My first Aussie blog- Homemade pasta sauce!

Gluten Free, Vegan Delights, Veggie Dishes

Since being in Australia one thing I have found out is that everything is very pricey. Food and drink especially, generally because their wages are far higher than ours in the UK, but this means I am having to be even thriftier. One thing that I always find cheap and easy to make is homemade pasta sauce. By making it at home you are also able to control the amounts of salt and sugar, which so many pre-made pasta sauces are full of.

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Veggies!

My ingredients were:

  • 1 White onion
  • 1 Garlic clove
  • ½ Red chilli
  • 2 Mushrooms
  • ¼ Red pepper (not in pic- I forgot)
  • 400g Diced tomatoes (1 tin)
  • Italian seasoning
  • Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

The steps for this sauce are especially easy. First, I finely chopped the onion, garlic and chilli and diced the pepper and mushroom. I chose to use ¼ red pepper last minute as I had some leftover in my fridge. I drizzled oil into my frying pan and ensured it was piping hot before I added all of the chopped veggies.

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Ready for cooking

On a medium heat I stirred the ingredients until the mushroom softened and the onion became golden. At this point I added the tin of diced tomatoes and an extra 1/2 tin of water to ensure all of the juices were used. Adding water helps to prevent the sauce from becoming too thick as it reduces.

To taste, I added the salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. The mixed herbs give the sauce a great Italian smell and add another layer of flavour.

After around 5/10 minutes more, the sauce had thickened and was bubbling away nicely. In the meantime, I cooked my delicious gluten free pasta, which I bought in Aldi (in Aus they have a great GF selection), and once this was finished cooking I began to plate up.

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Veggie Sauce!

I haven’t yet bought any cheese, mainly because it’s a bit above my student budget, but some grated cheese over the top would be perfect. I served the dish with another sprinkle of black pepper.

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Ready to eat- straight from Italy

If you don’t necessarily like the lumps of tomato in the sauce you can choose finely chopped tomatoes. I also noticed that Coles sell cans of tomatoes with Italian herbs which would also be great if you don’t have the seasoning in your cupboard- I’m sure UK supermarkets do too.

All of the ingredients used are low price and if you buy multipacks of tinned tomatoes it means you can save even more. I got mine for around $0.60, which is roughly about 40p, pretty much the same as in UK, if you want you could splash out on more expensive tinned tomatoes too.

For a quick evening meal this is perfect, and after I took my pictures I added ½ tin of tuna to add protein to the dish. This would also work perfectly with mince, like a Bolognese, or with chicken or even more veggies. Enjoy J

Summer Veg Couscous Stuffed Sweet Potato- Inspired by The Savvy Cook

Vegan Delights, Veggie Dishes

I have learnt over my past couple of years at uni that sweet potato is not only great value, but also really versatile, and as I don’t like normal potato it is a great source of carbs. One thing I had never tried however is baked sweet potato, mainly because I am too inpatient to wait for my dinner to cook for 1 hour. However, now that I am stuck at home revising almost every day, it is far easier for me to plan ahead with dinners.

My recipe today was inspired by The Savvy Cook, Izy Hossack, it is couscous stuffed sweet potato. I have written before about this cookbook and how much I love it. The colours and recipes inspire me, and this is why I gave this dish a little twist! My ingredients were:

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  • 1 Sweet potato
  • 2tbsp Couscous
  • 3tbsp Boiling water
  • ½ Yellow pepper
  • ½ White onion
  • A few slices of Courgette
  • ½ Fresh red chilli
  • Crème fraiche to serve

 

After a quick walk to co-op to buy some foil and stretch my legs, I prepped my sweet potato for the oven which I had preheated to 200 degrees. I pricked the potato with a fork all over and wrapped it in foil. As it was quite small I set the timer for 45 minutes, hoping this would be perfect (spoiler… it was perfect).

The beauty of this meant I was able to then go off and do some other bits and bobs, mainly procrastination but I am sure there was a little bit of revision involved too!

10 mins before my timer was due to sound I started on my couscous. Into a small mixing bowl, I poured the 2tbsp of couscous and 3tbsp of boiling water. Well, I was supposed to pour in boiling water, but instead I used normal tap water, and was somewhat surprised when 5 minutes later it hadn’t cooked at all. I have cooked couscous multiple times before so I’m unsure why on this occasion I made the silly error, but it was quickly resolved.

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Veggies!

Once the boiling water had been poured on my couscous grains I covered with a small plate to ensure it became light and fluffy- you can also use cling film.

