Mix it up!

If you’re a Granny like me, then you’ll probably remember the Kiwi food of the 50’s and 60’s. (If you don’t, you didn’t miss anything!)

Blah, Blah and more blah. (Don’t tell my Mum!) Sausages and Mashed potatoes, Boiled mutton with Parsley Sauce, Shepherd’s Pie with the left-over minced mutton (actually I really like Shepherd’s Pie, but like to give it a bit of pizazz!) Fish and Chip Friday, Corn on the Cob with bread and butter – not exactly an inspiring mix was it!

These days, with the InterWeb, and TV Travel Cooking shows, it’s easy to find recipes from all around the big wide world, and lots of these are very Cheapskate friendly. Many cultures eat a lot less meat than Kiwi’s tend to, and don’t appear to suffer from it! Since meat is often the most expensive part of the meal, having less of it is bound to help the budget.

I have two approaches to my shopping – in one approach I plan frenetically and make a list and stick to it. In another approach, I look for the specials, and then I find a recipe to suit. While the making the list thing is good, I think because I buy extra ingredients for the lovely recipes I’ve found, it can be slightly more expensive than finding the specials, and adapting recipes to what I have.

This week, I found a great special on Lamb Mince. I got 350 grams for $2.50! That’s because it was on it’s last legs. It had that sticker on it that says, “Use or freeze today!” So I throw it in the freezer, and make sure I use it the day I get it out.

So I then got on the web, and found an awesome recipe. I may be jumping the gun here, because I’ve asked the owner of the blog I got it from if I can share it, and haven’t heard back yet.

The recipe is, Hummus with Lamb, and Nagi suggests it as an appetizer, but we had it for dinner and it was great.

IMG_2569[1]

It also suggests eating it with Pita Bread. I hummed and haa’d over whether to buy Pita bread, because actually I find store-bought Pita bread tough, stale and expensive. So I didn’t. I set to and made my own. Pita Bread is really quick and easy to make, particularly if you have a Breadmaker, so it’s worth doing. I had enough for the dinner, and now have a stash of a half a dozen pieces in the freezer for future lunches and hummus dipping!

This is a link to the Pita Bread I made, but there are heaps of recipes out there.

Never, ever ever buy hummus. It’s so quick to make, and so much better! The Recipe Tin Eats Hummus with Lamb  recipe, does of course have the recipe for the hummus.

The recipe has spices in it, but is not particularly strongly spiced. However, if you’re concerned, you can halve the amount of spices.

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Coming to you FREE! from a stream near you…

It may be grey and stormy enough to have whipped the waves into galloping white horses, but in Auckland in January, it’s still hot and muggy enough to have the sweat dripping off you if you so much as look at a flight of stairs.

Still Salad weather then.

I found a gorgeous recipe for a Peach and Goats curd salad in my Xmas gifted Taste Magazine. It suggests rocket and watercress salad, with yellow and white peaches, parma ham, goats curd and pine nuts. I priced the watercress in the supermarket and it was $3.79 for a bag. Hmm I thought. I know where there’s a little stream…..

So I found proscuitto and goats cheese on special, picked three varieties of lettuce from my garden, along with chives, mint and lemon balm, and then went on the hunt for watercress. I usually have rocket in my garden, but haven’t planted it this year, so I thought my own salad leaves would be perfectly adequate for this, and I wasn’t wrong.

Watercress grows in shallow running water. It grows wild. I thought I knew a stream where there might be some, and sure enough there was! Neither of us had foraged for watercress before, but I’d taken a good look at what it looked like in the supermarket bag, and had a feeling I’d seen it growing before. We had a taste, and voila!

So, these ingredients don’t look exactly cheap do they! The secret is firstly buying on special. Secondly, don’t use it all, unless you’re feeding a lot of course. We just used half the packet of proscuitto, and half the goat’s cheese, so I can feel yet another salad dinner coming on. At the Bin Inn, you can buy tiny amounts of pine nuts. I think my two tablespoons was NZ$1.26 or something ridiculous like that. One tablespoon would actually have been enough. If fresh peaches aren’t in season or cheap for you, you could probably use a sale priced tin of peaches in juice. So by being smart, you can make a meal that would probably cost you NZ$35.00 each in a restaurant and be happy that it cost you NZ$5.00 each.

Here’s the recipe if you’d like to give it a go.

Peach and Goat's Curd Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tsp Dijon Mustard

1 tsp honey

2 bunches rocket (or other salad and herb leaves)

1 cup watercress sprigs

1 white peach, pitted and cut into wedges

1 yellow peach, pitted and cut into wedges (I couldn’t find one, so I used a nectarine. It was perfectly fine for the task.)

