Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Making It More Difficult.

Our welcome to Woozy, with group hugs from us all. Hope you continue reading this blog Woozy, and also refer to the earlier postings where many more hints and tips can be unearthed. Sad to say some of the early postings for some months are now missing, due to me 'chatting' for too long on a daily basis. Blogger seems now to limit the amount of words that fit into each month, so by the end of the month, something has to give!
The amount of cooking done in the Goode kitchen is about the same as anyone else who 'home-cooks', just enjoy chatting about food and sharing interesting recipes that have been discovered over the years. Don't make every one at the time written about, but normally have done/will do.
If there is anything you wish to know about Woozy, you have only to ask and I will endeavour to give the answer the following day. Just be aware I don't know everything, but have enough 'research' books to help me along the way.

Although your doctor's surgery is some distance from you Les, is there not a pharmacy/chemist closer to home? My 'scrips' always arrive with the repeat prescription for the next lot, and this I just give to the chemist and he fax's the surgery so the doc can confirm, and then makes the month's supply up for me. There is no need for me to go to the docs unless checks have to be made.

Regarding the Living Below the Line challenge, there was a comment from an Anonymous who said the idea was not to cost only the amount of food used (eg part of a can or packet) but have only £1 to spend per day and this has to cover the full cost of anything bought (be it packet or can or otherwise) - then make do with that.
This of course makes the challenge more difficult but still feasible, especially as the first couple of days could be really frugal, thus leaving money left over to buy more things as the week goes by.
It's far easier if we are allowed to spend £5 at the start (even better £10 for two)even though this does mean we have to limit ourselves within this amount and not trot off into the larder to add a pennyworth of flour etc to what we are making. Having to go 'shopping' each day and spend no more than a £1 each time, can seem nigh impossible, but in all honesty, it requires only a little more thought. Let's take the worse case scenario. Having nothing in the cupboard but a £1 coin and from there start filling both the shelves and our tum.
Start with the best value: buying a bag of porridge (will last longer than a week, so already the shelf is beginning to be less empty) and a cheap can of beans (half a can on toast will be enough for two lunches), buy the cheapest loaf of bread (maybe having to search for this but both supermarkets AND bakers sell 'out of date bread' REALLY cheaply), and a bag of vegetable 'bits' (our butcher/greengrocer practically give these away), and already we have enough for one bowl of breakfast porridge, and a good amount of vegetable soup (thickened with more porridge oats to make a satisfying meal eaten)with more bread), all for well under £1. Maybe enough money left to buy one banana. This means we still would have porridge oats, half a can of beans, soup and bread left over for another day, hopefully a few pennies saved and another £1 to spend the next day. Where - with thought, even more nutritional food can be bought for a £1. Let's say this is enough to buy half a dozen cheap eggs, and perhaps a pack of bacon bits,pack of chicken livers, or can of pilchards, plus some 'greens', and (hopefully) a 'free' chicken carcase (or two) from the butcher, and the meals then become even more tasty and nutritional, still within the £1 a day budget.

Perhaps this seems more simplistic than it really is, although experience has proved to me it can be done, for myself have had to live of what can be found 'for free', in the early days of marriage, when money was almost non-existent, and with three small children to feed, it was a matter of finding ways or going under.
In those days it was before supermarkets came on the scene, and the smaller stores were always very helpful when they knew money is hard to come buy. In the past was never ashamed to say that we had only a small budget, and in those days when food was sold 'cut from the block' and not so much much was pre-packed, our grocer used to save the cheese rinds and bacon scraps to give me each week, the greengrocer sold me veggies very cheaply on a Saturday that wouldn't keep over the weekend. The fishmonger sold me trimmings and fish heads 'for the cat' (only we didn't have a cat) and these made good pies and fish stock/soup.
Later, when things were easier, still was able to buy bacon scraps from the butcher, get free ham bones from the supermarket, and fish for the cat!

Even today, the old style food markets always drop prices of their fresh produce later on a Saturday afternoon, as they would rather get a few pence for odds and ends than have to throw food away. So, even without taking on the £1 a day challenge, it would help all of us if as many readers as possible would 'shop around' and see what is there for the asking (don't think of it as begging, we are all asked to try and prevent the mountain of food waste that is getting thrown away each week/day/hour/minute!). Ask YOUR butcher if he can supply customers with free (or very cheap)beef bones and chicken carcases. Can you get fish heads and fish hones from your fish monger (or even supermarket fresh fish counter)? Does a greengrocer drop some prices late on a Saturday? And what is the best day or time to find the best reductions on any 'fresh' produce in a supermarket?

