Monday, January 31, 2011

Kitchen Disasters!

A welcome to Kitchenbunny with the added hug to go with it. The comment was re using discarded citrus peel to make candied peel. I can also be used to make an economy marmalade (recipe given some time ago now).
There are a lot of 'foodie discards' that can be used successfully, and what springs to mind are radish and beetroot leaves that can eaten and used as 'salad leaves'. The seeds from a fairly ripe red bell pepper can be sown and these than grow into plants which will provide more peppers.
The core of white cabbage can be grated and used with grated carrots, onions and some mayo to make coleslaw, and the pale green leaves attached to a bought cauliflower, plus its core and stalk ends of florets will make an excellent soup (more about this later today).
Even the little bit of egg white left in egg shells can be used as 'glue', either to seal down letters (they cannot then be steamed open), or used to stick almost anything. Brush egg white over grapes and dust them with icing sugar and they then appear 'frosted' and can be used as garnish. Or brush egg white over inside of a raw or baked-blind pastry case and it will prevent any filling oozing out of tiny cracks, and also help to prevent the base going soggy from fruit juices etc.

It is a good idea to go round the supermarkets and check out their 'reduced price' section as mentioned by Julie. Usually a wide variety of things there from loaves of bread, soft cheeses, cooked meat, dented cans and anything that has just about reached its use-by/best before date. Often feel I miss out a lot of bargains because of shopping on-line, and one day hope to go early enough to a store that has a 'scooter' that I could use, so that I can have a trawl round and find some products I really, really want. Even need.

Very pleased that you are now enjoying your jacket potatoes Julie. Did order two varieties with my recent order, one name now forgotten but it said 'baking potatoes on the bag', the other was King Edward's. Am pretty sure these both were the names given to you. I baked one of each (in the microwave) to give them a taste/try and they both had great texture, but think the King Ed had a better flavour.

Am surprised that Toronto only has one large supermarket Margie. Although it is mainly on the outskirts of town they build these large stores, probably due to needing plenty of parking space. Admittedly some are in large towns, but generally there is always plenty of competition . It always surprises me how a store can suddenly spring up in an area where there are others not too far away, and managed to get enough customers to make loads of profit. Where do these new customers come from? Probably other stores lose a goodly number, but even then all still seem to make a profit.
In Morecambe (admittedly not the largest of towns but it does have rambling suburbs) we have a big Morrisons, Tesco, an Asda, Lidl, Aldi, and a huge new Sainsburys just opened. Smaller Spar, Tesco Express, Co-0p and Booth's dotted around the place. All these only a few miles away from Lancaster who have the same plus others including M & S. Carnforth (only a short drive away) have even larger Tesco and Booth's. Am wondering why Waitrose and/Orcado haven't yet moved in on us.

There is a move to get rid of the 'use-by' dates due to the fact that most people bin the dated foods even when they are still perfectly safe to eat. As you say Tricia, the date is only a guide. I myself have had yogurts that have 'blown' (tops ballooning up) and had to be thrown away - still well within its 'use-by' date. Chefs now suggest opening packs and do a 'sniff and taste' check before deciding whether an out of date item cannot be used.
We keep our fridge at no higher than 4C which seems to keep food in good condition for much longer than the 'use-by' date, and we have to remember that these dates allow for people who bring home shopping on hot days, often in the back of the car for an hour or more, then left on the kitchen table before being put in the fridge. If a coo box/bag can be kept in the car, and chilled products put into it, then these immediately place in the fridge as soon as they have been taken home, this usually gives them a longer shelf-life than stated. But don't quote me on this. It's just experience seems to have proved this to me. Always use your own judgment.

Hardly ever do we check the dates on products in our fridge. If we do it is usually cream (bought regularly for B) but while he was away there was an unopened tub that was not used, but a couple or three weeks after its date it was still 'fresh'. A lot of products only start to go 'off' once opened - even within the date given, so this is where we do need to be extra vigilant.

Suddenly realised - when setting the February challenge - that it is not as easy as first thought. Easy enough if we count the money saved when we buy 'offers', but those of us who do this regularly (and have a larder full of them), have to think of other ways to save money above and beyond that. Myself am finding it very difficult and just about everything cooked/baked etc will have been cost-cut as this is normal practice for me.
Perhaps the best way is to live of what has been bought and make it last much longer. So instead of sending in an order again in four or five weeks time, will aim to exist another four weeks without buying anything other than 'the necessary' (milk, eggs and maybe bread etc). Having already set my budget at £125 for a month, what is left over after the 'necessaries' have been bought will be my profit.

