I’ve been drying mushrooms…(Updated)

*Update* I’ve recently tried a new method of drying mushrooms which includes baking them in the oven and I absolutely love this method more. I made a YouTube video showing how i did this. You can find the video here

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I dried some Shimeji and Shitake mushrooms and you can see the end result above. The texture and colour of the mushrooms is very different to the mushrooms i dried in the sun below. They look richer in colour   I haven’t tried cooking with them yet, but once I do I’ll update this blog post.

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I have a problem. I can’t say no to those “buy 2 and get 1 free” sales, especially with fresh produce. I often find myself with produce that’s about to go bad and have to hurry to use it because I also don’t like wasting. I had two and half packets of white button mushrooms and I had no desire to do my usual rush to have them cooked. I decided to dry them instead.

I buy dried mushrooms all the time but have never dried them myself. I did some reading up on how best to dry my own and it seemed simple and straight forward. I sliced up the mushrooms thinner than usual and laid them flat on a tray and left them where they got some sunlight.

White button mushrooms have a delicate flavour so I was definitely intrigued to see if the drying process would amplify them. 2 days later the mushrooms had completely dried and I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome (I’m sure it would take about a day if i was doing this in winter under direct sunlight)

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The mushrooms are extremely pungent. They have an earthy and woody scent that you’d never expect from button mushrooms. I hydrated them in hot water before cooking with them and they coloured the water brown as dried mushrooms do. That water is the perfect start to a delicious pasta sauce as it has so much flavour from the mushrooms.

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I made a simple creamy penne and dried mushroom pasta because i wanted the mushrooms to be the star of the dish. The flavour the mushrooms added to the pasta was woody and the texture was meaty. Click here for the full recipe.

In conclusion this is what I’ve learnt about drying mushrooms;

  • The thinner your mushrooms the quicker they dry.
  • Lay them flat on a large tray/plate in one layer. Make sure you don’t overcrowd them as some won’t dry as well as others.
  • Depending on the weather and how thin your mushrooms are it can take 1-3 days for them to completely dry.
  • When the mushrooms have dried is when there’s no moisture left in them.
  • Store them in a dry air tight container. (I’m not sure yet how long they can be kept for. I’ll update as i experiment with this some more)

Love

V

 

 

Cooking With V – Spices & Herbs

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Our social cooking classes have a lot of fans throughout South Africa who aren’t able to make it. When i announced that the theme for our March class would be a conversation about spices and herbs, i had a lot of people reach out to me asking if i could make the teachings from the class available to them because they struggled with experimenting with spices and herbs.

When coming up with the plan for the class i made it a point to gather as many different types of spices and herbs that most people would never think to try out. The list of spices and herbs is long and can be overwhelming but the reason i opted for variety is to showcase how the options for flavour combinations can be endless and encourage experimenting with them.  I’ll try and work through a crash course in spices and herbs with you.

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HERBS

Herbs are merely the leaves of a plant, I’d say flowers too but most would say otherwise. Popular herbs that most would know include basil, parsley, oregano, thyme and tarragon to name a few.  Herbs can be found in the fresh or dried form. Some fresh herbs can have a milder taste than they do in their dried form depending on the herb. For example oregano is more pungent dried than it is fresh whereas Mint has a stronger flavour fresh than it does dried. Whether you use fresh or dried herbs can be a matter of preference but i like to have a mix of both. I like the earthiness dried herbs add to my stews but i like to finish my dishes with fresh herbs because they offer a refreshing addition to any dish. Fresh herbs also work really well in salads and of course make great additions to cocktails. Dried herbs obviously last longer in storage so it’s good to always have those as a pantry staple.

SPICES

Spices are extracted from the seeds, roots and bark of the plant. Spices can be found in their raw whole form or ground into a powder. Some spices that are quite popular include paprika, coriander, cloves, turmeric, cumin and cardamon. Spices can be stronger in flavour than herbs especially when heated in oil so a lot less is used in quantity compared to herbs. Whether you should keep spices whole or ground is again a matter of preference. Buying spices already ground is far more convenient because grinding spices can be tiring but they are some spices you should consider keeping whole like cinnamon and ginger whole as they offer a milder flavour should you need it.

