Asian Spiced Meatballs

These little darlings are something you can mix up in bulk and freeze in advance.

They take a tiny bit of time, and can be a little icky to prepare (especially if you don’t like handling raw meat), but are totally worth it.

These meatballs can be made as large or as small as you like and you may use any ground meat you happen to have,.

I developed this with chicken mince – mostly because I am not a fan of chicken.

Sue me.

This recipe can be doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled if you want. You might even want to enslave, exploit, encourage your children to help roll them once they’re mixed.

So, here we go. Pay attention and don’t blink or you’ll miss something…

Dump your minced/ground meat into a suitable bowl. Then add a good spoonful each of minced garlic and crushed ginger. I always have little jars of those two things in my refrigerator.

However, you can use fresh if you prefer.

Add some aromatics to your meat.

Add some aromatics to your meat.

Mix through thoroughly. You may want to use a fork for this to help you break up the meat properly and distribute the flavourings more evenly.

Then add a good shaking of whatever spices you think you’d like. My standards are ground cumin, ground coriander and a few chilli flakes – you may like to use a garam masala, or add ground ginger as well; finely chopped parsley or coriander/cilantro also make good additions.

Go for it. Use what you know you like.

Spice it up.

Spice it up.

Mix that through. You don’t need to be gentle, in fact being a little on the rough side will help to develop the proteins in the meat and make it all stick together better.

You can skip this next step if you wish, but you might like to add a generous glug of an Asian-style sauce.

Get saucy.

Get saucy.

As you can see, I used hoi sin for this batch. You could use teriyaki, soy sauce, kecap manis, oyster sauce or even sweet chilli sauce if you want. Or none at all – it’s not necessary but it does show what can be done.

Mix through with the fork again, and then give it a good stir with a spoon or spatula. You’ll notice it all start coming together nicely.

Now, with wet hands, create mandarin-sized balls of meat – wet your hands between meat balls and it will go easier. The wetness helps stop the meat from sticking.

Have a ball.

Have a ball.

You may wish to wear disposable gloves. You may even find it easier to use a large ice cream scoop to measure them out onto a plate all at once and to just finish them off in your hands.

Do what you feel comfortable with.

You can freeze them at this point, if you wish.

If you want to eat them now, then gently heat a pan or griddle that has been lightly brushed or sprayed with oil.

Oil up.

Oil up.

Then add your meat balls, pressing down lightly to flatten them slightly. Set a timer for 4 mins and then LEAVE THEM ALONE. Just let them cook while you do other things, like set the table or something.

At the four minute mark, turn them over. They should lift easily. If they stick, let them sit a minute or so more and try again. Set your timer for another 4 minutes.

Flip.

Flip.

When the timer goes off for the second time they’re ready to serve.

I like to serve with steamed rice and veggies. In this instance, I’ve tinted the rice with a touch of turmeric in the water.

Make a meal out of it.

Make a meal out of it.

They are also quite nice served as a burger.

Enjoy.

Asian-spiced meatballs

  • Servings: 4-6 balls
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

250 g ground meat (minced beef, pork or chicken)

1 tsp minced garlic (from a jar)

1 tsp crushed ginger (from a jar)

½ tsp ground coriander

½ tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp chilli flakes

(or any other spices you’d like to add)

1-2 tbsps thick Asian flavoured sauce, optional.(kecap manis, sweet chilli sauce, Hoi Sin sauce, Teriyaki sauce, etc)

Method

Place meat into a medium bowl. Add garlic and ginger and mix in well with a fork.

Add spices, and mix well.

Add sauce if wished and mix well.

Mix until the meat starts to stick together and form a large ball.

With wet hands, form into four meatballs (for this amount of meat.) If you prefer, use a large ice cream scoop to measure out and finish forming them in hands using disposable gloves.

(you can’t get around touching the meat in some way. Sorry.)

Heat a frying pan or griddle over medium heat and oil lightly. An oil spray would be ideal.

When the pan is hot, add the meatballs – pressing lightly to flatten slightly. Do not crowd the pan.

Leave to cook for 4 mins.

Turn and cook the other side for a further 4 mins.

Serve with rice and vegetables.

To flash freeze:

Cover a dinner plate with grease proof paper, such as baking parchment, and place meatballs on it so that they are not touching.

Put the dinner plate into the freezer for 30 mins. There is no need to cover the plate.

After 30 mins, remove the meatballs to a ziploc bag.

Seal and return to freezer.

By partially freezing the balls you will ensure that they won’t stick together in the bag. This means you can remove just the number you need.

Ensure they are fully defrosted before cooking.

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I’m sorry I wasn’t on yesterday, everyone.

