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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Sweet Quesadillas

I’m pretty sure I saw this on a now defunct kid’s television show, not long after I was retired. Rollercoaster was one of my favourite parts of the day at the time, especially The Secret Show which I still consider to be one of the best shows ever made. Fluffy, fluffy bunnies….

Ahem.

Fresh stuff

Fresh stuff

Anyway, Rollercoaster stopped airing quite a long time ago and I still hadn’t made this recipe.
I bought some bananas this week thinking I might try it sometime, but then this morning this happened.

This is bad.

This is bad.

What better reason to eat something quick, easy and sweet? (Gotta get those blood sugars up…)

On a more serious note, this is a great snack to make with the kids, after school or during the holidays. It takes mere seconds, is relatively healthy – especially if you use wholegrain wraps -but needs adult supervision.

I used a sandwich press (panini), but this could easily be done with a frying pan.

Sandwich press.

Sandwich press.

Basically, grab a flour tortilla or a wrap.  I had this packet already open in my fridge.

That's a wrap.

That’s a wrap.

Zap the closed packet for 30 seconds in the microwave to heat them and make them a little more pliable. Then take one out and fold it in half, like so.

Looks tricky, doesn't it?

Looks tricky, doesn’t it?

Then, peel a banana and slice it thinly. You don’t want it too thick or it may not stick together later.

Slice a banana thinly.

Slice a banana thinly.

I used a Cavendish banana, but I’m willing to bet that a sugar or Lady Finger banana would be even better (if more expensive).

The slices of bananas are then scattered on one half of the inside of the folded wrap, like so:

Start filling your quesadilla.

Start filling your quesadilla.

Use the fold line as a guide as to where to stop.

Then choc chips are added in between the slices. Yum!

You don’t need a great many choc chips, and try to place at least a few on the edge of the wrap to hold it together.

Add choc chips.

Add choc chips.

Using an oil spray, lightly coat the upper and lower plates of the sandwich press once it is heated.

Fold the wrap in half and place it on the press, close, and toast to the level you prefer. When you sneak a peak (you know you will) you’ll see that the chips have melted.

A melting moment...

A melting moment…

Using an egg slice or spatula, remove to a piece of paper towel to cool.

DO NOT eat the quesadilla immediately!

The chocolate is hot and will burn.

Distract children with making further servings. We found three wraps was a perfect snack size for two adults.

When you have finished. Wipe the sandwich press with a piece of paper towel, turn it off and put it out of reach and THEN cut your snacks into wedges and serve.

If you don’t own a sandwich press, then a non-stick frying pan on a medium heat will work too. Just remember to press on the top of the folded wrap to encourage the two sides to stick together. Turn once.

Hungry?

Hungry?

You may not use all of a banana, depending on its size. Anyone wanting seconds should be given the banana to eat IMHO.

Enjoy!

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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
  • Print

Ingredients

3 medium bananas, peeled, cut in chunks and frozen

½ 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°C 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
  • Print

Ingredients

100 g/4 oz butter

60 g/2½ 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°C/ 375°F.

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.

 

(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 – preferably 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 sauté 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  – a 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
  • Print

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.

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.

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
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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

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!

Pizza Pull Apart (Scrolls)

Pizza pull-aparts or scrolls

Okay. This is one of those recipes that builds on one you’ve seen here previously.

It’s not difficult, but can be fiddly. It’s certainly tasty and it can be as inexpensive as you want it to be.

Pizza pull-aparts or scrolls

Pizza pull-aparts or scrolls

It starts with a basic scone dough (biscuits for Americans) and gets creative soon after. It’s perfect for those days when you want something more substantial for lunch. It’s great for getting the kids involved if they’re underfoot too.

Also, if you have bits and bobs in the refrigerator that you want to use up, but which don’t really add up to a meal on their own…you know what I’m talking about.

Don’t you?

Moving on…

In other words this is more of a process than a recipe.

