Wednesday 27 May 2009

Guess who forgot their lunch today.


I love working in SpringVegas.. there's Viet, Thai, Asian of all denominations. If you can think of a cuisine, there is a pretty fair chance that someone in SpringVegas is cooking it.

But like Midas, I am surrounded by all this loveliness, but I can't access it.

You see, in my investigations, no restaurant in SpringVegas delivers at lunch time.

The exception being Pizza Hurl or Domin-Throw's pizza.

You may remember Domin-Throw's for such super sexy dishes as "pasta in a flaky pastry eatable bowl"

Can we all say "Carbo-loaded, fatty goodness!"

And for reasons that actually escape me, I can't leave the office today.

Furry has recently been dubbed my Sandwich Slave, as he brings me Banh mi from Bun Bun on Springvale Rd, but alas, today he's busy.

SO I either close up the office, hoping Elvis doesn't notice, and race out for take-away, or I dial a pizza.

In a recent Choice Magazine survey, the found(not surprisingly)

Takeaway makes for a quick and easy dinner when you’re pressed for time. Even in the midst of a global economic crisis Australians have increased their reliance on this convenient, but not always cheap, option. On average, we spend 10% of our food budget on takeaways and after a lull last year this percentage is on the rise again.
View full article here.

There is nothing new in the survey. Take-away food is bad for you. And you can cook cheaper and healthier at home. It's not Rocket Science. And sadly, they only base their "Home Made Fast Food" on Simmer Sauces available in Coles and Woolies. They also promote shelf-stable meals as an alternative to take away, and I'm sorry, but I am NOT eating anything with "chicken" in it that can remain, unrefrigerated on a shelf for up to 12 months.

But I digress.

In the spirit if transparency, Choice provided the survey for me to look at and asked me to blog about it.

The things that shocked me about the Choice survey are these:

10% of your food budget on take away? Seriously people, get with the programme. Despite what I see as flaws in Choice's survey, they're right. It IS cheaper and easier to cook at home. I can whip up a pasta that is 100 times better than any shit you'll order from Pizza-Hurl, and you can too!

I am all good for the occasional dodgy take-away. There are PLENTY of nights when I simply can't be bothered to cook, and I dial up the local Noodle/pizza man. But 10% of my food budget?

I must be in the minority here, because in our house, take-away/delivery something you only eat maybe once a month. And I'm talking about "fast foods" such as pizza or "Chinese" here. I will freely admit to buying take-away salad rolls and pho regularly.

The Choice article really provides nothing new under the sun. Their alternatives to fast food rely on pre-packaged simmer sauces, jarred ingredients and define fresh vegetables in one recipe as
"fresh are the pre-cut, packaged version from the refrigerated vegetable section of your supermarket"

**insert scary food Epic Fail icon**

The thing is that fast food is bad for you. Choice have provided evidence and alternatives to such. They're not great alternatives, but in today's time-poor world, there are plenty of people out there who are prepared to sacrifice a little flavour for convenience. And if it stops people reaching for the phone and dialing Deliver-A-Vom, and gets people back in the kitchen, then it's still a good thing.

One of the things I did find useful, given my current weight gain, was this scary, scary graph.

Given my lunch-less status today, I think I might close the office up after all, walk up to the local Asian fruit mart and grab some seasonal fruit.

Monday 25 May 2009

Talk about a niche market!

So, this weekend past, I took myself for some much needed R&R, up to the Dandenongs. For those of you, dear readers, who don't live in Melbourne, the Dandenongs are a series of mountains just outside Melbourne, about 20 mins for where we live. They are dotted with picturesque little towns, filled with quaint little nooks and crannies. It's a Melbourne institution to take a Sunday drive to the Dandenongs and just potter.

Which is what Furry and I did on Sunday. And a random turn in the road bought us to the tiny little hamlet of Kallista.

Where I found the shop of my dreams.

Vintage Cookbooks. **insert sound of Heavenly seraphim singing** Possibly the most high-voltage awesome book shop in the Universe.

