Saturday, February 22, 2014

Beginning of the End, or End of the Beginning?

My first written-about 'see how long stores will last without doing more shopping' was the winter of 2006/7.  Details still are in archives if you wish to take a peek.  A slightly different challenge to the current one, although 'no more shopping' was still the aim.   At that time I bought £250 of food from various sources (supermarket, local butcher, and included the money spent on the almost daily delivery of dairy products (we had a milkman then, and hadn't yet bought on-line meat in bulk, so bought what I felt I would need and froze it myself.

What I wanted to do was find out how long all this food would last.  No food was taknen from any in that was already in the store-cupboard or fridge etc, only the food bought for the challenge was used.  As mentioned before, it lasted 10 weeks with a little left over, also a little money left (had to keep a bit of the budget back to pay the milkman each week and didn't need it all). Could probably have lasted another week (maybe two at a pinch), but it was then I got cellulitis and had to be rushed to hospital.   Even so, it worked out at £25 a week for the two of us, and we really did eat good meals for that.

Yesterday worked out that - at the end of next week - it will also be 10 weeks since my last big grocery order (just prior to Christmas).  Even allowing for festive food, not as much money was spent at that time, and very little since (probably no more than £50 max to top up the milk, eggs, salad etc.  Am including the £20 + Riverford organic veggie box in this, but even so the total averages out at only £5 a week).  As this time I did allow myself to use foods that were already in the larder, it proves how a good stock can work out extremely useful when we decided to luck up our purses.

If we estimate the cost of the store-cupboard food (should have done this but didn't), am guessing it wouldn't be much more than £50, and this means this time round the overall expense would have been less than the original challenge mentioned above.  Not bad considering that over the past six years food prices have continually risen.

So as 10 weeks have now past since the start of 'use up what we have', do I continue or count it as proven to work?  There is still a fair amount of dry goods and a few cans and bottles in the larder, also loads of meat/fish in the freezers and bits of this and that in the fridge.  With Riverfood delivering, do have enough veggies to keep going (also some in the freezer).   Is this the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning? 

My common sense tells me that I should again buy foods (but only when on offer) of stocks that have been almost depleted.  Have only one can of baked beans left, but then do have a pack of dried haricot beans so - at a pinch - could make my own baked beans (have done it before, and they are very good, but admit to preferring the flavour of a certain brand - but then beggars can't always be choosers). Usually find I can make what I used to buy, but now I'm much older tend to take the easy way out.

Have to say that when watching James Martin's series yesterday, fell in love with his elaborate pasta making machine.  "WANT ONE" I shouted out loud.  But it would be horrendously expensive (being catering size), but oh, so tempting.   As I already have a pasta machine (the one that rolls out pastry and then cuts it into various shapes (using a couple or so clip-on 'cutters') and now rarely use it (although used do when 'catering'), no point now in me buying anything more as should be down-sizing my kitchen appliances and gadgets, not add to them.

James M is a man after my own heart, just love the way he lets us know that we should use lots of butter and cream (and eggs) in the food we prepare.  As a young man he has an old-fashioned approach to cooking, the good 'farm-house' way, probably due to his up-bringing and memories of his grandma's cooking.  All power to his elbow I say.   Only problem is he doesn't seem to care about how much the ingredients cost. 

Saw a trailer yesterday about a new cookery series to be presented by Mary Berry 'giving lots of hints and tips to save time'.   One probably well worth watching as she is very down to earth, a proper 'housewife' cook, and aware of the cost of things.  

Lots of comments sent in since Thursday, and thanks to everyone, even though today not all are replied to individually.  Just those who I felt urged to.

Was interested in the 'Love Food, Hate Waste' cookery course that you went to Janet.  Was that run by the local foodbank?   Sorry you had to miss eating the finished meal due to various reasons, but 'the washing of hands' gave me food for thought.  Of course I always do wash my hands before starting to prepare a meal, and usually wear plastic gloves when handling a bulk amount of raw meat for freezing, also when slicing cooked meat for freezing.  It's not that I'm over picky, but when serving food to others, it's become a habit to make sure that food - as B puts it - is never touched by human hands.

