tight wad tuesday- delia's frugal food

“…..Who, then, is this book for? Quite simply for people like myself, those who have lived and cooked during the affluent years and now find themselves caught up in the spiral of inflation, rising prices and impending food shortages…..”

-by Delia Smith (Delia’s Frugal Food)

This excerpt was not written in recent months, but back in 1976 when the book was first released. Interesting that what was such a significant subject then is even more relevant today. At the time of the book's original release, Delia Smith's Frugal Food provided home cooks with a wide range of tasty recipes that were cheap and easy to prepare, encouraged readers to make do with what they had and even offered advice on how to cook using less energy. The book’s success led Smith to television, where she enjoyed a long reign throughout the 80s and 90s as Britain's celebrity chef. It was during this time that the 'The Delia Effect' began. Store shelves would be stripped of a particular item the day after it had been featured as a key ingredient on one of her shows. Thirty two years later, Delia's Frugal Food has been relaunched, right at the height of the latest credit crunch. While it has been revised for the times (less drippings and more olive oil, plus new illustrations) its 170 recipes still show you how to eat well without having to spend a fortune.

fru – gal entailing little expense; requiring few resources; meager; scanty: a frugal meal.

In case you haven't heard yet, apparently frugal is the new black. Being one who prides myself on staying left of the mainstream, suddenly realizing that I am in the thick of a gathering trend is a reality that leaves me feeling somewhat uncomfortable. Groucho Marx was famously quoted for stating “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member”. But really, I should just get over myself and be grateful that the previous era of gluttony and over consumption has been forcibly decreased and people are now looking for different ways to live well with less.

But much of what I have read lately on the subject of frugality gets my knickers in a knot. It usually seems to be referred to in a somewhat negative tone. I feel very strongly that being frugal need not equal scarcity, deprivation or lesser quality. When approached with the right attitude, practicing frugality offers one an opportunity to be creative, innovative and resourceful. It also presents us with good reason to share with others, to trade skills, knowledge and resources and, in turn, to build and strengthen communities. I am hopeful that such experiences will make us become more grateful and appreciative for all that we do have, be it material or not.

As for Delia’s Frugal Food, I must admit that it is not a cook book that I am particularly drawn to. But its concepts and philosophies certainly speak to me. It is a wonderful contribution when such books can get more people cooking (and eating) well. Teaching others to be creative and thoughtful with ingredients and competent with methods all result in helping to make us healthier….body, soul and wallet.


french bistro and cinema night

Diane Thompson and Pierre

Moi et Pierre (A.K.A. Peter P.) getting ready to serve our dinner guests.

Last Sunday brought with it an opportunity for my good pal, Peter and I to create and serve a French themed meal for 8. 'French Bistro & Cinema Night' was a belated birthday gift from both of us to our (French Canadian) bon ami, Michel Laflamme. The featured Beef Bourguignon recipe is a concocted combo of components I had borrowed from 4 different recipes. Note that making this dish a day ahead increases the flavour and allows you to greet your guests without reeking of just-fried bacon and onions. The menu went as follows and I dare say that our meal was outstanding (though half of our guests were dozing off into a food coma shortly after the movies started rolling, myself included):

To Start:
Mimosa Salad. Click here for recipe.

Beef Bourguignon with Mashed Potatoes. Click here for recipe.

Half Baked Chocolate Cake with Fresh Orange Cream

To Drink:
Lots of Red Wine and not nearly enough water

That Man From Rio /w. Jean-Paul Belmondo
Pierrot le Fou /w. Jean-Paul Belmondo


recipe for beef bourguignon

Sander de Graaf

Moo la la! (Photo by Sander de Graaf)

Beef Bourguignon
(Serves 8)

4 slices of bacon- finely sliced
2 1/2 lbs beef shin, cut into cubes + flour to drudge
2 medium onions, peeled + large dice
2 carrots, peeled + rough chop
2 stalks of celery, peeled + rough chop
1 lb nice mushrooms, quartered
4 cloves garlic
1 bouquet garni (Sprig of thyme, peppercorns, bay leaves, 2 sprigs of parsley)
1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
1 bottle of Burgundy red wine

1- Fry bacon. Remove with a slotted spoon and put aside.
Remove some of the bacon fat. Season meat with salt and
pepper. Drudge in flour. In same pot, add some olive oil
to the bacon fat. Brown the meat in batches. Remove and
set aside.

2- Preheat oven to 325*F. In the same pot, add 1 T olive oil or bacon fat and then the mushrooms, cooking until lightly browned. Remove the mushrooms and set aside. Again in the same pot, add 1 T olive oil or bacon fat and fry the onions, cooking until just starting to caramelize. Add the carrots and celery- cooking until lightly browned. Add the garlic + tomato paste and cook for a few minutes. Return the mushrooms and the beef to the pot and then add the red wine plus the bouquet garni and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer. Lightly cover with a cartouche (shaped, round piece of tin foil). Cook for about 2-3 hours, checking and giving a gentle stir every 1 hour. Remove the bouquet garni. Taste and adjust seasoning, if neccessary. Serve with mashed potatoes, noodles or rice.


burger grease art (mona greasa)

burger grease art- Phil Hansen

Phil Hansen of www.burgergreaseart.com

Found this little tasty morsel last night on Design Sponge and just couldn't resist. Design Sponge is a Brooklyn based design /art /craft blog that does a heck of a job of consistently sharing a dizzying amount of juicy content. I'm a huge fan and was especially shocked to find out this week that ds founder Grace Bonney has been producing all of this fabulousness from a tired old pc laptop (thought for sure she was an apple gal). Very impressive, both of them.


baba ganouj (eggplant dip) + flax seed crackers

Baba Ganouj (Eggplant Dip)

Eggplants await their next life as Baba Ganouj.

