Friday, December 15, 2006

Worth the Effort

Am beginning to stock up my cupboards for the start of the challenge. My marathon delivery has had to be brought forward to tomorrow as it has been (again) weeks and weeks since my last supplies arrived. Getting withdrawal symptoms as I've been without baked beans, Spam, rice, and countless other things, for seemingly ages. Once Xmas is over I will be able to stock-take (I love doing that, really I do), then it will be count-down time.
Here are some tips to give you a head start if you are thinking of taking up the challenge yourself. We may not all be lucky enough to have such luxuries, but even just one or two can mak such a difference.
Deliberately keep back some of the Xmas fare to use later (eg. a little Stilton cheese).
Freeze :
cubes of port, white and red wine, sherry also.
scraps of smoked salmon.
chunks of ham before it's all eaten.
slices and chunks of cooked turkey
If ham is on the bone, use the bone to make stock..
If cooking beef, collect the fat (beef dripping). Keep this in the fridge.
Make stock with the turkey carcase, reduce down to a thick jelly. Freeze that.
Buy extra sausage meat - freeze the surplus.
Save all the citrus peel and freeze.
Keep pack a can or two of lager and a bottle or two of brown ale.
Save broken biscuits and crisps to use for many purposes.

Here is a recipe for the best beef stew ever. Although a set amount of meat is given, you could use less and add more onions and even more onions if you wish as it is the gravy that makes the dish, so don't skimp on this part. You can always serve surplus gravy as a soup the following day.
Tip: Get out of the habit of offering seconds because any surplus can be frozen to make a (free) meal for another day. Perhaps best to dish that into containers before you start serving the dish then there will be no sulks.
Beef Carbonnade:
1 lb (450g) stewing beef, cubed
1 lb (450g) onions, thinly sliced.
2 tblsp. plain flour (brown or white)
2 oz (50g) dark brown or soft brown sugar
1 pt (600ml) brown ale
1 pt (600ml) beef stock
pinch mixed herbs
butter and oil
Melt a knob of butter in a pan and add a little oil to prevent burning. Fry the onions over medium heat until turning brown. Drain, adding any oil drips back to the pan. Add the beef and brown on all sides. Layer the beef and onions in a casserole dish. Add the sugar to the fat in the pan and cook/stir for 2 -3 minutes. Stir in the flour to absorb the oil then slowly whisk in the brown ale followed by the stock and herbs. Heat until thickened and pour over the meat. Cover and cook at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 2 -3 hours until the meat is very tender (you can cook at a lower temperature for a longer time if you wish).
Tip: The very dark ale/stout (ie Guinness) is too overpowering for this dish, use one with less body, maybe a Newcastle Brown type? Alternatively, if you haven't the choice, weaken it by using less ale and more stock.
My favourite way to serve this casserole is spooned into large individual Yorkshire puddings. Served with a side dish of carrots and a green vegetable.
Tip: As Yorkshire puds are carbohydrate, you don't need to serve potatoes. But if no puds, then maybe add jacket potato which can be popped into the oven an hour and a half before serving.
To save money, remember that you don't really need to serve more than one carbohydrate with a meal. Either potatoes OR rice, OR anything made with flour (pastry/pancakes/pasta etc). A curry and rice with a side dish of chips is definitely overkill.