Sunday, 31 August 2014

Vegetarian on a Budget - Moussaka

Generally speaking, if anyone mentions recipes for 'people on a budget', you may assume that the food is either going to be high calorie or starchy, (potatoes, rice and pasta) or pretty bland.
Surprise! Over the next couple of months I am going to convince you all that 'low budget' doesn't equate to blah! or meh!

After a very expensive overseas trip this year, I need to buckle down, pay some bills, get my finances in check, so I can start planning for my next trip in 2015.

While this blog doesn't accept any free handouts, prizes, give aways or advertising for money or goods, it will always promote something that is fantastic value and great to eat. So while I am trying out recipes I will certainly be letting you know if I find a good value product.

I will also try my hardest in these ' budget recipes' to calculate the cost of what I cook so you have the opportunity to decide if it is good value or not. Depending on which country you are in and the season may also change the cost of food, but I aim to keep the meals tasty, healthy and low cost.

If like me you need to cut down on your spending for a few months, then you will appreciate some low budget meals that you can use everyday, share with your friends and are guaranteed to expand your wallet and not your waist line.

I have used Quorn Mince for this recipe because it is high in protein, it can be used straight from the freezer and picks up other flavours really well.

Please let me know what you think - leave me a comment, ask your friends what they think and let me know if I am on the right track.

Happy saving! Enjoy! 

Vegetarian Moussaka

3 medium sized eggplants
1 chopped onion
2 cloves garlic minced
1 packet  300 gms Quorn Mince or equivalent protein frozen
1 tin chopped tomatoes
3 tbls olive oil
salt and pepper
1 carrot grated
1/2 litre of good vegetable stock or a vegetable stock cube and water
1/2+ cup milk
2 tbls plain flour
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 tsp butter
Nutmeg for grating 
Herbs, oregano, thyme, parsley, marjoram (small amount of any)

Preheat oven fan forced to 190º. Take the eggplant and slice vertically into thin slices. Place in single layer on a baking tray which has been greased with a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook these for 20 - 30 minutes or until brown on one side, turn them over and continue to cook until both sides are lightly brown and cooked through.
While the eggplants are roasting, finely chop onion and add this to a large pan with 2 tablespoons of oil. Cook until the onion becomes transparent and add minced garlic. Cook for 3 minutes and add the Quorn,stirring until this is well integrated with the onion and garlic.

Add tin of tomatoes, stock, salt and pepper, grated carrot and a handful of chopped mixed herbs. Cook on a low heat covered for around 30 minutes.

Grease a large baking dish with a smidgen of olive oil and make a layer of cooked eggplants. Add some of the cooked tomato Quorn mixture on top. Continue to layer until you have used up all of your eggplants and Quorn mixture, ending with a layer of the tomato and Quorn.

Take a small saucepan and melt butter over a low heat, add flour and dijon mustard and cook for one minute then slowly add the milk until you have a nice smooth sauce. You may need a little more than half a cup. Add salt and pepper to the sauce and ladle this on top of the baking dish covering the tomato Quorn mixture. Grate some nutmeg on the top and bake in the oven for 30 - 40 minutes until the topping is starting to brown around the edges.

This will serve 6 people at a total cost of $18.00  making it $3 per person. If you serve this with some crusty bread and/or a green salad, you will need to cost this in too.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

France! Mon Dieu!

Someone asked me why I called this Blog 'Postcards to France'?  How do I explain one of the little mysteries of my life?

A few years ago I lived in France, worked in France, laughed, loved and lost in France and cried a lot in France too! 

But, I love France, love French food, love French clothing and the 'savoir faire' of the french. I like to speak French (when I get the opportunity), I adore the French countryside, and would love to live in France again. In fact I actually feel at home in France! How weird is that!!!!

The other strange thing,   One of the other  strange things about me is that I collect postcards. I probably have over 600 of them, many from and to France and other parts of the world. To me a postcard allows you to write just a little message, but not tell all. You save that for another time, or maybe you never tell. Keeping those special moments safe from prying eyes and write them in your self published memoirs.

So there you go - you now know the reason behind the name! 

In celebration, today is all about France!

Dress like this; How to be a French woman

Read; One Evening in Paris by Nicolas Barreau  2012 - I loved this book! 

Watch ; 'Midnight in Paris'? - Written and directed by Woody Allen who also makes a cameo appearance - great film!

In Adelaide; 
Bakery - Boulangerie 113, Goodwood Road, Goodwood, SA
Restaurant - Le Carpe Diem, Grenfell Street, Adelaide, SA
Cafe - L'atelier Gourmand Bistro, , Wayville, SA

Sing;  La Marsellaise - French National Anthem

Cook;Here is a spine tingling French Ratatouille you can eat hot or cold depending on the season.


Herbs: 2 bay leaves (dried or fresh), sprigs of parsley, thyme, oregano, sage
chopped together.

