Moroccan Chickpeas- Frugal Friday

Super quick, and super easy. If you prefer dried chickpeas just soak them before hand, and for the tomatoes if you have fresh ones available in abundance use them. Garlic is also another thing I would usually put in here, but not having access to Australian garlic for the moment, most dishes are garlic less. If you have it at home though, whack it in.

Moroccan Chickpeas

In a pot add a couple of good slurps of olive oil

a diced onion

2 tsp coriander

2 tsp cumin

1 can chickpeas

1 can tomatoes

rinse the can out with half water, pop it in

2 bunches of chopped English spinach

2 chopped carrots

and whack the lid on for about 10 minutes.

Salt to taste and serve with basmati rice or cous cous, a dollop of natural yogurt, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of turmeric.

10 minutes to prepare, and ten minutes to cook

the weight of the steak

When I was researching what piggy options a city girl had, I discovered Feather and Bone, in Rozelle. A supplier of sustainably raised meat. I started getting their weekly emails filled with interesting meaty information and what’s on offer at the moment. From there, I went to one of their open days and got to see for myself at how it was all done, coming home with a weighty little number that had cook me up just right, written all over it.

I’ve written before about knowing where your meat is from and asking whether you would be prepared to do the killing yourself. Reading back on that post I realised that even in the last not quite 6 months our meat buying habits have changed since then. I’m fine with that, I like evolving. I now very rarely buy any meat from a super market or butcher. Instead, the meat intake has dropped even less, and the majority of it is now coming from farmers markets. If those markets are few and far between because I can’t get there or the meat isn’t available, then so is the meat eating. Why? Because I really want to know where it’s from. I want to know more of how it was raised before slaughter, who reared it and if possible, what their farming philosophies are like. I simply can’t get this if I’m buying from the supermarket.

Meat has been the topic of choice in this fair country of ours for the last few weeks. Ever since the ABC’s Four Corners program was shown about the live cattle export business to Indonesia, people have had things to say. A lot of things to say. The footage was graphic, confronting and got people into action to get things changed.

It might have changed Indonesia’s meat eating habits for a bit as the supply from Australia has almost stopped, but would it be enough for people to question their own meat eating habits here within Australia? Could that daily/weekly slab of meat become less? Could it become just a special occasion meal?

Back to the weighty number in my possession, and I had a little treat in store for Mr Chocolate. Special occasion, yes it was. After visiting the warehouse of Feather and Bone, I came home with a steak. Not just any steak but a Chianina steak, aged for 6 weeks, rib eye cut, weighing 673g and costing $45. There was, a small intake of breath, (you can’t fight history right) at the cost of it, but overall I was more than happy to hand over the cash for the hefty piece of meat. I knew where the beef was coming from, I knew how long and where it was aged and butchered, (Feather and Bone.) I also knew that this steak was going home to my loved one as part of a twice a year meal of steak, (the last one being at Aria.) It was also going to be enjoyed by him, (I hoped.)

Now on getting that steak home, I started to sweat a little. Not from the weight of the thing, but the pressure to cook it the right way. (To clarify, I don’t eat steak, which means I don’t cook steak.) This however, was a treat. It had to be cooked just right. I had quizzed Grant, (at Feather and Bone) when I purchased it and then also made a frantic phone call to my friend who proudly has Meat on her bookshelf. Plan put into action and I’m off.

Plates at the ready, the steak was brought back to room temperature, salted, seared, into the oven, and then rested for the same amount of time it had cooked for. The pressure was high, the weight of the steak was sitting firmly on my shoulders, and geez, it was a hefty one.

No cooked pictures, as that was the last thing I needed was to try and get a ‘good’ picture in the fading light and building anticipation of Mr Chocolate about to cut into his rib eye.

But how did it taste?

Let’s just say… if Mr Chocolate was about to leave the earth tomorrow and he could choose any meal to end it, this steak cooked by me (*nervous giggle*) is now top of the list.

