Oily rag: Veges tastiest grown at home

By Frank, Muriel Newman

When belt-tightening and frugal living combine, the result is a coast-to-coast patchwork of oily rag gardens across the nation. Having your own garden is the best way to cut the food budget, and it's so easy - and the vegetables seem to taste a lot better than those on supermarket shelves. The only challenge is what to do with the fresh produce. But never fear - oily rag readers have lots of ideas.

Julie from Napier writes, "After cooking the silver beet and putting it on the plates we always put some mint sauce on it. The kids love it that way."

Lilley has a favourite recipe for using tough broccoli stems in a soup. "You will need: 1 onion (diced), 1 large broccoli stalk (diced), any left over broccoli florets, 1 large potato, 1 vege stock cube dissolved in 2 cups water, 1 teaspoon butter, 1/4 cup milk or cream, 1/4 cup cheese (optional), and salt and pepper. Saute onion in butter until clear. Add broccoli and potato. Cover with vege stock and simmer for 30 minutes until very tender. Blend and season. Reheat with a little milk or cream. Sprinkle with cheese if you like."

Another reader has a favourite lemon-butter topping for broccoli. "Simply add 12 tablespoons of lemon juice to 115g of melted butter. Mix in a little salt and pepper to taste.

Stir and pour over cooked broccoli. Serve immediately."

Or what about these tips for green beans: "Slice the beans and cook in water. Add a packet of onion soup mix and sliced mushrooms. Delicious!"

From the "Did you know file". We Kiwis munch our way through 2.6kg of baked beans each every year - that's a lot of carbon emissions.

Tempura is another great way to cook almost any vegetable - it's a classic Japanese dish of deep-fried battered vegetables (such as zucchini, onions, eggplants, carrots, green peppers, sweet potatoes, string beans, broccoli and mushrooms). Vegetables with a very high water content are, however, generally not suitable as they tend to release water into the batter while cooking. The veges need to be cut thin enough to cook in the same time it takes for the batter to become crispy.

To make the batter you need 1 cup of plain flour, 1 egg, and 1 cup ice-cold water. Beat the egg in a bowl and stir in the ice water. Add the flour and mix lightly with a wooden spoon handle or chop stick to avoid over-mixing (having lumps in the batter is a hallmark of tempura). Dip in the vegetables and deep fry in clean oil at 180C, turning occasionally until the batter is crisp and light golden. Eat immediately, while the batter is still crispy.

With a garnishing of rock salt, lemon or lime juice or with dips, tempura is a wonderful starter. It can also be used as a side dish, especially with fish.

Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips at www.oilyrag.co.nz.

- Hamilton News

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