The Boy suddenly reappeared unannounced from his camping trip while I was engaged with the pressure canner and frightened the life out of me. He bought me dinner from here to make up for nearly giving me a heart attack.

This morning I attended a Pasta-making workshop at the Ballarat Community Garden, but it required rather large amounts of kit and supplies.

Not my pasta...

Not my pasta…

So, I spent my blogging time packing the car instead.

Never mind. I’m here now!

So onto the shopping.

The Aldi shopping.

The Aldi shopping.

From Aldi was purchased the following:

  • 2 x 1 litre UHT milk                                    $1.90
  • 1  x 1 kg Frozen peas                                 $1.99
  • 1 kg full cream milk powder                  $5.69
  • 1 kg brown sugar                                        $3.19
  • 2 x 420 g tins Creamed Corn                  $1.78
  • 1 x jar Indian simmer sauce                   $2.99
  • 1 jar Basil pesto                                           $1.99
  • 1 jar sundried tomato pesto                  $1.99
  • 1 jar capsicum pesto                                 $1.99
  • 3 x tins diced tomatoes                           $2.97
  • 1 x tin evaporated milk                           $1.89
  • 2 x packets Droste Dutch cocoa        $12.98
  • 1 packet shredded tasty cheese          $5.49
  • 1 packet shredded pizza cheese         $4.49
  • 1 packet steakhouse fries                      $2.49
  • 1 packets wholemeal tortilla wraps  $1.99
  • 1 punnet mushrooms                              $2.91
  • 1 kg brown onions                                     $1.49
  • sweet potatoes                                           $3.16
  • full bunch celery                                         $1.99
  • 700g chuck steak                                        $8.42

Total = $68.63

Now, I’ve highlighted the cocoa that’s included in there for a reason. This stuff is great. It’s also expensive. I used two packets of it last year so, now it’s back on special at Aldi, I thought I’d stock up. If I find any still in the store next time I do my shopping, then I might buy another packet. I consider it a worthwhile indulgence.

I had to stock up on cheese again because I’d used all of the mozzarella I had when I made the pizza lunch for my Thursday group. The tasty cheese was exhausted when I made the mac and cheese during the week.

The greengrocer sold me these things:

Fresh stuff

Fresh stuff.

  • zucchini                       $2.15
  • apples                           $1.60
  • prepacked carrots   $0.79
  • mandarins                   $1.13
  • bananas                       $1.71
  • bulb of fennel            $1.49

Total = $8.85

The fennel is my ‘fun’ thing this fortnight. I’ve not cooked with it a lot, but I want to try some more things with it. I saw it there, so I thought I’d go for it. I don’t actually have a plan for it right now, but give me a day or so.;-)

Anyway, that gives me a total spend of $77.48.

The remaining $22.52 I had intended to spend on beans at the Farmers’ Market down by the Lake Wendouree this morning, but I slept too late and had to get to the workshop. Sad face.

However, I have exhausted my supply of mason jars and really can’t justify a further purchase right now. I am very proud that I have now pressure-canned all my chicken stock and made a lot more space in my freezer, as well as making some mexican beans too.

My first ever canning!

My first ever canning!

Today bread was also made and dinner tonight will be fried rice made with the leftover roast beef from earlier in the week.

Tomorrow some baking will need to be done, but I’m too tired to think about it right now.

See you all soon.

ttfn

 

Bringing home the bacon...

I didn’t post yesterday due to an existential crisis.

So, today I’m posting about what I did yesterday – welcome to time travel.

I had planned to head off to the local Farmers’ Market down at Lake Wendouree, and so I did.

I spent about $15 there on this lot.

My treasure from the market.

My treasure from the market.

What? It doesn’t look all that exciting? Really?  Huh.

Let me go through what I’ve got here. In that bag at the front, in the bottom left hand corner, there are Golden Linseeds.

Golden Linseeds or Flaxseeds.

Golden Linseeds or Flaxseed.

I like to add a couple of tablespoonfuls of that to my bread mix. There are already linseeds in the mix that we buy, but I like to boost it. Linseed is full of fibre and Omega 3s. However, unless you grind it, the Omega 3s aren’t available to you and the seeds pass through your body undigested.

So, I use a small electric coffee grinder to break them up a bit and add them through the nut/seed/fruit dispenser in my bread machine.

Next, there are Navy Beans. I buy a lot of these – usually 500g at a time.

Navy Beans

Navy Beans.

They cost around $8 a kilogram. Now with that 500 g, or 1 pound, I can make a batch of baked beans to keep in my freezer for quick and nutritious lunches. That batch will make about 2 litres worth of beans.

The Boy and I are in discussions about maybe buying a pressure canner so I can keep them in my pantry instead…. stay tuned.

