Saturday, February 06, 2010

Proof of the Pudding...

Regarding the 'skill of shopping'. The other day read a newspaper article where a reporter (who previously bought her food from M & S) was asked to buy the same foods instead from Aldi (although the brands were different). It was such a glowing report as to the amount of money saved (A LOT!!), that I thought the feature must have been an Aldi advert.

The reporter's family loved all the foods bought from Aldi, with the exception of one dessert (think it was a cheesecake). A similar trial was done at Lidl where this proved more expensive, but they did sell a wider variety of the more well-known brands (always discounted) and still cheap compared to M & S.
On the down side, the discount stores were a mess, food piled high on shelves and in boxes on the floor, few checkout girls (the one mentioned 'was surly') and there was little variety. Although the fresh vegetables were expected to be poor - instead they were given a thumbs up for freshness - other than nets of lemons and limes.

On one of my 'better days' may try to make the effort. Not sure how it would rate for 'quality' - but if the fresh produce is so good, that at least could be purchased from there.

Today's recipes are suitable for family fare, but also able to 'be improved', the first being a dish where the recipe uses 'fresh tagliatelle' - and because is not dried, this weighs 'heavy'. If using dried pasta, use about half the given weight before cooking.
Fresh pasta, bought over the counter, is more expensive than the dried, but (like many pasta dishes) at a pinch we could get away with using almost any pasta shapes. We could, of course, make the tagliatelle ourselves - this would then lift the dish to the higher level.
'Tagliatelle' is the name given to pasta strips that some call 'noodles'. If we have dried lasagne sheets, after cooking, these could be cut into narrow ribbons to give the same effect.

Another ingredient in this dish is smoked salmon, and it is certainly cheaper to buy smoked salmon pieces (scraps) rather than a 'flat-pack', although the quality may not be as good. The one luxury ingredient is vodka, and for fine dining it is recommended this be used. Otherwise leave it out.
This is so easy to make that my Beloved will be having it for supper tonight as - other than the tagliatelle - 'the makings' are all in 'store'. I may make the pasta noodles, or I may cook dried pasta penne.

Salmon and Vodka Pasta: serves 4
1 lb (500g) fresh tagliatelle
half a pint (300ml) double cream
1 tblsp chopped fresh dill
3 tblsp vodka
6 oz (175g) smoked salmon, cut into pieces
Cook the pasta in boiling water as per instructions on the pack. Put the cream, dill, and vodka into a small saucepan and mix together, the heat slowly and simmer for 3 minutes before setting aside.
Drain the pasta well, then add the smoked salmon. Pour in the cream sauce and toss until the pasta is thoroughly coated. Serve with salad leaves and warm ciabatta.

Before Christmas, the flat basket that holds my onions was full. There were large onions, red onions, medium sized onions, oval shallots and some smaller round shallots. Over the weeks these have been used regularly (hardly a day goes past without using an onion or three), so now there is more basket then onions, with only a few of the larger ones left, a couple or so mediums and several reds. More shallots than onions it has to be said. But at least should I wish to serve these as a vegetable with the quality meat purchased, have found a good recipe - here it is:

Sweet and Sour Shallots: serves 4
1 oz (25g) butter
1 tblsp olive oil
4 tblsp light brown sugar
4 tblsp red wine vinegar
2 tblsp water
1 lb (500g) shallots, peeled
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tblsp raisins
salt and pepper
Put the butter and oil in heatproof casserole with the sugar, vinegar and water. Heat gently until the butter and sugar have dissolved then add the shallots, rosemary and raisins, shaking the pan so that all the shallots are coated with the mixture. Cover, then place the casserole in an oven at 200C, 400F, gas 6 and cook for 30 - 40 minutes, shaking the dish once or twice during the cooking time to turn the shallots. When tender, season to taste and serve in a warm dish.
Note: this is best oven-cooked when the oven is on for something else (like roasting a joint), otherwise these shallots could be cooked in a covered frying pan on the hob over a low heat- just remember to stir often, and add more liquid if necessary.

Final recipe today is for a Thai curry, but unlike many Thai dishes, no curry paste or lemongrass is used in this dish. Hopefully, the ingredients are all kept in our store cupboards. Having a good half of a large cauliflower (purchased mid-December but still perfect) might just make a smaller portion for myself when B has his steak and kidney.

Thai Cauliflower Curry: serves 4
1 x 30g pack fresh coriander, roughly chopped
3 shallots, finely chopped (or bunch of spring onions)
1 tblsp turmeric
2 oz (50g) pieces root ginger, finely chopped
1 good tblsp light muscovado sugar
1 x 400g can coconut milk
3 oz (75g) water
1 small (or half a large) cauliflower
1 small can sweetcorn kernels
2 oz (50g) frozen peas (thawed)
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper
Make a curry paste by blitzing together the coriander, shallots, turmeric, ginger and sugar. Put the coconut milk into a pan with the water. Break the cauliflower into florets and add these to the pan and bring to the simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the cauliflower is just tender. Do not overcook.
Stir in the curry paste, the sweetcorn and the peas. cook for a few more minutes until the vegetables are ready then stir in the lime juice, adding seasoning to taste. Serve with Thai fragrant rice.