Friday, March 16, 2012

The Savings Continue...

Decided yesterday to follow my own advice and not charge like a bull at a gate re money-saving. Just as long as one saving is made per day (am sure this will end up as one a week), then that should satisfy my miserly tendencies.

Not even sure whether I should count the ham as yesterday's 'big save' as it was cooked the day before. However it was yesterday that the cooked ham was trimmed and then weighed (exactly 1 kg - and how I love the metrics when it comes to comparison costing as it makes it so easy). As the price per gammon was £4, that meant the price per 100g would be 40p!!

As I've compared price of pre-packed supermarket sliced ham several times before just KNOW that I've again saved (almost) a fortune cooking my own ham work out for yourself how much you would have paid if bought in packs). The ham has yet to be sliced by my 'leccy' machine (yesterday carved off a couple of slices for B's 'meat platter' using a kitchen knife) and will then make up my own packs of thick sliced, thin slices, and ham chunks/scraps etc to freeze and use as wished.

Whilst checking prices of other ingredients on Tesco's site, noticed the little pots of chicken spread, chicken/ham spread, beef/ham spread ranged between the 'value chicken spread' at around 50p to £1 for chicken spread (this per 100g) and slightly more for a blend of meats. The pots themselves each holding only 75g/3oz. So not too difficult to make up a batch ourselves from the recipe previously given (only butter, seasoning and nutmeg need adding) and work out how much we have (again) saved by doing it ourselves.

My main 'cook in' yesterday was making a trial batch of macaroons, and it was surprising how there was so many different ways to make these. Having - in the past - successfully made 'almond macaroons', a more 'artisan' type of this 'confection', wished to try the more delicate and upmarket types that are fashionable today. Even then the recipes ranged from fairly easy to quite daunting, so decided to 'start easy'. Then if I could do it, anyone else could. Two recipes will be given later in this posting. First thought you might like to see the uncooked circles (first picture below) followed by a pic of them after being cooked. The final shot of a few sandwiched together (in a rush as B was hovering ready to eat) with a bag of baked but unfilled at the rear.

As the ingredients needed to make the above were just egg whites, icing sugar and ground almonds plus a drop of food colouring, the only costing would be icing sugar and ground almonds BECAUSE we would always make these using left-over egg whites. Wouldn't we!!!

Interestingly the price of the icing sugar was shown as £1.89 per kg, as sold in a 1kg pack. But more expensive per kg (this time £2.18 per kg) when sold in 500g packs. So always buy the larger pack. Alternatively make it yourself (cheaper!) by grinding granulated sugar in a liquidiser/blender (if you have one), it will grind down to caster sugar, then small amounts of this will then grind down to an icing sugar. This will need sifting as it can be slightly coarser than the bought sugar, but enough of the 'fine stuff' can be made for all cooking purposes.

Maybe I read the price incorrectly when I bought ground almonds last time for now they appear to work out cheaper if bought in the larger packs. But as supermarket keep moving the goal posts when it comes to prices and weights it may be this week they did a U turn.

Am giving two recipe for macaroons. One for the almond macaroons (and this was on the back of the packet of ground almonds), the other being the recipe I used yesterday to make the ones shown above. The rice paper is traditionally used as it sticks to the base of the macaroons and is edible.

Almond Macaroons: makes 20

8 sheets rice paper

2 medium egg whites

5 oz (150g) caster sugar

4 oz (100g) ground almonds

1 tblsp ground rice

10 whole almonds, split in half

8 sheets rice paper.

Whisk the eggs until frothy then beat in the sugar followed by the ground almonds and ground rice, beating until pale and thick.

Line two baking sheets with the rice paper and on these place small teaspoonsful of the mixture leave an inch (5cm) gap between each to allow for spreading. Place half an almond in the centre of each.

Bake at 170C, 325F, gas 3 for 10 - 15 minutes or until cooked through and golden. Remove from oven and leave to cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes. Remove from the paper (leaving some stuck to the base of each macaroon) and finish cooling on a cake airer. Can be eaten warm or cold.

The following recipe is the one used by me yesterday and a few things I came across worth mentioning. Firstly, despite the egg whites and sugar being whisked together, it does not end up like a stiff meringue, in fact quite 'runny', but held together firmly enough once the ground almonds had been folded in. Even so, still soft enough to be of 'dropping consistency'. Although the circles can be made dropping a teaspoonful of mix onto the baking sheet (it then forms its own circle) I put the mixture in a piping bag using a wide nozzle. The mixture was soft enough to begin oozing out of the nozzle as I filled it from the top, so suggest either covering the nozzle end with clingfilm to hold in contents whilst filling, or (as I did) put the nozzle end of the bag into a glass where it they lay on its side (or could point upwards) to hold everything in place as the bag was filled. It doesn't need much of a squeeze to deposit circles onto the baking sheet.

