Tuesday, August 06, 2013

In at the Deep End

Am very grateful to readers who have recently hauled me over the coals regarding comments they believe I have made (several of which were not said by me - please let me know the posting where I said 'something a child could make?) that they didn't particularly like or agree with. In most cases it seems they have not read recent posts of mine which perhaps explained things more clearly. To clarify a few things, I HAVE bought the £10 foods mentioned in the last few postings, and have to say that there was more than enough for my personal needs, but this only because I'm fighting a losing battle with my weight, so eat only two meals a day (soup for 'brunch' and usually a couple of boiled eggs with some salad (mixed leaves grown on the windowsill)for 'supper', and often drink only water. Enough to satisfy me, and works out extremely inexpensive over the week. My Beloved - of course - is fed much better meals, which are made from my stores (which have been built up over the months). Also I am involved with our local foodbank, so what I write is not just supposition or 'what I've read'. I do criticise (in my mind only) the foods that are allocated, for many foodbanks supply only canned and packet foods with no fresh food whatsoever. This makes it very limiting when it comes to preparing a 'proper meal', but at least fish cakes using canned fish/canned potatoes (or instant potato) plus other dishes such as Cottage Pie (canned minced meat, instant potato, canned veggies etc) are able to be made, casseroles etc, and I've been able to provide many recipes plus hints and tips that use only the allocated foods, and have been told these are given with the allocations and also on the counter to anyone else who wishes to have them. The good thing about all canned foods is that they have already been cooked, so for those who have no form of heating at least the can contents can be eaten cold. During this recent hot weather, probably the best way to eat them. I'm sure I'm not the only one who enjoys eat cold baked beans. Some readers seem to feel I am 'anti-Jack', this is NOT the case. It is true that I was slightly critical of the 'fish paste/yogurt' mention on the radio, mainly because it got my little brain cells working more about the cost (27p a head was it?), because I knew (because of that dreaded word 'experience') that cheaper 'treats' could be made. My intention was to get readers to think more about the cost of ingredients so they could make up their own inexpensive eats, not to put 'Jack' down. In fact 'Jack's' blog is EXACTLY what is needed at this time, written by someone who has experienced the problems of today -dealing with the rising costs of food, and lack of cookery knowledge that abounds. Her approach will naturally be very different to mine for although we've both experienced having to cope raising a family on very little money (or none at all), things were different 'in my day'. Maybe somewhat easier for me as in the 50's many of today's convenience foods had not yet reared their ugly head, and there was less pressure to serve anything more than 'just plain food' (which we grew up with eating anyway, so had a rough idea of what it should at least look like, even if we had to resort to meeding only one cook-book to tell us how to make everything we needed). Am hoping that a TV company will soon approach 'Jack' as we desperately need to have her host a cookery programme that really shows what can be made both cheaply and easily. If not, then let's hope we see 'Jack' on 'Superscrimpers', and do hope her book will be a best-seller, and if anything I've said in the past or present sounds 'patronising' then it was never meant to be. There are times it seems that whatever I say, someone will take offence to, so perhaps I should take more care on how I string words together to make sure there is no misunderstanding. I've had my hand slapped many times because I've suggested using free-range eggs "that cannot be afforded", then slapped again because I suggest buying the cheapest eggs 'because we should all buy free-range for the sake of the hens'. Readers might (or might not) be interested to know that this week I've bought a tray of the cheapest eggs (9p each) but also bough half a dozen 'extra large free-range eggs' for my Beloved to eat. Have to say the 'extra large' eggs were only 'slightly' larger than the cheaper eggs (by a fraction of an ounce - I weighed them)and when one of each was fried for B he couldn't tell the difference! This given as a fact, the moral issue is something else. Maybe I assume too much when I give recipes (and the method of making), believing that all readers (of this blog) have some knowledge of cooking, for those that don't would read different blogs that suit their lifestyle wouldn't they? This blog is based more on how cheaply we can make a dish, and also how we can also save time when preparing it, for one of the worst things about cooking (and perhaps the most off-putting) is that much more now than in times past we are expected to spend more time gathering together the ingredients needed - then weighing etc, before putting them back - than ever is spent just assembling the dish before cooking it. One reason why Jamie Oliver's "15 minute meals" work BECAUSE all most of the 'prep' has been done in advance. Cooking was very much easier when I was younger, in fact my mother only owned one recipe book, and this was the 'Be-ro' booklet, with only recipes that used the Be-ro flour. Everything else cooked was the type of meal that had been cooked before for generations. Once made, never forgotten. Am hoping to give a useful tip for those who enjoy eating home-made bread but don't want the hassle of making it from scratch. Use a bread mix, BUT add strong plain flour to the mix and end up with an extra loaf for just 25p!. Until very recently Tesco's bread mixes were 66p per 500g pack, but noticed today that they have suddenly risen to 75p!! Thankfully I had bought a dozen or so packs while they were still at the lower price. Allison's strong bread flour is £1 at the moment (reduced from £1.72p, but 'own brand' strong bread flour is £1). When I use a 500g bag of bread mix (66p) I usually add 250g of the strong plain flour (25p), adding a total of 500ml of water, and the dough still rises perfectly. This makes one large loaf and one smaller one for just 25p extra. Have now tried using equal amounts of bread mix and the strong plain flour - with the correct amount of liquid of course - and this still works. It does seem there is enough yeast in the bread mix to rise quite a lot of added flour, although the more added, the longer it may take the dough to rise. The good thing is that by adding an equal amount of strong flour to the bread mix, we can make another large loaf for just the cost - 25p - of the added flour. A tip that I hope will prove useful, especially now that the cost of the bread mix has gone up. Maybe these mixes are still cheaper in other stores? Will not be blogging tomorrow as it is Norma day, but hope to receive more comments on what I've said today, and please be as blunt as you like. Whenever I'm criticised I listen and learn. Let us hope the government or those who deal with schooling and food related subjects, will listen to the public and bring back hands-on cookery education in schools plus learning about food shopping, budgeting etc. Also give a lot more help, aid or whatever it is called, to the Foodbank 'clients'. No-one should be ashamed of having to collect food from a foodbank, although I do remember being extremely embarrassed when - for at least one term, two of our young children had to have 'free school meals' because we hadn't the money to pay for them, and everyone in the school knew about it (we being the only 'poor' family at that time). The mention of 'a child could do it' reminded me that probably a child COULD possible make as good a job at cooking that an adult, once it has earned how, mainly because children learn very quickly, and - unlike adults, probably would enjoy the experience, so want to do more. Nothing is fun when we don't enjoy doing it (one reason why I keep finding different ways to find pleasure in something I don't always enjoy -cooking can be boring at times). Believe me, a child of (say) seven could almost certainly be able to sort out the problems I'm having with this computer recently, and I'll never be able to learn how. How I wish I could get back to blogging as I used to - with proper paragraphs and detailed recipes, but will just have to accept what the blog will allow me to do and hope none of you get fed up reading it. With school holidays now started, what better time to get the children in the kitchen and begin cooking (always under the careful attention of a parent. As children do tend to eat everything they have made themselves, get them to include plenty of veggies in what they are making. TTFN