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)



Griffin said...

My mum always used to say she could happily live on rice and dhal. Me, I add a little butter or a teensy splash of sesame oil. And stir-fried courgettes with onion and mushrooms with coarse ground black pepper.

Most dhal is seasoned so check out recipes online for the seasonings. It adds more flavour. Oh and try it with half a spoonful of lime pickle too. Gives you a 'ping' among the buttery-ness.

purple goddess said...

lime pickle.


Griffin said...

Madam, behave! Do try not to drool! Eat your rice and dhal with pickle and THEN cause mayhem!

Jackie said...

Ah, frugality. I hear ya.

Our one income situation at the mo' has meant that a leeeetle more meal planning is necessary than previously.


I have rediscovered the joys of things like a split pea soup, that must cost under $5 for many many serves. And the leftovers are useful in tempting the other half AWAY from the Fountain Gate food court at lunch.