Category Archives: general

a squeaky breakfast

halloumi breakfast

Our local cafe, run by an affable Romanian named  Ricardo, does a splendid breakfast of halloumi, roasted veg, hash brown, a sausage patty, tomato (for those that want it – I certainly don’t!) and toast, for £4.99.  It’s delicious, but by the time you’ve bought coffee, you’re up to thirteen quid or so for two, so I decided to have a go at home.

  • two chipolatas from the local butcher, baked in the oven
  • One red and one green pepper sliced, four cloves of garlic, one sliced onion, a handful of mushrooms, cooked down slowly in some olive oil on the hob {1}
  • half a block of halloumi, sliced and dry fried
  • some left over cooked spuds, sautéd in some olive oil

Readers, it was delicious, and we shall do it again. And probably again. And there is enough vegetable left to do for tomorrow’s lunch – I shall sling in a can of chickpeas to boost it up

{1} The pepper mix was very liquid. I might actually roast the veg next time, but we live and learn.

a timed supper

 

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As my regular reader will know, Tuesday night is pasta night. I just open the fridge and concoct something from its contents. For people who don’t have time to cook, here’s a 15-20 minute supper.

Bear in mind I have an ceramic hob, so you can skip the “put the rings on” bit if you’ve got gas.

  1. Switch on the big ring, put a deep frying pan on it, add a slug of olive oil
  2. Switch on the medium ring, put some cold water and salt in a pan, set it on the ring
  3. Slice up a big leek and put it in the pan with the oil.
  4. Weigh out the pasta (if you do such things – we do, because carbs/diabetes)
  5. Slice up some mushrooms, and add to the leeks
  6. Notice pasta water is boiling – add pasta, set timer for ten minutes (this is dried pasta – your pasta may vary)
  7. Remember you haven’t put any garlic in, so quickly peel and chop two cloves and throw them in with the vegetables
  8. Put a colander in the sink for drainage purposes
  9. Grate black pepper into the veg
  10. Open the fridge for some lemon juice, find a bottle of white wine open, and add some of that instead.  Too much, so turn up the heat to boil it down a bit
  11. Remove block of feta from fridge and cut up about one third of it
  12. When timer goes, drain pasta then add it to vegetables, together with the feta.
  13. Stir it all together, decant into bowls, scoff.

prepayment meters

We knew this house had a prepayment electric meter. It was with EDF and, as they were the supplier in our previous home, I phoned them and asked them to put in a proper credit meter, which they did within two weeks. I also asked them to transfer the gas from British Gas to themselves, without realising that that meter was also a prepayment one, so the replacement process is rather more convoluted.

The gas meter had a £57 debt on it, and when I put my card in, with its £30 of credit, I only got £3’s worth of gas; I was horrified. Long conversations with BG later, I found that if I paid off all the debt, so the meter was clear, they would refund it all; we’re very lucky we could afford to do that – many folk couldn’t.

Also, it was costing about £4 *per day* to run the central heating for a few hours, and deliver hot water (two showers and three lots of washing up daily – cooking is all electric here). Truly, those who have nothing, have to pay more. Quite outrageous that prepayment gas and electric should be so much more expensive than metered.

However … the weeks we spent having to pay in advance (and through the nose) made us extremely aware of how much it was costing, and we have become far more frugal and careful in our use of power, which is no bad thing, I suppose.

It lives!

Many apologies for the radio silence – we’ve been moving house, which meant eating everything in the freezer and the cupboards, finding homes for all our culinary stuff in the new (and frankly inadequate) kitchen, sourcing new fridge and freezer (the USAnian behemoth having been left behind), and then starting to fill them. So no new recipes to relate, really.

We have moved to the eastern side of Hull, where there is much real poverty, and the local shops are even cheaper than where we were previously. There is a good independent butcher at the top of the street, who sells shin of beef. Shin Of Beef! And is the sort of shop where they go and cut what you want. There is a greengrocer next door, which has good produce, if a limited range – nothing like an aubergine, or a herb, or much of a choice of apples, but they are inexpensive and decent quality. We have a big Asda 15 minutes walk away, and a Morrisons 20 minutes in the opposite direction, and we have Fulton Foods, Iceland, Poundland, and Home Bargains, close to hand.  Those latter are all great for inexpensive cleaning materials, loo rolls, etc., and actually Iceland has some interesting stuff if you rummage.

