Use It Up

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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.

Functional or Fad?

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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.

Soup for Supper

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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.

Stockpot Workout

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I have a large stainless steel stockpot that lives in the back corner of the pantry on the floor. It usually gets dragged out a few times a year.

Yesterday was one of those days as I decided to make a large batch of pumpkin and celery soup. This may sound like an odd combination but I find the sharpness of homegrown celery that has been growing for several months provides a nice balance to the sweetness of our pumpkins.

I ended up with 18 serves of soup – 2 for dinner and the rest to go in the freezer.

Today I continued with my bulk food preparation by making jam with the 3kg of Davidson plums which I had picked over the past few weeks and stored in the freezer. I ended up with 3.95kg of jam. Davidson plums are a relatively rare Australian native fruit which grows on a rainforest tree in a fairly narrow distribution in northern NSW and south-east Queensland. Therefore, the jam commands a premium price. I compared 3 different brands online and found that the average price per kilo is about $81 which makes my haul worth over $320!!

I also boiled up the seeds and then strained them to make cordial. A splash in a glass of soda water makes a refreshing drink.

Finally, I raided the freezer again for some cherry tomatoes and made a batch of tomato sauce (ketchup). While nowhere near as valuable as the jam, the sauce is a whole other level beyond the commercially produced tomato sauce. The recipe is here.

While the oven was on to sterilise the jars I decided that I might as well make a batch of cheese scones. Recipe is here.

I think it is time to put the stockpot away for a couple more months.

Wrapped Up

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I have made salad wraps for our dinner tonight as we will be out of the house and between events.

Wraps are a great portable alternative to takeaway. An added bonus is that you can tailor-make them to meet individual choices and dietary requirements and there are no unknown, hidden ingredients.

In order to make this a totally waste-free option, I make my own wraps which are simple and gluten-free. The recipe is here.

Today the fillings include a spread of refried beans topped with mushroom and cucumber slices, leftover quinoa salad, grated cheese and a little mayonnaise and sweet chilli sauce.

The rolled wraps are the rolled up diagonally in greaseproof paper and can be eaten by unfolding the paper from one end.

What is your favourite portable meal or snack? Is plastic-free? Love to hear your ideas.

A Different Dinner

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Due to Covid 19 our area has been locked down for 8 days. Those restrictions ease from this afternoon so we are very grateful. I know that this nothing compared to what many people have endured and continue to do so. I understand that grocery shopping is one of the acceptable reasons to leave your home but whether we are locked down or not, I try to minimise my exposure by shopping as infrequently as possible.

Yesterday I stocked up on some grocery items and also replenished our very meagre selection of fruit and vegetables. Now the trick is to make sure that everything is used wisely and none of the perishable goods go to waste. I bought 2 bunches of broccolini and decided that 1 of them would be used in our dinner.

After canvassing several options, I decided on a Broccolini and Caramelised Onion Tart. I found a few recipes online but none that exactly matched my idea so I pulled a few different elements together and this is what I came up with. It makes use of what I had available so you can make your own adjustments or substitutions.

Broccolini and Carmelised Onion Tart

Pastry – I was looking for something that was gluten free and tried this recipe for the pastry base. I had never thought of rubbing coconut oil rather than butter into flour when making pastry. I thought it turned out reasonably well but GMan is not a fan and feels than you can taste the coconut. You can make or buy whatever pastry suits you.

This is the pastry when I placed it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Filling

2 onions
2 teaspoons mixed herbs
2 teaspoons treacle
2 tablespoons red wine
1 bunch broccolini
Olive oil
Salt
Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic
Nutritional yeast
Sour cream
Cheddar cheese

Slice the onions, place in a pan over low heat and cook gently, stirring regularly. Add mixed herbs and treacle. Continue to cook until golden brown and soft. Add red wine to deglaze the pan. Cook for another minute and remove from heat.

Rinse broccolini and spread on baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil, salt and slivers of garlic. Roast for about 15 minutes at 150C. Set aside until required.

Ready to go in the oven.

Line a dish or tray with your chosen pastry. Lightly spread with mustard and sprinkle with nutritional yeast. Place half of the onions in the dish then the broccolini followed by the remainder of the onions.

Add some dollops of sour cream and a little grated cheese.

Bake at 180C for 20 minutes.

I served slices of the tart with freshly-made coleslaw and cherry tomatoes.

