A vegetable-based pondering

We know the deal with meat. Local is good, local and free-range is better, then local, free-range and organic is best. But what are the rules with vegetables?

Both of my local supermarkets supply an array of organic produce. The prices are higher than standard, naturally, but at least there is a choice of products. But what if these organic carrots have been flown in from thousands of miles away? Surely it is more environmentally sound to buy the carrots grown conventionally down the road?

And why should I give my money to the corporate supermarkets? My local greengrocers stocks both home grown and imported produce, none of which is organic. They are very reasonably priced and a family-run business, a rare sight on the modern high street. I have a sneaking suspicion that my greengrocer sells things that do not pass the supermarket standard test. The stickers on the grapefruit look strikingly similar to the ones in Sainsbury’s. If it’s true, I think it’s a marvellous idea, ensuring nothing is wasted.

It’s a minefield, the vegetable aisle. Either you purchase chemical-riddled veg, bred to perfection and cheap to buy. Or you get squeaky clean, odd-shaped veg, all the way from goodness knows where. Of course, the best solution is to grow your own, thus ensuring the best quality with no chemicals or air miles. Sadly, this is not a possible choice when you live in a third floor flat like I do. I know the next step would be an organic vegetable box delivery, but then Dan and the guys at Long’s would lose a customer. For now, I’m going to continue to support my local shop, getting the best value vegetables I can, alongside quality meat. Maybe I’ll give Abel and Cole a call in the future.

Advertisements

Frugal Fridays #21

Out of all possible meal scenarios of one day (elevenses, brunch, supper and midnight snack included), afternoon tea is my favourite. Not only is it an opportunity for cake-based delights and gallons of tea, it’s a chance to use all the delicate and beautiful china I’ve been hoarding collecting. It’s actually quite a thrifty meal, especially if you adhere to the following tips.

IMG_0626

Make your own sandwiches with whatever is in the fridge. Shop-bought sandwiches are never up to scratch. Plus, it seems counter-productive to specifically buy ingredients when you already have a selection in the house. The magic comes with how you cut them. I did fingers of cheese and pickle, triangles of raspberry jam and trimmed my cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches with a cutter. The two different breads I used were bought from the reduced section, not that my guest needs to know that!

IMG_0625

Make your own biscuits. Yes, my home made gingerbread does look quite rustic, but I was complimented on the flavour. I know scones are more traditional, but you can knock up biscuits with minimal ingredients, thus decreasing the cost. I also quite like the different texture biscuits bring to the table.

IMG_0624

If you do buy your cakes, try to get ones on offer. I ran out of time to bake my own, and I’m not entirely confident with gluten-free cake anyway. Luckily, these finger cakes were two packs for £3. Standard cakes are much cheap, and once you add a little garnish (like my raspberries), who would know the difference?!

IMG_0627

Afternoon tea is an indulgence, gosh yes, and by no means a necessity. But it is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon in the company of a good friend.

My morning oats

In my last post, it was a dinner meal that was being altered to fit the new season. But this time, I’m turning my attention to breakfast. I’ve always been a breakfast type of person, I’m definitely a fan. You know you get people who just aren’t breakfast people? Yeah, that’s not me. Ever since coming to University, my standard breakfast has been porridge, that good ol’ fashioned standby. I would say 80% of my breakfasts are porridge with some sort of fruit (strawberries/bananas/mixed berries). It’s a cheap, filling bowl of goodness – perfect.

But since the weather has taken a turn for the better, standing over the hob stirring hot milk isn’t appealing right now. But neither is paying out extortionate amounts for gluten-free cereal. The solution is simple; make the oats the star of the cereal bowl. Cold porridge doesn’t sound appetizing, but how about bircher muesli, overnight oats or oat cereal instead? Whatever label you want to give it, it tastes good.

IMG_0153

IMG_0155

Add 4og of oats to 150ml milk (whatever kind of milk you choose) and place in the fridge for a good half hour, to forty minutes. This can be done overnight, but this was just how I prepared mine.

IMG_0156

Take out of the fridge, stir through fruit of your choice and serve. I’ve only tried it with strawberries so far (in season and oh so tasty) but I think it would work well with all summer berries.

IMG_0157

Cool, refreshing and yet still economical and satisfying. And it tastes even better when you sit outside in the sunshine listening to the birdsong. After all, that’s what summer is all about.

 

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 🙂

Pretend like there’s no world outside

IMG_0119

There’s nothing I like more than a glut of bananas. I arrived home after a visit to the Chap to find four lovely, blemished bananas waiting patiently in my fruit bowl. Their brown spots told me that action was required sooner rather than later. My first thought, naturally, was Happy Dance muffins, but alas, my store cupboard holds no eggs. As I’m still sticking with a slim budget this month, I would have to use what I already had in stock. Cue a rifle through the kitchen cupboards. No eggs, no problem.

I know bananas can be used as an egg substitute in vegan cookery, so I decided if it was good enough for vegans, it would be good enough for me. I did slightly contradict this by adding cows’ milk, but there you go. I also added protein powder because I’ve started running regularly again and my body needs all the protein it can get.

IMG_0120

IMG_0121

 

Banana Protein Pancakes

(Makes around 15 small pancakes)

1 very ripe banana, mashed

75g Doves gluten free flour

25g pea protein isolate

1/2 tsp Doves gluten free baking powder

200ml organic skimmed milk

 

Mash the banana in a large bowl. Sift in the flour, protein powder and baking powder and combine with the banana. Add milk and whisk with a fork to make a thick batter. Add spoonfulls of the mixture to a hot pancake pan. They are ready to flip when there is no longer any liquid on the surface.

IMG_0123

IMG_0124

 

I ate them all and it was glorious! I served mine with a little (read: a lot) of honey drizzled on top and a large mug of tea on the side. It was a perfect Sunday lunch for me. Do let me know if you like the recipe or if you give them a go.

 

PS Who knows the song that my title is derived from? It’s not a tricky one 🙂

IMG_0125

 

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.

Baking inspiration

I have been reading Sue’s new blog, 365 days – £365, with keen interest. The way she has used various ingredients to her advantage has been inspirational. This weekend, I was treating myself to a restful Sunday, after spending most of Saturday catching up with University-related stuff. I felt inclined to rifle through my cupboards and see what I could create. It started with an egg.

DSCN2432

A further rummage in the cupboards and in the fridge later, and I had just enough flour, milk, sugar and butter to create this tray of delights . . .

DSCN2433

As you can see, I couldn’t resist the role of quality control. I was quite proud of these cute little gluten-free cupcakes. They tasted great fresh from the oven, but they did get a little bit dry. More experimentation required!

I had a small amount of flour left, another 100g of butter and as much sugar as I needed. We keep a house store of sugar in our baking cupboard. Yes, we have a baking cupboard. Yes, we are a house of girly-girls.

But alas, no more eggs.

There was still a recipe to be had though. After a flick through my Marguerite Patten’s Wartime Cookery book, the recipe for Eggless Sponge was uncovered. I made a Syrup Sponge Pudding with the few handfuls of ingredients I had.

DSCN2436

Honestly, a bowlful of warm sponge, topped with some reduced custard that I’d bought the day before, was the best pudding I’ve had in a long time. It took a pinch of ingenuity to make, but my goodness, the results were more than satisfactory. For me, it just shows the joy that can be found in simple cooking with humble ingredients. Delicious!