Store cupboard curry

Hiya,

I spent most of the day elsewhere. First I made a couple of pizzas with this guy.

Masterchef Kai

Masterchef Kai.

We were at my weekly lunch with the Intercultural Womens Network of Ballarat (free plug!) and they were my contribution. He was the only three-year old there and scatters toppings really well. ūüėČ

Then it was off to replace my blood glucose monitor – which I appear to have left in the car from the driving assessment yesterday.

Dinner was never going to be complicated. Ever.

I hadn’t got anything out of the freezer and I couldn’t be bothered doing so when I got home. I just opened the pantry and pretended I was a teenager doing a survey of the refrigerator – you know exactly what I mean, don’t you?

I spotted a jar of Tikka Masala simmer sauce and thought, “Well, that’s a start.” That was emptied it into the baby slow cooker and followed with a tin of lite coconut cream.

Tikka Masala simmer sauce.

Tikka Masala simmer sauce.

I chopped up half a red capsicum, then peeled and chopped up the seed end of half a butternut pumpkin and stirred that through. The crock was getting a little full, and I’d realised that I’d left my run a little late for using the slow cooker, so I transferred it to a Dutch oven on the stove top, where I added a tin of drained and rinsed cannellini beans.

I realised I'd made a strategic error and transferred it to the stove top at this point.

I realised I’d made a strategic error and transferred it to the stove top at this point.

It really only needed to simmer long enough to cook the pumpkin through so, while it did that, I put some rice on to steam and added some millet to the pot for something different. That came out looking like this.

Jasmine rice and millet.

Jasmine rice and millet.

The curry was looking a little ‘samey’ so the freezer was raided and a bag of mixed frozen vegies was used to add some more texture and colour to the curry.

Frozen vegies make life easier.

Frozen vegies make life easier.

When they were heated through, the curry was spooned over the rice and served.

Store cupboard curry

Store cupboard curry.

A meatless dinner with minimal effort and plenty of leftovers. That last point is important because we’ve got a long day in Geelong tomorrow, starting at stupid o’clock, and it was likely to end with takeaway if we weren’t¬†careful. ¬†Now that’s not so likely.

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Chocolate ‘Ice Cream’ (with bananas)

Chocolate soft serve ice-cream.

You know when you buy a hand of bananas and suddenly they’re all too ripe and no-one wants to eat them and you get annoyed because you’ve spent the money and now it’s being wasted and it doesn’t matter what you do it seems like you can never get it right and why is life so unfair?

Take a breath. Calm down.

Firstly, freeze your bananas. If they’re getting past the eating-as-a-fresh-banana stage, then peel them and pop them into a ziploc bag and put them in the freezer. They can be defrosted and used in cakes and muffins and what-not at a later stage.

If you don’t want them to stick together, so you can take out one or two at a time, then freeze them separately before you place them in the bag. They will live in there quite happily for many months.

And don't they look attractive?

And don’t they look attractive?

Then you can make ice cream out of them.

Yes. I said ice cream. Frozen bananas can be used to make a soft serve ice cream which is wonderful for those with a lactose intolerance. Cold affects the performance of your taste buds, so the banana flavour fades right away and you are left with a cold, creamy substance that you can add other flavours to. Like chocolate.

This requires a food processor with a metal blade. I’m sorry, there’s really not an alternative to the use of an appliance for this.

The metal blade of a food processor is the secret ingredient here.

The metal blade of a food processor is the secret ingredient here.

Also, I had quite a few bananas I wanted to use as I wanted the freezer space. So the pictures you see here will be of about three times the quantity that will be made from the recipe provided.

Making the actual dessert is super simple. Get the kids involved (just don’t let them lick the blade…)

Cut your bananas into chunks and put them into the processor bowl.

Chunky bananas.

Chunky bananas.

Now sift in a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder. I used Dutch process cocoa because that’s what I had. If you’re an Aussie and you have some to spare, then try using Milo instead.

Add cocoa.

Add cocoa.

Now add some vanilla extract and a touch of salt. The salt will help to accent the sweetness of the bananas.

I used sea salt flakes - you don't have to.

I used sea salt flakes – you don’t have to.

Then add a dollop of sweetener if you really want to. I added a touch of honey, but it’s really not necessary. Bananas are full of natural sugars – don’t for a moment start thinking of this as a low calorie alternative to regular dairy ice-creams.

