Time To Fight Back

It started with milk, then bread. Predictably the battle then spread to produce, with the fruit war making headlines daily. Owl and I were becoming increasingly uncomfortable and wary of these so-called ‘great savings’ which may be great in the short term, but will no doubt ultimately cause endless grief once all competition has been wiped out and mass market monopoly rears it’s ugly head.

Besides the fear of jacked up prices, there is also the fear of Aussie farmers throwing in the trovels and calling it a day for better pay in other industries. If we set prices of commodities by the amount we earn and spend, how can we expect farmers to survive on losses and minimal wages for the sake of our own greed? We would rather buy an iPad than think twice about whether our grocery savings are driving farmers out of work. We feel good about buying fair trade items from Oxfam but forget about doing the right thing by our own countrymen.

zucchini

from Little Eco Footprints

It is time to fight back. I was going to write a whole article about this but I think this blog does it so well that I’m just going to redirect you to it (I hope you don’t mind, Tricia!). I urge you to please think about the future of produce supply in Australia and to make an educated choice when you make your grocery run. I’m not talking about buying organic, GM-free, free range etc (even though they are good too). I’m talking about Australians supporting Australians and doing justice to generations of farmers choosing to feed you as a profession. I hope you understand that it is no less noble than a doctor saving your life, or a teacher educating your kids, or a social worker caring for the needy.

A website not linked on Tricia’s site is the Aussie Farmers Direct. Don’t forget also that the Pyrmont Grower’s Markets are on this Saturday (4 Feb 2012) from 7-11am and are on every first Saturday of the month. Might see you on Saturday if you go  😉

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Shepherd’s Meat Pie

I love the slow cooker Owl’s mum gave us last Christmas. With such horrible weather this week, I decided to make some pie. We don’t have a lot of time to cook so we tend to do a big cook once a week and eat it for about 5 days or so. Since puff pastry does not keep well, I used mash for the topping instead. Think of this as a hybrid meat and Shepherd’s pie.

Cheesy crust

Mmm cheesy crust take me home!

I tend to eye my measurements as supposed to actually measuring them so take the following metrics with a grain of salt  😛

Pie Innards
1 kg chuck steak
1 Tbs Soya Sauce (Kikkoman ftw. If using a chinese brand, add a bit more)
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs chinese rice wine
1.5 Tbs tomato paste
4-5 carrots
6 cloves garlic
1 cup frozen peas
2 ‘petals’ of star anise
2 dried sage leaves
1 beef stock cube
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
Half cup of water

I had about a Tbs of dried porcini mushroom lying around so I snipped it up and threw it in. Then I found some unfinished coke which also went in (~ quarter cup).

Chuck everything into the slow cooker, set it on low and then go to bed (or work).After about 8 hours, set to high and thicken with cornstarch (2-3 Tbs, mix with cold water until dissolved, pour into innards and mix thoroughly. Sauce will thicken gradually as the cornstarch cooks).

Innards

Pie Innards

Pie Hat
800g potatoes (I used washed. Don’t use waxy potatoes like Desiree or Kipfler)

 Start with room temperature water. Boil until soft then mash with milk to a smooth consistency (practise your eyeing method, lol). Place mash on Pie Innards, make pretty patterns with your fork, sprinkle on some cheese and bake it at 200°C until golden brown (~20min).

Pie is for the week

A week's worth of pie!

The innards will taste saltish until you add the mash then its just right. Makes about 8 serves.

Chinese Herbal Soup – Strength/Blood Tonic

I have been feeling run down and tired lately so I decided to make some herbal soup in our newly acquired crockpot to help replenish vigour and promote blood/haemoglobin production.

Herbs:

Astralagus – Huang Qi
Codonopsis (Dange Shen) or Ginseng
Dioscorea – Shan Yao
Polygonatum/Solomon’s Seal – Huang Jing
Red Dates/Jujubes – Da Zao
Lotus Seed
Longan (dried or fresh; remove pip)
Black Fungus/Cloud Ear Fungus
Dried goji berries/wolfberries

 

Herbs

Amount of herbs I used. From top left clockwise: Solomon's Seal, Astralagus, Diascorea, Liquorice Root, Goji Berries, Dried Longans, Black Fungus, Lotus Seeds and Red Dates.

