Monday, November 06, 2006

More in Store

Up until the 1970's it was the norm for me to serve potatoes with every main meal either as jacket, chips, roast, mashed or plain boiled. Then suddenly the price of potatoes rocketed to far more than I could afford to pay. This meant some fast thinking. Down came the cookbooks and I discovered savoury dishes using rice, pasta or flour. Until then rice to me had meant pudding, pasta meant macaroni cheese or pudding. Flour mostly stayed in the bag. I began making all sorts of different and previously untried dishes which we all enjoyed these so much that we never ever went back to eating potatoes as often as before

Up until then, apart from the useful cans of baked beans, tuna, sardines, corned beef, tinned fruits, jars of ketchup, brown sauce, stock cubes and instant coffee, I had seen no need to keep much else in my cupboards. But around that time there also started to be lorry drivers strikes and food shortages. There was even a shortage of bread (something we also ate every day) so, when I read about someone paying £5 for a loaf, I decided it was time to take control of my own kitchen, stock up and not be held to ransom by anyone. Strange isn't it? If we had had no strikes, no shortages, I would still be serving potatoes every day, making rice puddings, maybe for a treat serve macaroni cheese but certainly not be sitting here chatting with you.

From the 70;s onwards, my store cupboard began to hold more and more basic 'dry goods' . Flour (esp. own brand) is incredibly cheap and with it can be made so many different types of pastry, pasta, pancakes, bread, biscuits and cakes that it has to be a 'must'. Beginning with plain and self-raising, once I'd discovered its potential, I moved on to try cornmeal, oatmeal, rice flour , wholewheat, strong, and rye...some I gave up using, some I continue with. The same with sugar, first the granulated and caster, followed by demerara, caster, soft brown, light and dark muscavados. Kept dry, all sugars keep forever, some I've had for ages. Golden syrup, black treacle and honey are also good to keep in store.
Foods worth using, especially for their nutritional content, are the pulses - lentils, pearl barley, red beans, butter beans, dried peas, split peas.... and these are always stored on my open shelves to remind me that I have them. Anything kept in a cupboard can be easily forgotten. With rice, I began with long-grain, and moved on to include Arborio (for risottos), basmatis (curries), pudding rice (for puddings), brown rice (for health). With pasta there is a wide variety, lasagne, spaghetti, pasta penne being my favourites and if possible the quick-cook type to save time and fuel, but as always what suits me may not suit anyone else, so it is always down to the individual as to what they choose to keep in store.

Where does the money come to buy all these I hear you ask? The trick is to start saving money by using what you already have in store (even if just flour), then with the money saved buy just one or two new items each time you shop. As most 'dry goods' are only used in part, each will last for many weeks or even months, so very soon the store-cupboard will be full. As all basic 'dry goods' are very inexpensive, if and when used to their full potential, they can cut the cost of a week's meals by half.

Soda Bread
1 lb (450g) plain flour (white, brown or a mixture)
1 tsp. each bicarb. of soda and salt
10-15 fl.oz. sour milk OR
fresh milk with a spoon of vinegar OR
half milk, half plain yogurt
Mix the flour with the soda and salt. Pour in half the liquid and stir with a wooden spoon, adding more milk until the mixture is soft but not sloppy. This can be baked in a greased and floured loaf tin, but traditionally it is placed as a ball on a greased and floured baking sheet, flattened slightly and a cross cut partly through the top of the dough with a knife. Bake either way for abut 45 minutes at 200C, 400F, Gas 6 or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Cool on a cake airer and cut when cold.
Note: using own brand flour, and supermarket milk, at the time of writing, this bread works out at 20p -25p.