Was a bit disappointed yesterday with the TV Make Do and Mend. It was the foodie bit that interested me most (naturally),and this time the chef made a couple of ladies some fish risotto in the microwave. Not sure what he was trying to prove - missed the first bit of chat, but believe said girls used to buy their fish risotto as a 'ready-meal' to be heated up in the microwave. So he showed them how easy it was to make it themselves.
At the end of the programme the three presenters showed how much money they had saved that day (one still working on fitting a DIY bathroom, the second saved quite an amount of money buying clothes and handbag from a charity shop, and the chef admitted he had saved no money, as the risotto cost the same as if bought 'ready-made', "but it was home-made, with no additives" (and myself feel the portions were larger anyway, so this has to mean 'more for your money').

Nearly came to blows with B yesterday when I asked him what time he wanted supper. It had to be either 5.30 or (grudgingly) 6.00pm. He didn't want it earlier, and there was me wanting to watch an hour long cookery prog from 5.00 - 6-00. Then I brightened and said "it's OK, I can jump it forward an hour and watch it from 6-00 to 7.00, but then that meant B would miss the news, so another glum face from my Lord and Master. In the end prepared everything - part cooking the potatoes and shredded cabbage (steaming over the spuds), cut lamb's liver into strips and tossed these in flour, part-fried rashers of bacon. Then went and saw the start of the cookery prog. Apparently one cook was making a "Morecambe Bay Paella", so as we live in Morecambe, the making of this was one not to be missed, so somehow or other managed to dash into the kitchen when the ads were on, get the meal ready and on the table while the (TV) starters were being prepared and cooked, and managed to get B's supper on the table (admittedly a bit early, at 5.18pm)and back in time to sit and watch the 'mains' prepared and cooked. The fish may have come from the Morecambe Bay area, but cannot see me getting out my fishing line and nets to catch cod, lobsters, and dredge for mussels. No mention of Morecambe Bay shrimps or cockles, which surprised me. One of the judges could find no fish in the paella in his portion, only seemed to get a plateful of rice, so that was a bit of a failure all round. At least with my own 'prep', managed to get B's meal on the supper in a very few minutes, that's one good thing about liver, it cooks very rapidly. The spuds and cabbage were still warm and when tossed in the bacon fat and 'liver scrapings' from the pans (I used two frying pans - one for bacon, one for liver)B's meal ended up both hot and very flavoursome. As had made a lot, asked B to leave some for me, and he kindly left me three tiny bits of liver, half the cabbage and a few potatoes, plus half a rasher of bacon (had cooked 8 rashers in all). But then he knows I don't eat much these days - or is he just plain greedy?)

Yesterday bought my little greenhouse. Half depth one, but adequate for my needs. Already erected and just fits across the chimney breast that sticks out into the garden, and adjacent to an outside water tap which is very useful. As it faces due west, already the sun is beginning to hit the side of the greenhouse, and by noon the sun will be angling inside, and later in the afternoon gets the full force of the sun. We had a larger (plastic) one in Leeds, and this also faced the same direction, although - due to the shadows from other houses - not always getting the full force of the sun, and in this grew some splendid tomatoes.
What we did do wrong was leave the plastic cover on all winter, and after three years this suddenly rotted, leaving tiny holes all over the top, only noticeable when I looked outside and wondered how snow could have fallen on the floor of the green house when it was covered. So now will be removing the cover each winter, and replacing again in the spring.
The greenhouse has two removable shelves on each side, and full height at the back, so will be able to grow different types of tomatoes in there. Perhaps readers who have similar greenhouses could let me know what else is worth growing in there.

The conservatory is almost bursting at the seams with the various boxes and pots full of plants grown from seeds, many already being transplanted to larger containers. Herbs sown are growing very well, and the little bay tree bought has already doubled in side due to new growth (and being put in a larger pot). This will eventually be planted in a much larger pot and left outdoors to grow until the frosts, the brought closer to the house and either protected by the back door or brought inside for the winter months.

