Wednesday, November 09, 2011

It Doesn't Have to Cost a Lot

No problems so far with the BT line, so fingers crossed.... Thanks for all the comments. Did have some very recently with no name not even an 'anonymous', so couldn't really give a reply. It doesn't matter what name is chosen when sending a comment as long as it is always the same as makes it easier for me to give a reply - which I feel is always important, because each reader who writes in (and also others that don't - YET!), are always a 'real person' to me, and my reply is specially for them, but of course available to be read by others.

Do agree with you Moriko, a really delicious soup can be made from a just a few basic vegetables and stock. Have mentioned several times in the past about the 'Holy Trinity' of veg: carrots, onions, and celery (when diced and cooked sometimes called 'sofrito' - used in many Italian dishes). Myself make an excellent soup (at least I like to think so) by using the 'magic three' cooked in home-made chicken stock, alone this is great, but even better if diced parsnips and potatoes are included, and even more substantial if a handful of pearl barley is thrown in to cook with the veg. Sometimes use the same vegetables but using beef stock and red lentils instead of pearl barley. Have also made a true veggie soup using vegetable stock - but tend to use the Marigold vegetable stock granules (Delia Smith swears by it), which helps to add plenty more flavour. A pinch of salt helps to bring out flavour of vegetables, and I also like to add plenty of black pepper - just because I like pepper!

Do tell us how you made your own washing powder gillibob. If it works out cheaper (and washes as clean) no reason why we all shouldn't have a go. Myself did discover something interesting recently when our washing machine 'stuck' on the first cycle. This begins by just adding a little water, then tumbles the washing around before the second cycle which adds more water, and repeating. Because it stuck I just turned the dial round to 'drain' then 'rinse' then 'spin' and as this worked didn't think any more about it. The washing was clean but a bit 'harsh' (obviously not enough of the soap powder rinsed away). Now we've sprayed the dial with WD40, it works properly again - still sticks on the first cycle, but if I move it on just one 'notch' it then carries on through the full cycle, sticking only on 'spin' which is quite good because this extra minute I give it gets rid of even more water.
Point I'm making is that it doesn't seem to need THAT much water to get clothes clean, so conversely using less detergent and more water should also do the trick.

In the past used to use loose washing powder rather than 'tablets', and the powder was always put in the drawer whereas I throw the tablets into with the washing. After 20 or so years, the pipes from the drawer are a bit 'gunged' up, and impossible for me to clean, so not all the powder gets used. On the other hand - if the washing is still clean when it comes out - then I'm obviously using too much detergent. We should all try using less, and - if this works - the next time use even less.
Not sure whether they still sell these, but Lakeland sell something that you put in with your washing (a container full of balls) that can be used instead of detergent to clean clothes. Can be used MANY times before it needs 'refreshing'. Certainly cheaper than the powder, and think I'll get one and see if it works - can always add a teaspoon of power to the laundry if I feel it won't.

Thanks also gillibob for letting us know about the Approved Foods offer on soups (and giving us the link). This is a great site where we can buy all sorts of foods at huge discount prices. Problem is the delivery charge is highish, so a fair amount (can be assorted) needs to be ordered otherwise the savings are not as good as they could be (or even very little saving at all).

Storing a surplus of food is never easy in small kitchens. But like most things - does everything culinary HAVE to be in the kitchen? Myself have stored canned and bottled food (and some packet foods) either in boxes under the bed (or in drawers that fit under beds), and in boxes in wardrobes and in cupboards and drawers in any room in the house (but remember where you have put things).

Our large chest freezer had to be removed from our kitchen to the (fortunately large) hall when we filmed The Goode Kitchen in the 80's, and because it was so big and needed umpteen people to move it, it stayed there for the next 20 years. A bread-maker can be used in any room in the house, and so can a slow-cooker (as can a toaster, electric kettle, and other moveable appliances'). We tend to place things where they are most convenient, but it isn't always necessary when we haven't much kitchen space, and there are always ways to cope if we start thinking 'outside the box'.

It crossed my mind yesterday Campfire that we women often make not rods for our own back, but also for others when it comes to rearing our sons. Have myself found I tend (as I still do) to want to please my son and give him the food he wants, and prepared to wait on him hand and foot when he visits. Think a lot of this comes more from the feeling that mothers just KNOW their daughters can cope (for they are women after all, and all women can cope), but men (who never seem to grow up) are more 'helpless' and mothers often have the feeling they need to be nurtured and given helping hands (believe me this feeling can last all life). So boys grow up being 'waited on' (washing, ironing and cooking done for them), and however old they become they still expect this to continue.

