Monday, December 31, 2012

Challenge Begins...

Because my 'New Year' Challenge is based around cooking a 'Sunday Roast',  this has - as you now know - been brought forward a few days as Jan 1st falls in the middle of the week.  So yesterday was the first 'Sunday Roast Beef' we've had in - maybe - half a century. 

Weighed the beef when cooked and chilled and it had lost about a third of its original (raw) weight, but that was expected.   Still was left with over 2lbs cooked beef - and using the 'metrics' this came to 1kg.   Normally prefer to work in lbs and ounces, but this time the metrics worked to my advantage as the (nutritional) recommendation is 100g of meat per person a day (just under 4 oz), so this meant the cooked meat should then be enough for 10 meals - more than enough to last the week for both B and myself (and that's if I ate the same amount as B, which often I don't as preferring to eat a veggie meal now and then).

Yesterday sliced up some of the beef - three slices each for B and myself.  The slices were large, still very slightly pink in the centre (tender and  perfectly cooked at the low temperature).  Myself just ate the beef and a little salad.  B had the full Monty: Beef, onion gravy, Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, roast potatoes, and Yorkshire puddings.   He complained afterwards that I'd given him too much (so why didn't he leave what he didn't want, I could have whizzed it up and made it into soup for my lunch today?), but somehow he managed to eat it all up - including the four Yorkshire puddings (think he had two with his meal and the remaining two later with golden syrup!

Sliced of cold beef are already in the fridge for today's 'cold meat, jacket potatoes, and a veg (not yet sure what veg - maybe peas - or perhaps he could have it with a salad?    Then tomorrow some of the remaining meat will be minced to make either a Cottage Pie or Spag.bol,  more cut into chunks to make a casserole (or curry), and the remainder will be frozen to serve another month.

When I make something like Spag.bol, I always add plenty of veg, and this time may also add a packet of Beanfeast spag.bol mix to the veg and minced beef.  This then should make at least 4 good portions (maybe six) - so at least a couple (or four) spag.bol portions to freeze away.

So far, so good. It looks as though the half-price joint of rump beef - although still perhaps more than I would normally spend - might well have been worth buying after all, for as there will be enough left from this Sunday roast to make at least a couple more meals to freeze, and the same when I cook the remaining half of the joint (which I froze raw), and serving meals the 'old fashioned' way (roast Sunday, cold meat Monday, minced meat Tuesday, stew on Thursday.....) this means that at the end of each month may have managed to freeze away enough meals to - eventually - last a whole week without having to buy a joint at all.

Apart from costing the meat cooked, the rest of the ingredients are - and will be - taken from my own stores, with these lasting several weeks before needing to be replaced.  Even so I'm making a note of what I use (veggies, larder stores etc) so that I can work out the price and total this up at the end of each week, added to the cost of the meat - and estimate anything else made/eaten during each day - to find out if the £20 budget is enough (more than enough it seems at the moment, but will have to wait and see).

Today - with supper being 'sorted' - really should bake another loaf of bread (the last one was so nice that most of it already eaten).  The 'free' dripping made when cooking the joint (how I made the dripping was mentioned yesterday), was very satisfactory according to B who has already begun to eat it, spread on toast with a sprinkle of salt.  

Will probably make an apple and blackberry crumble for B's 'pudding' as still have a lot of apples left, and also blackberries in the freezer.  Or might make the trifle that I meant to make the other day from some trifle sponges, jelly and cream that were 'left-overs' from those bought for B's social meal the other evening - just enough left to make three individual trifles - but (sort of) 'free'.

Thanks for comments.  I took a look at the website mentioned by Marjorie as I really wanted to see those 'dead fish hats' that she made for her boys.  Have never seen anything like these before, don't think they are known in this country,  the only knitted 'hats' worn by both adults and children in this country seem to be those South American (Peruvian?) hats that have a bobble on the top and tassels at the end of ear flaps to tie under the chin, usually knitted in an ethnic patters (a bit like our Fair Isle).  So am sure the 'dead fish' hats would really go down well here, so 'readers who knit' it is definitely worth having a go at making some and taking them to a craft shop (especially in areas where there is a lot of line fishing). Offer them 'sale or return' and I bet they will be sold within days.

