Saturday, October 12, 2013

Color and Novelty

Another trip to the market today and without fail, I always find something new and different to cook up.Perhaps its something seasonal. Perhaps something I have never tried before. Or maybe something so colorful I can't resist it!

Vibrant multi-colored peppers, shiny red cabbages, green tomatoes, ocher turnips, blue potatoes, lavender-speckled scotch name just a few. How many new or colorful foods do you incorporate into your weekly menus?  If you have a tendency to remain with the same staple products, not mention color palette,  week after week, shock your taste buds and decorate your table and try something new and colorful!

Some heirloom type products can be pricey in certain regions of the country. But choosing a new vegetable or fruit by color or novelty for your menu and diet does not have to break your budget. Don't go nuts and buy 5 pounds of something! Just try one new item...ideally when they are on sale at your farmers market or grocery store. For instance, try a red cabbage in a new way or stuff a new type of pepper you find. Make some blue mashed potatoes to go with your chicken or a big batch of chili with those scotch beans instead of creative and enjoy the novelty and the nutrition. But always remain in your budget!

Here is a great recipe from the All website for Braised Red Cabbage... so simple and scrumptious!     Chef-Johns-Braised-Red-Cabbage 

Please submit your recipes to Poverty Food, Prosperity Home. We will feature them along with your photo and memories about the dish. And be sure to make it colorful!

Eat simply, eat well!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

What do Jamie Oliver and Mahatma Gandhi have in common?

What do Mahatma Gandhi and Jamie Oliver (aka The Naked Chef) have in common? No, not the "naked" or semi-clothed thing. It is their philosophy on food and poverty.

Over sixty years ago, Mahatma Gandhi recognized the possibility that his fellow Indians, who were in dire need and want, could in fact, eat a healthy diet from the food sources available to them. After several years of experimenting with what we call "vegan" diets today and vegetarianism, Gandhi wrote what is today considered a solid framework for a healthy diet for us all. His book Diet and Diet Reform was published in 1949 and is still worth a read.

Fast-forward to 2013, and to Britain's Jamie Oliver, celebrity chef and healthy food campaigner in his native Britain. Oliver has received both accolades as well as derision, for suggesting that people in his country could be making healthier food choices, even if on the lower end of the economic scale. In a recent brouhaha, Oliver has been recently criticized for making the following statement, "You might remember that scene in Ministry Of Food, with the mum and the kid eating chips and cheese out of styrofoam containers, and behind them is a massive TV. It just didn't weigh up,” he said.

"The fascinating thing for me is that seven times out of 10, the poorest families in this country choose the most expensive way to hydrate and feed their families. The ready meals, the convenience foods." (1)

How could Gandhi be right and Oliver wrong?  Sure, Indians in 1940s India were not thinking about big screen tvs and being entertained. Political realities and hunger shaped their priorities and this is refleted in the "Gandhi Diet" As writer Arundhati Bhanot wrote, "For Gandhi, food was not something that just satiated hunger. It was an integral part of shaping the human consciousness." (2) And this is the heart of the matter.

We can look today to other countries like Spain, where a recent news program profiled a modern Spanish family. Well educated and previously well employed. Then came the crisis. Today, they are struggling to survive (read: eat!) on less than 500 Euros a month. The food choices they made back in the good old days, are long gone. In fact, they are out of the question. So, they are reduced to eating the most basic staple foods. No, they are not happy about it and wish they could afford a greater variety and those favourite treats they used to enjoy. Of course! But reality is reality. So no convenience foods or even moderately priced frozen or packaged foods for that family and so many like them in Spain and elsewhere. The economic crisis has changed their priorities have changed from treats to life.

So why the upheaval over Jamie Oliver? Is it because he is being preachy? Is it because he is a self-made millionaire? No, probably neither. It is really more about us. It is a reflection of values. Until people value their health and something else in life other than being constantly entertained with every gadget under the sun over everything else, then our diets and our consciousness will remain as they are.

We at PovertyFood salute both Mahatma Gandhi and Jamie Oliver for reminding us that our food is a reflection of what we value.  We don't have to be vegetarians but we should put our food and our health before the other "stuff" that we can really do without, especially during difficult times.
Eat well!


Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Poverty Kitchen: What do you really need and what can you do without?

I have been meaning to write a post about equipment for some time. As I walked through several of Paris' well known cooking stores, I realized it was a must-write post.

I love going into these shops. Home cooks and professional chefs everywhere know all the names, of course. The mecca of all of these shops is probably E.Dehillerin's. Reportedly Julia Child's favourite shop in Paris, E.Dehillerin's was founded in 1820 and it is the amateur and professional cooks nirvana! Particularly if you are a copper cookware aficionado, this is the place to come. It is a great store! One of those old Paris shops that has not changed much since 1820. The same wood fixtures, the same old staircases and the same dank cellar full of even more cookware! In the basement you will find the industrial sized merchandise, for making soups and stews for a hundred or more servings. The heavy duty cast iron skillets and industrial sized potato ricers take up quite a space. Upstairs you will find bins of various sized knives, oyster shuckers, lemon zesters, rolling pins, cake pans, terrine moulds, garlic presses, ramekins, madeleine pans and on and on and on!  Whatever pot, pan or kitchen gadget you can imagine, they have it.

Yet, all those beautiful copper pots and gizmos aside, each time you have to ask yourself, "What do I really need? And what can I do without?" After all, what have most people in France done with and what have they done without, still producing the great food that they do? After my various trips into endless Parisian kitchen shops, I offer my quintessential list of must-haves for your cooking needs. If you think the list is too brief, then this will come as a challenge to your culinary skills!

