Recipes for cooking on a budget with Kate McKay

Tuna and white bean salad.
Tuna and white bean salad. Photo: Kate McKay

The word budget conjures up a lot of other words for me - like fast 15-minute meals, low calorie, from the cupboard, low carbohydrate, high protein etc. 

If I don’t have to get in the car and drive 40 minutes to town it is a head start, and if I grow some of the ingredients, well that works in favour of being budget too. I have a few staple meals that reappear as crowd pleasers, but as it turns out these are often the easiest on the wallet.

Tania’s lentils
Tania’s lentils Photo: Kate McKay

Tuna and white bean salad ticks more than the budget box, it also ticks the healthy box too, having been adapted from the Fast Diet recipe book by Mimi Spencer. My sister said any fast meals would be good for a budget, as there is not much on the plate. Hopefully you find this one tasty – sometimes I wonder whether it tastes so good only because I have eaten nothing else on the days I end up making it.

I have a lentil soup recipe given to me by a friend in Collector, and whenever people have it they ask for the recipe and it becomes a staple for them too. It’s good for Collector people as it has pumpkin in it. We are always finding ways of using up pumpkin. The recipe has carrots, but I often bake small pieces in the oven and throw them on top as I am serving up the lentils.

The other meal that gives you the next one for free is a roast chicken with roast potatoes and broccoli salad. The stock made with the roast chicken bones and the pan juices is another whole meal. Usually for us it is a leftover chicken noodle soup, with a Hainan ginger, shallot and garlic sauce. In this one it is all about the sauce and the stock.

One more I have to mention is Osso Bucco, perhaps not so inexpensive the first time around, but when the leftovers make a great pasta sauce, it enters the budget zone.

Tania’s lentils

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
3 garlic cloves finely chopped
2 green chillies halved lengthways, seeds removed and sliced
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp powdered turmeric
1 cinnamon stick
1 tomato coarsely chopped
2 stalks  celery coarsely chopped
3 carrots coarsely chopped
1 cup puy lentils (any kind of lentil works)
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3 cups of water
Plain yoghurt and coriander to serve

In a medium saucepan, on gentle heat, fry the onion, garlic and chillies in the olive oil for three minutes. Add the curry powder, turmeric and cinnamon and cook for another minute or so. Add the tomato, celery and carrot and cook for another five minutes, stirring all the time to ensure everything is sweating away nicely, and not sticking to the pan and burning.  Add the lentils, stock and the water and simmer for another 30 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked through. Serve with a dollop of plain greek yoghurt and some chopped coriander.


Tuna and white bean salad

1 tin of tuna (200g) oil as well
1 tin of beans (say 400g - I like butter or cannellini)
half a red onion, finely sliced
half a punnet of cherry tomatoes
2 small cucumbers
parsley and coriander, chopped
a handful  mixed salad leaves
1 clove of garlic, crushed in some salt
juice of ¾ of a lemon
1½  tbsp white wine vinegar

Toss everything together. Add some freshly ground pepper and salt  to taste. Not hard this one.

Ginger, coriander, shallot garlic sauce

1½ thumb-sized pieces of ginger
1 bunch of coriander
6 spring onions
4 cloves of garlic 

Slice the ingredients finely and pound in a mortar and pestle with ½ teaspoon of salt. Once you have a paste consistency, add some olive oil to bring it to a thick sauce. This is added to the chicken noodle soup as it is served. It is also good on poached chicken breast with steamed rice, and a side of asian greens.