Friday, December 27, 2013

Now for Plan B!!

Got up early as the hurricane force winds during the night kept me awake, yet yesterday (and the day before ) the weather was calm, sunny and dry.  What a difference now!    More floods are expected today over the UK adding to those that have not yet drained away, and almost certainly a lot more power lines down.   An hoping our power stays on (and the tiles on the roof - both apartments, our and upstairs share roof responsibility).

Anyway, am now sitting comfortably, trying to avoid looking through the window in front of me, as I don't wish to see the bushes in the garden almost blown flat, but the sound of the wind is not so bad due to the double glazing.  Good to be able to sit and have a chat, so will start by again sending a blanket 'thank you' to everyone who sent Season's Greetings, and today a few replies to those who added a bit more.  Also a big welcome to new readers (or it might be welcome back, my memory is not as good as it was), although a few came in as 'anonymous', and 'unknown'. But you will know who you are and hope you know how I appreciate hearing from you. In fact we all do.  It's not just me and everyone else.  We are all in this together.  The 'munch-crunch-bunch' as I used to call us.
A definite newcomer is Treaders (lives in the French Alps).  She left the UK to get away from our weather, and after these last few days I bet there will be a lot of other citizens also wishing they could emigrate. 

It is lovely to hear from readers who have moved to pastures now.  We now are fortunate to get comments from Australia, New Zealand, several different states in America, also Canada, Germany,  Malaysia, and I'm also including Ireland, Scotland and Wales (just because I'm English doesn't mean we are in the same melting pot and accepted as being the same, because we're not.  In fact the Irish, Welsh, Scots - and the Cornish (I believe) - are  the original 'true Brits' (Celts), the rest of us are a bastard race with Roman, Viking, Jute, Spanish, German, and French blood in our veins (and probably a lot of other nations too).  Have great respect for the different 'countries' of the UK, and there truly is a difference in the traditions and cultures of each - and before anyone points a finger at me, I'm NOT being racist).  Perhaps we have readers in other countries much further afield (like Lapland?)  If so, please let us know as there are often queries I'd like to ask re their respective traditional foods/dishes.   

Thanks to Emma for sending in her menu for over Christmas.  Made my mouth water.   Also to Margie (two comments) who gave me a guide to some prices in Canada.  With the rate of exchange, and allowing that it was the better quality foods mentioned, the prices are not much higher in Canada than here.  Which is something I suppose.
The description of the ice-storm in Toronto (causing electricity cuts) sounded amazing.  Don't think we have ice-storms here.  We have ice on the paths, icicles that hang from the gutters, hoar frost on leave. If freezing when it rains, it is only 'sleet', nothing worse. Colder weather brings snow, but then our temperatures don't fall as low as those in Canada.

A further comment from Cheesepare I have kept until last as it leads me on to my topic for today:  the current challenge.  A query as to whether the foods I have in stock are the same as those in the early (2006/7) challenge brings the response that they are probably similar as I tend to cook much the same meals now as then.
However, this year there will be other foods in the larder that I can draw on (not mentioned in the earlier lists), and of course I will be giving details of the meals made, and recipes where applicable.

We come now to the costing.  Yesterday there I was pen and pad in my apron pocket, pulling them out and writing down everything I made and the cost of ingredients.  By the evening I had decided this was going to give me endless work that I really did not wish to do - and was it even necessary?  Certainly I wouldn't wish this task taken on by readers.
In any case, I'd already BOUGHT  the ingredients, so why bother to 'buy' them from myself again?  
So I decided on Plan B, which is (of course) just use up the foods that I have in store and see how long I can last without having to buy anything else.  There is still a way to find out how much money we will have saved (or not spent).

The original challenge of mine (in 2006/7, mentioned by Cheesepare) began with spending a set amount (£250) on food, and after ten weeks - when most of it had run out - this worked out at £12.50 per head per week (and at that time there was food still left unused).  That covered all drinks (tea, coffee..even some spirits, although these were a gift), three good meals a day plus snacks and treats - AND entertaining the occasional guest).   Working with figures can sometimes be misleading.  Myself believe that allowing £1.75 a day per person is bordering luxury living, yet Jamie O would spend that on just one 'low-cost' main meal (for one).