Next, we have black lentils.

Black lentils.

Black lentils.

I love to add lentils to mince meat dishes or any slow-cooked dish. My collection of different colours and textures is slowly growing and is so different from the large brown and green lentils that used to be all that was available in Australia. (Yay!)

Next, you’ll see some Red Basmati Rice.

Red Basmati Rice.

Red Basmati Rice.

I hadn’t ever seen this before, so I grabbed 250 g of it. Basmati rice is a little lower on the Glycaemic Index (GI), which makes it much better for keeping my blood sugars stable (and yours too).  I have no idea what it tastes like and I’m looking forward to finding out.

Lastly, there is black barley.

Black barley.

Black barley.

I was really happy with how it turned out in my Barley and Lentil Hotpot and have decided it needs to be a pantry staple in the Budget Bounty household. So there.

I had a few dollars left from the $20 I had been prepared to spend, so I bought some Bok Choy as well.

Then I came home and saw to the meat. The chuck steak was diced, placed in a zip lock bag and frozen as is. I already have a few bags of marinaded diced chuck in the freezer, so I thought I’d leave this lot plain for now.

Diced chuck. (Sorry, Chuck!)

Diced chuck. (Sorry, Chuck!)

The Osso Buco was also frozen as was. It’s there ready for a nice, warming casserole in the future.

Osso Buco

Osso Buco

The sausages were placed into a large ziploc bag – being sure they weren’t touching – and frozen. Once they were frozen through, the bag was shaken down and folded over.

Pork Sausages

Pork Sausages

By freezing the snags like this, I will be able to remove one or two at a time without having to defrost the whole lot. With this style of sausage, I’ll only need a small number to feed the two of us.

Bacon pieces

Bacon pieces

Then, I processed the bacon rashers, cutting off the tails and dicing them and leaving the “eye” part whole. They were frozen in separate bags and small portions.

Although one portion was immediately used to counter the Antarctic vortex currently enveloping most of southern Australia. I added them to a fine luncheon of Loaded Hot Potato Chips. Yum! They really hit the spot!

Bringing home the bacon...

Bringing home the bacon…

Bread was made, as was a batch of Apple and Oat Bars. I dined on leftover risotto and The Boy ate chicken soup.

Tonight he is making Porcupine meatballs in the pressure cooker and using some of the red basmati in it too!

Eat well, everyone.

 

Fruit of the Forest Muffins.

Hello, my lovelies.

I’m having a few issues with my eyes at the moment, so this shall be short and sweet.

Today I learned we were to have a visitor at some time during a 4 hour window, so I made muffins for when they finally arrived. I’d discovered a few bags of tiny (ridiculously small) amounts of frozen berries when I was doing my freezer stock take the other day. A quarter cup of raspberries in a bag, for example. So, I mixed them all together and dubbed them Fruits of the Forest.

Waste not, want not.

Waste not, want not.

Then I added a scant handful of dark choc chips and turned them into muffins. It used the last of the buttermilk I’d bought for The Boy’s work muffins the other day.

Fruit of the Forest Muffins.

Fruit of the Forest Muffins.

It took about 10 mins and a few of my pantry staples to have something yummy for my guest. Win.

I didn’t know when they would be leaving, so I rescued a bag of my Asian Flavoured Beef from the freezer too and popped it in the smallest crockpot. That’s ready now and I’ll be serving it with the leftover rice from last night’s curry adventure. Another win.

I hope to do my green grocer shopping tomorrow, and will probably be listing this fortnight’s haul on the post after next. All while wondering if everyone wants me to keep doing this?

Please let me know!

Happy eating.

Cheat’s Risotto – Basics

I've yet to figure out how to photograph cooking without getting a steam filter happening...

Risotto is a word that can send chills cascading down a beginner cook’s spine. The sheer expectation that their rice is to be done to perfection may dissuade them from even trying this dish.

Add to that the clear and certain knowledge that it requires boiling hot stock, added ladle by ladle, all while stirred ad infinitum and who’d actually bother?

I don’t. In fact I find it hard to believe that any self-respecting Italian peasant mother with many small children underfoot would be able to pull that particular feat off satisfactorily. Don’t be confused here – risotto was a peasant, or farmhouse dish, long before it was ever gourmet.

In my kitchen, risotto is a way to mix quite a few different vegetables (or bits of vegetables) and a little meat into a warm, creamy, comforting bowl of hot, moist rice.

These ingredients will make me a risotto.

These ingredients will make me a risotto.

I’m calling this cheat’s risotto, because it’s how I make a risotto-like dish. It works for me and I hope it works for you.

To make a risotto you need a short grain rice. The most common one available to shoppers in my neck of the world is Arborio rice. You can find it in most supermarkets.