FLAVOUR COMBINATIONS & BLENDS

When you combine or pair several spices and herbs together, you build a flavour profile. It’s important to know and study each spice and herb to be able to know what they bring when combined with other herbs and spices. For example; coriander and cumin are described to have warm, earthy and nutty flavours. They work best in curries and stews. Cinnamon is sweet and cardamon is fruity and spicy. The two go well together and are versatile in that they work well in savoury and sweet dishes. Here are a few popular flavour combinations from around the world;

  • Chinese five spice – star anise, cinnamon, cloves, szechuan peppers, and fennel seeds.
  • Ras El Hanout – coriander seeds, cumin seeds, crushed chilli flakes, ground cinnamon, paprika, ground cardamom, ground ginger and ground turmeric.
  • Herbs de Provence – rosemary, fennel seed, dried savory, marjoram, tarragon, thyme, oregano, and lavender
  • Italian seasoning – basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme,
  • Jerk Seasoning – allspice, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme, garlic, and the super hot scotch bonnet peppers.
  • Indian Garam Masala – coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, red chili, turmeric

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How can you tell the flavour a spice or herb has? Some are extremely aromatic and very evident. Sumac has tones of citrus when you smell it and even more so when you taste it. Paprika has peppery and earthy tones. Tasting raw spices and herbs is a great way to identify flavour tones but i’d say the best way to wrap your head around flavour combinations is to experiment and cook with them. Make your own blends based on your favourite spices and herbs and see how you like them in your cooking and adjust accordingly if need be. I like to tell people how cooking is fun when you throw caution to the wind and allow yourself to experiment with flavours. It didn’t taste so good? Try again 🙂

I hope this helped some of you with unraveling the very vast and exciting world of spices and herbs.

To find out more about our Cooking With V classes visit our site www.vanillascentedkisses.com

Love,

V

Canned Goodness

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Usually the words canned and goodness aren’t synonymous with each other. Canned food has a very bad reputation and maybe rightfully so if compared against their fresh counterparts. As much as most of us would like to buy, cook and eat fresh ingredients that isn’t always possible. You might not have enough time or cook enough to buy fresh ingredients all the time or the canned alternative is significantly cheaper. Canned foods can be great and convenient and here are the canned food products I prefer;

  • Canned Tomatoes – Canned tomatoes are a regular on my grocery list. I find them convenient and value for my money. I use fresh tomatoes for salads and sandwiches but when it comes to sauces, braises and stews; canned tomatoes work best for me. You can forget about them
  • Corned Beef – Most people have a problem with the texture of corned beef more than the taste. if that’s the case, I can’t really help you but it’s worth a try. Corned beef works well on toast, in between sandwiches or a hash. My favourite way of having corned beef though is with Pita bread. I fry the corned beef with onion and peppers, add it into some pita bread with some lettuce and tomato for a quick lunch
  • Tuna – Canned Tuna ranks at the top of my acceptable canned goods. Besides it being the star in sandwiches and salads try stuffing quesadillas or enchiladas with tuna in place of chicken or ground beef. Canned tuna also makes for great fish cakes. Try this recipe here. This recipe is one of the most loved on my site and most people can’t believe it’s made from just a simple can of tuna. This recipes works well with canned salmon too, I’m working on this version to post soon.
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Tuna Fish Cakes – Recipe on http://www.vanillascentedkisses.com
  • Beans & Legumes – Beans and legumes are worth the effort when made from scratch but if you don’t have the time to, canned substitutes work just as fine in curries or chilies. Rinse them out of that brine they are stored in and you can make great meals. I often keep canned beans, lentils and chickpeas in my pantry to use when I’m in a rush. Find a Bean and Lentil chili recipe here & Stewed Kidney Bean recipe here. We also can’t forget how great those canned baked beans are with our breakfast.
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Bean & Lentil Chili – Recipe on http://www.vanillascentedkisses.com

  • Pilchards & Sardines – Canned pilchards and sardines have been proven to be an affordable way to add omega 3 in our diets. Oily fish isn’t readily accessible for many as the price of fresh fish can be unsustainable but it is necessary to have them as part of a healthy balanced diet.  I’d definitely recommend adding a few cans when you do your grocery shopping. I’ll update this blog with recipes of great ways to prepare canned pilchards and sardines.

Many great meals can be made from canned foods with a little creativity. So next time you’re pressed for time or penny pinching, try your luck with these canned substitutes. If you have any canned foods that you swear by that aren’t part of this list please do let me in the comments and I’ll updated the list.

