Food swaps that will save you

Thursday, 12 October 2017, 11:08:41 PM. MOST HOME cooks aren’t fortunate enough to have a few black truffles sitting in the back of the fridge, and while saffron is the world’s most highly prized spice, at $14 per gram, it’s not always on the weekly shopping list.

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Food Background with Olives, Oil, Lemon, Garlic, Herbs and Spices

MOST HOME cooks aren’t fortunate enough to have a few black truffles sitting in the back of the fridge, and while saffron is the world’s most highly prized spice, at $14 per gram, it’s not always on the weekly shopping list.

While there are no real substitutes for these fine ingredients, and others like them, there are a few tricks you can employ in the kitchen to get similar results at a fraction of the cost.

TRUFFLES

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Truffles can be expensive and hard to come by. Picture: Josie Hayden Source: News Corp Australia

Earthy, aromatic, and expertly sniffed out by highly trained pigs (or dogs), the truffle is the epitome of indulgent ingredients. Most chefs would argue that a truffle is worth every cent, but its high cost and limited season puts it out of reach of most home cooks.

Truffle oil is a great alternative, developed to perfectly match the flavour of a freshly grated truffle, but it can also prove too costly.

To add an earthy, umami hit to pasta, eggs, roast meat or vegetables, risotto, or your favourite sauce or gravy, blitz a handful of dried mushrooms (available from the supermarket, deli or Asian grocer) in a blender or food processor, then sift the fine powder over your meal.

SAFFRON

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A little turmeric or paprika might save you when you realise you don’t have saffron for a recipe. Source: istock

With only three bright red threads collected by hand from each flower, saffron is rightly referred to by many as “red gold”. By soaking it in a warm liquid, it imparts a golden-red colour, and an almost indefinable floral flavour to tagines, soups, breads, pastries and more.

While it may seem expensive, a tiny amount of saffron goes far, with only a couple of threads enough for a whole meal.

As with truffles, there are no real substitutes for saffron’s flavour, but a little turmeric or paprika — or a combination of the two — can impart a similar colour. Of course, both have their own distinct flavours so use care when messing with a beloved family recipe.

PINE NUTS

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Pine nuts, which have become the nut of choice in most pesto recipes, can often cost as much as $100 per kilo. Source: News Corp Australia

Making pesto at home is a simple pleasure. Toss a pile of herbs into the blender, add olive oil, parmesan, garlic and nuts, blend, season and serve.

Pine nuts, which have become the nut of choice in most pesto recipes, can often cost as much as $100 per kilo while walnuts — which appear in the original pesto recipes from the dark ages — are seldom more than $25 per kilo.

Many also argue that the distinctive taste of walnuts produce a superior pesto.

STOCK

If you’re not making your own stock, you really should be. By simply simmering vegetable scraps, the leftovers from your roast chicken, beef bones or your fish and shellfish scraps, you can fill your freezer with ready-to-use stock.

If a recipe only calls for a small amount, though, and you haven’t got any on hand (or don’t want to open a whole carton of the costly supermarket-bought stock), simply dissolve a small amount of Vegemite in hot water. The result is meaty, rich and full of flavour, and will add a boost to your sauce or stew without wasting any precious stock.

HERBS

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Not all of us are lucky enough to have fresh garden herbs on hand. Source: Supplied

There’s no savoury dish that can’t be improved by adding some fresh herbs. They bring vibrancy, freshness, flavour, colour and aroma. And with the exception of thyme and oregano, dried is simply not an adequate substitute.

Unless you’re growing your own herbs, you’ve probably bought bunches only to use a small amount, then watch the rest wilt and go brown.

But there’s plenty you can do to make use of the leftovers.

Use a few different herbs to make yourself a delicious pesto (with walnuts!) that will last an extra week or two in the fridge.

Alternatively, leafy herbs (basil, parsley, coriander, etc.) can be easily saved by chopping them, distributing them in an ice cube tray, topping off with water, stock or oil, and freezing. Pop an ice cube and add to the pot the next time you need a herb hit.

Leftover thyme, rosemary and oregano can be easily dried at home by tying them up at one end with some twine and hanging from a window.

Tristan Lutze is a food writer and photographer. You can see more of his work on Instagram, Facebook or at TristanLutze.com

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    Article Food swaps that will save you compiled by www.news.com.au