Sunday, August 19, 2018

Three quick, easy, inexpensive dinners + gluten free pastry recipe!

You don't need much to make an impressive meal at home. And it will always cost less to replicate a favourite takeaway, than it will be to run out and buy it.
It's a good strategy to set aside an hour, one day a week to create your own convenience food or takeaway replicas, for those evenings when you just can't be bothered cooking.
Here are my three favourites...
 Spring Rolls, even Jumbo ones are one of the least expensive and most delicious things ever.
They can be made with shredded cabbage, shallots, carrot, some seasoning and little else. Leftover mince or shredded chicken or fish (very yummy!) is optional.
One packet of Spring Roll Wrappers, 1/2 a cabbage and 1 carrot, shredded with the slivers of shallot (green spring onions) and some Chinese Five Spice, makes the most enormous number of mini spring rolls, or at least twelve large ones. It costs mere cents to make dozens of the mini ones, over those that we pay $1.00 for, from a Chinese takeaway.
Filling and rolling Spring Rolls is a fun thing for kids to do, or relaxing and kind of oddly therapeutic for you, if you like little repetitive tasks. Just make them up, freeze them in ziplock bags, and take them out to spray with cooking oil and bake, as you need them. Served on a platter with some curls of shallot, a wedge of lemon or lime, and a little bowl of dipping sauce, they look very impressive :)

A big batch of Rice Noodles soaked, then stir fried with finely sliced Kale and Bok choy, a little chicken marinated in honey and soy, along with a good spoonful of garlic, is great too. I toss in a few pistachios or cashews at the end sometimes. When you see how much you can make at home for under $5, you'll never look at those little Asian takeaway containers the same way!
It's also good to make Pastry and turn it into something delectable!
I am a pastry novice, but I finally found the secret to a good batch, as it's one of those things, like a white sauce, that once mastered, means you have the magic to turn any old leftovers in to something gourmet. Yes, you can buy it, but it takes so few ingredients to make it and then it's sooooo fresh, that it's worth mastering.
Here's the recipe in Four Sentences, Nanna-style...
With the very tips of the fingers, rub 60gms (2oz) of well chilled beef fat or lard, into 120gms (4oz) self-raising flour (gluten free is fine), which has been well sifted with a little salt (add a teaspoon of caster sugar for a sweet pastry). When the mixture is fine and crumbly, mix to a stiff dough using a butter knife to combine it with just enough ice cold milk, to bring the pastry together in a ball. Roll out on a well floured board, and line a pie plate with half of the pastry. Fill as desired, top with remaining pastry re-rolled, and brush with milk, before baking at 180C (325F) until golden brown.

I use this to make an old fashioned Bacon and Egg Pie. Not a Quiche, which is a different thing with eggs and milk mixed together.
You line your pie dish with half of your pastry, sprinkle the base with bacon sliced into 2.5cm (1") pieces, crack in 3-5 eggs depending upon how many you have on hand, top with more bacon (I cut up about 4 rashers for this), then top with the remaining pastry. Roll the scraps into little rosettes or shape into leaves, and decorate the top of the pie if you wish.
If this is a savoury pie, I sprinkle it with sesame seeds or poppy seeds, after I've brushed the surface with milk.
If it's a sweet pie, I sprinkle with coarse raw sugar.
It just looks prettier.
These meals work out at under $5 for a serving large enough for at least four people. That's $1.20 per serve.
You can't go wrong.
Note: I apologise for the varying font sizes in this post. I have no idea why Blogger is misbehaving this way!

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  1. Spring rolls are my son's favourite things to have if we visit an Asian restaurant (or takeaway), and I find them terribly time consuming to make at home. But I didn't think about freezing them! Thank you, Mimi, I might add spring roll wrappers to this week's shopping list :)
    The noodles and pie also look incredibly delicious!
    Fiona xx

    1. Fiona, you just sort of get into a rhythm with them. Not all bad. And so satisfying! Get the boys to! Mimi xxx

  2. So yummy Mimi, thanks for your inspiration, as always!
    Quick question: are spring rolls gluten free?
    Love Veronica

    1. Hi usually not. But I make normal ones for us, and rice paper ones for Daughter. She prefers the chilled ones anyway. Mimi xxx

  3. Hi Mimi, I make spring rolls quite often but never considered freezing them. What a time saver it would be to make bulk and freeze for later. I will also try the chinese five spice. Thank you for posting all these recipes. These are the ones that are often overlooked when looking for something quick to cook up. I will also be trying out the coconut yoghurt recipe you posted. We are going through so much of it and it's very expensive! I just love your posts and the way you link your ideas so they are easy to find. I look forward to them so much and will often just read back through the old posts. There is nothing else quite like the treasure trove of wonderful ideas I get from your blog. Thank you

    1. Del, they freeze and reheat really well. The Chinese Five Spice has a very distinctive sort of earthy, aniseed flavour, so use it very sparingly. But it does make them taste authentic. That coconut yoghurt is fantastic if you are currently buying it. We sometimes get a batch that separates, but it still tastes good! I'm glad to hear you find my posts helpful. That's a good feeling for me. Thanks so much. Mimi xxx

  4. Yum! Everything looks delicious. I've never actually considered making egg rolls at home, but now you've got me thinking. My husband and daughter would be over the moon if I did! I'm going to have to give this a try, thank you! :)


I love hearing from you! I always respond to comments, so don't be shy! Mimi xxx