Wednesday 29 April 2009

The latest cure for Affluenza?

It was the hybrid cars parked outside that first signalled the arrival of a new type of shopper at the discount supermarket Aldi; then the Bugaboo Frogs that started clogging up the aisles. Once it was strictly for budget shoppers, but slowly but surely the bastion of discount retail is seeing a new type of customer walk through its sliding doors. And it isn’t only Aldi that is witnessing a change. Lidl, Poundstretcher, Primark and Peacocks, long the preserve of the budget-conscious, are fast becoming a stamping ground for the fashion-conscious, too. Because as fast as their credit is being crunched, shoppers are getting savvy.
Welcome to the age of the Aldirati. Defined recently by the trend forecasters the Future Laboratory, they are the new consumer group on the block, recognisable by their high household incomes (£80,000- £100,000 a year) and strategic approach to shopping. Also known as the no-frills affluents (NFAs), they are drawn to pragmatic, practical products, not prepared to pay premium prices for either essentials or flash-in-the pan trends, but determined to maintain their pre-crunch lifestyles. And they are making their presence felt all over the high street.
“In the past three years, the number of ABC1 customers in my stores has doubled,” says Paul Foley, managing director of Aldi in the UK and Ireland. And similar statistics are coming out of Lidl, which has seen a 13% rise in sales. But while the savings these retailers offer are significant (25% on the average shopping basket at Aldi), this is not a simple case of people downgrading their goods to save a few pennies. As Martin Lewis, the creator of, explains: “It’s a specific cohesive philosophy and it means cutting your bills without cutting back. It’s not thrift. It’s different.”
NFAs have grown used to the finer things in life and aren’t about to let a bit of budgeting get in the way. They may be trading down when it comes to certain items — own-brand cleaning products, good old Colman’s Mustard and Suttons seeds are all enjoying a revival — but they are not about to start cutting back on others that they have come to regard as essential. And their new favourite shops are rushing to meet their demands. “We’ve launched a lot of new luxury products in the past year or so,” says Foley. Cue bresaola and mortadella alongside the luncheon meat at the deli counter, and yellowfin sole and smoked salmon in among the battered cod. And witness the launch and subsequent run on the infamous £5 lobster at Lidl. Yet, however brilliant the bargains, for NFAs, sometimes discount just won’t do. Pauline Kent, a PR director from Norfolk, started shopping in Aldi and Lidl a year ago, and reckons that she saves about £300 a month. But she has limits. “What I tend to do now is a supermarket shop, then I shop locally for certain items. I go to a fantastic local butcher and farm shop. I’ve never really liked polystyrene-wrapped meat.” She has, though, had to suffer the shock of her friends. “I’m almost evangelical about it. I held tasting sessions for friends at my house. And now more of them are changing the way they think. When I was in Aldi the other day, you should have seen all the Audis and BMWs in the car park."

Read the entire article here.

Aldi is AWESOME for pet food (canned and dry), tinned tomatoes, Jaffa biscuits, dried herbs and spices, toothpaste, everyday frozen puff pastry, blocks of chocolate, canned sweet corn and dry biscuits.

Avoid their "bourbon". It will kill you.

Thursday 23 April 2009

Frugal Food #2

The thing with being frugal is that you have to plan ahead. There's no point deciding at 5.30pm that you want steak au poivre, if you've only got chicken mince in the 'fridge. The key to frugality is buying carefully and (more importantly) seasonally. Given it is Autumn here in OZ, there is no point getting a Jones on for raspberries, as you'll pay el primo $ for them. At this time of year, you want to be rocking on with your Quince self. Or your Rosella Pear self.

Yesterday, I knew that I had got 2 Porterhouses out of the freezer, and I knew I had some potatoes, a head of garlic, a medley of peppercorns (an Easter gift), so I was actually planning steak au poivre, until I rang Furry on the way home to find that he'd thoughtfully marinated the steaks in a goodly dollop of Elfred's Mumbai Chutney.

So much for planning ahead.

Rice is always a staple in our house, you can pick up 5kg bags for next to nothing, from Asian grocers, so that was definitely on the menu. I also knew there was a sweet potato lurking in the pantry somewhere.

And my best friend since going frugal?? My freezer. Before unemployment descended on us, I would have put aside left overs for the pups. As long as any leftovers didn't include onion, then Stella Bella and Mrs Peaches were set like jelly.

But since having to decide between paying the mortgage and buying heart medications ('cos we sure couldn't afford both this month), I've been a whole lot better at portioning food freezing leftovers.

Much to Stella and Mrs Peaches chagrin.

Which brings us to another frugal-friendly food.


Once, the staple of unwashed hippies and vegan crack-pots everywhere, lentils are now enjoying a resurgence in mainstream cooking. Once only seen on menus at places like Govindas or Gopals, the 90's saw David Lebovitz et al banging on about "lentils de puys" and thus bought them into the mainstream cook's consciousness.

And I happened to have some dhal in the freezer. I purchased my dhal from the dhosa man at the Balnarring Market, for $10 a kg, and I guestimate I'll get about 40 serves out of it! Like rice, it bulks up by about x 3 when cooked. Like rice, bags of various types of dhal can be purchased for next to nothing at your local Indian/Sri Lankan grocer.