4 whole cloves of garlic
About a 3cm knob of ginger – peeled and sliced

Other Ingredients:

1 whole small chicken (skin peeled off)
½ head of celery – chopped
5 carrots (depends on the size – they’ve been pretty small at Coles lately) – chopped

Method:

  1. Place the whole chicken in a large pot, fill with cold/tepid water and bring to a boil.
  2. After boiling for about 10-15 mins, chuck away the water and wash the chicken under cold water. This is to remove as much fat/oil from the chicken as possible. You can peel the chicken skin at this step as well if you haven’t peeled it before boiling.
  3. Place chicken in the crockpot with all the herbs, fill with hot water and bring to a boil. After that, bring it down to a simmer and let it simmer for as long as you like. I’ve heard 5 hours is a good amount of time.
  4. In the last hour or so of your self appointed simmering time, add the carrots and celery and bring to a boil.

 

Soup!

Soup! After 1 week it made my toenails pink 🙂

Tips:

  1. Important: do NOT boil/simmer the herbs in a metal pot. Only use ceramic or clay as the metal will react with some herbs. You can parboil the chicken in a metal pot, but not Step 3 onwards.
  2. You can use chicken pieces if peeling is not your thing. Chicken bones make the stock tastier but not necessary.
  3. Drink the soup as soon as possible for maximum benefit. Everything can be eaten except for the Astralagus as it is too fibrousy.
  4. Keep the lid on when boiling/simmering to retain certain medicinal properties.
  5. Black chicken is less fatty than normal chicken so that is preferable. I saw it for AUD$15/kg at the butcher’s in Market City, Chinatown and decided that the AUD$5/kg Coles variety is good enough for me  :p
  6. Make sure you heat the soup thoroughly post refrigeration to prevent salmonellosis. The entire portion of soup must reach a minimum of 60°C for 60 seconds to ensure safe consumption.

I’m sorry I haven’t posted quantities of herbs as this is my first time and I suppose its trial and error to find a good combination. I like herby soups having grown up with Bah Ku Teh so stronger is better for me, but other people might prefer it to be subtle so it is really up to you. Generally you can’t really taste the herbs since the soup is quite sweet and tasty.

Medicinal properties of the herbs will be posted separately since I hate long posts (don’t you?  :p ).

Enjoy!

Stir fried bean sprouts with salted fish

Ever since we went to our friend’s place for dinner I had been obsessing about stir fried bean sprouts with salted fish. It’s a simple dish and very cheap but sooo delicious. I think the salted fish is what makes me salivate everytime I think about it or smell it.

We were in Chinatown the other day so I decided to make some of this beautiful stuff. I made a massive batch (900g of bean sprouts) because we tend to cook once a week and just eat it for the rest of the week. Also because I was planning of consuming 10 years worth in a sitting that night; which I did since I haven’t had very much in the past 10 years of my life  😛

Ingredients:Taugeh

  • Bean sprouts – 900g  (~AUD$1.80)
  • Salted fish (the vacuum packed ‘wet’ type) – 1/3rd of the packet (~AUD$1.50)
  • Garlic – couple of cloves (~AUD$0.50)
  • Chilli – to your liking (~AUD0.50)
  • Fish Sauce – to taste; depends on how much fish you put in

  1. Heat oil in the wok and fry the salted fish until almost brown and crisp
  2. Chuck in the chopped garlic and chillies. Stir for a bit (don’t allow the garlic to cook too much as burnt garlic is really bitter)
  3. Chuck in the washed bean sprouts and cook until it is wilted. I like mine with a crunch still to it so I don’t cook it very much. You can sort of tell because the bean sprouts go a bit translucent

In the wok

How easy is that! Takes like 10 mins, cost like AUD$4.30 for the whole batch, and fed us for a week with the chicken casserole we made in the slow cooker. And rice of course.

Be forewarned though – frying the salted fish really stinks! Owl almost died, not being from the same kind of background as me.

Our cat, the Empress Dowager, loved it though hehe.

Cashews

Today we went to Coles to do our weekly grocery shop and bought a 750g bag of Dry Roasted Cashews for the shocking amount of $15.99. On our way out we passed Harris Farm and they were selling 500g bags cashews for $5.00. Can anyone say ripped off?

From this I have been reminded of 2 things:

1. Always price check and don’t assume that just because you’ve always been paying $12.99 for a bag of cashews that the price will always be the same.

2. If it takes only 5 mins to do a quick shop around, you have nothing to lose. In fact, you sometimes have $11.32 per kilo to gain.

– ant –