Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Open the Box!

Hardly a day goes by without some comment being made about food in the media.  In today's newspaper there was an article headed by "Quarter of the food binned each year has not even been opened."

One comment surprised me: "experts warn that we are victims o a culture in which we feel we haven't provided properly for our family unless they leave some food on their plate."   At one time it was considered good manners to leave a little food on the plate, usually only the upper classes did that. Everyone else was expected to clean their plates, and considering today's obesity problem, it seems that everyone eats everything and all of it.

This food binned refers to food that is still edible and fit to eat.  Much of this is due to people still sticking to the 'use-by' dates and treating 'best-before' dates in the same way.  Almost half of this avoidable waste was thrown away because it was 'not used in time'.

Supermarkets are blamed because their 'buy one, get one free' (aka BOGOFS), mean people are tempted to buy more than they need. Myself feel that most people would find these do save money and use (or freeze) the product that is 'free'. 

Potatoes make up almost a quarter of the untouched food waste, and expect this is to do with the fact they tend to sprout quite rapidly, despite being kept in the dark and as cool as possible.  When they begin to sprout, just rub the tiny sprouts off and they should be fine for a week or so longer.  As long as the spuds are still firm, they can be peeled and cooked.  
Myself am fed up with the way the larger potatoes - this year - seem to have sprouted quickly.  We now hardly ever eat jacket potatoes, or even roasted, so not surprising they stay in their special cloth bag longer than they should.  Their only use to me is when wishing to make mashed potato (not often).
My favourite potatoes for cooking are the small (sometimes called 'baby') potatoes, and as these are always kept in the fridge they never do sprout.    It is said they shouldn't be kept chilled, but I find they never seem to come to any harm.  Cooked always in their skins they can then be served whole or 'crushed' and then fried. 

A list was given of the 4 million tons we waste a year, and it's worth giving these foods a mention (percentage only shown), so that we can prevent ourselves throwing any of these away in the future. Why chocolates and sweets are binned is a bit of a puzzle.  Surely these are unlikely to be kept too long, anyway they would have a b.b. date which means they can be kept for months longer.

Many of the fresh fruit, veg and salads that are binned remain in unopened packets when binned, but some are sold loose.  Here is the list with the most binned items shown first, working down to the least.
Mushrooms 65%; Tomatoes 63%; Yogurts 50%; Carrots 33%; Fresh veg. and salads 30%; Fresh fruit 26%; Chocolate and sweets 22%; Bread and bakery goods 13%; Cheese 10%; Apples 9%; Dairy and eggs 8%; Meat and fish 6%.

Myself can never understand why bagged fresh produce has a use-by (or b/b) date on the packaging, yet when sold loose we don't get given any information as to how long it will last.  I normally buy a large bag of carrots that last me weeks longer than the date given on the bag - but these keep verywell only when kept in the fridge, in their original bag, for weeks AS LONG AS THE BAG HAS BEEN SPLIT TO ALLOW THE AIR IN, otherwise the carrots would end up going soggy.  Same with baby 'new' potatoes, parsnips etc.  Kept in bags with air allowed in, and they keep fresh for much longer.
It makes sense to 'open the box' in more ways than one. 

Before I start replying to comments, must first pose a question.  Realised that we have now reached and passed the summer solstice when we had the longest days (shortest nights).  Now here in the northwest of the UK our longest days is about 20 hours - at least of visibility where we can walk outside and still see where we are going.  On a clear night it barely seems to get dark.
Yet in six months you would expect the opposite, four hours of daylight and the rest of the time dark, but it isn't like that.  When it is our shortest day, it is light enough by 8.00am, and then by 4.00pm it is time to draw the curtains and put on the lights.  So that's roughly 8 hours of usable daylight, twice more than would be expected.  Anyone know why this happens?

Quite a few comment came in, for which I thank all of you.  Seems that most of us feel that £1 a portion is about right, although we all know we can make meals even cheaper than this.  But it is all to do with averages,  one meal may be very economical, the next day's meal cost twice as much. As long as we can keep within our monthly budget, then we shouldn't need to be too concerned how much a portion costs (unless - like me - it is worth checking now and again). 

Welcome to Karen Lizzie, who points out that Jamies' 'cheap' meals aren't that cheap.  To us they do seem more expensive that we would like them to be,  but to many people they probably do see economical.  It all depends on which side of the fence we stand.   Even so, I do enjoy watching him cook, especially his 15 minute meals, and certainly glean a lot of cookery info each time. 
Usually it does work out affordable to buy the occasional roast, then use this up in several dishes during the following week, but only if there is a family to feed.  Feeding just one or two and a joint worth roasting (and they need to be large to get the best flavour) would never be bought.
Having said that, about twice a year I do buy a large piece of beef (topside or silverside), and roast it with extra fat (given me by the butcher), so that I have plenty of meat to slice when cold and then freeze, with or without gravy, and also have a lovely pot of proper beef dripping that my Beloved adores and eats spread on toast with a sprinkle of salt.  Unhealthy I know, but it never seems to do him any harm (he doesn't have it THAT often), as his medical checks show.

Good to hear from both Eileen and Pam there memories of living happily with a large family in a small home.  Maybe it's to do with 'how it was then', but people seemed to be content with their lot, proving that we don't need money to have a happy home.   Not that there is anything wrong in aiming to improve our lives, but money really does not bring happiness, or at least not the right kind.

Do remember 'passing the balloon' (not an orange) was in the Good Life Hazel, but maybe it wasn't during the Christmas episode.  This series is often repeated, so I'll make a note next time I see the balloon game and give it a mention.
You mentioned using 1lb mince to make spag. bol, but you didn't say how many individual servings you ended up with. 

