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Meg Reviews Recipes: Leggos Tuna Bake with Sundried Tomato & Caramelised Onion

Comes in a 500g jar, and I bought this at Coles when it was on special for about $2.50 - $3 per jar (yes, this is a Thing of mine; this is part of how I manage to make a budget of $30 per person per week for food stretch as well as it does).

I decided to try this as a result of basically realising at about quarter to three on a Sunday afternoon that I hadn't even thought about what we were having for dinner that night, and being sick of either leftovers or instant meals as options. So, okay, pasta bake. Now, pasta bakes are about the easiest type of meal out there to assemble - you cook up the pasta, you combine it with the sauce and the protein (tinned tuna, in this case), top with cheese, and bake in the oven until done. If you're baking it right after you've assembled it, it takes about 20 minutes at 200C to melt the cheese and heat things through. If you're like me and you assemble these things hours before you actually need them, and store them in the fridge until it's time to start cooking dinner, then the trick is to heat the whole thing at around 200C for about an hour, as this allows everything in the middle of your casserole dish to heat through as well as all the stuff around the sides.

I fancied this up a little by chopping up a leek and adding that to the tuna, sauce and pasta mix. I do this partially because I feel we need some kind of vegetable content with or in these things, and partially because it stretches things a bit further and makes everything taste a bit better. The leek will pretty much cook in the hour I'm heating things in the oven, so that's a bit of a mercy. The other minor experiment in this case is I'm trying pasta bowties to see how they work in these sorts of dishes (usually I'm using small shells, small spirals, or macaroni).

Because Himself got all organised and managed to stop off at a supermarket on the way home from picking up another computer component (he's involved in trying to get two rather finicky monitors to work properly), we're having garlic bread with this as well. What that means in terms of juggling executive function for these sorts of things (one of my bugbears) is that I have to remember to put the garlic bread into the oven to heat about ten minutes before everything's supposed to be cooked. Which I think I can manage.

And in the end... it turned out pretty good. Main note was, of course, tomato, and there was a bit of onion in there, mostly from the leek, I think. It certainly balances out the rather coarse texture of cheap tuna quite well. I'll probably buy some more the next time it's on special.

Difficulty: 1 out of 5
Spoons/Fuss and Bother: 1 out of 5 - the hardest bits about preparing this as directed are going to be opening the jar and the tin of tuna, and possibly the weight of putting the fully laden baking dish into the oven. Can be prepared well ahead of time and put in the fridge for later re-heating and melting of cheese (as per the post), so it's great if you need to time-shift cooking. If it's the only thing you're cooking, you can pretty much set a timer and forget about it, so you don't need to remember dozens of finicky steps along the way.
Overall: 3 out of 5.
Considerations: This one looks to be reasonably vegan-safe, provided you used mushrooms, quorn, or tofu/soy protein instead of tuna for your protein, and skipped the cheese (the only ingredients I can see on the whole thing which aren't obviously plants, plant-based or plant-derived are xanthan gum and yeast extract). If you're allergic to tomatoes, avoid this one. If you're allergic to tuna, dairy or gluten, make substitutions as required.

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Current Mood: chilly chilly
Meg Reviews Recipes: Spicy Fruit Loaf

Source: Australian Womens Weekly "Quick Mix Cakes and Deliciously Easy Muffins" Cookbook, p109; ISBN: 1-86396-001-5; (c) ACP Publishing Pty Ltd 1999.

This is a bit of a favourite of mine, although it's a right whatsit to make. The recipe is a "rub in" recipe, where you start by rubbing the butter into the flour, and this one has 125g of butter to be rubbed into 2 cups of flour (plus an extra 2 teaspoons of dry ingredients comprised of bicarb and spices). Let's just say if you have arthritis in your hands, this is probably not a recipe you want to try without one of those special little doovers (looks like a handle with a bunch of wire loops hanging off it - a bit of googling tells me they're called "pastry blenders"[1]) for cutting butter into flour. Failing that, you may want to stop every so often and let your hands stretch out a bit, because they will cramp up unless you make scones and/or pastry on the regular.