1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and squashed
1 medium eggplant chopped into 5cm pieces
2 zucchinis chopped into 5 cm pieces
2 brown onions cut into 8ths
1 red capsicum, seeds removed, chopped
1 yellow capsicum seeds removed and chopped
1 400g tin whole tomatoes and juice
extra chopped parsley and fresh basil
pinch salt and black pepper

Turn your oven on to 180º fan forced.
  • In a large pan (suitable to use in the oven and on the cook top) add oil. When hot add bay leaves and rest of herbs and cook slowly for 6 minutes.
  • Add onions, pinch salt, garlic. Cover and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes until the onion has softened. Keep checking that it is cooking slowly and not burning.
  • Add eggplant, zucchini, both peppers, tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and cook  covered, on high for 5 minutes.
  • Transfer to oven and cook for 1.5 hrs. Stir every 30 minutes and check that there is enough fluid to stop it burning. If it looks a little dry add 1/2 cup of water.
  • Add chopped parsley and basil and serve either hot or cold. 

Ideal for a spring lunch with some crusty bread.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Chick Peas - Spicy Soup and Hummus

I have a confession to make - I love chickpeas! I love spicy food! Would you have ever guessed this? Apart from their protein value Chick Peas are high in fibre, iron, folate, phosphorus, low GI and they are very, very versatile.

A couple of weeks ago I posted my fav Chick Pea Soup recipe, but with the winter chills continuing I really wanted some more warming soup. Also to make it even better, my local supermarket was selling tins of my favourite brand of chick peas brand for only $1 per tin, so I stocked up and just couldn't resist making this.

I have a really fast recipe for making Hummus too, so while my husband made me a some toast the other morning I whipped up a batch of hummus. It took me the same time to make it as the toast took to be made and buttered.  So today I am treating you to two recipes - Spicy Lentil Soup with Chickpeas and Fast Hummus. I suppose the best way to enjoy these would be to make some toast, slather it with Hummus and dip it in to the hot soup - Ok even I may find that too weird. Enjoy!

Spicy Lentil Soup with Chickpeas 


3 cloves garlic
1 tin of cooked chickpeas 400g net weight (Annalisa is my favourite brand)
fresh ginger 2.5 cms coarsely grated
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 fresh red chilli finely chopped
pinch saffron soaked in 3 tbls boiling water
1 cup red/orange lentils
400g tin crushed tomatoes
1 litre of vegetable stock or use water and stock cube
1/2 cup chopped coriander
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 tbl olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, heat oil over low heat and add onion, cook stirring for about 5 minutes. Add garlic, chilli, coriander, cumin. Add saffron and water, lentils, tomatoes and stock. 

Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add chick peas, salt and pepper and simmer for another 5-10 minutes. 
Stir in fresh coriander and parsley. Serve immediately.

There is no need to add anything else to this dish, it is perfect by itself. A piece of sour dough bread for dunking is optional.

Fast Hummus
I have made this Hummus many, many times. It will turn out well each time, but you have to adjust it to suit yourself. Maybe you prefer a little more lemon in yours or less garlic. This is up to you to perfect it to your personal taste. This is a good place to start.

1 tin cooked chick peas 440g net weight

2 large tbls tahini
2 cloves garlic
4 tbls lemon juice
3 tbls olive oil
salt and pepper
sweet paprika

Place all of these ingredients except  1 tablespoon of oil, salt and pepper and paprika in a food processor. Blitz until all the ingredients are well combined. I like to have mine with a little texture, but if you prefer it to be smooth then keep processing until you reach the consistency that you like.

Spoon out into a dish, add salt and pepper.
Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over the top and add a good pinch of paprika. Serve.

This should keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks, but I only ever manage to keep it a few days!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Winter Spoiler - Summer Fruits

Ok, everyone is asking so I am going to have to tell you about my last trip to Europe! Summer is something I love to talk about in relation to the northern hemisphere. Generally when I visit I am lucky with the weather and this year was no exception. 35 degrees C in London and Poland. Which brings me to my favourite things about Europe; wild flowers, glorious landscapes and fresh fruit with a taste that reminds me so much of my childhood. But I won't tell you everything right now, I will leave some for my next few posts.
Wild Flowers, Lowther Castle, Cumbria

Wild Flowers, Cumbria
Firstly let me tell you that I have added a wonderful Winter Fruit Dessert, at the end of this post, so make sure you scroll to the end.

In London there has been an increase in local markets. You could call them 'pop up markets' because they seem to appear literally over night. The larger and more renown markets get bigger and better every year with the most outstanding varieties of vegetables, fruit, bread, cakes, biscuits and cooked dishes from every corner of the world. (I have some smashing cake photos I am saving for later)

In Hackney, London, the Broadway Market has been attracting customers since the 1890's. It is now a vibrant, multi cultural meeting place with around 100 stalls offering hand crafted cakes and biscuits, pies, stews and casseroles from Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It is well supported by the local population and visitors like myself who seem to jump at the chance to try something new and different. The vendors are young, enthusiastic and very friendly.

