Thursday, January 12, 2012

Catching Up...

Am finding it difficult to get back into the old routine, having had the luxury of spending an extra hour in bed each morning due to not needing to rise to start writing my blog. It was still dark at 8.00am today, and there was me thinking each day dawn would be earlier. Anyway, it is now just 8.30am and am now back in my seat starting today's chat.
Still plenty to catch up with, so will begin with this and reply to the comments towards the end.

Made a batch of Greek yogurt (always useful) the following day a batch of Blackcurrant yog - both store well in the fridge for (recommended) at least two weeks, three in our fridge as it is set below 5C.
Cooked Lemon Chicken for B's supper last Thursday with udon noodles. On the Friday he had lamb shank with baby 'new' potatoes, peas and the usual redcurrant jelly and mint sauce. Defrosted the gammon that day ready to cook later. Also made a big pan of vegetable soup for B's lunch and my supper.

Also on the Friday defrosted some chicken wings and toasted these in the oven with half the veggie trimmings I'd been saving. Then put the lot into a big pot, covered with water and simmered to make chicken stock. Unlike the 'normal' stock made by simmering raw chicken and veg, this time the stock was very cloudy but set extremely well once cold - it is true, chicken winglets make exceedingly good and concentrated stock. Even better than when using just the main carcase. Tip. Save winglets when you can and add these to a carcase to make the best stock ever.

Discovered the lemon pips I'd planted the other week and placed in a warm spot had begun to sprout, so covered the pot (initially in a plastic bag to keep it moist) with half a lemonade bottle and put it onto the conservatory windowsill. Am hoping each pip will - when transplanted - grow into a mini-tree that just might bring forth fruit, but even if not will make a good 'house-plant' to give as a gift.

Saturday saw me baking another loaf of bread, and this was the day I sorted out my kitchen drawers and organised my 'collection' of foil, freezer bags, baking parchment etc.
What I did do that I thought was sensible (I'll get there in the end) was collect up all the jam-making 'things': new lids, pack of waxed circles, labels, special funnel to fill jam-jars, thermometer etc and put them all into my preserving pan (kept on one shelf), so that I wouldn't need to hunt for them all (as used to do) next time I make preserves.

Was annoyed with B on Saturday - he had been to the supermarket with his daughter - and brought back a Pukka pie (£1) and a bag of watercress (£1.10p). I mentioned the idea was we bought NOTHING until we had used up a lot of what we already had. "But it's only watercress" he said. "It may be watercress to you" I replied "It's "£1.10p to me that didn't need spending".
Could have frozen the Pukka Pie I suppose, but put it in the fridge to cook later. The watercress won't keep anyway (unless made into soup).

Also on Saturday made a big tray-bake chocolate sponge, then cut that into strips and layered it together with some chocolate ganache, drizzling each layer of sponge with a little Cointreau that had been mixed with the orange 'syrup' saved when making candied peel. Very, very rich. Most of it frozen to keep it out of B's reach.

The ham having defrosted, this was then cooked on the Sunday - as mentioned previously with veggies and star anise - and left in the stock to get cold (this helps to keep it moist) and then chilled in the fridge. Monday it was sliced.
Watched Superscrimpers on TV (although it had an 'R' against this in the TV mag, had not seen it before) and believe this will now be on every Monday (around lunch-time? but best check). It is well worth watching, even though some ideas seem a bit naff (at least to me). Think I might send them some suggestions.

B. had Pukka pie with peas, carrots, and parsnip for his Monday supper. Had made a blackcurrant jelly which he now eats with b.currant yog. for one of his 'snacks'.

