Use It Up

Leave a comment

Food is one of the less obvious things you need to consider when planning to move house. This is not a major issue if you are moving down the road or even across town but it is definitely a consideration when moving further afield.

We are moving to a different state and while jars of dry goods can be packed in boxes as with other household items the contents of the refrigerator and freezer are a different story.

It is still about 7 weeks until we depart but it is never too soon to consider how best to use the contents of the refrigerator and freezer. I am fairly aware of what I have available and will be working towards using this up. Of course, I will still be buying fresh fruit and vegetables.

Yesterday I made a big batch of Eggplant & Bean Curry. This vegan and gluten-free dish is definitely one of our favourites.

EGGPLANT & BEAN CURRY

Ingredients

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 large onion, cut into wedges
1 tablespoon Massaman curry paste
1 teaspoon vegetable stock powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
500ml water
1 can light coconut cream
2 large potatoes, diced into 1cm pieces and cooked until tender
600g eggplant, diced into 1cm pieces
300g green beans, prepared and cut into 2cm lengths

METHOD

Prepare the vegetables as per the ingredient list. Heat the oil, add onion wedges, curry paste and spices, toss until well combined and the onion is softened. Add the diced eggplant, combine and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the water and stock powder. Simmer until volume is reduced slightly. Add the potatoes, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add more water if required. Stir in the coconut cream and simmer to reduce slightly if required. Finally, add the beans and cook for about 5 minutes.

I serve this with a small quantity of brown rice. You do not need to add too many carbs as there is already potato in the curry.

NOTE: The quantities are based on what I had available and the desired level of spiciness. You can adjust according to your own tastes. I use this basic curry sauce for of curry dishes. It is particularly good with a dish based on cauliflower, too.

This made a total of 8 serves (4 meals) for GMan and I. We had one for dinner and the remainder was portioned up and went into the freezer. That is 3 more meals I will not have to prepare in the next 7 weeks.

More Tomatoes

Leave a comment

Our garden is completely overrun with self-sown cherry tomatoes. Even after making a large batch of tomato sauce (read about it here) there are still literally hundreds of fruit ripening every day.

I now have several bags of whole tomatoes in the freezer. I simply wash and destalk the tomatoes then bag them up for the freezer. These provide a great alternative to tinned tomatoes for adding to casseroles and other dishes.

Another method that can be used is to puree the tomatoes in a blender (after washing and destalking them). This creates quite a watery mixture so I simmer it until reduced by at least half. You can also finish the process in the oven which seems to add some richness to the flavour, however, this is not an essential step. This is my version of tomato paste.

I spread the mixture into ice-cube trays to freeze.

Once they are frozen the cubes can be bagged up. This is 1.75kg of cubes which came from about 5kg of cherry tomatoes.

It is an easy matter to toss a cube or two when cooking for some intense tomato flavour without adding a lot of liquid.

I also use the tomato puree to make the tomato base for my homemade pizzas. I cook it to reduce even further and add some dark jam (Davidson Plum is my preferred jam but any plum or berry jam will do) and Tabasco sauce. This creates a rich, spicy sauce which we love on pizzas.

NOTE: I will write a separate post in the future with an exact recipe for the pizza sauce as I do not have the final quantities yet.

Replenishing Supplies

3 Comments

We arrived home from holidays last Friday afternoon and in next to no time we were back into building up our food supplies.

Our kitchen overlooks the vegetable garden and I could a sea of red cherry tomatoes rambling everywhere. This, coupled with the fact that we had almost entirely depleted our stock of tomato sauce (ketchup) meant that this was a high priority on my ‘to do’ list.

The recipe for the sauce is here.

I made another batch of gluten free pizza bases. I make 6 at a time and freeze them ready for an easy meal.

Recipe for the pizza bases is here.

GMan got in on the act and restocked his homemade sourdough bread.

Finally, I picked a bucketful of Davidson plums from our tree (indigenous tropical fruit) and made what I regard as the best jam in the world.

I have included links to the recipes for the tomato sauce and pizza bases.

I will do full posts about the jam and sourdough in the not too distant future.

Also, don’t forget to check the recipe index on the blog. The link to the page is ‘Recipes – Food’ at the top of the blog.

Functional or Fad?

2 Comments

It is now about 2 months since I capitulated and bought an airfryer.

I had not really investigated what an airfryer was or how they worked but when I heard them being mentioned in a couple of Facebook groups I dismissed them as another unnecessary kitchen gadget. My first real-life experience of them was when we were invited to dinner a couple of months ago. The potatoes cooked in the airfryer were absolutely divine.