African Spinach Stew
Turkish Beetroot Savoury Cakes
Making Turkish style Crepes
At Borough Market, London Bridge, you can buy just about anything in the way of fruit and vegetables. Some varieties of plums, mushrooms, beans and potatoes I have never seen before and believe me I have visited many markets in many countries. But I was definitely drawn to the fruit. Mangoes from India, Oranges and Clementines from Spain and a wonderful mixture of cane fruit and berries from parts of England. Yes,  Pink Gooseberries and masses of succulent Blackberries, raspberries, white, black and red currants.

They looked so succulent that I was tempted to buy and eat them, but I had already eaten a punnet of raspberries and I was afraid of the consequencies. So it became just an awe inspiring look.

I began to think about the summer fruit in Australia. We are a lucky country because we tend to grow the vast majority of our food. But, I don't remember seeing any currants. Maybe the odd punnet of red currants at 
Christmas but certainly not this range. 

Here the markets make so much effort to show off their wares. The delightful baskets of mixed fruit; So many colours and varieties.

I was wondering why we are not growing the same range of berries in Australia; Black currants, red and white currants in abundance because they are so delicious and a fabulous addition to the table. They can be used for both savoury and sweet dishes. In Victoria red currants are grown but I have rarely see them on the markets in Adelaide. It is a short season, but no excuse not to have them here. I recently contacted Parkview Farm in Victoria to find out about their red currants. Coby Tromp tells me there should be some available in Adelaide and to look out for them in December. He also mentioned that he is in the process of planting white currants - I can't wait for those! Once the red currants are in season, I will post recipes. But until then enjoy this fabulous winter dessert.

 Just adding this amazing photo of Cow Heart Tomatoes. (Just to add to my cow fetish) I have never seen these before; but its defining characteristics are the deep ridges and folds around its outside. It looks like pleated fabric. Some of them have the distinct heart shape too. Many people compare them to the Beefsteak tomato, but I am assured that the Cow Heart has a great full flavour. I have been trying to find more references to these tomatoes, but so far everything leads me back to Borough Markets. It looks like I will have to do some further investigation.

Ok , I have you hankering after summer, sorry! But I promised you a luscious winter dessert to appease you. Here it is:

Pineapple and Prune Upside Down Pudding


3 tbls soft brown sugar
130g caster sugar
250g plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
4 pineapple slices either tinned or fresh - I use fresh 
handful of pitted prunes
2 eggs
1/2+cup of milk
170g butter room temperature

  • Heat fan forced oven 190º/375 degrees 
  • Take a cake tin which has a loose base approx 20 cms and lightly grease with butter.
  • Line base with baking paper and sprinkle with soft brown sugar.
  • Lay sliced pineapple on the base on top of sugar. 
  • Fill in the holes with pitted prunes
  • Mix flour and baking powder together.
  • Cream butter and caster sugar until light and creamy. Add beaten eggs a little at a time but do not over beat.
  • Fold flour into egg and butter mixture, adding a little milk to form a dropping consistency.
  • Place the batter on top of the pineapple and spread over the pineapple, making sure that the top is level.
  • Bake for 20-30 minutes, then turn out on to a serving plate.
  • Serve immediately with Crème Fraîche or vanilla ice cream. 

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Tomato Soup with Vodka

My Mother would often say that if something was good for you to eat then "it would put hairs on your chest". As a female, this was not a particularly encouraging thing. But I realised that was just what my grandmother would have said to her own children - a family of 5 boys and 2 girls, so it was probably more appropriate! And I knew by the saying that whatever was being served was hearty and warming and usually delicious.

So, this soup will "put hairs on your chest"! But not literally. Full of flavour, even with winter tomatoes; and  the slug of vodka will warm you down to your toes. Great for sharing with friends on a cold winter's night or as a treat for yourself while reading a book by the fire. Either way you will want more than one bowl - but be careful because it is addictive!

This is an easy recipe, quick to make and you can make it without the Vodka. But why would you!

Tomato Soup with Vodka


1kg ripe tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
3 cups vegetable stock
2tbls tomato paste
3 tbls olive oil
1 tbls horseradish sauce/cream
2 tbls Worcestershire sauce
3 tbls Vodka
pinch salt
black pepper to taste
3 sprigs thyme and rosemary

  • Heat oven to 160c fan forced.
  • Take a large baking tray and line with baking paper. 
  • Cut tomatoes in half, spread in one layer in baking tray. Add 3 cloves of garlic and sprinkle with olive oil. Add crushed thyme and rosemary and bake tomatoes for 40 minutes until they are soft and nicely browned on the top.
  • Place the garlic, tomatoes, vegetable stock, horseradish cream, worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, salt and pepper in a blender or blitz together with a hand held blender.
  • Place combined tomatoes in a saucepan and heat gently, just before serving add the vodka.
  • Serve with Worcestershire Sauce and Tabasco Sauce on the side.

Serves 4