I’m sure you are just itching to know how these recipes work, so allow me to share with you the first of my ‘famine’ recipes. Actually, this one isn’t so famine-ish, because it contains actual fish, and came in at just under $1.10 per serving. Luxury!75 g cashews
1/4 cauliflower, coarsely chopped, including bits of stem
5 garlic cloves
salt3/4 cup water, plus more for the vegetables
1 enormous beetroot, or two medium ones
3/4 of a butternut pumpkin
1/2 cup of mixed frozen vegetables
185 g tinned tuna or salmon
550 g pasta
1 slice bread
Now what will you do with it?
Start by soaking your cashews in a bowl of cold water for at least 2 hours.
Peel the garlic cloves, and put in a small pot of salted water. Bring to the boil. Once it is boiling, add the cauliflower, and cook until soft. Drain, and transfer to a blender. Add the cashews and about 1/2 cup of water, and blend until smooth and creamy, adding water until you get a sauce of the thickness you like. Taste for salt – you might as well use salt, after all, you don’t have anything else! – and blend again. And yes, you will probably need a very good blender, though if you soak your cashews for most of the day, you will be surprised at how well they blend.
Pre-heat your oven to 200°C.
Remove the skin from your pumpkin and slice into smallish cubes. Place onto a non stick tray, and sprinkle liberally with salt. Sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of water, just to moisten things, and toss around. Bake for 25 minutes, or until tender, turning once. With a bit of luck, you should be able to get some caramelisation on the pumpkin…
Peel your beetroot, and cut into small cubes. Put in a microwave-friendly dish with a little water and cook for about 5 minutes or until tender.
Bring water to the boil in a large saucepan, and drop in your pasta. Cook until al dente, then drain.
Combine the pasta and cauliflower sauce in a large casserole dish, mixing until everything is coated. Stir through the tuna, beetroot, pumpkin and mixed frozen vegetables.
Pulverise the slice of bread in a food processor until it makes breadcrumbs. Scatter on top of the casserole.
Bake for about half an hour, or until the breadcrumbs are beginning to get golden.
Serves 5, though not *too* generously.
ETA – actually, you can be fairly generous – I was so anxious about serving up our first meal that I really underestimated what 1/5 of this looked like. Tonight’s dinner was *quite* lavish. You could probably get 6 portions out of this if you were not a big eater.
Honestly, there are the bones of a reasonable recipe in here. The cashew-cauliflower sauce is actually pretty good, though it would be better with a bit of parmesan or nutritional yeast or herbs or roast capsicum or *something* to lift the flavour. But the texture is great, and the mild cauliflower flavour has promise.
The next thing I’d change would be to get better quality tuna, or skip it entirely. When I opened that tin, it was a revelation, and not in a good way. Suffice it to say that if the tinned tuna you are buying costs less than the tinned tuna you buy for your cat… there is probably a reason for this. And you will not like this reason. In fact, when we finished our dinner and put our bowls on the floor for Mayhem to lick, she sniffed at them and then turned away. Apparently, she prefers a higher standard of tuna. Another possibility for cheap protein might be hard boiled eggs, or ricotta mixed in with the sauce, or any cheese you can afford.
The biggest thing I’d change, obviously, would be to add some olive oil, so that I could roast the pumpkins properly. I hadn’t realised just how much of the flavour of roast pumpkin comes from the way it interacts with the olive oil and the heat. Maybe I’d even go all out and add a little rosemary and pepper, too!
In terms of minor changes, broccoli or corn would be much nicer than the very cheap frozen vegetables I used. In fact, I really only used beetroot because it was cheap and because I wanted the beetroot greens for soup later in the week. I’d replace any of the vegetables with ones you like more. I’d also prefer pasta what wasn’t so cheap it wanted to stick like glue to the saucepan.
Finally, a little parmesan mixed with the breadcrumbs would make all the difference to the topping.
But at that point, you would have passed your $2 daily limit in a big way, and would probably have to eat nothing but oat porridge with water the next day.
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