As B had only managed to lose half a pound more (he can't control his snacking), yesterday decided to make him a really nice supper from a recipe in a recent cookery mag. This being smoked salmon with sliced cold beetroot and a salad which should have been red chicory but I used Sweet Gem lettuce, and watercress, with horseradish sauce, only I served it with tartare sauce as this was less 'hot'. Even had a small bit myself and thought it was real luxury.
But not B. For him it was tasteless "the beetroot killed the flavour of the salmon" (I said the idea was to eat a bit of salmon with the sauce, THEN have some beetroot and salad, not fork up a bit of each - as he does - and then shove it into his mouth). But he didn't enjoy it, and it wasn't filling enough. At least the last of the individual Christmas puddings he was able to eat (with cream) as his dessert. Then,, of course, during the evening he got himself more snacks.

Asked B last night what he considered to be a 'luxury' meal, considering most of the time he was served what I considered to be 'luxury' anyway (smoked salmon is for a start). He said could he have a Chateaubriand (steak), or a Lobster Thermidor, or even just a whole Dover Sole? Does he think I'm made of money? I said of course he could have that - just as long as he went and bought what was needed and paid for it himself. Doubt very much any of his 'needs' will ever cross our kitchen threshold.

So that has just about caught up with the Goode life as far as food goes. The trade mag - last issue has 218 pages plus a 32 page supplement - is mainly about how the grocery trade has changed during the last 150 years.
The supplement (a copy of the first issue published Jan 4th 1862, shows that most of the imported food was cocoa, sugar, coffee, tea, spices, and you wouldn't believe how many different varieties of each there were in those days. Far more than there are now.

In 1862 it seems that almost all 'fresh produce' was grown/reared/made in the British Isles, we a much smaller population then, no need to import more. Also a lot less food was eaten then as we seem to eat today (one reason why obesity is rife), and it was - relative to earnings - far more expensive.

Just this small extract from one page of the main mag should give us food for thought. The mag "compared this week's 33 items in their 'shopping basket' - today costing £93.95p - with an equivalent basket from 1862. This would then have set the customer back an eye-watering £1,254 - 13 times the amount paid today, based on an average earnings measure of inflation."

"Once-exotic items have unsurprisingly come down in price the most. In 1862 pineapples were rarely traded, but when they were sold for 5 shillings (that may be trade price as Mrs Beeton has them down as 15/-). That's £149 in today's money, or nearly two days' pay for a builder working in 186d2, who earned 2/10d for a day's work."

"The average UK family - in October 2011 - spent £58.42 or 7.7% of their income on food. This percentage has risen since January 2007 when families spent 6.8% of their gross income on food. However, if a labourer in 1862 spent this proportion of their income on food, they could have only afforded a single ham sandwich (two slices of bread, 100g ham, 10g butter, and a few lettuce leaves) - per day."

Other interesting facts given are that eggs NOW cost 768% LESS than 150 years ago. Consider this...
Melon cost 4/- in 1862 (equivalent to paying £119 today)
2012 price : £1.96. (a difference of 5,971%)
Cadbury drinking choc: 1/- per lb in 1862
equivalent price today £16.41 for 250g
2012 price £1.99p, costing 725% more in the old days.
Tea: 1862, 3/- per lb. Equiv. price today £49.12.
2012 price £1.75, costing 2,713% more in the old days.
Chicken: 1862 a chicken cost 1/3d.
Equiv. price today £37.20p.
2012 price £4.87. 715% difference.

For all that we grumble about the rising cost of food, we have to admit that we are a darn sight more fortunate in what we can afford to eat than our great grandparents. So we should stop feeling sorry for ourselves when we can't now afford to buy what we want, and instead just buy what we NEED and then we'll probably have enough money left over to afford a treat now and then (maybe more than once a month), which is something our ancestors probably could manage only once or twice a year.

We cooks are always aware of price increases and even more so when prices go down - as this is when it makes sense to build up our stocks. Seemingly not so 'in the trade' for the mag says "bakers holding back on wheat purchases in anticipation of further price falls have missed out after prices unexpectedly rebounded over Christmas. Prices have shot up by 10% over the past couple of weeks after reports that prolonged dry weather had damaged the South American maize crop. This making wheat more appealing to feed buyers, prompting a jump in sales.
Despite the 30% fall in price, few food industry buyers had taken advantage of the opportunity, with a lack of demand for forward buying, waiting in the expectation that prices would fall further.
Which - of course - means we consumers won't gain, as manufacturers will not then be reducing prices as originally hoped for. Probably wouldn't anyway as lower prices mean more profits.

