Sunday, February 10, 2013

How Low Can We Go?

Seems that a £3 meal (to serve three courses for four people) was able to be proved, and that several readers understood my workings.  The menu was based on cost, not quality of the dishes Debra, so not intended to be served at a dinner party, although this has now made me wonder if I could come up with an 'gourmet menu' to feed four for the same amount of money.

At least, when entertaining, much more emphasis is put on the presentation than the amount of food served, nutrition isn't given priority, so if I approached this challenge wearing my 'Nouvelle Cuisine' hat, and made the small amount of each dish look really attractive, then who knows how low I could go (low as regards money spent, not suggesting serving sea slugs...).

Once I've got my larder down to seeing more space than food, may well consider ordering something from Approved Foods, if - as you say - jane, the first delivery is free.  'Free' is a word that instantly catches my attention.
Had thought myself about serving a Chinese Stir-fry as the main course (for the meal above), due to low priced noodles ( Tesco 11p a sachet.  Having left myself nearly £2 to spend on this course, might even be able to throw a few (frozen) prawns into the pile of veggies. with a shredded omelette on top..

This morning was up very early as B wanted to make sure I was awake (to wake him) as he had to leave early to drive to Barrow to join the coach that was taking the 'extras' to Ravenglass.  So switched on The Food Network, and saw a lot of short 'snippets' presented by American chefs/cookery writers, talking about their favourite meal.  All were Chinese (because now is Chinese New Year) and being able to see how quickly many were prepared, and the ingredients used, has inspired me to have a go.   White cabbage was almost always used, this being very cheap, and a small amount goes a long way when finely shredded.  Other veggies (carrots, bell peppers,onions...) go a long way also when finely sliced.   As long as we 'appear' to have a good plateful, then we feel we have eaten a good meal.  Unshredded/sliced, the individual amount of veggies would look very small, barely covering a saucer.
Something that hadn't occurred to me was that the noodles looked very much like Italian spaghetti, and the two 'cuisines' also serve a similar flat 'noodle' (in Italy called tagliatelle). Perhaps made from slightly different ingredients, but just goes to show how there can be great similarity between many cuisines, even from countries that are half a globe apart.

In the above programme, chopsticks were always used, and more than one chef commented on how long it took to eat the meal compared to eating it with a fork (or spoon).  Said the same thing myself yesterday, and for anyone who has only a small amount of money to spend on food, then we could and perhaps should try to trick the diner into believing he/she has eaten a lot if we use one or more of these three ways: 
Serve three courses instead of just one or two. 
Shred/grate food whenever possible to make it look more.
Eat a Chinese meal using chopsticks.

This makes sense for we all know we eat far more food than we really need, so by fooling the eye, and taking time to eat what we have been served, we will always feel we have eaten a lot more than we really have.

We give a welcome and group hugs to Mindy, a reader who lives in Kentucky USA.  It's lovely getting news from 'over the pond', and also from different states as each has its own special dishes.  We used to have a couple of readers who lived in Texas, but haven't heard from them for some months, maybe they still 'pop in' from time to time.  Lisa (Missouri) is a frequent 'visitor', and we also have Marjorie, and Margie who live in Canada and regularly send comments.  Others write in from various parts of the globe, and we really love to hear from all.
Apologies if I've missed mentioning other US readers (there surely were more), but if comments suddenly stop, then names sometimes get pushed to the back of my mind and I'd love to hear from them again - if they haven't moved onto preferred new pastures (by this I mean other blogs). But not just from America, I mean everyone.

How we serve a dish can make a difference when it comes to 'family fare' or 'entertaining', so for today's recipe am hoping to explain how a basic pizza can become quite a centrepiece, and this would work particularly well when served at a buffet. But still good to plonk in the middle of the table when the teenagers swarm in with their friends late one evening.

Unfortunately, until it gets sorted (which could be weeks/months) the comp will not accept photos, and even if I have any, cannot get blogger to pick them up, so afraid you're going to have to visualise the recipes I give.  Today's dish does need a bit of 'picture this' as it is what could be called a 'deconstructed' pizza.  The dough base is made, but after dividing into two, covering each with the filling, these are then rolled up into what looks like giant sausage rolls.  After baking, these are sliced, but not quite through, so that they can then be laid onto a round serving platter, curving them so the ends meet (they then look like a circle), this exposes the filling, as the slices then like almost flat as they overlap each other, but still joined on the inside of the circle.  Have you understand what I'm trying to say?  It may become clearer as you read through the recipe/method. 
As with most pizzas, you can alter the topping/filling according to what you have or wish to use.

Chicago Roll: cuts into 10 slices
9 oz (250g) bread mix (half a 500g pack)
approx 5 fl oz (150ml) tepid water
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp olive oil
1 lb (450g) onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed (opt)
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
2 tblsp tomato paste/puree
1 tblsp chopped fresh basil
4 oz (100g) peanuts, chopped
2 oz (50g) pitted black olives, finely chopped
3 oz (75g) mix of grated Cheddar and Mozzarella
Mix the bread mix with the water and oil to make a firm dough (use more water if required).  Knead for 5 - 10 minutes until smooth, then place in a bowl, cover and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes to rise.
Meanwhile, make the filling by heating the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Fry the onions for 8 minutes until softened, adding garlic (if using) towards the end.  Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste/puree, basil, peanuts, and olives.  Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes until thickened.
When the dough has risen, knock it back by kneading well again. Divide in half and roll each half into a rectangle 11" x 7" (28 x 18cm).  Lay one on a sheet of greaseproof, spread half the filling over one piece of dough and roll up like a Swiss roll, using the paper to help keep it firmly together. Do the same with the second piece of dough/filling.
Place the rolls side by side on a baking sheet, leaving room between to allow for spreading, and sprinkle the cheese over the tops. Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 25 minutes until the dough has cooked through and the cheese has melted. 
Remove from baking sheet and slice each roll into five, then place on a serving platter, curving each into a semi-circle ends facing together to form a ring, As you do this the rolls will open and display the filling.

More news about B and D's work as film 'extras'.  Apparently the film is not about a Russian lady, but about a lady who lived in Ireland and then worked abroad (Vietnam?).  Possibly Ravenglass is standing in for an Irish village (there is a similarity).  They do more filming on Thursday but not sure where.  Will keep you posted as to what is going on, I can only tell you what B tells me (and he gets it wrong - my daughter had to set me straight about the nationality of the lady).

Dreadful weather they are having again on the east coast of America.  The amount of snow that seems to have fallen is way beyond what we've had here, even though we do think we've had it pretty bad.  More snow is forecast here today, but again mainly Scotland, the North East, Midlands and part of the South.  Here in Morecambe it is cold, has been raining a bit, but not at the moment. Have a feeling that snow will again fall elsewhere, and perhaps, now it is February, am almost hoping we won't have any after all.  Snow I love to see, but it has to be seasonal, and with snowdrops in the garden, prefer to think that Spring is about to burst upon us.  Birds are already pairing up, and they usually have a better idea than we do what weather we are about to experience.

But - especially these last twelve months - the weather really has been going over the top.  Highest ever heat in Australia whilst we have the heaviest rainfall ever recorded.  In America believe they have experienced one of the worst droughts, and hurricanes.  Have other parts of the world suffered worse than normal (or even better)?

With B not returning until mid-evening, and probably he and daughter will stop off for a meal on the way home, this gives me a whole day to myself ('me'-time, yippee!!), so am going to sign off now to make the most of every minute.   Back again tomorrow, so hope to meet and greet you then.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend and hope the weather stays fair wherever you are.