Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Read the Label!

Due to a later than normal start will first give my cookery 'hints and tips' and end with replies to comments.

Over the past months have been collecting some of the chunkier canned soups to give me an 'easy' meal (when B prefers a plate of 'roast' etc). All either low price or bought when on offer (3 for £2 etc). Some are 'own-brand', others top of the range (Baxters etc), and although I often do make soup from scratch (usually for myself, B is not keen on soup), there are times I want a quick 'fix'.

After tasting several, and really enjoying them, decided it would be cheaper if I could make my own in bulk and then freeze away in individual mugfuls (to make the right amount use a freezer bag that is large into to fit into a mug or soup bowl then fill with soup. Put container with bag into the freezer and when solid remove bag and store the soup with others done the same way. Remeber to label! Then all you have to do is remove frozen soup from bag, place into saucepan to defrost and reheat and pour into mug/bowl to eat and enjoy.

To make soup it's best to start with a recipe, and it's unlikely the ones in the cook books will taste like the ones in the can. But if we like the flavour of the canned we can still have a go at making it for we already havethe 'recipe' printed on the label but given as the 'list of ingredients'. All we need to do is remember that the first named is the 'main' ingredient (often shown as a percentage) and this followed by other ingredients which may/may not decrease in amount, but will never be more than any percentage shown above. We can of course use more or less according to what we have and personal taste, but at least the list gives a very good guide as to why the soup has the flavour it has. Obviously towards the end of the list there might be some 'additives/preservatives' we can ignore, but at least we have a 'guide' as to the foods we can use.

Here's an example of two different soups, one 'quality', one own brand (this being at least half the price of the other). Strangely the cheaper 'Tuscan Bean Soup' (46 p for 400g) has 130 calories per half can, whilst the more expensive 'Scotch Broth' (88p BUT this time bought as '3 for £2) has only 96 calories per half can. Perhaps half a can is what they consider to be a serving, but myself can eat a whole canful for my supper. With a chunk of crusty bread or slice of toast.

Don't forget that any percentages given relate to the weight of the can. So 10% would mean 40% of a 400g can = 40g. In other words multiply the percentages shown by 4 and the answer is then the amount of grams/fl.oz you would need to make something similar.
The ingredients for the Tuscan Bean start with Tomato puree (45%), water (amount not stated but not more than 45)), lentils (ditto), and then Black-eyed beans (4.5%), Borlotti Beans (4.5%), Flageolet Beans (4.5%). The following ingredients then have to each be no more (and could be less than 4.5%): carrot, green pepper, red pepper, onion, celery, sugar, vegetable oil, modified maize starch (cornflour?), salt, garlic powder, coriander, cumin, Natural flavouring (?), black pepper, whey powder, yeast extract, glucose, leek, parsley, white pepper, citric acid. Celery extract.
If working on 'totals', the above ingredients should not total/weigh more than 100% (or 400g), although we don't need to be THAT accurate. Just be aware that the ingredients shown after the beans are in smaller amounts and there purely to give flavour, so to some extent we can pick and choose and even leave some out. Adding more beans would make the soup more substantial (and add more calories!).

The Scotch Broth soup is interesting, mainly because a very low percentage of meat has been used (so we might get away with just adding a teaspoonful of cooked minced beef and mutton that we might have saved from a previous meal - freeze in ice-cube trays if wishing to preserve it for longer). We can add more of course. Here is the list which shows that as water comes first, this is what I call the 'main' ingredient.
Water, Pearl Barley (10% cooked), Carrots, Potatoes, Onions, Marrowfat peas, Swede, Beef (2%), Modified cornflour, Leeks, Cabbage, Mutton (1.3%), salt, yeast extract, mutton fat, Beef extract, Parsley, Vegetable oil, white pepper, Vegetables 25%.

Not quite sure why the vegetable percentage was given at the end, but presumably as each of these are the same or less than the percentage of Pearl Barley, together the veggies are ment to add up to 25%. A reminder that this is the percentage of the weight of the can (in this instance 400g), so 4 x 25% = 100g of vegetables (approx 4 oz).

Am mentioning the above as so often we find we have most or all the ingredients to hand anyway, even tiny amounts (which is all we need), and making soup with them is an excellent way to 'use up the tiniest amounts of what we have'. My suggestion is - if you've had soup from a can that you enjoyed - and wish to replicate it - then remove the label and keep it (or copy the contents into your own recipe book). Then you will know how to make it yourself if you wish.