I think that just might be a success.

Isola (producer)

Chianina Beef

6 week aged

Rib eye


Taunting newspapers and Banana Oat Bars

I’m always curious to see what other people are reading.

Passing by a young man with a very long bushman beard at 7am on a Saturday morning recently. I had to stop myself from sticking my head upside down, and asking, “what ya readin’ there buddy?” He seemed so engrossed in his book, sitting reading at the bus stop.  What was that young man with a long bushman’s beard reading at 7am while waiting for his bus?

I love reading, but too often there isn’t enough time in my day. Certainly not enough time to do all the reading that I would like to be doing anyway. I love reading the Saturday paper, but sometimes I simply have to just not buy it. The pressure to read the thing is too much. Who needs that kind of added pressure? A pile of papers slowly mounting up on the table, taunting me in its silence. If the paper could talk I’m sure it would be whispering.

You haven’t read me yet, have you…

I’m still here…you’ve walked by again and I’m still neatly folded.

Come on now, it’s nearly Friday, and I’m still very much unread…

You know what tomorrow is don’t you…paper day, again.

See how the paper taunts me? How a bundle of paper pages does that, I just don’t know.

Along with the newspaper building up, my pile of books to read is also silently gathering momentum. The beginning of the year, I had set out with a reasonable reading list that I thought was manageable given the slow rate I was reading at the time. That one book turned into two, two turned into three, three turned into ten. I can’t keep up. Have I finished any of them? Maybe one or two… But generally they are all half read. I’m simultaneously reading six books.

Now this, probably isn’t the most clever way to read a book but it’s how I’m slowly creeping through them all. There is the book that doesn’t read particularly well, but I really want to get though it as I think it’s important. There is the light reading book for when I’m so tired just before bed that I can still read a little with an eye stuck shut for want of sleep. There is the informative book that needs to be read with a clear mind, while taking down the odd note here and there. There is the escapism fiction that has essentially only been opened and closed without a proper word been consumed. There are the numerous cookbooks that need to be poured over before I can satisfactorily say that yes, I’m utilising them properly. There is the green building magazine that I adore every page of, so don’t want to flick through unmindfully as by doing that it would almost seem an insult and not do the pages proper justice. Then there is the ever growing list of books that I really want to read next.

My books are pressuring me just as that taunting pile of newspapers.  Thankfully these Banana Oat Bars don’t give out that kind of pressure.

Do you ever feel pressure from paper goods?


Banana Oat Bars

2 mashed up bananas

100g melted butter

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

3 tbls honey

2 cups whole oats

Mix all the ingredients up in order. Press mixture into a greased pan (I used 23cmx 23cm) and bake at 180C for approximately 45 minutes.

Super easy and perfect to nibble on… while you are reading.

chunky chicken macadamia pie

Finally a pastry that I’m really happy with. Natural yogurt, where would I be without you…


200gms butter

2 cups plain flour (300gms)

110gms natural yogurt

1 tsp vinegar

In a food processor pulse flour and butter until resembles bread crumbs. Tip out into a bowl and add yogurt and vinegar. Mix through and then knead until a smooth consistency and then pop into the fridge for awhile. Take out and roll to the thickness you want. With a ramekin that’s been turned up side down and wrapped with baking paper, drop it over the top and squish it in a bit.  Then into the oven at about 180C until golden. (I used a spatula about half way through the cooking to flatten the top (which will be the bottom) you don’t have to do this though.

When they are cooked, just flip it gently out and fill with your favourite pie flavours.

Chunky Chicken Macadamia

In a pot add

a good slurp or two of olive oil

4 cloves of diced garlic

chopped up chicken breast or thighs

cook them up until the chicken is cooked through

add two chopped zucchini

a lemon rind strip

a good grind of black pepper

2 tps stock powder

a little water

1 tps dried oregano

and lastly 3 heaped teaspoons of plain flour

cook it all until it thickens a little and smells lemony chickeny.

