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Flavorful Frugality: How to beat the Budget Blues Without Giving Up Gourmet Goodness

Mar 9, 2024

Early Autumn is one of those in-between times in Hawkesbury. We could have a sweltering heatwave or start contemplating lighting our fires. It’s not quite stew weather, but maybe there’s an occasion for a light soup on a dull day. Conversely, it can also still be a time for salads as meals. 

These two recipes consider the rising cost of living. They use pantry staples but also have bright, fresh components. Both feature turmeric, my “spice du jour. ” Turmeric is a fantastic addition to your diet, full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. 

By Fiona Hamann


White Bean, Rice and Dill Soup

(Vegan and GF)

Serves 4-6

The cost of living is starting to bite, but that doesn’t mean we should start eating bland or cheaper packaged food. We can still enjoy gourmet flavours and eat healthy and fresh food, but maybe supplement with cheaper tinned items, like in this white bean, rice and dill soup. You can also save some money with an occasional meat-free meal. Made from mostly pantry staples, this soup is sunshine in a bowl, with the turmeric making it a bright, happy yellow, and the dill making it feel fresh and light. Don’t be tempted to add stock, as it doesn’t need it. If you decide to ignore that advice, reduce the salt dramatically.

The recipe is adapted from one by Naz Deravian that appeared in NYT Cooking. Her recipe calls for Navy beans, but I have substituted them with Cannellini and Butter beans. You could add any white beans or even play around with chickpeas if that’s what’s in your pantry. The recipe is gluten-free, vegan and only 310 calories, but it is filling enough for the most enormous appetite. 


  • 60ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 large carrots, scrubbed or peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 large brown onion, finely chopped
  • Salt and black pepper
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • Generous pinch chilli flakes (optional) to taste
  • ⅓ cup white jasmine or long-grain rice, rinsed
  • 1 400g tin cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 1 400g tin butter beans 
  • 1 TB dried dill or one bunch of fresh dill
  • Lemon (optional), for serving

 Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the garlic, carrots, celery, onion, and a good pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes, until the vegetables have softened.

 Add the turmeric and chilli flakes (if using) and cook for another minute. Add the rice and stir for another minute. Add the beans and dill, a generous amount of salt (about 1½ tablespoons), and black pepper to taste. Stir for another minute.

 Increase the heat to high, add 6 cups of water, stir, partially cover, and bring to a boil. 

Once boiled, cover the pot, reduce heat to low and simmer until the rice is completely soft and the beans are creamy on the inside, about 30 minutes. Be sure to stir occasionally. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking as it cooks. Serve with a squeeze of lemon and garnish with more dill.


Lentil and Radicchio Salad with walnuts & honey


Serves 4-6

This salad is a delicious Ottolenghi recipe, where the honey balances the bitterness of the radicchio lettuce. The original recipe calls for Manuka honey and Puy Lentils (French or French style lentils is how they are branded in Australia usually) available at the fabulous Kiana Organic shop in Richmond or in the major supermarkets, as well as from the Richmond Fruit Market, where you can also buy radicchio. If your budget doesn’t stretch to Manuka honey, any strong (or even plain) honey will do. I used Bilpin Honey, available at various small stores around the Hawkesbury, from the Hive in Berambing, or one of the many small fruit stores in Bilpin. This recipe is quite filling on its own, or it can be served as a side.

  •  Two bay leaves
  •  200g puy lentils (dry, not tinned)
  •  100g honey
  •  ¼ tsp flaked chilli
  •  ½ tsp ground turmeric
  •  Salt and black pepper
  •  1 tsp water (roughly)
  •  3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  •  90ml olive oil
  •  100g walnuts
  •  ½ medium-size radicchio
  •  60g pecorino, parmesan or even hard goat or sheep cheese. Flaked.
  • 20g each roughly chopped basil, dill and parsley

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees. 

Put the lentils in a medium saucepan, cover with lots of cold water, add the bay leaves. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes, until tender.

While the lentils cook, prepare the walnuts. In a bowl, combine half of the honey, the chilli, turmeric and a quarter teaspoon of salt, and add a teaspoon or enough water to create a thick paste.

Drain the lentils and return to the saucepan. Whisk together the vinegar, half the oil, the other half of the honey, half a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper until the honey dissolves. Stir into the lentils while they’re still hot, then leave to cool a little. Throw the bay leaves away.

Add the walnuts to the honey/chilli paste and stir to coat. Spread on a baking tray lined with baking paper and roast for 15-20 minutes, stirring once, until crunchy and dry but still sticky.

Pour the other half of the oil into a frying pan on high heat. Cut the radicchio into eight wedges and place them in the hot oil, sprinkling them with some salt. Cook for a minute on each side, then transfer into a large bowl.

Add the lentils, walnuts, flaked cheese and herbs. Stir gently, taste and season accordingly. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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