8 slices Parma ham (or proscuitto) coarsely torn

2 Tbsp toasted pine nuts (buy raw and toast yourself – watch every second as they burn in a flash!)

100g goat’s curd (or goat’s cheese)

Method

  1. Combine oil, vinegar, mustard and honey in a screw-top jar and shake until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Arrange salad leaves, watercress, peaches and Parma Ham on a platter. Drizzle with dressing, sprinkle with pine nuts and dollop with curd.

Enjoy!!

 

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.

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!

Lovely Largesse! Salmon Pasta and Butter Bean Hummus

Some weeks are awesome! This week has been one of those. We have had a lovely week with three different lots of visitors, and an afternoon out with some colleagues.  It was so heart-warming to see them and spend time catching up. It was an added delight when I looked in my fridge, and found, not only left-overs, but some very tasty treats left behind for us.

I enjoyed cooking for my friends, and it was a good challenge to provide healthy, nutritious food, without breaking the budget, and I’m very glad to have done that. Clam Chowder with cockles picked from our bay, Fish Pie, and my Go-to dessert made with apple and blackberry, was one dinner, and a dinner of meatloaf and potatoes cooked in the Crock-pot meant that I could be out showing my Australian friends around, without having to worry about getting dinner cooked when we got back late.

So, using the largesse gifted to us, tonight I made Salmon Pasta.

This is the recipe I based it on, but of course below it is adjusted for what I had available! Salmon Pasta Recipe

Salmon Pasta

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients

250gm pasta (on special 50c) Reserve some pasta water to add to the sauce instead of wine, or in addition, if the pasta seems dry.

Salt

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves of minced garlic

1 onion (optional – I didn’t have one)

1/3 cup white wine (half a bottle left brought by a friend, Thank you!)

1 tbsp lemon juice (a lovely bag of lemons gifted by one of my colleagues, Thank you Helen! )

2 tbsp lemon zest divided into 2 piles.

2 tbsp chopped fresh chives (from my garden)

400 gms smoked salmon chopped into bite sized pieces (left in my fridge, Thank you, Phil!)

Fresh ground black pepper.

(Optional: You can add cream or evaporated milk if you want a creamy pasta. I didn’t, and it was fine.)

Method:

  1. Boil a large pot of water, add 1 tsp salt, and then add 250 gms of your pasta of choice. 6 minutes for al dente, but read your own packet!
  2. In a frying pan heat olive oil, (moderate heat) add minced garlic and an onion if you’re using one. Cook for two minutes, and then add wine, lemon juice, first tbsp of lemon zest. Reduce the sauce by half.
  3. Drain the pasta (reserving 1 cup of liquid). Add the sauce to the pot, and add in chives, lemon zest,
  4. Season with ground black pepper.

Because I hadn’t had to buy the salmon, I bought some extortionately priced vine tomatoes, and chopped them up with mint, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Perfect.

Prep for Salmon Pasta
Prep for Salmon Pasta

002

We also had a Memorial Concert we were performing in, and needed to take a plate of finger food. Phil had left a packet of crackers, and I had a tin of butter beans so I whipped up a Butter Bean Hummus recipe to take with us. Butter bean dip is much smoother than hummus made with chickpeas.

Butter Bean Hummus

Ingredients:

1 450g tin butter beans (drained) $1.00

3 tbsp tahini paste

1 clove garlic, minced

s & p to taste

1 tbsp lemon zest,

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp chopped Herbs of your choice – I used Lemon Balm which made it extra lemony, but parsley would be good too.

Method:

Chuck in the blender and blitz until smooth!

And I still have lots of lemons AND a piece of smoked marlin in the freezer to decide what to do with!  (Thanks Robyn!)

Go-to dessert…

Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp is my go-to dessert. It’s cheap, it’s quick and easy to make, you can switch out the fruit for seasonal fruit, and it’s hugely popular. Apple mixed with other fruit is also good – feijoa and apple or blackberry and apple are great, pears, plums, tamarillos, tinned peaches or tinned anything I guess! If it’s already sweetened in the can, you won’t need to add any extra sugar.

Apple Crisp

  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

4 cups of sliced apple

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup Self Raising Flour

1/2 cup Sugar

1 egg

75 grams butter

Method:

Heat oven to 160C

Slice the apples into a pie dish. Sprinkle with the brown sugar.

In a bowl mix the flour and sugar. Add the egg and mix with a fork. This makes quite a lumpy mixture.

Pour this over the top of the apples.

Melt the butter, and pour over the top of the pudding.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

It’s nice with ice-cream, but it’s fine with just a trickle of milk to cool down the hot apple. Left-overs seem to disappear without even the benefit of being heated so it must be nice cold!

