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Eat well, spend less: Stock up on carbohydrates

A serving of carbs is great value for money and can be very comforting.

There is no doubt that a fist-size serving of carbohydrates helps us feel full and provides energy for an active body. It is also often the least expensive part of the meal. So keeping a selection of carbs in stock will ensure you always have the basis for some of the cheapest and tastiest meals known to man.

Most carbohydrate foods are long-keeping and easy to prepare and if you follow some of my serving suggestions, not only will you eat well, you'll spend less.

  • 1 cup basmati rice = 54c
  • 1 cup dry pasta = 52c
  • 1 cup couscous = $1.78
  • 1 cup of basmati rice = 56c
  • 1 slice toast bread = 10c
  • 1 cup arborio (risotto) rice = 79c
  • 1 medium potato = 39c
  • 1 cup red lentils = 46c

If you're struggling with getting the serving size right, use a measuring cup when serving on to dinner plates. Or try serving rice in a separate dish on the plate; the plate then looks very full and appealing.

Cooked rice, risotto and couscous can all be firmly packed into small cups or pottles then turned out onto the plate to form a 'timbale'.

Tasty, well-seasoned food is much more satisfying. Use a well-flavoured side dish if the main event is a little dull: spicy lentil dhal with a plain roasted chicken thigh, or spiced potatoes with cold meats and chutney.

Jacket potatoes

Use a floury variety of potato – Agria is my favourite. Select smaller ones when you shop, then allow 1 per person according to the size of their fist.

Scrub off all the dirt (a green plastic souring pad is ideal for this). Cut a cross in the top, spray the skin lightly with cooking spray and bake in a moderate oven for 1 hour or microwave on high power for 6 minutes. Then place in the oven and finish cooking in the oven – the skin will go crispy and the flesh fluffy.

To serve, remove from the oven and using a tea towel to protect your fingers, squeeze the cross on top to break open the potato. This forces the flesh up and results in a delicious fluffy spud.

Couscous

This is incredibly quick to prepare. Pour 1 cup of hot stock into a bowl containing 1 cup of couscous and stand for a few minutes, then fluff up with a fork. Include seasonings, vegetables, beans and herbs as desired.

Bread

A roll, burger bun or pita can be an excellent side kick, or try bruschetta: a slice of good bread, rubbed with a garlic clove, brushed very lightly with oil then toasted till crispy.

Beans

Try a bean mash as an alternative to mashed spuds. It's great with sausages and braised dishes. Use cooked or canned white beans such as cannellini or butter beans. Place a spoonful in the centre of the plate, add vegetables, then arrange the meat  / sausage / casserole portion of the dish on top in an informal stack.

First published: Aug 2007



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