Thursday, May 08, 2014

One Man's Meat....

No sooner have we got over the horse meat scandal, now we are faced with not knowing whether the meat being sold is halal or not.  Just wish that foods would be labelled so that we do know what we are eating.  It's understandable that those who - for religious reasons - need to eat kosher or halal meat, but if we are not of that persuasion, then why do we have to as well?  All we ask is that the food is labelled to show what type it is.

Yesterday I gave some very simplistic recipes (if you can call them that) where the ingredients come from the food banks.  It would probably be more help if I gave the list written down on the food allocation form/s, then you can see just how much food IS provided, and yet not that easy to make interesting meals from them.

What we have to realise is that the food that is allocated is meant to last 3 days, and normally a person can apply for only three of these (over that number of weeks).  Even if someone isn't used ot cooking, and in some cases has no oven (gas/electricity cut off), all food in cans has been precooked or processed so everything can be eaten cold from the can - still giving the same nutrition as if these were heated, but not always that palatable.  Perhaps we should be glad we are able to get something to eat rather than grumble it isn't what we really wanted.

Here is the allocation for one person.  Some of you might like to work out the cost and then make up your own food parcel for the same price but this time include fresh foods (eggs, cheese, fruit and veg).  Unfortunately the Trussell Trust (who organise many of the food banks) don't supply fresh foods.  Others who are more independently run usually do.  And what a difference a few fresh foods would make.

The items listed below are not specific (soup could be any flavour, meat could be a can of minced meat, meat balls, corned beef, chicken, ham, hot dogs... etc.).  It all depends what is available at the time of packing.  The food banks are dependent on donations of food, and can only supply what people bring to them. 
Sometimes foods not on the list are donated,  these are counted as extra treats, and can be either savoury (bottled sauces, potato crisps...) or sweet (instant puddings, custard, canned cream etc), and one (or more) is usually included with each parcel.

For the single person, the size of the cans/packs are small, except for soups and rice pudding that are standard size cans.  The number of each supplied is given in brackets.  When two or more types are shown (pasta/rice/noodles etc) only one type is supplied.
If a person is vegetarian, then they get 4 small cans vegetables and no canned meat.
cereal (1 small)
soup (can/pkt) 2 standard
beans/spaghetti in sauce (2 small)
tomatoes/pasta sauce (2 small)
vegetables (2 small)
meat (2 small)
fish (1 small)
fruit (2 small)
rice pudding (1 standard)
biscuits (1 small pkt)
sugar 500g
pasta/rice/noodles 500g
tea or coffee (40 bags/small jar)
1 carton
milk (UHT/powder) 1 carton/pkt

Personally I could eat well on the above if it had to last only three days, but with me I'd be missing the little things that can turn boring into beautiful - such as herbs, spices, bottled sauces, stock cubes, salt/pepper...not to mention cooking oil (even bread 'n spread).  People who cook on a regular basis would most likely have these in their store cupboards, but those who live on a diet of ready-meals or a take-away probably don't.

The allocation for a family with children is exactly the same foods as above (but more of each and all cans of a standard size) plus one sponge pudding and a packet of instant mash.

Unfortunately, the choice of soup taken from the food banks shelves is not related to any other canned food provided, so it's pot luck as to whether the recipes given today could be made as shown.  I've queried whether it would be possible to mix and match so that better meals could be made, but they said this was not possible - the packers wouldn't have time to work it out etc. etc. and of course there may not be the right flavours in stock anyway.  Fair point.

The recipes given today assume that with any luck the right ingredients might be supplied. Let us hope that sometimes they are.

Cottage Pie:
1 can minced/stewing beef or meatballs
1 can peas or mixed vegetables
mashed potato
1 can carrots
Empty the canned meat (including any gravy) into a heat-proof dish and top with peas (or mixed veg). Cover with a thick coating of mashed potato, keeping the surface rough, then cook in the oven at 180C gas 4 for 20 minutes or until heated through and the potato is beginning to brown.
Alternatively, heat the meat and veg together in a saucepan, place in the dish and top with freshly made instant potato mash and place under the grill for a few minutes to brown the potatoes.  Or omit the browning and just serve the meat and veg with mashed potatoes and carrots.