                                             One Chef's knife
                                             1 serrated knife (like a steak knife)
                                             Forks, spoons from your flat wear set
                                             One potato peeler
                                             Set of measuring spoons
                                             Set of measuring cups
                                             2-3 rubber ringed canning jars with latch closure
                                             One couscoussier (serves as a steamer, pasta maker and general all  purpose stew pot) They are great!
                                             One 18inch sauté pan with lid
                                             One 10 inch fry pan with lid
                                             One (or ok 2!) terra cotta baking dishes                                                                                          
                                            One cake pan
                                            One terrine mould (ideally in terra cotta)

That is pretty much it folks! Spartan you say?  Really? What else do you really need? If you are thinking, "What about my Thanksgiving Day turkey? Where is the pan for that?" Well, depending on the size of your baking dishes, you may be able to prepare that in one of those. "What about my cookies?" Well, I have personally used terra cotta bake ware for making cookies and they come out great! "What about my soups? " Well your all purpose couscoussier or stew pot of course! And what about that lemon zester you so desperately need? Why, your serrated knife  or potato peeler will do the job just fine! And food processor?  Use the old fashioned ones. They're called "knives".

I would love to have more gadgets for the kitchen! I truly would! But space and money are limited so I do as the French have done and still do! I make do and keep cooking!

Bon Appetit!


PS. Looking for a couscoussier and can't find one? Contact me!


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Holy Trinity of Sauces

In an economic crisis, people who may have never known the concept of "budget" are forced to confront it. What can you do to really stretch your food budget without sacrificing flavour and nutrition? Answer: sauces!

Whether you live solo or have a brood, money issues today will take a hit on your food budget so now is the time to make a real effort to use what the world of food and cuisine have offered up for generations. Sauces in every cuisine are essential and you can use them to liven up a tight food budget and give yourself a morale boost simultaneously. In the humble opinion of PovertyFood, these three basic sauce recipes are the holy trinity of sauces. Used wonderfully on pasta, rice and cooked vegetables, each can be made for roughly one dollar per six ounces of sauce.

PovertyFood pays homage to the American classic, Martha White flour!

                                                                         Basic White Sauce                                     
                                                                           2 tbsp. butter
                                                                           1.5 tbsp. flour
                                                                           1/4 tsp. salt
                                                                           1 cup milk

Melt butter in saucepan then simply stir in flour and salt. Add milk and whisk together. Allow to simmer until nice and creamy in consistency. Only takes a few minutes to cook fully. For variety, you can cook grated onions in the butter before adding flour. Or, add a few dashes of grated parmegian, your favorite herbs like dill or even course prepared mustard for a fabulous creamed mustard sauce that is delicious on chicken or potatoes.  The basic recipe is your foundation.

           20 Minute Tomato Sauce
           2-3 ripe tomatoes
           One scallion onion, chopped
           salt and pepper
           1 tbsp.olive or other vegetable oil

Simple. Heat oil in pan. Add chopped tomatoes and chopped scallion, salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer and cook down until tomatoes are essentially dissolved. Stir frequently to avoid caramelising.  ** Of course, you can add a dash of white wine and your favourite herbs. I add a slice of lemon to mine to give it a zing! But really, if the tomatoes are nice and very ripe, their flavour is all you need! And there is no reason you can not use canned tomatoes, but fresh is best if your budget allows it.

                                           Garlic Spread
                                            One head of garlic
                                            One tbsp. olive oil
                                            One tbsp. mayonnaise             
                                            salt and pepper


This one I picked up in France. It is a typical southern French spread or dip. Simple. Place the garlic head on a cookie sheet or tinfoil and bake in oven at about 350 for about 30 minutes. The garlic is done when it comes out the consistency of mashed potato. Once cooked, squeeze all the garlic into a bowl and add oil. Blend with fork. Now add mayo and salt and pepper. Done! Again, you can really experiment with this one! Hot sauce, lemon, curry...virtually anything can be used to vary this sauce. Use as a dip, on bread....spread onto uncooked pork, chicken or beef. Delicious!

Pinch those pennies and enjoy it!






Monday, January 14, 2013

Focus on: 19th Century France!

While much of America still takes part in the seasonal joy of gardening, many have abandoned this practice for the ease of the supermarket. While we here at PovertyFood are also modern food shoppers, we still hope to encourage everyone to do at least a little gardening, to bring back that joy of savouring the fruits of our own labour.  To inspire us, let's go back to 19th century France and the "potager"!

If you were lucky enough to live in even the near countryside, your home in 19th century France would not have been complete without a "potager". That is, literally, a "soup garden", where you would grow your staple and favourite vegetables as well as herbs and even flowers that would add to your table throughout the seasons. As we  make our way through the long month of January, the snows, the ice and those feelings of potential that the new year brings, consider planning and planting your own "soup garden" for spring. Your harvest will be fabulous even if small, and you will get a wonderful sense of satisfaction, particularly when you savour those dishes that YOU made possible with a little help from the soil and the sun.

If you plant a soup garden, consider what would have been typical of a 19th century French "potager". For inspiration, PovertyFood HIGHLY recommends the book, Vilmorin, The Vegetable Garden. While more of a collection of drawings from the Vilmorin Seed Company which was popular in 19th century France, this collection of drawings will surely inspire the gardener and the cook in anyone. Actually founded in 1742, Vilmorin is today the fourth largest seed company in the world!

Get yourself started with a "potager" of any size, whether a few window sill herbs or a full blown, multi-crop garden... just PLANT! And consider some of the herbs and vegetables which would have been in every "potager" in France, courtesy of and the book Vilmorin, The Vegetable Garden.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone around the world from PovertyFood!
I hope you enjoy a happy and healthy year!

Please consider sending your favorite PovertyFood recipe to be included
on the site. Or perhaps a fond childhood story about a cherished food memory.

Whatever you do, enjoy simply food with loved ones. There is nothing better in life!

Happy New Year!