Thursday, July 31, 2008

a week of eating simply

Just as I mused that I eat out without snapping, obviously the same thing happens at home. There is a seasonal dip in my blogging of recipes. Not because I cook less in winter but because natural light is not abundant when I am in the kitchen. I probably eat at home more in these cold months but rely heavily on old favourites.

With much talk of simplicity, frugality, SOLE food and the like in our Antipodean corner of the blogoshpere, I thought I’d share some of the simple meals I have been cooking lately.

Last week it was a return to chilli (chile/chili – take your pick) beans. As much as I prefer legumes home cooked I have taken to buying Bio Nature organic kidney beans, chickpeas and crushed tomatoes by the slab. Grated parsnip has become the latest addition to the mix, imparting a subtle sweetness. Along with some carrot, masses of onion and green herbs it makes getting the minimum 5 serves a day of vegetable a cinch. A double batch lasted a couple of days and served with brown rice it made us all healthy and happy at Chez Foodnazi (except the cats who’d really love it if I turned carnivore).

Curry in a hurry is one of my ‘no brainer’ meals. Some Mae Ploy red curry paste, a little extra onion and ginger bubbling away with a tin of coconut milk and an equal quantity of vegetable stock (forget “lite” coconut milk which is the same price as full strength, just use half as much and water or stock). Made on an end of the shopping week night, it featured sweet potato, a can of chickpeas, the sad remains of a cauliflower and a small block of tofu. This really was pulling together the refrigerator scraps and padding them out with a trusty tin of beans. With a squeeze of lemon, a little palm sugar and fish sauce, it jazzes up almost any combination of veggies.

There was one bought meal. On Saturday the sick on called for chicken soup. If I’d been creative I may have searched the freezer for some of the wings we buy for the cats to chew on but I’d forgotten about that and anyway, cooking with meat is a much neglected skill of mine these days. The best I could rustle up at short notice was a hot and spicy number from the local Thai restaurant. I got a Tom Yum and Pad Thai for myself and enjoyed every mouthful.

The pumpkin soup was also a double batcher, providing lunch on a work from home day. The second day the garlic was stronger but so too was the lemongrass, which balanced each other out nicely.

Monday I got waylaid so it was another meal in a hurry. This time some gluten-free pasta and a ‘sauce’ of onion, garlic, anchovy, cauliflower and a tin of tuna. Easy, tasty and satisfying.

On Tuesday I got the urge to make a non-coconut curry. Googling "vegetable + tomato + curry", up came a reprint of one of Stephanie Alexander’s recipes written for children. It is worth reading it just to appreciate the way she is teaching a new generation about mise en place. “Desley’s mum’s silverbeet, potato and tomato curry” is just that. I had no fresh coriander and I played around with quantities but in essence it is an easy, roast and grind your own spice base with potatoes simmered in a Indian influenced, tomato sauce. The silverbeet came from my garden - adding that extra bit of virtue.

After cooking for a week, the SE resurfaced last night. It was the end of the shopping cycle once more and when asked what I wanted for dinner, all I said was “use up what is in the fridge”. What ended up on the plate was a tray of roasted vegetables (sweet potato, carrot, cauliflower and zucchini) and some sautéed onion and garlic, with more silverbeet and rocket from the garden stirred through buckwheat pasta. The slightly caramelised, roasted veggies with the fresh greens made a great combo.

I love these meals made out of necessity, that call for a little imagination.

My past week or so of simple eating wasn’t planned but I think some synergy is afoot. Kathryn is doing the same thing at the moment. Whether it is thriftiness, necessity or creativity that spurs you on, how do you find putting together meals with only what is at hand?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a lovely idea to add parsnip to your chilli. Richard is not a parsnip fan. But grated and imparting sweetness, rather than in chunks is something I'm going to try.

Am enjoying eating from the cupboard this week. I've been curious to see how we'd go. So far we've eaten well and it's encouraged me to be just that bit more creative.

Having run out of "normal" breakfast things, last night I cooked some barley. Had that for breakfast this morning with soy milk, berries from the freezer, LSA, walnuts and agave nectar. It was delicious. Rich, creamy and satisfying. And something I'll be making again.

10:43 am  
Blogger GS said...

The barley sounds great. I love quinoa too. Sometimes I have miso soup for breakfast for a something different.

11:25 am  
Blogger Thermomixer said...

Nice work. Brings back memories of my grandparents who lived in the Mallee - you couldn't just whip down to the corner shop each day and so there were lots of meals invented from what's available. I love doing the same and using up what's in the recesses of the fridge and pantry. Sometime interesting combinations.
Love barley and parsnips - especially puff(old Bev Sutherland Smith recipe) is great for non-parnip lovers.

11:56 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was putting some photos up at flickr so put my lunch up - because I'm at home lunch is usually thrown together.

I had cooked some blanched carrot batons with fresh ginger and tomato last night and it was horrid, completely out of whack. But I didn't want to throw it away, so for lunch I had it with a spice paste I had sitting in the fridge(from stickyfinger's Rendang recipe - delicious), tinned kidney beans and soft tofu. It was great. I had it with quinoa and celery. Picture for the very keen -

8:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're doing the same thing over here at Chez KP. Although I'm on a mission of 2 - 4 weeks to really sort through the freezer and pantry. It's amazing what gets stockpile when one does most of the shopping in bulk.

9:03 pm  
Blogger Melba said...

1. chilli. us too, earlier this week

2. bio nature organic tinned-stuffs are good.

3. the tip re "lite" coconut milk - good one.

my favourite cooking is the throw together, with just a couple of ingredients. it's this type of cooking i yearn for, but cannot do with a household of five. they need "proper" meals. annoying that. i look forward to when i'm an old lady and can put a tin of salmon (red, if i can afford) on top of some rice, with vegies or salad. bliss.

10:07 am  
Blogger Melba said...

ps interesting article in age recently about chicken soup. can send you a copy if you didn't get.

10:08 am  
Blogger GS said...

Zoe - looks good, though I don't think the quinoa is cooked enough. It unfurls a little tendril when its done and shouldn't be like little rocks. I like the red quinoa the best, its also the prettiest :)

Melba - I do a similar thing with rice if I am on my own. With salmon or tuna or egg + bonito + tamari. Saw the chicken soup article. Nothing new there, just recycling old research. It still wont get me eating chicken though I did lovingly make chook soup from scratch for the sick one yesterday.

2:19 pm  
Blogger Anh said...

I was in the same boat last week, too. Basically I just improvised as the week went by except for a midweek emotional meltdown which led to a romantic night out. :P I love the idea of adding vegs to chilli - making it less heavy and definitely healthier.

6:23 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, aof, it was a mistake to try and cook three kinds together. It wasn't so much that it was like rocks to eat, it just really looked like the stones we used to have in our fish tank!

8:17 pm  

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