Autumnal eating

My apologies. My commitment to daily postings was hindered by working hours and the fact my local library is closed on a Thursday. That’s the downside to free internet, you are at the mercy of those who provide it for you.

The challenge officially ended on Wednesday, with me withdrawing extra money in order to visit the greengrocers. The lack of fresh produce was too daunting to bear. However, I am still on strict economising lines as I still have a week to go until pay day. The freezer and cupboards are still my primary sources of meals/ingredients. Nothing is wasted.

IMG_0648

For example, I had a big Bramley apple that had been sitting pretty for at least a week. I also had a couple of Pink Ladies that were slowly but surely turning an unappetising shade of brown. But luckily, this was only on their skin. Both types of apples were peeled, diced and thrown in a pot with some brown sugar, mixed spice and a little water. The rescue mission was a success.

IMG_0650

There is only one sensible thing to do with stewed apple in November, and that is to make a crumble. I made the crumble mixture in the morning, put it into a jar, put said jar into the fridge and went off to work. There was a big part of me that felt hugely smug to come home to an apple crumble in the making. All I had to do was sprinkle the crumble mix on top and pop it in the oven. Considering I had already prepped my veg and was having leftover savoury mince from the freezer for dinner, it was a speedy meal. Truly, it’s easy once you know how and can spare a few minutes in the morning to get things ready. All I had to do when I came home from my shift was to turn the oven on. And make packet custard of course. Crumble without custard is treason, I’m sure.

PS Another meal out of leftovers; old bread, a cold sausage, rocket, carrot curls, cucumber with the seeds scooped out, all drizzled with mustard and garlic oil dressing. A perfect lunchbox.

IMG_0651

Advertisements

Lean Cuisine

I do so love the library. Not only does it provide free internet access for up to two hours a day, it’s also full of books! I’m slowly but steadily working my way through the cookery section, having previously devoured the entire WW2 section. It’s a brilliant way to sample cookery books that I may have been tempted to purchase, but am now relieved I didn’t.

IMG_0642

If I was browsing on Amazon, this delightful book may have fallen into my virtual trolley. After reading it, I’m very glad to have saved the money. Naturally, it was the title that drew me in, focusing on two of my favourite things: Economy Gastronomy. Co-written by Allegra McEvedy and Paul Merrett, it was a dream to read – very witty and humorous, with helpful advice to boot. But the recipes somehow felt out of reach. The idea of cooking once and making the most of the leftovers was solid, but undeniably geared for families. Little old me would be eating lamb for a month if I bought a whole leg! Some of the ingredients listed went straight over my head, but the photography was stunning. All in all, I think you could tell it was written by chefs, a bit out of my league.

But the book inspired me to get in the kitchen and make sure nothing went to waste. The facts contained in the book were shocking, talking about how nonchalant our culture is about throwing away food. I set out to rescue my on-the-turn vegetables into a simple curry.

IMG_0638

The cauliflower and potatoes were set on to steam. I mixed a third of the potatoes with the last bit of light mayo, cress and chopped basil to make a cold potato salad for me to take in my lunch box to work.

IMG_0640

I gently sautéed an organic onion and the remaining half of a green bell pepper in some garlic oil. I folded through the potatoes and cauliflower and went crazy with the spice tin – coriander, cumin, chilli, organic curry powder, salt and pepper all went in the pot. I used the stock created from steaming the veg and brought it up to the boil. Then I added a decent amount of red lentil, put on the lid, turned the heat down and let it simmer for half an hour.

IMG_0643

Basically, I create six meals for the week ahead out of practically nothing. It’s my kind of lean cuisine, lean in terms of monetary costs to make. It was economical on fuel too, and meant that nothing went in the bin, aside from a few dodgy peelings. Thank you McAvedy and Merrett; that is a lesson truly learnt.

PS Tuesday was a no spend day – hurrah!

