Monday, December 16, 2013

Taking Stock

Had a good sort out of my chest freezer yesterday, needed to find space to store sausages (that I pack in pairs or fours).  One of the large drawers was full of small tubs of home-made chicken stock, slightly less of beef stock (I save the empty, cleaned tubs that used to hold cream cheese - perfect size for stock, although I could reduce it down further to freeze in ice-cube trays).  If there is one thing I can't do without it is home-made chicken stock.  At a pinch I can use a beef stock cube, but never a chicken stock cube - far too salty.

Moved on to sorting out the freezer side of 'Boris' (our American style fridge/freezer), intending to keep all the frozen veg in one drawer.  For anyone interested, my choices for frozen veg are: garden peas, petit pois, string beans, Brussels sprouts, and - of course - oven chips.  Recently I've added cooked cubes of frozen spinach to the above.  At one time used to buy frozen sweetcorn kernels, but now tend to used canned sweetcorn (and not that often as whatever the nutritional content it holds, it is a known fact that after being eat3en, the kernels go straight through our body without being digested, a bit of a waste of money if you look at it like that.

Slowly, slowly am managing to get a few empty spaces in icy Boris, and today and sorting out his chilly side.  I've already amassed a good supply of long-keeping (root) veg, but need to find out what I'm short of so that they can be bought at the end of this week, and once the Christmas dinner is over, it's a full-on battle to survive as long as I can on what is in store.  It's going to be great fun.

A welcome comment from Viv in Canada where she mentions how she used to live thriftily through need, and now carries on doing so through choice.  Suppose that's how it is with me, I don't always HAVE to be so frugal, save every vegetable peeling to use to make veggie stock, make cauliflower soup using only the outer leaves and core of the veg etc, etc.  Perhaps it is habit - and also common sense, but would like to ask all readers if they find (or had found) more pleasure and sense of achievement through coping when there is/was a real need, than by choice and not necessity .

Myself am not a person who enjoys an easy life (financially), although seeing me these days tucked up in my chair watching TV you would think most of my time was spent in ease.  For me life is boring if there are no challenges, so I have to keep making some.... such as 'how long can I last on the food in store, without going to the shops AT ALL!'   Did manage to do this for 10 weeks, but only because at that time we had doorstep milk (and other dairy foods) delivered.  

The challenge at that time was a dual one - to set a budget for the lot (including the milk and dairy deliveries), and see how that worked out per person per week.  Believe it was £12.50 but with money and food left over at the end of the 10 weeks should have been less (but it was then I had to go into hospital).  This was the first challenge I attempted after starting this blog at the end of 2006 (?) and although quite a lot has had to be deleted due to lack of space, my shopping lists/prices etc still are there to be seen, and how the food was used over the 10 week period.
Am hoping to do something similar again this time round, although have not set a fixed budget as already have plenty of food in store, so will have to use my larder/freezer/fridge as my personal corner shop and 'buy' all the food needed from myself.

Already my have got my brain into gear, asking myself if it wouldn't be more economical if I made all the expensive proteins go twice as far.  For example, when I make B his favourite Fish Risotto, using a small fillet of smoked haddock, the same of 'white fish', and one of salmon (and sometimes adding a few prawns as well.  Well, I ask you, does it have to be Risotto>
Using the same fish with mashed potato instead of rice would make a whole load of fish cakes.  Enough for several meals (with salad) instead of just one Risotto, so once Christmas is over (and maybe even before, it's going to be a matter of 'think twice before cooking, and then maybe think again'.

Thanks Eileen for telling me about Aldi and the cheaper smoked mackerel.  Really must go and have a wander round their store.  The one on the prom seems quite small, so on a good day I could probably manage with just a shopping trolley to lean on.  My mobility scooter is a bit four-wheel one and almost certainly would block their aisles.
Incidentally, chefs are now demonstrating how they oven-roast the skins removed from poultry and fish.  These end up crisp and certainly edible (a bit like paper-thin crackling on pork I suppose), and yet another way 'waste' can be used (and charged for in a restaurant).
Oh Eileen, I've just worked out I'm old enough to be your mother.  And there was me thinking we were almost like twins (or the truth is I wished we were).

Both Margie and Viv are shivering in extremely low temperatures, far lower than we ever get here, but then who knows - we are getting a lot of weather we have never had before (but only in living memory - our land was once covered in snow during the Ice Age!).
Our central heating is playing up.  When it switches on in the morning it makes a heck of a noise, and doesn't switch off.  I can over-ride it and then switch it back on again and it is then OK, but it needs seeing to.  We have a maintenance contract so will get it sorted this week (if I can find time).

