Thursday, August 18, 2011

Making the Best of It

Now prices are rising fast, our food budget will not stretch as far as it did. But supermarkets still give good offers, and with the Tesco email sent me overnight, see that plenty of their fresh produce is on sale for half price this week (some offers ending this Saturday, some lasting longer). Am beginning now to wish I'd waited to place my order a week later than I did. Several have been not just reduced in price, but reduced even further if you buy two. Tesco also have quite a variety of raw meats on offer as well, but pleased to see that the bulk pack of chicken breasts we bought recently from Barton Grange worked out no dearer (by weight) than the Tesco half-price breasts.
No doubt other supermarkets are also having similar offers, if not this week then next.... but don't have any details re these.

When Beloved returned yesterday lunchtime, as he stepped through the door he said "I'll have bacon and eggs for supper tonight", as which I sighed and pointed out the fish I'd been thawing for a Fish Risotto. "Oh, alright then, I'll have that" he said glumly, and went into the living room. I had a quick think, then followed him and said "It's OK, you can have bacon and eggs as you seem to prefer those, and I'll have the fish as I rarely have any because I give it all to you". Now keep rubbing it in that he is better fed than I am. His reply was "there'll be too much fish for you" (although HE would have eaten the lot as he always does ), and I said I'd make the surplus into fish cakes and freeze them.
As it happened I ate all the fish (so there!), with egg fried rice (from a microwave pack) and some sweet and sour sauce (from a small pack). I took it into the living room to eat it in front of B and he looked a bit fed up as it looked rather good. He always wants what someone else has, regardless as to whether he has eaten or not.
Cannot say I enjoyed my meal, as there was little flavour. Should have made the sauce myself from scratch. Fresh fish seems to have little flavour anyway, although do find (some) smoked haddock is flavoursome, as is and smoked mackerel. Otherwise it's canned tuna, pilchards or sardines for me. Even canned salmon I find bland. Perhaps my taste buds are not as good as they were.

So yesterday's 'use what you have' ingredients were rice and sauce from the larder. Fish from the freezer and B's bacon from the fridge, the eggs from the rack.
Made another loaf of bread as although the grainless one was not as bad as expected, its crusts needed removing before toasting as they were very hard (for our old teeth). Will probably dice some of the crumb to make croutons and blitz the rest to make breadcrumbs. Beloved now has a freshly baked white loaf to slice for his toast.

Pleased to hear you also got some salmon from the Smokehouse Eileen. Your other purchases also sounded good.

Pleased you and your OH enjoyed the blackberry and apple pudding June. If readers try the recipes given on this site, always like to hear what they think - whether good OR bad. So thanks for letting us know.
Blackberries freeze well, and thaw out much as they went in, so work freezing some as-is (no need to add sugar and if not wet they won't stick together).
More recipes using blackberries will be given today.

Was relieved to hear that your slicer worked well Sairy. When buying second-hand electrical gadgets there is always the fear that there is something wrong or missing. Although not yet done this, believe that electric slicers are also good at slicing bread.
It was very common in war-time to salt down green beans to store through the winter, but never liked the ones my mother did as - after removing them from the salt and then cooked - they seemed rather dry and did taste very salty, even though the salt had been washed away. Have since heard the same from others, but this may be because the beans were old and tough in the first place. Believe runner beans should be salted whole, not pre-sliced.
If you have room, always worth freezing the beans as soon as possible after picking - first blanching, then cooling rapidly in very cold water before draining, patting dry then freezing. Then they will keep for months and should thaw out as fresh. If intending to freeze vegetables for only a short amount of time (up to a month), then they don't need to be blanched, kept longer they then deteriorate fast. Blanching kills the enzymes that makes this happen.

A good idea of yours to add lentils to mince beef when cooking Minimiser Deb. This can really help to make it go further. Adding porridge oats also works well and cooked long enough is also undetectable, especially if a good meat stock (or stock cube) is added for the oats to soak up the meaty flavour. When making spag. bol meat sauce normally tend to finely dice carrots, onions, and celery, and saute these off in a little butter or oil before adding the meat, these 'stretch' the meat even further still and - because of the carrots - help to add a little sweetness to the 'sauce' which I feel is needed (if not using veggies, then tend to add a teaspoon of sugar to offset the acidity in the tomatoes).

Sounds as though my suggestion of 'living off what we've got in store' is rubbing off on other readers, so this is probably worth throwing out as another of my 'challenges', with the proviso that we are allowed top up our stores of 'the necessary fresh' (milk, eggs, etc) as and when needed. But it would be VERY interesting if readers who accept the challenge then see how little will need to be spent over the next month, two months or even three months. Do know that the Goode kitchen could last out until Christmas if needs be (other than replacing the 'fresh').
It was in January 2007 that a similar challenge was attempted - and the food in store lasted all of 10 weeks with some left over. This was slightly different in that a set amount of money was spent to first build up the food stores in the larder, fridge/freezer (covering all the groceries, fresh produce, meat, fish etc...), then to see how long the food would last and then - at the end - work out the cost per person per week. Believe it came to under £25 total a week to feed both Beloved, myself and any guests that had stayed with us in the meantime. Still a goodly amount by some standards, but then we did eat very good meals. Nothing frugal about them. Am sure some of the details, lists of foods bought, prices paid etc are still on this site. Worth taking a look?