GMan came home and started researching various options. Coincidentally, Aldi had them in their special buys the following week so we decided to bite the bullet and see whether all of the hype was worth it. For us it has certainly proven to be $70 well-spent.

Apart from the rather obvious benefit of being able to replicate at least some deep-fried food with minimal oil there are also considerable energy savings from using the airfryer rather than a conventional oven. Food cooks more quickly and it does not heat the entire kitchen.

The airfryer is also quick and easy to clean.

My first attempt was chips which were an absolute winner. Since then I have cooked salmon, arancini balls, marinated chicken pieces, garlic and eggplant slices as well as nachos.

For the nachos, I lined the cooking tray with baking paper and assembled the nachos as per my ‘recipe’ here. 8 minutes at 190C in the airfryer and dinner was ready.

I served these with a side salad of coleslaw.

Preserves in the Pantry

Leave a comment

Apologies for my absence but more about that in another blog post.

I generally make all of our own jam and today GMan and I were discussing what we had on hand.

The inevitable consequence of our discussion was that he pulled out all of my unlabelled jars from their storage spot in the back corner of the pantry.

There was tomato sauce, sweet chilli sauce, lime marmalade, jaboticaba jam and Davidson plum jam as well as a gifted jar of marmalade. It was a timely review as I noted that there was no spare bottles of Worcestershire sauce. Time to make some more. The recipe is here if you are interested.

I decided that there could be an easier way to store and access these homemade goodies. I remembered an wooden serving tray that was not being used so I placed all of the jars on the tray. This will make it much easier to get them in and out of the pantry.

Soup for Supper

2 Comments

Today I have made leek and potato soup. It is winter here in Australia and although we live in a relatively mild climate there is something appealing about a pot of homemade soup on a damp, grey day.

There are plenty of recipes on the internet for leek and potato soup but this is my version.

LEEK & POTATO SOUP

Ingredients

1 medium/large leek
3 medium/large potatoes
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon vegetable stock powder
1 teaspoon dried celery leaves
1 teaspoon rosemary salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1.5 litres water

Method

Wash and thinly slice the leek. Heat oil in a large pot and saute the leek. Stir constantly to avoid it browning. When the leek is soft, add 1 litre of water and the stock powder and other seasonings. Simmer gently.

Meanwhile, peel and dice the potato. Microwave until tender. Reserve about 1/3 of the potato cubes and add the rest to the soup and continue simmering for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and blend until smooth. I use a handheld blender for this. Roughly mash the remaining potato and stir into the soup. Add more water to create desired consistency. Check and adjust seasoning as required.

NOTES:

Be extremely careful when blending hot soup.

You may choose more, less or different seasoning to what I have used.

I make the rosemary salt by stripping the leaves from the stems, dehydrating them and then grinding to a powder which I mix 50/50 with a good quality salt.

Soup simmering.

The end result.

Eggplant Everywhere

Leave a comment

For the past few years I have grown eggplant pretty successfully with minimal effort. In our climate it grows without supplementary watering, is generally resistant to pests and vagaries of the weather and, most importantly, the fruit mature gradually and I don’t end up with a massive glut of produce.

It is definitely a crop worth growing as they are generally $6.95/kg at our greengrocer.

I think eggplant are quite underrated. Here are some of my favourite dishes that I have made recently.

Roasted eggplant slices on a vegetarian pizza.

Ready to pop in the oven to roast.

The finished pizza.

Eggplant and Bean Curry

Sauteed eggplant and some leftover spicy chicken with a bit of tamari and served with cauliflower in cheese sauce. There is no photo of this one.

Eggplant often does not look particularly spectacular but I think it is definitely worth trying.

Making the Most of Everything

2 Comments

At the end of my last post I mentioned that I would share some details of the food preparation that I do.

In the past few weeks I have been fortunate to score some great bargains on fresh produce. A food bargain is only a bargain if you actually use the food. This can be a particular challenge with fresh produce but with a bit of know-how and some time you can make the most of bargains that may come your way.

Today I want to show you how I used and stored large quantities of cheap bananas, pineapples and tomatoes.

I bought a 10kg box of perfect, ripe Roma tomatoes for $10. $1/kg was too good to pass up. I could have bottled them straightaway but they were so firm, red and perfect that we decided to enjoy them fresh for as long as possible. I spread them out on a couple of racks so that would be able to easily identify any blemishes or potential rotten ones. Fresh tomato salsa was served with at least one and often two meals every day. Here is a selection of our meals.