This next recipe has several ingredients and it is not necessary to use a whole can/jar of each.  Plan the meals ahead and add the surplus to soups or other dishes.
French Beef Casserole:
1 can (or less) stewing beef
2 - 3 hot dog sausages, cut into chunks
1 can baked beans
1 can chopped tomatoes
chunks of canned ham (optional)
canned carrots, diced
Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and simmer until heated through (or put into an ovenproof dish and heat in the oven 180C gas 4 until hot).
Traditionally a layer of breadcrumbs are placed on top when cooked in the oven, these soak up some of the liquid and end up crunchy.  But crushed cornflakes or potato crisps make a good alternative.

Next dish can be made with almost any canned meat.  Use minced beef, stewing steak, chicken, corned beef or even hot-dog sausages.  Packets of instant dry curry sauce are often included as one of the 'treats' (just need making up with water, or if you want a creamier sauce add a little dried milk powder),
Your Choice Curry:
1 can chosen meat (see above)
1 can carrots, cut into chunks
1 can new potatoes, cut into chunks
1 packet curry sauce mix
cooked rice for serving
Chop the meat into chunks and put into a pan with the carrots and potatoes.  Heat until just simmering. Meanwhile make up the curry sauce (see above). then fold this into the meat/vegetables and serve with boiled rice.

At least this next recipe is closer to the dishes that we might normally make although onions are not included (and as I'm a person that uses onion in every savoury dish you can see I would be feeling very deprived if I had to rely on the food parcel even though it is generous).
The Italians use more pasta and less of the meat sauce than us English, so by using more pasta and serving it the Italian way (mixing the sauce into the pasta before serving) there will be enough meat to serve an extra one or two (or even three) portions.
Pasta Bolognaise:
1 can minced beef
1 can carrots, drained and chopped
1 jar pasta sauce (or chopped tomatoes)
2 mugs (measure) dried pasta
Put the minced beef (including any gravy) into a pan with the carrots and the pasta sauce.  Heat gently over a low heat until simmering.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta as per packet instructions, then drain.  Serve the English way (pasta on a plate and the meat sauce piled on top), or the Italian way (see above).

Banger, Beans and What You Will:
1 can/jar hot dog sausages
1 can new potatoes (or use instant mash)
canned vegetables (peas, carrots etc)
1 can baked beans
Chop the sausages into small chunks.  Drain and mash the canned potatoes (or make up some mash using instant potato).  Drain the chosen veg. and mix with the sausages and mashed spuds.  Put a little oil of fat into a frying pan (or use a non-stick pan) and press the mixture down to make a large flat 'cake', then fry until golden underneath.   Pop under the grill to brown the surface, then serve with the baked beans. 

Fish Pie:
Mix together chunks of canned tuna and/or canned salmon with chopped canned potatoes, a few peas and sweetcorn, then fold in a thickened sauce.  This can be half a can of chicken or mushroom soup or a cuppa-soup made with less water.
Place in a heat-proof dish and top with mashed potato.  Oven-cook at 180C, gas 4 until heated through and the potato crust has begun to brown.

When all we have is hot water (from an electric kettle), we can still make something edible.  We don't even need the hot water if we are lucky enough to have a jar of curry sauce.
This is a cold dish that eats well when served with cold rice.

Not Quite Coronation Chicken:
1 can chicken, cut into chunks
1 can carrots, cut into chunks
1 packet curry sauce mix
Put the chicken and carrots into a bowl.  Make up the curry sauce and leave to cool, then pour this over the chicken/carrots and fold together.  Serve with cold rice.

Here are some ways to make a hot meal when the only thing we have is boiling water from a kettle>
On cold days, start the meal by making up a cuppa soup while waiting for the suggestions below to heat up.

