Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spuds U Like!

To gain control over our spending - but still eat well - we need to find the best way to make use of good food when it is on offer. You could say 'being at the right place at the right time'.
Buying a gammon joint may not seem to fit into a tight budget, but once cooked it can be sliced as ham and kept frozen for many weeks to use in dishes or sarnies (much tastier and far cheaper than the best cooked ham sold in packs). Even the stock the ham has been boiled in can be used to make incredibly cheap soup using split peas. If you remember, the gammon joint (still waiting in the fridge to be cooked - and still within its use[by date) was reduced by half-price to £3.50. One cooked, it will be weighed and compared in price to supermarket premium cooked sliced ham, and will let you know the savings made.

Ignoring the moral issues, a barn hen is just as nutritious as a free-range, and whichever we choose to buy, jointing the chicken at home means the portions are cheaper (by weight) than those on sale, and we have the carcase to make wonderful stock. Both can be frozen.
Even moving a step down the ladder and not 'buying' chicken at all, we can usually persuade our local butcher (who normally sells free-range birds) to let us have his chicken carcases for free, and often they throw in a few winglets as well. So we can still end up with chicken stock made from quality chicken.
Yes, I know that chicken stock can be made using stock cubes, but it is extremely salty and nothing like as good and flavoursome as home-made stock. Although I do use beef stock cubes, and vegetarian stock powder, NEVER use chicken stock cubes, only home-made stock.

With the now 'fashionable' way to judge a meal by the price - such as 'Make a Meal for Four Pounds (to feed four)', the idea being to think this is a reasonable price, we then tend to believe all meals should end up costing that much. Break it down and it works out at £1 a portion, which to my mind is far too expensive. For one thing, a family of four is often assumed to be two adults and of two small children - who eat smaller portions - so a meal costing £4 pounds then might be only enough to feed three adults - the portions then working out at £1.25p a head.
All we have to do is prove we can make a good balanced meal for less than that. Even serving three courses - it should still be able to be done.

Now the days are beginning to be less chilly, we probably have given up eating porridge for breakfast, so have oats left in the larder. We may also have some chocolate and these together with other staple ingredients will make some good cookies. With Easter looming over the horizon, children may like to make these during school holidays. Omit nuts if you wish and add a little more oats and chocolate.
Chocolate Oat Cookies: makes approx 20
4 oz (100g) butter, softened
4 oz (100g) soft (pref dark) brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 - 4 tblsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz (100g) porridge oats or rolled oats
5 oz (150g) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
5 oz (150g) chocolate, chopped into small chunks
4 oz (100g) chopped mixed nuts (almonds, walnuts etc)
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the milk, eggs and vanilla and beat together.
Put the flour, baking powder and salt into a sieve and sift into the beaten mixture, stirring until well mixed. Finally, fold in the oats, chocolate and nuts. Place in the fridge for at least an hour to firm up.
Using a soup spoon (or two teaspoons) place rounds of the mixture well apart on two large greased baking trays (or cook in batches using one tray) and flatten slightly using a fork.
Bake for 10 - 12 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until the edges are colouring, then remove from oven and leave to cool on the tin.
Note: cookies are softer than biscuits, but both continue cooking on the hot tins after these have been removed from the oven, and will firm up when cooling, so don't worry if they seem undercooked. If they end up too soft, they can always be popped back into a hot oven to cook for a further minute. Cooked in the oven until they are 'as you would like to eat them' after cooling (even if transferred directly to a cake airer), they usually end up far too crisp and unpleasant to eat.