeat each holiday because they come up with different ideas. 

If you are in a city, then the City Councils provide a lots of free activities. Start out by looking at Museums and Art Galleries. The thing is not to try to do too much in one hit. We had a trip to the Museum with a view to doing two things – one was listen to a Story Teller, and the other was to visit a Minecraft/Gallipoli display. The storyteller was fun, and then we headed for the Minecraft/Gallipoli exhibition. The kids loved this! They got to use virtual technology to explore the Minecraft world, and enjoyed looking at the related exhibits. We then cruised through a couple of other galleries to see the Zero and Spitfire. We then headed outside into the sunshine, and had our picnic on the grass nearby. The children were delighted to have a runaround, but were then keen to get back inside. They had heard there was another show on for children, and were keen to see that, and do an activity of drawing a picture on a flag to make bunting related to their own street. So we sat and drew, and were able to watch the show which was fun and historical while they did that. Then back for another look at the Minecraft exhibition.

They even had dress-ups, and a reading chair, as well as drawing and design activities. The kids wanted to go back the next day as well, because they heard there was going to be a pirate there!

TOP TIP 3: GO TO THE BEACH: Even if the weather’s not wonderful, go to the beach. In fact, the sea in bad weather can be quite exciting. I don’t mean be dangerous! Put on coats and get out there in the weather! 

Kids and beaches are made for each other aren’t they? Just don’t expect them to play for hours without getting involved! If you get involved and play hide-and-seek, or building sand-castles, or chasing, or walking or…….they will be happy for hours.

TOP TIP 4: GO PREPARED WITH YOUR OWN FOOD – A picnic is way more fun than sitting round in cafe’s waiting to be served, or waiting in line. 

Spitfire
Looking at the Spitfire from above.
Virtual Headset
Using Virtual Technology to explore the Minecraft/Gallopoli world

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Fast Food Cheaper? Update

I was delighted to read Nikki Bezzants column in the Herald on Sunday this morning, where she too debunked the idea that Fast Food is cheaper than home cooked food. I think it also showed that the newspaper had picked out a statement which actually didn’t mean that people thought it was more affordable to use as their headline. She at least had the full data which we didn’t get in the article, and was able to put this in perspective.

She also focussed on the health aspects which are important. Thanks Niki!

nikibezzant.com

@nikibezzant

Food writer, healthy cook, editor-in-chief of Healthy Food Guide magazine, columnist NZ Herald

Niki Bezzant Niki Bezzant