Tuesday, October 30, 2007

One-pot Briyani

I know I've blogged about Briyani before, but it never hurts to revisit an oldie-but-goodie. This isn't a cheaters, budget version, but something a little more authentic to the Dum Briyani, which means the meat and rice are cooked together in the same pot. Besides the usual range of spices, you'll also need a slice of papaya for the marinade. I read somewhere that the compounds in papaya serves as a natural meat tenderiser and so would be great for tough meats like mutton and beef as well. Notice there's no tumeric in this recipe too - the nice brown colour is caused by the brown onions.

4 large onions, thinly sliced
3 chicken drumsticks
1 cup of long-grained rice (basmati recommended)
1 slice of papaya, mashed
2 red chillis, chopped
1 stick of cinnamom
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp fennel

1. Marinade the chicken with the mixture of papaya and chilli for at least an hour
2. Brown the onions in a pot with a little salt, until soft. Remove most of the onions but reserve a layer to coat the bottom of the pot.
3. Pour a third of the uncooked rice over the onions, followed by the marinaded chicken, another layer of rice, and then alternate rice and onions.
4. Pour one and 3/4 cups of water, ensuring all the rice grains are submerged underwater.
5. Cover and cook in low heat for 20 min or until the rice is cooked. Serves 3.

Cost Per Serving: $2.30
Chicken: $3 for three pieces
Spices: $0.50 (averaged)
Rice: $1 for a cup (basmati)
Papaya: $0.70
Onions: $1.50

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

7 Money-saving Food Tips for the Student on a Budget

I remember when I was studying in Melbourne as a uni student, it was tough making ends meet. I had to live on less than $1,000 a month, 60% of which went towards paying rent and transport, which didn't leave me much to work with in terms of subsistence. Tied down with a limited budget, here are 7 things I learnt to help maximise my money for my daily food needs:

7 Money-saving Food Tips for the Student on a Budget
1. Shop at the Wet Market
As opposed to the supermarket. Foods are generally fresher and cheaper – isn’t that reason enough? Well, actually there’s more. You get the chance to bargain too, and if you’re good there are steals out there to be bought. Going near closing time is another way of getting really good deals on produce from sellers looking to make a quick sale before the day ends. I remember shopping at Victoria Market in Melbourne an hour before closing time to get really cheap deals. The downside, however, is that most of the choice picks are usually gone by then. But staples like onions and potatoes can go dirt-cheap by the bag, and that works too because you should be buying in bulk (see tip #3).

2. Buy House Brands
When you do go to the supermarket, think Home Brand, Fair Price, No Frills and the like. In-house brands are the cheaper "versions" of the store items available, which means they are lower quality, right? WRONG! Very often, in-house brands are products from leading brands, repackaged and repositioned for the budget buyer. Why would a reputable brand want to do that? Simple: to take away market share from their competitor! So give in-house brands a try. Sure, I've had not-so-great experiences with Home Brand chicken nuggets, but I've been really taken with Home Brand Coffee. Anybody in Australia want to buy me a tin? Seriously. My supply is running out.

3. Buy Bulk
Make use of economies of scale. A 12-pack of toilet paper is cheaper than a 6-pack per roll. So is a 1kg tin of coffee compared to a 300gm per gram. And a 10kg bag of rice compared to 2kg per kg. Sure, it seems like you're paying more now, but buying in bulk makes efficient use of your money.

4. Shop with a List
If you find that you’re walking through the entire store just to get that one item, it’s probably no accident – the modern supermarket is designed in a way to entice you to spend more time in the store, and hence increasing your chances to buy more. One way around this is to make sure you have a list when you do your shopping. When you have a list, you can always pause a minute before you head to the checkout and see what’s made it into your basket that wasn’t originally in your list. Chances are, you didn’t really need them anyway - which means they can be taken out.

