Friday, October 05, 2012

Cheap Eats

Was able to see only the second half of 'Wartime Farm' yesterday evening (but can watch the start on iPlayer or the repeat at the weekend).  It really does bring back memories that I had truly forgotten and am amazed now how people managed on such short rations.   Maybe slightly less difference between 'how they used to eat', and 'how we eat today' as it wasn't until the 60's that we first got used to eating more 'ethnic' foods and were able to pick and choose from a much wider variety of ingredients.  Up until then, unless really wealthy, the meals eaten by ordinary folk were 'good plain food' and I suppose during the war it just got 'plainer' and less of it.

Now maybe it is because programme such as the above remind me how to do without rather than 'expect to have', but this week - after cooking a large batch of minced beef in the slow-cooker overnight - drained the meat before packing (and freezing), and then put the meaty liquid (more like thin gravy/stock) into a pan with a spoon of Bisto Best to give richness to the flavour and also help to thicken, then added a cup of porridge oats, half a pack of Chilli con Carne mix, and a can of red beans.  Together these made a very passable Chilli con Carne and you wouldn't know there wasn't 'proper' meat in it.  Thought afterwards I could have extended it by adding a can of chopped tomatoes, but will do next time.

Here is another thrifty recipe, almost war-time standard when it comes to ingredients, but doubt that it would have been made at that time being more of a 'foreign' (Italian) dish, not familiar eating (yet) to those on our shores.  The 'sauce' can be cooled and kept in the fridge for up to 3 days before serving with the pasta, or can be frozen.  Defrost overnight at room temperature, then reheat to serve with freshly cooked pasta.
 This 'non-meat' bolognaise-type lentil 'ragu' can be used as you would spag.bol sauce, layered between sheets of lasagne, or fill those fat tubes of pasta to make a vegetarian 'cannelloni'.  This 'ragu' is also good served as a topping for baked 'jacket' potatoes.
Lentil Ragu: serves 6
3 tblsp olive oil
3 onions, finely chopped
3 ribs celery, finely chopped
3 carrots, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb 2 oz ( 500g) dried red lentils
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
2 tblsp tomato puree
2 tsp each dried  oregano and thyme
3 bay leaves
1.75 pints (1 ltr) vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb 2 oz (500g) spaghetti
grated Parmesan
Put the oil in a large saucepan over medium to low heat and add the onions, celery, and carrots. Fry for 15 - 20 minutes until softened then stir in the garlic and fry for a further minute. Add the rest of the ingredient down to and including the stock (but not the pasta and cheese), bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes or until the lentils are tender (you may need to add a little extra water). Check if you need more seasoning.  Keep warm over a low heat.
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, then drain well and tip into a large warm serving bowl (or individual dishes) the spoon the lentil sauce over and sprinkle the cheese on top.

Here is another recipe made using red lentils, and again much more a 'today' dish than the lentil soup that would be made in war-time.  Now we have the advantage of being able to add the flavours of the Far East and - believe me this really turns the humble lentil into something that tastes very special indeed.
Spicy Lentil Soup: serves 4 - 6
1 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 - 2 tblsp red Thai curry paste (to taste)
11 oz (300g) red lentils
3 pints (1.7 ltrs) vegetable stock
7 fl oz (200ml) coconut milk
spring onions, chopped (opt)
Put the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion until softened.  Stir in the curry paste, then add the lentils and mix in so they are coated with the curry paste.  Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or so or until the lentils are tender.
Fold in the coconut milk and reheat (but do not boil).  Serve hot as-is, or garnish with the spring onions. 

Although we usually expect a branded food to taste better than an own-brand cheaper version, have to say that B and I do like the cheapest sardines that Tesco sell (now around 45p a can - used to be much cheaper). The 'branded' can cost two or three times as much for the same weight (and nutrition).
We both love sardines (in oil, not tomato sauce), and although not eaten so often we occasionally eat canned pilchards as these are often cheaper (by weight) than the sardines.  The only prob with the pilchards is that they are always canned in tomato sauce (why?) - something that B does not care for.  However, here is a recipe that NEEDS sardines (or pilchards) canned in tomato sauce, so one well worth making, especially as this is given as a  'superhealthy'  meal due to the good source of omega-3.  Made with the cheaper sardines/ pilchards and pasta (this could be shapes rather than spaghetti) another dish that won't leave a dent in our purse.
Although the recipe suggests removing the bones from the canned fish,  I never do this as they are soft enough to 'mash' up, and when eaten provide us with a source of calcium (do the same with canned salmon - eat the bones!).
If you haven't chilli flakes, then add a dash of chilli sauce (Tabasco), or fry a teaspoon of chilli powder along with the garlic.
Sardine Spaghetti: serves 4
14 oz (400g) spaghetti
1 tblsp olive oil
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
pinch chilli flakes
8 oz (or1 x 227g can) chopped tomatoes
2 x 95g cans sardines (or pilchards) in tomato sauce
4 oz (100g) black olives - pitted and chopped
1 tblsp capers, drained
handful parsley, chopped
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions.  Meanwhile heat the oil in a pan and fry the garlic for one minute, then add the chilli flakes, tomatoes and sardines, working them together with a wooden spoon so the fish breaks up but is still a bit 'chunky'.  Cook for 3 minutes then stir in the olives, capers and most of the parsley.
Remove a ladle of the 'pasta' water, then drain the pasta and add to the sauce.  If too thick then slacken using some or all of the reserved water.   Serve in individual serving dishes and sprinkle the remaining parsley on top.

