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Lifestyle: Cut-Cost Cuisine

By Andrew "Gomez" Braham

Andrew "Gomez" Braham

What is a culinary concierge?

Our service provides the convenience of a casual private chef without the full time liability, freeing up your precious time whilst we fill your fridge with beautifully cooked meals. We also cater for functions, intimate dinner parties and events – you name a place and we will cook for you.

How do I make my food budget stretch?

In these times of austerity your budget may not stretch to afford the luxury of a private chef, however don’t despair. I will let you in on a few tips and secrets that will supercharge your cooking repertoire, utilising the half onion and stub of carrot that might be idling its life away in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.

Don’t throw out those limp vegetables!

We are at the dirty end of winter and nothing screams comfort food quite like a homemade pie. In my home, we try to go meat-free three nights a week and need something that is quick to heat up, nutritious, delicious and won’t break the budget. Recently, I was rummaging through the fridge and discovered a wrinkled old leek, half a brown onion, an eggplant and some limp spring onions when inspiration struck. Whilst cooking the eggplant directly over flames to give it a smoky flavour, I lined a cast iron pan with three layers of filo pastry brushed with egg wash, butter and chopped rosemary (no need to buy this, there is loads growing wild around Glenferrie). Once the eggplant was cooked, I removed the skin and added it to the finely sliced leek and onion that was slowly sweating down in a pot on the stove. Once most of the liquid had evaporated, I added in a mixture of three whisked eggs, 150g of crumbled feta, a good dose of cracked pepper, a few pinches of salt and sliced up the remains of the limp spring onion. The secret to encasing the mixture is all in the overhang - there is no such thing as too much pastry. As a rule of thumb, I use 3 sheets for the bottom and 1 for the top of a 20cm pan, making sure that half the sheet is hanging out of the pan. Once you have lined it, it’s time to fill. You can be generous with the mix and fill to the brim as you will be folding the overhanging pastry to make a parcel. Brush liberally with remaining egg wash and seal up, sprinkle with chopped rosemary and bake on the middle shelf at 180c for 40 minutes (or until golden). Remove onto a cooling rack and cool for 10 minutes, cut and serve with a crisp salad or steamed veggies dressed in a bit of lemon juice (plenty of those around the neighbourhood too). This dish is great the following day hot or cold.

More odds and ends? If you find yourself with an abundance of errant vegetable odds and ends another great way to utilise them is a big pot of lentil dahl. There are some wonderful Indian grocery stores in the area that sell pre-made spice mixes, these coupled with some yellow lentils, coconut milk and the odds and ends will make a great lunch or dinner. To really elevate the dish the addition of fried curry leaves adds another dimension of flavour, if you look carefully around the neighbourhood you will find these too - you’ll have to find them.

Andrew “Gomez” Braham is the owner and operator of The Executive Chef, a culinary concierge service based in Hawthorn. Gomez - his preferred name - moved to the local area nine years ago and is proud to call this charming part of the world home.

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