In a small frying pan, I added 1tbsp of vegetable oil and the summer veggies I was using. I had diced ½ a yellow pepper, cut a few chunks of courgette and thinly sliced ½ a white onion and ½ fresh red chilli. I pan-fried these until they had started to golden and soften. Once this was done I incorporated them into my fluffy, perfectly cooked couscous. I also added a
squeeze of lemon juice and a good helping of both salt and pepper.

By this point it was time to remove my sweet potato from the oven, being very careful not to burn myself on the scorching tinfoil. 45 minutes ended up being perfect, with the skin of the potato lovely and crisp and the bright orange centre tender. There were also some syrupy sweet potato juices in the foil that I made sure I didn’t waste, pouring them back over the dish when I had finished plating.

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Cooked to PERFECTION!

Once my potato was filled with spicy veggie couscous I added a dollop of crème fraiche to serve, along with a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce which finished the dish off perfectly.

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Ready to go!

Everything in this dish was really low cost, with a big bag of sweet potatoes from Aldi costing about 70p and a whole packet of couscous costing just about the same. All together this single portion would have cost me less that £1! With the summer finally arriving, this dish would be perfect for garden parties and BBQs too, as you can cook the sweet potatoes in batches and make big bowls of couscous with minimal effort. Enjoy J

Butternut Squash and Aubergine Tagine

Gluten Free, Vegan Delights, Veggie Dishes

As I’m getting a lot busier with Uni now I am finding less time to write about food and cook fresh meals for myself. I’m spending time in the library or at work and my student budget is now a lot lower than before with a busy summer ahead of me; I have struggled to find the time. However, today, I decided that what I needed to do was take a break and do something that I enjoy- cooking. It is very easy to get bogged down by stress and feel like you are not achieving, but I really find value in doing something just for me, and I believe everyone else should too.

As I said, money is low, so I went on a recipe hunt today using ingredients already in my fridge and cupboards. Luckily, as it always does, Google gave me the answer and this evening I cooked butternut squash and aubergine tagine.

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Ingredients!

There were actually quite a lot of recipes that had these two ingredients, so I sifted through to find one that best used up my leftovers. The ingredients were:

  • ½ Butternut Squash
  • 1 Aubergine
  • 1 Onion
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • Ginger
  • 1 Red chilli
  • 100ml Water
  • 1 x 400g Chopped tomatoes
  • 1 Tomato puree squeeze
  • 1tsp Cinnamon
  • ½tsp Turmeric
  • 1tsp Cumin
  • Oil

 

I began heating 2tbsp of oil in my casserole dish on a high heat on the hob. Once hot I added my diced onion and stirred for around 3-4 minutes until it had started to brown.

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Chopped!

As I always find when creating big one pot dishes, it is always worthwhile chopping up all the ingredients before, just so you’re not frantically slicing and dicing and stirring the pan at the same time.

Once the onions had begun to turn golden brown I added the butternut squash and aubergine. To prep the squash, I used a sharp knife to carefully peel off the skin and chopped it into chunks. If you are using the whole squash you will also have to remove the seeds, however I only used the top half so mine was seedless. The aubergine was also chopped into rough chunks, I kept mine quite big, with the skin on. Although sometimes aubergine skin can be very bitter, when it is cooked in a sauce, like this or ratatouille, it softens and becomes sweet.

Ensuring the onions had been mixed well with the veggies, after about 5 minutes I added my ginger, chilli and garlic. I prepped these all in the same way, thinly slicing them all. I wish I had put a bit more chilli in this dish as I would’ve loved a bit more spice, but all of the other herbs and spices made up for it.

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Ginger, chilli and garlic!

Once again, I stirred all the ingredients together for around 3 more minutes just so that everything had time to heat up.

At this point it was time to add the spices. Scattering over the turmeric, cinnamon and cumin the veg then started to become a lovely deep orange/red colour and the aromatic scents wafting from the dish were amazing. The spices began to absorb into the aubergine flesh as I stirred the pot regularly for another 5 minutes.

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Spices!

At this point the dish was still very dry, and therefore it was time to add the water and the can of chopped tomatoes. Using cold water from the tap I poured in 100ml, followed by the whole can of tomatoes. I always rinse the can out with a bit more water pouring this in too. To achieve an even deeper flavour I squeezed in 1tbsp of tomato puree, giving the mixture a darker colour.

 

I bought the tagine to the boil, allowing all of the veg to be covered by the tomato sauce and spices before turning the heat down to a simmer. I put the casserole dish lid on for around 10 minutes before removing and letting it cook for another 10. The allows any excess liquid to be steamed off, leaving a thick and flavoursome sauce.

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Saucy!

I checked the butternut squash to see if it had softened, it was al dente just how I like it. If you like it softer you can keep it on the heat a little more. I chose to have my tagine with brown rice, a dollop of crème fraiche and a big squeeze of lemon. The recipe does also recommend adding in a handful of chopped coriander to serve, but that’s not my thing!

