Peasant food inspiration for frugal meals. Pantry + Garden=Yum!

Posted July 30th, 2014 by Mimi

I always laugh when I see what I would call peasant food, on the menus of fancy restaurants or cafés.

A lot of what we consider a bit posh, actually originated in areas where there wasn't much else available, so the people who lived there, just learned to make do.

I'm revisiting some of the Peasant Food style dishes I grew up with. Living with European grandparents and a parent of German/French extraction meant we ate some things that weren't considered trendy in the 60s and 70s, but which have since become restaurant staples. Often they included things we'd grown ourselves that weren't suitable to sell or barter with other nearby families on small farmlots.

Things like:

Semolina as Pudding with Strawberry Puree` (using less than perfect home grown strawberries), cake with flavoured syrup, breakfast cereal like a fine porridge served with thick cream and cinnamon sugar

Home grown Onions as French Onion Soup, Onion Confit to serve with bread and cheese, in a tart or stuffing, or to add flavour to a pie

Steamed potatoes served with thick slices of cheese with steamed garden greens on the side as a complete meal, as potato salad with egg from our own chickens added, or pan fried as a rosti with other leftovers as a delicious easy dinner

Crepes with home made lemon infused sugar, or filled with gooey cheese and béchamel sauce, sliced as ribbons in a soup like noodles, deep fried and dusted with home made cinnamon sugar as a dessert

Cannellini beans, a big batch simmered with garlic, peppercorns and fresh sage from the garden, served on toast, and drizzled with olive oil

The same cannellini beans tossed with chunky tinned tuna and home grown salad greens the next day for lunch

The same cannellini beans simmered in a bean hotpot with home grown tomatoes and herbs, or made into minestrone soup

Polenta served as an alternative to mashed potato, or chilled as a slab and cut into wedges, grilled and served with roasted home grown capsicum and greens from the garden

Tapas where you serve lots of flavoursome little bite sized morsels of whatevers left in the fridge (I've done this often when we've had unexpected guests and it's always a real winner)

Labna (yoghurt cheese) mixed with lemon zest, garden mint and chili and rolled into balls to eat on toast or with pan fried mushrooms and steamed home grown green beans

Panzanella bread salad made literally with stale bread and tomatoes and herbs from the back yard and not much else

So based upon that list, a two week menu plan might look like this:

Breakfasts: Semolina porridge, crepes with lemon sugar, herbed cannellini beans on toast, labna on toast

Lunches: Bread and cheese with onion confit, onion tart, potato and egg salad, cannellini beans with tuna, rocket and red onion, grilled polenta wedges with labna and roasted capsicum

Dinners: French Onion Soup with cheese toasts, steamed potato with cheese slabs and steamed greens, potato pan fried with leftovers as a rosti, crepes with gooey cheese filling, home made chicken broth with crepe ribbon noodles, cannellini bean hotpot, polenta mash with slow roasted meat, pies made with a tiny amount of leftover roast or lentils and onion confit, polenta wedges grilled with cheese and served with roasted capsicum and seasonal veges, mushrooms and green beans on toast with labna, minestrone soup made with leftovers, panzanella (bread salad) Tapas at the end of each week.

Desserts: Semolina pudding with strawberry puree`, semolina cakes with flavoured syrup infusion, crepe ribbons deep fried and served with cinnamon honey labna

So it's not a very traditional Aussie menu, and there's a lot of carbs BUT, I estimate that this menu will come together for a very tiny sum of money, and if I remain in the mindset that I must work with basic pantry ingredients and make the most of them, then it will be interesting indeed.

I'll be making my own yoghurt and labna, using dried beans and legumes, and making the onion confit, any pastry for pies and tarts and things like lemon and cinnamon sugar all from scratch.

I'll also be adding fresh fruit and vegetables, but relying upon that which is least expensive and seasonal.

I'll post recipes as I go.

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