With the blackberry season now upon us, here are a few more recipes to use this 'free' food. The first being a pudding that divides itself up into a sponge topping with a lemon sauce beneath covering the berries.
Bramble Lemon Pudding: serves 4
8 oz (225g) blackberries
1 oz (25g) butter
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 eggs, separated
5 fl oz (150ml) milk
1 oz (25g) plain flour, sifted
5 fl oz (150ml) whipping cream
Put the butter in a bowl with 2 tblsp of the sugar and cream together. Whisk in the lemon zest and juice.
Beat the egg yolks and milk together and heat this, a bit at a time, into the creamed mixture alternately with the flour and remaining sugar, until thoroughly mixed.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff, but still moist, then fold these into the above mixture.
Set a few of the best looking blackberries to one side, then place the rest in the bottom of a 1 pint souffle dish, then pour the creamed mixture over the berries and stand the dish in a roasting tin containing 1" of very hot water (aka 'bain Marie'). Bake at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 40 - 45 minutes or until the top is golden and set and does not leave a dent when pressed with a finger.
Serve the pudding hot with caster sugar sprinkled on top and garnished with the reserved berries, a bowl of whipped cream served separately. Or serve cold with the whipped cream piped over the top and the reserved berries scattered over.

This next recipe is an autumn version of Summer Pudding, and made with fruits that are now coming into season. Gooseberries also eat well with this, so if you have some in the freezer worth including them.
Autumn Pudding: serves 6
10 large slices wholewheat bread, crusts removed
8 oz (225g) apples (after peeling, coring and chopping)
8 oz (225g) plums, stoned and coarsely chopped
8 oz (225g) cherries, stoned
8 oz (225g) blackberries, hulled
4 oz (100ml) runny honey
1 rounded teaspoon gelatine crystals
natural yogurt (or pouring cream) for serving
Shape 8 slices of the bread to line the base and sides of a 2 pint (1.2 ltr) pudding basin.
Place the prepared fruits in a saucepan with the honey and cook over gentle heat for about 8 minutes until tender, then drain over a basin to capture the juice.
Spoon a few tablespoons of the juice over the bread to moisten it and keep it in place, then spoon the drained fruit into the basin. Sprinkle the gelatine over the remaining juice and leave for a few minutes to soften, then heat gently until dissolved, then pour this over the fruit.
Use remaining bread to cut into a lid to cover both fruit and side pieces of bread, then cover loosely with a piece of baking parchment or cling-film and weight down (it helps to keep the top flat if you cut a piece of thick card to fit just inside the basin and place the weight on top). Chill overnight or for AT LEAST 8 hours.
Serve by removing weight and covers and unmould by inverting onto a serving plate. Serve with a spoon of natural yogurt (or cream if you prefer).

You never know, we may yet have an 'Indian summer' with several more days of sunshine. Even now we still get the occasional sunny day with enough heat in it to enjoy. So worth making some fruit lollies to suck whilst soaking up the warmth. We don't have to be children to eat lollies. I love 'em.
Although this recipe uses blackberries, any soft fruits can be used.
Blackberry Lollies:
9 oz (250g) sugar
9 fl oz (250ml) water
1.2 lb (500g) ripe blackberries
2 fl oz (50ml) lemon juice
Put the sugar and water into a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, then turn up the heat and bring to a steady boil. Cook for five minutes, then remove from heat and leave to cool.
Meanwhile puree the fruit by pressing through a sieve (it can be pureed in a blender, but will still need pressing through a sieve to removed the seeds), then mix the puree with the lemon juice and sugar syrup. If you wish to make it sweeter, fold in a little sifted icing sugar. If adults prefer a sharper taste, add a little more lemon juice.
Pour the mixture into lolly moulds, sticking a lolly stick into each, then freeze until needed.

Moving on to a savoury dish, this is one that can help to 'use up' what we might have in the kitchen, and also a useful dish as it can be made up to three days in advance of eating. Maybe we have garden produce that can be included (spring onions, courgettes etc). Being a type of savoury 'omelette' (aka 'frittata') almost any vegetable can be included, either fresh or pre-cooked if necessary.
Unlike most frittatas, this one is cooked in the oven, then chilled to be eaten either as picnic food, or taken for a packed lunch OR it (or some of it) could be eaten whilst still warm from the oven as part of a main meal.
Potato, Ham and Cheese Frittata: serves 4
4 medium potatoes
4 eggs, lightly beaten
4 oz (100g) finely chopped cooked ham (or use ham scraps)
1 large tomato, finely chopped
1 onion, finely sliced
1 tblsp finely chopped fresh parsley (flat-leaf)
5 oz (150g) Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
Coarsely grate the potatoes, then put them into a clean towel and wring out to remove excess water. Place into a bowl with the beaten egg, and prepared onion, tomato, ham, parsley and half the cheese. Spread this mixture into a lightly greased 1.5 litre ovenproof dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about 40 minutes or until browned. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature then cut into squares. These can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.

Looks like being another fairly pleasant day so might take time off to scoot down to the 'village' shops to collect my prescription. Normally B does this for me, but think it is good for me to get out of the house a bit more often, especially before the cold winter weather hits us. Perhaps wise if I leave my purse at home this time.

As yet, not decided on what to cook for supper today. Having too much choice seems to make it more difficult. Maybe will make Beloved a big Prawn Cocktail - he likes those. Then make a more substantial pudding to follow, like Sticky Toffee Pud. Or shall I make a hot first course and a trifle to follow? Have to wait and see if a few minutes sit in the larder will inspire me to use up a few more of the contents within. But first Norris is calling.

Enjoy your day and hope to meet up with you again tomorrow.