The inadequate kitchen includes an ancient and unvenerable ceramic electric hob, which is a nightmare. We’ve already had to replace the oven (bought an AEG fan oven from eBay). It came with a matching gas hob, so we’ve got someone coming in to quote us for plumbing that in. We’ve also got a newer ceramic hob to fit, which I picked up for £85, so decisions to be made there. And praise be for Ikea, who have allowed us to make the house workable for about £300 (and two 165 mile round trips!).

So we’re settling in nicely. I’ve put a dozen tubs in the freezer: old stalwarts like roast veg, lentils and cauliflower, bolognese sauce, and pork and beans. Herbs are waiting to go in the garden when we get the beds dug over. Might even plant some veg later!

More posts soon 🙂

hurrah for Aldi

Aldi-150x150I must confess to just a little schadenfreude upon hearing of Tesco’s woes. Yes, I know they employ thousands of people, and yes, I know that a lot of pensions are invested in them, but they were a bit Icarus like of late.

I very occasionally visit the huge Tesco in the centre of Hull, when I can’t get what I want anywhere else, and I’m always overcome by the choice in there. Who needs dozens of different breakfast cereals, or olive oils, or sausages, or whatever? I find myself just standing in front of the shelves, whimpering.

This morning, in stark contrast, P and I walked across the park in the wind to our local Aldi – we spent the princely sum of £27.73, and here’s what we bought:

 2.5kg baking potatoes
1kg wholemeal flour
1 large cauliflower
2 smoked salmon and cheddar fishcakes
1 pack of chicken thighs
3 courgettes
1kg bananas
2 packs puff pastry
1 double pack pancetta cubes
1 pack pork sausages
1 pack chestnut mushrooms
2 balls mozzarella
1 bottle baby shampoo (for my sensitive locks)
1 pack  Frikadellen meatballs (lovely for lunches)
1 pack Bavarian ham
1 pack egg noodles
1 pack Earl Grey tea bags
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 carton passata
1 tub hummus
1 pack Wensleydale cheese
1 tub pate
3 bulbs garlic
8 rashers back bacon (won’t be as good as Normans, but will do fine)

Yesterday, we spent about 5 quid in a local greengrocer, for cabbage, swede, courgettes (yes, I know, but I need moar! courgettes!), a bag of peppers, mushrooms (we eat a lot).

I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with it all yet. Tonight’s supper is the fishcakes, with sautéd potatoes and baked beans (yes! don’t care!). Sunday we are cooking a huge vat of chili with some ox cheek that’s been in the freezer for a few weeks – never used it before, so that’s quite fun. I’ll keep you posted.

And if you haven’t tried one of the German discounters, you really should!

the poor don't know how to cook

Baroness Jenkin

Baroness Jenkin said this week, as the report on poverty and food banks was released, that “the poor don’t know how to cook”. Which was a tad patronising, really – lots of people who living in poverty know how to cook, and indeed lots of people who aren’t haven’t a bloody clue. And quite a few of them know how to cook, but can’t afford the ingredients, or even the utilities to cook them.

But that’s not really the point, is it? There she sat, in her Chanel jacket, and her expensive jewellery, and her posh hair cut, and she pontificated about others. And said that her bowl of porridge cost her 4p for breakfast. Well, I dispute that.

Sainsburys basic porridge is £0.11 per 100g, and their own recipe says to use 50g, so that’s 5.5p already. They recommend you make it with milk, but you can use water. So choose – can you afford milk? Has your water been cut off? Do you have a bowl and spoon to eat it with, a microwave or hob to cook it on, a way to measure 50g and 270ml? Is there money in your meters for the electricity or gas?

Cheap processed food is filling food, and if you’re tearing about working two jobs, or walking great long distances to do workfare, you’re not likely to have the time or energy to conjure up a delicious, nutritious and cheap meal. Sticking a 99p microwave lasagne on for the kids gets them fed quickly, rather than waiting while you try to prep something better.

Last night we had a quick pasta dish, as is our normal Tuesday fare. 125g of own brand fusilli, an onion, courgette, yellow pepper, a few mushrooms,  and two small smoked salami (the latter unnecessary, but needed using up). And to cook it I used a hob, a saucepan for the pasta, and a frying pan for the vegetables. I used a set of scales to weigh the pasta, a decent sharp knife and chopping board to cut up the veg, a drizzle of olive oil to cook them in, some cooking salt, and a grating of parmesan at the end (requiring, obviously, both cheese and some sort of grating implement). And some black pepper.