*Diabetics be warned, this will make your sugars spike.*

I added some totally unnecessary honey.

I added some totally unnecessary honey.

You may like to add a few tablespoons of a nut butter here. Peanut butter works fine, or you can try almond or sunflower butter instead. The oils in the butter give the final dessert a smoother texture and “mouth feel.” I didn’t have any, so I didn’t.

I did find that it wasn’t blending as smoothly as I would have liked, so I drizzled in some buttermilk that I had in the refrigerator. Adding yoghurt would also work – and this can be dairy, soy or coconut – or you could just add a little vegetable oil.

None of these things is absolutely vital.

Put the lid on your processor and pulse a few times to get it going.

It will form a thick paste.

It will form a thick paste.

Keep blending until you reach the desired texture. I wanted a smoother blend and added a drizzle of buttermilk to loosen it up a little. I stopped blending when it looked like this.

Chocolate soft serve Icecream

Chocolate soft serve Icecream

You may serve it immediately. If you are making it with kids, you’ll probably have to serve it immediately.

Otherwise, place it in a sealed container and re-freeze.

Put in a container and freeze. Temporarily.

Put in a container and freeze. Temporarily.

When the time comes to serve it up, remove it from the freezer at least 15 minutes beforehand to soften.  You may end up with a sprained wrist otherwise.

Enjoy.

Chocolate 'Ice-cream' (banana)

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

3 medium bananas, peeled, cut in chunks and frozen

¬Ĺ tsp vanilla extract

pinch salt

3 Tbsp cocoa powder

optional:

  • sweetener such as honey or maple syrup
  • 3-5 tbsps peanut butter or similar
  • 2-3 tbsps Greek yoghurt or buttermilk

Method

Place the metal ‘S’ blade in a food processor.

Combine the first four ingredients in the bowl and blend until smooth. Add the optional ingredients if you wish.

Serve immediately.

May be stored in a sealed container in the freezer, but remove at least 15 minutes before serving if you do so. The warmer the ice-cream the more it will resemble soft serve.

Variations:

  • Mix through chopped nuts or choc chips.
  • Use another frozen fruit e.g. strawberries, blueberries, frozen mango etc., instead of the cocoa powder for a fruit flavoured dessert.

 

Apple and Oat Bars

Stay calm and eat Apple and Oat Bars...

Last night, The Boy declared – out of the blue – that I should do a muesli (granola) bar recipe. Because school goes back next week or something and this could be useful to people.

I think he just wanted muesli bars.

I also think he could have told me before I did the fortnight’s shopping and could stock up on the expensive stuff that goes into these snacks.

So, I compromised. I’m good at that.

I made these little Apple and Oat Bars from stuff I already had and which – most likely – you already have too. Because that is how we roll in the Budget Bounty kitchen.

Simple AND good-for-you-ish.

Simple AND good-for-you-ish.

The recipe for these came from one of the first cookbooks I ever bought for my now massive collection. It’s called Good Cooking by the people at Good Housekeeping and was published way back in 1988. Which is why I have changed one of the ingredients from margarine to butter…

It’s a recipe that literally takes only minutes to put together and which you could quite easily do with smaller versions of yourself HELPING. ¬†Ahem.

You will need some butter, some honey, some brown sugar, some rolled oats and an apple or two. Also a bowl, a baking tin and a microwave proof jug and spatula.  Sound complicated?

After setting your oven to 190¬įC get out a set of scales and your microwave proof jug. Into your jug measure your butter, brown sugar and honey, like so:

Melt these things together.

Melt these things together.

Heat them for 1 minute at a time at 80% power until the butter is melted. You can do this in a saucepan on the stove, if you wish.

While it is melting, measure the oats into a medium sized mixing bowl and line a baking tin with parchment. The original recipe called for an 18 cm/7 inch square cake tin.

Pour your now liquid ingredients into the oats and mix well.

Add the wet to the dry. Stir.

Add the wet to the dry. Stir.

Press half this mixture into the base of your tin. Do NOT do what I did and use a silicon tray. You want the oats to crisp up and they just get soggy if you follow my example. Honestly.

Press half your oats into something that isn't silicon and is preferably metal...