So with my bulk porterhouses, my bulk rice and my bulk and frozen dhal, I managed to prepare a meal for 4 last night that came in at about $2.50 a head.

And I have rice and dhal left over for lunch today.

pg's spiced sweet potato.

Peel and chop one large sweet potato/kumara.
Boil/steam until tender.
Add a splash of peanut oil, some cumin seeds and some grated fresh ginger.

Leftovers are freezer-friendly

pg's dhal.

500g organic mixed dhal
Place in a large pan with water to cover to a depth of 5cm above the top of the dhal.
Add a good knob of fresh ginger.
slow simmer for 4 hours, adding water as necessary, until lentils are soft.
Add a can of coconut cream.
Fry off some cumin seeds, some fenugreek, some coriander seeds and black cardamon seeds in ghee.
Add to lentils and stir.
Adjust seasoning.

Leftovers are freezer-friendly.
(500g of dhal makes about 1.25-1.5 kg of cooked dhal. This, my friends, is a WHOLE lot of dhal, but given the cooking time for dhal, it works out so much easier to make it in bulk and freeze it)


Monday 20 April 2009

Frugal Foods # 1

My first Frugal post was a bit of a disaster. I was going to wax lyrical about how to prepare fresh yabbies.

Except Furry didn't catch any.

So, for this weeks frugal post, I made sure that we actually DID have something in the pantry. And this is the key to this weeks post.

Don't buy anything if you can avoid it. Without doubt, I bet you a pound to a bent penny, you've got the makings of at least one meal tucked away in your fridge/pantry/cupboard. The statistics show that we throw away at least one bag of every seven bags of groceries we buy.

That's appalling, in my opinion. So, rather than spend money we just don't have, here's what I whipped up this weekend. It's a variation on a recipe that Mater Beige used to cook on Good Friday, and I believe it originated in one of those ubiquitous Woman's Weekly Recipe books of the 70's/80's.

I had:

1/2 stick of unsalted butter. Melted in in a frypan and added about 10 button mushrooms, sliced. They were starting to dry out, so they had to be used, and I fried them off in the butter until golden. Next I added about 1 heaped teaspoon of tomato "pesto", which is basically some sundried tomatoes, in the oil they are preserved in, whizzed up to a pulp with the stick blender. I opened a can of tuna in springwater, and deglazed the pan with some of the liquid. Then whacked in the tuna and heated through. I had a small tub of sour cream in the 'fridge, so that got whacked in as well.

Cook a whole packet of spirals/shells/elbows and when done, add the sauce and combine. top with some freshly cracked black pepper and some torn Italian parsely from the garden.

I guestimate the ingredients cost me less than $10, and we got 5 serves out of it.

The point is, that if you like this recipe, go out and buy the ingredients, it still qualifies as frugal food. But I'd LOVE to hear what you guys can make, sourcing all the ingredients only from what you've got on hand!

I'm eyeing off the 1/2 packet of Black pepper Savoy's and thinking savory tart shell.

Friday 17 April 2009

This combines two of my favourite things!

I'm not much of a sweet tooth. I'd rather slam my face into a slab of brie or a good stanky blue that eat a chocolate bar. But I do have a soft spot for 2 things. Ice cream and Turkish delight. I tasted the real deal in Istanbul in the 80's, but I will happily settle for cheap, nasty faux Turkish delight. There is something about the chewy rosy jammy texture, that I just can't get enough of.

So when Mater Beige turned up at our Eostre-fest with this Marshmallow, raspberry, Turkish Delight and pistachio ice cream cake, I knew I was going to be hooked.

2 litres good quality Premium vanilla ice cream
500g of vanilla custard (Mater Beige made her own, and you could tell)
300g of frozen raspberries, partially thawed and crushed with a fork
200g Turkish Delight, chopped,
100g marshmallows, chopped
1 cup pistachio kernels, roughly chopped.
Extra Turkish delight, pistachios and raspberries to serve.

line base and sides of a 22cm spring form tin with baking paper.
Remove ice cream from 'fridge. Transfer to large bowl and set aside to soften (Do not allow to melt completely)

Add custard and mix well.
Fold in raspberries, Turkish delight, marshmallows and pistachios.
Spoon into spring form pan and freeze for 24 hours.
Release side of tin and transfer cake to cake stand. Top with extra bits and serve.

Really REALLY awesome!

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Frugal Food.

It's before 7am on Good Friday morning. Furry, the masterful hunter-gatherer, checks his equipment
 The loneliness of the long-distance hunter. 
 Some locals look at him as though he's crazy. 
Years of experience, and calling on his Koori roots, he finds a secluded spot to wait for his prey. 
I have been really excited about this coming series of "frugal food" posts, I've been planning them, in my head, for weeks now, so I was right chuffed when I finally convinced Furry to get out the yabbie net and get us some free food. I mean, how much more frugal can ya get?? I posted about yabbie hunting and recipes last year, and I was looking forward to revisiting cooking with this really really lovely native Aussie "crayfish".  Methods of catching yabbies, and varieties of bait are as numerous as there are yabbie hunters. It's a part of the OZ childhood psyche that you spend an afternoon, on the banks of a dam, ankle deep in cow manure, trying to lure yabbies into your net, with a bit og bacon tied on a piece of string. Furry favours a couple of stinky chicken necks or some canned dog food. 