Eintopf

I’m reading a fascinating book at the moment, borrowed from the library, naturally. It’s called Consider the Fork, by food writer and historian Bee Wilson. I’m only a couple of chapters in but this history into the nature of the tools intrinsic to our kitchen habits is fascinating. So far, Wilson has discussed pots and knives, two vital components in the modern kitchen, not necessarily the case in years gone by.

She was discussing one pot cookery and those paragraphs certainly leapt out at me. Food in a pot, bubbling away and smelling delicious is primal. Nothing is better in this wet, wet, wet November we’re currently experiencing than a hearty one pot meal. The best of the bunch? Soup. Hands down. In Autumn and Winter, soup becomes one of my main food groups, which also includes wine and roasted parsnips. Not to mention being incredibly cheap to make. My latest batch of curried vegetable and lentil soup, as seen above, probably costs around 30p per portion. And that’s for a decent sized bowlful.  My latest batch of soup was a good one, but they all follow the same basic principle.

IMG_0621

1) Dice vegetables. Add to pot.

2) Add stock to pot.

3) Add spice, seasonings and flavouring to pot.

4) Bring pot to boil.

5) Simmer for a nice long time.

6) Blitz to a creamy loveliness.

This isn’t fancy soup with crème fraiche or chopped fresh herbs or pre-cooked veg sautéed in bacon fat. That would be a delight, sure, but this is more basic, more instinctive, simple and delicious. That’s my favourite kind of food.

The cupboard of dreams

Since moving into my own home and having increased access to more storage space, I have come to highly appreciate the usefulness of a well-equipped store cupboard. Very little actual money has been spent this week. Any new products I have acquired have been from various points and vouchers. The majority of my meals are being concocted from what I’ve already got.

For example, breakfasts have consisted of reduced GF bagels lurking in the freezer, or berry porridge made with milk bought on points.

IMG_0568

Lunches have been made up of the range of loaves and rolls I’ve frozen earlier in the month. Add a bit of cheese and salad, a piece of fruit and a lunchbox has been made. For my sister’s visit, I only had to purchase an aubergine and a courgette to make this delicious ratatouille dish for us to share. The addition of the GF cous cous was perfection.

IMG_0598

When the days before payday are creeping by, I’ve learnt it’s important to focus on what you do have, rather than what you don’t have. I have no more peppers in stock, or tins of kidney beans. But I’ve still managed to make a hearty chilli, using bargain mince from a recent shopping trip, no peppers but a fat onion and no kidney beans, but a couple of tablespoons of red lentils. Thanks to the slow cooker, this humble meal should taste exceptional by this evening.

IMG_0601

IMG_0602

Necessity is the mother of invention. When my purse is fuller once more, I shall have to replenish my beloved store cupboard, so that next month, I’ll still be eating well right up to the end of the month.

Flat Number Five

Friends, I have made it to the other side. After a lengthy day of exertion, three of us managed to move my worldly possessions into a studio flat in Southampton. I cannot tell you how pleased I am with this outcome.

IMG_0550

Choosing to live on your own immediately after graduating is not a simple path. But it was always destined to be the right one for me. After other options were discussed, this was the direction that I was drawn to the most. I wanted to live by myself due to many contributing factors, but this choice is not without its sacrifices.

IMG_0548

Luckily, water and gas central heating are included in the monthly rent, but I still have a hefty council tax bill to deal with every month. There is no roommate in which to fall back on – it’s up to me. I have to pay a round pound coin to the little box under my kitchen counter in order to continue using the electricity. I cannot afford to own a television and personal broadband is a luxury beyond my means. So I will go without.

IMG_0549

But this is no true hardship. In a sense, it very much appeals to my thrifty nature. I’ve always enjoyed budgeting and such, it’s just now the stakes are higher. I like to see how much electricity I can use before adding another coin. I’m writing to you from the local library, who offers free use of their internet for up to two hours five days a week. I’m reading more and dancing to the radio every chance I get. Just because I don’t have a Sky box leaking money in the corner doesn’t mean I am in any way deprived.