Pop spoons of the mixture in to the pie shells and add some toasted macadamias or whatever other nut you may have locally.

the humble crumble, and a little bit on what I think…

I’ve waffled along on a few other people’s blogs recently about a few things food related. Things that I have felt are important, and before I know it my fingers have typed out half an essay. Rather than completely taking over someones comment sections saying what I think I’m going to try to rustle up a few brain cells and see if I can form an opinion here on my own blog.

Here’s a little snippet of what I think…

(Scroll down to the bottom if you want to skip the soap box waffling and go straight to the crumble.)

* I think it makes sense to eat seasonally.

* I think it makes sense to try and get a lot of your foods as locally as you can, (if you can).

* I think it makes wonderful sense to know what you are eating, and where it came from.

* I think it makes a huge amount of sense to know how to cook.

You don’t have to be cooking like a chef, but a little cooking knowledge can go a long way. You need to eat, so maybe you need to cook. Seeing pre-cooked rice, and avocado in a tube in the supermarket makes me sigh. Is this becoming our normal? Cooking rice, surely is no more difficult than learning to tie your own shoelaces, (maybe not at the same age.) It’s tricky to begin with, gauging the right way to do it, but then with a little practice it becomes second nature and you just do it.

Why do people say they can’t cook? This brings up so many questions in my mind. Is it because they have no interest in it or are daunted by being in the kitchen? If kids were brought up watching other adults go about preparing evening meals, I think it becomes second nature and an almost default setting for them. Here, stir this pot while I chop this. Turn it off when you see bubbles. Do this enough times and without even noticing you child has just absorbed some valuable cooking experience. Maybe that experience won’t be drawn upon completely while they are still living at home and busy being an insufferable teenager, but that experience will be invaluable when it’s time to move out. (No need to buy pre-cooked rice and avocado in tubes then.)

It’s never too late to learn to cook. My grandfather in his late 70’s started to cook, and I’m really proud that he has taken that on. Not out of necessity, as my grandmother still produces the majority of the meals, but out of interest. A school fundraising cookbook landed on his lap, and something in the bottom of his belly was ignited. He started to bake. Under the watchful eye of my grandmother, he starting producing snacks and meals and getting an obvious enjoyment from it. I think he also cottoned on to the fact that if he cooked, he could cater things to his own taste buds and not what someone else wanted him to eat. Sweeties!

Simple cooking doesn’t have to be tasteless. I’m sure some of my most stand out meals have been the ones with the least ingredients. Zucchini quickly cooked in some diced local garlic and olive oil, with a little sourdough on the side and I’m a happy woman. For a lot of lucky people there is an amazing amount of choice of foods out there. Simple doesn’t have to mean an un-interesting diet.  Olive oil, garlic, asian/middle eastern style spices, and legumes can be cheap and all help in making a meal mind blowing within minutes. Choice is a wonderful thing. I really value the fact that I have food choice and I don’t want to feel indifferent about those choices.

Celebrity and competitive cooking shows aren’t a bad thing. In prime time television in every corner of the globe there is probably a cooking programme going on. A lot of people have embraced the celebrity chef and televised cooking competitions. If this encourages people to cook, to jump off the couch and head towards the kitchen, surely it can’t be a bad thing.  A celebrity chef as a pin-up idol seems to be a much nicer alternative to some C grade celebrity famous for being famous. If I had a tween, I would much rather posters of Jamie Oliver on the wall than ….some toad who just got arrested again. There will always be some negative things to watching these programmes, but I really think the postitives far out way. I’ll take watching and learning how to cook a souffle over another dead body in CSI something or other any day.

