Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What's the Difference?

Had a very strange dream last night.  Briefly I was driving some people around in Yorkshire, and suggested they might like to look at some of the country.  Suggested a lovely little village on top of the moors, but couldn't remember how to get there.  Hadn't a map with me.   We stopped in a small town (the name I'd never heard of - and doubt there is such a town), to ask directions.  We were told the right road to take, but my passengers didn't seem that keen.  Eventually I suggested we parked the car and walked around the town, this was much to their taste.  We went into one little shop and a lady there showed me a book that had just been delivered "would make a perfect Christmas present for a child" she said.  It was a book full of illustrations (drawn quite simply) of American countryside, the pages were made of one long strip of card that was evenly creased to look like pages, but could be pulled out into one long strip.  It was when I was told the book cost £44 that I gasped.  How could anyone spend that much on a book for a child, especially if they had several children to buy presents for.

We eventually drove home, by request, as one of the passengers preferred to just return so she could do some crochet.  To me the dream gave me a message.  Not everyone wants to do the things that I enjoy, and especially that many people would never want to do the same things.  This is something I need always to remember.  MY ideas of a good recipe or how to spend/save money is not necessarily the way other people would wish.  So your input is always appreciated so that I can see everything from another viewpoint.

It was only last Friday, when my neighbour and I were drinking coffee in the conservatory that I suddenly noticed a lovely cobweb hanging outside one of the windows, and only then because a big fly had flown into it and got stuck.   A spider scuttled down from a corner and rapidly bound up the fluttering fly (probably had given it a bite to paralyse it as well), then returned to the corner leaving the fly dangling in the middle.  I was entranced, but my neighbour (who hates spiders) couldn't bear to look, and even when she did, she thought it was awful, especially when the spider ("huge it was" she said - and it wasn't), returned and carried the fly away up out of sight to presumably put it in its larder.  To me that was nature worth watching, appreciating, but my neighbour was not of the same opinion.  And why should she be?

As very little of what was planned to be done WAS done yesterday, during the evening I wrote down in a little notebook (sitting in my apron pocket that I'm wearing as I write) all the jobs that need to be done today.  And work through them I will.  So today's blog has been started early to give me time to finish and begin working before 9.00am (hopefully).

Thanks Maggie Mac for telling me about the way to find products(in this instance cheap bacon) on the Tesco site.  Had known most of this, but have never come across the 'sort by price - low to high' before.  This I must look out for as it is what would be very useful for me when ordering certain items.
Normally I just sign in then write up my shopping list on the little 'note-pad' they provide, then press 'Go' and when each item comes up can refine the search to certain items, but never delved further into other ways to find what I need.

Thanks also to Sairy for telling us about Sainsbury's cheaper bacon, and probably - whatever store we choose to buy from - we are more likely to find exactly what we want if we are able to choose by sight when we shop instore, not via a website.

Pleased that you found Donald Russell meat so good Joy, if have ordered from them previously, I expect they regularly send you details of their offers.  The one for their minced meat came yesterday with many other offers, and their offer of minced steak expires 3rd Nov. (in four days time), although some of the other offers may be around for longer.

I've been watching a programme about Iceland Foods, and was quite impressed by the company policies, especially with the staff.  The food sold sounded a lot better than I thought it was (cheap and inferior, but obviously not).  At one time they stopped delivering, but if they do may have another think and buy some frozen foods from them and then make my own judgement.

One item shown was a couple of cooks inventing new dishes - in this instance pizza.  Seems that Iceland pizzas are all the same price (£1).  I've seen frozen pizzas sold for much more, so was (slightly) impressed.  But then, after seeing a new variety they were working on - pizza base covered with tomato and grated cheese, then topped with baked beans and bits of cut up (cooked?) sausage, finally with a drizzle of barbeque sauce, it didn't take much for me to work out we could EASILY make that ourselves for half the price (in other words 50p - or less).

When we had a chest freezer I often made a batch of pizza 'bases' (the rolled out dough topped with tomato sauce) then froze these, placing a box of grated cheese in the freezer next to them so that when I felt like making a pizza, half the job was already done, all I had to do was put on any other toppings I wished (or even none at all), then just cover the pizza with the grated cheese, and bake.

Am not much of a fan of pizzas, but if assembled with thought, dare say we could form a 'balanced' meal out of  them.  We have the carbohydrate (pizza base), the vegetables (tomato sauce plus some sweetcorn perhaps), and the protein (cheese and maybe added bacon, chorizo etc ).

This week I've been able to buy Tesco bread mix at reduced price (via their offer of buy 3 get the cheapest free - and when buying three packs, there was no cheapest, so still got the third free).  Not so long ago their own-brand bread mixes were 66p, then they went up to (I think) 69p, now they are 75p each.  Still not a bad price as they make excellent bread and by extending the mix with half as much again of strong plain flour (costs only pennies to do this) and extra liquid, end up with one large and one small loaf for (now) under £1.
Had I bought the bread mix at the old price of 66p, the three packs would have cost me £1.98p, but with this 'get the third free' offer, even at the new price of 75p paid only £1.50 for the three packs, giving me a saving of 48p.   Needless to say I bought a goodly number of packs (they store well), so that I can keep B satisfied with home-made bread (which reminds me, we are running short so need to bake more loaves today - wait while I add these to my list.....)....done that!