Do remember once A.W.T. said he'd had a letter from a viewer who complained that he hadn't worn protective gloves when demonstrating on TV, and this just a sandwich!  He said that he never wore gloves when buttering bread, his hands were clean anyway, and as it was filmed in his own kitchen, he could do what he liked in it.   (James says the same thing when he licks the spoon or dips a - clean - finger into something to taste - 'it's my kitchen, I can do what I like').  I feel the same - but preparing food in other kitchens for other people is a different matter.  We do need to be careful..

Have to say I don't always wash veggies when preparing them (although do with the organics as root veggies have an earthy covering).  Maybe this is because I realise that when they are cooked, this kills off anything that could cause food poisoning.

Are we too cautious when it comes to cleanliness?  My B has always been one of those people who - after dropping his toast or sarnie onto the floor, will just pick it up and continue eating it (after knocking off any fluff).  We are more likely to become immune if we do 'eat a peck of dirt' in our lives, than keep everything pristine and germ-free.  But that's my opinion, it doesn't mean to say it is right.

Was sorry to hear about your muddied hens Alison (Essex), but good to know they are still laying well.  Winter time they usually slow down quite a lot, although it depends on the breed.  The Warrens are the most productive layers (these being the breed used for commercial egg-laying).  Believe that April is the month when hens produce the most eggs.

A welcome to Lisa Dodd, who sends a great tip:  use one of those 'needle holders' (used by florists) as a 'pricker' for pastry/biscuits.  Many years ago did use one of these, and they work really well.  Make do with a fork now, but the end result is not so professional.

Morecambe must be fairly sheltered Cheesepare as our rosemary bush is also in flower, and normally this would be at least a month later.  I have miniature daffodils in flower, and also snowdrops, with a few crocus beginning to show, and the daffs and tulips planted last autumn also showing their tips above the soil.  l
All the geraniums brought in prior to the first frosts have bloomed constantly in the conservatory throughout the winter, a mass or red/pink blooms as I write. Even without any added heat, and as we've had only a couple of frosts anyway they might have managed to stay alive outdoors in a sheltered spot.  But wasn't taking the risk.

The thought of doing a few video cookery demos that could be shown on YouTube is a bit tempting C.P. but am going to confine myself to setting up that new (proper) website that's been on hold since I have no camera to take photos of the dishes.  The website will just be recipes and some hints/tip, not the ramblings that I do on this blog.
The camera I need is one that can take really good close-ups, and possibly also one that can take a video as that could also go onto the new site.  Keep meaning to get one, but time moves so fast and my mind keeps thinking about other things.

Thanks to all who mentioned my allergy.  My face has now just about returned to normal, but don't mind a bit about the very slight swelling of my cheeks as it makes the crease between my nose and the corner of my lips disappear and like to believe this makes me look years younger.  Who needs Botox when you have an allergy like mine?

B chose spag.bol for his supper yesterday, so make a bulk batch using some pre-cooked beef/pork mince that I'd frozen away, plus a pack of Beanfeast bolognaise and a carton of passata.  All I needed to do was first fry an onion, add the passata and Beanfeast, then when this was part-cooked, add the boiling hot reheated mince (this takes 8 mins in the microwave to reheat from frozen to boiling).  Added the usual dollop of HP sauce and a few shakes of Worcestershire Sauce to give it the flavour that B prefers. 

Cooked the last of the pasta penne (but believe I do have another unopened pack in one of the kitchen cupboards), and with grated Parmesan this made a lovely meal that we both enjoyed (leaving enough spag.bol meat sauce to freeze away for another day).

It's the time of year when the birds are much more active (also the squirrels), as I awake to a lovely dawn chorus of birdsong each morning, and yesterday heard the seagulls calling as they flew over the garden, so probably they will shortly be making their nests between the chimneypots on the house at the back.   Last year they reared three hatchlings, and with no room for them between the pots, very shortly after their 'nursery' had to be the sloping house roof facing ours, so they were visible to us from almost their birth to their maturity, when they had their first flight on exactly the same day as the previous year.  Am hoping the same will happen again this year as it is lovely to watch 'our babies' grow up.