The cooking is yet to begin in earnest, but I have batch cooked a Bolognese for hot meals this week. I’ve also saved some vegetable water with the intention of making soup on my next day off. I can see much of my free time being spent in the kitchen, it’s my favourite place to be. And besides, I have a freezer to fill!

IMG_0554

I’m off to battle the rain and continue with my chores. I hope you all have a wonderful start to the week.

Chicken alla Frugal

When I think of stew, I think of beef stew, enriched with red wine and lots of parsnips. Casserole however, conjures up a different dinner, something lighter with more greenery. Am I wrong? Quite possibly, but I had a lone chicken thigh left in the freezer so casserole it was to be.

IMG_0136

Into my lovely crockpot went a chopped onion, a parsnip, four carrots and the ends of the asparagus that I bought last week. It’s absolutely delicious steamed, but the bottom part is a bit woody. So I tailed the stalks and threw the ends into the casserole. I ate steamed asparagus yesterday with sausages, and I saved the water leftover. This was the basis of my stock.

IMG_0138

The chicken thigh was nestled in the middle and the pot went into the oven at 150 degrees for an hour and a half. Then it was whisked out, the chicken was pulled away from the bones, the flour paste was stirred through and I added some kale to boot.

IMG_0140

After a final half an hour in the oven, my casserole was ready. It was truly delicious. Such a simple supper, it made three lunchtime-sized portions. Yes, there is very little meat, but when the vegetables are so fresh and tasty, it doesn’t make much of a difference to me. I’m looking forward to my lunch tomorrow already.

IMG_0143

PS The British strawberries I bought in Sainsbury’s this week are perfect. Ripe and sweet and delicious in porridge. Just thought I’d pass on the seasonal food love 🙂

Rebecca’s Recipes: Sweet Potato and Lentil Curry

It was mid-morning on Saturday. A late breakfast meant that lunch was some way off in the distance, but I still wanted to be in the kitchen. I planned to bake. But to start my kitchen adventure, I made a batch of one of my favourite meals. I make Sweet Potato Curry normally once a fortnight. Most of the time, I add red lentils, but I have been known to add a can of chickpeas instead. The wonderful thing about this dish is its available options. I always add an additional vegetable to the sweet potato base. Most of the time, it’s either carrot or parsnip. For this batch, I added finely sliced broccoli stalk. I aim for no food wastage in this house! Plus, I think the stalk has the strongest taste, in a good way. It takes a fair amount of cooking though, which is why I sliced it thinly.

This made three portions for my freezer drawer. I would imagine it would serve two for dinner.

DSCN2507

Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped

1 sweet potato, diced

1 broccoli stalk, finely sliced

2tsp curry paste (I use Patak’s Tikka Masala paste)

500ml vegetable stock

60g red split lentils

DSCN2508

1) Sweat the onion until it is soft.

2) Turn up the heat and add the other vegetables. Keep stirring on the high heat until the vegetables take on some colour.

3) Add the curry paste and stir through.

4) Add the stock and bring to the boil.

5) Add the red split lentil, turn heat down to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.

DSCN2511

Whilst my curry was bubbling away nicely, I was browsing through a recipe book. My housemate entered the kitchen and asked if I was baking. I said I was thinking about making rock buns.

“Well, I’ve got some brown bananas upstairs if you can make use of them.”

Naturally, I nearly bit her hand off. The rock buns will have to wait for another day, because there is only one thing to make when your housemate hands you four, perfectly good, very ripe bananas – Happy Dance Muffins!

DSCN2510

It was pleasant to spend a couple of hours pottering around the kitchen. It was also good to see the culmination of my efforts. The freezer drawer is looking very healthy now I must say. The same can’t be said for the cake tin. The muffins seem to be disappearing rapidly, but the smile on my face isn’t going anywhere. Banana muffins make me too happy!

DSCN2513

Do let me know if you try out either recipe, I’d love to hear your feedback.