Had to smile Jane, when I read about your bargains.  You really can't resist them - and have to say I would be the same if I saw all that at such a very low price.  Bargains are always worth having, but only if we can use up what we already have (freeze away the most recent purchases if we can), or we end up with our shelves overflowing and instead of reducing the amount we have bought we end up with even more.  
My Beloved has asked - more than once - why I buy (or used to buy) so much food when ordering from Tesco, when I already had loads of food in store.  We really only needed (say) milk, eggs, butter and some fresh salads, but so much more was delivered 'because they were on offer'.  So he did have a point.  But as there were good bargains to be had, I did not want to miss them. 
This is perhaps the main reason why - each New Year I force myself to use only the foods I have in stock and refuse to buy more unless absolutely necessary.  By not going to the shops (or clicking on Tesco's website) I can avoid even the best of bargains.  What I can't see, I don't miss.  B goes to Morrison's with a very short list of what is needed, and told not to bring anything else, even if it is a bargain.  He sometimes ignores this request - like bringing himself a fresh trout, reduced in price as it had reached its 'use-by' date, but then it was for him, and not for me, so he had to pay for that himself!

Doing this 'use up what I have' at least twice a year helps me keep my food budget safely within bounds, and between times can then enjoy myself restocking my shelves, waiting until what I want is on offer. 
So many readers have commented on the bargains that can be found in the supermarkets - often late evenings, so perhaps this is the time I should venture into the stores, and so save even more.  But do I need to?  At the moment am contented with the way I shop, and also the way I save, because by 'using it up' I really can save ££££££s.  We each have our own approach, and probably others are better than mine.   Just as long as we spend to save, not keep buying just because we are tempted, then that's all that matters.

Here are a few more recipes to make the most of what we already have.  The first is a speedy soup, and with added left-over cooked minced beef, can end up as a satisfying meal in its own right.  Frozen mixed veggies are listed, but myself - planning ahead - would cook a few fresh veggies the day before, then dice them up the day after to add to the soup.  Also would use any pasta shapes I have, just bashing them with a rolling pin to break into really small pieces, or - instead - add a tablespoon or so of rice or quinoa...  You get the idea.
Although I've said this more than once, always worth the reminder that plum tomatoes have much more flavour than the chopped, so either chop (or blitz in a liquidiser) plum tomatoes to make 'chopped' or passata.
Minestrone in Minutes: serves 4
1.75pints (1 ltr) vegetable stock
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes (see above)
4 oz (100g) thin spaghetti, broken into small pieces
12 oz (350g) frozen mixed veg (see above)
pesto, olive oil, grated Parmesan when serving
Put the stock into a large saucepan with the tomatoes and bring to the boil.  Add the pasta and cook for 6 or so minutes until the pasta is 'al dente', then add the vegetables and bring back to the boil.  Simmer for 2 mins until everything is cooked/tender, then serve in individual bowls with a drizzle of pesto and oil on top, then finish with a sprinkling of the cheese.

This next recipe is a useful one as it can be the makings for a lunch-box (work or school), or ready and waiting in the fridge for teenagers to help themselves.  While it is being chilled, the pasta tends to dry out slightly, so when ready to eat a portion, stir into this a spoon or two of boiling water to  bring it to room temperature, and give back the moisture. This also improves the flavour.
When making up this dish, add the ingredients to the pasta whilst it is still warm as then it will readily absorb all the flavours.
Tuna Pasta Salad: serves 4
7 oz (200g) pasta penne
1 x 100g can tuna in oil
1 x 400g can beans (cannellini, butter beans, etc)
half a red onion, finely chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon
handful fresh parsley, chopped
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, then drain and put into a bowl.
Rinse and drain the beans and add them to the warm pasta with the flaked tuna, and rest of the ingredients.  This can be eaten immediately, or left to cool then kept (covered) in the fridge for up to 3 days. 