How much the ingredients cost during the current challenge would take time to work out.  A far simpler way of approaching this is to work with the normal food budget that we would spend over a  month (calendar or lunar depending on when you shop).  Everyone has a different budget according to how many to feed, and for that matter whether we live on a pension, on benefits, or lucky to bring home a reasonably good wage.
Although £250 lasted me a good 10 weeks (early months of 2007). now, seven years later - with food prices having risen a lot since then - I'd guess I'd have to pay at least £50 more to buy exactly the same things.

Even then it's not as bad as it sounds.  Think about it.  Still keeping within our budget, if we stock up or larders, buying a few extras each time we do our 'big shop', over time these surplus foods soon add up, and stay ready and waiting to be used in a challenge such as this one.  Already paid for, so forget the cost and just use them!

As I need to set a budget to prove this point, my choice would be £150 a month (and of course be different for each reader),  but this wouldn't be the full amount spent each month over the year, for when we do 'the challenge', this means (hopefully) that we can get through the first two months of the year without buying any more food.  So that's £300 we haven't needed to spend for a start.  I like to do a shorter challenge - just for one month - during the summer (when we eat less anyway, and hopefully grow a few salads on the windowsill), so that would be another £150 saved (total £450).   The actual expenditure (food budget) over the year then averages out at £112.50 a month. Looking good.

With depleted stocks we would then need to start using just some money from our normal food budget again. We could go back to spending all of it - but at the same time adding those few extras ready for the next 'use-up-what-we've-got' challenge.  We could fill several trolley-loads of food if we used that £450 (saved) to play with, but of course we would never need to spend it all, and so save a lot of it.  Have to say I do spend around £50 of 'challeng money saved' after the first couple of months buying quality meat from DR - on offer of course.  This is a way to be able to eat 'quality' and still keep within a tight budget.  Having 'deliberately' saved the money (by not shopping) I like to think the meat was as good as 'free'. 
Well, even though the meat it isn't really 'free', if I'd not taken advantage of supermarket offers, and been canny enough (no pun intended) to stock up canned foods and dry goods in the larder, I'd still be spending all my food budget every month for a whole year, AND have to pay extra for the meat.  Much prefer the 'use-it-up' approach.

So Plan B is not to cost out the ingredients used, but to work out how much money we save by just not going shopping at all - for weeks (and weeks, and weeks...).  After the first month (maybe two), we will probably need to replace a few fresh foods (milk, eggs, fruit, veg) and this brings in my challenge within the challenge.  Replace by all means, but spend no more than £10 a week doing so (that's £40 a month).  Believe it or not £10 will go a long way when we don't have to consider buying anything other than 'the fresh'.  It should be quite possible to carry on this way for several more months (depending on our larder stores), so we should then be able to save even MORE of our monthly budget.  Probably reducing the suggested £150 down to averaging well below £100. Oh heck, why don't we make it a yearly challenge and aim to bring it down to £50?  It could be done, I may well have a go, but this is only the second day of this challenge and we'll just have to wait and see how I get on.  At least it's good to HAVE a challenge.  Life would be very boring without one.

Still, we mustn't run before we can walk.  Let's start the easy way - using up Christmas left-overs.  In the Goode kitchen we have very few, so yesterday - after porridge for breakfast (B), toast and Marmite (me), I had home-made soup for lunch and, B had toast and marmalade.  Supper used up the left-over spuds from Christmas Day. B had his potatoes diced and added to the pan of lamb's liver gougons, bacon, and steamed shredded white cabbage (all tossed together in the bacon fat).  He finished with the last of the Christmas Pudding - with some cream. 
My meal was a salad made by shredding the last bit of iceberg lettuce (I do have another), and the remainder of the left-over spuds, diced and mixed with a finely chopped shallot, blended with low-fat salad cream and plenty of seasoning (as potato salad).  Also fried extra bacon to crumble and add to this.  Shirley's  'after's' was Christmas Cake with Wensleydale cheese.   We also nibbled several chocolates while we watched TV during the evening.

