Thursday, September 05, 2013

Watch and Wait..

Many thanks for all your comments.  Very few thought Jamie's programme had much to do with economy, but to be fair, I think we should carry on watching because I'm sure I heard that he does meet up with cash-strapped families and goes into their homes, possibly showing how much more would be made using their budget.

Am replying in 'comment order' (as they arrived in the 'inbox' of my email) so will jump around a bit between Jamie and other subjects. 
Firstly, a comment by Rachel who says that many people do have kitchen gadgets/appliances but rarely use them (given as gifts etc). How true this is.  I've mentioned before a bridge friend of mine who - as able to afford it - had her perfectly good kitchen stripped out and a new one fitted will just about everything, including a dish-washer, freezer, a gorgeous double oven, and an imported Italian glass topped table for the centre of the room! She lives alone and had only a couple of plates and mugs plus cutlery to wash each day because she never cooks, prefers to eat M & S ready-meals tbat she heats in her microwave (so no pots and pans to wash either).  She has shown me her state of the art Kenwood Chef (and attachments), also a food processor.  These being still in her cupboards, in the boxes they came in, and which she won't use because - as she says - she can't be bothered with washing them up each time they have been used.
Incidentally, as she also had her garden landscaped, then had TWO gardeners to care for it (only a smallish suburban garden surrounding a bungalow) AND a cleaning lady, was not at all surprised that my bridge friend was always complaining of feeling bored, and was one of the most miserable people I have yet to meet. 

Once I was asked by a young(ish) married lady to go to her home and show her how to make chicken liver pate - her husband requested that she knew how to make it for some reason.  Her kitchen too had just about everything a cook needed (mainly given as wedding presents) yet she had absolutely no idea how to cook, and admitted she didn't even wish to.  But in both cases, there was enough money to buy any prepared food they wanted, so why bother to cook?

Very nearly bought a pie maker myself Jane, but in the end decided they would probably end up too small for my Beloved who prefers his pies made in the much larger Fray Bentos tins (several of which I have saved).  The reason why I bought these F.B. pies in the first place was that they were on offer (very much reduced) and as B used to enjoy them about 40 years earlier, decided to try them again.  This time he didn't like them much at all (at least not the pastry as it had a soggy bottom after cooking).  But in the old days the pies were better than the ones I could make. Now the situation has been reversed, but worth buying just the once for the 'free' tins.

Great news Kathryn to hear you now have half an allotment.  Am hoping that you managed to gather plenty of blackberries from your brambles before you cut them down - it's said to have been one of the best years for these berries.  Also that the apple trees bear a goodly amount of fruit. 
Do know that one of the easiest ways to clear ground of weeds is to plant potatoes, this is probably because of the initial digging to plant the potatoes, followed by the earthing up, but any weeds already there are supposed to be killed off by some chemicals in the potato plant. 
Our sympathies and condolences go out to you regarding your sad loss. It cannot have been an easy time for you recently.

As you say Louise, in the past we did work longer hours (you mentioned your mother), and I forgot to mention that at one time we only had two weeks holiday a year, usually pre-set by a company to fit in with their work. Often many firms in one town would have the factories closed down the same week and everyone would go off to the nearest seaside (when we lived in Leicester, think Skegness was the chosen resort, in Yorkshire possibly Scarborough or Bridlington, and for those in Lancashire it would be Blackpool or Morecambe.
Now, I believe that many workers get six weeks holiday a year, usually able to take the time of when convenient to them (as long as they give enough notice to allow someone to take their place at work).

Thought about when I used to work as barmaid (firstly when B was out of work, then continued because I enjoyed the job).  Used to leave home the minute the very young children were put to bed (usually 6.30) and returned home about midnight.  This after a full day's housework which - regular readers will remember - was fairly strenuous anyway (no washing machine....three children, two in nappies...).  But I suppose youngsters today spend just as much energy dancing the night away in the various clubs.  The energy is there, it's just put to a different use today. And why not?  We are supposed to progress, not return to the 'bad old days' (unfortunately I prefer to think of them as being 'the good old days').  Each to his own.

