Dessert – Mrs Windsor’s Apple Pie

I sat on this recipe for the longest time, then included it in my cookbook. This being apple season, it’s worth re-visiting. Use the largest crispiest apples you can find and don’t be too worried when they form a mini-mountain in the middle of the pie crust – they cook down to sweet perfection.

When I look at apple pie recipes, instructions invariably begin with a request to open a tin of apple pie filling and it’s all downhill from there. This being a simple recipe, it requires the very best components. A light and buttery pastry, with filling unadulterated with cinnamon or cloves or excess sugar. Continue reading Dessert – Mrs Windsor’s Apple Pie

Day 13 – Chilli Beans and Lentils

From 2011, this meal may not be the prettiest, but it has been consistently popular since it was first published. I have updated the recipe to include the vital step of rapid pre-cooking of dried beans but if you don’t want the fuss or bother, tinned beans are perfectly fine. 

Is it authentic chilli if it doesn’t have meat in it?

I used up some pantry items, added some spices, stirred through  the remains of some pumpkin and onions that needed using up and then, with a nod to my mate Iain, stirred through some chocolate at the end.

Continue reading Day 13 – Chilli Beans and Lentils

Day 8 – Pumpkin and Chickpea Burgers

First published in 2010, this recipe was a riff on a favourite meal from a local café near my work. Thankfully, you can make a meal for four people for the same cost as a bought lunch for one.  It’s today’s suggestion for Meat-Free Week. 

Oh, come now. Eat your vegies. With a dollop of sour cream and sweet chilli sauce on top, it’s the best good-for-you food you are likely to eat all week.

And besides, with cheap-as-chips chickpeas and in-season pumpkin, this is nourishing, filling and incredibly tasty. Make a few more patties, freeze them between sheets of freezer wrap and have them ready to cook for a speedy mid-week meal the next time around.

Continue reading Day 8 – Pumpkin and Chickpea Burgers

Day 14 – Kedgeree

First published in 2010, this is a family favourite and worth a re-visit. While it’s not strictly vegetarian, it IS meat-free making it a marvellous choice if you want to observe Meat-Free Week (which starts today).

With its origins in British-Raj India, kedgeree is a spiced rice pilaf made with smoked fish. Usually made with the Brits favourite smoked fish such as haddock, it was often proffered as part of a British breakfast, but these days it’s more often served up as a Sunday night supper dish.

For years my mother made this without curry powder, simply basing it on fish, rice, hard-boiled eggs and loads of butter. I was in my thirties before my mother in law advised me that it was best made with curry powder. Continue reading Day 14 – Kedgeree

Day 8 – Chicken with Spicy Yoghurt

This post was first published four years ago, but deserves revisiting – it’s a marvellous way to dress up chicken, but can also flavour lamb cutlets.

Don’t be alarmed by the garish yellow pigment in this finished meal: Yoghurt is a superb tenderiser for meat and adds a subtlety to meat not always associated with spicy foods.

Mix dried spices into yoghurt, then marinate chicken pieces for a delicious change to the everyday. This flavour base is Moroccan-inspired, but you can just as easily add turmeric, chilli, cardamom, coriander and fennel seeds for a curry based spice rub. Continue reading Day 8 – Chicken with Spicy Yoghurt

Sweet Treats – Nutella Weetbix Slice

I’m moving house. Again.

In the last four years I’ve moved 11 times and I have it down pat – I can pack up and box a two bedroom house in two days. Packing up everything in this house will take me three hours. Continue reading Sweet Treats – Nutella Weetbix Slice

Desserts – Blackberry and Apple Crumble Slice

I writing this on Valentine’s Day, and I’m struggling not to be drawn into a passive-aggressive smackdown of the day’s festivities by putting all my grief into this article, or into this recipe, which is baking while I write.

For those who are not in couples, it’s a day of purdah. The single must stay away, away from restaurants with reconfigured Tables-For-Two, lined end-to-end with barely any space to move between, each couple in their own loved-up bubble of perfection, their primal scent of fear – or of keeping up appearances, I’m never quite sure which –  barely contained. Poor bastards.  Continue reading Desserts – Blackberry and Apple Crumble Slice

Day 10 – Veal Goulash

If there is a challenge to this cooking-within-a-strict-budget lark, it is to convince other people to try unfashionable foods. Think lard, veal and anything from the early 1970s.

This recipe is therefore a triple threat. Stick with me now.