Incidentally, it is recommended that unsalted butter can be frozen for about six months, whereas salted butter is best frozen for only 3 months (as it can taste a bit rancid after that), although I have kept salted butter for longer without any noticeable difference in taste.

Don't think we ever tried Vesta Beef Risotto Alison, and not even sure about the Paella.  Maybe those varieties were not manufactured at that time.  My memories are of Vesta curry and Chow Mein.  Certainly these would be good items to add to the Foodbank allocations as all that needs to be added is water?  Make a more interesting meal for those not accustomed to cooking and who would then perhaps stay safe by just heating up the cans of soup, baked beans, and whatever else needs no attention.

A welcome to Rachel who is enquiring about the salad leaves that can be grown on the windowsills.  These are a mixture of seeds from salad leaves that can be sprinkled onto soil (in pots - but I use the plastic containers that mushrooms are sold in as they have a larger surface area).  There are various types of mixed salad leaves, some grow better in the summer (and quite rapidly), the others grow better in the cooler weather (rocket, lamb's lettuce etc).  In the UK these seeds are sold in packets at garden centres, and one packet will grow up to six tubs of leaves (each enough for several meals).

If we have any left-over salad leaf (and other) seeds, we could try growing them indoors (as above) as the leaves are eaten when young and tender.  We don't even have to grow vegetables to maturity to gain use from them, young radish and beetroot leaves are lovely added to a salad, and I've even seen chefs using carrot leaves (had always believed these were not edible).  The seeds of any edible leafy veg (cabbage family, spinach etc) can be grown to be eaten as a 'salad leaf'.

Myself believe that we can save the most money when we plan ahead, and although we haven't yet got into 'turkey-mode', to start hunting for recipes to use up left-overs on Boxing Day can cause us more stress than we need.  Of course we can always freeze left-over roast turkey, but even then would eventually want to find an interesting recipe to use it up, so why not keep the following in your personal recipe book, then eat and enjoy when the time is right.   I've called it 'terrine' because it sounds posh (the trad. name is 'turkey meat mould').  We need to think/serve posh nosh when living frugally.  This can make the world of difference (let next door eat 'mouldy turkey' if they wish - me I pref to think 'cheffy'.

If you stretch the bacon slices using a knife, they will end up thinner, and go further so use only as many as you wish.
Turkey Terrine: serves 4 (or more at a buffet)
12 slices rindless streaky bacon (see above)
8 oz (225g) pork sausage meat
8 oz (225g) cooked turkey, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp dried thyme
Line a greased (buttered) 1lb loaf tin with the bacon. Spoon one third of the sausage meat into the tin and level the surface.  Cover with half the turkey, adding seasoning and thyme, cover with a third more sausage meat, the last of the turkey and seasoning/herb, and end with a layer of sausage meat,  If there is any bacon overlap, fold this over, either way, cover the tin with foil, place in a roasting tin and pour in enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the loaf tin.  Cook for 2 hours at 180C, gas 4 or until the meat has begun to shrink away from the sides.   Remove terrine from the roasting tin and place on work surface.
Cut a piece of cardboard to fit inside the top of the tin, place this over the foil and stand a heavy weight on top.  Leave to cool then place in the fridge to chill overnight.  When ready to serve, remove weights, cardboard, and foil.  Turn terrine out onto a serving platter and cut into half-inch slices.
This eats well with cold Bread Sauce, or pickles, with Bubble and Squeak or with salad.

We are all familiar with Coronation Chicken ('invented' by Constance Spry for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953d, although a very similar dish was served many centuries before after the Coronation of Edward the Something, in Westminster).  Here is a turkey version, and hopefully many of us will still have all the 'makings' once Christmas is over.
The original recipe suggested serving it with boiled potatoes and a salad.  But we could serve it with rice or pasta (or whatever you feel goes with it).   Also the original used a whole pint of mayo, but I prefer to use half and half mayo and yogurt.  If you have no yogurt and the mayo is thick, then dilute it down slightly with milk or (boiled, cooled) water.

Coronation Turkey: serves 6 - 8
half pint (300ml) mayonnaise  (see above)
half pint (300ml) Greek yogurt
juice of 1 lemon
2 tblsp mild curry paste
1 tblsp mango chutney or apricot jam
salt and pepper to taste
2 lb (1kg) cooked turkey, roughly chopped
9 oz (225g) black or green grapes, halved
Put the mayo, yogurt, lemon juice, curry paste, chutney or jam, salt and pepper into a bowl, and mix until thoroughly combined.   Fold in the turkey and half the grapes and spoon onto a serving platter. Garnish with the remaining grapes and serve immediately, or cover and chill in the fridge until required. 