Regarding the Yorkshire pudding Louise.  Yes, you are quite right, this was always provided as a 'filler'.  Although I've never read about a Yorkie being cooked in a pan with the meat sitting on a grid over the top as it cooked, this was the way my mother made it (after first pouring away most of the fat in the tin, just leaving enough to cook the Yorkie), and the juices from the meat would drip into the Yorkshire Pudding, making it taste wonderful. This was served with the meat (and the trad. two veg), but in many homes would be served as a first course, with some gravy, so that less of the second would be needed.  My B says his mother used to serve left-over Yorkshire Pud with some syrup as a pudding, so now - when I make four individual Yorkies - in the special tin, he eats two with his beef, and the remaining two with syrup for his pud.

Think just about everywhere Sairy, Jamie's book will be sold reduced to £10.  He said so on his prog.  Perhaps it may eventually come out in paperback, but normally this is always after the hardback has been on sale for a while.  Some books are only in paperback, but of course the programme producers and publishers are in it to make as much money as possible.  Jamie only gets a percentage of the money from the sale of his books, firstly and 'advance', then once enough has been sold to recoup this amount, the publishers then pay him 'royalties', a small percentage of the price of each book sold.
Don't think Jamie's accent is deliberately false.  He is an Essex boy, and to me sounds like one, and to be honest enjoy watching cooks with a strong regional accent (Hairy Bikers etc), than those a bit more 'plummy', although much depends upon the person.  I really like watching Nigel Slater, and he speaks 'proper'. 

As mentioned above buttercup, am pretty sure there was a mention in an interview with Jamie that he does go into people's homes and cooks meals using their budget.  Will just have to keep watching and wait and see.

Think we all agree that Jamie's budget is not what we think of as economical, and hearing a brief extract from a radio interview yesterday when he was asked "what is the smallest amount of money you would need to manage on" he said £44.60 (not quite sure if it was 60p but the £44 was right). Was that meant to be for a family of two, four, or six? (He seemed to be cooking for six in his first prog). But he did add "that's because I buy free-range and freedom foods, so people could spend less".

Jamie does cook at speed.  That I grant you (and commented on by Stephanie).  In a way this is the fault of the producers who want to show as much as possible in a limited time.  Maybe it is a way of showing how quick and easy it is to prepare a meal, but only the experiences cooks will know what is happening.  If shown slowly, step by step, we (the know-alls) would probably get bored watching.  There needs to be special programmes shown for novice cooks, a bit of the Anna Olsen approach would be perfect, slowly show the way to make the basic, then go on to improving this, finally give it the special touch.

But with almost any cookery programme there is a hint/tip worth learning.  As Les pointed out, Jamie proved that by making our own pizzas we could save £££££s.  The cost of a month's takeaway pizzas would provide the ingredients to make enough pizzas to last us a year.  And that's worth knowing about.

Have no idea what the huge wooden mushroom would be used for Taaleedee (did you buy it?).  Some people collect mushrooms like some collect owls (my friend Gill collects mushrooms to display on her shelves). If it has a flat base to the stem, it would then stand up and probably be 'an ornament'. If a pointed end to the handle, then probably meant to be used for darning something.  Maybe sheets or tablecloths?

Your mention of a neighbour having a pizza delivered shows how some people seem to have no idea of how much money could be saved by making a pizza themselves (that particular neighbour sounded as though it would be worth home-cooking pizzas).
On the other hand Alison's comment re takeaways being enjoyed does bear thinking about.  Even a cook likes to take a day off, and having a meal made FOR them and not BY them is a treat in itself, so if 'eating out' is too expensive, the next best thing is a take-away and if delivered to the door, even better.
Have to say about once a month do ask B to fetch a Chinese take-away so that I can have my 'treat' (although he also has his portion). The local take-away is only a short step away, so no point in paying extra for delivery.  I used to prefer having our traditional fish 'n chips, and although the fish is still superb, the batter beautifully crisp, the chips seem to end up soggy.  Maybe it is the polystyrene box they are packed in.  In the old days newspaper used to soak up the fat.  
B prefer scampi and chips, so if he chooses to go and buy the meal from a takeaway I just ask for fish and some 'scratchings' (crispy bits of batter that never go soggy perhaps because they are put into a paper bag!).

Since B now cooks his own stir-fry, we don't have take-away so often.  Just as well really, as I'd pile on the lbs again if I ate too many of them.
Day before yesterday I cooked B prawns in a Thai Green Curry sauce.  Extremely quick and easy to make.  I used a different bottled curry sauce, and instead of diluting the 'paste' with coconut milk (I'd already soaked a sachet of coconut cream in water) this particular jar already had the coconut milk in it, just had to pour the lot in the pan and heat the prawns in it.  Silly me added the coconut milk so had to simmer it down a lot before adding the prawns.  Still too much sauce so spooned half of it out and saved it to pour over my chopped up seasticks and shredded iceberg lettuce.  Would you believe this still-warm curry sauce made the fish and salad taste absolutely wonderful?  Well, it did.  Must do that again.

