Saturday, May 05, 2007

Shopping Around

My only concern with shopping around (and here I am being very picky and mega-frugal) is to ask myself whether, in our case, the savings made by buying at the lowest prices from the three or four supermarkets will come to more than the cost of fuel used. In our case an emphatic NO. Too much travelling, too much time, too much hassle. And would we miss out on the bonus points.
Perhaps, because I always do one big shop from Tesco, as infrequently as possible, I am able to collect many points which convert to pounds. They send me, via their statement, enough vouchers = money I can deduct from my bill to cover the delivery costs leaving me extra to deduct from the online shopping bill plus more voucher-points which can be used when shopping personally in store. I still have £10 of online money-off vouchers (they can be used over several years) to use PLUS the points money on my last order. The instore points vouchers can only be used over a short period.
Also when you shop as infrequently as I do, the store begins to worry. 'Let's coax her back they say' and so offer me extra points to send another online order. I ignore that as I don't want anything anyway. Eventually, after many weeks, the offer goes up. When I ordered a week or so ago I was able to claim 700 extra points as a 'thank you' (my previous order was just before Xmas)'

Here are a couple of recipes, the layered pie (more a method than a recipe) ( like to think of as being my own invention. I say almost because, as with any recipe, you can be sure someone else has thought of it first.

Vegetable Layer:
I once made this for a demonstration (to be shown over two days) held in a marquee at our local park (the annual Flower Show). It was left in the fridge overnight (which was in the tent supposedly guarded by security men and dogs) and the next day I found most of it had been eaten and a lot of my canned and other foods left there had also gone missing. So much for security.
The Method:
This is a deep flan which uses the colour and flavour of vegetables to great advantage. Great for a summer buffet it also makes a very impressive vegetarian party dish.
The proportions are flexible according to the size of the flan and the variety of vegetables used.
Choose a loosebased container (spring-sided is ideal) and line this with shortcrust pastry.
For a small flan, beat one large egg (or two yolks) into 5 fl oz creamy milk. Double the amount for a larger flan. Pour a little of this egg mixture into the flan to just cover the base then lay over slices of part-cooked potato. Cover this with a layer of grated carrot. Continue with layers of lightly fried sliced onions, spinach or watercress leaves (or any dark green vegetable) and continue with different coloured layers until the flan is full. Top with sliced tomato and pour over the remaining milk/eggs (this is just to fill the gaps and hold the vegetables together).
Finish with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Cover with a trellis of pastry and bake for one hour at 300C, 400F, gas 6 or until the centre is firm to the touch. Leave to cool, remove from the tin and serve in slices.

Curried Potatoes:
2 tsp ginger root, scraped and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp each dried cumin and turmeric
1 tsp curry powder
3 ripe tomatoes, sliced
1/2 pint measure frozen peas, thawed
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
Heat a little butter in a saucepan and stir in the ginger and onions. Fry gently over a low heat until the onions are soft and golden. Add the spices, curry powder and tomatoes and continue cooking until any liquid has evaporated and the mixture has turned to a paste.
Stir in the potatoes until coated, then add 1/4 pint of water. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes then stir in the peas. Continue cooking until the potatoes are just tender. Serve hot with fresh chopped coriander.

Seasonal Tips: Time NOW to sow the seeds taken from a bought red bell pepper and they will grow into large plants. If growing indoors, pollinate the flowers using a small paintbrush (the type used by artists not interior decorators). Restrict the fruits to no more than six to a plant, four is better - the less you have the larger they will grow. They will start green, then later turn to red.
You can of course save the seeds from your own ripe peppers to grow on next year. Likewise, you can save the seeds from a ripe butternut squash and grow these on in the same way.
When buying fresh ginger root, look for one that has little fresh growing 'lumps' on it. Cut these off with a good piece of ginger connect to it, and these should grow into plants, eventually with the large roots beneath.
Remembering also, when picking mint (especially from plants bought in pots) to cut long lengths of stalk. Pick off only the bottom leaves, leaving the top few intact. Put these stems in water and they will root easily. Plant these to grow into more pots of mint. There are so many varieties of mint that canny cooks will beg a stem or three from a friendly gardener who is growing the one you need for making mint sauce. I think this is called spearmint but not sure. Anyone know?
Likewise do the same with basil. Cut down to a pair of leaves growing lower down the stem. These leaves will branch off into two stems, thus you get twice the amount of basil as originally. As with the mint, remove only the lower leaves from the removed stem (use these for cooking) and place the stem in a jar of water, and eventually these will also throw out roots. Plant these and once gone leggy, you can cut the stems down to a pair of leaves (as above) and start all over again. Believe me - one bought basil can make you twenty pots or more of flourishing herb by the autumn. Again, canny cooks might be able to barter these for some other produce at the local greengrocers or farmer's market.