Clever Cooks, Gardening on a Budget, Thrifty Asian

The indestructible spring onion

spring onion5

Spring onions are hardy plants. Once established, they’re drought tolerant, snail resistant, and they grow back after a decent trim.

It always baffles me whenever I see spring onion seedlings at a nursery. Why do people pay money for seedlings when they can get spring onion plants for free? Whenever I bring home a bunch of spring onions from the grocer, the first thing I do is chop off the ends and use these to propagate new plants. Continue reading

Clever Cooks, Going Green, Money Matters

Bottled water: a costly convenience

When it comes to our favourite beverages, we know that it’s cheaper to DIY or BYO. For every caffeine hit, a DIY coffee will easily save you $3. And when it’s time to wind down, a BYO cleanskin will cost less than a glass of house white. Still, neither coffee nor alcohol have the same level of fail that bottled water has. According to The Sunday Telegraph, filtered tap water from brands such as Aqua Pura, Mizone, Noble’s Pureau, Nature’s Best Organic, Active Organic and Refresh have a mark-up of more than 180,000 per cent. Bottling and transporting water also wastes valuable resources*, and once the product is consumed, we’re stuck with the non-degradable packaging.

So why are we buying bottled water? Continue reading

Gardening on a Budget, Thrifty Asian

Striking betel leaf cuttings

It’s lunar new year this weekend and one of my favourite snacks to eat from the street-festival vendors is bò lá lốt, beef wrapped in betel leaves. I’ve recreated it at home, using Luke Nguyen and Mark Jensen’s recipe (via Secrets of the Red Lantern). Nguyen and Jensen use pork mince and pork fat to enhance the flavour, but Luke Nguyen also has a pork-free version up on the SBS website.

Because betel leaf is a such rare commodity in Melbourne, I’ve struck my own with the stalks leftover from cooking. Continue reading

Clever Cooks, Gardening on a Budget, Glut(tony), Going Green

When life denies you lemons…

Growing food to save money seemed like a smart idea until I discovered that planting a lemon tree and getting it to bear fruit are two different things. It’s been three years since Dad put in a Eureka for me and so far there have been no lemons, only gall wasps; I can’t count the number of times I’ve driven past someone else’s tree and had lemon envy.

The rhubarb is doing well though, alongside the thyme that thrives on my neglect. But there are only so many rhubarb crumbles one can make. What to do with the glut?

Some folks preserve their harvest. They freeze it, pickle it, turn it into jam or chutney. The last time I tried my hand at preserving though, I ended up with rubbery marmalade. 😦

Whitehorse Urban Harvest (October 2012)There is an easier way to make use of the glut: veggie swapping. Veggie swaps are like clothes swaps but tastier. Continue reading

Clever Cooks, Footnote Frivolity***, Thrifty Asian

Mother’s eggplant and pork mince stew

Mince is cheap, especially pork mince. However, it’s still meat and is more pricey than pulses or in-season vegetables.

A clever cook knows how to bulk out their mince with other ingredients. The meat in a spaghetti bolognese, for instance, can be stretched out with vegetables like onions, tomatoes and carrots.

Sichuan cuisine takes it one step further, turning meat into a side act in favourites like mapo tofu, green beans with pork mince, and ‘fish-fragrant’ eggplant. Making green beans or eggplant the main attraction makes sense, especially when they can cost as little as $2 per kilo.

Unfortunately, I don’t hail from Sichuan and I can’t handle chillies. So instead of Sichuan-style vegetables with pork mince, I’m going to recreate my mother’s mild-mannered eggplant and pork mince stew Continue reading