You can do this with Pearled Barley too, but it will take about 45 minutes to cook.

You also need a largish saucepan and a good quality stock. In the picture above, you’ll see a mason jar in the centre. That there is my home-made chicken stock.

You don’t have to make your own. Use a stock cube if you wish, or bouillon, or a tetra pack – whatever works for you. Just make sure that whatever you use has a good flavour, because this is what your entire dish will taste of!

Bear in mind that, if you do make your own, it will contain far less salt than the processed alternatives.

You’ll need a good quality stirring implement – spatula, spurtle, wooden spoon, whatever – and, if you are anything like me, long sleeves to protect from any hot liquid stirred out of the pot…

I had a few bits and pieces I wanted to use up, so that’s what’s gone into this meal. An onion, a stick of celery, half a large red pepper and a chorizo were all pressed into service. I started by chopping them up as finely as my motor skills would allow – which wasn’t very.

Prep your vegies.

Prep your vegies.

While I was doing this, I poured the chicken stock into a microwaveable jug and heated it to boiling point.

Then I put my saucepan on the hob on lowish heat and prepared for action.

A splash of olive oil went into the pot and the onion was added and cooked until translucent, accompanied by a spoonful of garlic from a jar. Then I added the celery and, when that was soft, I added the diced sausage.

I've yet to figure out how to photograph cooking without getting a steam filter happening...

I’ve yet to figure out how to photograph actual cooking without getting a steam filter happening…

I decided to add the capsicum later for a bit of a texture contrast. The stock is brought to the cooking area now and the kettle is boiled just in case I want more liquid later.

Now is the time to add the rice. I very rarely measure it, but I guess I use about 1 cup for the two of us.

Add the rice all at once.

Add the rice all at once.

When the rice is added, it is very important to stir it vigorously. You are aiming to coat the rice with whatever oil and juices are already in the pan while also toasting the grains.

Stir for your life.

Stir for your life.

I added the capsicum here. I also set the kitchen timer for 15 minutes. Then I added a good amount of stock – probably about 3/4 of a cup. Basically you want enough to cover the base of the pan and to come at least half way up your ingredients. Stir as thoroughly as you can until the stock is almost completely absorbed.

Start adding your stock a bit at a time.

Start adding your stock a bit at a time.

The more you stir at this point the more the starches in your rice will be released, and the smoother and creamier your final result will be. Keep adding stock a little at a time until you’ve used about half of it.

Then you can safely just add the rest. Did you hear the sound of millions of chefs fainting just then? Seriously, just add the rest of the stock. It will look like you’ve drowned it. It’s okay. Really.

Don't panic.

Don’t panic.

Keep it simmering gently and stirring it to prevent sticking. If the rice emerges from the liquid before your kitchen timer goes off, then add some water from your previously boiled kettle. You need your rice to be cooked!

You *will* see your rice again.

You *will* see your rice again.

You want your rice to be al dente. Remember that it will continue to absorb water after you have taken it off the heat. So, while it is still on the hob, run your spatula along the middle of the bottom of the pot. You should see clear saucepan and then a sheen of liquid will appear. That is what you are after.

Serve your risotto.

Okay, rewind.

Serve this pot of yumminess.

Serve this pot of yumminess.

Traditionally, the dish is ‘velveted’ by adding cream at this point. I fear my hips would enjoy that too much, so I don’t do it. I sometimes add a tablespoon of basil pesto to change things up a little, but it isn’t necessary. You can also stir cheese through at this point, but this adds a degree of difficulty to the clean up of the saucepan.

A sprinkling of parmesan is really all that is needed.

A sprinkling of parmesan is really all that is needed.

I serve the rice, then add a sprinkling of shaved parmesan cheese and a grinding of black pepper and it is perfetto!

Perfick.

Perfick.

At some point in the future I’ll redo this post with pics of the food in white bowls and under better lighting, but until then you’ll have to trust that this is delicious.

 

Apple Cinnamon Scrolls

Apple Cinnamon Scrolls

This is another dish that builds on one covered previously – good old Scones! It’s moreish and quite delicious.

It’s also very easy. Actually, it’s almost criminally easy.

Criminal in that there is very little incentive not to just make a batch each and every day.

I created this dish in an attempt to recreate the apple scrolls I’m quite fond of getting from a local bakery. However, during our current budgetary regime, I simply can’t justify paying $4 for one of them. I can make a whole batch of these (8) for less than $2. Honestly.

It also takes about 30 mins from start to finish. Make it with the kids and then get them to make it for you. Often.

Herewith: start with a batch of scone dough. You’ll find the recipe here. Go make that up right now. We’re happy to wait for you. Once you get to the bit where you flatten it out, stop and head back here.