Goulash evokes memories of a so-so beef stew washed away by a carton of sour cream, but it’s actually a much simpler dish. Consisting of beef, capsicum and paprika, this is often presented as a soup in Hungary rather than a stew and sour cream is verboten. Continue reading Day 10 – Veal Goulash

Sweet Treats – Triple Chocolate Muffins

Sometimes desperation makes the best meals. In this case, the manic desperation from an intense once-a-month chocolate craving which coincided with a just-before-payday lack of funds is most certainly what caused this recipe.

I wanted chocolate and I wanted it NOW goddammit. With no funds, I turned to the bank, or in this case, the pantry bank, where there was money on the shelves in the form of baking ingredients and several half-empty packets of choc chips, plus exactly eight squares of dark cooking chocolate and a handful of dark chocolate cooking buttons. Seriously, HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? Continue reading Sweet Treats – Triple Chocolate Muffins

Day 9 – Sweet Potato, Bacon and Haloumi Patties

I have adored cheese and mashed potato, mixed together, ever since I was a spotty teenager with questionable tastes in pop music. I don’t eat it often, but it is my go-to dish for when I’m feeling low, but not quite so low that I could eat my body weight in Tim Tams.

You get the picture: I really don’t need much persuasion. Continue reading Day 9 – Sweet Potato, Bacon and Haloumi Patties

Day 8 – Katsu Chicken with Tonkatsu Sauce

Katsu Chicken – or Tonkatsu, which uses pork – was introduced to the Japanese as an example of western food in the late 19th century, while the country flirted with all things European.  In essence a chicken schnitzel,  it was promptly adapted to local tastes and given a lightness of touch. It is astoundingly good comfort food. Continue reading Day 8 – Katsu Chicken with Tonkatsu Sauce

Desserts – Roast Strawberry Gelato

Recently a cousin from the UK came to stay for three months. She stayed with my sister on the Central Coast, but came down to Melbourne and for the week she was here I had the most delightful time being a tourist in my own town. On her to-do list were trips to St Kilda and the Zoo and the Botanic Gardens and after a couple of days I realised I was weaving my favourite eateries into our wanders. Which is how we ended up at a gelato bar in North Carlton. Continue reading Desserts – Roast Strawberry Gelato

Dessert – White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake

It was my mother who prompted me to make this cheesecake, or rather, the prospect of my mother coming to stay. She doesn’t have much of an appetite and left to her own devices will opt not to have a dessert. Perversely, this only makes me want to bake a delicious treat to prove her wrong.  Continue reading Dessert – White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake

Day 7 – Tuscan Turkey Polpetti

Meatballs are a trend right now, much to the delight of hipsters everywhere.

If you can think up the flavours of a particular cuisine, you can adapt meatballs to anything, from breakfast burritos, to Moroccan tagines.

I don’t object to a makeover though, and these pint-sized morsels are  delightful. Think of meatballs no bigger than your thumbnail, bursting with flavour, in a peppery tomato sauce.

I chose turkey mince because of their fantastic budget value, but you can always use a mixture of chicken and pork mince, or beef and lamb. Either way this makes a large pan of meatballs, leaving plenty of leftovers, which as we all know, taste better the next day.

Tuscan Turkey Polpetti

Makes 60 small meatballs


  • 500g turkey mince (or use a combination of chicken and pork mince OR beef and lamb mince if you prefer)
  • 1 large onion, peeled
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 thick slices day-old bread
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, extra, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, extra, finely chopped
  • 400g tin diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup (250ml) beef stock
  • 1tbsp finely chopped parsley


Place roughly chopped onion, garlic and torn slices of bread in the bowl of a food processor. Blend for a minute until the mixture is the same texture as coarse breadcrumbs. Add the mince, a good pinch each of sea salt and black pepper and blend until the mixture is fine and well combined.

Roll teaspoon-sized amounts of mince between your clean wet hands to make small meatballs, about the size of your thumbnail. Set aside on a tray and cover with a damp cloth and chill until you are ready to cook them. You can also freeze them at this point.

Heat olive oil in a large heavy based frypan. Add the meatballs in batches and cook for a few minutes on each side until they start to colour. Remove from the pan and set aside until you have browned them all.

Add the finely diced onion and extra crushed garlic to the pan and sauté for 5-7 minutes until the onion starts to soften and colour. Add the meatballs back to the pan, with the tomatoes, stock and a splash of red wine if you have it.

Bring the the sauce to a simmer, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Season to taste and add the parsley before serving over the top of pasta, or with some steamed vegetables on the side.


$9.40 for four greedy people with plenty for leftovers



Day 6 – Kylie Kwong’s Soy-Roasted Pork Belly


We all love it, but it has to be done well. You know the sort – lightly salted, crispy, golden, with a crunch that shatters across your tongue into a thousand shards.