Final comment from the trade mag for today (more tomorrow). "Predictions for 2012 may be grim, but the real worry is the long term. What happens when our use of resources outstrips what the planet has to offer?
When it comes to food, the problem is twofold. As well as having more mouths to feed, the industry will have to adapt to a richer Asian continent where demand for meat and dairy is expected to rocket.
Some argue that if the rest of the world adopts our eating habits, supply would be unsustainable. 'An affluent country like Britain eats as much as if there were two or three planets' says a professor of food policy.
Whether prices go upwards or downwards, one thing is certain: as a country that imports about 60% of its food, the UK will be more affected than most. It has been predicted that a 10% increase in world agricultural prices would increase UK food price inflation by 2.42%. The industry is just keeping its fingers crossed that no such rises materialise".

Nothing there that should concern our happy band of cost-cutters. The more we can make/bake/grow ourselves, the easier it will be. Just like the good old days - but even better. Maybe we spend far too much time today reading cookery mags, watching cookery progs on TV and drooling over photos of wonderful dishes/meals, that we have become far too obsessed about eating, and not spending enough time just cooking the simple meals our parents used to eat. Maybe, once this challenge is over, might go back to living the 'old way' and buying fresh food several times a week to cook as my mother used to do. See if it works out cheaper. It just might. The meals may be slightly more boring than today, but certainly would be healthier.

Now replies to your comments.
No point in me pre-packaging B's 'snacks' Lisa, for he would then feel he is being 'controlled'. He likes to eat what he wants when he wants. However, he is limited to some extent by only able to eat what is there. As long as I stop making cakes, biscuits, and instead make individual desserts instead of giving him a whole dish of apple crumble etc for him to help himself to, this does help to cut down his intake. At least am hoping so.

Yes Sue15cat, of COURSE I meant Jilly Goolden (the wine 'expert') not Jilly Cooper (the novelist). Thanks for pointing out my error, would not wish to mislead readers.

Difficult to give suggestions on how to lose weight Kay, other than sticking to the WW 'points' system of dieting. It is pretty popular and having seen some of the recipes do find them worth serving whether on a diet or not. Trouble with any diet it can be so restricting and we all get fed up sooner or later not being able to eat what we wish.
Myself have found the 'Atkins' type diet is a great way to lost a fair amount of weight in a short time. My version of this is basically omitting all carbos from the diet and eating plenty of protein (no need to count calories, I eat all meats, fat, cream, cheese, eggs, butter etc and as much as I like) with vegetables (not the carbo root types like parsnips, spuds, but the green ones and salads). Absolutely no bread, pastry, biscuits, cakes, rice, pasta, grains.....

Usually manage to keep the above going for a week (due to the novelty), then slowly begin to introduce a few carbos such as rice, small spuds etc, still keeping off wheat products. This worked well for me, then maybe because proteins are very 'filling', and so I never get the urge to eat more, have now decreased my meals, needing only a late breakfast (brunch or early lunch), and an early supper (and a small one at that). This keeps my weight down and also still slowing losing (if I don't suddenly decide to go back to eating three times a day).

Was very interested in the way your solar panels are saving you 'fuel' money Lisa. You say they were 'free'. How on earth did you manage that? We are often contacted by solar panel m'fctrs who try and sell us solar roof panels, and as we live in a ground floor apartment, not really very useful to us!!), but none are offered free. But am sure solar heating is something more people should start thinking about.