When we decide to eat more simply (dishes such as above), we than find we end up with more money in our purse, so why not - now and again - indulge ourselves?
So - for the final recipe today, here is one that would never have been eaten during war-time as bananas were not available, and chocolate only in small quantities (if that) as part of the sweet ration.
A good cake to make as it can be frozen (un-iced), but add the icing on the cake after thawing.  If you don't have sour cream use creme fraiche (or 'sour' fresh cream by adding the juice of half a lemon).
Chocanana Cake: cuts into 8 - 10 slices
6 oz (175g) caster sugar
6 oz (175g) self-raising flour
half tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tblsp cocoa powder
4 oz (100g) chocolate (chips, chunks, or grated)
6 oz (175g) very ripe bananas
3 eggs (2 of them separated)
4 fl oz (100ml) sunflower oil
4 oz (100g) milk chocolate
4 fl oz (100ml) soured cream (see above)
handful dried banana chips, roughly chopped (opt)
First grease and line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment, using enough to come about an inch (2.5cm) above the sides of the tin.
Put the sugar, flour, bicarb, cocoa and chocolate into a bowl and mix together.  In another bowl put the bananas and mash them up, then add the whole egg plus two yolks, the oil and the milk, mixing together until combined.   Beat the egg whites until stiff, then - working as quickly as possible - stir the wet banana mixture into the the dry ingredients, followed by a quarter of the beaten whites, folding in to 'slacken' the mix, then gently fold in the rest of the beaten whites.  
Spoon into the prepared tn and bake at 170C, 325F, gas 3 for 1 hr 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool in the tin on a wire rack. 
To make the topping, melt the chocolate and soured cream together in a bowl standing over a pan of hot water (not boiling and barely simmering).  Fold together then chill in the fridge until thick enough to make a spreadable 'icing', swirling it over the top of the turned-out cake.  Scatter over the broken banana chips (if using).  

One comment today and for this thank Lisa for giving the recipe for Red Velvet Cake.  A good idea would be to substitute beetroot juice for the red food colouring. 
How frustrating to have a dog constantly barking close by throughout the day.  Any chance of having a word with the owners and mentioning it is causing annoyance?  Maybe, if they are out at work they don't realise how much and how long their dog barks.  Perhaps they could keep it indoors for at least part of the day?

Beloved had Cold Meat Platter with salad for his meal yesterday, followed by a very rich cream dessert - a bit like Eton Mess without the meringues- mainly because I had a few strawberries I wanted to use up, plus some cream.  Today will be making B Steak and Kidney pie, but not yet sure what pudding will follow as I haven't yet thought what to make.

Did ask B to pick the apples from the tree yesterday as the fallings had brown pips (a sign the fruit is ripe), and he managed to pick some (but not all) and even these seem damaged by either maggots or something, so none will probably be able to be kept through the winter (perfect ones will keep well for weeks/month).   So perhaps an apple-based dessert is on the cards, otherwise will have to peel the fruit and remove the good bits then hopefully find room in the freezer to keep them.

The left side of my bottom lip feels a bit 'thick' and as yesterday had a rash appear on my left upper arm, feel that another allergy attack is on the cards.  Have taken an extra anti-histamine this morning so hopefully that will help to keep most of the swelling down to 'still able to drink without dribbling'.  During an attack, chewing something seems to help, perhaps it is moving the muscles around my mouth that prevents the tissues holding excess water, in the same way as walking around helps to prevent ankles and feet swelling up.  Got past caring, just as long as it doesn't affect my breathing think I can cope.

Watched 'Hotel GB' yesterday (as nothing else to watch), and quite enjoyed it.  A few things puzzle me - the front of the concierge's desk looks as though it needs a coat of paint, is it supposed to look as bad as that?
Also noticed that when we saw Kirsty and her assistant preparing something for the wedding at aid desk, she screamed out 'where's the other ring', then later saw the same shot but with her assistant saying this, so obviously 'staged'.  Saw the presenter start to say something after an ad break, and this seemed 'live' as he messed that up, so is it some of it live or isn't it?
Anyway, last one tonight - said to be 'live' - so perhaps will watch to see how it ends. Unless of course there is something more interesting to view.

Finishing later than intended to day, but then not a lot to do other than thaw/cook kidneys (the 'steak' being the already cooked beef rib trim (also to be thawed), the puff pastry naturally NOT home-made (waiting to be used in the fridge).  All I have to do is prepare then later cook the veg, these of course now being 'organic'.  My B really is being served 'the best',  so let's hope he appreciates it.

Tomorrow sees the start of the weekend, so we can all breathe a sigh of relief (well, at least those who go 'out' to work, us stay-at-homes don't notice any difference from one day to the other, and for that matter, do women ever 'retire'?  Seems while husbands have all the free time to spend how they wish, we still have to keep doing the domestic chores until the day we die (unless someone shoves us into a care-home).  Not that I mind, well not really, for what else would I do?

Think this weekend will make the Christmas cake, giving it time to 'mature' after feeding it now and again with a drop of brandy.  Also make some mincemeat, and than that''ll be one/two jobs done that I won't have to remember between now and December (I'm a poet and didn't know it!). 
Until tomorrow, TTFN.