So the ingredients probably cost less than two quid, but the stuff I needed to actually cook it cost considerably more, and the experience gained from 40 years of cooking, so I can hurl together a meal out of pretty much anything cannot be costed.

Oh, and there’s about 170 calories in a bowl of porridge made with water. The good baroness must be starving unless, of course, she fills up at the subsidised House of Lords various canteens the rest of the time.

I wish people, particularly wealthy peers of the realm, wouldn’t be so fucking judgemental.

a day of kitchen mishaps

I made the Christmas cake yesterday morning, after boiling the fruit up with sugar and butter and brandy on Saturday. It, thankfully, seems fine. However …

A chicken went in the oven to roast on a bed of vegetables. Roast potatoes went on top in another dish, as did a coconut and citrus cake (see later post).

Spuds were doing beautifully, but the cake caught, so I took it out. Chicken appeared to be done ((juices running clear) but bed of veg was not. Investigated.

1. Had put oven on wrong setting – top heat/grill, this is why cake burned

2. Had put chicken in upside down.

3. Discovered all this when everything else was done.

Then the kitchen ring blew …

Pete reset the ring, then we took the spuds out, set oven to correct incantation (bloody Neff – far too complicated),  and returned the chicken to its roasting place. And we opened a bottle of wine.

Then, when it was cooked (and dinner was only forty minutes late), I bunged the cake back in the oven for twenty minutes, and it’s fine if we cut the burnt bits off.

I did make some scones for supper, and they were OK too, but it was a trying day.

a nibbled lemon cake

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There was a lemon waiting to be used up (I generally use lemon juice in my cooking, as it’s so much cheaper), and a pot of plain yogurt in the fridge, and no cake in the cake box. So I had a bit of a google, as you do, and found a recipe on Nigella’s site (which I could probably have found in one of the many Nigella books I own, but the interwebs is quicker). Here’s the original recipe.

I do apologise for the photograph, but I left the cake on its final cool in the box, and THE BLOODY KITTENS NIBBLED IT. Sorry, but really – virtually nothing edible is safe from their little sharp white pointy teeth.

After the success of the orange and chocolate cake, where I just hurled the orange into the food processor and mashed it up I thought I’d try the same result. We tried just half a slice last night, and I’m not yet sure it worked – seemed little depth to the flavour, but I’ll revisit it tonight.

1 lemon (the recipe called for just the zest)
150g  plain flour
100g granulated sugar
5 fl oz natural yoghurt
5 fl oz vegetable oil
2 medium eggs
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder

I blitzed the whole lemon in the Magimix, then added the rest of the ingredients, and whizzed some more. Then I just poured the mixture into a paper case inside a loaf tin, and baked it at 180C/gas 4 for about 55 minutes. The recipe said 35-40, but I suspect it took longer as I had a wetter batter.

And it sank spectacularly quickly within five minutes of its exit fom the oven, but it’s cake – what’s not to like?

But I will swing for those kittens … Should you be interested, you can find them on Facebook.

an instant cake mix

Wright's ginger cake mix

 

I know, I know, it’s shocking, but sometimes you just get carried away in the moment …

Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of slow cookers, and own three of varying sizes. I belonged, briefly, to a slow cooker group on Facebook, but mostly the members used theirs to put in meat and a couple of jars of cooking sauce, and that isn’t really what I do. However, for some of them, slow cookers seemed almost a religion. They tried *everything* in them. One person – honestly – was cooking full English breakfasts overnight in theirs. It seemed somehow grounds for excommunication if you didn’t buy into this, and I left.

But I was intrigued by using a slow cooker to bake a cake. Apparently, it couldn’t be just any cake, it had to be a Wright’s cake mix. I have no idea why. Caught up in the religious zeal,  I bought a ginger cake mix from Aldi – I think it was about £0.80 – but sanity prevailed and it stayed in the cupboard.

And then, the other day, the oven was on for something, and there was no cake in the cake box, and I thought “why not?”. So I mixed it up with the mandatory oil and water, and then chopped up some dates and added them, and then I baked it.

The first slice off was quite dry, but we didn’t worry – it could easily be turned into a sticky toffee pudding. But then, on the second day, it was really not bad. And by day #4, yesterday, it was actually nice.  Not nearly as nice as I could make myself, but then a lot cheaper and easier. As I am shortly off to Aldi for some bits, I may invest in the other varieties.

But I’m not doing them in the slow cooker, because really …