Monday, March 28, 2011

Growing your own

I love the idea of being a little bit self sufficient.  I can't say completely self sufficient because I'm not about to go milling my own flour or slaughtering my own animals or anything like that.  What I am able to do is grow my own fruit and veggies.

We weren't very organised over summer and only managed to get two cherry tomato plants in.  Our kids LOVE cherry tomatoes.  This summer wasn't very friendly though, very humid and not really a lot of sun.  So although we have quite a few tomatoes on the plants, they are taking quite a while to ripen up and if they don't do it this week I think they will be a lost cause.

Anyway, onwards and upwards, we have some more ground cleared and it's time to think about what we can plant for winter.  We all love broccoli so that will be a definite.  I'll need to make a visit to our nursery and see what else they have and what will grow in our climate. 

Growing your own also helps you understand what is in season and therefore what will be cheaper to buy.  This can make a huge difference to your shopping bill.  Even if you don't have green fingers or don't have the time for gardening, knowing what is in season is very useful when you are on a budget.

Hopefully we will be able to get to our garden this weekend and get some veggies in.  It's a great project for the kids too, they love seeing the plants develop and then eating what they have grown.

Even if you only have room for a few pots, growing something you can eat is really rewarding. And money saving!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Promised Recipe with pictures

Well here we go.  This recipe is one I make fairly often during winter when we are looking for a warming dessert.  It is also one of the King's favourites.  Apple Crumble - my way but based on a Nigella Lawson recipe.  I think it is a good choice as apples are just coming into season so will start to be good value for money (however, you can easily substitute an 800g tin of pie apple if you need to! I won't tell).  I decided to do this one yesterday as the Prince and I found about seven apples ready to go on our tree, hurrah for self sufficiency!

So here we go.

First up, you need apples..
Yes, there are only two here, the others were already being peeled before I thought about taking a photo.  Ooops.

Peel, core and slice about six or seven apples (or more, really it depends on whether you like lots of fruit or more crumble!).  Pop them in a shallow pan with some sugar (about a tablespoon), a dash of vanilla, some cinnamon and ground cloves and a little bit of water - not too much, probably only 2-3 tablespoons.

Now cook these, covered, until tender.  JUST tender, not mushy, remember, they will get another cooking in the oven later.

They smell rather fabulous right now.  Allow these to cool a bit while you get on with the crumble mixture.

So this is what you need for the crumble..

Sugar, SR flour (yes this is unusual for a crumble, but it's a good unusual!), butter and almond meal.  Please note Budget Queeny use of no name products.  They are fine for baking and waaaay cheaper.

So, in a bowl, mix together 250g SR flour and 150g sugar.  This is also a departure from tradition, but I like my sugar to be incorporated into the flour and butter mix, not forked through afterwards.  Take the plunge - try it this way.  Once you have mixed those together, chop 150g butter into smallish cubes and throw them in the bowl too.

It's better if your butter is cold.  Mine wasn't, it was warm yesterday.  Sorry.

Now you need to rub the butter into the flour/sugar mixture.  Rub it using your fingers and thumbs.  It's actually quite therapeutic. (It is also really difficult to take a picture with one hand whilst rubbing in butter).

You need to keep on rubbing until you get a mixture that looks like, well, like crumble.  I don't like the description you usually get that it looks like breadcrumbs.  I think it's chunkier than breadcrumbs.  Well, here's a picture anyway, to show you what you are aiming for.

Now you just need to tip in a quarter of a cup of ground almonds and fork that through the mixture.  It gives a boost of flavour to the crumble without being overly almondy.  If you have nut issues, just leave it out.

It's worth noting that you can do the apples and the crumble up to this stage in advance and just keep them in the fridge seperately until you are ready to cook.  Really handy if you having people around for dinner and want to do something hot but that can be prepared earlier.

Now that you are ready to cook - preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius. (Such a funny word celsius, always looks misspelt - please do not tell me if it is).

Place your cooled apples into a greased pie dish.
You will see that I only have a thin layer of fruit.  This is because I make it more crumble heavy because I am a good wife and that is how the King likes it. You can go more fruit here if you like, I don't mind.

Cover your apples with a good layer of crumble mixture.  This recipe does make a lot of crumble, so if you don't want to use it all you can pop the leftover in a snap lock bag and throw it in the freezer.  It's then ready to go next time you are ready to crumble.

And now you are ready to bake!  I would bake it for around 45 minutes or until golden.  I left ours in a bit longer so it went golden brown and very crunchy.  Check on it from about 40 minutes or until it is cooked to your liking.  This will also depend on your fruit and crumble ratio.

Here it is!

Serve it up with icecream, custard, cream, all three if you feel so inclined...

You can use this crumble topping mixture with any type of fruit, just try and use what is in season because not only will that be the best quality, but also the cheapest.

Yum!!  Hope you enjoy. 

We did.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Budget Cooking

Sometimes being on a budget seems to limit your creativitey a bit.  I find we tend to fall back on the same meals quite often because that's what we can afford.  I suppose I even get into a bit of a rut of cooking the same thing each fortnight because it makes shopping easier and preparing meals becomes a no brainer.  However, there is only so much bolognaise one can take and sometimes that means looking for inspiration. 

I have many recipe books (the King would deem it a bit of an obsession, but in truth I don't buy them, but I do request them for birthday and Christmas presents - especially Nigella).  So if I'm feeling a bit uninspired I will often browse through those for ideas, sometimes a dish I haven't made in months (or years even) might pop up at me and make it onto the rotation for a while, giving something else a rest.  I also browse a few different sites on the net for ideas.  I especially spend time on Taste (recipes and forums) and more recently on my new favourite - The $120 Food Challenge .  Sandra is amazing - she has $120 a fortnight to spend on food (less than us even!!) and she blogs about her fortnightly dinners, desserts and baking treats.  Each recipe has a costing provided as well so it's great for budget savvy people like us.  I find it great for providing inspiration, or a twist on an old favourite and I know that she's in the same boat as we are so that it will probably be something we can afford.  Have a look and I'm sure you will find something there to inspire you.

I do have my own recipes that are great budget savers and over time I'll share them with you in this blog.  Making things in larger batches and freezing half is really handy for those "can't be bothered" nights and means you don't fall for the temptation of take aways. I also love to bake which helps us a lot as I don't buy prepared cakes, biscuits, etc. for lunchboxes and snacks. I'm always after new recipes too, so if you have a favourite I'd love for you to share it! In fact, I'll try to post up a recipe and photos of said recipe sometime in the next week. Now there's a plan, and there's nothing like having a plan!