31 August 2010

Home cooking - what decadence!

I usually receive a few emails every week asking for more from scratch recipes. I cook every day, so there is no shortage of recipes. On this past weekend, I made beef curry, a very frugal beef mince (ground beef) and potato pie, lemon curd, lemon curd ice cream, apple pikelets, and more. I never use tins of soup or artificial additives in our food because one of the reasons we like eating home cooked food is we know what's in it and there are no preservatives. And to tell you the truth, this is how I learnt to cook, it's delicious and easy and I've never seen a reason to change. I never follow recipes. If I see a recipe I like, I always change it in someway to suit us. I see recipes as a starting point and if you're a good cook, you'll be able to change any recipe to better suit your family, or at those times when you don't have the exact ingredients to hand.

The only way you can change recipes is to understand what you're cooking. Don't just cook according to the book, experiment, think about your ingredients and methods and wonder about things like: What if I used double that amount? What would happen if I left that out? I don't have that, I'll use this. Will it work? Take it easy when you start, you don't want to waste any food. But cooking like that will help you develop your skills and will lead you to create you're own recipes. In the meantime, here are a couple of mine. Please feel free to modify them.

Beef mince and potato pie (with no pastry)
This will feed at least 6 people, or two old codgers for three days.

One night with peas.

1kg (2.2 lbs) good quality beef mince. I always buy the low fat or best quality one.
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons plain flour or corn flour/cornstarch
salt and pepper

for the topping
6 medium potatoes, or potato and pumpkin, or sweet potato, or any combination thereof boiled and mashed.

Another night with silverbeet.

Into a hot frying pan or cast iron pot (one you can put into the oven), place half the meat and brown it. When it has some good brown colour, remove it and do the next half. Don't skimp on this step. This is here you'll develop a lot of the flavour. All those dark brown bits on the bottom of the pan are your natural flavours. Remove the meat and add the vegetables, but not the garlic. Cook them until they develop a bit of brown colouring as well. When the vegetables are ready, add the meat back to the pan as well as the garlic.

Add the flour, paprika, salt and pepper and stir through thoroughly. Then add enough water so you can see water below the ingredients but it's not covering them. Allow that to come to the boil and stir so it thickens without catching and burning. When the mix has thickened, dollop on the mashed potato to completely cover the top. Place in the oven at 200C/395F and cook until the potato is golden brown.

This is a must have winter meal that both Hanno and I love.

Lemon curd ice cream

My recipe for lemon curd/butter is here. When you've made it, whip 300 mls/half a pint of cream to soft peak stage. Add a cup of lemon butter and stir through. Add to a bowl, cover tightly, and put it in the freezer for 24 hours. That's it! It's delicious. Hanno and I had one scoop each in martini glasses last night. What decadence. Sorry, I forgot to take a photo. Maybe tonight. ;- )



  1. In the UK that is called shepherds pie (made with lamb) or cottage pie (with beef). I usually grill (broil) it rather than putting it in the oven, as it's just to brown the top (if the meat is already fully cooked), and my oven is expensive to run.

    If it's helpful, these are my approximate costings for your soap recipe in the UK. Shops are in brackets. As the recipe uses weights, but the oils are sold by volume, this is very approximate - but last time I made it it used just over one 500ml bottle of each oil, so I have estimated based on that.

    ~ Coconut Oil (Chinese/Asian Grocers) £1.49/500ml - approx £1.70
    ~ Rice Bran Oil (Tesco/Sainsburys) £1.79/500ml - approx £2.00
    ~ Olive Oil (average cost from a variety of places) 35p per 100ml - £2.00
    ~ Caustic Soda (Wilkinsons) £1.49/500g - 69p

    Total £6.39

    Out of interest Rhonda, would it be easy to 'shrink' the recipe *slightly* , as it would be so useful for me (and I'm sure other people) to have it use no more than 500ml of each oil - it's such a pain having to buy two of each!! I don't understand soap calculators!

  2. I really enjoy your blog and it has inspired me to cook some favourite puddings inl;cuding bread and butter pud! It's also worth mentioning that many cook-from-scratch recipes can be modified to be vegetarian. Yesterday I made a veggie version of your beef pie with loads of veggies from the garden (celery, carrot, beans, silverbeet), a tin or tomatoes, some stock and red lentils. Delicious,, healthy and very frugal! I also use my grill to brown the top.

