Saturday, September 03, 2011

£££-£--£---£ Stretching

Took a look at your website Sue15cat and just loved your photos and 'chat'. Your chest freezer looked about the size of our old one, and your smaller freezer looks the same as our new one. Your fridge holds different things to mine, and (just for interest) in total your stores are probably about the same as mine (give or take a shelf of things I don't know what to do with) and the amount- feeding two - I estimate could last about at least 6 months (longer if you still have plenty in the chest freezer). This without taking into account the fresh produce that is home-grown and so reasonably continuous. As probably eggs would be.

Have just had a flash of inspiration on how to work out how long food will last, and I'm pretty sure if we counted each of our stored 'edibles' (not sauces etc) by their 'containers' (working on approx 500g packets/cans/bottles), then to this total added the 'fresh' produce: eggs counted singly, milk by the half-pint, meat, fish, cheese by the 4 oz (100g), carrots, onions, beetroot, and other 'roots' singly, 'greens' by the quarter pound etc. Together the total will come to a big number, and when multiplied by three believe this could give the number of good meals (to feed two) that could be made. How long the food would last obviously depends upon the total amount of food we have at any one time. We can extend this if we have can use reconstituted dried milk, and making more flour-based products (pasta, pancakes, pastry et al. Also cutting down the amount we eat (but still eating enough nourishment) we could probably make it all go twice as far (as our mothers did in war-time).
Actually am thrilled to bits I've just worked this out (although whether it would work I have yet to find out), but any new way to stretch the pounds is worth trying.

Wish my blog was as attractive as all the others I've taken a peek at in the past. KNOW I should put more photos on this site (so why don't I? You tell me). Maybe my fresh scones baked yesterday should have been shown. But - as ever when I want things to go right - they were a bit of a disaster in that they hardly rose at all. More like spread. Yet I had used the correct ingredients, even adding a little more raising agent to give them a better lift. But they did taste good. Instead of serving them with whipped cream, decided to serve them spread with strawberry jam topped with a spoon of thick EasyYo 'strawberries and cream' yogurt. Worked well.
If any one knows how to make 'professional looking' scones that are tall with flat tops, then PLEASE tell me how to do it.

A Chinese take-away was suggested (by me) for supper yesterday. B agreed, we chose the meal then he nodded off in the chair, waking at the right time, then went into the kitchen (to the car to buy the meal?) and the next thing was I could smell bacon cooking. B was making himself some egg and bacon sarnies, which he brought into the living room to eat. I looked hard at him. "What are you going to eat?" He asked. "Chinese?" was my reply. "Oh yeah, sorry, forgot". So I ended up getting myself baked beans and a jacket potato (having read that these are a good source of fibre). Perhaps Chinese tonight? If he can remember.

Anyway, had a good coffee morning with our neighbour. She and husband are still on for the curry meal we had planned, but this will now have to be October due to neighbour's commitments. If you are reading this Eileen will be contacting you when the date has been set. But nothing stopping you coming round for a coffee in the meantime (not next week as will be busy with visiting family). It would be good to have a chat.

Regarding freezing cakes Urbanfarmgirl. Most plain cakes freeze well, sponge cakes being the one type that can be re-frozen after thawing (as long as they have no filling). Useful cakes to make in advance (to save time later) are the gingerbread, flapjacks, and fruit cakes. Wrapped in parchment then foil, these can keep for a good couple of weeks, and the richer the cake the longer they keep.
Many biscuit doughs can also be frozen uncooked. Ideally, roll the dough into a thick sausage, then freeze to later slice into rings which can then be baked.

Thanks also to gillibob and Frugal Queen for their comments. With the 'gluts' of apples/plum/damsons at the moment, the more we can find ways to use them the better. Myself would halve and stone the plums, and then freeze to use later. Apples can be peeled and cored, the hole in the middle stuffed with fruit/sugar (or mincemeat, then wrapped in shortcrust. Open freeze, bag up and then they can be baked later as 'apple dumplings'. Sliced apples can also be frozen to use later for pies/crumbles. Apple rings can be dried in a very low oven to be eaten as 'nibbled' or added to muesli etc.

We return to pound-stretching. Just how far can we make our stores go? Certainly we can use less minced beef by adding grated carrots, a handful of porridge oats or red lentils without anyone really noticing. All meat casseroles and stews can be made with less meat than a recipe states, just making up the shortfall by using more of the veggies.

Instead of rice with a savoury dish (either in the dish or as a side dish) we could instead use a different and cheaper grain. Couscous, bulgar wheat, quinoa are all good 'substitutes' for rice, with pearl barley being one of the cheapest. Or we might prefer to serve pasta instead of rice.
If rice it has to be (with curries etc), then make less but bulk it up by adding frozen peas, flaked almonds etc.

Almost certainly have given this (or similar recipe) before, but it is worth repeating as an example of how even 'posh nosh' can work out cheaper than a 'normal' dish, and considering it can serve up to eight people and nourishing with it for barely more than £2 (or less depending upon your choice of filling, this is my idea of a really good 'pound stretcher'.