You can pick up a First Ed of Elizabeth David's "A Book of Mediterranean Food", or browse through every Woman's Weekly Cookbook ever printed. Check out the photography on the 1960 ed of "America's Best Vegetable Recipes".

My personal fave from the catalogue? a 1927 First Ed of Morton Shand's "A Book of Food" in which he describes venison as "unpleasantly rich, rank and slimy to the taste"!

Or Mimi Sheraton's 1965 ed of "The Seducer's Cookbook", which I suspect might be a blueprint for a "Carry On" movie.

If you're a fan of sites like The Gallery of Regrettable Food, then ask owner, Barbara Russell to show you her cookbooks from the 60's with the pineapple and lurid green jelly roll. (Which I suspect Mater Beige used to cook)

Vintage Cookbooks has a site here and Barbara is blogging about her love affair with restoring an old Aga stove.

Awesome shop, Awesome woman behind the jump, who admits to working solely to fuel her travel addiction, and even then "the travel is all about the food"

Make a day of it and head up to Kallista and say hello, and find out what she REALLY thinks of people who scornfully as her "How do you make money from THIS?"

Friday 8 May 2009

Same Time Each Year.

There's an Alan Alda film I recall, from the 80's maybe? Where he and his lover get together at the same time every year for a week-long affair. Despite both being married to other people, they meet every year to re-kindle their passion. "Same Time Next Year". This pretty much sums up my relationship with my crock pot. At the first sign of Winter, I get her out of the cupboard, and there she stays on the bench top until the first sign of Summer. It roughly corresponds to the day I first realise that open-toed shoes are no longer seasonally appropriate and the day, the following season, when I paint my toenails in anticipation.

And what better way to celebrate my loves emancipation from the back of the pot cupboard, than with Beef and Guinness Stew?

500g of the cheapest stewing steak you can get your hands on.
1 stubbie of Guinness (don't bother with the special gas canned stuff. Keep that for drinking)
a goodly squirt of Worcestershire sauce.
a goodly squirt of tomato sauce.
One small brown onion, diced.
200g frozen peas.
One carrot, chopped.

Bung the whole lot into the crock pot, and leave on low for 24 hours.

Serve with parsley mash.

Thicken leftovers with cornflour and turn into pot pies for lunch the next day.

Apart from the cooking time, this is the fastest slow food in the Nomniverse. If you plan one day in advance, you'll always have dinner waiting when you get home. I don't bother browning, searing, or any of that phaffing about. Cut meat. Cut onions. Bung in cooker. Turn on. Walk away.

Total prep time? Less than 5 mins.

And once you've scarfed the stew, clean the pot out and bung in tomorrow night's nosh. In our case, the other 500g of stewing steak, a fine sliced leek, another carrot, some organic peanut butter, some fish sauce, and some Japanese cooking vinegar, and we'll be having beef satay on rice tonight!

Saturday 2 May 2009

SOLE v Aldi.

So, this fine and frosty morning, Furry and I set off, as I have Twittered about, to our local Aldi, to see just how SOLE we could buy. As we were on the way I was mentally composing this post, musing to myself on what sort of acronyms I could come up with, pretty much prepared to call ALDI all sorts of nasty things.

I was getting in touch with my inner pre-schooler, mulling over whether to use "Aldi is a lying poopie-breath" or "Aldi sux big fat jobbies" as a title, when we walked in, and the first thing I was met with was Aldi's range of organic, fair trade tea.

Yes, I know, you just did a double take, didn't you? It's not that acid you dropped at Uni in 1982 finally metabolising, you read that right.

And if that didn't tilt your world along the "most unlikely words ever to be heard in the same sentence" axis, guess what? The tea is $2.19 for 50 bags.

You can find the range of teas (green and black) right next door to their organic honey. Produced on Kangaroo Island, honey with honey made by the world’s only remaining pure strain of the Ligurian honeybee.

Do you need time to remember that this post is about Aldi, and re-read that paragraph again?

