Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Queries Answered and More Recipes

Thanks for your questions. Heather: not sure about caramel, but try melting down one in the microwave or low oven, you will probably need to add a little water or butter or both to get it to pouring consistency. Have a go, let me know! (Have a feeling that's a catchphrase I'll use again).
Karen asks for a quick economical spag.bol sauce recipe. This gives me the chance to explain more how I go about cutting costs, because in many cases it is not a recipe that is needed. Just a hard look at the one most used then adapted to suit the purse.

Almost all Spag.Bol (F) recipes contain the same ingredients: onion, minced meat, bacon,celery, carrot, garlic, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, herbs, stock, and - for the more upmarket eaters - wine.
So first look for the most expensive ingredient which - omitting wine - will be the meat. The classic spag. bol uses both minced beef and minced pork together, although normally I use beef. Once I did cook pork by mistake because the label had got lost, and that worked fine, normally I don't include bacon although with that pack of bacon offcuts I might reconsider. Either way, to cut costs use less meat and more of the vegetables (incidentally, it is only recently that I discovered that celery played a part, so that could be omitted, but it will help with the flavour).

To speed things up use only the best minced steak, as it takes far less time to cook, but as I said, use less of it. Probably much less of it. Using cheaper mince ends up weighing less because of the fat that comes from it, also it takes much longer to cook down to tender.
Put back any missing flavour by using one beef stock cube dissolved in 5 fl.oz hot water. This should be enough but add more depending upon how much you will be making.
Start by dicing plenty of onions, dice or grate plenty of carrots, finely chop a couple of ribs of celery and chuck in a squashed garlic clove - none of which are expensive - then saute these in a little oil or butter. In another pan, brown the minced meat you are using, including any bacon. draining off any fat that may have come from using cheaper mince. Then add the meat to the vegetables. Pour over the stock, add a can of chopped tomatoes, a spoon of tom.puree only if you have some to spare, fresh or dried herbs and simmer for about 20 minutes (over an hour if using cheaper mince).. If you have any mushrooms, slice these very thinly and add to the meat sauce. To give even more bulk, and especially if the sauce is too liquid, add a small handful of porridge oats (which are, relatively, protein packed). Then leave to simmer for a further 20 minutes. Season to taste.
Although not recipe ingredients, I always squirt in a blob of HP and a good dash of Worcestershire to give the zing to the meat sauce that my husband likes.
Spag. Bol sauce can be made in advance and reheated the next day. Any surplus will freeze so worth making in bulk.

Serving the sauce can also make a difference as to quantity needed. We in the UK tend to plonk a pile of spaghetti onto our plates and on top of that put a further pile of meat sauce. What we are supposed to do is cook and drain the spaghetti and toss that with a little butter and Parmesan cheese, and then spoon this over the meat sauce and toss again so that each piece of pasta has some of the sauce clinging to it - all this BEFORE dishing out. This way a little sauce goes a long way. Extra Parmesan to sprinkle over is good if not always affordable. For that matter it needn't be spaghetti. I would go so far as to say it should be Tagliatelli if I knew how to spell it. More often than not I use those cheapo quick cook pasta penne, and the ones shaped like shells (called conchi something) are even better as the sauce gets trapped in the hollows.
Another way to make a little meat sauce go a lot further is to layer it between pasta sheets, with a tomato, AND cheese sauce as a Lasagne. Cover the final layer with the cheese sauce and a final sprinkling of grated cheese before baking, and you have all the protein you need with just enough meat to know you've had some.
Karen. I do hope in some way I have given you an answer that works for YOU. Let me know. As a bonus, one further pasta recipe to follow - adjust ingredients accordingly now you know how.

Spicy Turkey Pasta: serves four
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 oz butter
1 dessp. curry powder, or 2 tsp. mild curry paste
1 oz. plain flour
1 can condensed mushroom soup
1 pint water
6 oz pasta shapes
2 -3 oz frozen peas
8 oz cooked turkey, diced
few sultanas
1 tblsp. mango chutney
3 fl oz plain yoghurt
Melt butter in a pan and fry the onion for 5 minutes. Stir in the curry powder or paste and the flour. Cook for 2 minutes then gradually stir in the soup and the water and bring to the simmer. Add the pasta and boil for 10 minutes.* Then stir in the peas, turkey, sultanas and chutney. Cover and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
Note: *if using quick cook pasta, then omit the first 10 minutes of cooking time and add the pasta at the same time as the remaining ingredients.
To serve, remove from heat and stir in the yoghurt. Season to taste, reheat very slowly to prevent the yoghurt splitting. Suggested serving with broccoli.

More questions please as the more explanations I can give, the easier it is for everyone (hopefully) to understand how cost-cutting works. See you tomorrow.