Monday, January 14, 2008

More Meat for your Money?

A later posting today, I did wake at six, decided to grab an extra half hour and bed, and three hours later... but I did have some good dreams.

Hope you are feeling better Marjorie, and am sure we will all have a go at making our own pastry from now on. You mentioned using lard, always said to be the best for pastry, but so often now we use margarine which does not really compare. A blend of butter and lard works well for the dessert pastry.

Thanks also to everyone who has sent comments. Yesterday was a busy time, one lot of visitors to occupy me, and immediately after they left (late afternoon) first-born arrived to update my computer with more data base re my recipe listings, which gave me a chance to find (immediately) the recipe for tuile biscuits which was published on the 1oth December 2006. I was very pleased and grateful for the help both boys (always boys to me whatever their ages) have given me this weekend.

As the great debate about free-range versus battery hens has been discussed, I decided to approach meat-eating using a bit of lateral thinking. For vegetarians, this could still be read as the principles work whichever types of food you eat.
So often we choose to buy meat in small amounts, a joint seeming far too expensive - and it is true, one of the first things I gave up serving (and buying) was the Sunday joint, making instead casseroles from the cheaper stewing cuts. Fish also was cheaper, chickens obviously. But supply, demand and prices have changed over the last years and I decided to find out how much, so spent some time yesterday trawling (no pun intended) through a supermarket's on-line fish and meat selections to discover prices. Perhaps worth high-lighting and printing out the list to check on prices in different supermarkets.

This comparison pricing, although tedious, was worth doing, for it is so easy to take a look at the price per pack and believe you are getting the most amount for your money. This time I jotted down the price per kg (printed in very light grey under the heavily black printed price per pack), and two things became quite obvious. When you buy meat on the bone, such as a joint or chops, the price may seem slightly to our advantage, but the weight of the bone has to be taken into account (which we can't eat). Buying a whole chicken you could add at least a quarter of the price onto the cost of the bird to find the true price paid for the edible flesh (although you do gain by making stock with the carcase). Also, as proved, it is much cheaper to portion a bird, than buy individual portion packs.

Even though fresh fish has increased in price, I was surprised by how much and especially cod which was once the poor relation of haddock in my youth.
Here are some costs, all priced by the kg remember, which is around 2.2lbs and probably a lot more than you would normally buy at any one time, unless a joint. But even so, comparison pricing of one cut with another does prove that it could well be worth buying the meat in bulk and slicing and dicing and mincing it ourselves and then freezing the surplus in small packs - remembering to label it well.

Fresh Fish: Cod £14.43; Haddock £6.99; Fish Pie Mix (offcuts?) £8.41; Plaice £9.27; Mackerel £5.98; Sea Bass 10.49; Pacific Cod £9.80. The weight of bones and skin have to be taken into account, and I forgot to find out the cost of fresh salmon, but then I have to leave something for you to do. The price of the Pie Mix surprised me, and in the past I have been known to buy the fresh offcuts (meant for cat food), and use that for pies.

Chicken: A great difference in price depending upon whether free-range, organic free-range, or the cheaper end. But here are some prices to show the sense behind jointing your own. Again, remembering anything that has a bone in it, raises the actual cost of the edible flesh.
Diced chicken breast £8.88; breast fillets £9.99; whole chicken (small) £2.07, medium (£2.28), (large) £2.18; Free range chicken £3.69. Chicken thighs £2.00; drumsticks £3.64;

Beef: Again you need to take the weight of any bones into account. Meat cooked on the bone has more flavour, but if intending to use a slicing machine, then ask the butcher (or do it yourself) to remove the bone from the meat, replace it ready to cook, then it is easily slid out when the meat is to be sliced. I think all the supermarket beef shown below is boneless.
Quick fry steak £4.69; Rump £8.98; Tender beef steak £9.99; Healthy steak mince £4.72; Sirloin Steak £11.50; Scottish beef £3.80; Topside joint £6.48; Braising steak £5.78. Value beef (and don't even bother) £1.98.

Lamb: (if you have a slicing machine, or even if slicing by hand, then get the butcher to remove the leg bone, then replace before roasting, as mentioned above, to give added flavour. It can then be easily removed ready to carve.)
Leg steaks £9.57; leg of lamb £6.68; half shoulder £2.95; Chump steak £11.20; Loin chops £11.62; Lamb cutlets £11.64: rolled Shoulder (boneless) £5.98; Breast of lamb £3.05; diced Lamb £13.04; value chops £7.35. Lamb's liver £1.88; Hand-cut (?) liver £2.83; Lamb's kidney's £2.00; organic Lamb mince £6.24.

Pork: well worth thinking about as it is very reasonably priced (per kg) compared to other meats, and also (when trimmed) contains less fat than other meats. You can always render down pork fat and store in the fridge for a few weeks instead of using other fats for frying and roasting. Lard, as we know it, is clarified pork fat.
Leg of pork (boneless) £4.29; Chops £4.79; Rib £4.09; Thin cut loin steaks £6.48; Pork fillet £7.29
Prime shoulder £3.15; Spare ribs £3.59; Casserole steak £3.85; Belly roast £4.24; Organic diced £9.97.

I noticed that it was possible to buy a pack containing a single pork chops, these priced per kg. were £5.95 - over £1 more per kg. than when bought in larger amounts, and I suppose some of that counts as packaging. Again proof of paying for what can't be eaten, also - in all cases, work out whether it is more economical to buy the meat in one lump (cheap joint etc) and dice and mince it yourself for casseroles etc.

Before I leave you today - I jotted down a reminder re straining liquids through J.cloths, muslin or kitchen paper. Most rolls of kitchen paper today are made from a couple of sheets bonded together, and - with care - taking a corner of the sheet, it is usually possible to peel them apart, thus making two thinner sheets. each working very well as a substitute for muslin etc when straining through a lined sieve. Just a way of making things go twice as far.

Ah yes, one more thing - yesterday needed to make a quick supper for Beloved and firstborn (who had arrived unexpectedly), so used the remainder of the Yorkshire Pudding batter, and made Toad in the Hole with Cauliflower Cheese on the side.
The remaining half the cauliflower was used (weighed 400g) and the total weight of the leaves and stalk left from the whole cauli weighed 600g. As mentioned before, this is now kept to be used to make either a vegetable side dish (leaves and stalks) or the whole lot chopped, cooked in milk or milk/water, and then blended to make cauliflower soup (as we will be having today - with plenty left over to freeze).

To make the cheese topping for the cauliflower I grated the half-inch x three inch thick piece of Stilton left from Xmas (the 3" rind being left to blitz in with the soup, as Stilton and cauliflower go very well together), the small ends of Red Leicester and Mature Chedder also grated. Although not using as much grated cheese as normally, the Stilton, being so strong in flavour, really made up the shortfall and the sauce was perfect.

No recipes today as it is now mid-morning, but hope I have left you with 'food for thought', and look forward to being with you again tomorrow.