Press half your oats into something that isn’t silicon and is preferably metal…

Now get a large cooking apple (around 250 g worth), peel it and slice it thinly.  Arrange the apple slices in overlapping rows to cover the oat base.

Cover your base with overlapping slices of apple.

Cover your base with overlapping slices of apple.

Sprinkle your slices with cinnamon. I was cooking for an adult who likes it, so I also used ground ginger on mine.

Sprinkle with your choice of spice.

Sprinkle with your choice of spice.

Top with the rest of the oats, press down firmly and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.

Cut it into portions while still hot and in the pan. Leave in the tin to cool. You want your butter and honey to set before you try to move anything, or it will all fall apart.

Elevenses, Anyone?

Elevenses, Anyone?

Store in an airtight container somewhere cool. Wrap in cling film and send as part of a school lunch, serve as an after school snack or use to accompany a much deserved cuppa.

Easy. Affordable. Tasty.

Apple and Oat Bars

  • Servings: 12 -15
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

100 g/4 oz butter

60 g/2¬Ĺ oz brown sugar

2 tbsp honey

225 g/8 oz rolled oats

1 large cooking apple (250 g/9 oz) peeled, cored and thinly sliced

ground cinnamon.

Method

Heat oven to 190¬įC/ 375¬įF.

Lightly grease or line an 18 cm/ 7 inch square shallow baking tin.

In a microwave proof jug or bowl, combine the first three ingredients and heat at 80% power for 1 minute intervals until melted. Stir together. This may be done in a small saucepan on the stove top if wished.

Measure the oats into a medium-sized bowl. Pour liquid ingredients over the oats and mix well.

Divide the mixture in two and press half into the base of your prepared tin.

Arrange the sliced apple over the top of the oats in overlapping rows.

Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Top with the remaining oats and press down gently.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and crisp.

Cut into slices while still hot and then leave in the tin until cool.

Variations:

  • For a gluten-free version, substitute a gluten free muesli or granola mix for the rolled oats.
  • Try using different spices for variety. A Pumpkin Pie spice mix might be just the thing for you.
  • Sprinkle a handful of sultanas over with the cinnamon.
  • Add a scattering of choc chips over the apple for a special treat.

 

Lentil and Barley Hot Pot (slow cooker)

Lentil and Barley Casserole

This is a wonderful little dish that I came up with during my Texan sojourn, all those years ago.

For those who have just tuned in – I spent six months living in Texas and, during that time, cooked many of my meals in a little 1 quart (1.5 litre) slow cooker I bought from the Walgreens next to my hotel.

I became so attached to this little device that I wanted to bring it back to Australia with me, but voltage differences meant that wouldn’t be a practical thing to do.

So, I was quite elated to discover the same size device for sale at Target when I got back. They aren’t any more (as far as I know), but you can find them in the appliance section at Woolworths¬†for $20.

Which is all by the by.

This is a dish that costs next to nothing to make. This was very handy when the exchange rate dropped to USD 0.45 for every AUD 1 and I was suddenly very, very poor.  Ahem.

A slow cooker this size will serve three comfortably, more if you have a larger slow cooker and fill it. We worked out that the 1 litre size dish cost about $1.50 total to make.

This isn’t so much a recipe as instructions for assembly.

All you'll need for this dish.

All you’ll need for this dish.

You’ll need these:

  • an onion,
  • a jar of crushed garlic,
  • a stick of celery,
  • some dried mushrooms,
  • two handfuls of whole lentils,
  • a handful of pearled barley,
  • a bay leaf,
  • 600 ml of stock (any flavour).

The dried mushrooms are completely optional. I like to use them because they add texture and fill the kitchen with an amazing fragrance. I buy the dried shitake mushrooms from the supermarket and break them into small pieces. The mushrooms cost very little and keep for ages in an air tight container.

Break up the dried mushrooms and place a single layer on the bottom of your pot.

Break up the dried mushrooms and place a single layer on the bottom of your pot.

If you find the Asian mushrooms too strong tasting, then feel free to use any others you may find. Also, if you have family members who object to the texture of mushrooms, try grinding the dried ones in a blender, mortar and pestle, or coffee grinder and just using the resulting powder.

Follow this with a layer of diced onions and a spoonful of your jarred garlic.

Onions and garlic. You may use fresh garlic if you wish...

Onions and garlic. You may use fresh garlic if you wish…

Then add a layer of diced carrots.