Shape and flatten your dough, using only your hands.

You are here.

Preheat your oven to 230ºC/475ºF. Now is the time to grab a small bowl and place ¼ cup of brown sugar into it.

Start the madness with some brown sugar.

Start the madness with some brown sugar.

Then add 1 tsp of ground cinnamon and mix well.

Add spice.

Add spice.

Peel a cooking apple and dice finely.

Take one Granny Smith.

Take one Granny Smith.

Mix into the sugar and spice.

This is your filling. Easy, wasn't it?

This is your filling. Easy, wasn’t it?

Now spread this over your scone dough as evenly as you can.

Add to your scone dough.

Add to your scone dough.

Roll it up from the long side and gently cut into evenly sized pieces.

Divide into evenly sized pieces.

Divide into evenly sized pieces.

Line a baking sheet with paper. Don’t miss this bit or you will have a big clean up job to do! Then place your slices on the paper cut side down. Squeeze them gently to round out any flattened edges. If you wish, you can brush with a little milk to aid in browning.

Place your scrolls on a tray.

Place your scrolls on a tray.

Bake for 10-15 mins, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

This is what you want.

This is what you want.

Can you see that shiny brown stuff on the paper? That’s caramel. Aren’t you glad you lined the pan?

Thought so.

Transfer the cooked scrolls to a rack wrapped in a clean cloth to keep them soft. Serve when you can resist no longer.

Apple Cinnamon Scrolls

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients

1 x quantity Basic Scone Dough

¼ cup brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cooking apple e.g. Granny Smith

Method

Heat the oven to 230ºC/ 475ºF.

Prepare the scone dough and then pat out into a rough rectangle.

Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together.

Peel the apple and dice finely.

Mix the apple thoroughly into the sugar mixture.

Spread the apple as evenly as possible over the scone dough.

Roll the dough from the long side, making a sausage shape.

Cut into 8 even pieces. Start by cutting in half, then cutting each half in two and so on.

Line a baking tray with paper and place the slices of the roll onto it cut side down. Squeeze gently into a rounder shape.

If you wish, brush the tops of the scrolls with milk to make them brown nicely.

Bake 10-15 mins until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool in a clean cloth to keep soft – or serve immediately.

Variations:  scatter a handful of chopped walnuts or pecans over the apple mixture before rolling up.

Dinner in a hurry.

Near disaster today. I put the corned beef on to cook in the slow cooker before I left for my working bee this morning.

Unfortunately, I forgot to switch it on.

So, The Boy was all set to order takeaway and fall on the budgetary sword when I got in this evening and it was as I’d left it.

Sed nil desperandum.

Remember that BBQ/rotisserie chicken meat I stowed in the freezer yesterday? Out it came to defrost in the microwave for a few minutes.

The sandwich press/panini was heated up (plugged in properly and actually switched on!), some wraps and cheese were retrieved from the fridge and I broke open that little bottle of capsicum pesto that was my “new” thing in last week’s shopping.

Spread the pesto on the wrap. Sprinkle with cheese, add the chicken and fold.

Add fillings and fold.

Add fillings and fold.

Wholegrain wrap + Capsicum pesto

Wholegrain wrap + Capsicum pesto

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then toast and cut into quarters.

 

30 seconds in the sandwich press later...

30 seconds in the sandwich press later…

Eh voila! Chicken Quesadillas.

Dinner in a hurry.

Dinner in a hurry.

Now, it wasn’t the sit down meal I had been planning – or looking forward to – and it probably wasn’t the most nutritious of dinners, but it did the trick. At the very minimum, it certainly had less sugar and salt than a takeaway pizza would have and I didn’t have to cook after shovelling scoria all afternoon…

Wraps have now been added to my shopping list for next time.

Until tomorrow.

 

Stocking the larder…

The fresh stuff.

 

Okay. I promised I’d document the $25 each a week thing, which means I have to start with the hunting and gathering part of it all.

(Check out the Paleo reference! Nudge, nudge, wink, wink! I’ll stop now…)

Before I talk about what I’ve bought though, there’s something you need to understand. This is my pantry.

2015-06-09 17.01.142015-06-09 17.01.322015-06-10 15.04.54

 

 

 

 

It’s quite well-stocked and I like to keep it that way. I didn’t buy all of these things in one week, but I have bought things as I needed or wanted them. If I run out of something, then I replace it.

To a lot of people, there would seem to be very little actual food in here. Instead, they would just consider it to be a collection of ingredients. Okay, then.  I don’t buy processed food as a rule. There are no packet mixes in my kitchen, there are also no snack foods, no breakfast cereals or the like. I make things from scratch. This helps to control consumption – if it’s not there, we can’t eat it – to keep additives and preservatives out of our systems, and to keep costs down.