But even this will not stop me explaining from day to day the savings that have been made in the Goode kitchen (and other rooms in the house) above and beyond the call of duty. Other cooks may not bother to do these, but every hint and tip could mean more pennies in the piggy.
Yesterday was planning a marathon cook-in, but it didn't go according to plan although the morning was fairly successful in that I brought out the bag of cauliflower leave, cores and broken bits of florets, shredded the lot in the food processor, then added them to 15 fl oz UHT milk (this incidentally a few weeks past its b.b. date, so no doubt would have been binned by someone else, but as it was still but perfectly OK I used it). After simmering until softened, this then put back into the (unwashed as no need to) food processor bowl and given a blitz, this time with the blade, where it then made a thick puree. This poured into a bowl, hot water put into the processor bowl with a blitz to 'clean it', the resulting liquid then added to the soup (and a final rinse of the bowl and attachments in the kitchen sink in the normal way).
With seasoning added and a final stir, this then made enough for four good servings (the equivalent of 4 x cuppa soup sachets & 15p each (offer price) = 60p. This was poured into containers and room found in the freezer for it. As well as soup, it could be thickened with instant potato to make a 'cauli and potato' topping for a Cottage pie, or even potato cakes (and the like).

Decided that morning to also bake some oat and apricot biscuits that had been found in the fridge (the mixture made before B's trip, half of this cooked, the rest rolled up and wrapped tightly in foil to keep chilled). This sliced into 15 biscuits and these were cooked in the oven (approx 160C) for about 15 minutes. At the same time cooked an apple and blackberry crumble, using most of the remaining apples from our tree, and the last of the blackberries in the freezer.
The biscuits were very floppy when taken out of the oven, and then rock hard when left to cool on the tray, but as this happened the previous time, and they softened when left overnight in the kitchen, am hoping this will occur this time. Really hard biscuits should never be binned as almost certainly they will soften if left 'out'. One of the reasons why recipes always say that biscuits (and the like) should be stored in airtight tins so they don't soften.

The crumble hadn't begun to brown, so as I desperately needed a sit down turned the oven off and decided to finish it off later. But then the afternoon turned out to be a DISASTER in the making. Firstly I still did not feel at all well, and am sure I would be having the flu if the flu jab hadn't prevented a full blown attack. My chesty cough was getting worse and I felt mega-tired. Anyway had to rouse myself to get B's supper as liver and bacon was requested. The liver had been ordered from Tesco (89p vacuum pack) and once opened, found 6 large pieces and several small strips, so froze the large slices in 3's, enough for two meals, and decided to use the strips for supper than night. This worked out at 30p of liver per serving, which is about the least expensive and probably the most nutritious meat there is.

First put the grill on to brown the crumble (this still in in oven sitting under the grill) then put some potatoes on to boil, cutting them into chunks so they would take less time to cook. Went to the fridge to bring out the white cabbage that B always has with liver, but it was under a pile of other veggies (cauli, parsnips, salad potatoes, lettuce, etc, etc, etc, and even when was able to reach it, found it a large white (as yet unused) cabbage that my hand could not fit round. Decided to give B peas instead.
White cabbage keeps so well in the fridge (reason why I bought a whole one instead of a portion), and weeks, even months later is 'usable'. And so cheap.

Got out some frozen peas, put them in a container and into the microwave to heat later, then portioned out the liver, packed away the 2 packs, then floured the strips. Four rashers of bacon put on to fry, the liver added later. Suddenly realised there was a smell of burning. Thought it was something stuck to the base of the frying pan, but it turned out to be the crumble that had been forgotten about. Taken from the oven this had a topping as black as could be. Fortunately, after a little cooling this top layer was easily lifted off - luckily there was a lot of crumble, so enough left to still make it as it should be. I apologised to B, asking him to think of any burnt bits remaining as 'caramelised' (it was probably the sugar sprinkled on top that had caramelised anyway), and if he poured on loads of cream it should taste OK. After eating it later he said it was fine, but probably didn't dare tell me if it wasn't.

Meanwhile went back to the frying pan. Drained the potatoes - and having prepared too many as some were for me - added half to the pan of liver and bacon to become coated in the bacon fats. B strolled into the kitchen and I asked him to serve up his own supper, the microwave having just 'pinged' to say the peas were ready, then scampered back to my chair to cosy up in my cuddle quilt and another that Gill had given me, took a paracetamol and settled down for the evening and a nap or three.

