Monday, November 11, 2013

Thinking Inside and Outside the Box

It's been an interesting weekend on the home front.  Gordon Ramsay recently whizzed up raw cauliflower in his food processor to turn it into a sort of 'couscous', then steaming this in muslin in a sieve/colander until just tender.  What a brilliant idea? 

Am fond of cauliflower as it is a very versatile vegetable and keeps for several weeks in the fridge without going 'off'.  So as B was going to Morrison's on Saturday to buy his lottery ticket (this because our local corner sells only the 'raised in price from £1 to £2 Lotto tickets', and like many others B has stopped buying these.  He now buys the Health Lottery tickets for £1 from M'sons), he asked me if I wanted anything.    I asked him to buy one small cauliflower and one of the large ones so that I could compare the price per weight.
This B did, the small cauli being one of those veggies that always now seem to be sold, bagged at £1.  I weighed it and it was 1lb 10oz.  The larger cauliflower was huge, weighing in at 4 1/4 lbs, but cost only £1.59.  You can see which is the better buy.  

Although - to save waste - we are urged to buy only the amount we need (to eat at any one time?), it still makes sense to buy larger amounts of certain veggies that have proved to keep well for quite a few weeks in the fridge (or veggie basket etc).  Myself find that hard white cabbage, cauliflower, iceberg lettuce, Little Gem lettuce, heads of celery, parsnips, turnips, swede, root ginger, onions, garlic, butternut squash, potatoes....when stored correctly will keep for quite a long time.   Any bulk buys (such as 1.5kg 'value' carrots) should be kept in the bag, but the bag split to allow the veggies to breath, otherwise they will go soggy and mouldy.  Removed from the bags, even in a veggie drawer in the fridge they will begin to lose their moisture and go what I call 'bendy'.  Still usable to make vegetable stock, but always best to always check. Other veggies that store for a week or so in the fridge are bell peppers, beetroot (I usually buy the vacuum packed that keep for months), sugarsnap and mangetout peas.  Veggies with a shorter life are tomatoes (usually kept at room temperature), cucumber, spring onions, and of course the 'bagged' leaves, such as watercress, rocket or spinach (of sold in one bag as 'mixed leaves' (can be separated out and each used for a different dish instead of serving together)

Yesterday I removed the 'not so new' veggies from the fridge to use up.  Some were chopped and went into a saucepan to make veggie soup, the same (onion, carrot, celery) were sliced for B to make his stir-fry.  I added potatoes, parsnip and pearl barley, plus chicken stock to my basic veg. B added garlic, ginger, bell peppers and mangetout  to his. So in a way both of us ate much the same, but as completely different dishes.
Small florets of cauli were removed to add to B's stir-fry, and I also removed three outer leaves, cut the inner rib from the green part, sliced the rib up to add to the stir-fry, and shredded the leaves to also add.. 
Sometimes I cut away all the large florets from the core of the cauli just leaving the centre and leaves. The florets are put into a poly bag, allowing just enough air in so they don't 'sweat' - they then still keep well.  The core and leaves are put into the food processor and whizzed down, then added to a pan of milk with (if I have it) the rind of Stilton or Parmesan cheese - these giving added flavour, then simmer until cooked.  Remove the rinds and blitz the soup until creamy - and there you have it: Cauliflower soup - without using the cauliflower if you see what I mean.  Like having your cake and eating it too.

An article in the newspaper caught my eye.  "Families face recycling blitz to hit EU targets".  Seems what is happening is that we - in the UK - are not recycling as much as we used to. The amount of glass/cans collected from homes has fallen by 10% and paper and card levels by 6%.  A spokesperson for the CWWC said she feared homes would start having to pay according to how much rubbish (presumably she means not sorted into respective boxes) they threw away.

Has anyone worked out just WHY we recycle less?  Couldn't the reason be that more and more families are now eating home-cooked meals from scratch, which means there will be a LOT less tins and packaging to throw away.  People can't afford to buy as much wine as possible, so fewer bottles to send to the tip, and any jars we have we keep to recycle in our homes to use again (larger ones for storage, smaller ones for pickles and preserves.  And goodness me, how many people have given up buying newspapers and magazines because they now can't afford them.   Are they now expecting us to buy more 'wastage' to be recycled just to meet the EU demands, and fine us if we can't?  Better not try it mate or I'll be the one fronting a national housewives strike!

Cheespare was asking to be reminded of the four dishes made from one chicken.  So far I've not found the magazine these were first published in (have it somewhere), but did find two of the recipe still seen on this blog.  Go to Archives, and click on Sept. 2006  and the Chicken Terrine (serves 8 - 10) and the Chicken Meatballs (serves 4) will be on the 25th Sept. posting.

Every time I refer to the earliest posting of mine I am surprised how interesting each month reads (suppose I shouldn't be saying that as it was me that wrote them).  Although many of the September 'scribbles' have had to be deleted to allow for at least some of that months recipes to be kept, there are enough 'good(e) eats' to be worth making.  So it is well worth taking the time to scroll down and read as many of the earlier recipes as you can.