The evite for Tara's 40th b-day last Saturday came with a request to please bring some snack food. With iffy weather and a guest list of diverse palates, I settled on an old favourite..... I've been making this Baba Ganouj (Mooseswood Cookbook) recipe for over 15 years and it continues to serve as a consistently yummy success (though I must admit that David O.'s gourmet Mac + Cheese left everyone else's offerings in the dust). The old standby would be to serve this dip with plain white bread, but I thought it might be fun to try something different. Having never made crackers before, I patched together this second recipe from a variety of others I had read. It actually worked out quite well. I think that next time I will try substituting 1 t of the milk for 1 t of Tamari, to provide a little extra zing. Keep in mind that you could experiment with different kinds of flour, such as spelt, rice or kamut.

Flax Seed Crackers

Flax Seed Crackers, ready for dippin'.

Baba Ganouj (Eggplant Dip) + Flax Seed Crackers
(from 'Moosewood Cookbook' -by Mollie Katzen)

1 T olive oil
2 eggplants, cut in half lengthwise
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ c fresh lemon juice
¼ c raw tahini paste
½ t salt
¼ t Spanish paprika (optional)


1 T olive oil
2 T finely chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350*. Lightly oil a baking sheet. Place eggplant halves face-down on the baking sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until eggplant slightly yields when poked with the tip of your finger. Cool. Scoop eggplant pulp into a food processor and discard the skin. Add remaining ingredients except for the lemon juice and whirl together, processing until smooth. While machine is running, slowly add lemon juice, a bit at a time. Use only as much juice as needed to make a creamy dip (not too runny). Transfer to serving dish and garnish with parsley and olive oil. Serve with bread or crackers.

Flax Seed Crackers

½ c raw flax seeds
2 T sesame seeds (optional)
1 ½ c all purpose flour
½ t baking powder
3/4 t salt
4 t butter
1 T onion powder
½ c milk

Preheat oven to 325*. In a food processor, combine all ingredients except the milk. Transfer ingredients to a large bowl. Slowly add in the milk. Mix and knead dough together until the dough forms a ball. Chill for a few hours.

Divide dough into 4 equal parts. On lightly floured counter top, roll out the first section of dough (to 1/16" thick) using a lightly floured rolling pin. Cut into 6 squares. Repeat with remaining dough. Transfer crackers onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes, then flip them over and bake for 5 minutes more. Put crackers directly onto baking racks to cool. Makes 24 crackers. Store at room temperature in a dry, airtight container.


happy easter

2 chocolate easter bunnies

My friend, Julie Lee sent me this timely little greeting. Thought I'd pass it on.....


soba noodle salad

soba noodle salad

Here is another meal I have created for my current ‘grub on the go’ lifestyle. I made a whack of it for lunch today and still have lots more. You could substitute the tofu with prawns, shredded chicken, pork or beef plus maybe a little fresh diced mango.....

Soba Noodle Salad

1 8oz package soba noodles, cooked according to package directions
½ red pepper, thinly sliced
½ yellow pepper, thinly sliced
½ fennel bulb, thinly sliced
½ c red cabbage, thinly sliced
2 T fresh basil, thinly sliced
2 T fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
1 175 gram package of ‘Pete’s Soyganic Tofu & Sauce’ (any flavour)
2 T toasted sesame seeds
1 T toasted sesame seeds (for garnish)


4 T vegetable oil
1 t toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 t rice wine vinegar
1 T Tamari sauce
½ t fish sauce
½ t chili garlic sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 T grated ginger
1 t sugar
juice and zest of ½ lime
s & p

Pour cooked noodles into a colander. Rinse with cold water and drain well. Transfer noodles into a large bowl. Next add the vegetables, fresh herbs, tofu and 2 T sesame seeds. In small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients with a fork. Drizzle dressing over noodles and salad ingredients. Toss gently to combine. Serve into 4 bowls and garnish each serving with 1/4 of the last 1 T of sesame seeds. Salad stores well in the fridge and would also be a great picnic item.


cous cous extravaganza

Cous Cous Salad with Butternut Squash and Kale

All of my recent gardening efforts have left me with a larger appetite and less time for food preparation. I’ve taken to making large batches of food to provide me with quick, tasty and healthy meals so that I can fuel up fast, save the rest in the fridge for later and get back to playing in the dirt.