5. A little spice goes a long way
Forget that pre-marinated steak or chicken mix. Spices and condiments are an inexpensive way to add a multitude of flavours to your food without having to resort to more expensive pre-flavoured or pre-marinated foods. You'll be amazed what a dash of cumin does to your lamb stew, or a sprig of rosemary to your chicken, and how much difference a little salt and pepper goes. You don't need an extensive spice rack, just always have a few of your favourite ones on hand to make otherwise-mundane dishes spectacular!

6. Stew!
This one’s applicable to you carnivores. When buying cuts of meat, keep in mind that the tougher meats are usually the cheaper cuts of meat. So, instead of getting that juicy piece of steak, get a piece of brisket for a third of the price and turn it into a nice stew. With a little time and a little spice (tip #5), a good pot of stew can keep you filled for two, maybe three meals for the price of a steak.

7. Think Modular
When building my menus for the week I tend to think in terms of three category: carbs (rice/noodles/bread/potatoes), meats (poultry/pork/beef/fish) and veggies. At any point of time, I try to maintain at least two items in each category at the kitchen. That way, when I go out to top up groceries, I just know that I’m short of, say, 1 meat and 2 veggies. Keeping your kitchen stocks organized is a good step in making sure you buy what you need more than what you fancy.

That’s my 7 tips for saving money when living on a student budget. Do you have any tips to share from your experience?

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Lemony Prawn Salad

Like the previous recipe, the Chinese Duck Salad, this salad recipe's preparation is more in the prawns rather than the salad. Just slap on the greens and you have a great no-frills shrimp salad recipe! The prawns are great on their own as tapas, too.

Lemony Prawns (salad, optional)
1 pound of prawns/shrimp, meat only
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tsp olive oil
1 tsp freshly crushed black pepper

1. In a salted pot of boiling water, cook the prawns until pink - should take about a minute or two.
2. Marinade the cook prawns in lemon juice, oil and pepper. Place in a glass or non-reactive meal bowl and cover with cling wrap. Leave in fridge for at least two hours - overnight is better.
3. Dish out what you need, when you need it. Can last in the fridge for up to a week. Serves 2-4 portions.

Cost per serving: $2 (approx)
Cost breakdown:
SGD$2.00 - 1 pound shrimp (approx)
SGD$0.40 - 1 lemon
SGD$6.00 - Salad Mix


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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Badge, onnabudget

Like the new look?

I figured it was time for studentonnabudget to go through a design revamp. I've had less time to add recipes because of the full-time job and the other website, but I still do cook my own budget meals.

In any case, to celebrate the site's revamp, I've created an aptly-named "I'M ONNABUDGET" badge for your blog or website. Show the world you're a Student on a Budget!

Student on a Budget

You can copy the code here:

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Roti John

It's easy if you know how. Roti John is a colonial-era dish created by Malay/Indian food store owners catering to European tastes. Essentially, Roti John (so named because it was made using "European" bread, and all European white men inevitably were named "John") is a savoury French Toast. It's usually made using a baguette, but I find that sliced white bread also serves as well. You can make the meat mixture ahead of time and leave it in the fridge for up to a week; the egg can easily make 3-4 slices of roti john.

Roti John
The Dry Stuff:
1 pound of beef/mutton/chicken mince, browned with butter
1 small red onion, sliced
1 red chilli, sliced
1/2 tsp cumin
Dash of pepper

The Wet stuff:
1 egg

The Base:
Bread. A baguette sliced lengthwise, if you're a purist, otherwise, sliced white bread will work just as well.

1. Combine the dry stuff and scoop a tablespoon per serving onto a shallow dish. Cover the leftovers with cling wrap and leave in the fridge.
2. Mix beaten egg and dry stuff on a shallow dish. Place bread on top of mixture and press down to let bread absorb as much of the egg mixture as possible.
3. Head a flat pan with a little oil or butter. Place bread, wet side down for two minutes or until egg is cooked.
4. Repeat until you run out of egg mixture!


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