With the above two dishes being cold, they are especially useful as they can be prepared ahead of time, and both perfect for a family meal or a buffet party.  Here is another way to serve left-overs, this time as a hot dish.  Leftovers of ham (another traditional meat eaten over the Twelve Days) also go into this dish, and it makes good use of those green bell peppers that often come in a mixed pack (when all we really want are the more colourful reds, orange and yellows).  But if you haven't peppers of any colour, then use green peas.
As ever, if you haven't the full weight of anything, then make up the shortfall by including (fried) onions in this dish, extra veg etc.  Never EVER feel that you should dismiss an interesting recipe because you don't have quite enough of the main ingredients.  Work round it and if necessary make less. 
One strange thing about older recipes is that they often suggest serving both rice AND potatoes (even with this dish), and myself never see the point of eating both - but if they feel that 'this dish eats well   with mashed potatoes and peas' who am I to say different.  At least it can make for a bigger meal (important when we need to cut the cost of the more expensive ingredients).
Turkey in a Cream Sauce, with Rice: serves 6
4 oz (100g) butter
2 oz (50g) plain flour
1 pint (600ml) chicken or turkey stock
salt and pepper
2 green bell peppers, seeded and sliced
8 oz (225g) mushrooms, sliced
1.5 lb (675g) cooked turkey, cut into pieces
1 lb (450g) ham, cut into cubes
2 egg yolks
half pint (10 fl oz) single cream
12 oz (350g) cooked long-grain rice
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
Melt 2 oz (50g) of the butter in a saucepan, then stir in the flour and cook for one minute.  Continuing to stir, gradually add the stock and seasoning to taste.  Cook/stir for 2 - 3 minutes or until the sauce is thick and smooth.  Remove from heat and set aside.
Put 1 oz (25g) of the remaining butter into a frying pan, and when hot add the peppers and cook for 3 minutes, then add the mushrooms and stir-fry for a further 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.
Take an ovenproof serving dish and place in the turkey, ham, green peppers and mushrooms, spreading them evenly over the base of the dish, then set this aside.
Mix the egg yolks with the cream and then stir in 4 tblsp of the set-aside sauce, then pour this into the rest of the sauce, blending it well together.  Pour this over the turkey mixture, place in the oven and bake at 150C, gas 2 for 30 - 40 minutes or until the sauce has set.
While this is cooking, melt remaining butter in a large pan, add the cooked rice with seasoning to taste, and stir-fry for 5 minutes or until the rice is heated through and all the grains coated with butter.  Spoon the rice onto a warmed serving dish, sprinkling the parsley on top.  Serve this with the cooked turkey (taking both dishes to the table for serving). 

Had quite a shock yesterday when I switched over to the Food Network.  Seems they were showing several episodes (back to back) of the late Fanny Cradock's Christmas food.  How it took me back. Did we really follow her example and serve mashed potatoes coloured pale green?   Quite enjoyed the way she hacked a chicken to pieces using her garden secateurs.  Would never have thought of cutting cooked chicken breast, still on the bone, across into chunks.  Still found her watchable although not as fond of her now as I used to be. 

Funny how characters can stick in the mind.  Take 'Strictly....' for instance.  Who would have thought that Natalie G would be in the dance-off.  Am sure a lot of voting has to do more with the personality of the contestant than the expertise of dancing.  Even I can't remove the thought of poor Tyrone out of my mind every time I see Natalie (as 'Kirstie' in Corrie, she kept beating up her husband), and the way she looks sometimes I feel she could easy fall back into role-play and beat up Craig Revel H. when he criticises (which I have to say he doesn't do often when she dances).
Suzanna has the advantage of her professional partner being a local lad 'he comes from Grimsby', (all the other professionals seem to come from abroad).  He is amazingly fast on his feet, and watching him beat all the others doing the 'drunken sailor' and gain the Guinness Word Record, well, I gave him a cheer. 

A lovely prog. last night - Christmas episode of  The Great British Sewing Bee' (or some such name - I keep forgetting and I can't be bothered to get up and check).  Tonight I believe Kirstie Allsopp is giving her own version of home-made decorations and gifts.  All very inspiring, I just wish I'd got a sewing machine (gave my big Singer-that-does-everything away recently, it was far too heavy for me to lift), so need to buy myself a lighter one.

Sorry this blog is a bit late,  had to go to the surgery earlier this morning (all tests came out fine, my BP is staying low, a bit high on the cholesterol but lower than the norm, so I'm not that fussed).  Have a lot to do this week, but hope to find time to blog tomorrow.  Also Wednesday - after that am not sure about Thurs or Fri.  But will let you know later.  Just keep watching this space.  TTFN.