Poor kitchen cousins

Cynthia Stone
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All kinds of belt tightening to go on this year. If you’ve already started, best of luck; if you’re just considering how to activate those resolutions, maybe I’ve got some ideas for you today.

Liver and peppers

Have you ever noticed there are 50 packages of ground beef to every one tray of liver in the grocery store? Most of us pass right on by because the family complains when we dare to bring organ meat to the table.

Liver is nutritious and inexpensive and it can be delicious. If you’re flirting with the idea of cutting back, give this a try. This amount serves 4-6 people.

2 tbsp. vegetable oil, divided

2 tbsp. butter or margarine, divided

6 cloves garlic, divided

1-1/2 lbs. beef liver, cut into 1/4-inch strips

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 each red and green bell pepper, thinly sliced

2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat half the vegetable oil together with half the butter in a large frying pan or Dutch oven. Smash one clove of the garlic and add to pan. Cook until it is sizzling hot and golden brown; remove from pan and discard. Add liver and cook until the outside edges are turning brown and the liver is barely cooked through, about four minutes. Remove liver and set aside.

Add remaining oil and butter to pan and add onion. Fry until starting to soften and brown. Add red and green peppers and cook until they are just starting to wilt. Thinly slice the remaining five cloves of garlic and add to pan. Cook one minute then add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Cook together 3-4 minutes. Return the liver to the pan and simmer together five minutes or until everything is steaming hot and the liver is cooked through — be careful not to overcook it or it will toughen up. Serve with steamed rice.

Curried chickpeas and potatoes

Whether you’re concentrating on health or wealth, this delicious dish is perfect for you. It will satisfy the meat-and-potato lovers at your table, as well as the sick-of-the-same-old-thing picky eaters.

If you’re feeling quite virtuous, then soak out about one cup of dried chickpeas for a few hours and simmer them in salted water for the very best flavour. This recipe serves about 4.

1-1/2 lbs. yellow-fleshed or red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1 large onion, thinly sliced

2 tbsp. each butter and vegetable oil

2 tsp. curry powder, hot or mild, as you prefer

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (or to taste)

1 thumb-sized piece fresh gingerroot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and well drained

1/2 tsp. salt

2 cups frozen and thawed green peas

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1 large bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tbsp. fresh lime juice

Boil potatoes in salted water until almost cooked through but still a bit firm. Drain and add, along with onion, to butter and vegetable oil in a large, non-stick frying pan.

Cook, stirring, over high heat until everything is starting to brown. Add curry powder, cumin, coriander and red pepper flakes and fry a few seconds; stir in ginger and garlic and cook another minute. Add chickpeas, salt and green peas and heat through. To serve, spoon into large bowls. Whisk together yogurt, cilantro and lime juice and spoon a dollop on top.

Cabbage and beef soup

Don’t skip over this one because everyone in your family will enjoy it. I’m not generally a fan of soup made with ground beef, but this recipe is an exception. You might think sausage would be a better choice than beef, but it’s overpowering and covers up rather than complementing the vegetables.

This is a quick, delicious and economical meal, with this potful serving at least eight people.

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 large onion, diced

1 small can tomato paste

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups beef broth, preferably reduced sodium

4 cups chicken broth (or water)

4 dried (or 2 fresh) bay leaves

1 tsp. each dried thyme and oregano

1/2 tsp. ground allspice

1/2 small head cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped

2 medium carrots, diced

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced

1 cup rice

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Brown ground beef in oil in a Dutch oven. Add onion and fry until beef is cooked through and onion is soft. Discard most fat in the pan. Add tomato paste and cook until it leaves a coating on the bottom of the pot when stirred and colour darkens. Add garlic and cook another minute.

Add beef broth, chicken broth, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, allspice, cabbage, carrots, celery and rice and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in black pepper and add a little salt if needed.

If you’re splurging, add a big handful of fresh chopped parsley just before serving.

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.

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