I was lucky enough to head to the Barossa Valley in South Australia with my delightful parents and hunky boyf for my birthday last month.
It's a must-do if you like red wine, countryside, and European feels without the 24 hour flight.
That's another blog post.
My dear grandmother sent cash via my Dad for my birthday and I treated myself to a cookbook at the airport, thus paying actual RRP, like an animal.
My mother was not impressed. 'Go to BIG W!' Well, there's no BIG W at the airport and sometimes, IMPULSE BUYS ARE FUN!
So I'm not quitting sugar, don't panic.
But I have lost my cooking mojo, and so thought that this might help me get excited again. Especially around prepping veggies in new and exciting ways. Always keen for that.
It's a gorgeous, thick, heavy brick of a book that will make a nice edition to my bookcase. It has beautiful pictures and fun handwritten notes throughout.
Moving past aesthetics, the premise of the book is wasting less food, eating more vegetables, saving money and being cool. Sarah reckons Aussies throw out 1/4 bags of groceries per week, and that rotting food is the greatest contributer to climate change. I come from a household of over-caterers, so I've seen this first hand. I know we're not the only ones, too. We waste a lot of food in this country.
I like to think of myself as a creative cook. My favourite thing is turning a bunch of random odds and ends in to a meal. Our flourishing herb garden is helping freshen up my humble meal offerings too, which excites me no end. Just wait until my pumpkins are ready for harvest! PUMPKIN EVERYTHING!
Sarah is evidently pretty creative as well. Committed to being thrifty, she takes leftovers home always, totes her slow cooker about like it's a handbag and seems like she barely eats out at all. Even though the majority of the recipes and tips in the book aren't brand new in concept, there were certainly some lightbulb moments. The lady makes vanilla extract by steeping a scraped out pod in any sort of liquor in an old caper jar! How cool! Apparently you just keep topping up the booze! I'd probably end up drinking it on ice or something.
After spending a good few hours' browsing her book, I find myself integrating her vibe into my everyday food life. For example, last night D went next door and bought $17 worth of limes so we could make Margaritas at home. I forgot to turn the limeskins into fermented something something though. We'll work on that next time.
I'm working on keeping stock bags of celery leaves and veggie peelings for stock - and thanks to a good friend my freezer is already usually stocked (ha! geddit!?) with little jelly cups of chicken and beef stock. This is not only good for you (apparently), but a great way to cook veggies in a pan without adding heaps of fat. I also use them to make chicken soup, bolognese, vegetable soups and sometimes to make casserole-type fork dishes out of cold roast meat.
I haven't quite gone Pete Evans level crazy by poaching eggs in a cup of stock with fresh herbs for breakfast, but give me time! :S
Overall I think this book would be a great gift for a university student or beginner cook looking to eat well on a budget. Alternatively, for anyone looking to get more vegetables into their diet without breaking the bank.
So this one is not in the book, but it is in the spirit of the book. Vegetables, protein, use what you have.
I give you:
So this one came about because we love curry and our friend Lolo left a kilo of white fleshed fish of unknown and probably unsustainable origins in our freezer umpteen months ago. Well, more than 3, less than 6ish. Yes, I know seafood is supposedly only good for 3 months in the freezer but we ate it, it tasted good and we didn't die. So there!
We love Thai. We love Thailand. I've written about it. It's probably my favourite country thus far. I always have a few jars of curry paste and cans of coconut milk in the cupboard. I usually stock low fat because honestly, I have enough calories in my life and Sarah Wilson's full fat strategy may work for her lanky ass, but I need to make concessions where I can!! Jeez!
So this is what I pulled out of my freezer, fridge, pantry and garden:
-3 fillets of cod
-3 tablespoons of curry paste
-1x 400ml can of LF coconut milk
-1x punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
-200g frozen broccoli florets
-1 cup of frozen chicken stock (fish stock would work even better)
-1 red chilli from our new chilli plant!
-1/2 cup of basmati rice - optional
-1 tablespoon of fish sauce
-1/2 lime, wedged
Fry off the curry paste and chopped red chilli in an oiled saucepan over medium heat until it smells divine. About a minute.
Add a few tablespoons of coconut milk and stir.
Add stock, the remaining coconut milk, about two cups of boiling water, the broccoli and rice if using.
Chuck a lid on the pan to get it simmering, then remove and stir occassionally.
Add cherry tomatoes.
If the curry is thinner than you'd like, add some cornflour and water mixed to a smooth paste.
Once the broccoli is about cooked and the curry is smelling wonderful, add the fish fillets whole or sliced. If you pop them in whole you can just break them up with your wooden spoon as it cooks and becomes flaky.
Once the fish is opaque, taste the curry and add fish sauce, lime juice and a touch of brown or raw sugar if you like. The harmony of sour, salty, spicy and sweet in a Thai dish is subjective and this is the part where you make it how you like it. I personally like mine spicy and sour.
Snip green onions into the curry, remove from heat and serve in bowls, garnished with lime wedges, coriander, bean sprouts, etc. You can serve with extra chillies chopped in fish or soy sauce if you like to add more heat.
NB: Just about any vegetables can be used in a curry. Make sure you put them in the pot in order of which take the longest to cook. Pumpkin and zucchini are some of my favourites to add. This curry is also brilliant with prawns, scallops or mussels.
So, lovely reader, what did you last make from the random contents of your fridge/freezer/pantry/garden?