I think when Fiona and I wrote the $21 Challenge book we should have included an extra category in the 'Minor Hurdles' chapter - Man Flu. It appears that Man Flu brings about unexpected food cravings which can prove hazardous to a $21 Challenge budget. Until yesterday we were on Day Four and still hadn't spent a cent. Master Ali James now knows how to cook an entire roast dinner, complete with stuffing, which he made AND stuffed the chicken with himself. Yesterday however Noel and Ali were both home sick with the flu and I was going to Auckland for the whole day. 'Don't worry, leave dinner to us, it'll give us something to do!' Noel assured me. Relieved not to have to drive two and a half hours then come home and cook I left it in their capable hands. I returned home around 7.30 that night and saw that the pair of them had certainly been busy. An enormous iced carrot cake sat in the baking tin (once again made almost single handedly by Ali) and Noel was just pouring the sauce over a banana caramel pudding. 'Wow! Isn't it funny how we always eat better during a $21 Challenge?' I smiled. 'I'd forgotten how much fun it is!' Noel enthused. 'Your Butter Chicken Chowder will be ready in a few minutes'. Butter Chicken Chowder? That was a new one, we hadn't had that before! I should point out that we don't normally eat quite so much soup but with us all having the flu the past few weeks we have been in need of some serious comfort food and nobody does comfort food better than NZ cook Jo Seagar, whose books both the soup and the pudding recipe came from.
'We have pappadums too!' Noel went on proudly. 'Pappadums? I didn't think we had any?' I thought. And that's when I saw the docket. Yup - in his Man Flu state Noel saw the Butter Chicken Chowder recipe, wanted it, decided he was going to make it and WENT TO THE BLOODY SUPERMARKET TO BUY THE INGREDIENTS. I couldn't believe it - I knew the pair of them were too dangerous to be left alone in that state! Yes, it was a fabulous way to use up the last of the leftover roast chicken from the night before but did he really need to spend $1.35 on a tin of creamed corn, $1.59 on a bunch of spring onions, $3.69 on a bag of apples, $2.19 on a loaf of bread (when I was looking forward to making some from scratch in the oven!), 99c on carrots, 79c on onions, $1.65 on lemons and get this - $3.69 on a packet of pappadums and $6.49 on a jar of Tandoori paste?!! The apples, onions and carrots were fine but the rest to be honest we could quite easily have done without. In their defence, Noel did try to save money on lemons by sending Ali off on his bike around the neighbourhood to see if he could find any lemon trees on the roadside of any vacant beach houses. This he duly did - and returned proudly some time later bearing several rather rotund looking lemons, which turned out to be grapefruit. Total spend for the day? $22.68!!!
'Hmph! Well you needn't have bothered buying the creamed corn, I hate corn!' grumbled Liam, swirling it around his soup. 'I know the Tandoori paste was expensive - but I only used a tiny bit, it will last us ages', reasoned Noel. 'And besides, you're not exactly a saint! Who spent $3.50 on a bottle of sugar-free V? You could have got three cans of Diet Coke for that! Bet you don't put THAT in your blog!' Well there you go Mr Smartypants, I just did. But let's focus on the positives here. For starters, the Butter Chicken Chowder was FABULOUS, it was so yum! And isn't what the $21 Challenge is about, trying new recipes? That soup would be a brilliant one to serve at a dinner party if you really wanted to impress your guests - just don't try and make it in your $21 Challenge if you have to go and buy all the ingredients! The pudding was also amazing and better still didn't cost a cent as we had all the ingredients already on hand. And Liam the carrot-phobe was in such a hurry to scoff his cake before rushing off to basketball he didn't realise it was a carrot cake and loved it!
But, as I've told countless people countless times, focus on the CHALLENGE, not the figure. Today we spent $3.80 on eggs and $3.85 on milk. We still have plenty of everything else to get us through the next two days, so we should finish our week spending a grand total of $33.83 on food. We've all enjoyed it, the boys have loved learning to cook and are definitely going to keep it up. Considering our food bill has been anywhere from $200 - $300 per week in recent months, that's pretty darn good, even with the Tandoori paste! Here are the recipes, both taken from 'Jo Seagar Cooks'. I can highly recommend them!
Butter Chicken Chowder (Serves 4 - we found this bang on for 4 people but no more)
2 cooked chicken breasts, boneless and skinless (we just used leftover roast chicken as mentioned)
1 tbsp oil
5 spring onions, sliced
1 cup sliced mushrooms (we didn't have these but it was still yum!)
1 - 2 tbsp tandoori paste
1 x 400g can cream style sweetcorn (I'm with Liam, would be just as nice without this)
1 litre chicken stock
1/2 cup sour cream or thick yoghurt
1/4 cup fresh chopped coriander (we didn't have this either as Noel went to the herb garden but his nose was too blocked to tell what it was!)
salt and pepper
pappadums or naan bread to serve
Shred the cooked chicken meat and set aside. Heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan and add the spring onions and mushroons. Stir fry for 2 - 3 minutes until softened. Stir in the tandoori paste and sweetcorn, then the chicken stock and shredded chicken meat. Bring to the boil and reduce heat. Stir in the sour cream or yoghurt and the fresh coriander, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with pappadums or naan bread.
Butterscotch Banana Saucy Pudding (Serves 6 - you can either make one large pudding or six individual ones in ramekins)
For the pudding:
1 1/4 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1 large or 2 small bananas, mashed
100g butter, melted
1 large egg
1 tsp butterscotch or vanilla essence
1 cup brown sugar
4 tbsp golden syrup
1 cup boiling water
1/2 tsp butterscotch or vanilla essence
icing sugar to dust
cream, yoghurt or ice cream to serve
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease 6 cup sized ramekins, small bowls or a 2.5 litre pie dish. Mix all the pudding ingredients in a large bowl and divide evenly if making separate puddings or put into your pie dish. To make the sauce, mix all the ingredients in a large microwave proof jug and zap on high until boiling, stirring a couple of times. Carefully pour the boiling mixture over the pudding/s. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes. The butterscotch sauce will be all gooey under the sponge. Dust with icing sugar and serve with something yummy as suggested above. Enjoy!