Have looked up the recipe for mincemeat (made in a slow-cooker) so here it is.  Not all recipes for mincemeat need any cooking at all, but the advantage of this cooked version is that - once made - it doesn't need leaving to mature, and can be used straight away.
Not one of the cheapest mincemeats to make, but better we make 1 lb only (using a quarter of each ingredient), to eat and enjoy, rather than make a less pleasant substitute.  Also, the gentle heating intensifies the flavour of all the ingredients, so we could use less mincemeat in our pies (or even stir in a little more grated apple or breadcrumbs to bulk it up prior to piling it into the pastry cases).  However, we could cut a few corners (and costs) by using (total weight) of dried mixed fruit that contains candied peel,
Crock-Pot Mincemeat: makes about 4 lb
l lb (450g) cooking apples
4 oz (100g) glace cherries, roughly chopped
4 oz (100g) candied peel, chopped
4 oz (100g) no-soak apricots, chopped
4 oz (100g) blanched almonds, chopped
5 fl oz (150m) brandy
8 oz (225g) currants
8 oz (225g) sultanas
1 lb (450g) raisins
8 oz (225g) soft dark brown sugar
8 oz (225g) grated suet (or vegetarian suet)
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground allspice
half tsp grated nutmeg
grated zest and juice of one lemon and one orange
Peel, core and chop the apples and put into the slow-cooker with HALF the brandy and the remaining ingredients.  Stir well until thoroughly mixed.  Cover with the lid and switch on to HIGH. Cook for one hour.
Stir the mixture well, then re-cover and reduce temperature to LOW. Cook for a further 2 hours, stirring half-way through cooking to prevent over-heating and sticking to the pot. 
Remove lid and leave the mixture to cool completely, stirring occasionally, then - when cold - stir in the remaining brandy and spoon the mixture into sterilised jars.  Cover and store in a cool and dry place for up to 6 months.  Once opened, store in the fridge and use within 2 weeks.

Yesterday was hunting out a few books to lend to my neighbour (she and I both like to read the same type of books).  Came across 'Round About a Pound a Week' (a factual book showing how - at the turn of last century - the poor had only £1 a week to live on and how they spent their money.  Flicking through the pages I noticed a bit about how easy it is for a person to live on very little money when they already have some cooking equipment and - of course - enough experience of how to cook. For those who always have lived on the breadline and know very little about nutrition etc, it was a completely different ball-game (only they said it differently).  
This is something I keep trying to be aware of.  It is so easy for me to come up with economy recipes when I already have 'the makings' in my larder, and a fridge/freezer etc.  Although it has to be remembered that I have had to provide more than food on limited housekeeping (clothes, gifts, everything else a child needs....) and once with no housekeeping at all.  But still did have SOME basic 'dry goods' to fall back on.  And how useful they were.  It got to be that an ounce of flour was worth more than its weight in gold at times. 

Also have to remember that I've been cost-cutting now (semi-professionally if you can call it that) for 40 years (after 10 years teaching myself how to) so obviously will have learnt a lot during that time, and sometimes I forget that not everyone finds some things as easy to do as I now do (although when I learned did take AGES to make something, but perhaps it was the perseverance that paid off).

There was a prog on last night( 'Rip off Britain' or some such name) where we were shown how ithe cheaper fish was sold as 'cod'.  Not that there was anything wrong with the cheaper fish (called 'river cobbler' from Vietnam), but when passed off and sold as the more expensive cod, then we were being 'ripped off'.  Far better we buy the cheaper fresh fish and make our own fish fingers, fish cakes, fry it in batter, than buy the ready-prepared to cook ourselves (always more expensive of course). 

It may seem easier to buy the above 'readies', but when we buy a whole fillet of chunky fish, cut it into fingers, then egg and crumb this, it can be frozen to make our own 'fish fingers', and we could make quite a lot in 15 minutes.  When we flour/egg/crumb, we add size to the end product, so if we 'double dip' (egg/crumb a second time), a fish finger would look quite a good size, but not necessarily need have that much fish internally.  But far better a small 'finger of fish' that is pure solid fish than the mushy pre-formed fish that so often is used in the ready-prepared on sale.

