Saturday, June 14, 2008

Variety is the Spice of Life

Had made up a dip last night, with the intention of serving a vegetable curry to follow, but then decided one vegetable dish following another was not such a good idea, and in the end opted for a chilli con carne instead. I can give you the prices, even took a picture of the dip and crudites - shown below - this for a 'starter/appetiser' was good value and would have served four. The starter, pictured above and working clockwise round from the top, consisted of: half a large carrot (5p) cut into strips; a third of a green pepper cut into strips (11p); cauliflower florets cut smaller (10p); third of a yellow pepper cut into strips (12p); two mushrooms (10p) cut into 6ths; third of a red pepper (12p); 1 end crust of cheap bread (2p) cut into strips and toasted; one rib celery (4p) cut into strips. Together they cam to to 80 pieces, allowing 10 per head to eat with the dip. Crudites cost 66p.

The dip was a version of hummous (houmous), made with 5 oz (125g) home-cooked chickpeas (10p); juice of half a lemon (5p); 1 dessp 'value' peanut butter (8p); 1 slice cheap bread (2p); paprika pepper and a little olive oil (9p). Total for the dip: 34p. Total for the complete dish: £1.00.
(By the way, the plate itself was quite large - being the base plate from the microwave, often used as a serving platter).
A little onion would have improved the hummous, and - as I used some for the chilli - could have pinched a 'free' bit to add to the chickpeas. Peppers are ideal to eat with dips, they are firm and crisp and, when sliced, have a little hook at one end - perfect for scooping up dips. The bread for the dip was torn up, soaked in water, then drained but not squeezed, and added to the other ingredients to be blitzed in the food processor. The water in the bread helped to make a softer dip. This could have turned out much cheaper if the dip had been served with just tortilla chips, or home-made 'breadsticks', but as the vegetables were nutritious (and helped towards that 'five a day', felt it was worth serving them.

The chilli con carne was made from half a 400g pack of lean minced steak. This was bought when at half -price and frozen (pack divided into two as I would normally use half). The reduced price was £1.50 for the full pack, The chilli was made by frying a 'value' onion (3p), then adding the meat (75p), a can of value plum tomatoes (20p), a can of red kidney beans (14p); and chilli spices (5p). Home-made pitta bread (10p).
Total: £1.27p.

The two dishes together cost £2.27, and although almost too much for Beloved and me, doubling the amount the two courses would feed four for £4.54 and by adding a few more crudites, pitta bread and beans ) could easily feed five. Have to say that four scoops of home-made ice-cream served with a 'value' jelly (8p) would just about take up the rest of the £5 budget - but at least managing to make a three course meal out of it.

In recent postings there were recipes for granita (flavoured ice crystals). Normally eaten as a dessert, the savoury ones make a good starter, or as a 'refresher' between courses. With the sweet bell peppers on offer this week (35p each - and pick out the largest), worth making this sorbet to freeze away. It can then be eaten when the peppers are back at full price, giving you the chance to feel smug. Apart from green (not used for this dish) these peppers come in red, yellow and orange, so a different coloured sorbet could be made from each, and for a really good-looking starter, serve a small scoop of each into a glass.
Red Pepper Sorbet: serves 6 (F)
half pint (300ml) water
11 oz (300g) sugar
1.5 lbs (675g) red peppers, deseeded and diced
2 tblsp white wine vinegar
dash Tabasco (optional)
Put the water and sugar in a saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Boil for a few minutes until syrupy in consistency. Leave to cool. Pour into a blender, adding the remaining ingredients. Blitz until a fine puree. If you have an ice-cream maker, churn until smooth and thick. Freeze for at least 2 hours then remove from the freezer five minutes before serving as this makes it easier to scoop and serve.
If you haven't a machine, pour the puree into a plastic/glass container, freeze for a couple of hours, then break up the frozen edges with a fork, breaking up the ice-crystals. Freeze again for a couple of hours and repeat and freeze. This should be enough, but the more repeats, the more it turns into a sorbet and less of a granita.

lemonade: serves 4
zest and juice of 3 lemons mixed with 750 litres cold water. Stir in 4 oz 100g) sugar until dissolved. Serve poured over ice. For adults only, add a splash of gin or vodka.

fruit punch: serves 4
measure 350ml each of pineapple, mango and orange juice (can be fresh or from cartons) with the juice of 2 limes. Pour over crushed ice to serve.

lime cordial: fills 1 large glass
9 fl oz (250ml) warm water
2 tblsp sugar, or to taste
juice from 2 limes
Mix water and sugar together until dissolved. Stir in the lime juice and chill. Serve as-is or dilute with sparkling water as required.

lemon and lime cordial: as for lime cordial but add the juice of 2 lemons.

mint lime julep: serves 2 - 4
dilute the lime cordial (above) with soda water, adding several leaves of mint and a slice or two of lime. Pour over crushed ice to serve.

iced coffee: serves 4
To 1 litre of coffee (made from grounds, instant or even Camp coffee), stir in 8 tblsp condensed milk. Pour over ice cubes to serve. For adults add a dash of Tia Maria.

iced tea: serves 4
Put 1 litre of freshly brewed and strained Ceylon or green tea, into a big jug with 2 tblsp caster sugar and 1 sliced lemon. Leave to cool, then chill well. Drink ice-cold with extra slices of lemon if wished.

love-apple tingler: serves 4
Mix together a carton of tomato juice with 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (or to taste). Add the juice of 1 lemon. Serve over ice with a few leaves of basil for garnish. Adults can add a glug of vodka.

elderflower and ginger fizz: serves 4
Mix 200ml elderflower cordial with 2 tblsp grated fresh ginger. Add the juice of half a lime, and stir in 750ml of sparkling water. Garnish with slices of lime (using the uncut half of the lime) and a few mint leaves.
Pour over ice cubes to serve.