Add a chopped up carrot.

Add a chopped up carrot.

Follow with a stalk of celery.

Diced celery completes your aromatics.

Diced celery completes your aromatics.

Time to add your dried lentils. You can use a handful of ordinary brown or green lentils, or tiny little french Puy lentils, or these beautiful lentils from the Wimmera that I bought at a local Farmers’ Market.

Add some perfectly lovely lentils.

Add some perfectly lovely lentils.

Now add a handful of barley. I had some black barley that I bought at the same Farmers’ market a while back, so I mixed that in with my regular pearled barley. Add a Bay leaf about now, if you have one.

Pearled and black barley.

Pearled and black barley.

I like to add a few chilli flakes about now, but you don’t have to.

This is the time to heat your stock if you have some already made, or to make it up if you are using a stock cube or bouillon. You can cook from cold if you are wanting the dish to take longer to cook – despite being in the slow cooker, this will only take an hour or two to be ready.

Add your stock.

Add your stock.

It can be chicken stock (which is what I had), vegetable, beef, fish…whatever. Even plain water will do, although you may wish to add salt in that case. Make sure it covers the contents of your pot, add water if necessary.

Stir and cover. Set to low.

Looks delicious already, doesn't it?

Looks delicious already, doesn’t it?

When the lentils are tender and the barley is cooked to your satisfaction, serve it up.

I had been given a handful of Tuscan Kale (Black Cabbage or Cavolo Nero), so I shredded that and stirred it through about 10 mins before I served it up.

Lentil and Barley Casserole

Lentil and Barley Casserole.

I just put it in a bowl topped with some shaved parmesan. It’s very filling so don’t overdo the portion sizes.

Serve it up.

Serve it up.

Things to remember: The barley will absorb the liquid and plump up like rice does. So don’t fill the pot to the brim with dry ingredients before adding your stock. Tears will result. And overflowing. And a right royal mess.

Top shaved parmesan.

Top shaved parmesan.

The barley will also cause the mixture to thicken. Stir it a few times after an hour or so, to prevent sticking.

If you are making this for a coeliac, then use different forms of rice and perhaps millet instead of barley.

If you are making this for people who are “allergic” to being vegetarian (and we all know those people, don’t we?), then feel free to add some cubes of speck into the mix at the beginning or some shredded cooked chicken just before serving.

Bon Appetit.

(The Boy’s) Bean Burritos

Bean Burrito mix

This is one of those dishes that takes more time to describe than to make.

It started out as a series of desperate texts to The Boy a few years ago. He was studying in another city¬†and it sounded as though his diet and his health were in a truly parlous state – largely because food costs a lot and cooking is hard when you don’t know how to work things.

Which is why I started this blog.

I needed to get him eating at least one meal a week Рpreferably one with decent nutrition. So I fiddled a bit at my place using some tinned goods, came up with this and sent it to him in about 4 text messages.

Don't be afraid of canned food.

Don’t be afraid of tinned¬†food.

I’ll explain in slightly greater depth here. Please note, this dish costs about $4. Tacos and other flatbreads are extra.

As an aside, this is an excellent dish to teach to hungry teenagers who demand feeding every 15 minutes. It’s healthy and it will fill up those hollow legs quite well.

For two people, you’ll need an onion, a medium-sized red capsicum (or green if you prefer), a tin¬†of kidney beans and a tin¬†of diced tomatoes. If the idea of eating a vegetarian dish induces a cold sweat, then try adding a diced rasher of bacon into the pan with the onion.

You’ll also need whatever spices you want to add. The Boy uses a Taco Mix I bought him at a friend’s YIAH party.

We serve this with tortillas, tacos or wraps warmed in the oven while the beans are cooked. It’s also appeared on the table accompanied by corn chips for dipping.

Dice your onion and capsicum and then saut√© them over a gentle heat until the onion is translucent. If I’m the one cooking, I’ll add a finely chopped stick of celery just to add some colour and crunch.

Start with your fresh vegies

Start with your fresh vegies.

Now drain your kidney beans and rinse. Add the beans and the tin¬†of tomatoes to the pan. Again, if I’m cooking, I’ll also throw in a small tin¬†of corn kernels. This adds even more colour, a slightly different texture, and a touch of sweetness. If you are doubling the recipe, then try using a tin¬†of kidney beans and a tin¬†of black beans for even more colour and variety.