L to R: Chicken tacos, Mexican quinoa and Baked potatoes with refried beans

This strategy worked well for just over 3 weeks which is testament to the perfect quality of the produce. In fact, I have no idea why they were being sold for $1/kg.

The remaining tomatoes were diced and packed into jars to go in the freezer. These will be added to casseroles and other dishes instead on buying canned tomatoes.

Next were the bananas. These were also $1/kg and I bought 12.5kg in a box. The bananas ranged from partly green to overripe but the majority were ripe and flavoursome although the skins were showing blemishes. We eat sliced banana on our cereal every day so about a dozen of the least ripe ones were added to fruit bowl to be eaten over the next week.

Two very ripe ones became banana cake and the remainder were peeled, cut in half and frozen on trays. They can be sliced and added to cereal with no further preparation.

You can see the less ripe bananas in the fruit bowls in the background as well as trays ready for the freezer and two bananas in the bowl which were about to be turned into banana cake.

Finally, the pineapples. I spotted this box of 5 pineapples for $4 and knew exactly how I could use them.

Dried pineapple is a delicious treat so it was a simple matter of peeling, coring and slicing the pineapple and then into the dehydrator. We like it semi-dried (a bit chewy but not crunchy). I store it in a container in the refrigerator.

L to R: Fresh pineapple ready to dehydrate, dried pineapple, ready to store in the refrigerator.

I would love to hear your stories of bargains or gluts and how you make sure they do not go to waste.

Baking Day

2 Comments

It is over 2 weeks since my last post and I am not really sure why. It is partly because I have been occupied with personal aspects of my life which are not blog material but also I have been somewhat overwhelmed by national and global events which are out of my control.

Anyway, I am back and wanted to share a little of my day from yesterday.

As you may be aware, GMan has been the baker of bread in our house for probably close to 30 years. The breadmaker is an appliance that was a fad for some people and ended up relegated to a storage space to gather dust or the next garage sale. That was not the case here and it has been used consistently here for many years. Our current model is the second one we have owned.

Our bread needs have changed as our daughters left home and the demand for sandwiches diminished. Also, I eat a predominantly gluten-free diet, therefore, regular bread is off the menu.

In the early days GMan used various premixes, however as time has progressed so have his skills. He now makes bread in the breadmaker from scratch. This is mostly restricted to the occasional loaf of fruit loaf which he enjoys.

His main focus now is sourdough which he has researched, studied and perfected in the last 5 years. You can read about one of the earliest results here. Continuing research and a more mature starter have contributed to his current success of which he is justifiably proud.

I am still waiting for him to try a gluten-free starter. Maybe this year……..

Like most people, we are mindful of our power usage, and therefore, the oven is generally used for multiple items when it is turned on. Yesterday was a good example. I also made a loaf of gluten-free banana bread and a batch of gluten-free cheese scones. These are enjoyed by both of us. The scones are the perfect accompaniment to home-made vegetable soup and the recipe is here. I will add the recipe for the banana bread later as yesterday was the first time I had made it.

The last thing I put in the oven was a tray of eggplant slices. These were from our garden and I brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt before gently roasting them until soft. They were for the pizza I made for dinner last night. I do not use the oven when making pizza as I have a benchtop pizza maker.

A day in the kitchen was not only about baking but also other food prep (pineapples, bananas and tomatoes) but I will save those stories for another post.

Salvaged From the Snakepit

Leave a comment

Fear not, there are no snakes in this post. The snakepit refers to an undeveloped area surrounded by rocks in our backyard. It was flooded recently along with the whole lower portion of the garden.

This is a rather sad looking specimen of a chilli bush which had came up self-sown in this area. Despite being drowned by a couple of feet of muddy water, the bush appears to have survived and even had plenty of ripe chillies. Today I picked a substantial quantity.

My goal was to make some more of my ‘Tabasco-style’ sauce but it needs 150g of chillies – that is a lot of birdseye chillies. So, I supplemented my haul with more from a couple of other bushes that are in the fenced vegetable garden area.

I ended up with 128g of chillies so reduced the other ingredients slightly to match the reduced quantity of chillies. The recipe is here. Scroll towards the end of the link for the recipe.

The end result was 350ml of my version of Tabasco sauce. The equivalent cost of buying this in the supermarket is about $24. My cost was about 25c and a small amount of time.