It's dollar-stretching time — but choosing lower-cost foods does not necessarily mean lowering your standards. Add a little imagination to your meal presentation and your dinner can still look a 'million dollars'.
Carbohydrates such as pasta, rice and potatoes help stretch meat dishes. Check out Indian, Chinese and Moroccan recipes — many are light on meat but rounded out with healthy veggies and rice or noodles.
If fresh veggies appear a little expensive then use frozen which are picked at their prime just a few hours after being harvested and snap frozen to retain their goodness. Provided they have been stored correctly at the supermarket frozen vegetables can contain more nutrients than the fresh variety that may have been sitting on the shelves for a few days.
Cheaper cuts of meat can have loads more flavour than the more expensive choices. But they do require long, low-heat cooking. Therefore, it's best to cook double the amount required, reserving one half for a another meal.
This week meals are based on current supermarket prices. Supermarket brands have been used where possible as they are normally cheaper. Small amounts of condiments have been priced by the amount used as these are pantry staples.
CRAZY HOT DOGS
I bought a bag of ‘odd bunch’ capsicums. There were seven in the bag — about a dollar each.
1 1/2 cups finely shredded cabbage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons diced chilli, chilli paste or Sriracha
1 medium onion, sliced
2 medium capsicums, seeded and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 long bread rolls, butterflied lengthways
8 small gherkins, sliced
Toppings: tomato sauce, mustard and mayo
chopped parsley or coriander
Bring a large saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Turn the heat off and add the frankfurters. Let them stand for 10 minutes. If they boil the skins will burst!
Meanwhile, sprinkle the cabbage with the salt. Stand for 10 minutes. This will soften the cabbage. Rinse, pat dry and combine with the chilli to make a quick pickle.
Sauté the onion and capsicums in the oil until softened. Toast or grill the bread rolls.
Place the cabbage on the butterflied rolls, top with the frankfurters, onion mixture and gherkins. Drizzle generously with the toppings in a zig zag pattern. Makes 6. Cost: $10.
HERBY VEGETABLE LASAGNE
400g spinach or silver beet, trimmed
2 small carrots, grated
500g low-fat cottage cheese
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups grated tasty cheese
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
525g jar summer tomato basil pasta sauce or similar
1/2 teaspoon each: fennel seeds, chilli flakes
5-6 oven-ready lasagne sheets
Preheat the oven 180°C.
Steam the spinach, until wilted. Cool a little then squeeze out the water. Finely chop then squeeze again. Combine with the grated carrots.
Beat the cottage cheese until fairly smooth. Fold in the spinach and carrots. Stir in the egg, grated cheese and half the parmesan. Set aside.
Combine the pasta sauce with the fennel seeds and chilli flakes. Spread 3-4 tablespoons over the base of a 20cm square oven-proof pan. Top with a layer of pasta. Spread with 1/3 of the cheese and vegetable mixture and top with a 1/3 of the pasta sauce. Repeat making three layers, ending with the pasta sauce. Top with the remaining parmesan.
Tent the dish with foil ensuring it does not touch the cheese on top. Crimp it around the edges of the pan. Bake for 1 hour. Uncover for the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Remove from oven. Stand to set for 10 minutes before cutting. Great garnished with fresh herbs. Serves 6-8. Cost: $18.
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 medium mushrooms, finely sliced
1/2 teaspoon each: ground cumin, coriander, cinnamon
400g can each: diced tomatoes, chick peas
1/4 cup raisins
1 cup vegetable stock
2 cups broccoli florets
Sauté the onion in the oil in a large frying pan, until softened. Add the mushrooms and cook, until softened. Stir in the spices and tomatoes.
Drain the rinse the chick peas. Add to the pan with the raisins and stock. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the broccoli and simmer for 5 minutes.
Great served with couscous or rice. Serves 4. Cost: $9.