Wednesday, April 25, 2012

frugal kitchen

I've felt a shift lately in our kitchen. I can't precisely put a finger on just what it it. But there has been a renewed energy in there. Bubbling pots, spilt flour and baskets of fruit. I'm enjoying my time in there.

I've taken to re-reading cookery books late at night. There is something quite restful and comforting to read about the virtues of boiling a chicken or chilling pastry. Whether it has been Nigella's soothing voice in How to Cook, or Jamie's kitchen garden in Jamie At Home, to my new favourite An Everlasting Meal, there are all similar messages to be found within the pages. That a meal is not just about sticking to the recipe. To make do with what you have. Not just to make do, but be inspired by it. To buy the best quality you can afford to.

I've started making pastry on a regular basis. Nigella's advice on the subject was just to dive in and start doing it. On a regular basis. Once you learn the basic ratios (2 parts four, 1 part butter/lard in weight) and bring it together with a little iced water and perhaps an egg yolk (I've even taken to using yoghurt lately when I have no egg yolk), you can make it anywhere, anytime. If you make it enough it becomes part of your everyday repertoire. You really don't need a recipe anymore. Much like making bread, for those that do.

So we've been enjoying pies. Several times a week, so as to get that practice in. And you know what? It truly does get easier.  I don't stress about the pastry anymore. You know exactly what is in it and it tastes so much nicer than the vegetable fat laced store variety.

But most of all I've been concentrating on making meals go further.

Sometimes you just need to make a little more with each meal.

Leftover Saturday night pies and fried vegetables with herbs from the garden became the quick throw together picnic on Sunday. It really couldn't be any easier to make a quick lunch.

Leftovers are you friend.

Leftover pasta with a few eggs and some cheese thrown in is a favorite in this house.

Antipasto instead of take-away. The addition of fried pumpkin took only a few minutes. With ricotta on toast the next day.

Cook a few more vegies than you actually need. During the week they can be used in a tart, over pasta, frittata or even in a soup. Again egg and cheese is a match made in heaven in such circumstances. Don't forget the transformative powers of cream either. We do like our dairy products here.

Chicken roast will usually give you enough leftovers for next days sandwiches, or can be mixed with a white sauce and pastry for pie, used in a salad or a million other ways. The leftover bones will be the basis of a stock. Just throw in some onion, celery and carrot.

Our last lamb roast became the basis for a childhood favourite bubble and squeak. I'd forgotten just how good this tasted.

 A selection of garden vegies  and herbs becomes the nights soup, with a few pulses from the pantry and a chunk of parmesan rind from the freezer.

Making things from scratch, stretching out leftovers and using what you find in the garden and pantry, not only tastes better but I'm finding it a more frugal way to live. Our grocery shopping has stretched out where I don't need to go to the shops weekly. Now that I've put together a good supply of pantry basics, this allows me to stretch those visits out, where I really only need to pick up milk and cream on a weekly basis. We recently bought another whole lamb for the freezer. This time from a farm just down the road. It feels good to have a full pantry and full freezer in a natural disaster scenario kind of way.

Are you stretching things out? I would love to hear your thoughts and tips on the subject.


It seems wrong to not mention that today in our country is Anzac day, a day of remembering those soldiers who fought for our country. So while we aren't attending the marches, or baking the biscuits, it is in our thoughts today. Lest we forget.


  1. Love leftovers, unfortunately with 8 of us, six males they are few and far between!

  2. Wow, such a timely post. I was making sausage rolls yesterday with bought pastry and added "home made pastry" to my list to try. Am definitely trying to stretch things here, but really must do a weekly menu to plan to achieve this.

  3. i seriously want to come and sit at your kitchen table and take notes. heck, i'd even wipe benches and sweep crumbs...
    so inpsiring!

  4. Ever since I read the book "frugavore" and noticed just how expensive my shopping bill was becoming...I've been so much more frugal and loving the process of using very. last. bit of whatever we have. I've also found a local butcher who has a fabulous range of organic meat and sells the bones for stock - mmmm. Every week I roast or slow cook a chicken and use the carcass for stock - that stock then gets used for Poet's meals and in our spaghetti bolognaise/pumpkin soup/vegie soup

    The pastry looks fabulous...I need to get my rolling pin out! xxx

  5. I love making pastry. I have my favourite recipe (Bourke Street Bakery) though occasionally seek out another just to try and compare. And I always ignore the bit about rubbing in the butter etc and just go straight for the food processor. Trying hard to be frugal here but still the grocery bill is enormous. Sigh.

