Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Canned Laughter

Some time back I mentioned own brand sardines (around 35p a can for 120g) were just as good, if not better in flavour, than the more expensive brandied cans of sardines (same weight). Checking on-line prices yesterday I noticed cans of pilchards (155g) were only 26p a can at Tesco, and 45p for 425g - so certainly value for money there.

But even I fall by the wayside if I don't check prices carefully enough. For some reason I believed that walnut pieces would be cheaper than walnut halves (well aren't walnut pieces the broken bits?) . Too late I noticed from my statement that halved walnuts were priced at 47p per 100g (after checking on-line I saw they could be bought even cheaper at 88p per 250g) but the pieces were sold at 64p per 100g (and £1.35p per 200g). As Beloved keeps saying "measure twice and cut once". I deserve a very good slap on the hand. In future I will try to never assume, and always check first.

Working out the cost of a dish is something I do from time to time. This can mean either costing by weight or by number. For instance a bag of baking potatoes (each much the same size) will be counted by number of potatoes, and not the weight, and that number then divided into the price to see the cost of each potato. With prices rising, this is something worth checking out from time to time.
Similarly, yesterday I opened a bag of frozen (cooked and peeled) jumbo prawns (240g) which were sold at half price (£2.50) and inside were 22 quite large prawns. Less than 12p each, so I was able to make a sizable prawn cocktail for Beloved last night for under 75p. Using five prawns, one was kept whole for garnish, the rest chopped and mixed with my Marie Rose sauce (ketchup from the last of the bottle, plus some mayo and yogurt). Served in a glass with shredded lettuce. It would have been a fairly expensive starter, but as it was served as Beloved's main course as he is in diet mode at the moment, it was worth it. And he did have a pudding.

In my cupboard I discovered three largish cans of new potatoes that I had bought earlier in the year, having at that time read that potatoes would rise in price. They still have to be used, but are really inexpensive compared to the 'fresh' ones. Although I have had them many months, their b.b. date was the end of 2009, so no rush.
However, I have found a page torn out of some magazine (don't know which one) that gave several suggestions on how to use canned potatoes after first draining and rinsing. The advantage using the canned potatoes is they are already cooked, so a lot of preparation and cooking time is saved. Thought it would be a good idea to pass these ideas on to you.

Using canned new potatoes:

potato salad:
put the potatoes into a bowl and chop into halves or quarters (depending upon the size of the potato or the size you want them to be). Blend together some salad cream or mayo, (about 2 tblsp of each) adding a little yogurt if you wish, with a finely chopped shallot or spring onion, maybe a pickled gherkin, season with freshly ground black pepper and stir into the potatoes.

dry the drained and rinsed potatoes, but leave them whole. Put a little salt (pref rock or sea salt) into a bowl with a tsp or so of chopped fresh or dried rosemary, and a dessp of olive oil. Add the potatoes, rolling them around until they are coated (don't over do the coating, less is more if you know what I mean).
Place in an ovenproof dish and roast for 25 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6.

prawn and potato curry:
fry a sliced onion and a crushed clove of garlic in a tblsp of oil until softened. Stir in a tblsp of turmeric and half a tsp of ground ginger, then add a 400ml can of coconut milk, a teaspoon of lime juice and a 300g can of drained and rinsed potatoes. Stir then simmer for 15 minutes. Add 6 oz (175g) cooked and shelled prawns (thawed if frozen, but if counting pennies, use less) and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Serve on a bed of rice (preferably fragrant jasmine rice).

gingered potatoes with tomato:
fry a sliced onion until softened, then stir in a teaspoon of ground ginger. Add a 400g can of chopped tomatoes and a 300g can drained and rinsed potatoes, stir and simmer for five minutes. Serve with rice.

Spanish tortilla:
Using an omelette pan, fry a diced onion in 1 oz (25g) butter until softened. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add a further ounce of butter to the pan and heat until melted and hot, but not turning brown. Pour in 3 beaten eggs, add half a red bell pepper (seeds removed and diced), a 300g can of potatoes, diced or sliced, and the pre-fried onions. When the eggs are set, place the pan under the grill to finish cooking the top.

beef and potato curry:
put 2 tblsp sunflower or olive oil in a saucepan and add 2 good teaspoons of curry paste (of your own choice), add a sliced onion and one crushed clove of garlic. Stir and fry for about five minutes until the onion has softened. Add 14 oz (400g) of lean minced steak and stir until browned. Add 5 fl oz (150ml) beef stock, stirring in. Add more water if necessary to prevent the meat burning. Simmer for 25 minutes. Then add the contents of the can of potatoes (drained and rinsed), chopping up the larger ones so they are much the same size, and heat through for five minutes. Add 2 tblsp frozen peas (thawed) for the final two minutes of the cooking. Serve with rice.
Tip: to make this more economical, use less meat and add more peas and cooked diced carrot.

Going back to yesterday's Drop Scones - the retail price for half a dozen of one brand was 6 for 92p (that's over 15p each), yet the recipe given yesterday could make 2 dozen for around 25p total. Ok, so maybe the retail ones were larger, even so...
A Tesco fresh cream Victoria Sponge was selling at £3.49p (and yes, there were some cheaper, but let's be true to ourselves, with comparative pricing, home-made has to be classed as top of the range). Then there was the large (what do they mean by large?) Carrot and Orange Cake at £3.29.
Although a carrot cake recipe has been given many months back, I leave you with a different one - weighing around 2 lb (900g) which surely must be counted as large, yet works out between £1.00 - £1.50 to make according to quality and price of the ingredients you have in your cupboards.

Carrot and Orange Cake:
1 orange, zest and juice
5 oz (150g) soft margarine
5 oz (150g) light muscovado sugar
6 oz (175g) carrots, scrubbed and grated
2 eggs, beaten
7 oz (200g) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
half tsp mixed spice
Put all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix until thoroughly blended. It should be a dropping consistency (if the orange was particularly juicy, the mixture may be a bit sloppy, if so add a little extra flour). Pour the mixture into a greased and floured base-lined 2 lb (900g) loaf tin, and bake for one hour fifteen minutes at 180F, 350F, gas 4 or until cooked (check centre with a skewer). Cool in the tin for ten minutes then turn out onto a cake airer to cool completely.
If you wish to coat the top of the cake you could remove the cake from the oven after one hour and brush the top with runny honey before baking for the final 15 minutes. Alternatively, when the cake is cold, blend together cream (Philadelpia) cheese with some icing sugar to taste and spread this on top of the cake, and garnish with walnuts or candied orange. Wrap in foil and store in the fridge if you wish to keep it any length of time.
Tip: Instead of the more expensive muscovado sugar, use ordinary granulated or demerara and add a tsp (no more) of black treacle.

Seeing that it is now possible to buy packs of ready-made large pancakes at 8 for 99p, time we should think seriously of making our own (as they are incredibly cheap to make at home) and using them far more often as they keep well in the fridge, freeze perfectly, and can be used for both sweet and savoury dishes. Today I will be searcing my books not just for the basic recipe, but to find out how we can use pancakes to our financial advantage. Log on tomorrow and I will reveal all.