So - it's a good idea to make our own pizzas using a bread mix, and although not always uses, I add a drizzle of olive oil when making the dough (it helps the dough to stretch more easily when rolling out).  One pack of bread mix should make at 5 - 6 large pizza bases, more if extending it by adding more flour/liquid, and even more if you like the bases to be thin (I like them thickish).  So working on a pizza base of around 15p each, the tomato (pizza) sauce topping would be only a few pence (you don't need a lot, just enough for a thin layer over the dough), and cheese - possibly 25p when grated, and almost free if you grate up those odds and ends of assorted cheese you find at the back of the fridge.  That would make a traditional pizza anyway but if you want more, other topping could be could be leftovers (a cold sausage, a few baked beans saved, a few bits of bacon from those cheap packs....).

Here are a few pizza recipes to use as a guide.  You could assemble them in advance to freeze, or work with a partly assembled frozen pizza (base, sauce...) and go on from there. 
Worth while mentioning for those who live alone or with just one partner (or flatmate), why not make individual pizzas.  Serve them with a crisp salad and you will get that 'balanced' meal.
Instead of passata, you could whizz a can of plum tomatoes in a food processor/blender to make a thick sauce (freeze any surplus in small containers to use on other pizzas), or use a tablespoon of tomato puree diluted with a little tomato ketchup (or water).

The pizza base in this recipe is one of those ready-prepared-for baking that are sold in supermarkets. When using a home-made dough base, allow extra time for cooking.  Several chefs spread the dough base with a little ketchup, then part cook for 5 or so minutes, then remove from oven, spread the rest of the tomato sauce over, then the chosen toppings and cheese, returning it to the oven to finish cooking (a further 10 minutes).  This makes sure the base is cooked through without over-cooking the toppings.

Sausage and Tomato Pizza: serves 2
1 tblsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 tblsp passata (see above)
pinch sugar
salt and pepper
1 pizza base (approx. 9"/23cm)
1 -2 cooked sausages, cut into thin slices
2 oz (50g) grated cheese (any kind)
Put the olive oil into a pan and fry the onion for about 5 minutes, adding the garlic a minute before the end. Season the passata with the sugar and seasoning to taste.
Place the pizza base onto a baking sheet and spread the passata over, leaving a border around the edge.  Top with onions, sausages, and finally the cheese.   Cook in a hot oven 220C, gas 7 for about 15 minutes or until the base is crisp.

Next recipe is my favourite as it uses a pack of bread mix, and - once assembled - the pizzas can be frozen and also baked from frozen.  By varying the toppings you can keep a selection of pizzas in your freezer to suit the mood of the day ("tonight I fancy spicy").
Bake from Frozen Pizzas: makes 6
1 x 500g pack bread mix
oil (for greasing bowl)
plain flour (for rolling)
6 tblsp tomato (pizza) sauce, or passata
few fresh basil leaves, torn into shreds
18 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 x 250g ball mozzarella cheese
1 oz (25g) grated Parmesan cheese
Make up the bread mix as per packet instructions, then place the dough in an oiled bowl, set in a warm place, to rise for 1 hour.  Knock back the dough by punching out all the air using your fist, then remove from bowl and roll into a sausage shape, cutting it into six equal portions (if you want to be exact, weigh each so they end up the same weight).
Working with one piece of dough at a time (cover the rest with a damp tea towel or oiled foil or film to prevent it drying out), shape it into a ball then roll it out on a floured board to about 8" (20cm) in diameter.
Put the pizza bases on large oiled baking sheets (you may need several according to the size of your freezer).  Spread 1 tblsp of the sauce over each base, stopping just before you reach the edge, then scatter the basil, tomatoes and mozzarella over, finishing with the Parmesan (or any other freezable toppings you may wish to use).  To freeze the pizzas wrap each in cling-film, then freeze before stacking together in freezer bags or containers. Or each can be separately frozen in a freezer bag after being tightly covered with cling-film.
To cook from frozen, remove all wrappings and place on a pre-heated baking sheet - oven temperature 200C, gas 7 and bake for 12 - 15 minutes until crisp and golden.
Tip: Brush the uncovered edge of the pizza base with oil before baking if you wish for a more tender but still crunchy crust.

With Halloween almost here, am finishing today with one more recipe that could make use of the surplus pumpkin flesh.  This time in chunks (so no need to puree).  Suppose not every one has caraway seeds in their larder, but I find these seeds add so much flavour particularly good with cabbage (and let's not forget Seed Cake - haven't seen a recipe for this in years). Instead of caraway use another flavouring of your choice, or just omit them).
You don't have to use pork sausages either - use those made with lamb, chicken, beef or even use the vegetarian options.  What's the difference you might say - well the difference is in the flavour, quality and price.  YOU choose whatever suits you best.
Incidentally, the chunks of pumpkin should be sausage sized (finger length pieces)

Sausage and Pumpkin Roast: serves 4
1 x 450g pack pork sausages (see above)
1lb 2 oz (700g) pumpkin, peeled and cut into chunks
2 red onions, cut into wedges
2 tblsp olive oil
2 tsp caraway seeds (opt)
1 x 300g tub of fresh beef gravy (or use home-made)
salt and pepper
Put the sausages, pumpkin, onions, oil and caraways seeds (if using) into a large roasting tin, tossing everything together to coat with the oil, then roast at 200C, gas 7 for 20 - 30 minutes until the sausages are browned and the pumpkin softened.
Add the gravy to the pan and - using a wooden spoon - stir this gently around the pumpkin and bangers, scraping up the sticky bits that have stuck to the base of the pan.  Return to the oven for 5 more minutes or until the gravy has begun to simmer (bubble).  Add seasoning to taste, and serve with a green vegetable (cabbage, beans etc...).

One minute past nine, so have just about finished on time.  Won't be blogging tomorrow, but should be back on Friday.  Do hope you'll be able to join me then.  TTFN.