Kiera and James are saving up to buy a house. Alex is an articled clerk with limited income. And Peter and I are both retired and living on a fixed income. We all need to economise (that dreaded word). In times of plenty I’m not averse to spending money impulsively but when belts have to be tightened I can also be quite frugal.
Eating less meat is one way to save money. For many years now I have preferred free-range, grass-fed, antibiotic-free, organic, you name it, meat. Our pork comes from the Dargle Valley; chickens from the Shed in Richmond; lamb from the Karoo; and beef from Woolies on the rare occasions that they have grass-fed / free-range beef in the Howick branch. When the children were younger, I became interested in nutrition and I made up my mind then that organic was the more healthy choice for my family. Over the years, I’ve also become increasingly uncomfortable with the thought that I’m eating something that has been treated inhumanely.
Since free-range / grass-fed is generally more expensive, it stands to reason that we should cut down on our meat consumption in order to save money. The problem is that I’m so used to eating veggies as a side dish, with meat as the hero, that I don’t have a ready, go-to repertoire of vegetarian meals. The trick is to prepare tasty, economical meals, with less / no meat, and without spending ages in the kitchen doing it.
Kiera rustled up a Donna Hay version this potato, kale and chorizo soup for us recently and while it isn’t vegetarian, it doesn’t cast meat in the leading role. It is such a simple recipe but is absolutely delicious.
Cook a finely chopped onion and clove of garlic in a little olive oil for 2 minutes. Add 3 or 4 large potatoes, peeled and diced, cook them for a minute or two, then pour in a litre of water or stock. Simmer for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are soft (if they break up then all to the good). Thickly slice 150g of spicy sausage then fry briefly in a non-stick pan. Remove the sausage, leaving the fat behind, and drop it into the soup. Finely shred 2 generous handfuls of kale and stir it into the hot soup. Serve with a small pool of olive oil floating on the surface. Serves 4.
Traditionalists will make this with water, but vegetable or chicken stock deepens the flavour immeasurably. The trick is knowing when to stop tinkering. Caldo verde was a soup born to cope with an empty store cupboard, and gussying it up too much will lose its rustic soul.
Complete as it stands, this warming greens-based broth could be embellished with a few ingredients of your choice. Hide a round of garlic toast in the bottom before you ladle in the broth; introduce some cooked pasta – perhaps the diminutive rice-shaped orzo – or stir in some rinsed canned cannellini beans. Kale is standard, but any of the brassica family will work – the tougher and more fibrous the better.
- Kiera used a stick blender to purée the soup (à la Donna Hay) before adding chorizo and kale.
- I’ve made it with Swiss chard instead of kale and added some chopped chilli for extra voema (depending on how spicy the sausage is). This requires a bit more cooking after the chard and chilli have been added.
I’m a fan of sausages. We get ours from the Dargle and this dish is comfort food par excellence.
Sausage & Gnocchi One Pan
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 4 large pork sausages
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 1 fat garlic clove, chopped
- 150g gnocchi
- 1 x 410g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 400ml chicken stock
- Salt & pepper
- Large handful of baby spinach
- Heat oil in pan and fry the sausages and onion until golden.
- Stir in the garlic, gnocchi, cannellini beans, stock and plenty of seasoning. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes or until the sausages are cooked through.
- Lift the sausages out of the mixture and slice diagonally into 1cm thick slices. Return the slices to the pan and fold through the spinach. Check the seasoning and serve with some crusty bread to mop up the juices.
Pesto and Tomato Tart
(from Super Foods for Children by Michael van Straten & Barbara Griggs – the blurb reads: Boost your child’s HEALTH and BRAIN POWER with over 120 nutrient-packed superfoods – Kiera and Alex you have a lot to thank me for!)
This is one vegetarian dish that I have done on many occasions and it never fails.
- 375 g frozen puff pastry, thawed
- 300 ml passata
- 180g cherry tomatoes, halved
- 100g pesto sauce
- Sea salt and black pepper
- Fresh basil to garnish
Preheat oven to 200ºC. Roll out the pastry onto a floured baking tray. Crimp the edges with a knife and prick all over with a fork. Bake for 5 minutes or until lightly golden. Take the baking tray out of the oven and allow the pastry to cool.
Spread the passata over the cooled pastry. Toss the cherry tomatoes in a drizzle of olive oil and lay them, flat side down, on the passata. Season with salt and pepper and dot generously with pesto. Return the baking tray to the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes. Serve the tart garnished with basil leaves.
Note: The last time I made this, I added sliced mozzarella cheese which made it a bit more filling as a meal.
This next recipe may sound like a bit of a palaver but it is well worth it; sweet, sour, salty and vinegary not to mention fresh, crispy and delicious.
Kylie Kwong’s recipe for Celery, Carrot and Cabbage Salad
- 1 small cucumber
- 3 small carrot, peeled
- 1 t white sugar
- 1 t sea salt
- 2 sticks celery, sliced on the diagonal
- ½ cup (125 ml) malt vinegar
- 2 Tsp white sugar, extra
- Finely shredded cabbage (preferably Savoy)
- Julienned spring onion
- Beans sprouts
- Mint leaves
- 2 Tsp light soy sauce
- 2 Tsp lemon juice
- Pinch Sichuan pepper and salt
- 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
Using a vegetable peeler, finely slice the cucumber and carrots lengthways into ribbons. Set aside cucumber and cut carrot into a fine julienne.
Combine the carrot with salt and sugar in a medium bowl, mix well and leave to stand for 15 minutes.
Blanch celery in boiling water for 30 seconds, drain and refresh under cold water. Drain and set aside.
Combine vinegar and extra sugar in a small saucepan and stir over heat until sugar dissolves. Simmer uncovered for about 1 minute or until slightly reduced. Set aside to cool before stirring through the pickled carrot.
In a large serving bowl, combine the pickled carrot mixture, celery, cabbage, onion, bean sprouts and most of the mint. Pour over combined soy sauce and lemon juice. Mix well and season to taste. Top with the reserved cucumber, remaining mint and sprinkle with seeds.
And for now something a little bit sweet:
Brûléed Fruit with Liqueur and Mascarpone / Greek Yoghurt
- 125g dark brown soft sugar
- 2 – 3 Tbs fruit liqueur (I use crème de cassis)
- 4 peaches or nectarines, stoned and cut into wedges
- 3 fresh, ripe figs, quartered
- 250 g mascarpone (or full cream, Greek yoghurt)
Place half the sugar and the liqueur in a saucepan over a moderate heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the peaches or nectarines and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, stir in the figs and transfer the fruit and juices to a heatproof serving dish. Allow to cool. Spread the mascarpone (or yoghurt) over the fruit and sprinkle over the remaining sugar.
Now you can either place it under a preheated grill for 2-3 minutes until the sugar has melted and caramelised or simply put it in the fridge for a couple of hours until the sugar melts.
- I’ve made this with nectarines, peaches, Cape gooseberries, raspberries – whatever fruit is on hand really, especially if it is starting to get a bit past it.
- I usually make it in individual ramekins.