Sadly, I don’t always get the results I want, I except you don’t either. Continue reading Day 6 – Kylie Kwong’s Soy-Roasted Pork Belly

Sweet Treats – Chocolate and Nutella Yoyos

They are Melting Moments (made with custard powder) to some, and Yoyos (made with cornflour) to others. Either version always disappears faster than you can make them.

I’ve opted for a chocolate version, because … actually I don’t need a reason, and I suspect you don’t either. Instead of custard powder which could affect both taste and colour, I used cornflour which still gives the lightest, flakiest texture to ensure it will melt on your tongue, so Yoyos they are. Continue reading Sweet Treats – Chocolate and Nutella Yoyos

Day 5 – Cauliflower Pakoras

Pakoras are fritters: Vegetable fritters. And if I was to simply leave it at that, you would never know just how sensational these crispy, warmly spiced flavour bombs are.

The batter is usually made with besan, a chickpea flour. You can buy it in large supermarkets, oddly positioned in the health food aisle, or you can find it in Indian grocers or in spice shops. It’s worth seeking out, as it makes a crispy, nutty flavoured batter. Continue reading Day 5 – Cauliflower Pakoras

Sweet Treats – Apricot and Almond Cake

Here we are in the middle of Stonefruit Season and let me tell you the apricots this year are magnificent.

Which is just as well because in recent years they have been a bit rubbish. I’m not a farmer, so I don’t know why that is, but I suspect weather has everything to do with it. Whatever the reason, this year’s crop is heavenly, so do go out and buy some soon. Continue reading Sweet Treats – Apricot and Almond Cake

Day 4 – Tuna Salad

I’ve done the Sydney-Melbourne flight more often than I can count, but it’s safe to say it’s an average of 6-8 times a year. Not much by frequent flyer standards, but enough to know that the food in both airports sometimes leaves a lot to be desired, especially if your budget is fast-food sized (and therefore tiny).

Faced with the usual choices of upsized burger meals and dubious warmed noodles and pastas in bain-maries, I have often opted for a simple coffee and held out for a quick omelette once I get home.

Which is how I stumbled across this tuna salad – buying a coffee.

Promising nothing other than simple ingredients and with NO salad bar or limp lettuce in sight, I got a beautiful blend of texture and flavour all prepared at the last moment in the kitchen. It’s brilliant, tasty, incredibly filling and takes minutes to make, which of course makes it the perfect hot-day standby.

This really does work best if you make it at the last minute, meaning your bread pieces will still be warm, but your tomatoes and salad vegies will be straight out of the fridge and therefore chilled. It’s a wonderful mixture of sweet and salty, tangy and nutty, warm and cool. You’ll never think of tuna salad as boring, ever again.

Tuna Salad

Serves 2 as a main meal.


  • 2 thick slices day-old bread (use a rustic style bread or sourdough if you can)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • ½ punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ Lebanese cucumber, peeled into strips with a vegie peeler
  • ½ red capsicum, de-seeded and finely sliced
  • 2-3 spring onions, cut thinly on the diagonal
  • 185g tin tuna, drained


  • ¼ cup (60ml) sour cream
  • 1 tbsp grated horseradish
  • 1 tsp finely chopped dill
  • sea salt and black pepper


Preheat oven to 180°C. Tear the bread into rough chunks, place them in a small roasting tray and drizzle with the oil. Toast for 15 minutes until golden brown and crisp.

While the bread is toasting, place all the dressing ingredients in a  small bowl and mix together. Set aside.

Drizzle the toasted bread, still in the roasting tray, with the vinegar. Not all of the bread will get a coverage, creating a delicious combination of crunchy and soft, tangy and nutty all at once. Set aside.

Place the tomatoes, cucumber strips, capsicum strips and spring onions in a bowl and toss with your hands to combine.  Combine the tuna and half the toasted bread with half the dressing and toss gently until everything is mixed together and coated.

Spoon the salad vegies and remaining bread pieces into serving bowls. Top with the tuna and bread mixture and pour the remaining dressing over the top. Eat it while it is chilled or barely at room temperature.


$6.40 for two people

Day 3 – Sri Lankan Egg Curry

Not everyone likes hard-boiled eggs, but there’s no denying their versatility, not to mention their chief attraction – eggs are the ultimate budget food.

I only ever buy free range eggs, and I prefer to buy from farmers markets rather than supermarket shelves where I can be better assured they come from happy paddock-roaming birds. Even at the top end of the price scale, eggs cost me just 70c each. Continue reading Day 3 – Sri Lankan Egg Curry

$120 – A Week of Family Meals – It Can Be Done


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