One might think this would lead to a detailed description of how to scrimp, save, go frugal and add to your bottom line, but alas, I'm still figuring out such things, myself. What I will happily share is the only enjoyable chore I've had over the past week, in the few hours I've spent free of the Excel spreadsheets—cooking!
In an effort to stay somewhat on theme, I present two cost-saving wonders.
The first is a deliciously decadent seafood soup that costs a mere $8.40 AUD for the entire batch. That's enough to feed four, and it's even cheaper if you grow your own veggies and herbs.
Chowder By the Bay
1 each potato, carrot, celery, diced finely
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
3 tsps herb mix (thyme, oregano, marjoram, basil, rosemary, sage, bay leaf)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsps plain flour
2 cups low-salt chicken stock
1 splash red wine
1 cup milk
2 rounded tbsps Mascarpone
500g Marinara Mix (i.e. mixed seafood), divided
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Chop vegetables into a large soup pot. Add in butter, oil (to prevent butter burning), herbs, and garlic. Stir in flour to coat all the veggies and sautee over medium-high heat until the aroma is strong, but the veggies should not brown.
Slowly pour in the chicken stock and a simple splash of wine, allowing the heat to remain consistent. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
While the soup simmers, divide your seafood. Most "Marinara Mixes" (for Americans, this has nothing to do with red pasta sauce!) contain cooked clams or mussels, raw shrimp/prawns, chopped raw fish fillets like salmon and haddock, and cooked cuttlefish and/or squid. Divide out the fish fillets as these take a little longer to cook. Set shrimp, clams, and squid aside.
Pour milk into the soup pot and slowly stir in Mascarpone, allowing all the ingredients to meld nicely. Return to a low simmer and drop in the fish fillet chunks. Cook for only a few minutes until the flesh begins to firm. Only then, stir in remaining seafood and heat until the shrimp is just pink. Overcooking will toughen clams and squid.
Season lightly with salt & pepper, then serve hot with thick slices of your favorite bread.
Idea: Next time, I'll be planning ahead and serving these San Francisco style, in fresh, warm sourdough bread bowls. Give it a try! You'll think you're sitting right on Fisherman's Wharf.
Sweet Cross Buns
300 ml (1 1/3 cups) milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 pkgs yeast (about 14 g total)
3 tbsps butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups bread flour
1 good pinch of salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 cup dried fruit, chopped finely
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
A few tbsps water
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp honey
Warm the milk in a saucepan or microwave to a temperature which is warm to the touch, but not hot. Whisk in sugar until deserved. Gently mix in yeast and allow to sit for 10 or so minutes, or until a creamy foam appears on top.
While the yeast is proofing, mix together flour, salt, and spices. In a small dish, soak dried fruit in warm tap water, until lightly plumped, then fold through the flour mixture. For choice of fruits, currants are common. I've used raisins, sultanas, and currants. Once your yeast has proofed, slowly stir in melted butter. Make a well in the center of your flour mixture, then add wet ingredients to dry and mix well.
On a floured surface, knead the dough until fully combined. After 8-10 minutes of kneading, the dough should be beautifully smooth and soft. Place the kneaded dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with oiled plastic wrap and place into your warmed oven. The warmth and moisture will help the dough rise. (I had one batch fail to rise with too little moisture!)
Let the dough rise for an hour, or until doubled in size. Punch the dough down gently, turn onto your floured work area and gently press into a rectangular shape. Cut dough into even squares, scissors work well, and tile across the bottom of a large, lightly oiled, baking pan. Re-cover and rise in the warm oven for another 30-45 minutes, or until again doubled in size.
In a small dish, blend together 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar with a bit of water. The goal is a medium-thick paste. Spoon into a plastic zipper bag. Snip off one bottom corner of the bag and use as a piping tool. Remove the risen buns from the oven and uncover. Pipe cross-like lines over the buns while you pre-heat the oven to 200 C / 390 F.
Put the buns in the oven (no puns!) and bake for 20-25 minutes until the whole house smells delicious and the buns are nicely browned.
In the small dish you used before, melt 1 tbsp butter and stir in 2 tbsps honey. Take the buns from the oven and then brush lightly in the honey-butter glaze. Allow to cool a bit in the pan.
Best served warm or re-heated, and eat them fast! These go stale within a couple short days, but freeze well for up to one week.
Alternative idea: Try subbing fresh or dried apple and finely chopped walnuts for the currant mix and glaze with butter and maple syrup. A yummy Autumn treat for those Down Under, celebrating Easter in the Fall.
To make French Toast: Simple as can be. Whisk up two eggs, a splash of milk, and a touch of vanilla. Cut stale hot cross buns in half, width-wise and soak in the egg bath until spongy, but still intact. Melt some butter in a large pan and fry the soaked buns, cross-side up, until golden brown. Flip, fry some more, then serve with butter and maple syrup, sprinkled confectioner's sugar (icing sugar), honey, or fruit.