Friday, September 03, 2010

More for Less...

Today's blog is packed with photos, and if you wish to save money - then please don't skip through, for each picture tells a story. The first three pictures were taken many years ago - around the time I gave demonstrations. The other photos were taken yesterday.

The ingredients that made the 16 home-made scones (seen above) cost exactly the same as the four shop-bought scones (on the right) still in their wrapper. Proving that we can have four home-made for the price of one bought.

Don't start bleating at me with "well it costs extra money to bake them at home" - because all I will then say is just plan to bake scones when the oven is on for something else. What I like to do is make up a batch of 'scone mix', keep it in the fridge, then add the required amount of milk to make and bake just a couple or three scones when the oven IS on for something else. This way no extra fuel is used and the scones will always be freshly made with none left over to go stale.

This next picture is another 'more for your money' demo piece showing the contents of a bought tub of coleslaw that had been decanted into the small bowl. At the side is a much larger bowl full of homemade coleslaw where the ingredients cost less than the bought. No fuel costs as no cooking.

The last of the 'demonstration' photos demos three different vegetarian dishes meals made using the same ingredients. The plate top left shows a plate of raw veg (crudites) to go with a dip - the bowl of tortilla chips in the centre was 'extra'. Bottom left shows the same veg made into a Chinese Stir-fry. Middle right again the same vegetables this time sliced thinly and layered in a pastry case. Once baked this is served in wedges (like a pork pie).

Being inspired by the 'nothing in the cupboard but...' (mentioned yesterday), was even more inspired by the coleslaw pic above. Decided to make not just coleslaw but also other things, using a few ingredients that most of us always keep - carrot, celery and onion (called by the cooks the 'Holy Trinity'). To these added a small chunk of white cabbage and the last of a large jar of mayo. These can be seen in the photo below. For those who wish to be precise about things, the large baking potato weighed 9 oz; the white cabbage 5 oz; the carrot 4 oz, the onion 6 oz; the rib of celery 2 oz; and there were three tablespoons of mayo.

It is always worth remembering that less always looks more when it is sliced thinly, grated, shredded or chopped. Useful when extra mouths need feeding and plates still need to look full. My plan was to make the most of the vegetables above and use each in more than one dish. So now comes the step by step approach.

Firstly the cabbage was grated and later mixed with half a grated carrot and some finely sliced onion (these then bound with dilute mayo to make the coleslaw). Five thin slices were taken from the potato and cut into matchsticks. Even the potato peel was to be used. The main part of the potato was diced and after cooking and draining, while still hot mixed with half the diluted mayo and half the finely sliced onion - this then making the potato salad. Alittle sliced celery added (because there was a bit left over). Oddments of potato trimmings (aka mis-shapes) would go into the soup.

The soup itself was made with half the carrot that had been finely diced, most of the celery - also finely diced, about a third of the onion (also diced), and the oddments of potato. Covered with water this was simmered until the vegetables were tender. Using hicken stock instead of water would vastly improve the flavour for non-vegetarians - otherwise add plenty of seasoning.

Above you can see those few vegetables after they had been prepared. Top row from the left: potato peelings, then 'matchstick' potatoes, the diced potato and a pile of shredded cabbage. In the centre is a bit of sliced celery and the potato 'mis-shapes'. Bottom row from the left: diced celery, diced carrot, grated carrots, sliced onion, chopped onion. At the back a small dish containing the mayo (ignore the other things on the table - just couldn't be bothered to clear the decks).

Here we see the result: top left a bowl of chunky soup, top right a big bowl of coleslaw. In the middle the fried potato skins. Bottom left the fried crispy matchstick 'chips', and bottom right is the potato salad (to this has been added a little sliced celery.

To recap: Cabbage, carrot, onion and mayo went into the Coleslaw. Carrot, celery, onion and potato used to make the soup. Potato, onion, mayo (and a bit of celery) made the potato salad. And remaining potato fried to make 'matchstick' chips, the potato peel also fried into crispy nibbles..

A word about the coleslaw - I like the crunchiness of finely shredded raw white cabbage, but if you prefer it softer, either blanch shredded cabbage in boiling water (or steam) for a very few minutes before refreshing under cold running water. Pat dry before making s 'softer' coleslaw. Grating the cabbage instead of shredding it also makes it less 'crunchy'. Same with onion, grate if you want it softer, shred if you wish to to be more 'crunchy'.

The mayonnaise was diluted with water to make a thick pouring consistency and shared between the potato salad and the coleslaw. Myself prefer a light mayo to bind vegetables, rather than the thicker 'gloopy' mayo straight from the bottle. Yogurt could also be added to mayo to give a creamier texture. For those who like more 'bite' to their mayo, stir in a little made mustard, or lemon juice.

When making potato salad, save cooking time by dicing the potato before boiling. then it should take only a very few minutes before the potatoes are tender. Don't let them get too soft. The waxier 'salad' potatoes make a better salad as they have a firmer texture, but the baking potatoes work well enough. After draining the potatoes, put them into a bowl and immediately stir the (diluted) mayo into them. This way the spuds absorb more flavour.

Although not easy to see in the picture above, there was enough potato salad to serve two, and enough coleslaw to serve three (or even four). It was a very generous portion of soup, and had this been blitzed more liquid would need to be added - this would then serve two. Sadly, there only enough 'matchstick chips' for one. B ate those (well, he would wouldn't he - just because I love them), but I was allowed to eat the fried peelings - and these I have to say were pretty good.

But my suggested use of the veggies needn't end there. Instead of making 'matchsticks', some of the potato could have been grated to fry as a sort of 'rosti', or half of the spud cooked and mashed then mixed with a small can of tuna (or sardines) to make fishcakes. Am sure you can all think of different ways to make the small selection go further.

Chicken or beef stock could be used instead of water when making the soup. Add a little shredded cabbage and maybe some broken bits of pasta and this would end up almost be a Minestrone. Alternatively make the already substantial 'chunky' soup, even more warming by including lentils or pearl barley.

So that was yesterday's 'thought for the day', and hope the above has been of interest, at least it explains how a few few vegetables can go further than we expect - and also in many different guises.