When the grocery delivery arrived some days ago, one of my purchases was a 'Value pack of mushrooms' (750g for £1.79), these working out cheaper (weight for weight) than purchasing lesser amounts. Normally these are the bog-standard white mushrooms, sometimes in varying sizes, sometimes all much the same size, barely open and very fresh. Occasionally - as this last time - the mushrooms sent are the 'chestnuts' normally dearer as sold as such, but in the 'value' pack the same weight and price. These chestnut mushrooms are far superior to the whites and also seem to keep better in the fridge. When fried, because of the closer texture of their 'flesh', (they seem to have few gills and a lot more 'flesh' that the whites) they soak up less fat, and also taste better (and have more 'mouth appeal').
So today am giving a recipe using said mushrooms (although ordinary 'whites' could be used)and - hoping that readers keep the same ingredients in store that I do (and by now you should have a good idea of what these are) this is another dish that can be made from 'what we've already got'. Goes without saying we are free to use different fresh herbs according to what we are growing, even using a lesser amount of dried herbs if that's all we have.

Low-fat Mushrooms with Rice: serves 4
7 oz (200g) long-grain rice (pref basmati)
3 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 tblsp chopped fresh rosemary (see above)
8 oz (225g) chestnut mushrooms, quartered
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
handful of frozen peas, thawed
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
half pint (300ml) vegetable stock
Put the rice into a sieve and rinse under the cold tap, then - whilst still wet - put into a bowl with 1 tblsp of the oil, give it a stir then, cover and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the onion until softened, then add the mushrooms and chosen herb and stir-fry for a couple of moments, then add the prepared rice, peppers, tomatoes and stock. Cover and cook for about 20 or so minutes until the rice is tender, and the liquid absorbed, adding the thawed peas a couple of minutes before the end of the cooking time.
If you wish, after the initial frying of all the ingredients, they can be tipped into an ovenproof casserole, lid place on and then baked in the oven for half an hour until the rice is tender). Either way check after 15 minutes, adding a little more stock if you feel it is necessary (some rice/mushrooms absorb more liquid than others).

This next dish, although almost a meal in itself, is nevertheless a 'chunky' soup that has few main ingredients (and all storecupboard ones), the flavours coming from the spices used. I suppose ground ginger could be fried with the other spices if fresh ginger is not available, but it's not as good. Always remember that when using peas in any dish, these should always be added towards the end of the cooking time as they change colour to khaki when cooked too long. Many 'green' veggies (beans included) are best cooked for the shortest time possible if their colour is to be retained.

Spicy Chickpea Soup: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp finely grated ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tblsp garam masala or curry powder
1.5 pints (850ml) vegetable stock
2 carrots, diced
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained
4 oz (100g) string beans, chopped (or peas)
Put the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion for a few minutes until beginning to soften, then stir in the garlic, ginger and garam masala. Fry for a further two minutes to release the spicy flavours, then add the stock and carrots. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the carrots are tender, then add the chickpeas.
If you wish for a thickish soup with still some chunks left, then give the soup a quick whizz with a stick blender for a couple of minutes, or blitz half the soup in a blender or food processor before putting back into the pan. Finally stir in the beans (or peas if using), simmer for 3 minutes to allow these to cook, then serve in individual bowls with a chunk of crusty 'artisan' bread.

Final recipe today is one based on the 'ready-prepared'. Sooner or later we home-cooks have some cold meat available, and together with other 'store-cupboard ingredients' we can rustle up a dish that takes less than 15 minutes to prepare, make and serve. As ever, if needs arise, use less meat (cut into thinner strips it looks more) and use more beans. Instead of roast red bell pepper (sold in jars, but we could roast a fresh pepper on a griddle pan) we could instead use sun-dried tomatoes.
This dish is ideal to serve with salad to eat 'al fresco' when we enjoy this lovely weather over the Easter holiday.

Chilli Beef Wraps: serves 4
2 tsp light olive (or sunflower) oil
approx 12 oz(350g) cooked beef, cut into strips
1 onion (pref red) finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, deseeded and sliced
half tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground chilli powder (or cayenne pepper)
1 x 400g can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
roasted and skinned red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper8 flour tortillas, warmed
creme fraiche or sour cream
chopped fresh mint
Put the oil in a large frying pan and - cooking over medium to high heat - add the onion, green pepper, cumin and chilli powder and stir-fry for 2 - 3 minutes,then reduce heat and add the strips of cooked beef. Heat through for a couple of minutes, than add the tomatoes, beans, and roasted pepper. Once thoroughly heated through, stir in the Worcestershire sauce adding seasoning to taste.
When ready to serve, heat the tortillas as per packet instructions, stack on a plate covered with a towel to keep the tortillas both warm and prevent them drying out, serve the meat/bean mixture in a warm serving bowl, and further bowls of creme fraiche/sour cream, and chopped mint so that everyone can take a tortilla, fill with the beef/bean mix, top with a spoon of creme/cream and sprinkle over mint before wrapping up and eating in the hand.