Working in restaurants for a good portion of my life has allowed me the privilege of working with the best ingredients on the market at any given time, but also one of the few perks of cooking for a living is that you never go hungry. Not only because we get a staff meal everyday, but being more proficient than most in the kitchen allows you to create wondrous meals from the humblest of ingredients. This came terribly in handy during my younger years of flatting, when drinking beer was far more important than a balanced diet. For many New Zealanders and Australians living on pennies this is not the case.
From May 4-8 thousands of Australians will take up the ‘Live Below The Line Challenge’ and attempt to sustain themselves on a mere $2 a day in an effort to raise funds for those in need. Think of it as the 40 hour famine of our age. As a child during the 40 hour famine, poverty always seemed a faraway problem afflicting some distant african country you’ve never heard of. Never would it occur to my privileged young mind that these were real concerns affecting my very own country. And yet now we are forced to confront this issue on an almost daily basis. You cannot walk the streets of any major city in the world without the awkward avoidance of some poor unfortunate soul with their hand out stretched towards your small change. Sadly after weeks, months, years of this scene you can become desensitized to the plight of these unfortunates, especially on the 7th day of a 10 day working stretch. Having just completed two 15 hour shifts, finding a shred of charity in your withered excuse for a soul is a tall order indeed on the the way to a third. And yet these are issues that we should be facing up to. The fact that there is still people struggling to feed their children in 2015 should be of grave concern to us all.
As my working schedule is far too hectic to allow me to actually participate in the challenge, I wish to do my bit by providing you with a couple of recipes that might hopefully get those of you who are going to take part, to eat better than you might. So I sent my lovely girlfriend off to the markets to gather supplies for the 5 days. I don’t know how she did it still but she managed to gather a fair quantity of provisions for the grand sum of $9.90. So here was my challenge; a mystery box of vegetables, a bag of chicken bones, vermicelli, some salted black beans, and a box of ominous asian stock cubes, used to create a delicious range of meals for one person to live on for 5 days. FUCK! Here is what I came up with; and I have to say that those slim flatting days seem to have served me well in the end.
This is how she spent her $10
- 2kg bag chick bones $1
- 3 bags mixed veggies $1 each (potatoes, cucumbers, various types squash and capsicums)
- 1 onion $0.20
- 1 carrot $0.30
- 1 knob ginger $0.40
- 1 packet rice vermicelli $2.50
- 1 packet salted preserved chinese black beans $1.50
- 1 packet chicken seasoning powder $1
We had 10c left over so we threw in a single chilli we had at home already, hoping the price would be around 10c.
- 2kg chicken bones
- 5 ltr cold water
The most basic chicken stock I have ever made. Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to the boil. Skim the layer of scum off the top and reduce to a low simmer for 2 hours. Usually I would skim the fat off the stock but for this application I felt it was prudent to keep the fat to extract as much flavour out of this simple stock as possible. Pass the stock through a sieve and discard the bones.
- 70g onion (½ our onion)
- 6g ginger (½ our ginger)
- 2 kg potatoes peeled and cut to a similar size (all our potatoes)
- 2 ltr of chicken stock
- 3 stock cubes
- 1 cucumber shaved into ribbons
Sauté the onion and ginger in a large pot until they are transparent. Dump your potatoes in and then add your chicken stock and bring to the boil. Add two of the stock cubes and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are well cooked. Transfer to the blender and blitz until smooth. Add the third stock cube to season at the end. Garnish with the cucumber ribbons. This recipe should easily yield 4 meals worth of soup.
Black Bean Vegetable Stir Fry
- 120g carrot sliced (all our carrot)
- 70g onion sliced (the other ½ of our onion)
- 300g squash (all our squash)
- 10g chilli sliced
- 10g ginger peeled and sliced
- 120g capsicum deseeded and sliced
- 100g black bean rinsed
- 200g vermicelli soaked for 10 minutes in hot water
- 200ml chicken stock
Heat your wok (or frypan) really hot for this one. Cook your carrot, onion, and squash until they start to colour slightly. Add your chilli, ginger, capsicum and black beans into the wok and cook out for a further 5 minutes. Add the vermicelli and chicken stock and cook until the stock has been fully absorbed. Lastly season with the last remaining stock cube. This meal will make a welcome change when you have been living on potato soup for two days, and being vegetarian it will be a good boost of vitamins for you too. This recipe should yield three really decent meals, or five small ones, and is pretty darn tasty.
You will be left with a substantial amount of chicken stock left over, which can either be frozen for use later on in the week or boiled down and well seasoned to produce a light chicken soup, boil the left over vermicelli in your soup for 3-5 minutes for a breakfast or third dish option when you have had your fill of stir fry and potato soup. Happy hunger everyone.