  3. The Lemon Curd Icecream sounds delicious! I was thinking last night that it was about time I played around with flavours of home made icecream. So many wonderful concoctions to make with just a couple of ingredients.
    Thats the magic of home cooking- being able to experiment and play with flavours. I think it takes a while to get that confidence in being able to adapt recipes, thats why I am hoping if I get my boys cooking early they will be more than capable when they get older and are in the kitchen.

  4. Hi Rhonda
    You inspired me to get the job done.I logged on while I have my coffee at 5.30 am, when Hubby leaves.I had pork mince defrosted ,so I add carrot, apple,onion, and apricot home made chutney.Lovely flavour and thickened by flour at the end.Mash on the top and carrots and cauilflower as the veg.While that cooked I make apple and rhubarb crumble.All before 7.30 and still had time to ready myself for work.Now when we all come home from work worn out,we'll have a flavoursome meal.So thanks!

  5. Mmm that pie looks good. I've been a non-meat eater for a few years now, but I've discovered that I'm anemic so thinking that I need to start having some meat in my diet.
    I know that you have posted about your change back to eating meat, but I was curious did you find the taste difficult at first. I've tried to eat some meat recently but I just don't like the taste.
    How have you, Rhonda or any of your readers got past this and learned to enjoy meat again?

    cheers Kate

  6. hi rhonda, can i say to lightisfading and others who are soap makers, i use the calculator at this web site http://www.soapnaturally.org/calculator/index.
    its really easy to use, and helps work out water/lye to how much oil you have available, mixing as many or few as you desire.
    oh, and i love "lemon honey" and shepards pie,

  7. I make lemon curd! It's one of my favourite things in the whole world. Never thought to eat it with whipped cream like that though. TOTAL decadence indeed!

  8. Another great post Rhonda. I will have to try the lemon butter/curd. I'm sure my family would love it.

    I just love home cooking. Simple or involved, both ways of cooking have it's advantages. I have been adding more items to my repetoire at home lately. Tonight I made my first fried zucchini spears (Need to use up the bumper crop some how. LOL.) They were sooo good. Even the hubby gobbled them up and he doesn't like zucchini.

  9. What is silverbeet? It looks like it is related to spinach. Is it?

    I wonder if you can grow it here in the states? or am I way off on this one.

  10. lightisfading, I think it would be easy to shrink a recipe.

    Kate, I didn't eat much meat when I first went back to it. My stomach was a bit wonky for the first week, but after that I was fine.

    Denise, silverbeet is swiss chard. It's delicious, which is good because we grow a lot of it here.

  11. Shepherd's pie was my favourite meal as a child :-) I look forward to trying your recipe. It's nice to see it doesn't require any stock cubes, as I prefer not to use them.

    Thankyou to lightisfading, - I was wondering where i could get hold of those ingredients here in the UK. I will get brave and try making some bar soap. I've never made it before so it'll be a bit of an experiment (!) but i do like the idea of home made soap.


  12. Your recipe looks so tasty- definitely will try the lemon curd ice cream. I find commercial ice creams much too sweet.
    This is a favorite meal of ours as well- shepherd's pie. I love to add some cheese and a sprinkle of paprika on top. There is a frozen version of this in our grocery stores, but I know it'll never compare! I've been making a variety of sauces and relishes this year because our garden and local markets have been so abundant. I'm sure a little of those added with zing up the flavour as well.
    Is this ice cream made without a churn or ice cream maker?
    The Girl in the Pink Dress

  13. Rhonda, I just wanted to thank you again for your blog of sensible, frugal, useful and inspiring ideas.

    I have just been reading about bundles of worn and washed fabrics being sold for £69 a pack!! Sometimes it seems like people are completely missing the point. I have to confess, this current trend of buying and selling 'vintage' things at ridiculous prices drives me up the wall!

    Okay, rant over. :) Hugs, Tina xx

  14. girl in the pink dress, just stir the two ingredients with a spoon, put it in a container and freeze. That's it.

  15. Oh Rhonda, your comment about "two old codgers" made me laugh, it's the sort of thing my Dad would have said!

    And I'm so glad to have found your recipe for Lemon curd. It was a favourite thing of mine to make with my Grandma years ago. Sadly her eldest daughter collected all her recipes when Gma went into a home and I've never managed to get a copy. Yours seems very similar!

    Ann-Marie in England

  16. Thank you Rhonda for mentioning that Copha is solidified coconut oil, it didn't click. I've been looking for coconut oil for a while and just couldn't find it anywhere. My question is, do you know if copha can be frozen to stockpile? I'll go back and read the rest of the blog post!


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