Put a mug of pasta into a lidded container, cover with two (or more) mugs of boiling water, then screw on the lid and cover with a thick towel or anything to keep the heat escaping.  Check after 20 minutes and the pasta should be cooked.  Ideally use a thermos flask, but almost any heat-proof container can be used as long as it is tucked up to keep the heat escaping.
If the pasta is not tender enough, drain and top up with fresh boiling water and leave for a further five minutes.

Mac 'n Cheese:
When the above pasta is nearly cooked, make up a pack of cheese sauce using water (if it needs to be made with milk then add some dried milk powder to the mix and make up with boiling water), then mix this into the drained pasta.
To give a crunchy topping, cover with crushed potato chips (cheese and onion, or bacon flavour go well with this dish).

Other foods such as canned and drained vegetables and hot dog sausages, canned potatoes.... can be heated in the same way by covering with boiling water, then tucking up for 15 or so minutes.

Had a really busy day in the Goode kitchen, first thing to do was pack away all the meat that had been cooked overnight in the slow cooker.  I'd put beef rib trim, shin beef and stewing steak all in the same pot (easy enough to sort out once cooked).  This made a really rich 'stock' and to this I added another bag of stewing beef and left that to cook during the day.  All has now been packed away, cooled and put into the freezer, including several packs of the meat stock.

During the day cooked two lamb shanks - also very slowly but this time in the oven.  The meat was just about falling off when I removed them from the dish.  Beloved had one for his supper along with the carrots and onion that were in the same pot.  To these I added some peas (heated in the microwave) and some (bought) gnocchi that I fried instead of poaching (an idea I got from watching Nigella).  The gnocchi were fried in the oil that was left in the pan after I'd first sealed the lamb shanks, and they ended up beautifully crisp and golden.  B asked what they were because he said they were really nice.

The second lamb shank has now be bagged up and in the freezer, the liquid that it was cooked in (red wine and water) will be boiled up tomorrow, cooled and then frozen in small pots. 
Unfortunately had no time to cook the belly pork, and after discovering a recipe that gave it a taste of the Orient, decided to follow that.  So the pork (skin removed but kept to make pork scratchings) is now in the fridge marinating in a mixture of hoisin sauce, honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and tomato ketchup.  It will be cooked tomorrow when some of it will be added to B's stir-fry that he is planning to cook for himself.  The rest of the meat will be frozen in small amounts to use (again) for stir-fries or eaten as a different dish.  Any marinade left will be boiled (because it will now have pork juices in it), chilled and then frozen to use later as a stir-fry sauce or something.

Watched Nigella again on Wednesday afternoon, this time it wasn't Nigella Bites, but a later series, and was disappointed as she was turning into 'flirty Nigella'.  Her early series she was just a normal and very lovely girl, very long straight hair, not that much make-up, and always looking directly into the camera, not side-ways as she did later.
This Thursday I watched again and it was back to Nigella Bites and the ordinary Nigella.  Following that was another from a later series, and it can't have been much later (her children were still small), but how different she looked.  Shorter (but still long) hair, now wavier, a lot of eye makeup and false eyelashes and plenty of blusher to shape up her cheeks. 
I don't think I've ever seen any of Nigella's earlier series before and they are so good, and she looked so lovely and fresh.  A pity that she changed, but suppose she was growing older, and the media liked her to be 'flirty' (I didn't).

The only time we see any American cooks are on the Food Network, and am wondering of any of Nigella's series (or Jamie Oliver's for that matter) are seen in the US.  If so what to they think of Nigella?  Do they put up subtitles? Apparently the English language is difficult to understand , they had a problem with Paul Hollywood's Liverpool accent (didn't realise he had one).

First time for ages didn't have any comments to reply to.  Hope a few will arrive by the next time I write.  It is now nearly 1.00am on Friday, so will be back writing again late this evening (for the Saturday read) then take my usual weekend off, probably blogging again late Sunday or early Monday.  Before that one more blog.  So send me a comment or three to give me something to reply to.  TTFN.