Oh, and the honey is 500g for $5.49

I bought some organic yoghurt ($2.99 for 500g) and some non-organic but awesome looking muesli, as well as sundry other household items.

Is it SOLE?

Sustainable? I didn't see much evidence of supporting sustainable producers.

Organic? Well, far be it from me to believe labeling, calling something "organic" does not make it so, but a quick check on their web site does indeed prove that their organic range is NASSA certified. So yes, it is most definitely Organic.

Local. Their corn is from Thailand, their dry biscuit range made in Denmark from Danish and Imported ingredients and their soy is a product on Indonesia. HOWEVER, a quick tour of their web site shows that 100% of their meat, 97% dairy and 95% of their fruit and veg are Australian sourced. I imagine pretty much the same percentages as Slaveways et al. Like all grocers, the key to shopping local is caveat emptor, READ THE LABELS, and you'll be fine.

Ethical? Now here's where I was prepared to really get stuck into Aldi, I mean ANY large chain spewpermarket being ETHICAL?? Clearly I have been inhaling too many organic lentils, but I hate to tell you.

Aldi is.

Aldi is the first and only supermarket to introduce a national pricing policy, something consumers have been calling for Safeway/Coles to do for years. Adli's policy is "all people, wherever they live, should have the opportunity to buy everyday groceries of the highest quality at the lowest possible price."

That said, Aldi has also been awarded an ecoBIZ accreditation by the Queensland Government for its environmental policy, which included planting only local, native, drought tolerant plants at Aldi stores.

Oh, and they stock certified organic and certified fair-trade coffee. At. Aldi.

So, in these tight and uncertain times, it is still possible to shop as SOLE-ly as possible AND save some $$$, and while I will I still can prove that buying fruit from out local farm gate and local meat from the butcher is still the cheapest way to shop, Aldi, much to my suprise, now has a place in my weekly shopping ritual

Friday 1 May 2009

Frugal Food #4 (I think)

We'd all love to be living on organic Local Wagu steaks, and cutlets sourced from happy gamboling lambies, their tails wibbly-wobbly-ing right up until they're hit on the head, happy flu-free piggies, leaping through the lupins.

But we can't.

We can make choices about how and why we buy our food, particularly our meat based on a whole lot of factors.

Going SOLE means I will never, ever EVER buy from a large Spewpermarket. If they were giving away gas-backed foi gras for free, I'd not be tempted. That's one of my never-to-be compromised factors.

Having said that, I've recently blogged about Aldi and buying things like dog food, canned tomatoes and toothpaste. This weekend, I am off to our local Aldi to see just how much stuff I CAN buy from there that fits the SOLE criteria.

And then there's IGA.

I love our IGA. It really is our local. We know all the guys there by name, they know us. It might be a fallacy invented by The Hollow Men, but shopping at our locally owned IGA feels much more SOLE than shopping at Slaveways. We don't often buy meat and we never buy veggies, as its cheaper to buy from the butcher and the farm gate, but we get crackers, canned beans, bread, other staples from them regularly.

So, Imagine my suprise when, earlier in the year, I saw this:

That's right. 2.7kgs of porterhouse for less that $20.oo. I doubt it fits into any of the SOLE criteria (although I am going to assume the meat is at the very least, Australian!), but for that price I couldn't pass it up.

We are lucky enough to have a large freezer, so this little beauty got frozen as a whole and defrosted over the past few days and chopped into 8 individual steaks and approx 500g got cubed for a curry. We lost about 70g to the thick layer of fat that had to be removed, but hey, the pups LOVED that!

What with some dhal and some rice and a side of leftover mash (yes, I KNOW about all those carbs, but it was cold yesterday!), I estimate we'll get 12-14 portions out of it. Making each meat serve about $1.50.

We swung by the Organic grocer and picked up a sweet potato and a few carrots for $2.20, and a Thai green curry with rice, dhal and veggies was on the table for about $6.50, or about $2.10 a serve.