Love,

V

Glory Glory!

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A friend and I had just left an early Saturday morning conference in Newtown and I was famished. Picking where to eat doesn’t come easy, especially when you make it a point to try and eat somewhere new every time you go out while also sticking to budget restraints. “What’s close to here? ” I thought. ” It doesn’t have to be close to here.” he replied. ” It helps narrow down the options” I replied back. So we continued to brainstorm and then suddenly he yelled “Glory!” with an excited look on his face. I yelled back “Glory! Glory!”

I had heard of this place that offers great South East Asian street food in Melville and had been meaning to try it. Stories of their amazing fried chicken had me sold already. Its hidden on the corner of 7th Street and 3rd Avenue. We walked in and it was empty and while some might be put off, there’s nothing I love more than dining in an empty establishment. It offers a chance to really relax and more so a chance to get to talk to the servers and get a true feel of what’s good there without them rushing off to the next table. The place also seemed to be undergoing construction, I didn’t think too much into it. I love good food and I’m not picky where I’m getting it.

We sat down and were greeted by a polite gentleman. He explained that they didn’t have a drinks menu so we questioned him with what was available and I settled on the only chenin blanc they had. It wasn’t the greatest glass of wine I’ve ever had but I could overlook it for the food to come. The food menu came and I was anxious to try everything, our server suggested we try the Full Box Fried Chicken for two.  It’s a half chicken double fried with an array of sides and sauces.

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Glory Full Box Fried Chicken

The buns were warm, moist pillows of  goodness. They did right by coconut rice, serving it drenched in coconut milk and topped with bean sprouts. The fried chicken was packed with so much flavor, crispy and unbelievably most. The pictures make the food look noble but the flavor offered can never be described as that. Glory really believes in the beauty of letting great ingredients speak for themselves.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the food, the service at the restaurant left a lot to be desired. We were the only guests in the restaurants but waited long periods of time before being attended to. In addition to that, their bathrooms left a bad taste in my mouth. Bathrooms can be the deciding factor when battling with where to eat or should I sit in or get a take away. I also found their drink prices to be terribly overpriced for the area and the selection they had.

 

Would I go back? I think so. I loved the food enough to overlook everything else. What Glory lacks in finesse they make up for with great rustic charm.

Love,

V

Let’s Talk About Chicken Baby…

Sweet mother of Jemimah! Is there anything more amazing than chicken? I could eat chicken everyday. Not only is it cheaper than red meat, it’s also very versatile. Chicken can be poached, stuffed, grilled, curried, stewed, pulled, fried and with so many different flavour combinations.

As someone who’s passionate about food, a lot of people tend to think I have all the answers that are food related. I don’t, but when it comes to chicken, I am very knowledgeable in the topic because of my undying love for it. I get asked “Why is my full chicken always bland?” or “Why is my chicken always dry?” Well, I’m here to help.

I’ll talk about the important things to take into consideration when cooking the problematic parts, which is usually chicken breasts and full chickens.