Add your canned goods to the pan.

Add your canned goods to the pan.

Keep stirring it over a low heat and mix in as much of your spices as you wish. You want the dish to blend well together and thicken a little.

A few minutes later.

A few minutes later.

You can use a taco seasoning mix if you have one. If you don’t, then try a sprinkling each of ground cumin, ground coriander and sweet smoked paprika. Add chilli powder instead of the paprika – if that’s what you have – and try doing it with a dash of ground cinnamon for a sweet surprise.¬†Add salt if you must.

When it gets to a texture that you think will work well as a burrito filling, take it off the heat and serve.

Serve 'em up!

Serve ’em up!

Just to clarify that last bit. You don’t want this to be too ‘wet’ or your burrito, taco or tortilla will turn into a soggy mess.

Now you can place this into a wrap with lettuce and other salad items if you want to. I tend to just sprinkle it with tasty cheese and sometimes add a dollop of natural yoghurt (you could use sour cream), then tear bits off the tortilla and wrap those around spoonfuls of beans  Рa kind of mini-burrito for the hand-eye-co-ordination-challenged.

Eat it anyway you please really. This keeps well in the refrigerator and can easily be doubled or tripled. I wouldn’t recommend freezing it simply because it is so quick to make up! Save your freezer space for something that takes hours, not minutes.

Bean Burritos

  • Servings: 1-2
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 x medium onion, diced

1 x medium red or green capsicum, diced

1 x stick celery, finely chopped (optional)

1 x 400g tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 x 400g tin diced tomatoes (may have other flavours added if you wish)

1 x 200g tin sweet corn kernels, drained and rinsed (optional)

taco spice mix (or any combination of spices you would like to try)

Method

Heat a frying pan over gentle heat and add a tablespoon of oil.

Add your diced onion and capsicum and fry gently until onion is translucent. Add celery if using.

Stir in your spice mix, heating gently until you can just smell their aroma.

Add your beans and canned tomatoes and stir over low heat until liquid thickens.

Serve garnished with grated cheese and/or sour cream.

May be used rolled up in a tortilla with salad as a burrito, or in a bowl accompanied by plain rice or corn chips (or both).

$4 people.

Bean Burrito mix

Today I made some Hidden Treasure Muffins for The Boy to take to an afternoon tea tomorrow. He hasn’t eaten all of them himself yet – but he’s working on it!

A veritable treasure trove.

A veritable treasure trove.

Dinner tonight was made by The Boy (yay!) He put together his Bean Burrito mix and we ate it with some wraps from the fridge.

Years ago, when he was at Uni in another state and not looking after himself at all, I texted him instructions for making this dish. The idea being that he would at least have one meal a week that would feed his brain. Little did I know that he simply quadrupled it and ate the same thing every night, for months!

The Boy's Beans

The Boy’s Beans

We always refer to it as his Burrito beans. It takes about 15 mins, tops, and costs $4 for two. No jokes.

I’ll post the recipe up soon. I promise. Probably in the next day or so…

In other news, today more bread was made. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this already, but we enrich ours by adding a few spoonfuls of ground, golden flaxseed to every loaf. Omega 3s donchaknow!

I also tidied up the freezer and realised there’s some things in there that really should just be used. I’ve got a collection of frozen bananas, for example. So, sometime in the next few days, I think the frozen banana, soft serve ice cream will be made (and probably eaten).

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 230¬ļC/475¬ļF. Now is the time to grab a small bowl and place¬†¬ľ 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
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Ingredients

1 x quantity Basic Scone Dough

¬ľ cup brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cooking apple e.g. Granny Smith

Method

Heat the oven to 230¬ļC/ 475¬ļF.

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.

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 2¬ľ cups of milk powder.

Milk powder

Milk powder.

Next add your spices; about 1¬Ĺ 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
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Ingredients

2¬ľ cups milk powder

1/3 cup cocoa powder

¬Ĺ cup sugar

¬Ĺ tsp ground cinnamon

¬Ĺ tsp ground cloves

¬ľ tsp ground ginger

¬ľ tsp ground nutmeg

¬ľ 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 ¬Ĺ 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
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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

¬Ĺ 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!

Flourless Orange Almond Cake

Ok. So I wasn’t intending to post this today, but someone asked me to get this up here post haste.

