It’s easy to get out of habits. One I’ve just remembered to revive is the sprouts and microgreen habit.
At this time of year (summer in NZ) they grow really fast.
These photos both of the sprouts and microgreens are 3 days after planting. 3 days! That’s just amazing.
There are bean sprouts, alfalfa and radish sprouts. For the microgreens the greener one on the right is rocket (otherwise known as arugula), and a mix called “Vitablend”.
The microgreens will take a few more days to be ready to eat, but once they are, I’ll be able to cut them, and they will grow again to be cut some more.
Both are absolutely full of goodness, and hugely cheaper than buying packet sprouts or baby salad leaves. As well as being way cheaper, they taste heaps better too, and because they’ll be freshly harvested, will have more vitamins too.
I do have a sprouter I invested in some years ago, which has well and truly paid for itself now. This has a 5 tier system, with a layer to put the water in, and a layer to catch the water in at the bottom too. However, you don’t have to fork out for a sprouter, you can just use jars with a muslin or breathable fabric cover.
For detailed instructions on growing sprouts look here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
In a bowl mix together the Cream Style Corn , ginger, herbs, self raising flour, milk, mashed kumara and egg yolk.
In a clean bowl beat the egg white until stiff. Fold the egg white and kumara into the mixture.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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
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.
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.)
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!
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.
Drain the pasta (reserving 1 cup of liquid). Add the sauce to the pot, and add in chives, lemon zest,
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.
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.
I had a look at the packaged Pastry price and was shocked to see a packet of frozen sheets was over NZ$6.00. Wow.
I have a recipe that I use a lot, and it’s quicker to make than it is to thaw out the frozen sheets, and costs a fraction of the price.
I used it tonight to make a Potato, Cheese and Thyme pie and it was delicious. The original recipe is on bite.co.nz but this one here is with my adaptations to make it more economical. We ate one of the pies, (me 1/4, him the rest!) so we have another one left for lunch tomorrow. Cost – tiny- pastry – about NZ$2.00. Filling – potatoes 50c, cheese 79c, thyme – free, evaporated milk – 70c. Total – NZ $3.99 for 2 meals $2.00 for 1! Then the veges…Can’t do much better than that can you!