Let’s talk about chicken baby…

  1. SEASONING…PLEASE! – How much seasoning you ask? All the seasoning please. I kid, season your chicken generously. When seasoning a full chicken, please don’t neglect the cavity of the chicken, its very important. As the chicken is cooking, the inside steams and the seasoning in the cavity perfumes the chicken. Also season under the skin of the chicken, reach in there and rub that seasoning all over that breast. This leads me to my next point.
  2. SKIN & BONES – Before you tell me about how unhealthy chicken skin is, you don’t have to eat it, you can just peel it off and pass it on to me. Chicken skin keeps the bird moist and if you want flavour, keep it on the bone too. If you’re cooking chicken breasts especially, and you choose to cook them without the skin and bones, it makes keeping them moist that much harder. I’d recommend constant basting of the chicken breast as it cooks to ensure it is moist. Resting the chicken breast covered in foil also ensures moistness and also note that while the chicken is resting it still continues to cook.
  3. STUFFING – If you’re making a whole  chicken roast, I’d strongly recommend stuffing it. Stuffing chicken not only helps season it , but retains moisture by locking it in. You can stuff it with vegetables and herbs but the basis of a good stuffing starts with bread. Cook your stuffing separately before putting it into the cavity of the chicken that’s also been seasoned.
  4. AROMATICS – If you don’t have the time to marinade your chicken well in advance, I’d recommend going for flavours that are aromatic so they can perfume the chicken as it cooks, this helps add flavour to the chicken. Things like garlic, ginger, rosemary and citrus are all great for perfuming chicken.
  5. BRINING – Brining is the process of soaking or preserving something in salty water. Chicken absorbs water and salt when left to brine which results in less moisture loss when cooking thus reducing the chances of dry meat. If you have the time I’d definitely recommend brining your chicken roast the night before. An easy brining ratio to remember is 1 tablespoon of salt for every cup of water. You need enough water to cover the entire chicken and to this solution you can add spices and herbs to give the water a flavour base (although I’d recommend seasoning the chicken further before or during cooking after its been removed from the brine because a great amount of the flavour doesn’t get absorbed during brining)
  6. COOK TIME – How long should I cook my chicken for? When you’ve been cooking for a long time you learn to be intuitive about cooking. You can feel the meat to gauge if its been cooked, if you aren’t there yet there is a basic cooking time tip to remember;
  • Whole Chicken – 60 Minutes for every 1kg  which works out to 6minutes per 100 grams. So if your chicken is 1.2kg you’d cook it for 72minutes (60 + 12 minutes for the additional 200grams) and if it were 800grams you’d cook it for 48 minutes (6 minutes by 8) – It’s important to note that every oven is different so these times may vary.
  • Chicken Portions– Chicken Breasts cook in 12 to 15 minutes, drumsticks and thighs 25-30 minutes. Wings take 10-15 minutes.

I hope you found these hints and tips helpful. Chicken is life and we must do right by it.

Love,

V

 

 

Grains & Legumes

I never ever imagined a time in my life where i’d be an advocate for grains and legumes as must haves in ones pantry but i’m going through this thing called “adulting”. This involves eating balanced meals and worrying about being regular, it’s so much fun.

Grains and legumes are often neglected in a lot of our diets but that means we’re missing out on great sources of protein, fibre, magnesium, zinc and so much more. Worry not, i’m not saying you should go vegetarian (calm down carnivores), i’m simply advocating that you add these to your list of must haves when you do your grocery shopping. If you are already vegetarian, grains and legumes are great way to break away from the normal carbs.

Here are six grains and legumes i always have in my pantry;

  1. Bulgur Wheat
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Bulgur Wheat

What Is It? – A cracked wheat made from mostly durum wheat. It is high in fiber and thus good for the digestive system. Regular intake of bulgur wheat can help protect you against diseases like obesity and high blood pressure.

How to Cook It? – Bulgur wheat is used in a lot of North African cuisines. Tabbouleh salad is a favourite of mine (Find the recipe here), it also works well in soups and stews.

2. Pearl Barley

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Pearl Barley

What Is It? – Barley is part of the grass family and is a cereal grain. It is rich in Vitamin B and anti oxidants. It is also very low in fat and calories.

How to Cook It? – Barley works well in stews and soups. Barley risotto is something worth trying in substituting normal risotto rice for pearl barley. A favourite recipe of mine is Barley and Beef Stew.

3. Dehulled Millet 

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Millet

What Is It? – Millet is also part of the grass family. It is a cereal grain. It looks a lot like cous cous because there is cous cous made from cracked millet. It’s benefits include being high magnesium which is good for healthy bones. In terms of nutritional value, millet is low on this list.

How To Cook It? – Substitute millet for cous cous or add it your favourite salad for great texture.

4. Brown Lentils 

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Brown Lentils

What Is It? – Brown Lentils are quite popular. They are legumes, part of the pea and bean family. They are rich in protein, fibre and vitamins. Lentils have zero cholesterol.

How To Cook It? – Lentils are very versatile, they are great in chilies and curries. One of my favourite recipes is Spinach & Tomato Lentils and Bean and Lentil Falafel.

5. Split Red Lentils 

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Split Red Lentils

What is It? – Lentils come in different varieties and split red lentils are one of them. Just like brown lentils they are extremely nutritious.

How To Cook It? – Red Lentils cook faster than brown lentils, they become soft and mushy when cooked so they go great in curries and soups. Add red lentils to your chicken or lamb curry or make a lentil and sweet potato curry with them.