Perhaps nowadays many young men - because of moving away from home and living with other youngsters (something not done in my day - most stayed at home until married) do tend to 'learn' how to fend for themselves, but even then probably used launderettes and eat the 'readies' rather than learn to cook properly. So many still are pretty much 'helpless' when it comes to eventually living with a wife/partner.
Not ALL men are like that of course, some are really good cooks and if both are working, even often happy to cook when they return home. Could myself never understand why my hairdresser (in Leeds) who was on his feet ALL day from 8.30am until 6.00pm (and some evenings worked even later) told me he always found it was very 'relaxing' to go home and cook the evening meal, although from what he said, he was morel likely to speed-cook steaks and fish, (he could afford to) and throw a salad together - and this is not what I would call 'real' cooking. Expect he had a dishwasher as well. And all the gadgets. And a bit kitchen.

The hairdresser's second wife (he too had a hugely expensive first wedding at a local castle plus a honeymoon of a safari in Africa followed by a week in the Maldives - or was it Seychelles? - then got divorced within two years!!!). Whether he is still married to the second wife I don't now know, but she was also a hairdresser and after the birth of their child she wanted to go back to work after it was a month old, and from then on it was send the babe to an expensive 'creche' (or whatever it is called) each day of the week. Cost about £250 a week to pay for this, which was far more than the wife earned. But then she wanted to keep working. This is how it is today. Has to be said that in many cases far too much money is being spent than is being earned. An no-ones fault but our own.

Myself love working - although during my married life this has either been working from home (making crafts) or (occasionally) the more 'exciting' such as TV, radio, food stylist - but all to do with cookery, and none kept me away from home for more than a day or two at any one time. But it was tiring, and although it certainly made me feel 'independent', not sure this really worked for me as it clashed with my 'duties' as a wife, and chores still needed to be done, and meals cooked for my Beloved, and it wasn't easy switching from being a 'celeb' back to a 'skivvy' in the blink of an eye.

Things now seem to be just perfect regarding work (albeit unpaid) as am able to start the day writing my blog as a 'person in my own right', but then switch off the computer and toddle off to the kitchen and become 'the wife and handmaiden' again.

As I sat under the dryer yesterday, decided to read a book - this being "Progress and Poverty' by Henry George. Have to say most of it was above my head - much dealing with land being the cause (and control) of wealth, and far too much about politics, but there was a section in the book about the standard of living, and how - during a depression - people will strive to cut back, but by doing so then begins a lower standard of living which the fat cats (this is my interpretation of the chapter) then decide we can manage with after all so begin to build up their empires again without giving their workers any more money "because they have learned to cope without it". Seems it is a bad idea even to consider lowing our standards and we should not 'teach' people how to cope when adversity strikes for this very reason. That has put me in my place hasn't it? Should I now stop explaining 'how to'?

Towards the end of the book it does read as though a communist 'state' it the only way for everyone to live contentedly- all then being equal (but as ever suppose there will always be some that are more equal than others), although there is some sense in this way of life if we can get our heads round the word 'communism' which - I suppose - means that all people live as though in a 'commune' - each doing their job but also helping others along the way. But could it ever be like this? Doubt it very much.

Myself like to believe the only way to get a message across is by example, for when people can see that living on the bread-line works, they are more likely to try doing the same, and perhaps realise that money is not the be all and end all. We should start enjoying life more, making the most of what Nature provides for free (and I don't mean just the edibles, am thinking of the beauty of bluebell woods and the poppy fields and little lambs gambolling in the fields.

Every so often I read someones (usually anonymous) wise words, and the other day read the following that hits a spot with me:
"...when things are tough, remember that every flower that ever bloomed had to go through a whole lot of dirt to get there"
"The best things in life aren't things".
"The head thinks, the hands labour, the heart laughs".

Well, don't know about you, but the above has given me food for thougt. Time now to offer a few more cheap 'n easy recipes.

