I'll be calling these little in-between meals "Not-Really Recipes" and I hope you find them helpful and informative for those times when you need to cut some corners but still have a yummy and nutritious meal. So here's my first: Broke as a Joke Hash.
Now, people who never have been broke (much less broke as a joke) might not know the ins and outs of hash. The specifics of what's in your hash probably differs based on what country/region you're from, but basically a hash is a bunch of coarsely chopped food all mixed together, usually meat, potatoes, and some vegetables. You can learn more about the "official" definition of hash here. But here in the Fur Ninja house, hash is made when your fridge looks like this:
|The hot dogs, butter, and mayo are Mike's :)|
and you're still several days away from being financially able to buy food. So you take a bunch of stuff from the fridge, a bunch of other stuff from your pantry, fry it all up in a pot, and eat off of the leftovers for a few days, hoping it will carry you through until pay day.
There are three crucial elements to a successful hash: a starch, a protein, and a sauce.
Starches can include rice, potatoes, pasta, couscous, polenta, stuffing, or anything similar. Obviously, whole-grain "brown" starches are going to be far more nutritious than refined "white" starches, but since you're probably broke when making this, just go with what you have in the pantry. You can even serve a hash over prepared instant mashed potatoes or biscuits if that's all you have at the moment.
Protein - since we're talking vegan here - is not going to be meat. You're most economical source of protein is probably going to be dried beans, prepared according to package directions, but you can also use canned beans, lentils, tofu (cubed, coated in flour, and fried until crispy is usually the best texture for hash), tempeh, seitan (it's rather inexpensive if you make it from scratch with wheat gluten, water, and spices), or you can even use some chopped "fake meat" (veggie burgers/dogs/lunchmeat/etc.) if you have them (I usually don't because I don't buy processed fake meats as a rule) or toss some nuts or seeds in. Just make sure you have some sort of protein in there to fill you up. The point of hash is to keep you full until you can do a grocery run, so if you're just eating empty carbs, it's not going to get the job done.
Sauce - pretty much anything can be made into a sauce, but here are some ideas: canned tomatoes/pasta sauce, veggie broth (thickened with a flour roux or cornstarch), peanut butter, tahini, refried beans, prepared sauce or spice packets (usually in Tex-Mex or Asian flavors - I love these due to the variety and cheapness but be careful of animal derived ingredients and MSG; a great place to get these is Asian markets), or even just a little bit of water/non-dairy milk and lots of spices if you don't have anything else.
The fourth good (but non-essential if you don't have any) addition to hash is vegetables - preferably fresh but frozen or canned is good too if it's all you've got. You can put pretty much any veggie in hash, but especially good ones are tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms because they add a lot of flavor.
When making hash, just basically do a fridge/cabinet clean-out. Heat some oil in a large pot, fry things like tofu, seitan, tempeh, garlic, onions, and fresh veggies first. Then add your sauce and anything that doesn't need the fry in the oil (like beans). You can either mix in your starch with the sauce (I do this with things like rice or pasta) or keep the starch separate and serve the mixture over it. Keep tasting your concoction and add lots of spices, salt, and pepper until it tastes good. Don't be afraid to experiment! Just because you're hurting for money doesn't mean cooking can't still be fun :)
So by now you know that hash is different every time, but here's the ingredients/instructions for the hash I made last night for dinner. Mike thought it was delicious, and I have to admit that it did turn out pretty well. I have not included pictures because while hash can be delicious, it is almost never visually attractive. All measurements are approximate.
December 2, 2012 Broke as a Joke Hash
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 of a large onion, diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 large tomato, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1-14 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1-14 ounce can large black olives, sliced
1-14 ounce can corn, drained
1-10 ounce can diced tomatoes with chiles, undrained (either mild or hot; I used hot)
2 cups cooked rice (white or brown; I used brown)
1 1/2 cups cooked beans or one can beans (any kind; I used white beans)
Half of a 14 ounce can of vegetarian refried beans
2/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper
crushed tortilla chips
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion, and cook 2-3 minutes until the onions soften. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes until they are tender and starting to brown. Add the tomato, cumin, and oregano, and cook for 1 minute. Add the diced tomatoes, olives, corn, tomatoes with chiles, rice, and beans, and stir until everything is well-combined. Add the refried beans, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper and continue to stir gently until everything is heated through and the refried beans liquefy to form a creamy sauce. If things look dry, add water one tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is achieved. Taste for spices and add additional if needed. Serve with crushed tortilla chips on top.
So hopefully that big ol' pot of food will hold us for a while. All we've got left after that's gone is an Indonesian soup spice packet from the Asian market to add to some more beans, rice, and half an eggplant. Hoping that some money comes through (I'm transitioning from disability to unemployment so my payments are sporadic and Mike is waiting for some partial unemployment due to missing work after Hurricane Sandy) soon! Until then, we have love and lots of hash to keep us satisfied. Hoping that you have full hearts and bellies as well. More proper holiday recipes once I can afford a grocery run!
The Fur Ninja <3 3>