Two other things have 'jumped up at me' - this morning as it happens. Whilst waiting for Norma to arrive, decided to open a new box of laundry tablets and transfer contents to my 'tablet tin' (which sits by the side of the washing machine). Read the 'dosage' on the label and was amazed to see that it didn't matter if the laundry was lightly soiled, normal, or heavily soiled, the recommended number of tablets was 2 each time using soft water. This didn't make sense to me. On the other hand, medium hard water athought requiring 2 tablets for light/normal, 3 would be needed for heavy soiled. With hard water 2 tablets for light, 3 for both normal and heavy soiled.

Quite honestly I don't take too much notice of the 'recommended dose' when it comes to laundry. For one thing none of our wash ever gets to the point of being 'heavily soiled. When washing lightly soiled laundry always use only ONE tablet and it works perfectly. Probably would also work if I only used half a tablet. Must try it some time.
Am pretty sure the manufacturers always over egg the pudding (so to speak) when it comes to how much detergent we are supposed to use, that way we use it up more quickly and so end up buying more than we need. Making more profit for the supermarkets AND suppliers.

One other thing I noticed (it's surprising how much does come to light when deciding to take a closer look at prices/weights etc) - this to do with walnuts. For some reason walnut halves are priced at 90p for 100g pack, yet the (broken) walnut pieces are 95p per 100g pack. As walnut 'pieces' are normally - and presumably accidentally - broken halves of a walnut, you would expect them to be far cheaper than bought as a 'whole'. Apparently not so. If we want the nuts in 'pieces' then its cheaper to buy the halves and break them up ourselves. It may only save 5p, but 'a penny saved is a penny earned' as the saying goes.

Yesterday Beloved chose smoked mackerel with salad for his supper, and was able to get this on his plate all by himself - me being glued to the TV watching cookery progs. Today am planning to make a casserole (prob using some pre-cooked and frozen beef to save time) - this can be kept simmering with veggies so that B can again help himself.

Now must reply to your comments....
As you have found Jo, it does seem that even when the GHI come up with a sensible shopping list to make a cheap Christmas dinner, that one or more items on the list seem not to be on sale. I might write via Tesco email about their 'missing' cranberry sauce, and want to know why it isn't available. If I do, will let you know what excuse they gave.

Oh dear, come to my scribbled reply to Scarlet and it looks like 'telling crowd'. Telling what? Oh, now I remember - 'turkey crown' was what I wrote (not that anyone could have worked that out from my scribble).
Myself tend to buy a turkey crown these days, but also one turkey leg (sold separately) because B loves to have some 'dark meat' as well as the 'white'. Dark meat certainly has more flavour.

Gluten free bread is normally more expensive than the 'normal' loaves (here in the UK) Lisa, but as several readers have commented, the plain white 1 lb loaf mentioned yesterday was so over-priced it wasn't true. Mind you, watching programmes filmed in London (and also in other regions) people seem to be willing to pay £££'s for a loaf of 'artisan' bread. Never have been quite sure what that term means other than (probably) 'hand-made on the premises'. As ever, anything hand-made/home-made (much the same thing), now seems to be sold for an extortionate price. Just proves that we who cook at home (or do craft work) are worth more than our weight in gold - and just hope our families appreciate it.

Packs of bacon pieces are really worth buying when bacon is used as an 'ingredient' (Eileen gave these a mention). Also these often come with plenty of bacon fat and this is always worth rendering down to use for frying as it gives wonderful flavour to foods cooked in it (especially fried bread!!). My Beloved and I do prefer to eat bacon (smoked streaky), fried until crisp, so tend to buy the packs of these instead of the pieces. Tesco's own packs of bacon (cheapest) we find to have the best flavour and fry the crispest. This doesn't seem to have too much 'added water' either. Having tried the more expensive 'Gloucester Old Spot' bacon (and other 'quality' types) always find they end up too 'dry' and chewy. Maybe these are not meant to be fried to a crisp, just lightly fried. Suppose it is all a matter of the 'mouth appeal' of certain foods. Some like crispy, others not. Each to his own.

Due to a late start will now finish for today. Back again tomorrow (unless BT have other ideas), and hope to be able to write more of interest. See you then.