Start out by lining a cake tin with baking paper. It can be a square or round tin – it really doesn’t matter. If you find paper lining difficult, then grease it well instead. I find that paper makes it easier to remove the finished product when baked. 😉

Line a cake tin with parchment paper

Line a cake tin with parchment paper

Make yourself some scone dough but, instead of making it into scones, simply flatten it out into a vague rectangle shape. Use your hands and fingertips for this, there’s no need for a rolling pin. Try doing this on a little more silicon/baking/parchment paper sprinkled with flour. It will make rolling it up a little easier.

Press your dough out lightly into a rectangle.

Press your dough out lightly into a rectangle.

The size of your rectangle will be determined by the thickness of your dough. Try to make it an even thickness all over – about 1 cm or ¼ inch. Try also not to make it too narrow a rectangle. You will be rolling it up and you want to fit a few turns into it!

Turn your oven on and set it to 220°C/450°F.

Spread your dough with a base flavouring. Tomato paste will work, as will pizza sauce. I find tomato-based spreads far too sweet for me and instead use a roasted capsicum spread called Ajvar that I was introduced to by some Macedonian friends (and now I’m hooked!) It’s something that is big among the former Yugoslavian nations, although I understand the Italians produce something similar – although I don’t know what it’s called.

Spread your base with something tasty.

Spread your base with something tasty.

You may use whatever you like.

Basically you are simply adding a moist base for the rest of your fillings and ensuring that there will be no dry stretches of dough in the finished product. Try using barbecue sauce, basil pesto, olive tapenade or a chutney instead.

You’ll find it much easier to spread if you use a spoon rather than a knife to spread it. Scoop it out onto the dough and then use the back of the spoon’s bowl to spread it.

Now scatter with some grated/shredded cheese.

Add some shredded cheese.

Add some shredded cheese.

Then get creative. This is where you can use the waifs and strays in your refrigerator. You won’t want to put too much on, or it will make the rolling process more difficult.

Add whatever you might add to a pizza: deli meats like salami or shredded ham, chop up a bacon rasher or two and scatter over, if you have some BBQ/rotisserie chicken in the fridge, dice it up and scatter it over. If you are vegetarian, try adding some chick peas/garbanzos or even some kidney beans.  You won’t need much.

Add whatever fillings tickle your fancy.

Add whatever fillings tickle your fancy.

Then add some diced vegetables, I’ve added capsicum/bell pepper in the photo above. Slice a mushroom or two, confetti it with sliced black olives or – and this is yummy – slowly fry some sliced onions or leeks in butter until soft and starting to caramelise, drain on paper towel and add generously.

It’s completely up to you.

If you want to, at this stage you could just place it on a tray and bake it like a standard pizza. It will take 20 minutes at least.

Or you can go on to roll it up like a Swiss Roll, lifting the long edge nearest to you and rolling away. Make it as tight as you can, but try not to put holes in the dough. If you have used a piece of paper beneath it, then use that to help you with the rolling. Some of your filling will inevitably escape from the long end or pop out the short ends. Don’t panic. Push them back in if you can, or consider them a Cook’s treat for while it all bakes.

Roll it as tightly as you can, while still being gentle with the dough.

Roll it as tightly as you can, while still being gentle with the dough.

Then slice into even pieces. I cut it in the middle, then divide each half in half, and so on. Aim for 8 to 9 pieces. Be careful to slice and not chop your roll, you don’t want to squash it beyond recognition. (If you do squash it, don’t worry too much. The taste won’t be affected.)

Divide into even-ish slices.

Divide into even-ish slices.

Now transfer the pieces into your cake tin. Start in the middle and work your way outward in a daisy formation. Be sure to grip the open edge closed as you lift it. It will end up looking a bit like this.

Ready for the oven.

Ready for the oven.

Place it in the top third of the oven and bake for 20 mins before rotating the tin and baking for another 20 mins. It will be done when a toothpick or skewer inserted in a doughy part in the centre comes out clean.

You could sprinkle more cheese over the top at the half way mark if you wish.

The finished result.

The finished result.

Lift it out and serve immediately for best results. Alternatively, wrap in a clean tea towel to cool, and it will be excellent cold for school lunches or a picnic. The cloth covering keeps the steam in and the quickbread soft.

For a slightly crunchy variation, sprinkle some polenta or cornmeal on your surface before you start to press out your scone dough.

Experiment and enjoy!