Although this recipe uses smoked salmon trimmings, canned salmon or tuna, or left-over cold flaked fish could be used instead. Even a 'fish paste' (such as crab paste) could be blended into the cream cheese. Chopped cooked ham would make a good filling (maybe with a little mustard). Extra flavour could be added with herbs or capers either in the filling or in the 'roulade' itself. As usual have worked out the costings using the lowest price for the ingredients shown (10 per egg etc), if you haven't Parmesan, finely grate some very dried up ends of mature Cheddar etc (works just as well and can taste even better. If you haven't dill, use fennel or instead add a little more parsley and the grated zest of a small lemon. If not creme fraiche use 4 oz cream cheese into which you've beaten 1 oz of cream, yogurt or milk to slacken it slightly. As ever, use this recipe as a guide to make best use of what you have.
Smoked Salmon Roulade: serves 6 - 8
1 oz (25g) butter
1 oz (25g) plain flour
6 fl oz (175ml warm milk
3 large eggs, separated
2 oz (50g) grated Parmesan cheese
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
4 tblsp chopped fresh dill (see above)
salt and pepper
4 oz (100g) smoked salmon trimmings, chopped
5 fl oz (150ml) cream fraiche (see above)
Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the flour. Cook over low heat for one minute, then gradually add the milk, constantly beating or whisking until it boils/thickens, then simmer for two more minutes. Remove from heat and beat in the egg yolks, two-thirds of the grated cheese, the parsley and half the dill. Add seasoning to taste.
Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks, then gently fold this into the yolk mixture. Pour into a greased and lined Swiss roll tin (13" x 11/33 x 28cm) and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 12 - 15 minutes, then turn out onto a sheet of parchment that has been sprinkled with the remaining grated cheese, leave on the base paper (now on top)and allow to cool.
Mix the smoked salmon with the creme fraiche and the remaining dill, adding seasoning to taste. Peel off the
base (now top) paper from the 'cake', spread the filling over the surface and roll up. Wrap in parchment/foil to keep together, then chill in the fridge to allow the filling to firm up.
To serve, unwrap, sprinkle the top with the rest of the Parmesan and serve with a simple green salad.

Here is perhaps a more 'satisfying' dish, again a 'cheapo' as it makes use of the outer leaves of cabbage (pref Savoy) that might normally be discarded. If you make your own chicken stock, then all to the good, otherwise use vegetable stock. The egg adds protein and the storecupboard/herbs the added flavours. As you can vary the vegetables according to what you have, and also add noodles (like the 10p per pack sold at Tesco) or instead some canned chickpeas/beans we can then turn it into a 'complete meal', content with knowing we can still make a good and tasty meal with what costs very little.
Carrot and Cabbage Soup: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 egg, beaten
1.5 pints (900ml) chicken or vegetable stock
2 large carrots, finely diced
4 outer leaves from a (Savoy) cabbage, finely shredded
2 tblsp soy sauce
half teaspoon sugar
half teaspoon ground black pepper (or to taste)
fresh coriander or flat-leaf parsley leaves for garnish
Heat the oil in an omelette pan, then pour in the egg and swirl the pan so the egg evenly covers the base. Cook over medium heat until the top has set and the underside golden (no need to flip over). Slice onto a plate and roll up into a sausage. Slice across into narrow strips (approx 1/4"/5mm) and set aside.
Put the stock, carrots and cabbage into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for five minutes, (if adding noodles or canned beans etc add these according to how long they need to cook/heat through). Add the soy sauce and sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar and flavour the stock, then pour into individual warmed bowls and scatter the omelette 'ribbons' on top. Garnish with the herbs.

Final recipe today again uses cabbage. Why? Probably because this does seem to be what we often grow ourselves and so need to find a use for. Although we don't grow cabbages, a large firm white cabbage bought from the supermarket keeps well in the fridge and goes a long way (as a veg, in coleslaw etc) and to my mind tastes just as good as the green ones. If you don't grow potatoes, then maybe have a few bought ones beginning to sprout that need using up (use 'floury' spuds such as King Edwards, Maris Piper etc as these will help to thicken the soup). No waste in the Goode kitchen so expect no waste in yours.
The original recipe used 6 cloves garlic, but have suggested a lesser amount as some garlic is stronger in flavour than another, and not everyone likes to eat so much at any one time (although garlic is a 'super-food'), so the amount you wish I leave up to you. Caraway seeds are not often used these days, but always worth keeping in the spice rack as the flavour goes so well with cabbage. With a slightly 'aniseed' taste, they can be ground up and added to fish dishes in place of dill/fennel. Older readers will have fond memories of 'Seed Cake' also made with caraway seeds.
Cabbage, Caraway and Potato Soup: serves 4
2 tblsp olive oil
1 large onion, halved and sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed (see above)
12 oz (350g) shredded green cabbage
4 potatoes, unpeeled
2 pints (1.2 ltrs) cold water
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp salt
Pour the oil into a large pan and - over medium heat - fry the onion until softened. Stir in the garlic and cabbage, reduce heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time to prevent contents sticking/burning.
Add the water, potatoes, caraway seeds, and salt. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 -30 minutes or until all the vegetables are cooked. Remove from heat, cool slightly, then blitz in a food processor/blender or run through a sieve if you wish for a finer puree. Reheat and serve hot.

Beloved is out sailing today and tomorrow goes to Yeadon (nr Leeds) to visit his former sailing club where he will meet up with his old 'buddies', so will have almost the weekend to myself. Plan is to read this weeks edition of the trade mag (which has just arrived - and will report back useful info tomorrow), and do some baking (probably of the fruit cake, gingerbread variety - or any that will keep ready for our visitors). B has agreed Chinese tonight, and tomorrow he will almost certainly stop for a meal on his return home, so that's two days without having to prepare a meal for him. Bliss.

Our gas and electricity meters were read yesterday (previous time was estimated because B had forgotten to put new batteries in the doorbell - and still has not done it so just as well I saw the meter man walking past the window. Then when we get the bills perhaps I'll get a good idea of how much will have to be paid now that the fuel costs have risen. This will be estimated over the amounts used during the last 12 months, and the cost spread evenly over the year by a monthly D.D payment.

Enjoy your weekend and hope the weather still holds out (not too bad here at the moment). Hope to meet up with you again tomorrow.