One of my favourites is the 'Lemony Apple Curd' (Sept 22nd 2006), as - if you have apples to spare - this works out cheaper and less 'cloying' than then traditional lemon curd, but tastes very similar.

Last week Paul Hollywood was making  Queen of Puddings, and I find my version at almost the beginning of my blog series.  Can't believe I've been writing, almost daily, for over seven years.
At the time of writing did work out the cost (should do this more often as it helps me to keep in touch with price rises), and the Q of P worked out at 15p a serving. Pretty economical wouldn't you say.  However - you'll love this bit - if I made the same thing again today using stale bread that would normally (buy anyone else but me) be thrown in the bin, and allowing a few pence for home-made jam, plus supermarkets lowest priced eggs and milk, it would now work out EVEN CHEAPER!!!  How good is that?

Thing about this recipe it is a classic of its time, and in those days the price of food being relatively more costly than today (when you think of the low wages earned), all cooks were thrifty, aiming to make meals that were economical, and this is one of them.  One step up from the bog standard bread pudding.  The price in brackets is what it would cost me today.   Am adding a few pence extra at the end in case you have no stale bread that needs using up (or would be thrown to the birds). But you could use a few slices from those mega-cheap own-brand loaves (approx. 47p each) sold in supermarkets and not fit for much else, but works with this.
Although I do occasionally buy caster sugar when the price is right (cheaper in bulk), I can also make it buy whizzing gran. sugar in a liquidiser/blender.  Sugar keeps for ever (when stored properly) so I buy granulated in the much cheaper 5kg bags.

Queen of Puddings:  serves 4
3 oz (75g) breadcrumbs (see above)
2 eggs, separated (18p)
2 oz (50g) granulated sugar (5p)
2 oz  (50g) caster sugar (5p)
half pint (300ml) boiling milk (12p)
1 tblsp jam (your choice)
Pour the milk over the breadcrumbs then stir in the granulated sugar and the egg yolks.  Pour into a pie dish and bake at 180C, gas 4 for half an hour.  Remove from oven and leave to cool slightly. Beat the egg whites until thickened then beat in the caster sugar.   Spread jam over the surface of the 'crumb custard', top with the meringue and return to the oven to bake for a further 15 minutes before serving.

Forty pence of priced ingredients = 10p per portion, and even allowing 20p more to cover bread and jam this still keeps the cost to what it was seven years ago (15p a portion).  Thing is, the pudding is made from just about 'healthy' ingredients (esp if the bread 'n jam has been homemade), and it does seem the 'old ways' are best if we want to feed the family well but keep those purse strings tightly shut.

Problem today is that we are now becoming so used to eating foods from other nations.  In their own countries, these too are very cheap to make because they use foods that are grown locally (or at least in their own country).  Here we have to import so many ingredients to make much the same dishes, and however cheap they are when used 'by the bit', we still have to buy a whole jar or packet to get started (and a lot of spices lose flavour quite rapidly once opened). These dishes are - to us - take more time to prepare (we have to read recipes instead of just memorising them).  Even though B finds his stir-fries easy to cook, it is me that has to gather all the ingredients for him, also he cooks the same things each time, just varying the meat and (packet) sauce.  I did buy him a book of 100 stir-fry recipes, but although he fancies trying some, this means more cost to me (ingredients I don't normally stock). So worth dumping the difficult, and select the simple when it comes to choosing the dish of the day.  Or at least one or two days a week - if not more.

Lovely comments came in for which I give grateful thanks.  Interested to hear about you making your own butter Joy, and using oats when making bread.  Don't know if you grind up porridge oats to make fine oat flour, but this flour makes good oatcakes, and other biscuits.

My new web site is on hold at the moment Les, due to me not being able to get photos of the dishes I make onto this computer.  Am hoping this will be soon sorted, and will let everyone know when the new site is up and running.

Sounds as though the newer crockpots, Barbara, cook vegetables better than the old ones.  You mentioned making Dulce de Leche in your crockpot, but do you first empty the tin into the pot before cooking, or cook it in an unopened tin in the crockpot. (I still do it the old-fashioned way, placing the unopened tin in a pan of water and boiling it for several hours).

A bit stumped with your query Tessa about ways to use evaporated milk.  Do remember that when the cans are chilled, the evaporated milk can be whipped up quite thickly, and many years ago always made a 'jelly mousse' (different flavour each week) by first making a jelly (using 3/4pt water) and when it was just about to set (but not quite), then beat up a can of evaporated milk, and continued beating as I poured in the about-to-set jelly.  The cold of the milk set the jelly as it was whipped in and made a huge bowlful. 