The exceptions are things like curry pastes and that jar of Nutella (for The Boy) and Vegemite for me. I also stock sachets of microwaveable rice for last minute meals.

My refrigerator and freezer are also full – of ingredients. I’ve not photographed them, but the same principles apply. The only ready meals in my freezer are ones that I’ve made up and put there.

When you look at my grocery purchases you’ll see a lot more of the same. I tend to buy the same things and use them in different ways. However, I also treat myself to something new whenever I shop (as long as it isn’t hideously expensive) and that means I get both to have a play and to try new flavours.

Some of this week's  shop...

Dry goods for the pantry

At this time of year, my kitchen is the coldest part of the house and I like to spend as little time in there as possible. Casseroles and slow cooker meals make a frequent appearance, because I can put them onto cook with very little fuss and leave them to their own devices until I want to serve them.

Meat for the next 2 weeks

Meat for the next 2 weeks

I’m also using a lot of frozen vegetables for our main meals. I don’t have a problem with this. In many cases frozen (and canned)  vegetables are fresher than the “fresh” items available in the green grocery or supermarkets, as they are frozen not long after they are picked. Contrast this with long road transport and cold storage times for their supposedly “Fresh” brethren. If they are produced in Australia or New Zealand, then I know they’re clean and grown in healthy conditions.

The fact that the frozen vegetables are pre-prepared means that I’m less likely to hurt myself preparing them if I’m a bit wobbly that day too. Bonus. Mixed frozen vegetables means that I can pour a cup of the medley into a microwave container and have all we need heated in a trice.

Frozen goods

Frozen goods

But I do buy fresh as well. I always try to have onions, carrots and celery to hand, along with potatoes and sweet potatoes.

The fresh stuff.

The fresh stuff.

So, without further ado – the shopping!

In Aldi, I bought:

  • 2 Kg Beef mince                    $13.60 (I’ll divide this up into 4 x 500g bags and freeze)
  • 600g chicken tenderloins $ 7.65 (I’ll crumb, bake and snap freeze these for future meals)
  • 1.6 kg corned beef               $12.42

Total – $33.67

  • 1 kg frozen peas                                    $1.99
  • 1 kg frozen peas,carrots and corn $2.79
  • 1 kg frozen mixed winter veg           $1.59
  • 500g frozen stirfry mix                        $2.19
  • 1 kg beer battered fries                      $2.69 (see my recipe for loaded fries)

Total – $11.25

  • corn snack pack (4 sml cans of kernels)             $2.29
  • 1 x can creamed corn                                                 $0.89
  • 2 x 400g cans cannelini beans                                $1.50
  • 2 x 400g cans kidney beans                                     $1.50
  • 2 x 400g can crushed tomatoes with herbs     $1.58
  • 1 x 400g can condensed milk                                 $1.69 (for dulce de leche of course!)
  • 1 x 190g jar sundried tomato pesto                    $1.99
  • 1 x 190g jar capsicum pesto                                   $1.99 (my new thing to try this week)
  • 1 x jar hot paprika                                                      $2.49

Total – $15.92

  • 500g unsalted butter                             $2.59
  • 1 kg Plain flour                                         $0.75
  • 2 kg SR flour                                              $1.50
  • 1 kg Jasmine rice                                    $2.29
  • 1 kg brown onions                                  $1.49

Total – $8.62

At Woolworths, I spent $12 on a 10kg bag of Laucke wholegrain bread mix (We make our own bread at the moment).

At the greengrocer:

  • 1.5 kg washed potatoes                 $3.00
  • 790g pink lady apples                     $1.49
  • 2 kg butternut pumpkin               $1.52
  • 600g sweet potatoes                      $1.83
  • sweet red capsicum                        $2.39
  • 1/2 a bunch of celery                     $1.29
  • 3 bok choy                                          $1.59
  • 1 orange                                              $0.38

Total – $13.49

All of which came to $94.95.

Bewdy.

So, tonight we will be “shopping the fridge” and eating the remainder of a pasta bake I made last night. That used up most of a rotisserie chicken I had, so the rest of that meat has gone into the freezer and the carcass will be made into chicken stock for the freezer overnight.

Home-made Instant Hot Chocolate mix.

Spiced hot chocolate for a wintry afternoon.

It’s winter here and I’m sick.

These two things may or may not be related. Either way, it’s the time of the year when a warm drink or two is more than welcome.

The Boy is quite partial to those hot drink mixes that come in individual sachets. However, we’re saving for a house. That means luxuries are something to look forward to in the deep, distant future.

He looks cute when he mopes.