Today am not yet sure what I'll make.  Toying with 'sausage and mash' served with onion gravy, but B is not fond of mashed potatoes.  He doesn't like lumpy spuds. Yet he doesn't like Smash "because it doesn't have any lumps so is not like the real thing".  That man is never satisfied.

Might make a cauliflower cheese as I have half a cauli that could do with being usedup (but still has some life left in it, and I do have another, fresher one).  If I cook some macaroni and add to the cauli and cheese sauce it will then be a mixture of macaroni cheese and cauliflower cheese.  Served with plenty of grated cheese bubbling on top, and strips of crispy bacon, am sure this will please B.  Maybe I'll do bangers and mash just for me.
Any cauliflower trimmings (stalks, core and leaves) will be kept and blitzed with milk and some Stilton cheese rind, then cooked to make cauliflower soup.  However strange it sounds, it really is lovely, and tastes just like the real thing.

Might make a fresh fruit salad for 'afters'.  We have plenty of double cream to serve with it.  The fruit bowl has both red and green eating apples, clementines and kiwi fruit.  In the fridge we have some green grapes.  In the larder I have a couple or so tins of pineapple rings so could open one of these, use some of the canned juice to add to the fruit salad, cut up and add a pineapple ring, then freeze the remaining rings, and the juice also separately (to later add to other fruit salads, or to Chinese stir-fries etc).

Although not cooking the following recipe yet, it will certainly be included during the challenge as I have all the ingredients (chicken portions in the freezer, and fresh parsley growing on the windowsill).  My Beloved is very fond of ginger, so I also keep a large coffee jar full of chunks of preserved ginger (the crystallised sort).  If you have none, and do have some root ginger, then grate a little of that to add to the dish, alternatively mix some ground ginger in with the salt and pepper and rub this over the chicken.
Chicken 'quarters' are used, these being both drumstick and thigh still attached.  However - for economy - I'd suggest serving four to eight chicken portions (separated drumsticks and thighs) as these are usually cheaper in price than quarters.  If they are large, then just serve one each.  Adults could have two each, children just one. 

Gingered Chicken: serves 4
4 chicken quarters (see above)
half tsp each salt and pepper
4 oz (100g) butter
1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped
half pint (10fl oz/300ml) chicken stock
2 pieces preserved (candied ginger) chopped
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tblsp cornflour
2 tblsp cold water
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
cooked rice and green veg for serving
Rub the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.  Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Fry the chicken for 5 - 7 minutes on each side until golden, then reduce heat to low.  Stir in the garlic, fry for a further minute, then add the stock. Cover and cook the chicken for half an hour (slightly less if using smaller joint) or as long as it takes to fully cook the chicken through.
Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a warmed serving dish, cover and keep warm.
Stir the ginger and lemon juice into the pan juices and simmer for a couple of minutes.
Meanwhile, slake the cornflour with the water, then add this paste to the pan, stirring until it dissolves and thickens into a sauce.  Add the parsley and return the chicken to the pan, cooking for a further 5 minutes.  Place chicken in a warmed serving dish and pour the sauce over.  Serve immediately with cooked rice and your choice of a green vegetable.

As I didn't cook turkey this year we haven't the left-overs, but am sure many readers will have cold turkey they wish to serve in different ways.  So here is a lovely recipe that again uses ingredients that we probably already have (if not use a substitute if you can - just don't be tempted to go out and BUY!).  If you have a carton of orange juice in the fridge, use this for the 'juice' rather than squeexing more oranges, but if you do use fresh orange juice, then don't discard the peel as this can be made into candied peel, or dried to add to casseroles, and there are countless other ways to use peel.  As the large orange season has just begun (we prefer the navel oranges as they have no pips), I'll be giving recipes later using these.