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Finished!

This was a really great find and I have lovely leftovers that I will be able to eat throughout the week and freeze too. It would be delicious with some crusty bread or even with some pasta.

Price wise to make the whole tagine it cost me around £1.80, which is a bit of a rough working out just because it is hard to quantify the spices. However, veg like aubergine and squash are really cheap in Aldi, along with tinned tomatoes and the other extras, therefore making it a real bargain dish. I reckon I have got around 3 portions left too, so it is a great dish for the family also.

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The recipe was actually taken from Diabetes UK meaning it is also very healthy, with really low fat, sugars and salt. Here is the link- enjoy:

https://admin.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/recipes/moroccan-squash-and-aubergine-tagine

 

The Savvy Cook- Meal 2, Spinach and Feta Balls

Veggie Dishes

After a weekend of visiting family and friends back in beautiful, sunny Leicestershire, I was in need of a quick supper. I always find travelling super draining- plus soaking up in the sun doesn’t help either- so I scanned through my Savvy Cook cookbook and decided to go for Izy’s spinach and feta balls.

I was slightly worried about the freshness of my ingredients after my weekend off gallivanting, and although slightly passed their use by date, unsurprisingly everything was fine. My rule is, if it doesn’t smell funny, taste funny and isn’t growing mould its fine! I was really excited to try these veggie balls as they’re both a cheaper and healthier alternative to meat balls.

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Ingredients!

My ingredients were:

  • 200g Spinach
  • 50g Feta
  • Mixed herbs (I used basil and oregano)
  • 5g Breadcrumbs
  • ½ Egg (Bit tricky!)

 

The measurements are a bit odd I must admit, and I tried my best with the ½ egg, I just didn’t want to end up with loads of leftovers so therefore I only made half of the portions suggested in the book.

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Spinach !

I started off with my spinach. In a large saucepan I emptied out my measured spinach and covered the leaves in water, on a high heat I waited for these to wilt, once the pan was hot this took about 5/6 minutes. After the leaves had shrunk slightly I ran them under the cold tap, to take away the heat, and squeezed out the water using a clean tea towel. I wouldn’t use any precious tea towels for this, as it can leave a rather green hue. After the liquid was drained I roughly chopped the spinach and set it aside.

 

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Drained and chopped!

Onto the breadcrumb and feta mix. I was a bit bamboozled at this bit, just because I had never really used or made breadcrumbs myself before, and I suddenly realised that I didn’t have any bread appropriate for the job. One of the useful things about living in a house of 7 is that someone is always bound to be able to help. I found ½ a slightly stale baguette that I knew would be perfect. In my Nutribullet I whizzed it up and it created perfect breadcrumbs.

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Egg, Breadcrumbs, Seasoning and Feta!

Into a large bowl I poured my beautiful breadcrumbs, 50g roughly crumbled feta, ½ egg and 2 big sprinkles of each herb. I chose to keep the feta a bit chunky so that I had pockets of salty cheese in the spinach balls- a genius idea if I do say so myself. Like I mentioned, measuring half an egg was a bit challenging but I tried to make sure I got both the yolk and the white. I am really lucky at the moment because Josh has bought back loads of eggs from his farm in Devon and it reminds me of being at home- nothing beats free range eggs with their bright orange yolks.

I chose to combine the mixture with a wooden spoon rather than with my hands, however, I imagine the latter is quite fun if you don’t mind dirty fingers! To this mixture I then added my cooled spinach and stirred again.

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Ready for rolling!

I didn’t have a baking tray to hand so instead I used my roasting tin that I covered in a light drizzle of vegetable oil. At this point I did use my hands and lightly shaped out 9 spinach and feta balls. Using half of the ingredients I should have got about 10, but I found when eating them, a portion of three was perfect anyway. I popped my tin into the oven that was pre-heated to 180 degrees. The recipe does state these can be pan fried too for a quicker cook, for about 3-4 minutes, ensuring all sides are golden. I opted to bake them, and this took about 25 minutes.

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9 Veggie balls!

The recipe suggests having these balls with spaghetti, which I agree would be very nice, however, as I had leftover brown rice in the fridge this became a substitute.

In a large pan I added a nob of butter and salt and pepper to my brown rice. Along with the seasoning I grated about ¼ of a courgette into the pan, which gave the rice a fresh lift and really complimented my spinach balls!

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Yum Yum!

