Budget meals & cooking techniques

There are so many recipe sites on the web, it would be silly to list too much in this section, so we will just give a few basics for the benefit of those without web access.

  • Cooking terms

    Boiling: To cook in rapidly boiling water that completely covers the food.

    Simmering: To cook food at a temperature that is close to boiling but not hot enough to make bubbles. You need to stir food occasionally when simmering as food may still stick to the bottom.

    Steaming: Steaming food is most often done by placing food into steamer pot with a tight fitting lid or bamboo steamer set which is suspended over a pot of boiling water.  The food does not touch the water but is cooked by the steam created from the boiling water below.

    Frying: To cook in a small amount of oil (usually less than a tablespoon) in a fry pan.

    Stir Frying: To cook on a high heat in a very small amount of oil, usually in a wok. Continuous turning of food is required to stop sticking or burning. A little bit of water or stock can be added after all ingredients are in the wok.

    Sautéing: To saute is to cook in a little oil over medium heat. Often referred to as: sautéing onions

    Browning: To brown meat means to cook until surface area is brown. (not cooked through)

    Roasting: To cook in an oven, using dry heat to slowly cook the food in its own juices. (Usually meat, chicken, fish and vegies) Can be dry roasting (no oil, over racks) or pan roasting (with a little oil in a roasting pan)

    Baking: Using dry heat in an oven or enclosed environment. Baking most commonly refers to breads and pastries.

    Deep frying: To cook food in hot oil which is deep enough to cover food, using either a deep fryer or large pot.

    Marinating: To marinate food is to soak it in a mixture of spices, oil, and sometimes vinegar or juice to make it more tender and tasty. You can marinate food for a half hour up to a day depending on the dish. Refrigerate food during the marinating process.

  • How to cook rice, pasta or vegies

    Cooking Rice

    Put 2 cups of dry medium or long grain rice in a pot, wash it off with cold water and drain a few times (this washes away some of the starch which can make rice gluggy) Add 3 cups of water to the drained clean rice and bring it to the boil, then turn it down to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Put the lid on the pot and turn it off. Wait 5-10 minutes, uncover, fluff up the rice with a fork and it will be ready to eat. This is called the absorption method. If you are making fried rice, cook the rice early and refrigerate. Cold rice separates well for fast frying.

    Cooking Pasta

    To cook pasta, 2/3’s fill a large pot with water and bring to the boil. Add pasta and cook on medium heat for about 8 minutes. Test a piece by cutting it in half and checking if it’s cooked through. A messy way to test is by throwing a piece at the wall – if it sticks, it’s cooked. Drain the pasta in a colander and serve.

    Cooking Vegies

    There are many methods of cooking vegies, you can roast, boil, steam, stir fry etc. Generally hard dense vegies like potato, and sweet potato take longer to cook than others like broccoli or chopped carrots. The time to cook will also depend on the size you cut them into. You will need to learn how to time your cooking so everything is ready on time for the meal.

    Rough guide

    Potatoes/sweet potato

    -Roasted. 20-25 mins -at 180 degrees – boiled/steamed. 15-20 mins depending on size


    -Boil/steam. 10-15 mins

    Green beans/broccoli

    -Boil/steams. 8-10 mins

    Snow peas

    -Boil/steam 2-3 mins

  • Easy Mince base

    Minced meat is a cheaper cut of meat you can make many different dishes with. Here are some basics you might want to try. Experiment by adding any ingredients, herbs or spices you think will add flavour. But maybe just add a little at a time until you know what works well.

    Easy Mince Base

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 onion finely chopped
    • 1 kg lean beef mince
    • 400g can of tomatoes chopped
    • Salt & pepper to taste

    Heat oil in fry pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and fry for 3 mins or until soft. Add mince. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up mince for 8-10 mins or until brown.  Add tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Cook on low 10-15 mins or until thickened.

    Use immediately or allow to cool completely then freeze for up to 3 months in a container just large enough to hold mince.

    Bolognaise variation– add 1 large carrot (grated) at same time as tomatoes and 1 desert spoon of italian herbs and basil. Add a little water if it seems too dry. Simmer 15 mins. Serve on cooked pasta.

    Mexican beef variation– add ½ pkt taco season mix, and small can of drained and rinsed red kidney beans with tomatoes. Simmer 10-15 mins until thickened. Serve in taco shells.

    Savory mince variation– fry 2 sticks of celery (chopped) with onion. Brown meat and add 2 tablespoons of instant gravy mix, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste (instead of can tomatoes.) and ½ cup of water.  Add 1 large diced potato, simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 mins or until potatoes are tender. Add 1 cup of frozen peas and corn and a little more water if it seems too dry.  Cooks for 5 mins and serve on rice, on toast or use as a pie filling.