Couldn't face making myself the 'Red Flannel Hash' that I had planned for my own supper (diced cold potatoes, beetroot, and corned beef fried with probably onion) as I had completely lost my appetite, so put the makings back into the fridge and later eased my throat by eating several clementines. Had to eat something as had to take my diabetic pills.

So - all in all - not a bad day for money saving as the cauliflower soup cost little to make, the biscuits were 'left-over' biscuit dough, the apples and blackberry crumble made from 'free fruits', and the liver itself a real 'cheapie'. Even the 'new' potatoes (bought prior to Christmas and stored in the fridge) were 'on offer' as were the frozen peas and - now I come to think of it - the bacon too. So how can I work out all the savings made on that? Difficult - so you see why it works best FOR ME if I just make my purchases last as long as possible then work out the savings after that. This could mean waiting until my next order - which could be late March or even later still.

In the meantime will still be telling you about economies made each day, even though dishes will be made from foods already bought because if on offer then, may still be on offer now. Plans today include making a litre of ice-cream for B , and this will be a genuine saving because B normally brings himself tubs of the ice-cream from the supermarket (even if they are not on my shopping list).

Now - a query recently about using Barley meal/flour. My reference book states: "Barley flour is a fine sweet flour that adds a distinctive taste to bread and biscuits". As barley does not contain gluten it cannot on its own be used to make bread unless mixed with strong white flour. It is often used to make porridge - in the same way as oats, and also barley (griddle) cakes (recipe below). Barley flour can also be used to thicken sauces and soups.

Hear is a recipe for traditional Scottish Barley Bannocks. Not having made these, am uncertain as how they turn out or even taste. This recipe has no sugar, and with the fairly high percentage of raising agent feel they might end up more like bread buns. If you have the barley meal, then worth having a go. If a reader has already made these, then please let us know exactly what to expect.

Barley Bannocks:
1 teacup barley meal
1 level teaspoon salt
1 rounded teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teacup plain flour
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
approx 1 teacup of milk
Sift together all the dry ingredients, then stir in enough milk to make a fairly soft dough. Divide into three or four pieces, knead and roll out each to about half an inch thick. Place on a hot griddle (or use a large heavy frying pan) and bake for a minute or two until brown on the underside. Turn and bake on the other side, opening up the edge a little to see if the bannock is cooked through.

Having poked my nose into my reference book to find out about barley, was agreeably surprise to also find details and photos of other grains - 34 shown, and this not the complete 'range'. Many of these can be substituted in place of another, so we should not always stick to the ones we are used to. Obviously we don't wish to spend money of a product we don't use often, but if we do have semolina for instance, as well as using for puddings, it makes roast potatoes very crispy if they are tossed in this before adding to the hot fat and roasting on. Great cakes can be made using semolina, and myself have even made 'polenta' using it.

An alternative to cous cous is bulgar wheat - made in much the same way, and pearl barley can be used to make a risotto instead of using rice. Practically all the gluten free flours can be used to make bread and cakes just as long as mixed with a flour higher in gluten, but = even having said that - there are plenty of recipe for gluten free cakes and biscuits made with gluten-free flour. Where the gluten is not so necessary, the flours could be used on their own - perhaps making pancakes.
Always best to use a recipe when dealing with gluten-free flours, but there is nothing to stop anyone experimenting as long as they can find a way to use failures - otherwise it can get a bit expensive, and that is something this site tries to avoid.

So far am feeling a bit better, so will take the opportunity to go into the kitchen and at least prepare the necessary for supper, and maybe even cook it this morning to reheat later this afternoon (but only if B desires chilli con carne for instance). If B will have returned from the gym in time to watch Jamie O today, he should then be able to see how to cook salmon, as we have several 'servings' of this still in the freezer, so might just let him follow instructions and cook his own meal tomorrow.

As expected the massive number of hits that happened recently has now gone back to a reasonable number, many more than previously, but in the hundreds, not in the thousands. Perhaps just as well, for if many then sent in comments, I could spend hours just replying to them all. Not that this should put off anyone sending in a message - the more the merrier. So keep those comments coming.

Tomorrow it will be February, so hope we have all girded our loins and ready to do battle in our kitchens, putting padlocks on our purses and wielding our wooden spoons. The only beating done will not be the beating of retreat but the beating of eggs and the like. Together we march through a month of deliberate savings waving our banners (a sheet of kitchen paper?) and by the end we should all find more than we hoped for deposited in our piggy banks, and have gained a real sense of achievement. If only I could dish out medals!

As ever, join me again tomorrow to find out more of the cost-cutting Goode life. See you then.