Knowing where your food comes from, brings a sense of value. I love knowing where my food comes from if I can manage it. When ever a meal is produced from either making it myself or buying the ingredients from a producer I have met or know something of… pickle me in ginger if I don’t feel warm and fuzzy from it. I’ll be more inclined to eat in moderation and be mindful of how it tastes. Mouthfuls aren’t being thrown back willy nilly without a backwards glance to the plate.  If I’ve just spent 2 days making that sourdough, I’m damn sure I’m going to appreciate every crumb of it. I’m really proud to be able to produce something tasty to go on the family table. I have a lovely memory of the first time Monkey Boy helped out making dinner. The pride he had, and the joy he got in telling Mr Chocolate, “I made that…isn’t it delicious!”

Knowing how to cook helps with staying on a budget. Knowing how to cook and stretch the ingredients that I have, has taken time and practice, (and still with much more learning to go.) Knowing how to cook gives you cooking options. Cooking to a budget, also makes you resourceful with ingredients. I’m sure that as a family unit we are spending less on food now than when Mr Chocolate and I were Monkey-less. It bugs me serving up the same meal for 3 consecutive nights, I lose interest and so do The Monkeys…But, I do get a kick out of ‘upcycling’ the meal into something else.

Bolognese- to mexican beans- to huevos rancheros

Left over rice- to bread

Dhal- to lentil burgers

Porridge- to sourdough oat bread

I also get a huge kick out of being able to preserve the seasons. Jams, chutneys, marmalades are staples and used daily in our family eating habits. Jams are used to sweeten homemade yogurt, marmalades to jazz up toast and chutneys to take a simple dinner to another level. In time to come, (with more space and more access to produce) I would love to have preserved fruits, tomato sauces, passatas and other goodies all lining my cupboards, but for the moment I’m happy with what I am doing. They aren’t tricky, and it saves us money. Oodles of it, I’m sure.

Having my own vegetable garden would be lovely, but… I can’t grow more than a few token extras where I am. So, by choosing to buy from local farmers markets, or using CSA boxes when ever I can, (and it’s convenient) it helps with buying locally, eating fresher and knowing what’s in season. When I shop at the local fruit and vegetable shop or supermarket, yes, it’s convenient by being all in the one spot, but I wouldn’t have a clue whats in season. Not a tooting clue.

The internet is full of recipes. Lots of them. You can learn how to make just about anything you could possibly imagine at the click of a button, and this I think is rather lovely.

So tell me…  what do you think? Everything up for discussion if you have the time and the inclination…

The Humble Crumble

There are so many variations on the humble crumble. It can be a quick an easy dessert stand by, and without it in my life there would be a huge crumbly hole.

The quickest and most basic way I have found is to…. melt 100gms butter. Add 1/2 cup brown sugar, and then add one cup of plain flour. Fork it through so it resembles bread crumbs and then lay it on what ever seasonal fruit you have.  Chopped fresh plums, cooked apples, mixed berries….endless possibilities. It can go in single ramekins, a large deep dish, a low flat dish, an oven proof pot. What ever you have that is bakeproof is fine. Fruit in and crumble mixture on top. From those three topping ingredients you can build. Additions of oats, lemon zest, ginger, coriander, vanilla, almond meal, make it cake-like, crispy, cobbler-esque…

So many combinations of deliciousness! Then bake it all at 180C, until golden.

sweet potato dhal- frugal Friday


Cheap to make. Healthy to eat. And tasty.

There is a lot to like about dhal. I use red lentils as they cook pretty quickly and they are an easy one to get by The Monkeys (on a good day.)

I will make a very basic dhal and then dress it up with what ever I have going. This week was served with some basmati rice, a dollop of natural yogurt, a spoonful of tomato chutney and some fresh chopped cucumber/ tomato. Use what ever you have though…some chilli for a kick in the pants is always good too.

Sweet Potato Dhal

In a pot add

2 good slurps of vegetable oil

a diced brown onion

3 cloves diced garlic

an inch of fresh diced ginger

a couple of shakes of




brown mustard seeds (if you have them, I didn’t for this one)

fry until smells deliciously fragrant

add 1 1/2 cups dried red lentils

2 cups of water

stir it round and pop the lid on, (at a medium heat)

chop up your

sweet potato

and whack that in the pot, along with another

2 cups of water

salt to taste

stick the lid on and keep the temperature on low until the the lentils have cooked themselves soft and the sweet potato* is cooked through.