Don't dismiss today's recipe because the ingredient list is long.  I give it in its entirety as some readers do prefer to make curry from scratch. But with one fell swoop I can swipe off the first six ingredients (even though I have them), and instead us a ready-mixed curry powder, or (even easier) just throw in the contents of a jar of curry sauce.  And why not? We all like to take short-cuts, save precious time, and my way of cooking now seems to be take advantage of at least some convenience foods just as long as the basic ingredients are 'fresh' and meals are always home-cooked (or nearly always). 

By all means, use the individual spices, and the correct cut of meat if you want to be a 'proper cook', but don't forget we can juggle around a bit with the other ingredients if we wish to cut costs, cut corners.  Myself would thaw out some boneless pork steaks/chops that I have.  Would use white (cooking) onions instead of the milder red, and maybe even use a can of beans (red, white or even baked) if I had run out of chickpeas.  White vinegar instead of red.  Spoon of black treacle instead of dark sugar. But it's YOUR kitchen, YOUR larder, so use the recipe as a guide, then make the dish any which way you choose.

Because this curry freezes well, worth making the full amount (or even double). Or reduce by half if wishing to make a meal to serve 4 with nothing to save.  Best make this the day before eating as the flavour will improve.  Just reheat when ready to serve.

Pork and Chickpea Curry: serves 8 - 10
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
2 whole bulbs garlic, cloves separated
4 fl oz (100ml) red wine vinegar
2 fl oz (500ml) sunflower oil
3 large red onions, very finely chopped
3lb 5oz (1.5kg) pork shoulder, cut into chunks
2 red bell peppers, deseeded and chopped
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
2 tsp dark muscovado sugar
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
16 fl oz (450ml) chicken stock
Put all the spices into a small food processor with the peeled cloves of garlic and whizz to a coarse paste, drizzling in the vinegar while the processor is still turning.  Alternatively crush the lot using a pestle and mortar. Mix this spicy paste with the cubed pork and set aside for 15 minutes (or longer if you wish).
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onions until just beginning to colour, then raise the heat and add the pork , frying this until darkened.   Stir in the peppers, tomatoes and the sugar and continue cooking for a further 15 minutes until the tomatoes have cooked down to make a thick sauce.  Add the chick peas and stock, cover and bring to the simmer, then transfer the pot to the oven and cook for 1 1/2 hours at 150C, gas 2, until the meat is really tender and the sauce has again thickened.
Serve with freshly boiled rice, or cool and freeze (as individual meals or larger helpings).  Freezes will for up to 6 months.   Defrost completely before reheating, then reheat thoroughly.

Cancelled my hair appt. yesterday so that I could watch Team GB in the final of the curling.  Needn't have bothered, it was doomed from the start, but at least we got a silver.  Team GB it may have been but it was all Scottish, and so congratulations should go to Scotland for getting a bronze and silver (the bronze won by the girl's team).

Can any Scottish reader (or anyone who 'curls') tell me how the brushes work?  They look as though they are polishing the ice to make it easier for the stones to slide, but the sweepers also seem to be able to control the way the stone moves, turning in slightly in another direction.  Also if moving too fast through the 'target area' (as I call it), furious sweeping seems to slow it down.  So can the brushes both polish the ice and also rough it up?
Also the shoes worn seem to slide very easily, almost as though they wear skates.  So what sort of soles do they have?

That's it for today - turning out to be very sunny, but also windy, more wind and possibly rain forecast for tomorrow, especially over the western side of the UK (where we live).  But nothing abnormal.  You could say perfect weather for this time of year, and mild with it.  Unless we are extremely unlucky and get some of the snow that America/Canada is getting,  we could have seen the last of our winter. 
Won't be blogging tomorrow being Sunday (I now don't blog on Sundays), but will be back with you again Monday.  Hope you all have a good weekend.  TTFN.