Monday, June 22, 2020

Meals from nothing #3...delicious toppings, treats and garnishes....

A plain meal is always 'less plain' when it's served beautifully, smells aromatic, and teases the tastebuds with something piquant or different.
I've served many a penny pinching meal to family and guests alike using this strategy.
Some of my favourites are toasted sesame seeds, maple syrup walnuts, onion confit, and a good relish.
I use the sesame seeds and maple syrup walnuts in salads, stir fries, and on roasted or steamed vegetables.
The to start...with scrambled eggs or omelettes, with savoury crepes, on rolls, on sandwiches, in burger patties, in sausage rolls and savoury pies, on a cheese platter or antipasto platter, with roast meat, with sausages and steaks, with chicken, with pulled get the idea.
Tomato relish and Corn relish are the weapons of choice when it comes to elevating a good old fashioned ham sandwich, but they're also trotted out for embellishing the Celebratory ham leg, mixed with sour cream or natural yoghurt to make a dip, with Indian style curries, and on a Ploughmans platter.
Here are the recipes:
Onion Confit

 You need 4 decent sized washed and sterilized jars for this amount.

1 kg onions (different onions give a different result. Try red, eschallots, pickling onions or brown ones)
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup sugar
 1 cup vinegar (different vinegars will also give a slightly different result in colour and flavour, so try balsamic, white, apple cider, sherry or even red or white wine or sparkling wine)
3 tablespoons honey, maple syrup, treacle, or golden syrup
1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg and cinnamon
2 whole cloves
1 teaspoon each salt and pepper

Peel and slice the onions thinly.

Heat a large frypan over a medium heat and slow cook the onion until it's limp, about 5 minutes.

Add the other ingredients and mix well.

Reduce the heat to very low and simmer, stirring regularly to prevent sticking for one hour.

Cover the pan and continue to cook over a very low heat for a minimum of 45 minutes but up to several hours depending upon the depth of flavour and the consistency you're after, stirring regularly. I have simmered mine virtually all day on a very very low heat, and after 10-12 hours, they are divine.

The confit is ready when there is no liquid, and the onion has been reduced to a chunky paste.

Spoon into sterilised jars and refrigerate. Keeps for several months.
Corn Relish
This makes 2 large jars worth.
1 tin corn kernels, drained
1 red capsicum, diced
1 onion, peeled and diced
3/4 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon each turmeric and ground ginger
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons cornflour
Add the corn, capsicum, onion, vinegar, sugar and spices to a small saucepan. Make sure there is enough liquid to cover your vegetables as this will be the sauce that binds your relish. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 10 minutes to soften the vegetables. Mix the water and cornflour and add to the relish mixture, and stir till thickened. Check the consistency and add more water or more cornflour slurry to thin or thicken to your liking.
Spoon into sterilised jars and refrigerate. Keeps for several months.
Tomato Relish
Makes 8 large jars worth
2 large onions, chopped
2½ kg (about 6lbs) ripe tomatoes, diced (you can also use an equivalent amount of tinned or home canned tomatoes)
1/2 cup sultanas
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
2 tablespoons grated ginger
3 teaspoons ground allspice
3 teaspoons Garam Masala
3 teaspoons salt
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups Sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (extra)

 Place diced tomatoes and onions in a large saucepan.  Add all other ingredients, except for cornflour and extra vinegar. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Boil, stirring occasionally, for 1-1½ hours or until starting to thicken.

 Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until very thick. Stir often to stop mixture sticking to base of pan.
Combine cornflour with extra apple cider vinegar. Add to tomato mixture and simmer, stirring for 2 minutes .Turn off heat and let stand for 10 minutes, then spoon into clean warm jars and seal. Turn the jars upside down for 2 minutes, then invert and leave to cool. When you turn them right way up, the little vacuum button should automatically pop 'in' giving a vacuum seal.
Refrigerate and use within 6 months.
Maple Syrup Walnuts
Put any quantity of shelled walnut halves into a shallow pan. Pour over a few glugs of Maple Syrup. Place over a medium heat, and stir constantly until the syrup has coated the walnuts and there is no liquid visible. Keep in an airtight jar. This makes a brilliant gift too.
Toasted Sesame Seeds
Pour a quantity of Sesame Seeds into a shallow pan, and set over a low heat. Stir constantly until they are golden and toasted. This takes no more than a minute. Store in an airtight container.
What do you think? Is this a strategy that appeals to you? What are your favourite ways of dressing up the ordinary meals in your families week?


  1. Thanks for those recipes, Mimi. I will try some of them out.

  2. Ohhh a lovely reminder Mimi , thankyou !
    Would those recipes be suitable for a slow cooker ? I have gas elements and young gradchildren living here so not so easy to watch for long.
    Love Maria xxx

  3. Those recipes look gorgeous and very do-able! My favourite way of dressing up a meal is a sprinkling of fresh herbs. Very quick, colourful, tasty and, since I have well-established herb plants in the garden, free. X

  4. Thank you very much for the recipes, Mimi! I would love, love to make several of these!!

    I do still love finely cut shallots over a meal! They are so very good!


  5. I had a little bottle of maple syrup that a work colleague brought back from Canada so I tried the walnut recipe. 5 stars. Thank you. Janiebabe


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