In fact I'd bought myself a 'macaroon mat' from Lakeland. This being a very thin mat make of silicone that had 24 circular depressions on it (as in the photo above). Of course it has other uses - I can see me filling the circles with melted chocolate, putting a thin and smaller circle of peppermint flavoured fondant icing on this, then topping with more melted choc - making my own 'chocolate mints'. Another saving did I hear you save? Small scones could also be cooked using this mat, and even tiny bread 'rolls'. I cannot wait to experiment. As I need to bake more bread today maybe I will make extra dough and 'have a play' with the rest.

The recipe below is easy enough to make, it also doesn't have to be done in a rush as once the mixture is piped or spooned out it has to rest for at least 15 minutes (some recipes state an hour) to allow a 'skin' to form on the top. Then, once baked, they again have to rest until cold before being taken from the baking sheet.

Another thing - most recipes bake these in an oven in the ordinary way, this particular recipe leaves the oven door partly ajar as they are being cooked. As I have a drop-down door, just tuck a folded oven glove over the door before closing it, or I could stick a wooden spoon into the gap at the side (or top) to also hold the door ajar.

One thing - the recipe (using 4 egg whites) says 'makes 20 macaroons' - this means it makes 40 circles, two being sandwiched together with a filling. I used only 2 egg whites and halved the other ingredients, but even then this was enough to make 24 small circles using the 'mat'. I made a few too large which is why you can see only 22! The recipe given are the amounts used to make those seen in the photos.

Pink Macaroons:

2 egg whites

5 oz (150g) icing sugar, sifted

few drop pink food colouring

3 oz (75g) ground almonds, sifted

filling of your choice

Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, then add the icing sugar in batches, whisking well between each addition. Add the food colour with the last of the sugar. Keep whisking until the mixture is thick and glossy and showing no streaks of colour. It will not be thick like meringue but thick enough to see 'ridges' when the beaters move through it. Then gently fold in the ground almonds.

Cover a large baking sheet with baking parchment and using a spoon or a piping bag fitted with a wide nozzle, pipe 20 circles (or 24 if using the mat). Leave for 15 minutes or up to an hour, until a 'skin' starts to form on the top (when piped they are very glossy, then as they dry out they become dull).

Heat the oven to 180C, 350F, gas 4 then put the baking sheet on the bottom shelf, leaving the oven door slightly ajar to allow steam to escape. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes (according to size) until just crisp, but not browned. Leave to cool before easing the macaroons from the paper with a palette knife (some recipes suggest sliding the paper onto a wet cold surface as this helps the macaroons to come off the paper more easily). Store in an airtight container.

There are many different fillings we could use for macaroons. Apparently the traditional one of buttercream is not now 'fashionable', and so a ganache (Nutella is as good as), or a marscapone and fruit could be used. Yesterday (because it was late and because I couldn't be bothered) decided to sandwich a couple together with some cream (Philly type) cheese and some home-made mixed fruit jam (as seen in the photo). Not very 'posh', but B seemed to enjoy it. Well, he didn't actually SAY, but after he'd eaten it and said nothing, I did ask, and he said it was 'OK'. Was hoping for a better response, but as I was putting the unfilled 'macs' into a bag he asked if there were any spare and if so could he have some. So the four shown in the photo were the ones made for B. A rush job as I said, they could have looked prettier.

This morning sampled a couple of the unfilled 'macs' from the bag and found they were much better, not the rather too crispy top and soft centre as yesterday, but now still crisp but evenly tender and much more to my liking. No doubt Beloved will demolish the lot today, and then I can use a quite different recipe to make macaroons, and find out which I prefer. More on that after the event.

Am hoping to persuade B to make his own supper tonight as those chicken scraps need to be used up. Some he can add to his stir-fry, the rest will be used to make my own chicken and ham spread/paste (some for the fridge, some to be frozen), and that will probably be my 'saving' for today, although am hoping to get those herb 'mats' also planted. But as I said earlier, just one saving should be satisfying enough, no need to over-egg the pudding!

To your comments....

Loved hearing about your plans to make a patchwork quilt Eileen. As to a name for your scooter, much depends. Is it a boy or girl? (I prefer to sit on a man's lap, which is why mine is called 'Norris', and that name chosen because it goes with 'Boris', 'Horace', 'Maurice' and 'Doris' - the names given to our larger household appliances like the fridge/freezer, washing machine, small freezer, and the car).