Evaporated milk also makes a good rice-pudding, and some readers use it to make their own yogurt (perhaps those that do could remind us how).   You can also make a 'cheat's' pannacotta by stirring in equal amounts of evaporated milk and a 'concentrated' jelly (using half the recommended amount of water), similar to the above 'mousse' but this time stirred together not beaten.  Pour into individual moulds, then when set turn out and serve with fruits or fruit 'coulis' (of the same flavour as the jelly).
I'll try and find more uses for evaporated milk, so keep reading this blog over the next few days (and for ever after I hope).

A welcome to Lorna also watched Hope and Glory.  My hope is that films such as these are shown as part of the school curriculum as children should be reminded of how life was for their grandparents, and much the same as it is now for children in some other war-torn countries.  Maybe then they would begin to appreciate what they have and stop demanding more, and more, and more...

Your husband Taaleedee probably eats all you give him because by now you know the food he most enjoys, avoiding using ingredients he doesn't.  Or perhaps he is one of the lucky ones who will eat anything.  But whatever, you are to be congratulated in not wasting food, and still serving up good meals on a pension.

Re-reading Nella Last's first book yesterday, she remarked how her husband congratulated her on serving such wonderful meals despite the rationing causing shortage of most foods (at the time of writing).  Nella herself explained that she used lots of carrots etc in her meals and disguised these and other foods to make her husband believe he was eating something special.  He was astounded when she told him what his meals were really made of.  He thought she was wonderful.

In a way, this is something we can still do today.  Carrot cake was probably first 'invented' during the last war, but it has stood the test of time, and now we use other veggies when making cakes: beetroot, parsnips, courgettes, pumpkins... sometimes the old ways work out best, especially when it comes to cost, and without loss of flavour.

It crossed my mind the other day that almost certainly the cookbooks published today will give only the metric measurements, and probably a whole generation has grown up using only these, so old cookbooks will be of little use as these give only the imperial measurement.   Does this mean the old recipes will be lost forever?  Probably not, but younger folk would have to buy new cookbooks to know how to now make them, or look them up on the Internet. 
I've never found recipes on the Internet very useful as I have to copy them down in my notebook. Yes, I know they can be cut and pasted to the comp, but my comp is not carried into the kitchen, and even if I was rich enough to buy one of those 'tablets' that could - perhaps - be propped up on a kitchen work surface to read and follow a recipe, it's just not the same.  But then is anything the same any more? 

In 'Doctors' last week, the character 'Karen' was knocked by a reversing car as she bent down behind it to pick up something.  Forget the reason, she was in a coma and when she regained her memory she thought she was still 18 (not middle aged with two children).  How I wish I could wake up one morning and be 18 again.  Probably the best year of my life.  I'm usually younger (slimmer and fitter) in my dreams, but unfortunately last night was not one of them.  In my dream I was desperately trying to find a white-haired wig to fit me (my hair is fast thinning esp at my crown).  The one that I wanted was several sizes too small (I do have a slightly larger head than normal), and was about to try on the one ordered for me (right size) when I woke up.  I've got the sort of face that looks better when there is a fair amount of hair concealing it.  Perhaps I should start wearing a burkha. 

Final mention of evaporated milk.  I was watching a cookery prog (Food Network), think it was a Mexican dessert being made by that girl who P.H once ...well you know what.   It looked ingredibly easy to make.  She emptied a can of condensed milk and a can of evaporated milk into a bow, added 2 eggs and a carton of cream cheese (room temperature or it won't whip).  Beat the lot together and poured it into a ring mould.  On top of this she spooned over a chocolate cake batter she made (presumably Victoria Sponge type but not sure), then baked it in the oven for one hour (can't remember temperature).   It turned out like a chocolate based cheesecake.   Looks gorgeous and I bet tasted wonderful.    Must try making it sometime.  Even if just starting with the cheesecake part.

That's it for today.  Expect to be returning again tomorrow unless anything else gets in the way. Do hope you will be joining me, and look forward to hearing from you.   Incidentally, it would be useful if some (or all - pretty please), give some idea of foods you buy and then find you usually end up having to throw out because you haven't a use for it.  Could it be you throw away because you are following the date (great mistake, many foods can store for much longer than that given)?  Or do you buy the larger packs of (say) bagged greens/salads because they do work out cheaper (by weight)?

Another query.  Do you find you have less waste if you make up a week (or month's) menu in advance and then buy only what you need for this?  Or make up your mind as to what meat/fish/other foods you will buy according to what is on offer that week?  I personally find the latter way works out cheaper, but thankfully enough years experience as to know what can be frozen if not all used up, or can be used up in other dishes.  Waste is something absolutely not allowed in the Goode kitchen, mainly because I very early on was able to see waste food changing into money before my eyes as it slid from my hands into the waste bin.  As the cost of all packaging (and advertising) is included in the price of everything we purchase it makes sense not to pay for something that we will never be able to eat (although I do cut up cereal - and other - packets to use for writing out shopping lists for B).

As I said (before my mind wandered off again, that's it for today.  Quite a bit of today's blog is cause for debate, so love to hear your views.  Don't let me down.  TTFN.

Together we have to find a way to beat our personal devils, and by doing so end up with fatter purses.