So imagunna.

This is not a budget dish. The nuts can cost quite a bit and the whole cake cost me around AUD$12.

It is incredibly easy to make, tastes gorgeous and ticks the gluten-free box (which is what I was after when I made it). However, for a special occasion treat that needs to be coeliac-friendly without too much fiddling around, it is fabulous.

Fabulous, I say!

Ahem.

Flourless Orange and Almond Cake

Flourless Orange and Almond Cake

I was wanting a birthday cake for a friend who does an awful lot of work for a group I’m involved with – she’d allowed her birthday to pass under the radar, so to speak, and this simply was not on. ¬†I’ve also always wanted to try to make a flourless cake and, as one of our number is coeliac, this seemed to be the time to do it. ¬†I thought about all the decadent flourless chocolate cake recipes that I have pinned, but she is a Japanese lady and I’ve noted her preference for lighter flavours and textures.

Then I remembered this thing called an orange and almond cake and went searching.

I found this recipe here.

It’s incredibly simple. In fact this post is going to be rather picture-heavy because there really isn’t much to describe.

You start by simmering two oranges in water for 2 hours.

Simmer your oranges.

Simmer your oranges.

Let them cool, then blitz them to smithereens in a food processor. They will be incredibly soft after their extended time in hot water.

Heat your oven to 190¬įC/375¬įF.

Blitz the oranges- seeds, skin and all.

Blitz the oranges- seeds, skin and all.

Meanwhile, mix caster sugar and 6 eggs until the sugar is dissolved.

Yes. That is a lot of eggs.

Yes. That is a lot of eggs.

It will look light and fluffy. Like this:

Well-mixed eggs and sugar...

Well-mixed eggs and sugar…

Add your orange pulp to the mixer bowl with the eggs and sugar and give it a further whisking.

Add the orange puree to the eggs.

Add the orange puree to the eggs.

Now add your almond meal and baking powder. You can attempt to sift this but it may drive you mad. It may work better to simply knock as many lumps out as you can manage. Also, if you are making this for coeliacs, please, please, please check that your baking powder is gluten free too. Thank you.

Mix well.

Mix in the almond meal.

Mix in the almond meal.

Now, line a springform pan. Mine are non-stick, so I simply covered the base with baking paper for ease of serving, and left it at that. The size of the pan is not something that really matters.

Fill a lined springform tin with your cake batter.

Fill a lined springform tin with your cake batter.

Scatter a couple of handfuls of flaked almonds over the top.

Scatter some flaked almonds over the top.

Scatter some flaked almonds over the top.

Then pop it into the oven for an hour or so, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. The almonds on the top will be nicely toasted. To make things a little easier for you, place the cake tin on a flat baking tray like a cookie sheet.

A beautifully tanned result.

A beautifully tanned result.

Allow to cool in the tin. Run a blade around the tin before you release the spring. Sprinkle the top with some icing (confectioner’s or powdered) sugar before serving. I didn’t, as I didn’t have any that was gluten-free. The cake still tasted wonderful.

Well, this bloke thought so anyway.

Three year olds are the toughest critics, like, *ever*.

Three year olds are, like, the toughest critics *ever*

Just don’t forget to take a picture of it before you serve it up, like I may have….

Better late than never.

Better late than never.

Flourless Orange and Almond Cake

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

2 medium size oranges
6 eggs
250g superfine sugar
250g almond meal (almond flour or ground almonds)
1 tsp baking powder
2 handfuls of flaked almonds
Icing sugar, for dusting
 

Method

Wash the oranges well. Place them in a medium saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. 
Turn the heat down and simmer for two hours.  Remove from the water and allow to cool.
 
Preheat the oven to 190¬įC/375¬įF.¬† Line a 20 to 28cm springform cake¬†tin with paper.
Place the whole oranges into a food processor and blend until smooth.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs and the sugar until the sugar has dissolved.
Add the oranges to the mix and whisk again.
Add the almond meal and baking powder and mix until well combined.
Pour the mixture into the lined tin, smooth out with a spatula and then scatter the almond flakes over the top.
Bake for 1 hour, then test with a skewer. If it comes out clean, it’s done. If not put it back until it does. The cake should be golden on top.
Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack, then dust with icing sugar.  Serve with a dollop of double cream.
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