Had to smile at your memories of  your dad's family Alison, and although I cannot top the preparing meal, giving birth, then going back down to serve the pud, can say that I was in labour with my first child for less than 3 hours, and by the time I had my fourth, she was born in 20 minutes from start to finish.  After the third child was born, about an hour later had to get up and go downstairs to make B a bacon sandwich because he said I could make them better than he could!!!  In those days I was still living in the time when the man was master of the house and the wife always did as she was told. 
Things are slightly different now.   B did take me to the church today and collected me, despite him being phoned by someone at the sailing club to go and open the doors for someone who was doing repairs.  I told B that I didn't HAVE to go this afternoon, but he stood there, feet astride, arms akimbo and said ' No - YOU have priority', with the underlying tone of 'Yes, you are a nuisance but I suppose you have to be taken'.  Or was I just imagining it?

A welcome to Floss, who is wondering how fishcakes can be made for £1 when fish is so expensive (incidentally the ones bought were £2 for four - 50 pence each). 
Not all fish is expensive,  Jamie was saying that frozen fish can cost half the price of the same thing when bought fresh.  The Tesco 'value' pack of (anonymous) 'white fish' fillets I find worth buying.
But fish cakes don't always have to be made using fresh fish,  myself often used canned fish, pilchards and sardines being especially economical.  I'll have to make up a batch, see how many fishcakes can be made, and how much they cost in total, and individually.

Having recently bought a very large whole fresh salmon (filleted by the fishmonger), costing me £12, this portioned out into 14 'steaks' (7 from each side), plus the side trimmings and both tail ends, these oddments very good for fish risotto, and fishcakes.  This only because I bought the whole fish in the first place,  buying it in small pieces it is always much more expensive.   Salmon freezes beautifully, so worth it in the long run.

Learn something new every day.  Thanks to Barbara for letting us know that potato puree is a traditional Italian dish.  At least with the menu described, it wasn't served with a mushroom sauce, so I suppose eats well within a 'balanced' meal.    Not quite sure what 'potato puree' is, the version shown on TV was really soft, a bit like a 'drop from the spoon' sauce.  'Creamed' potatoes sound similar but thicker,  normally potatoes that have had extra butter and cream added when mashing.
These I do enjoy eating (but they are carbos and I shouldn't).

Having mentioned fishcakes, am repeating a recipe I gave some months ago, so new readers will have missed it.  Canned salmon is not the cheapest of tinned fish, and although tuna can also be expensive, the 'value' cans are really worth buying, especially when making fishcakes.
Beetroot is one of those 'super-foods' always worth including wherever possible, and because it adds a pretty pink colour to whatever it touches, these fishcakes will be loved by children.  Choose the most suitable canned fish within your budget range.
It could be that using instant potato works out cheaper than cooking and mashing fresh spuds.  Canned potatoes also mash up well, and these are proved to be (sometimes) cheaper than fresh.

Although the recipe below does not coat the fishcakes before cooking, if we flour, egg, and crumb them this will increase their size slightly, and if we 'double dip' (giving a thicker coating), we could make 10 from the original mix, as we've increased their visual appearance by using this trick.  Anyone who worked out the percentage of the fishcakes as given yesterday will realise that at least a quarter of the weight came from the crumb coating.  Deceiving the eye often helps when it comes to economical presentation.

Salmon and Beetroot Fishcakes:  makes 8
1lb 2 oz (500g) mashed potato
1 small onion or shallot, finely chopped
7 oz (200g) cooked beetroot, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 x 170g can salmon, drained (see above)
1 tblsp sunflower oil
Mix the mashed potato, onion, and beetroot together, adding seasoning to taste, then flake the fish and fold that into the mixture.  Divide into eight, and - using clean hands - form into 8 fishcakes.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over fairly high heat, and fry the fishcakes in batches until the undersides are brown and crispy, then flip over to cook the other side. Keep the first cooked fishcakes warm while you finish cooking the rest.  Good served with salad.

Still no rain, but the sun found it difficult to break through as the sky was overcast most of the day. Still very warm, and a bit muggy.  A feeling that thunder may not be too far away.  We really could do with some rain, gentle showers to bring life back to the garden, and preferably during the night.

A busy week ahead of me,  the 'water sports' weekend in a few days has brought me orders for marmalade and jam, gingerbread, and a fresh scones, the latter baked fresh for each of the two days.  I've already weighed out the sugar, so tomorrow will make a start with the preserves and on Thursday will make the gingerbread (as it improves with a few days keeping).

The church meeting this afternoon was very pleasant.  I have joined the church and paid my fee, so am an 'associate member' for 6 months, then - if I've been a good girl - will be asked if I'd like to become a full member. 
There were only six of us there today (maybe the others were watching Wimbledon?) and we did some meditating, and some of the mediums had a few messages to pass on (but not for me this time).
Not sure if I'll be there next week as that will be our anniversary week, so I'll be fairly busy getting the house straight, Gill will be staying with me, and no doubt members of the family will be popping in from time to time.   I'll also be taking a few days off blogging so that I can concentrate on what has to take priority.  But should be blogging until mid-week, so will remind readers closer to the time.

That's it for now.  Already Wednesday - doesn't the time fly by when we get old?  After a few hours sleep, back into the kitchen to start making the preserves.  Might even find time to make the gingerbread too.  Then can relax until early Saturday when I have to get up early to make the scones, ditto Sunday (they are always best eaten fresh, on the day they are made).  TTFN.