We come to Charlie. A new name? So welcome. As to EasyYo, I swear by it, but other readers find it rather expensive, and many who do use the dry yogurt mix often use only part of it, and make it with milk instead of water (which they say still works). Lakeland sell the equipment and recently it was on offer, but maybe not always. It certainly seems no dearer there than sold elsewhere, so worth checking their website before you make a final decision.
The Greek yogurt 'mix' is excellent, but sometimes the fruit flavoured ones don't seem to set as firmly (even though I make it up with a little less water than recommended), but what I have found is that if it is not fully set after the 8 hours, then I now refill the 'thermos' with hot water again and leave it for several more hours, and then its perfect. Once forgot I'd done that, and it was 12 hours in total before I remembered to remove the container, and the yogurt was perfectly set and after chilling kept for as long as it should (longer in fact).

Normally I make a 1 litre container of yogurt once every two weeks, always needing to have a Greek yog. in the fridge, and one or other of the fruit flavoured yogurts. As these can be strained through muslin to turn into a 'cream cheese', these can then be used to make cheesecake or curd cheese (for curd cheese tarts etc). Mixing half natural (Greek) yog with half double cream will turn it into creme fraiche.
A half and half mixture of natural yogurt and mayonnaise makes a lighter and more refreshing salad dressing than pure mayo which is a bit too 'rich' for my liking. Fold in finely diced (or grated) cucumber with finely chopped mint makes a lovely Raita to serve with a curry.
My B likes a good dollop of Greek yogurt on top of a spicy over-hot curry or chilli con carne as when mixed in, or eaten a bit at a time, this helps to take away some of the heat.

Reading back some comments sent in whilst our land line was down, see that some of you have succumbed and BOUGHT FOOD!!! Well, if there is a good offer, then it (presumably) makes sense not to miss out, although not really helping to prove we can manage without needing to shop at all. Maybe the hunter-gatherer instinct in our genes is far too strong to control.

It is far easier for me to avoid buying food as I normally don't go out to shop. My groceries mainly ordered on-line and delivered. On the other hand it is going to be difficult to control my Beloved as he just can't resist a bargain. Yet, perhaps I've not done too badly so far as my last order was delivered the mid-week before Christmas (can't remember the actual date) and so far nothing has been bought other than B's Pukka Pie and the bag of watercress (neither of which was needed). Still have several containers of UHT milk, and about 18 eggs (10 of which are in the fridge). Plenty of meat/fish in the freezer. Plenty of veg in the fridge. Umpteen cans of assorted food products in the larder (you have seen photos), and have enough flour/yeast etc to keep making bread (made a granary loaf yesterday).

In the fridge have several tubs of long-life cream which should last longer now that I'm trying to get B to pour less than half a tub over each helping of whatever dessert he chooses for a snack. Also still have several packs of butter (don't know how long these will last as B loves butter). Even a couple of packs of bacon. If I can last out until 18th February before anything needs to be bought, will have managed to keep going for nearly two months and should then only need ot spend less than £10 to 'top up' to see me into at least early March. With any luck should only have spent £25 or less on food since mid-December. Obviously the food we are eating at the moment has already been paid for, but by buying when 'on offer' and building up a good store, have never needed to spend a whole month's food budget previously, and at the present time will have saved at least two months food budget by not needing to spend any of it at all (or at least not more than £25 of it).

Anyone who reads this should not be concerned if they have decided to do the same challenge as me, but then bought food that is on offer, for - like the bakers above who decided to wait for further reduction on wheat prices, then missed the boat - we too shouldn't miss out on a good buy, especially any that have a good shelf-life for they can be put on a high shelf and used once this challenge is over. As long as less of our normal food budget is spent than normal, this month, next month, every month in the future, then we will always be on the winning side.

With that thought will leave you and get on with my own saving ways. Not sure yet what supper will be tonight, but do have some good beef stock that was thawed and needs using up, so might make a good thick Minestrone soup that B can have for his supper (with some granary toast) and maybe a fruit crumble to follow. Quite fancy that myself.
Or I might make a Mushroom Strogonoff for B (as the mushrooms need using, if not will probably dry them), and make the Minestrone for ME! Join me tomorrow and find out. See you then.