Actually, these milky mixes aren’t all that difficult to make. Better yet, you know exactly what you are putting in your family’s tummies and saving money while you do so. I wish I’d known how to make this when I was a freezing student, quite frankly…

Let’s deal with packet mix ingredients first. I copied this little snippet from the website of a leading hot chocolate mix-maker.

Ingredients

Sugar, Milk Solids, Beverage Whitener [Glucose Syrup, Vegetable Fat, Sodium Caseinate (Derived from milk),  Mineral Salts (340, 452), Emulsifier (471), Anticaking Agent (554)], Cocoa (10%), Salt, Mineral Salt (341), Flavour [Vanillin (contains milk)], Spice.

Can you see all that sodium in there?

Even the Anti-Caking agent (554) is a form of sodium. I can only presume that using all this salt will make people thirstier and therefore cause them to drink more…

Also, a lot of these additives are synthetic. Eat real food, people. Here’s a start.

At its most basic level, this stuff is a mix of milk powder, cocoa and sugar.

I used skim milk powder, because a lot of it will be drunk (by one person who isn’t doing a lot of outdoorsy stuff in this chill…). You may use full-fat should you so desire.

I like to make my hot chocolate with a few spices. I add cinnamon, ground cardamom, ground ginger and a touch of nutmeg. You don’t have to add any – or all – of those. On the other hand if you like, and own, a pumpkin pie spice mix, then add a few teaspoonfuls of that. Make it your own.

Start with a bowl with at least a 4 cup capacity. You want something you can sift your dry ingredients into, and then stir them up, without it going all over the place!

Place a sturdy wire sifter into the top and add your ingredients. Try to wait until they are all in there before you sift them through, this will assist with getting them all well-mixed.

Start with 2¼ cups of milk powder.

Milk powder

Milk powder.

Next add your spices; about 1½ teaspoons worth.

Add whatever combination of spices you like. Or don't.

Add whatever combination of spices you like. Or not.

Next a touch of sugar.

Sugar. Actual sugar. Not salt.

Sugar. Actual sugar. Not salt.

And finally, the cocoa. This can be whatever type of cocoa you like: Cadbury, Dutch process, or whiz-bang, ultra-organic cacao. Whatever.

The chocolate part of Hot Chocolate.

The chocolate part of Hot Chocolate.

Now, sift it all together, stirring with a spoon to help the mixing process.

Mmmm, chocolate....

Mmmm, chocolate….

When you’ve finished, it will look a little like this. Mix it up a bit more. You can’t break it.

Mix it some more.

Mix it some more.

When it looks like this, pop it into an airtight container until you are ready to use it.

The end result.

The end result.

I used some mason jars, because that’s what I had handy.

Isn't it purdy?

Isn’t it purdy?

Give it a good shake once it’s all sealed up tight. Then, place a few tablespoonfuls into a mug, add boiling water and stir well.

Relax. The hard work is over now.

Relax. The hard work is over now.

Play with the recipe, adding different combinations of spices or more or less sugar. Then put your feet up and enjoy warm hands and a sense of deep satisfaction with your hot chocolate…

Spiced hot chocolate mix

  • Servings: 10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

2¼ cups milk powder

1/3 cup cocoa powder

½ cup sugar

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves

¼ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

¼ tsp ground cardamom

Method

Sift all ingredients together and mix well.

Store in an airtight container.

To serve: Add boiling water to 3 tablespoons of the mix.

Best used within 6 months.

Hummus

Hummus.

Hummus

Hummus

It’s one of those things. There are as many variations of hummus nowadays as there are ways to spell it. Humus, humous, etc…

There are also any number of people who will get upset with you for not making it their way.

Ignore them.

Hummus is a great little dish that takes next to no time to make, is incredibly nutritious, costs very little and tastes fabulous – all while filling you up admirably.

What’s not to love?

The purists will tell you that the best hummus is made with freshly cooked chickpeas or garbanzo beans. It very well may be, but that doesn’t mean that the stuff made from tinned chickpeas doesn’t taste pretty spiffy too.

The purists will also tell you to peel your cooked chickpeas. This is very easy to do by simply squeezing the pea between your thumb and forefinger. The skins will just slip off and you’ll end up with a bowl of peas and a bowl of skins, like this.

Peeled Chickpeas

Peeled Chickpeas

It makes the texture a little smoother, but my MS meant that they were popping all over the place by the time I’d finished. If you find the thought of peeling your peas too onerous, then simply embrace the extra dietary fibre and move on.

In a future post I will cover how to cook with dried beans, a skill that has the potential to save you a whole load of cash, but for the sake of this post we’re going to be using these. Which cost about 80c.

A tin of chickpeas.