Cottage Pie (made with minced beef), Shepherd's Pie (made with minced lamb), or - what I call 'Farmyard Pie' (made with minced chicken) all are variations using left-over cooked minced meat reheated with gravy under a mashed potato topping.. Then we come to this vegetarian version, given a cook-book name as Golden Veggie Shepherd's Pie, but as it contains no lamb (cheating!) myself have decided to call it something else.  But whatever - it makes good use of veggies we already have, with the addition of some from our larder (instead of using dried lentils, we can used canned lentils - in which case simmer add these to the veggies and stock and simmer for only 10 minutes.  As ever, we can substitute one veggie for another (as long as there is some similarity - not all veggies go together).
Gardener's Pie: serves 4 - 5
1 oz (25g) butter
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 oz (100g) chestnut mushrooms, sliced
9 oz (250g) dried lentils (pref green)
1.75 pts (1ltr) vegetable stock
salt and pepper
2 tblsp tomato puree
2.2lb (1kg) floury potatoes
2 oz (50g) butter
4 fl oz (100ml) milk
1 oz (25g) cheddar cheese, grated
Put the butter into a pan over low heat, then fry the onions, carrots and celery for about 15 minutes until softened, stirring in the garlic towards the end.  Raise the heat and add the mushrooms, and cook for a further 4 minutes before stirring in the lentils and the stock.  Simmer for about 45 minutes or until the lentils are very soft, then add seasoning to taste.  Remove from heat and stir in the tomato puree.
While the above is cooking, peel the potatoes and cut into chunks and boil in water for about 15 minutes or until tender.  Drain well and add the 2 oz butter and milk and mash together. Season to taste.
Put the lentil mixture into either one large or four individual dishes, then top with the mashed spuds. Sprinkle the cheese on top (if wishing to freeze, leave to get cold, then wrap and freeze for up to 2 months, Thaw before cooking).  To serve immediately after assembling, bake for 30 mins at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until the topping is golden.

My Beloved has just brought me a mug of coffee and he asked me if he could eat the (saved) sliced beef in a sarnie, he was disappointed when I said the plan was to serve it tonight with jacket potato. So I've compromised - said I'd serve one slice of beef with one slice of home-cooked ham, and then salad: lettuce, tomatoes, beetroot, and maybe a quiche - if I get round to making one (still have some scraps of short-pastry to use up and a small bag of grated cheese, plus end of a tub of creme fraiche - these together with eggs and milk should make a good quiche).  Myself can have salad and quiche.  So both of us happy.
It looks like I'll have a bit of a struggle keeping to the original plan of 'traditional' meals made from the Sunday Roast, but as long as a roast is cooked, then used up, does it really matter what meals are made with it?  My only concern will be 'can we afford to have a 'Sunday roast' in the first place?  Have to wait to find out.

After watching several of the 'Food Network' programmes (esp those like 'Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives', B mentioned that it does seem as though offal is rarely eaten in the US.  Have myself not seen it mentioned on the other cookery progs (Barefoot Contessa, Sunny Anderson etc), that is - until yesterday - when a diner 'called 'TACO, TACO' (think serving mainly Mexican 'fillings' to the tacos) was cooking tongue to chop up and fill - with other things - their tacos.  The tongue (dish) they called  'liguinee' (similar pronunciation to'linguine' pasta)..

In the old days, offal in the UK was eaten far more than it is today, although we still eat plenty of liver (my preference being lamb's liver), also kidney (steak and kidney pie etc). Pigs or ox tongue is always on sale, thinly sliced to add to a 'cold meat platter'.  Hearts, brains, sweetbreads, and tripe are not so commonly cooked/eaten, neither are pig's ears and pig's trotters, although there are still many people who enjoy them.  The lesser used offal etc are - of course - much cheaper than other cuts of meat,  and in many instances even more nutritious, so perhaps we should begin thinking about using them again.  Not sure if I could persuade B to eat stuffed heart, but if he doesn't know what it is when served to him he might well find he enjoys eating it.

So it would be interesting to know what dishes are made in the US and Canada using offal, as we tend to believe (due to the food programmes seen) that all that is eaten is steaks and burgers, or 'pulled' meats (from long-roasted joints).  Chicken also seems popular, and especially 'shrimps' (even though some of these are the size of small lobsters - we call these 'prawns'!).  We hardly ever see dishes made with lamb.

Had a blip halfway through writing this when the blogger seemed to close down, then an unwritten page came back on screen and I seemed to have lost my posting.  However, managed to discover it in 'draft' (took me a long time to find the page - blogger have changed their settings), but back it came and so hope that it all gets published. 

Late start this morning (due to staying in bed because it was raining and so dark and gloomy), but being retired have no real need to get up - other than to write this blog - so decided to grab a bit more 'shut eye'.  Hence the late finish, but got their eventually.
Believe it is New Year's Eve today.  So must wish all readers a very HAPPY NEW YEAR and tomorrow really will see the new challenge progressing.  Let us hope it will be worth it (if not mentally stimulating, at least financially).   

Do hope you all have a pleasant day and able to drink in the New Year.  Please find time to join me tomorrow and see what delights I have come up with for B's beef-based supper. TTFN.