This salad I whipped up on the weekend perfectly fit the bill. With only 5 minutes of cooking time, cous cous is a quick and easy carb. The grain itself is made by rolling and shaping moistened semolina wheat into granules and then coating them with finely ground wheat flour. Cous cous serves as a primary staple to many parts of the world and provides a great back drop to a wide range of ingredients and flavours. Take note that, while I put pretty much everything but the kitchen sink in this version, it's a very flexible recipe. You can add or omit any ingredients you wish and serve it freshly made, while it is still warm or later, when it has chilled in the fridge. This dish also travels well and can serve as an excellent ‘starch’ portion to many entrees. Note that I did intend to include a photo of the completed dish….. but I forgot and ate it all.

Cous Cous Salad with Butternut Squash & Kale

2 T olive oil
¼ yellow onion, small dice
1 c dried cous cous
1 c boiling water

1/3 c currants, soaked for 20 minutes in boiled water and then drained
1 + 1/2 c kale, thinly sliced
¾ c roasted butternut squash, large dice
½ orange pepper, cored and sliced
½ c fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 green onion, thinly sliced
2 preserved lemons, pulp removed and thinly sliced
1/3 c chopped parsley
1/3 c toasted pumpkin seeds
2 T nutritional yeast
½ c frozen green peas

Juice and zest of ½ lemon
½ c olive oil
s & p

In a large pot over low-medium heat, sauté yellow onion in 2 T olive oil until onions are yellow and translucent (about 5 minutes). Add cous cous and stir well. Turn off heat. Pour in boiling water. Cover and let stand for 4 minutes. Add frozen peas and let stand for 1 more minute. Fluff cous cous with a fork and transfer to a large bowl.

Add all remaining ingredients and mix well. Taste and adjust salt, if needed. Serve immediately, or store covered in fridge.


eating in the raw

Gorilla Foods- photo from Vancouver Sun (March 11, 2009)

Gorilla Foods -photo from Vancouver Sun (March 11, 2009)

No one loves the warming, nurturing properties of winter’s comfort foods more than I do. But eventually, it comes time to look forward to a new season of menus and ingredients. What with Spring’s late arrival this week, it is finally time to start looking forward to enjoying some fresh, crispy, clean and locally driven fare.

A visit to Vancouver’s Gorilla Foods yesterday provided just such an experience…..a teaser, a trailer for the good things to come. (Click here to read a recent Vancouver Sun review) With a menu selection focused exclusively on raw, organic, vegan, live foods- any choice is sure to be a healthy one. My friend, Robert and I both decided on the ‘Veggie Burger’ (mixed nut and seed patties topped with ginger tomato sauce, guacamole, and brightly coloured grated vegetables. In lieu of a bun, ruffled lettuce leaves provide both plume and flourish). The plates arrived at our table looking more ‘Vegas showgirl’ than ‘burger’, but were very tasty, none the less. Their pizza selection also looks very appealing and I am looking forward to sampling one or two, come my next visit.
Gorilla Foods is located at 101 - 436 Richards St.

seedling update

tomato and parsley transplants, from dirt to dish

Tomatoes and parsley transplants started from seed only 7 weeks ago.

I know, I know.....I've been a lame ass blogger lately. Truth is, I've been spending more time toiling in the dirt than cookin' in the cucina. Since planting the first seedlings back in mid February, a lot has happened. The broccoli and cabbage had to be culled, as they grew too 'leggy' and were apparently destined to produce puny amounts of food- simply not worth the real estate available come planting time. Otherwise, it has so far been a smashing success (leeks, parsley, kale, fennel, eggplant and 4 varieties of tomatoes to date..... all thriving, with heaps more to follow). Keep in mind that I am not going this alone, but am operating under the careful watch of my fabulous gardening advisor, Sylvia Pendl (we have been sharing costs and will be dividing all transplants equally come planting time). These days, I am simply following ongoing instructions and am as surprised as anyone when witnessing each phase of this great mystery unfold.

Currently, most of the action is taking place in my little south facing sun room. What started as 3oo little seedlings taking up less than one square metre of surface area has exploded into a full blown nursery. Since mid March, I have been gradually transplanting the various seedlings, each into their own 4" round pot, and not always alone. Sometimes Sylvia drops by to inspect their progress and also to partake in the transplanting. Now the sun room is so packed with pots, I've been outfitting makeshift tables from old doors and pieces of dry wall propped up on cinder blocks and improvising 'side tables' by turning wooden crates on their sides. I'm telling you- it's a jungle in there.

At the same time all of this has been happening, I have also been slowly chipping away at prepping what will soon become the next home for this village of transplants. I am fortunate enough to have a juicy, south facing plot to work with (5 feet deep x 30 feet long), though it has required a Herculean effort of weeding and aerating. I had foolishly estimated this task to take an afternoon or two. Not! I've been chipping away at it for well over a week now, despite the generous assistance I received from a couple of pals. After hauling over one hundred pounds of clumpy weeds, vines and gnarly root systems to the back alley compost, the plot is finally ready for the 3 raised beds plus 4 cubic yards of amending soil that shall make up the next phase.

Stay tuned for more dirty talk and heavy lifting.