A tin of chickpeas.

Deal with it.

This is one of those dishes that is more of a method than a recipe, but I’ll attempt to give you something to print at the end of the post…

You will see hummus used to describe pastes made with every kind of beans – usually white ones – that you could name. You will see it with tomatoes, roasted peppers/capsicums and myriad other things. The genuine thing is usually chickpeas, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice.

Mine has a few other things, but we’ll get to those. Relax, they’re not scary.

Chickpeas

Chickpeas

Tahini is basically a nut butter made from hulled sesame seeds and is widely used in middle eastern/Mediterranean cuisine. It can be found in supermarkets or you could make your own – you’ll find instructions on The Kitchn right about here. Tahini will add a certain earthiness in flavour and smoothness of texture to your chickpea dip.

Be warned: It can be expensive, especially if you aren’t going to be using a lot of it. You’ll only need about a ½ cup for this recipe, which will leave quite a lot still in the jar. Refrigerate it, or it will go off, but this will not extend its life indefinitely.

You don’t need it. (Cue purists falling off their respective perches.) Your hummus will taste absolutely fine without it and, if you really want, I’ve seen Jamie Oliver use smooth peanut butter instead.

You’ll also need a blender of some kind – or you could do it the traditional way and smash it in a mortar and pestle. Hummus has been around several thousand years longer than food processors…

I start my hummus with a small onion, chopped as finely as I can get it. In a frying pan, I heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil, add my onion and a clove of minced garlic, which I then gently fry off with a couple of teaspoons of ground coriander and cumin.

Start with some aromats. (Do I sound cheffy? Do I?)

Start with some aromats. (Do I sound cheffy? Do I?)

You could add some chilli powder or cayenne pepper if you wanted to. It’s up to you.

You don’t want your onions to brown, just to soften, and for the heat to release the fragrance of the spices.

At this point I add my chickpeas and give it all a good stir.

Introduce your chickpeas to the other flavours.

Introduce your chickpeas to the other flavours.

I’ve used an attachment on an immersion blender for the rest of this, but you could use a blender, a food processor an immersion blender in a bigger bowl… If you’re feeling particularly energetic then use a potato masher. You can even go traditional and grind things up in a stone mortar and pestle – it will all work.

In your bowl, place the chickpea mixture from the pan, tahini (or not), some olive oil, some cloves of crushed garlic (I use stuff from a jar) and some squeezed lemon juice.

Place everything into your blender.

Place everything into your blender.

Process until smooth.

Nearly there

Nearly there.

Taste and season if necessary. Feel free to add more oil or lemon juice if you wish to loosen the mixture but, if you are happy with the flavour and it is just a little too thick, simply add water (or reserved cooking liquid if you started from scratch) a spoonful at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.

Serve. This goes beautifully with Turkish bread and equally well with prepared raw vegetables, like carrots and celery and red peppers.

Serve with a few slices of Turkish bread or pide.

Serve with a few slices of Turkish bread or pide.

For a group, serve it in a bowl sprinkled with a touch of Sumac (if you have some) and a drizzle of olive oil.

This makes a great lunch option, it’s also a wonderful after school snack that you could supervise the kids making for themselves. Try it with just the chickpeas, lemon and oil and then experiment to your heart’s content.

Also, try using it as a spread on sandwiches and in wraps.

Then sit back and wonder why you’ve been paying around $4 for something this simple to make…

Hummus

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 x 200 g tin Chickpeas (drained) or 126 g dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked.

olive oil

1 small onion, chopped finely

4 cloves crushed garlic or 4 teaspoons minced garlic in a jar

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

½ cup tahini (optional)

Juice of 1 lemon

Method

In a small frying pan, gently heat 1 tbsp olive oil.

Add the onion and cumin and coriander with 1 clove of garlic. Fry until onion is softened and spices are aromatic. You do not want the onion to colour.

Add the chickpeas to the pan and stir well so that the peas become lightly coated with the spice mixture.

Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and add the tahini, olive oil, 3 cloves of garlic and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.

Process until smooth.  This may be done using a heavy mortar and pestle.

Taste. Add salt if necessary and adjust lemon and oil flavours.

If the paste is too thick, simply add a spoonful of water to loosen processing well with each addition.

Serve sprinkled with sumac and drizzled with olive oil alongside Turkish or Pide bread and sliced vegetables for dipping e.g. carrots, celery, red peppers, etc.

This can be made up to 5 days ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Ring the changes by adding a tablespoon of pine nuts to your frying pan, try using peanut butter instead of tahini, or add some roasted red peppers/capsicum to the processor bowl before blending.

For more inspiration, take a wander through the chilled section of your local supermarket and see what sorts of combinations are on offer there!