Friday, October 29, 2010

The Name of the Game

We should never be ashamed or even sorry about having little money to spend, and having to cope, (seemingly) worse off than our neighbours. For we are the lucky ones, you'd better believe it. How much fun we can have 'making do', and proving we can put better meals on the table than those who can afford 'better'. What is better than home-cooked? You tell me.

Another thing that comes with being self-sufficient. That is generosity. We make things, grow things, cook things, and -when we can - give some of it away. By doing this, we tend to be given other things in return, and slowly build up a 'bartering' system that helps to give more variety to our meals (and other parts of our life).

Before I start my 'chat', am putting up a recipe for Bonfire Toffee - this is easy to make and could be handed out to those Trick and Treaters this weekend, as well as on Guy Fawkes Night. As the caramel is very hot, and the mixture fizzes up rapidly once the bicarb has been added, keep children at a distance when making, and work at speed.

Bonfire Toffee:

3 oz (75g) caster sugar

2 tblsp golden syrup

1 oz (25g) bicarbonate of soda, sifted

Oil a shallow baking sheet (Swiss roll tin etc) and set aside.

Put the sugar and syrup into a heavy pan over low heat, and stir until all the sugar has dissolved (no grains can be felt when the spoon touches the base). Then raise the heat and boil for 2 - 3 minutes until a golden caramel colour.

Remove from heat and stir in the bicarbonate of soda, immediately pouring it into the prepared tin as it rises up the pan (it will continue to rise as it spreads out). Leave it to set and get cold, then break it up into large lumps.

Yesterday decided to make Jamie's Macaroni and Cauliflower Cheese for B's supper. Although more my version than Jamie's.

As there was only one small cauliflower in the fridge, decided to cut this in half and with the pasta thought this would be enough for Beloved, so put a pan of salted water on to boil, poured in some pasta penne (having no macaroni), the type of penne that takes 12 minutes to cook (not my normal quick cook) - this being the same time needed to cook the chunks of cauliflower that were also put into the same pan.

While the above were cooking, fried three small rashers of streaky bacon, then blitzed up the crust from the end of a loaf (saved), this I had buttered before blitzing, adding the crispy bacon. When blitzed added a handful of grated Red Leicester cheese.

Whereas Jamie had stirred creme fraiche into his cooked and drained pasta/cauliflower, myself - after mashing the cauli into the pasta - folded in half a pint of thick cheese sauce, made from a packet of Cheese Sauce Mix - just because I had a couple of these packs in the larder. However - made this sauce with half milk and half liquid from the pasta pan (this now flavoured with cauli and so 5 fl oz of milk saved), and also threw in a good handful of grated Gruyere cheese (that also needed using up).

Poured this medley into a greased ceramic dish (approx 8"/20cm long, about 5" wide and quite deep) which it filled.

Tipped the crumb/bacon/cheese mix over the top, and popped it into the oven at 180C to crisp up the 'crumble'.

The picture above shows what it was like before it was baked. The dark bits are the bacon, the reddish bits the cheese, the rest are the crumbs. You can see it made a lot more than I expected, and enough for both of us.

Have to say it lacked a certain something. Did Jamie put in something I missed? Mustard perhaps. Or was it that he served a salad with it (I didn't). Think some chopped Peppadew would have improved the filling, or maybe some tartare sauce folded in instead of the cheese sauce. As it was, it was still good, but room for improvement.