You can use any vegetable that is seasonal. I’ll quite often use pumpkin, sweet potato or silverbeet.

Pasta Frittata- Frugal Friday

Pasta frittata. So darn tooting easy, it’s not funny.

About 5 minutes before you want to eat dinner. Get that left over cooked pasta out of the fridge. Depending on how much pasta is there, add a few eggs. Use a fork to mix it through, you want the pasta well coated. In a thick bottomed frying pan add a good couple of slurps of olive oil, then pop in your egg pasta. Spread it round until it’s even, whack the lid on, medium heat and it’s ready when there is no runny bits of egg.

Too easy.

Want a bit more taste to it? Add any cooked vegetables that are also lingering in the fridge, (garlic roasted vegetables, steamed broccoli, garlicky zucchini etc). What ever you’ve got, stick it in with the pasta and egg mixture, and pop that lid on.

Or keep it plain, and serve with a seasonal salad.

As this is a very budget friendly, minimal effort, easy peasy, healthy kinda dinner. It will leave ample room to savour the Chocolate Brandy Layer Cake for later.

Buon Appetito.

custard biscuits

As a kid I was rather attracted to anything with custard in it. My mum’s egg custard using our backyard chook eggs was a firm favourite, along with a coconut custard pie that she would sometimes make. Always offering to ‘wash’ the pot for her, I would scrape out every last tiny spec left on the bottom of the pot. This was the beginnings of building my strong custard foundations.

My sister and I next discovered that custard powder was an easy way to make your own after dinner treat. Just add milk, cook and your away. A lovely bowl of sloppy sweet goodness. (My sister using so much custard powder in there that the spoon would stand straight up in it.)

My grandmother always used to keep ready-made custard in a carton in the fridge, for when ever hungry grand kids came to stay. I’d eat my weight in it for dessert, followed quickly by breakfast over the top of my weetbix, (these sorts of things you can get away with when you bat your eyelashes, and try to look like a hungry waif. Grandma was always keen to feed me up.)

Outside the home, if we ever went to a bakery it would always be a custard tart, or a custard slice (vanilla slice) that I would choose. There was no need to consider anything else as clearly custard reigned supreme in the bakery choices.

These days my custard consuming as been curtailed a little. The palate is a little more picky and the metabolism a little more sluggish than my frantic teenage appetite for all things custard. Although I did recently introduce Little Monkey to a beautifully delicate French patisserie custard slice. He was keen. As he elbowed his way through to the last portion that I had stupidly been slower to eat. Looks like the little fella might be following in similar custardy footprints.

Custard Biscuits

Cream together

200gms softened butter

100gms (1/2 cup) caster sugar

then add

70gms (1/2 cup) custard powder

225gms (1 1/2 cups) plain flour

1 tps vanilla essence

mix together, and shape

I used a piping bag to shape these, or you could easily roll them into balls and squish them down as well. Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes, or until a light golden colour.

an unattractive tasty plum cake

I knew in my mind the sort of cake I wanted to make. Not too sweet, using half plums, and perhaps a little almond meal in there. Could  I find a recipe within my collection that was even remotely like it, no. Not a whisker. I didn’t want to trawl the internet, so it was back to hack baking. I’m certainly no stranger there.

Springform pan greased and lined with parchment paper on the bottom. Cutting 5 plums in half, lining them up round side down and then sprinkled with a tablespoon of sugar.

In a mixing bowl add,

150gms softened butter

1 cup raw sugar (approx 140gms)

cream together, add

2 beaten eggs

1 tps cinnamon

1 cup natural yogurt (approx 250mls)

1 cup almond meal (approx 100gms)

1 cup s/r flour (approx 150gms)

Spoon mixture on top of plum halves and bake at 180C for approximately 1hour 15mins.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room. It doesn’t look pretty. It really doesn’t. I couldn’t photograph its prettier angle, as there was no prettier angle. The food stylist was clearly out for a long lunch. It is what it is, an unattractive tasty plum cake.

