Monday, April 30, 2007

Today I Will Relax

. After my friend left yesterday, I wanted to prepare the supper in a way that I could leave it to cook by itself. So I decided to braise the lamb shoulder, first browning the skin in a frying pan and then tucking some mint either side of the blade bone before setting the joint on a bed of carrots and onions. Added some lamb stock and water (about half a pint total) popped on the lid and cooked it at 150C for about 4 hours. By then the meat was lovely and tender. I cooked new potatoes on the hob, but I could easily (and wished I had thought of it at the time) added them to the casserole. Also served a bowl of minted peas. We finished off the last of the mint sauce and redcurrant jelly so that is something I must start making again.
I had never cooked lamb shoulder before, it was remarkably tender but far more gelatinous than a leg of lamb would be. Personally I prefer the meat from the leg, but the others loved it and (as shoulder was much cheaper) I was happy with that. Only a little bit left over which I can turn into an individual Shepherd's Pie for Beloved.

By the way, after putting the lamb in the oven I sat down in my chair to watch Eastenders an hour later, but promptly fell asleep fortunately waking in time to see the last episode which was one I had missed. I would have taped it only our video isn't working properly.

After supper the last of the trifle was eaten. I ate all the meal, including some trifle, along with the others telling myself (and them) it was my 'naughty day'. As I had already taken my now once-a-day blood test (which was fine) I felt the occasional treat wouldn't hurt. Today I will be a good girl again. What was once an acceptable (and obviously slimming) diet, which I coped with admirably, since I have been up and about and a lot more active over the past week, I have got incredibly hungry.

Cheesepare wondered how I got into this economy cooking and wonders if there is much difference in price (either way) between then and now.
Many, many years ago I used to just shop and cook withing the limits of my housekeeping allowanace, which was adequate at that time (but only just). If I then needed to make more savings it would be in other ways: making my childrens clothes and knitting their jumpers etc.
It had become a family tradition, started by my mother in wartime, to have a rollicking good Xmas because - as my mother always said - you never know what might happen in the following year. So it had become almost a family tradition/habit to overspend during the festive season even when I really couldn't afford it.
Then came the crunch. I had spent all my December housekeeping by the end of that month, and wouldn't get my next allowance until the end of January. I dare not tell my husband (he hadn't the money to give me more anyway), so I had drag out my cook books - the Good Housekeeping and a Marguerite Pattern Cooking in Colour were the only two I had then. and began learning to cook from scratch. Fortunately, again something my mother had taught me, was to always keep a cupboard stocked up with basics. So I was able to make things like soda bread, and once the dried pasta had run out learned how to make it for myself. Yogurt, curd cheese, butter and even clotted cream were made from doorstep Channel Island milk (syphon off the cream and top the bottle up with water). I learned how to make home-made soups instead of opening a tin and discovered serving three courses meant I could cut down the expense with the middle course.
Having family allowance each week meant I could at least buy a chicken and some fresh fruit and vegetables, so I learned how to make chicken stock and use the scraps of meat from the bones to use for a pie, and turn into chicken paste for sarnies. I used to buy fresh fish scraps from the fishmonger (meant for pet food but perfectly edible) and make those into pies and so learn to make kedgerees and chowders. I even made the dog biscuits.

By the end of the month I had saved so much money - to this day I thank the stars that I had listed all the ingredients I had used from my stores and even worked out the cost of those (they would need replacing) - that I wanted to continue. Moving on into the garden I began to grow as many vegetables as I could in a very small space and - reading a magazine called Practical Self-Sufficiency, wished very much it would write about people who lived in a town rather than in a country. I wrote and told them how much could be done even without living on a farm, and they asked me to write an article - no payment but I could have six months of free magazines.
So I wrote 'Suburban Self Sufficiency' which they published. Months if not years later the research team at the BBC came across it and that was why I was asked to appear in Indoors Outdoors - for more details of this read some of the earlier postings.
So my economy drive began through sheer necessity but proved so enjoyable that I haven't stopped since and I suppose this is where my 'cost-cutting career began.

As to whether the food is cheaper now, it is difficult to say. However, when I wrote that article in Family Circle to feed a family of four for a set amount per week in 1983 , then recosted the ingredients a few months ago, the total was considerably higher now than then. But since 1983 the rise in inflation would make a great difference and I would have expected the recent costing to have been even higher, - so possibly CP you have given us food for thought.

Heck, seem to have been rambling on far too long. You will all be bored to the back teeth with me. Promise more recipes this week.