6. Beans 

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Red Kidney Beans

What Is It? – Beans like lentils are very popular and known and consumed in a lot of households. They are a great source of protein and fibre.

How To Cook It? – Beans are also very versatile in that they can be added to soups and stews, mashed and fried as falafels or made into a dip. Beans also work great in salads like a mango,bean and corn salsa. Another of my favourite recipes for beans is a  Bean & Lentil Chili 

I hope this has helped anyone reading this 🙂

Love,

V

 

Hosting On A Budget

When I say “budget” I mean time, money and skill wise. I enjoy entertaining, I often wish I had a bigger house to entertain more. Until then, I work with what I’ve got which is a small budget; no dining room area/table; a small apartment and lot’s of creativity 🙂 If you find yourself in such a position then these hints and tips will be very helpful to you.

  • Cheap Meats – I am the master of entertaining on a budget and one of the ways to accomplish this is to look into cheap cuts/types of meat. For one, chicken. You cannot go wrong with chicken, it’s cheap and a crowd pleaser. You can spatchcock it, stuff it or braise it in a casserole. If you’ve been to my house, you’ve probably eaten chicken and it was probably damn good too. If you’d prefer a roast instead and a leg of lamb or beef is not in your budget, try pork roast. Pork might not be a popular meat but it’s definitely worth a try. Stuffed pork belly loin or belly or braised thighs, if cooked properly, it can be a crowd pleaser.
  • Buffet Style Meals – I live in a 1 bedroom apartment, though it’s more than enough space for me, it can definitely feel cramped when I have a few people over. Seeing as I don’t have a dining area I serve my meals buffet style. People dish their plates and sit wherever they can find a chair. It’s very informal, laid back and allows people the comfortability to serve themselves and go back for seconds if they wish.. This is a great way to also host cocktail type dinner parties with canapés.
  • Get Creative – The best way to make up for budget deficits when entertaining, is to get creative. Try a new recipe, or present your dishes in a different way. Substitute recipe items with cheaper alternatives (e.g. using Tuna for fish cakes instead of a more expensive fish like salmon), anything that lessens the financial load.
  • Outsource –  If you’re having people over, don’t be shy to answer the question “should we bring anything” honestly. This is when I usually ask people to bring wine, desert or a side to lighten my load and gracious guests don’t come empty handed anyway right? You might as well capitalize on this to get what you really need.
  • Quick and Easy Food – If you’re pressed for time, be careful what you choose to make. You don’t want to spend all your time in the kitchen and not with your guests. You also don’t want to be left with a pile of dishes to clean up after. Preparation is key. Try marinade meat the night before. start cooking well in advance to make sure you can get some cleaning up out of the way.
  • Try Brunch – Hosting a brunch instead of the usual dinner can be cost and time effective. Eggs are cheap and can be made to feed the masses easily and quickly. Try baked eggs , scrambled egg Florentine or a frittata. Add your favourite breakfast sausages and a pastry and some fruits and you already have full spread. Try these quick and easy apple and cinnamon scones or phyllo pastry cups to impress your guests.

I hope these tips help you. Please visit my recipe page for plenty of recipes great for entertaining. Where there’s a will, there’s a way 🙂

Love,

V

DIY Vs Shop Bought

There’s a lot of talk about the importance of making your own food items and how we often shame buying off the shelf instead of making from scratch. While I endorse making your own food items -fresher is better- I am aware that we do face challenges that include time and money. Here’s my take on some of the most of talked about items in this discussion.