What a good way to use up a bag of fruit and nuts Alison. Discovered the other day that my Beloved enjoys eating these as I found a box full by his bedside the other day, hidden under the book that he reads in bed! So his snacking is not confined to eating throughout the evening when sitting in his chair watching TV, he now appears to still keep on eating when he has gone to bed (I either go to bed earlier while he watches a late film, or later when I sit up to watch a repeat of something I had to miss because footie too precedence. We rarely, if ever, go to bed at the same time.).

Do agree with you Susan G. the Knorr gels are very VERY salty. I've only tried the beef ones, but can imagine all 'flavours' are much the same. Believe Knorr are now making them using less salt, but that doesn't mean much. It would have to be a LOT less salt to make them palatable. Salt has to be included as I preservative I suppose. Making our own stock we can leave out salt altogether (although a wee pinch of sea or rock salt does help to enhance the flavour).

Thanks for your always interesting comment Lisa, it was the cocoon that has stuck in my mind. Maybe because I loved the film 'Cocoon' (and its sequel). Perhaps you have unearthed a baby alien's case! Do let us know if you discovered what the occupant was (obviously a maggot) but I mean what it will end up as being.

Don't know quite why this should be, but although I absolutely love all types of butterflies and will happily let one land on my shoulder, head or any part of my anatomy, am absolutely terrified of moths, and considering there is often very little difference between the two, cannot understand my 'phobia'. Small moths I am OK with as long as they keep their distance, but a large moth (even though smaller than a butterfly) will get me running away as fast as possible.

Am now reminded on one day (mentioned on this blog several years ago) when we had recently bought a tiny Labrador puppy. In our aim to get her house-trained we had at least got as far as getting her to pee on paper we had put on the floor.

One evening our daughter was lying full length on the floor, doing her homework - this consisting of colouring in a map she had drawn in her exercise book. Our little puppy was lying at the other end of the room, but then got up, walked slowly towards our daughter, and then stood on the book and squatted down. You can guess the rest! 'Water' colours flooding everywhere.

Even though the map was completely spoiled (not to mention the rest of the exercise book) it made us all laugh, and we went into the garden to laugh even more. It was a lovely warm, but dark late summer evening and remembering what had just happened, I opened my mouth and gave a great laugh, and into my mouth flew a big moth! At which I coughed, spluttered, spat out wings, body parts and whatever. Not so funny at the time, but it certainly was an evening to remember.

Thought today was Thursday, B has just reminded me it is Friday so seem to have lost a day somewhere. Perhaps because this time my 'blog week' began on Tuesday instead of Monday.

But then, when retired, every day (to me) is the same. Even so, there are still certain celebrations and occasions that keep cropping up. This weekend it is Mothering Sunday (NOT Mother's Day' - this is an American name and think they have this at a different time of year). Next weekend the clocks go forward from GMT to BMT (thank goodness my days of PMT are now long gone, I had been known to throw things at that time).

Soon after that is the run up to Easter and plenty of things we could be cooking to celebrate that occasion.

That 'green gingham' book you mentioned Maryclare (aka Mooloo61) was 'Have a Goode Year' in which many of our traditional celebrations were given. There are so many saint's days as well as the larger Christian and pagan celebrations, that it would almost be possible to have something to celebrate every day. As most foods eaten at these times would have to fit in with seasonal produce, many dishes were (and still are) exceedingly inexpensive to make, and knowing that something as boring as a 'spinach dish' actually 'celebrates' something or other can make it far more interesting to serve and eat on its 'special day'.

Final reply goes to Margie who feels that what I 'achieved' the other day sounded quite exhausting work. Not a bit of it. Most things took only a few minutes (in some instances less than a minute), much of the time I was sitting at the table and not 'labouring' at all. It just sounded as though a lot of work was done, and in truth quite a lot was achieved during the one hour, but mainly due to me listing down what was done at that time. Having tunnel vision on the project/challenge also helped to keep me on track so to speak (I now sound like a train).

The sun looks as though it is breaking through, and possibly I might go out with Norris for half an hour or so (it seems to have been weeks since I last went out 'alone'). Maybe I might find a way to save whilst out, even though this might mean spending-to-save. On the other hand, if I don't spend any money at all, isn't that another form of saving?

One query before I depart: Did anyone see Watchdog on TV last night? I was only able to see the first half (Corrie taking precedence over the second). There was a bit on Asda (was it that store?) who had twice done a 'price drop' illegally and misled customers. Was hoping to see the bit about Tesco's '3 for 12' chickens, but didn't get the chance to see it. Can anyone tell me what Tesco's 'naughty' was?

Hope you can join me again tomorrow, and if so, looking forward to seeing you then.