Category Archives: general

chicken wings

chicken wings

I nipped (or popped) up to Iceland for some porridge oats. I know, I know, they’re much more expensive, but they are on the doorstep, and time is money and all that.

I also came home with two packs of 2 x pasties for £2,  two packs of sliced cheese (I like this for portion control) for £2, two packs of cold meat for £3, the aforementioned porridge, some milk, and a pack of chicken wings for £1.89.

We finished the last of a two week pot of lentil soup yesterday, so I thought the wings would be useful for stock. I roasted them off, just sprayed with a little olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, and I was expecting to treat the cats; and then I read that they shouldn’t have cooked chicken bones, because they could splinter (the bones, not the cats. I think).  When they were cooked, I offered Bill one, while I watched carefully, but she was extremely prissy and I had to take the meat off the bones for her.

Three more have gone into the fridge for Pete to eat for lunch, and the rest are now in the slow cooker, being turned into chicken stock. I shall chop up swede, leek and carrots later, and those and some barley will make another soup. I might give the Tribe some of the slow-cooked chicken, but only if they’re nice to me. Fat chance.

Honestly, I used to think I couldn’t make soup, and bought books on how to do it, but it’s like most other cooking – just use what you have.

my Magimix

Magimix

I’ve had my Magimix for years – I bought it, and a whole batch of blades, many years ago, when I was much better off than I am now 🙂 It’s always sat there on the worktop, but I don’t actually use it all that much – veg for soup, whipping up the odd cake when I can’t be bothered to get the mixer out, etc.

I was having a “cook a nice dinner” day yesterday, something I love doing on an autumn/winter Sunday afternoon. I nipped (or popped) up to Iceland for one of their chateaubriands, but horror – they’d run out! So I bought a couple of duck breasts, a bag of spuds, and two cartons of cream. Pete had picked up a punnet of red plums for £0.45 in Aldi earlier in the week, so that needed factoring in too.

I started with grating the last of the Gruyére. Readers, I hate grating cheese – I usually get nail, or finger, or both in the grated stuff, so Pete always does it, but he was out. So I put the small bowl on the Magimix, and the grating blade, and it worked a treat!

Then came red cabbage (already in the fridge) – chopped it in plunger-size wedges and sliced it with a slicing blade. Then, I chopped an apple. And then a red onion. And then some garlic. I was on a roll by this point, as you might be able to tell. This all went in my ancient and venerable oval black Le Creuset casserole, with salt, pepper, a knob of butter, a good dollop of red wine vinegar, plus nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon.

I washed up the bowls, then put the thin slicing blade on, and sliced up a load of spuds very thinly for what might be pommes dauphinoise (it’s what we call them, anyway); again, Pete would normally do this on our mandolin, which absolutely terrifies me, so I thought I’d try the Magimix. It was great, sliced them up very thinly. I layered half in a heatproof dish, sprinkled half the gruyere, salt, pepper and garlic power, and quite a lot of cream, then repeated the two laters. Stuck it in the oven for about 1hr 20m, with a foil hat for the first 40 minutes. Gorgeous.

Next up: plums. We decided on a plum upsidedown cake. Despite being cheap, the 45p plums were still quite hard, so I cut them in half, and cooked them off for ten minutes, cut side down, in a little water with five spice powder. I always do an upsidedown cake in my tarte tatin dish, which is like this:
I think I bought it from Lakeland, but they don’t seem to do it any more – Amazon do, though. I put some butter and some brown sugar in it, and melted it on the hob (sorry, not very good at measuring things like that), then arranged the plums, cut side down again, on top of the melted mix.

I made my standard cake mix with three eggs:

Weigh the eggs in their shell, then take the same weight of self-raising flour, butter and caster sugar. Beat the lot together. You can add gin to this, vanilla essence, chocolate drops, sultanas, pretty much anything. Bake for about 45 minutes at 180C.

Pour the cake mix onto the plums, smooth off, bake as above. Delicious. Oh, and of course, I mixed the batter in the Magimix!

It had a hard day, but it saved me hours, and that’s well worth it when you have arthritic paws like me.

a real treat

Iceland ChateaubriandWe had planned a day out on Sunday, to do some City of Culture stuff, watch them take Blade out of Queen Victoria Square, have lunch. But it was raining, and we had work to do, so we didn’t. That’s the joy of self-employment, it’s either famine or feast.

We have an Iceland pretty much at the top of our street, and I use it a lot; I find the quality very good. Curiously, on Saturday, a Facebook friend sang the praises of their Chateaubriand with Red Wine Sauce. For a tenner, if you please. So I trudged through the rain to buy one (and a teeny tiny fillet steak that will make a Stroganoff later), really to make up for not having lunch out, and also because I really, really,  fancied red meat (we don’t eat it very often).

After I’d thawed the meat  (in several changes of water), I dried it off, then coated it in garlic powder, sea salt and black pepper. Have I told you about garlic powder? – such a useful thing to keep in! Then I seared it in hot oil, and popped it into a pre-heated cast iron dish for about thirteen minutes. Then it had a rest for five minutes or so, wearing a tin foil hat (the beef, not me).

My friend had said the red wine sauce wasn’t great, so I jazzed it up with more wine, some gravy granules, some thyme, and a good dollop of dijon mustard.

We ate it with braised red cabbage from the freezer, a head of broccoli, and potatoes roasted in olive oil. To be honest, we weren’t expecting it to be spectacular because, you know, a tenner.

Readers – it was gorgeous.

Beautifully tender meat, and really flavoursome. We’ll be having it again (and again, I should think).

 

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

 

IMG_4525-169x300

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.