  6. I love making pastry. I have my favourite recipe (Bourke Street Bakery) though occasionally seek out another just to try and compare. And I always ignore the bit about rubbing in the butter etc and just go straight for the food processor. Trying hard to be frugal here but still the grocery bill is enormous. Sigh.

  7. This has been on my mind a lot lately too. Have been making do with what we have and staying away from the shops until I really have to go there. I haven't been near the main street since Monday and I hope to get through to next Monday, then try to extend it further by going one day longer if I can...I am looking around here for a cow or goat milk source, hope I find one soon :)

    Great post Tania, I really enjoyed reading it.


  8. Great post.
    I do much the same as you, always cooking extra of something. If I'm going to the trouble of cooking chickpeas, I always double it and use the extra half for hummus which I freeze in batches. Extra rice turns into fried rice for lunch the next day and extra stew often gets turned into pies later in the week.
    I'm a bit slack with pastry though. I should give your recipe a go.
    I love, love bubble and squeak! Haven't had it in years. Yours looks delicious.
    Have you made your own ricotta before? I made some last week using citric acid to curdle the milk. It was so good, but you don't get much cheese from a litre of milk.
    Enjoy the rest of your week.

  9. This is a great post! Very inspiring for getting through weeknight dinners. We too love to add eggs and cheese to our meals. Glad to see we are not alone!

  10. What on earth is bubble and squeak?! Never heard of it!

  11. We use all our leftovers until we use them up. Most of the time it's just my husband and I now as our son does his own thing and only occasionally eats at home. Dinners always include the next days lunch and a little more. One day a week I do a "must go" whether it's eating it up for one last meal or made into a soup with a few added ingredients. Once in awhile things go a bit too long and then they are just placed on our compost heap of fed to our dogs. Nothing is wasted.

  12. I loved reading this post, thank you! We just returned from a road trip in a campervan, where meals were pared right down, and I actually found myself being far more creative and enjoying cooking more. I loved your hints about cooking a bit more and using everything up- great advice!

  13. Thank you for posting this. It’s exactly what I was looking for!

  14. Oh, yes, us too - trying to make food stores stretch as much as possible. Luckily, we'll soon have the garden to eat from again. These are wonderful ideas, Tania, thanks for sharing them. (I wrote a kind of leftovers post today, too :)

  15. Loving the sound of "Everlasting Meal". Just read the 1st chapter thanks to your link. Somehow as the weather gets cooler the pull of the kitchen and home baking seem to be quite enticing. I love reading recipe books for pleasure too. Also Love Nigel Slater's last minute suppers from leftovers and things lurking in the fridge. I've got Osso Bucco on the simmer for minetstrone this time of year :)

  16. The only pastry I make is shortcrust (only because I've not had the need to make any other yet) and you're right: It is easy.
    And your food looks AMAZING!

  17. I have always been a bit scared of pastry too, but am slowly getting the hang of it. We are very frugal eaters and I love the challenge of making do with what is left in the fridge and pantry - like last week when we were waiting for payday at the end of the month.

  18. Cooler weather and yummy homecooked comfort food! My daughter is a coeliac, purchasing gluten free pastry sometimes is rather difficult, so we often make our own pastry. Lots of mess and fun is had in the kitchen when we do it!

  19. Lots of delicious food in there. I love leftovers that morph into another meal the next day. It always feels like things are far more organised when I do, and like Alison said I like the challenge of making something tasty and delicious with not a lot.

  20. Thanks to my parents I am the queen of stretching food. As a child there were many times where it felt like we had no food in the house yet my parents would manage a delicious three course meal that would rival any restaurant. I learnt from them to always cook extra to stretch into another meal and to make do with what we have. Pastry features regularly on our menu, both savoury and sweet..having done a chef course in my late teens does pay off :)
    Glad I am not the only one who enjoys readying cook books for leisure.


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