Monday, June 21, 2010

Never mind the quality, feel the pleasure!

Two cost-cutting recipes to start off today's batch. The first is a breakfast 'granola' - slightly coarser than the bought muesli, but cheap enough if you have the makings in your larder. The second is a double whammy - two different dishes from the one recipe.

Granola: makes 8 servings
9 oz (250g) porridge or rolled oats
3 tblsp each: flaked almonds and sunflower seeds
2 tbslp each: sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds
3 tblsp sunflower oil
4 tblsp runny honey
5 oz (150g) mixed dried fruit
Put the oats, almonds and seeds in a bowl. Mix the oil and honey together, then pour this over the oats and seeds and mix well together.
Spread out onto a baking sheet, and bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 150C, 300F, Gas 2. Stirring once or twice so that the granola is evenly baked and the edges are not browning faster than the centre.
Leave to cool, then mix in the dried fruit.
Store in an airtight container, and use within a couple or so weeks. Serve with yogurt or milk and fresh fruit.

As a really good 'credit-crunch-lunch', this next dish will also give second helpings as a dip for supper. The ingredients are always to hand in my kitchen, so am hoping they will be in yours also. If not, why not? This recipe makes four portions: 2 lunches and 2 suppers.

Chickpea, Beetroot Salad and Feta Salad and Dip:
4 oz (100g) couscous
5 oz (150ml) boiling water
1 x 250g vacuum pack cooked beetroot (diced)
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 x 200g pack feta cheese, diced
1 handful fresh mint, chopped
juice of 1 lime
2 tsp olive oil
1 finger length piece of cucumber, coarsely grated
Put the couscous into a large bowl and pour over the boiling water. Cover and leave to stand until the liquid has been absorbed. Leave to cool before fluffing up with a fork.
In another bowl put the beetroot, chickpeas, mint, feta, oil and lime juice, and mix lightly together, then chill until ready to serve.
Take half the beetroot mixture, and stir into the couscous, adding all the grated cucumber, then serve as a lunch dish.
Put the rest of the beetroot mixture into a blender or food processor and blitz until just smooth. Eat this as a dip with vegetable crudites, breadsticks, tortilla chips or what you will.

Although not a fan of soya beans - there are people who enjoy eating them, and as these beans are about the only vegetable protein that contains all the amino acids, certainly are a superfood if we are trying to avoid eating meat. Here are a couple of dishes that make the most of the soya bean.

Soya Bean Tzatziki:
Blend defrosted soya beans with Greek yogurt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Fold in grated cucumber, finely chopped fresh mint leaves, and add seasoning to taste. Serve with toasted pitta bread.

Soya Bean Risotto:
This dish can either be cooked from scratch, or use cooked 2 minute microwave rice (which can also be cooked in a pan).
Fry onion and bacon in olive oil, then add rice, oregano, parsley, white wine and stock (amount accordig to the rice used). Stir frequently, Once the rice is cooked through, add defrosted soya beans, a knob of butter, and plenty of grated Parmesan cheese.

Final suggestions today are mainly to use as garnishes, but most effective and it has to be said food does look more appetising when it looks 'good enough to eat'. The ideas given below makes the use of the parts of some produce that we might have in the garden (or bought) that is normally not used.

vine leaves:
blanch fresh vine leaves for a minute in boiling water, then pat dry on a kitchen towel (or used preserved vine leaves). Place on a serving platter under soft cheeses, or half wrap the cheese in the leave.

spring onions:
trim away the root end, then slice the green part into very thin strips. Leave in the fridge in a bowl of iced water for an hour, until curled. Drain on kitchen paper and use as a garnish for fish, Chinese stir-fried, or salads.

pea pods:
save a couple or so pea pods after shelling. Fill the pods with softened butter (either left plain or with added finely chopped mint leaves). Alternatively fill the pods with tiny round balls of butter to resemble peas. Chill until needed, then add to a bowl of hot cooked peas when ready to serve.

chilli flowers:
the perfect garnish for spicy dishes. Using a pair of scissors, make long snips down from the tops of pointed red or green chilli peppers. Gently ease the points away from the centre and remove any seeds.
Leave in iced water for a couple or so hours to encourage the points/petals to curl back, then drain on kitchen paper and arrange over the chosen dish.