Apple Crisp
Here is the Apple Crisp cooked and eaten!
Apple Crisp before cooking
Ready to go into the oven.

Changing Recipes

I used to think that you should follow a recipe religiously to get the flavours the chef intended. Now that I’m living the Cheapskate way, that’s changed, and it’s a matter of trying to honour the intended flavours, but doing it the way I can without forking out for it.

Tonight, I used a recipe of Nadia Lim’s, and changed a few things, but it was still delish. The only reason there was any left over was because there was just too much for the two of us!

You can find Nadia’s recipes on her My Foodbag page. She packages up the ingredients for 5 days of dinners, and delivers with the recipe. This one was published in The Herald newspaper. This recipe has my alterations in it! The volumes are different too, because I made it just for the two of us. Her recipe is quite a lot spicier than mine, so if you like spices double what I’ve put in, and then use the same mix and squash onto the halloumi before you cook it.

 Halloumi with Spiced Warm Roast Vegetable and Egg Salad (Cara’s Version)

Halloumi and Spiced Roast Vegetable Salad
Ready to Serve

Halloumi and Spiced Roast Vege Salad
Close up

Ingredients

200g Halloumi (only buy on sale) ( I really want to try making it, and will do when I find a source for unpasturised milk.)

1 golden kumara, cut into wedges

2 beetroot (free – given to my husband Gavin Asher when he was busking at the Howick Market last week.)

1 onion (red or whatever – I just used a regular one I had in the cupboard.)

1 tsp each of cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and celery seeds. (I altered to celery seeds because the recipe called for mustard seeds and I didn’t have any.)

1 tbsp oil

1/2 doz vine ripened small tomatoes (or cherry)

A few red chard leaves (free from garden – you can use baby spinach, or silverbeet)

2 or 3 eggs (I did 3 because I have a hungry husband, but 2 would have been enough.)

Mint leaves (free from garden)

Flat-leafed parsley (free from garden)

Lemon balm (free from garden)

Method

Heat oven to 220C

Toss chopped kumara, beetroot, and onion with oil and seeds, in roasting pan.

Roast for 20 minutes, then add tomatoes and cook for 6 minutes longer.

Fry Halloumi in olive oil or butter (I prefer butter, but I know oo is more traditional for Halloumi.)

Hardboil or softboil eggs according to preference. Cut lengthways.

Chop chard leaves, and put in sieve – pour the egg water over to wilt them – you don’t have to do this, but I find my chard leaves are quite hard raw and prefer them softened just a bit. Mix in with the roast veges. Serve with halloumi and eggs.

Dressing – I added chopped mint to a dressing I’d used the day before which had oo and cider vinegar. Nadia’s recipe uses yoghurt, so if you prefer a creamier dressing you could do that. I do make my own yoghurt but just didn’t happen to have any at present, and did have my other dressing to use up. However, you can just use whatever dressing you prefer. The mint flavouring was very good with the salad though.

Cheap Box of Fruit and Veg

Yesterday at my local fruit and vege store, where I was buying a couple of things for our next days meal, I spotted quite a big box of fruit and veges which were on sale for NZ$1.99.

Once I got it open, I found a bunch of bananas, all with black bits, but I’m lucky, my husband likes over-ripe bananas, and doesn’t mind cutting out a couple of black bits. The last lot I bought cost $6.99 and lasted about two days, so even with just the bananas it’s a good win! The apples I immediately turned into apple sauce to go with the (on special) pork chops I had bought at the supermarket.

Apple Sauce Recipe

Slice apples into a pot. Put in a slosh of water to cover the bottom. Simmer on a low heat until they’re soft. 

Add in a couple of walnut sized blobs of butter, a slosh of lemon juice, mash together. Done. 

I like my apple sauce to be quite thick, and not over-mashed. I like it on toast for breakfast as well as with my pork. 

There was also a rotten strawberry and kiwifruit which I’m afraid went straight into the bin for my worm farm. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do with them. I wonder about juicing but I think it was too late for them.

There were a couple of Chinese Aubergines which I chopped the bad bits out of and sauteed with a couple of potatoes which also had bad bits. There were quite a lot of potatoes of the red-skinned variety, but I discovered they were totally green inside so inedible. They’ve gone into the compost heap, where perhaps they will grow and produce potatoes for Xmas – we’ll see!  There were four other potatoes which don’t look to have anything wrong with them at all.

There was also a pear which was mostly edible, and a half-dozen oranges which look totally edible. If you see a box like this at your fruit and vege market, don’t hesitate to snap it up! You may have to use it quickly, but it’s a good save!

I feel for NZ$1.99 that I did pretty well!

Box of Fruit and Veges
The box with potential!
Price Label $1.99
Cheap as!