That’s ok though, these things happen in every day cooking.

* Edit. I forgot one litttttle thing. I flipped the cake. So the bottom is now on the top. If you would like to see how an unflipped cake looks, read on down in the comments and you will see Keri’s superb looking cake she made.

cooking with red amaranth- Frugal Friday

Red Amaranth is a delicious leafy vegetable that I had no idea what to do with. Lifting the lid of my Foodconnect box, sitting pretty up the top of the vegetables, I first wondered what it was and then what the devil I was going to do with it?

Plenty it seems. It’s used in Asian and South American cooking and can easily be used as a substitute for spinach or any other leafy greens.


In a flat bottomed wok add,

diced garlic

sliced onion

vegetable oil

sesame seed oil

Cook it up for a few minutes and then add

amaranth leaves (any other leafy green vegetable you might have, spinach, silver beet…)

a slurp of kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)

a slurp of fish sauce

stick a lid on it and let it wilt down. Team it up with a bowl of basmati rice.

In the flat bottomed wok, crack an egg. Cook it through, and pop it on top of the rice and amaranth (leafy greens).

Back to the wok, add a small handful of local nuts (sesame, pecans, peanuts, whatever you have in stock…).

Once toasted add to the top.




Spiced Indian Potatoes- Frugal Friday

Spiced Indian Potatoes

in a pan take

a good double slurp of vegetable oil

pop in

1 diced onion

2 tps cumin

2 tps coriander

2 tps tumeric

(if you have them 2 tps mustard seed, black or brown)

1 knob of diced fresh ginger

2 cloves of diced garlic

gently cook all these ingredients, letting the spices waft around the kitchen tantalizing your taste buds

Now pop in 4 roughly cubed medium sized potatoes, (you can partly cook them in the microwave beforehand just to make the process quicker. Only partly cooked though, you don’t want mush.) Stir it round, spices and onions coating the potatoes. Done when the potatoes are soft when pierced through.

Serve with a dollop of natural yoghurt, and a seasonal salad.

Easy dinner for Frugal Friday.

Weaving bread and why its fun to play with your food

I have this very fond memory from when I was a kid. Staying at my Nana’s house and being ‘let loose’ in the kitchen. She gave me a plate full of flour, sugar, milk, sultanas, an egg and spices. With these ingredients I could do what ever I wanted and then she would cook it. Blissfully happy, I have no idea how it tasted, but I remember vividly the pride I had that I could choose what ever I wanted to do with those ingredients. It never happened again, and if I was cooking at home I always had to follow a recipe. Mum said I had to learn the basics first before I tinkered. Actually she was right, darn right. Because I know a lot of the basics now, tinkering with food makes more sense then when I cooked that flour, milk, sultana  concoction.

Playing with food and its different flavours can be so much fun. The last few months I have been playing with sourdoughs, love it, love it, love it. The last few weeks I’ve been playing with plaiting sourdoughs, plaiting, plaiting, plaiting. Then just I was about to embark on a certain ‘starfish’ that needed an intricate amount of plaiting, my brain said oh oh oh…but what if we did this instead?…Cross this with that, then that with this…Oh ok…Lets give that a whirl.

sourdough woven bread

…and that dear people is why it’s fun to play with your food. As you never know what you’re going to get.

If you would like to weave your sourdough. Make up your usual dough and when its time to do the shaping make your self a large square. Cut equal strips to go down and across. (For this one I did 8×8 strips) Making sure the strips are well floured, otherwise they will just blob together when having the final prove. Then tuck and loop, tuck and loop. For the edges, trim and then gently tuck under to tidy the sides up.

This bread makes for a good addition to soup, as it easily pulls apart.

* This post submitted to yeast spotting.