Budget meals don’t have to be boring. Try different combos of herbs, spices or sauces to add interest to your dishes. They’re relatively economical and once your pantry is well stocked, your creations are only limited by your imagination.
Meals with rice, pasta and noodles can be great budget beaters. And there always seems to be a new variety to try.
Ramen noodles are named after the popular Japanese soup they are used in. They are an adaption of the Chinese wheat noodle and only take about 4 minutes to cook. Ramen noodles are also excellent in salads tossed with an Asian-style dressing. I also love them boiled, drained then fried. Most supermarkets stock ramen.
Like ramen, Italian pappardelle has been around for centuries. However, recently it has become a popular restaurant dish combined with pulled, slow cooked meats. But many of my friends have not experimented with this wide pasta which to me is comfort food.
Rice has now become a pantry staple and long grain rice, which is four times as long as it is wide, is a good all-rounder for curries, pilaffs and paella. Any leftover cooked rice can be mixed with beaten egg, formed around cubes of melty cheese, rolled in breadcrumbs and baked or deep-fried. Yum!
RAMEN NOODLE BURGERS
I used Hakubaku organic ramen noodles.
95g dried ramen noodles
2 eggs, lightly beaten
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
rice bran oil for frying
400g lean minced beef
2 spring onions, finely chopped
pinch chilli flakes
4 slices cheddar cheese
Extras: lettuce leaves or shredded cabbage, tomato, beetroot or cucumber slices, thinly sliced red onion, tomato sauce or siracha sauce.
Cook noodles according to the packet instructions, about 5 minutes. Drain well in a sieve and rinse under cold water. Shake dry.
Lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the noodles and toss to coat evenly. Season.
In a large non-stick pan heat a good splash of oil. Place 4 egg rings (or use the screw tops of preserving jars — well oiled) in the pan. Fill the rings with the noodle mixture. Pat down lightly and fry for about 3-4 minutes each side, until golden. Remove.
Meanwhile, combine the mince, spring onions, chilli flakes and seasonings. Form into 4 patties about the size of the ramen buns. Panfry for about 5 minutes each side. During the last minute place the cheese on each patty, cover and cook until lightly melted.
Place the lettuce or cabbage on each ramen bun followed by the patties, tomato or cucumber, red onion and sauce. Serves 4.
VEGETABLE RICE WITH BROCCOLI PESTO
3 cups small broccoli florets, divided
1 medium kumara
3/4 cup long grain rice, rinsed
2-3 cups boiling vegetable stock or water
2 teaspoons each: dried mixed herbs, dried basil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan or tasty cheddar
400g can black beans or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
Steam or microwave the broccoli until crisp tender.
Peel and cube the kumara.
Place the rice in a large frying pan and cover with the boiling stock. Add the mixed herbs, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the kumara and cook until just tender.
Meanwhile, make the pesto. Purée half the broccoli in a small food processor together with the dried basil and olive oil. Add the parmesan and garlic and mix again. If necessary, thin with a little water, lemon juice and/or olive oil.
Stir the remaining broccoli and beans into the rice mixture and heat through. Serve in bowls. Top with the pesto and stir it through the rice. Serves 4.
MUSHROOM & CHICKEN PAPPARDELLE
250g dried pappardelle
400g diced chicken
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, sliced
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
400g Portobello mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
3/4 cup cream
Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions
Season the chicken all over with the dried basil.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Fry the onion until softened. Add the chicken and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook until limp. Pour in the stock and simmer for a few minutes. Slowly stir in the cream and heat through.
Serve topped with grated parmesan cheese, chopped parsley and/or smoked paprika, if preferred. Serves 4.