So it was with a light heart, primed taste buds and a hot pan, that I awaited Furry's return, 8 hours later.
**sigh** We had canned tomatoes on pasta.

Wednesday 8 April 2009


The reaction between amino acids in the bacon and reducing sugars in the fat is what provides the bacon sandwich with its appeal Photo: GETTY

Researchers claim food also speeds up the metabolism helping the body get rid of the booze more quickly.

Elin Roberts, of Newcastle University's Centre for Life said: "Food doesn't soak up the alcohol but it does increase your metabolism helping you deal with the after-effects of over indulgence. So food will often help you feel better.

Ms Roberts told The Mirror: "Bingeing on alcohol depletes neurotransmitters too, but bacon contains a high level of aminos which tops these up, giving you a clearer head."

Researchers also found a complex chemical interaction in the cooking of bacon produces the winning combination of taste and smell which is almost irresistible.

The reaction between amino acids in the bacon and reducing sugars in the fat is what provides the sandwich with its appeal.

Ms Roberts said: "The smell of sizzling bacon in a pan is enough to tempt even the staunchest of vegetarians. There's something deeper going on inside. It's not just the idea of a tasty snack. There is some complex chemistry going on.

"Meat is made of mostly protein and water. Inside the protein, it's made up of building blocks we call amino acids. But also, you need some fat. Anyone who's been on a diet knows if you take all the fat from the meat, it just doesn't taste the same. We need some of the fat to give it the flavour."

She explained that the reaction released hundreds of smells and flavours but it is the smell which reels in the eater. "Smell and taste are really closely linked," she said. "If we couldn't smell then taste wouldn't be the same."


Proof of a) Furry's theory of bacon sarnies being Best. Hangover. Cure. Ever. and b) my theory that bacon is the gate way drug for vegetarians

Fru Fru Fruit!

The Splitter’s Creek Fruit Company are not local to the Mornington Peninsula. They are a young couple from Albury. But you can forgive them this, when they tell you that they come down to do the Red Hill Market, and to stay with their Granny, who lives around the corner.
According to these guys
“People don’t make cordial any more. Even finding a recipe is a challenge. Cordials are now artificially coloured and flavoured, part of the junk food culture of the Twenty-First Century: Maximum sugar for the lowest price”.
Could we love them any more?? You can read more about their environmental commitment here.
The art of making cordials has almost been lost, even thought their history is rich and well recorded. Arnold de Vila Nova, the Catalan alchemist wrote in the 13th Century of aqua vitae flavoured with herbs and spices, and believed they were divinely inspired from Heaven.
The good thing about the Splitter’s Creek Cordials is that all their products are made without preservatives. And the colours of the bottles will entrance you!!
And with flavours like Pink Lady and Raspberry (simmered with roasted black peppercorns for kick!, Granny Smith Apple and Ginger (which, I am told is awesome with warm water!), Pineapple and Star Anise, these are a pleasant change from the cloying sweetness of the Cottee’s of my childhood.
Our favourite was the Blood Orange and Coriander.
Watch out for them. They’re changing their name to Fru-Fru Cordials, soon

Monday 6 April 2009

This little piggie went to market!

Market season on the MP has nearly finished for this season. Balnarring is done, and Red Hill has just one more on May 2nd.
Red Hill is the 'grand dame' of Victoria's craft markets.It began on the Red Hill Recreation Reserve in 1975 as a truly community event, where local producers and crafts people bartered their goods with each other.Bartering no longer takes place, but the atmosphere, colour and excitement of those early years is still there. We go for the fresh produce and the insanely good food. Like all markets, there are some gems and some tragedies, but at Red Hill, there are some truly outstanding gems.
First up are the gourmet tarts from Bridge Farm Organics. This weekend they were doing a caramelised onion, and also an asparagus and Gruyere cheese.
The cases were  true short crust and had clearly been blind-baked. It's this sort of attention to detail that makes food like this memorable.They were sensational. As well as tarts (both sweet and savoury), they sell organic produce, this weekend being the last of the seasons asparagus and some wonderful rhubarb.
Next stop was the Crepe Man. We usually get one of his enormous crepes at the Balnarring market.  They're made of rice/chickpea flour and they're HUGE... at least the size of a car tyre, but so amazingly thin.
Our favourite is the olive, sun dried tomato and moz. One crepe, at $6 is enough for 2.. believe me. 

Next stop was a newbie for us, the Gilbert and Marcel mini-cakes. These perfect morsels are no bigger than a 50c piece. 

A perfect size for tasting several of their tempting choices. Furry opted for their mini pecan pie, but he was shaking so much with anticipation, the photo didn't turn out!!!

I wish I'd had a ruler, or a matchstick for scale, these things are just a perfect two-bite size!!

Don't they look wonderful in the early morning sunlight??
There were a couple more outstanding stalls, so good in fact, there are going to get posts of their own later in the week.