  • Muesli “Health” Bars – I like the idea of the so called health/muesli/breakfast bars. They are great to snack on during the day but what we often buy is often loaded with so much sugar there’s nothing healthy about them. Choosing to make your own will ensure you know exactly what you’re consuming and you can alter the ingredients to better suit your taste or diet. This is also one of those things that is cheaper to make yourself than to buy and won’t take up much time. Find a basic recipe for Oat bars here.  Add nuts or fruit pieces to this if preferred.
  • Muesli – Whilst you’re at making muesli bars, you might as well make your own Muesli. I will admit that buying the individual components that go into muesli can be quite pricey especially if you have a liking to exotic nuts in your muesli. Make it in small batches if it’s more affordable but to be quite honest, I see nothing wrong with shop bought muesli. You can choose a higher quality brand if it makes you feel better but if you do have the extra coins and time, homemade muesli will always taste better.
  • Cream Cheese & Cottage Cheese – I’ve recently learnt how to make my own cream and cottage cheese and it’s been such a blessing in my life. It’s so easy and requires 3 ingredients you’ll always have in your house; milk, vinegar and salt. It’s cheap and takes no time at all. This is worth a try, trust me, you will not regret it. Do a quick google search for homemade cottage or cream cheese if you’d like to give it a try -all the recipes are the same.
  • Buttermilk – I was trying to brine pork chops in buttermilk one day and didn’t have any and had no intention of getting out of my very comfortable pyjamas (heh banna, I thought this is how it’s spelt) to go to the supermarket. So I tried a buttermilk recipe I found online. Very handy. You’ll be surprised what milk and vinegar can produce.
  • Pesto – I vote shop bought here, only because I really cannot afford pine nuts to be putting them in pesto guys. You could always leave them out or try almonds instead.
  • Marinades and Sauces – Shop bought sauces, marinades and salad dressings are full of all the wrong things. Sugar, Oils and preservatives. Salad dressing is simply vinegar, olive oil, salt and flavour. Mayonnaise is egg yolks and olive oil. I prefer wet rubs over marinades anyway which is a spice blend with oil or liquid, usually lemon juice. Ketchup/Tomato sauce is concentrated tomatoes cooked down. You get the idea of how easy it can be to make any of these items. I’d never recommend shop bought here but if you must, try buy vinaigrettes instead of creamy salad dressings, higher quality brand tomato sauce and marinades.
  • Stock – If you’re trying to ration sodium intake in your diet (we all should) then definitely make as opposed to buy but they do make low sodium stock these days. I don’t use stock enough to make it at home so I often buy it.
  • Smoothies & Juices – Health smoothies and juicing are all the rage now. The only reason I’d recommend making your own is, it saves a lot of money cause they don’t come cheap especially if they have become part of your lifestyle. I make mine in my blender and although the Juice probably wont be classified as “cold press” *rolls eyes*  they taste just fine to me and I can experiment with flavours I like. I can also make large quantities of the juices especially and refrigerate.
  • Pastry – If baking is not your forte *raises hand* you live for shop bought pastry. Whether its pre made pizza dough, short cut pastry or puff pastry, I see nothing wrong with this shortcut. Bakeries and supermarket offer fresh pastries made on the day instead of the frozenveeiety. But this if it makes you feel better than buying the frozen variety. If you love kneading then I’d definitely say make your own pastry, it is always worth the effort.

I am a believer in making cooking as simple as it can be. I endorse shortcuts when necessary, my recipes show that but I do advise that where you can, do choose freshness. Please do checkout my recipe page 🙂

Love,

V

Kitchen Raid

People always ask me questions like “How do i know what to buy when i’m doing grocery shopping?” or “what are your kitchen staples?” So I’ve decided to do a kitchen raid. I’ll list the things that i consider a stable in my pantry or fridge. These items, i believe form the basis of good cooking for me.

Herbs & Spices

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  • Oregano & Thyme : If you’ve ever read any of my recipes you’ll find that i stick to very few herbs and spices. I have my obvious favourite which is Oregano/Origanum and next in line would be thyme. They work well with any meat and vegetable. I am not loyal to any brands but i usually buy Robertsons.
  • Robertsons Masterblends : I really love the new Robertsons Masterblends and in particular the zesty lemon & herb and Rosemary & garlic. They work so well with roasted vegetables. Try the rosemary & garlic with baked potatoes – You’ll thank me.
  • Woolworths Goodies : Woolworths Food seems to have a much wider range when it comes to spices and spice blends than most supermarkets. My favourites are the Za’ataar blend – which is a zesty spice blend that’s great with fish and chicken. The Harissa blend is spicy North African blend that’s great with lamb. The Spanish smoked paprika is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It adds smokiness to any food.

Canned Goods

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  • Italian Whole Peeled Tomatoes : I prefer to buy canned tomatoes because the fresh ones always go off so quickly. My personal favourite are the Italian whole peeled tomatoes in tomato juice.
  • Beans : I love beans but can never dedicate the time to making them from scratch so i always keep around a can of butter beans, black beans and kidney beans. They come in handy when i want to make chilli, stews or just want them on toast.