Once you've finished giving yourself RSI and improving your grip strength sight out of mind, you add the sugar, the dried fruit (standard mixed dried fruit works fine) and then the liquid ingredients (1 egg and a cup of milk) before pouring the whole lot into a loaf tin and baking it for about 1 1/4 hours. Unlike most of the fruit cakes in this cookbook, you're not cooling this one in the pan - it gets cooled on a rack after the first ten minutes. '

Serve it with butter; this keeps for well over a week without really getting stale or going off. It's very dense, and very dark, particularly if you use dark brown sugar (lighter brown sugar gives a lighter coloured loaf).

Difficulty: 1 out of 5 (it isn't a hard recipe to understand or follow)
Spoons/Fuss and Bother: 5 out of 5 (rubbing in the butter takes time, and I inevitably wind up with my hands cramping); it's a very stiff mixture to mix, so if you don't have much arm and hand strength, you're probably better off getting someone else to make this for you.
Overall: 5 out of 5 (this is a favourite I keep making over and over again, despite the crampy hands).
Considerations: Cake. This contains gluten, sugar, butter, milk and eggs. Don't eat a whole one at one sitting (it's a very dense cake; I doubt anyone could do it without making themselves sick anyway) and don't try to serve it to vegans.

[1] Link goes to Amazon because that's the one which came up fastest and most reliably.

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Meg Reviews Recipies: MasterFoods Slow Cook Mild Chicken Curry Sauce

This sauce comes in a 490g jar, and I bought it at the local Coles, probably when it was on special for about $2.50 - $3.

I made this up as a slow-cooked casserole with some cheap beef sausages (if you've ever had to eat cheap Coles beef sausages, you'll understand why they really need some other flavour added to them), a chopped onion, a couple of carrots sliced up, and four chopped up potatoes. Pre-cook the sausages before you start, then chop them into about 1.5cm chunks before putting them into the casserole with the other ingredients. The trick with making a slow-cooked casserole in the oven is this: put everything together in a casserole, cook in the oven for about 1 hour at 200C, pull out and stir, then put back into the oven for the rest of the afternoon at the lowest temperature you can get your oven to run at without extinguishing itself (if you can get your oven down to 100C, that's the best, otherwise, anything under about 150C is good). Let it cook slowly for about 4 hours, and you'll get a very nice casserole. This trick works well with any casserole you'd normally put in the slow cooker[1].

The sauce itself is very thick for a pour-from-the-jar sauce - usually I can pour these sorts of sauces straight from the jar, but this one definitely required the assistance of a spoon to get it out. I also did my standard trick of "swill out the bottle with a small amount of water"[2] in order to get the last of the sauce out. Now, it was probably lucky I did that, because the eventual casserole came out very, very dry (thanks to the potato soaking the liquid up).

As a curry sauce, this is incredibly mild. This is "you could serve it to curry virgins" mild. The main notes in the sauce which identify it as "curry" at all are cumin and turmeric - cumin is the main thing you can smell, turmeric is the main thing you can see (a quick look at the breakdown of ingredients on the label of the jar says "Coriander 1%, Cumin 1%, Turmeric 1%). They mention Chilli on the label, although I strongly suspect the nearest an actual chilli came to this particular sauce was someone very cautiously opened the warehouse door and waved a single chilli in the vague direction of the production line, before closing the door again very quickly. It's very much a "sweet curry" mixture rather than a spicy one - to the point where I joked with Steve that I should have chopped up an apple and added that to the mix, along with a handful of sultanas. (I should note the Look I got for that one was worth it)

Overall, it made a nice meal for two people, served up with rice, and with enough leftovers for another two meals afterwards. There wasn't much sauce (as mentioned, the potato got most of it) so it was a pretty dry curry. I think the next time I make it up, I'll probably put a bit more water in the mix, and a bit less spud (and I may just try the "sweet curry" variation, as a way of playing around with things).

Difficulty: 1 out of 5 (put all the ingredients into the casserole dish, and off you go)
Spoons/Fuss and Bother: 1 out of 5 (wasn't expecting the sauce to be as thick as it turned out to be.
Overall: 2 out of 5 (not spectacular, not terrible).
Considerations: Lists Skim milk and milk in ingredient list, and warns it's manufactured on equipment that processes peanuts. Not suitable for vegans.

[1] I wasn't using the slow cooker in this case because it's winter here, and our oven is also the effective space heater for the kitchen area.
[2] For creamy sauces, milk will work instead. You're using about a quarter to a half a cup of liquid in any case; shake the bottle until the whole mixture becomes a single consistency, then add to the dish you're cooking.

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