The first dish is made using 'thick' noodles - usually sold under than name of 'straight to wok' or 'udon' noodles. No reason why thinner noodles could not be used, the effect/presentation of the dish would not be quite as good, but when eat eat anything it all ends up chewed doesn't it?
Pak choi is the chosen veg, but Chinese leaves would work just as well or the ribs and leaves of Swiss Chard. or even broccoli plus its 'ribs'. The 'ribs' of many vegetables we tend to discard and use only the leafy bits or florets, but these are just as tasty (often more so) and can be split (if necessary) and cooked, although they probably will take a bit longer to cook to tender than the leafy bits.
Being this is basically a 'stir-fry' to be eaten as a supper dish as-is, we can extend it to make another portion by adding more vegetables or throwing in some cooked prawns or shredded cooked chicken. As an added extra serve this basic version with prawn crackers and/or prawn toasts.
Fat Noodles with Greens: serves 4
1 teaspoon runny honey
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons soy sauce (more if you wish)
7 oz (200g) mushrooms (pref chestnut). sliced
salt and pepper
1 x 300g pack thick noodles (see above)
7 oz (200g) Pak choi (see above), sliced
Dry-heat a wok or large frying pan, then add the honey, mustard and soy sauce and cook/stir for a couple of minutes. Add the mushrooms and seasoning to taste. Stir-fry until the mushrooms are tender, then add the noodles and cook for 2 - 3 minutes, stirring to keep them separate. Finally add the pak choi and continue stir frying until the leaves are wilted. Serve immediately.

Quite often we chill then open and slice part of a can of corned beef, then use up the surplus a day or two later to make sarnies. Or we could freeze the excess to use MUCH later. Freezing tends to be the best way if wishing to save money (sarnies can be made with other things than corned beef).
One of the simplest recipes to make is corned beef hash. Although the basic recipe below uses a whole can of corned beef, no reason why we shouldn't use half a can (or even less), and make up the shortfall with diced beetroot - this dish then being called 'Red Flannel Hash'. Serve the 'hash' topped with a fried or poached egg (per serving) and we then have no qualms about being mean with the corned beef. After all we've provided the protein in just another form, haven't we?
Because the potatoes are part-cooked before being added to the pan, when time is short this is a good dish to make using canned new potatoes. Or part-cook jacket potatoes in the microwave in advance then remove peel and slice the flesh when ready to use.
Corned Beef Hash: serves 4
4 large potatoes part-cooked and cubed (see above)
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, diced
1 red pepper (opt) seeded and diced
1 x 340g can corned beef (see above), cubed
1 tblsp horseradish sauce (opt) OR....
....1 tsp made mustard (also opt)
5 fl oz (150ml) double cream
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
4 fried or poached eggs (opt)
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over high heat and fry the onion and pepper for a few minutes or until softened. Stir in the potatoes and fry for a further 5 minutes until golden in colour, then add the corned beef and stir gently until heated through. Mix the horseradish or mustard into the cream and pour this over the contents in the pan and heat to bubbling. Stir in the parsley and seasoning to taste. Serve immediately with or without an egg on top.

As you know I tend to rave over chicken livers. For one thing, when made into chicken liver pate (or parfait), this dish can be classed as 'posh nosh'. Yet a pack of the livers from the supermarket is usually less than 50p!!! For this next dish you would probably need two packs, but as with most of my dishes you have the freedom to use less and make up the shortfall with the other ingredients. Alternatively use thickly sliced cooked sausages instead of the livers and reduce the cooking time as these would only need heating through. Mind you, the price of good sausages today it would still be cheaper to use the chicken livers. For once, better costs less.
Ideally, when opening any bottle of wine, pour a little into one (or more) sections in an ice-cube tray (BEFORE serving the wine - or the chances are there won't be any left to save) and freeze so that you always have wine to use when making a dish such as this. At a pinch use white wine vinegar with a teaspoon of sugar as a substitute for wine when cooking, but it is not really as good.
Chicken Livers with Pasta: serves 4
14 oz (400g) pasta shapes (any shape)
salt and pepper
1 tsp olive oil
1 onion (pref red) sliced
approx 8 oz (225g) chicken livers (see above)
4 tblsp white wine
2 tblsp creme fraiche
1 tblsp wholegrain mustard
2 tblsp water
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until tender. While it is cooking, heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat and fry the onion until softened. Trim then chop the chicken livers and add these to the onion. Fry for 4 minutes then pour in the wine. Simmer for 1 minute then remove from heat and stir in the creme fraiche, mustard and water. Season to taste then stir in the parsley.
Drain the pasta, add to the frying pan and toss or stir to mix. Serve immediately.

Well, that's a few 'cheapies' for you, remembering they will only be considered inexpensive if you already have the makings or ensure you have 'planned' leftovers to ensure you cook extra spuds or sausages today (or whenever) to ensure you have them ready for the following day's meal. Although this doesn't necessarily save money, it does saves fuel as then no need to cook all the ingredients from scratch the following day. Kedgeree is another dish where practically all the ingredients (fish, rice, hard-boiled eggs...) have to be pre-cooked (like the previous day).

Have a guest for supper tonight and hopefully Eileen will be popping round for coffee tomorrow morning (if she remembers). It will be good to meet up with her again. So time for me to take my leave and will be back again tomorrow - even if only for a short chat (seem to be waking later these days). See you then.