you’re looking at $5 – anti-poverty chef challenge

>Red Cross has launched a pocket-size collection of $5 recipes for families struggling to get by in Queensland, to mark Anti-Poverty Week which runs from 17 to 23 October 2010.

‘Many of the people we work with, including young families and the elderly, face times when they struggle to put a meal on the table,’ said Australian Red Cross spokesperson Anna Boyce. ‘The idea behind the $5 recipe booklet is to give a little bit of inspiration to people confronted by poverty, offering meals that can be created out of the smallest of budgets. ‘Australia-wide it is estimated around 5% of people experience times when they have no food and no money to purchase food,’ said Anna Boyce. ‘Everyone has the right to food, shelter, healthcare and the basic necessities – we work with the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in Australia and around the world to help improve quality of life.’

Hundreds of copies of the ‘You’re looking at $5′ recipe booklet will be given to Red Cross’ Queensland clients for Anti-Poverty Week. The booklet’s 16 recipes – which were submitted by staff, volunteers and members of the public – all cost $5 or less to make, and include Red Lentil Soup, Spicy Mexican Beans, Succotash and Deluxe Porridge. The booklet includes recipes and an introduction by former Masterchef contestant and Brisbane local Sharnee Rawson. ‘Anti-Poverty Week is a time to build public understanding about the causes and consequences of poverty and hardship around the world and in Australia. It’s also a chance to encourage research, discussion and action to tackle poverty,’ said Anna Boyce.

vicki’s no-bake cheesecake

>The lovely Vicki at work made me this divine cheesecake for a birthday morning tea. It’s the nicest cheesecake I’ve had in years.

250g sweet biscuits
125g butter, melted
375g cream cheese, softened
zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp vanilla essence
1/3 cup lemon juice
400g tin condensed milk

1. Grease and line a 20cm spring form tin.
2. Place biscuits in food processor and finely crush. Add butter and process until mixed.
3. Press half of the mix into the base of the tin, and press the remainder around the sides, using a glass to firm it into place. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.
4. Beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add lemon rind and vanilla and beat. Add the condensed milk and lemon juice gradually, and beat until smooth and the volume has increased.
5. Pour into the tin and refrigerate overnight.
6. Decorate with diced strawberries and icing sugar, or as desired

1. To make gluten free, substitute gluten free biscuits for the base. I use Arnott’s Rice Cookies (supermarket biscuit aisle) and use approximately 90g of butter as these biscuits are shortbread-like and don’t require much butter to bind.
2. Recommend using 500g of cream cheese if making as per the recipe above.
3. Use 375g of cream cheese if adding melted chocolate (150, maybe 200g?).
4. I substitute vanilla paste or bean for the vanilla essence.

mmmm pizza


Late home from work, I rustle up a quick home-made pizza in less time than it takes to order from Pizza Hut.

Half a garlic Afghan bread, a squirt of pizza sauce, a few chopped-up mushrooms pan-fried to dry them out a little, quarter of an onion finely chopped and barely sweated in the pan, one green chilli and one tomato, a good handful of Weight Watchers grated cheese and a generous swirl of Ischian herbs from the Bay of Naples.

Into the oven, out 15 minutes later, Bob’s your uncle. The perfect comfort food, and all for less than 6 Weight Watchers points (if that means anything to you).
A glass of Rutherglen durif and House on the TV, and that’s a perfect Wednesday evening for me.

feeding the five thousand

… well, the hungry team of five, anyway. We have our team meeting on Tuesday at a secret (and cheap) beachside venue. I have volunteered to feed us and our esteemed guests for lunch. We are the Red Cross, and voluntary service is fundamental to us. Plus: I get to choose what we eat.

With two coeliacs and one vegie amongst us, I am challenged to make a single meal to suit all. India comes to the rescue, as always.

A huge pot of brown and red lentils simmer away whilst I make up a very large quantity of tempering for my dhal and chole. I fry some black mustard seed in a generous lug of olive oil until they pop, add chopped tiny green chillies and cook until they smoke (they’re hotter that way), then in goes the holy trinity of cardamom, cloves and star anise. Last, a generous helping of garam masala, garlic and turmeric.

A pile of chopped onion gets fried quickly in a hot pan. The trick is to fry the onion well before you add anything to it.

I fry a mound of chopped mushrooms, small quantities at a time so they get nice and crisp rather than soggy. I add them to my onions. In goes chopped Roma tomatoes to sweeten the mixture.

Half of the tempering and the onion/mushroom/tomato mixture goes to make the basis of Charmaine’s dhal, and half to my chole. Not traditional, but I am a fan of the incidental consumption of vegetables. I add more chole masala to my pot of chickpeas: I can’t figure out what other spices are in this masala but somehow it makes the difference.

When both are cooked and simmered and well settled, I decant into containers and stir some fresh spinach leaves into both. I shall serve sprinkled with kasoori mehti, accompanied by plenty of Afghan bread, gluten-free wraps for the Gluten Girlies, lime pickle and yoghurt. And of course, a plate of freshly-grilled jerk chicken breasts for the non-veg people amongst us.

Home-cooked goodness, healthy, low-fat food, cheap as chips, idiot-proof recipes. Perfect.

punjabi kitchen king masala

>We are lucky enough to have a great Indian supermarket nearby in West Footscray. Along with freshly-made vegetable samosas, Hindu statues, Bollywood DVDs and Indian crisps and snacks, I can pick up proper Parachute coconut oil for my hair, rose water for my face, karahis and masala dhabas for the kitchen. And, of course, whatever spices I want.

One of my favourites is Punjabi Kitchen King Masala, which I picked up one day without knowing what it was. A mixture of coriander, chilli, turmeric, cumin, dal, fenugreek, pepper, salt, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mustard, garlic, mace and asafoetida, it has a really decent kick to it without additional chilli, and turns your food a lovely golden colour.

Mangal do a good one but there are other brand names around. Perfect for barbeque season, you can marinate fish, shellfish or meat for literally a few minutes and they chargrill up a treat.

For lunch I quickly tossed some black mustard seed into a hot pan with some olive oil, added some fresh tiger prawns and kitchen king masala when the seeds started to pop, then threw in some quartered cherry tomatoes in there when the prawns were cooked. I served it all up with some fusilli pasta instead of rice, but if I’d had some naan bread nearby that would have been perfect too. It was ready in less than three minutes. Divine.

chorizo and tomato salad

>Serves four as a light meal, or six as a meal accompaniment


1 raw chorizo sausage (approx. 225g), roughly sliced
Olive oil
3 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 handfuls (270g) of cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
Sea salt and black pepper
Sherry vinegar
Small bunch of parsley, basil or mint leaves, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

Bread to serve

Optional: goat’s cheese or manchego cheese and pata negra or parma ham


Fry the sliced chorizo in a pan over a medium heat with a lug of olive oil. Stir it with a wooden spoon occasionally while you prepare your tomatoes and spring onions. Put them in a bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper, a lug of olive oil and a splash of sherry vinegar. Sprinkle over the chopped leaves, toss everything together, then set aside.

By now your chorizo should be getting crispy. Add the sliced garlic to the pan and keep it moving around. Before the garlic starts to burn take the pan off the heat and pour in a small splash of sherry vinegar. Stir, then spoon the chorizo and some of the flavoured oil over the salad.

Toss the salad and serve immediately with bread, cheese and ham on the side.