Like I said, 3 balls were the perfect portion for my dinner and on the top, I added another few shakes of salt and pepper, some more crumbled feta, lovely and tangy, and more courgette. I am really happy with how this dish turned out as it was so simple and really full of flavour. The generous helpings of pepper added a spicy hit and the spinach was moist yet crispy on the outside.

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Cost wise, for the spinach and feta balls alone, all 9 cost me £1.45, so 16p per ball, with only slightly more adding on for the brown rice/pasta and courgette topping. This doesn’t include my basil and oregano, but this can be bought for about 60p per pot which lasts for AGES.

 

In the future I will definitely try this dish again however I may maybe a few tweaks, possibly adding some fresh chillies or chilli flakes, and also some pan-fried garlic too (I am a bit of a spice and garlic addict).

The Savvy Cook- Halloumi Tacos

Gluten Free, Veggie Dishes

It is always great to find a cook book that’s both affordable and contains simple, yet tasty, recipes. The Savvy Cook by Izy Hossack encompasses all of these characteristics as well as making me inspired and excited to head into my kitchen and begin a new foodie adventure.

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My two new favs!

As soon as the book arrived I was itching to get going, however, sadly, as a student, I was slightly low on money and therefore I had to wait for my student loan to arrive. Like usual, I created a meal plan for 7 days and wrote myself a shopping list.

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Plan!

Everyone knows my love for Aldi, however on this occasion I was really disappointed. The aisles were almost empty, and I could really only get the basics. Due to this, I had to return the following morning to try and complete the rest of my shop. This shopping came to only £20, however I do still have some ingredients that I will have to source elsewhere, for example tahini and breadcrumbs.

Due to my grump at Aldi I didn’t actually get around to taking a food haul pic (sorry), but my shop included halloumi, butternut squash, spinach, courgettes, mango and orzo pasta amongst many more.

Due to uni and the current student stresses I am facing, I won’t be as strict with this 7 day plan, so I may not be posting every day, but I will do my best to keep my blog updated and share lots of pics along the way.

So, onto my first meal…

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Tacos!

Izy’s tagline is maximum flavour for minimum effort which is one of the reasons her book really appealed to me- the first recipe didn’t disappoint. It was hard to choose just 7 recipes from this cookbook, full to the brim of vegetarian and vegan delights, however the halloumi tacos with mango salsa really jumped out at me.

Like her tagline states, this recipe was super simple, and didn’t take much time to assemble at all. The base ingredients were:

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Ingredients!

  • Brown rice
  • Halloumi
  • Mini tortilla wraps
  • Mango
  • Lime

I added my own twist slightly, substituting some flavours for others, and adding a few of my own touches. These included:

  • Red onion
  • Tzatziki
  • Pomegranate
  • Mixed herbs
  • Red chilli

I started off by cooking the brown rice. I was cooking with Ellen this evening and she was very helpful- my glamorous assistant. She measured out two portions of rice and began to boil for 25 mins. I must admit this amount of rice was massive, however, it is great for leftovers and I may incorporate it into my lunch or ever dinner today- I’m thinking a yummy veggie egg fried rice!

After the rice was onto the boil it was time to prep the mango salsa. I used one whole mango, which was perfectly ripe and sweet. It was so easy to slice and dice which was a relief, as I did have to use my massive knife which always worries me.

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Salsa!

After chopping the mango into small chunks, I set it aside in a bowl, and also cut ½ a red onion. This too was in small chunks. I combined the two with a glug of oil and seasoned well. I gave salsa a taste, and although flavoursome, it was really missing something. I decided this was a hearty squeeze of lime (1/2 to be precise) and ½ red chilli. The chilli added a lovely amount of heat, not overbearing the subtle mango.

At the same time, Ellen sliced and pan fried the halloumi in an empty pan. The halloumi produces a lot of natural juice when being cooked and therefore there’s no need to add oil at all. Once one side had begun to golden, we flipped the slices to ensure an even cooking. At this point I also warmed the tortillas in the oven for around 5 minutes.

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Halloumi

Once all of our ingredients were prepped it was time to build our soft-shell tacos.

Onto my warm, and slightly crispy, wrap I added a big portion of tzatziki, a real favourite of mine, and a few spoons of brown rice. On top of this I piled a heap of spicy mango salsa and a few strips of halloumi. A squeeze of lime and a few pomegranate seeds finished off my wrap; it was bursting with colours and smells.

Overall the dish was really tasty, but it need require a lot of seasoning, and I think the tzatziki really lifted it too. Maybe some sweet chilli sauce would have worked as well, as it may have been slightly dry without.

As the ingredients were a bit of an amalgamation, from different shops, and different trips creating a price is a bit tricky. However, per portion, I would estimate that the dish cost around £2.10 per serving. To boost this dish even more you could even add chicken or prawns too.