One For the File

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Do you remember my recent post about making lentil wraps? You can read it here. We have used these predominantly for lunches filled with a variety of spreads and salads.

Last night I decided to use them as a main meal.

I made a filling, rolled the wraps and lay them in an ovenproof dish topped with grated cheese.

As with savoury pancakes, the choices of fillings are almost unlimited. Here is what I did.

FILLING

1 medium onion, diced
250g lean beef mince
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup water
1/2 cup refried beans
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
1 teaspoon beef stock powder
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
2 teaspoons mixed herbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Fry the onion, add the mince and brown. Add remaining ingredients, combine well and simmer gently, stirring regularly until fairly thick. Remove from heat. I also added some chopped spinach. I stirred it through the mixture after it was cooked.

Divide the mixture between 4 wraps. Place filled wraps in ovenproof dish and top with grated cheese. This can now be baked in the oven or heated in microwave and finished under the grill to brown the cheese.

I served the meal with coleslaw and avocado slices.

This made enough for 4 servings so I have enough left for another meal.

An Amazing Find

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Sometimes it is easy to wonder whether you have spent your life under a rock. That is how I felt when I discovered this recipe. It is from ‘Frugal Queen in France’.

Red Lentil Wraps

1 cup red lentils
2 cups cold water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients in a blender. Soak for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.

Blend lentils and water thoroughly to create a smooth batter. DO NOT change the water or rinse.

Brush the pan with a light coating of oil. I redid the oil after every 2 wraps. Pour the batter into the pan and spread with a spatula. Cook for 2 minutes on each side.

I made 6 generous size wraps from this quantity.

This is a YouTube video from Frugal Queen in which she takes you through the entire process, step by step.

Here is the finished product. They really do roll up very easily.

I ate one for breakfast with banana, lemon juice and a sprinkle of sugar. Lunch was another wrap filled with coleslaw, grated cheese and cucumber.

I am looking forward to discovering many more innovative fillings and ways to use these easy-to-make gluten-free wraps.

Some Salads

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I am currently sifting through some old blog notes and recipes that have not previously seen the light of day.

I will post them here as I think they are worth remembering for the coming months as the weather heats up.

CHICKEN SALAD (Serves 2)

1 chicken breast fillet (steamed and shredded)
1/4 cup dried cranberries (chopped)
2 tablespoons walnuts (chopped)

Combine the ingredients and dress with mayonnaise.  Chill.

Serve with other salad as desired.

CUCUMBER & ONION SALAD

Lebanese cucumber (thinly sliced)
Onion (thinly sliced and separated into rings)
Good quality salt (I use Himalayan pink)

Layer the cucumber and onion rings in a shallow dish, adding a fine sprinkle of salt to each layer.  Chill and allow to stand for about an hour before serving.

I do not have a photo of this very simple, yet tasty, salad.

PEAR SALAD (Serves 2)

1/2 pear, cored and sliced thinly
Small stick of celery, sliced thinly on the diagonal
6 walnuts, chopped
Parmesan cheese, shaved
30ml lemon juice           }
5ml balsamic vinegar   } – Dressing
5ml olive oil                     }

Arrange the pear, celery and walnuts on the plate.  Combine dressing ingredients and drizzle over salad.  Top with shreds of parmesan cheese.

Here it is served with grilled salmon and coleslaw.

It is useful to have a selection of simple, appetising dishes for when the weather is hot and inspiration for meal preparation is often lacking.

Midwinter Mango

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It is difficult to believe but I reached a point in February where I felt as though I never wanted to see another mango.  Fortunately, the feeling does not last and we we able to freeze some of the summer abundance.  A few months later and it was time to dive into our frozen supplies.

Mango Chicken Curry

2 chicken breast fillets
1 large onion
1 tablespoon curry powder

OR

1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon chilli
1/4 teaspoon ginger
Fresh coriander, chopped

1 tablespoon oil
1 can coconut cream
2 fresh mangoes

OR

Frozen or canned mango

Cut onion into wedges and chicken fillets into strips.  Heat oil in a large pan, add onion and spices and fry for a couple of minutes.  Add chicken and fry until cooked.  Add coconut cream and simmer gently for 5-10 minutes.

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Add sliced mango and coriander, cook until heated through.

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Serve with rice and vegetables as desired.  We had stir-fried bok choy and snow peas.

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Serves 4