Turkey with Orange Sauce:  serves 4
1 oz (25g) butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large oranges, segmented and pith removed
juice of 2 oranges
1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
half pint (10fl oz/300ml) chicken stock
2 tblsp orange liqueur (if you have it)
3 tsp light brown sugar
8 thick slices cooked turkey
1 tsp cornflour
1 tblsp cold water or orange juice
Melt the butter in a large flameproof casserole or deep frying pan, sitting over medium heat. Add the onion and fry for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent - but not changing colour.
Stir in the orange segments and the parsley, stir-frying for a couple of minutes, then add the orange juice, chicken stock, and the liqueur.   Stir in the sugar, and continuing to stir, bring to the boil.  Reduce heat to low, then add the sliced turkey.  Cover and simmer for 15 or so minutes until the turkey is heated through.   Using tongs, removed the meat to a warmed serving dish, then - using a slotted spoon - remove the orange segments and place these over the turkey.  Cover and keep warm.
Slake the cornflour with the water (or o.j.) and stir this into the liquid left in the pan.  Raise the heat to medium and - continuing to stir - bring to the boil, then reduce heat back to low, continuing to stir for 3 minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly.   Pour this over the turkey and orange and serve immediately.  
Good served with sautéed (left-over?) potatoes and a green veg. or salad.

Now that we are blessed with a much greater variety of ingredients than (say) fifty years ago, this means we can turn what was once a pauper's meal into something that a top chef would cook.  Myself remember my mother always giving me bread-and-milk to eat when I was poorly, perhaps with a bit of sugar added, and very soothing and pleasant it was at that time.
Here is a recipe for a soup made with stale bread, the addition of garlic and chilli powder lifting it to another level.   However strange it may be to be served soup made with bread, this is made and served during Lent in several European (and other) countries.   We don't have to wait until Lent to make this as it fits in well with our 'challenge', especially towards the end when we run out of the more usual 'soup-making' ingredients.

Bread Soup: serves 4
2 tblsp olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 - 4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb (450g) stale bread, crumbed
half teaspoon chilli powder
1.5 ltrs chicken stock
salt and pepper, to taste
vinegar, to taste
sugar, to taste
Heat the oil in a large saucepan, then fry the onions over medium heat for about 5 minutes until softened but not coloured.  Stir in the garlic and cook for a further minute, then add the breadcrumbs, the chilli powder and the stock.  Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and add seasoning to taste, then pour into a liquidiser/blender and whizz until smooth and creamy.   Return soup to the pan, and heat through, adding a little vinegar and sugar to taste before serving.

Final recipe today is one I might make instead of the cauliflower/macaroni cheese.  It is similar - but different.  If not today, will be sure to make it another day.  Of course we could use a different pasta shape, and cauli instead of broccoli.  Also a different hard cheese.  Myself would use 'cream cheese with chives (or garlic and herbs) instead of cream cheese - just because that's what I have.
Tuna and Double Cheese Pasta: serves 4
10 oz (300g) pasta penne
12 oz (350g) broccoli florets
1 x 250g carton cottage cheese with chives
4 oz (100g) mature Cheddar, grated
1 x 200g can tuna, drained and flaked
salt and pepper
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions (usually 10 - 12 minutes to al dente) adding the broccoli florets to the pan for the final 3 - 4 minutes of cooking.  Drain well and return to the hot pan, then gently stir in both cheeses until they melt together into the pasta and broccoli.
Carefully fold in the flaked tuna, trying not to break them up (it doesn't matter if you do, but the appearance looks better if you can see chunks of the fish).  Add seasoning to taste, then serve.

That's it for today.  As well as planning/preparing the main meals and making that fresh fruit salad,  I'll be taking 'basics' from the larder to make B either a fruit loaf or some 'tea-cakes' (which he loves as long as they are well spiced), and if I extend the 'basic' bread mix, can probably make both.
Am tempted to go 'all posh' and make some Chicken Liver Parfait, but why not keep some of the best until last (chicken livers are in the freezer)?  Keep it simple at the start, and keep improving the meals as the stock dwindles.  It's more fun doing it that way.

Just about noon already, must have been typing for a good 4 hours, yet not a lot to see for it.  Hope at least some of the recipes are useful.  If you have a surplus of left-overs to use up, the let me know what they are and I'll hopefully be able to give you recipes for them the very next day.  TTFN.