We also saw how some pizzas on sale at some take-aways do not have 'real' ham and cheese on top. We were told it could be turkey ham (and that made from the neck, heart, even livers of turkeys, again 'mushed up' and 'pre-formed' into pressed 'ham').  The cheese also synthetic.
When it came to showing the ingredients for the cheap ice-cream on sale.  Enough seen then to put me off eating it altogether, but - as the man said - the more expensive ice-cream uses real cream.  I've still to find a better and easier recipe than beating together a pint of double cream with a can of condensed milk.  Add chosen flavourings, freeze and that's all that needs to be done.  No further whipping, it serves virtually soft-scoop.  Although have to say I've found 'Boris' (the freezer part of our fridge freezer) is set so low (minus 20c) that even the above ice-cream is a bit firmer than I would like.  Now I store it in the smaller chest freezer ( a few degrees 'warmer') it is much easier to scoop.

It crossed my mind yesterday that if we bought less food, the money we would save could go towards buying better quality foods, particularly the fresh (fruit, veg, meat and fish). We would then be able to serve meals to a higher standard, but not spend any more money.  True we would have to eat less, but then as we all eat too much anyway, we would not be depriving ourselves nutritionally, probably end up healthier.   The good thing about 'good food' (by this I mean 'quality') is that it can be far ore satisfying when eaten, so we end up feeling as if we've eaten enough despite the smaller helpings.
Not that helpings need to be smaller.  As I've said before, quality meat (and fish) have so much more flavour, we can use less than a recipe recommends but still end up with as good a meal as when more of a cheaper meat was used.  This works especially well when adding other ingredients as 'make-weight'.  Extend meat in a Strogonoff by adding more mushrooms.  Use less good stewing meat in a casserole by adding more vegetables, and top with dumplings. 
Make quality fish go further by serving it with rice in a risotto, or make fishcakes.

And yes, you will now feel I'm a hypocrite because I buy cheaper eggs (for my baking) instead of only using free-range.  I buy cheaper chickens (but not the cheapest) because free-range are too expensive.  I've stopped having a delivery of organic veggies because these too were expensive - and often not always able to be used (forked parsnips etc).  When it comes to cost, we have to cut our coat according to our cloth.  Although I can afford to buy organic (some of the time), and I always buy quality meat and fish (and I've already mentioned how this can be afforded on a tight budget), to be able to continue 'cost-cutting' at time I need to rob Peter to pay Paul.  If cheap flour works as well (when double sifted) as the more expensive, then why not use it?  If cheap eggs have the same nutrition as the free-range, and work just as well then why not....? Yes, I know there is a moral issue here (I've had plenty of slaps just daring to mention using cheap eggs before), but for those who really have to scrimp and save, surely it helps when they find a recipe that costs far less than expected, and this probably because the cheapest ingredients were used. As ever, we all have a choice as to what we buy, and pay more when we can afford to.

I'm forever rambling on far too long about the above.  But it bugs me when I see a price given with a recipe in a cookery mag.  Always it seems far more expensive that it needs be.  Perhaps the cooks use 'London' prices, or always use 'free-range' etc.  Do readers tend to be swayed by prices given?  Do they believe a dish would be more expensive than they would wish to spend, so never make it?  Does anyone bother to cost out a recipe and see if they could make it cheaper than the price stated?
Like many foods on the supermarket shelves, recipes are not (price-wise) all that they seem to be.  Anyone with a little cookery experience should be able to adapt and make a cheaper version that tastes just as good if not better.  Hope readers will send examples of some of their money-saving tips.

Another lovely morning.  Yesterday spent a happy couple of hours sitting with my neighbour in the garden (coffee morning).  Today think I'll take my coffee and sit by myself in the garden enjoying the last of the sun before the rain forecast for tomorrow.  The container plants need watering so hoping it will rain.  After that we expect to have more good weather.  What a wonderful summer we have had. Just like old times (I'm old enough to remember what a good summer was like).

Will take my slow-cooker cookbook into the garden with me to plan casseroles for the cooler autumn and cold winter days.  Almost worth looking forward to.   Back again Friday or Saturday, maybe also Sunday as Gill is away this weekend.  Enjoy your day.  TTFN.