Sauces and Stuff

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  • Red & White Wine Vinegar : So cheap and so handy in marinades or salad dressings. I like the woolworths food brand.
  • Soy Sauce & Fish Sauce : I prefer the dark soy to the light one. I find it less salty and more sweet. I pick whatever brand is cheapest on the day. Fish sauce smells like foot but it’s so great for stir frys and curries. I’ve had that bottle for over 6 months. a little goes a long way.
  • Worcestershire Sauce : Maggi Lazene is my favourite brand. I use it in my stews and meat marinades.
  • Fresh Garlic & Garlic Paste : I absolutely love garlic and put it in every meal i have. I love the pungency of fresh garlic but always keep a tub of garlic paste in the fridge, usually either garlic and ginger/garlic and herb or garlic and chilli

Others

I also always have things like a bottle of lemon juice, mushrooms, bacon, chicken breasts and chicken livers in the fridge.

That’s pretty much what you’ll find in my kitchen. I hope this helped you 🙂

Love,

V

Budget Cuts #Januworry

Firstly, happy new year everyone. I hope 2016 brings you nothing less than joy, peace and prosperity.  The holidays are over and if you’re like me you’re probably back at work. The realisation that you may have spent a little too much is starting to kick in right about now. All those parties, dinners and holidays chipped into your budget and now you’re wondering how you’re going to get through January. Well, that makes two of us. In the spirit of solidarity i’ll share some of my cost cutting tricks when it comes to my groceries.

At this point in time i should add that ideally, if we were financially responsible people we wouldn’t blah blah blah, nywe nywe nywe….WHATEVER! The damage has been done now let’s find a solution.

  1. Packed Lunches : Pack lunch for work/school, this one should be obvious. Those “budget meals” you buy at the downstairs cafe add up to way more than you’d expect. I usually cook a two portion meal for dinner, what’s leftover serves as my lunch the next day at work. If i fail to do this, a quick sandwich or salad will do.
  2. Reduced To Clear Section : Most stores have a reduced to clear section. These are items that are close to their sell by date and they’d like to get rid of . I wouldn’t recommend getting dairy products but it’s a great place to stock up on things like bread, herbs and vegetables at a discount. I even buy flowers that are in the reduced to clear section when I can find them. Shops can’t sell items after their sell by date so they try and get rid of them before then at a discounted price. Most of the produce is still in a great state and can keep in the fridge for another week. Here are some of my latest finds;
  3. MIY (Make It Yourself): My friends call me the MIY queen and this is true but I learnt to do this because I had to stretch my finances as a student and young professional. Making things like bread, Pesto, Sauces and will save you money. If you love to snack then do yourself a favour and make your own treats in advance and store them when you feel the urge to munch.  I love to snack on oat crunchies and scones during tea time.
  4. No Waste: We waste so much food on a daily basis. I like to minimise waste firstly by not throwing away leftovers. Pack last nights supper for tomorrow’s lunch at work. If vegetables like spinach are about to go off I like to make spinach pesto that works well as a sauce for pasta. Fry vegetable peels until they are crispy for a great snack. Use meat bones to make your own stock. These little things go a long way when you’re trying to stretch your resources.
  5. Sacrifice Convenience : We often pay a little extra for convenience but get less. I buy my chicken breasts with the skin and bone on and untrimmed. I trim it myself and use the skin and bones for stock. I pay less and get more because you’ll find those perfectly trimmed chicken breasts sold are one half of an actual breast. The same goes for fish, learn to scale and fillet your own fish and pay less. Another trick is getting your meat from the butcher as opposed to the pre-packed packs in the supermarket.
  6. Cheap Cuts: Cheap cuts are often overlooked because they take longer to cook but you’re missing out on a great deal. They make take longer to cook but have the most flavour, can feed the masses and will save you money. Gravitate towards the tougher cuts of pork and beef and slow cook them for a delicious feast.
  7. Meatless Mondays: You might want to consider having a day off from meat. Meat is probably the most expensive item on your grocery list and so taking a day or two off it will make sure it goes a long way. Click here for a great range of vegetarian recipes. Additionally eggs are also a great source of protein and can be transformed into something like a shakshuka .

With these tips; hopefully you should be in a better position to tackle the financially challenging nightmare that is January. We can do this.

Love,

V