Category Archives: general

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 …

the battle of the pumpkin

Baby Pumpkin Snack

[image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/blissfulgirl/

I bought a pumpkin. First time ever, I think, because I’m not fond of Hallowe’en as a holiday – what’s wrong with bobbing for apples, eh? But we were going to a Sunday gathering at friends, and I thought a seasonal offering might be nice. I was planning a pumpkin gingerbread, only to discover that mine hostess already had a parkin on the go. And then time ran out, and the dog ate my cookery books, and it didn’t get used.

This monster pumpkin sat on the dining table, and guilt-tripped me every time I went passed it, so I vowed on Sunday to tackle the wretched thing in all its orangey pumpkinness. My plan was to roast it off, then bung most of it in the freezer for future soups, together with a tub with the last of  the current soup (I like a starter soup, bit like a sourdough starter. But soupier).  And a tub of plainish pumpkin purée for baking,  “A fine plan“, you cry, and it would have been; except there wasn’t a cubic inch of space in the bloody freezer, which seems mysteriously to have been filled almost exclusively with tubs of lentil and cauliflower curry. No, I don’t know either.

By the time I discovered this, I had dismembered the wretched vegetable (yes, I should have checked earlier, OK?). I was also slightly taken aback by just how much pumpkin a pumpkin holds.To buy some time, I distributed about two thirds of it onto a roasting tray, with some onions and carrots, olive oil and a drizzle of honey, and the rest on a roasting tray with just a little oil. And I even cleaned and roasted the bloody seeds (no waste here, no sirree Bob).

No amount of staring at the freezer, or rearranging its contents, conjured up any more space, so Plan B was brought into play (after it had been somewhat hastily formulated). Clearly last week’s soup would need to be eaten rather than frozen, but there wasn’t much of it. What there was was some vegetable tagine made a couple of weeks ago, which wasn’t really very nice; I’d overdone the harissa ever so slightly. Two tubs of that were removed from the freezer, thawed, and blitzed in the Magimix. The plain roasted pumpkin (just starting to catch on the edges) suffered the same fate.  They were both added to the Big Red Soup Pot. This made – hurrah – some space in the freezer.

The squash-with-other-veg was boxed up and put into the gap left by the veg tagine, and thus we will have soup for the next week or two without me having to chop endless bloody vegetables.

So I did beat this pumpkin, but it was a close run thing.

winter is coming

plums

Well, rather, autumn is here, and we’re back to more suitable cooking for the season.

I spent a lot of time in the kitchen this weekend; I made bread, pizza dough, and peanut butter and choc chip cookies on Saturday (recipes to come, I promise, but I’m still tweaking a bit), and on Sunday I did lamb and veg soup (or at least the components thereof), plum, apple and five spice crumble.

The soup involved roasting off £1.20’s worth of lamb bones from Morrisons, then boiling them down for stock, then picking the meat off them. There was actually enough meat for two big pots of soup, so some has gone in the freezer. Then I very finely chopped ¼ swede, 1 leek, 2 carrots and 1 courgette (takes bloody ages, but I never feel the food processor does it as well), and put them in the medium slow cooker with a glug of olive oil, and about ½” of water. Then this morning I married up stock, lamb and veg, together with 1 litre of veg soup left over from *last* week. That will do us for lunches for this week, with some crispbread or whatever.

The market stall in Hull was selling 2lbs of plums for a quid – rude not to, really. So I bought them, a *huuuuge* green cabbage, a cauliflower, and two Bramleys, for £3. Most of the plums went into a crumble – I say “most”, because I couldn’t fit them all into the pan. How I wish I had room for another freezer.

I halved them, and laid them flat in a heavy based frying pan, sprinkled with five space, and added about 1″ of water. Simmered until they were soft, then decanted them into a dish, and cooked the syrup right down. Added a peeled and chopped Bramley, topped with a oaty crumble mix and … nectar.

Pete constructed a pizza on Saturday – I use 500g of flour for dough, and it makes three pizzas for us, and freezes well. He used some smoked salami that we discovered in Aldi (along with various other stuff), and very nice it was too.

Sunday we dined on venison steak and braised red cabbage (both out of the freezer), and potatoes roasted with olive oil and rosemary. And the aforementioned crumble. It’s amazing how little meat we want these days – a 300g venison steak was plenty between us, and we used to eat 400g steaks each in the day.

This week, we will be mostly eating cabbage, I suspect. And soup. 🙂

peanut butter and choc chip cookies

IMG_3198

I was having a rearrange of the cupboards last week, and found not one, but two jars of peanut butter; one smooth, one crunchy. Neither of us eat peanut butter on bread or toast, and I suspect it was bought for  some sort of Malay cooking. Shame to leave it sitting in jars, I thought.

115g marg £0.25
115g crunchy peanut butter (I used half and half)  £1.15
115g caster sugar £10p
115g light muscovado sugar £0.35
1 egg, beaten £0.25
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
85g plain flour £0.05
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
115g rolled oats £0.10p
generous dollop of chococolate chunks if liked. Don’t see why sultanas or cranberries or whatever wouldn’t work either.

Add 75p for unpriced ingredients, makes 24 for  £3.00-ish. So while not cheap, cheap. they are lasting far better than a box of cookies would do, and we know what’s in them.  And they’re much nicer than shop bought cookies.

Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/Gas Mark 4. Grease a large baking tray. (I have a fabulous flat baking tray from Lakeland which never needs greasing, bless it).

Beat together butter and sugars, then gradually beat in the egg and the vanilla essence. Add flour, bicarb, baking powder and salt, then the oats (and optional choc chips) and stir until just combined.

Place spoonfuls of the mixture onto the prepared baking trays, spaced well apart to allow for spreading. Flatten slightly with a fork.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Leave to cool on a baking tray for 2 minutes, then transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely.

So far (astonishingly) we are on day four, and they’ve kept really well.

Prices taken from mysupermarket.co.uk today, using Morrisons own brand where possible

two caulis, two bunches of asparagus

caulifasparagus-300x131

We were in Norfolk last weekend, to celebrate the 7th birthday of our grandson. A very nice time was had by all, and on our way home on Sunday afternoon, we kept an eye out for roadside stalls, looking for asparagus and strawberries. Nothing on the roadside, but we stopped at a huge farm shop somewhere … in the South Holland district in Lincolnshire, according to Foursquare.

Two bunches of asparagus at £1.50 each, and two caulis for a quid. So all that lot for £4.00!

One bunch of asparagus went into a quiche, with three eggs, some milk and some rather elderly brie, chopped up. Also a shallot fried off in a little butter, and some chopped chives. That did supper with some Jersey Royals, and lunch the following day.

The second bunch was stir fried with chilli and ginger, one of our absolutely favourite dishes.

One cauli was last night made into a veg curry, which will do at least two more days (if I can find some freezer space!), and the other will be enrobed in cheese sauce for tonight’s supper.

No strawberries (just a little bit too early, I guess), but all the same – that’s really cheap living (although I suppose it’s rather far to go if we weren’t passing …)

supermarkets

Morrisons

Regular readers will know that I don’t much care for supermarkets, and generally patronise Aldi (or, occasionally, Lidl). However, we had to sally forth to Anlaby on Saturday for cat bikkit, and we needed some shallots. Inexplicably, shallots are unavailable in my usual emporia – not carried by the Indian and Continental, Aldi, Lidl or any of the local greengrocer’s (I meant to do that), although the latter have occasionally tried to sell me pickling onions, which are not the same thing *at all*.

And as we were in Anlaby, and needed shallots, we thought we’d do the shop in Morrisons. And I reckon I spent about 40% more than I usually do. To be fair, I’m not usually tempted by raw tiger prawns due to my usual shopping places, and I bought rhubarb and bok choi (but they were on the reduced shelf so not outrageous). And I bought two packs of mince for a ragu sauce, and two packs of frozen veg (but only a quid each), and a sourdough loaf for an outrageous £1.65, but I don’t think there was much more than that extra, and in fact we left some things till the next GermanShop. So no cold meat for luncheon, no sliced cheese (an abomination, I know, but nicely portion controlled for an elderly old bat with suspicious cholesterol levels), no butter.

Some of the increased bill was just temptation (which is another good reason not to patronise these stores), but I’m pretty sure they are quite a lot more expensive on the sort of stuff we buy every week.

kudos to Sainsburys

We normally buy our bacon from the inestimable T L Normans on Princes Ave (I have enthused about them many a time), but we were in the Sainsburys mini supermarket on Spring Bank the other Saturday afternoon on our way home (after Normans had shut), and spotted bacon, and thought “ooooh … bacon”, as you do. We paid the extra for the Dry Cured stuff.

And it was, in truth, a bit disappointing – didn’t seem dry cured at all, but instead rather full of water. So I tweeted it to them, and within about an hour they’d credited a fiver to my Nectar card.

I call that pretty good service, so thanks, Sainsburys!

an inventory of the freezer

We decided to do a *long* overdue audit of the freezer this morning. And here are the results:

  • home made baked beans x 1
  • Italian meatballs small x 1
  • beef, beans, red wine x 2
  • cauliflower and lentils x 1
  • Moroccan meatballs small x 1
  • chicken tagine x 2
  • Moroccan meatballs medium x 1
  • chilli x 1
  • beef and orange x 1
  • Thai veg lentils curry x 1
  • red cabbage medium x 1
  • gram flour dumplings x 1
  • lentil bake x 2
  • yeast x 4 (in door)
  • tarka dhal small x 3
  • coriander chickie x 1
  • shepherds pie filling large x 1
  • scone dough x 1
  • stuffing balls x 1
  • pork chops x 2
  • venison joint x 2
  • lamb neck joint
  • pork shoulder x 2
  • pork fillet x 1
  • molasses soda bread x ½
  • stir fry beef steak x 1
  • lamb mince x 2
  • chicken thigh pack x 1
  • chicken breast x 2
  • pack small sossidge x 1
  • pack pork and leek sossidge x 1
  • cream of veg soup carton x 1
  • assorted vodkas
  • frozen peas
  • frozen spinach
  • sliced wholemeal bread for when toast is required

Some unlabeled stuff, all now identified except one bag, clearly from the local butcher. That’s gone in the fridge, and whatever is is will be cooked in the next couple of days. 

Consigned to outer darkness: 1 rye bread, dated Nov 2011. 1 lone slice of bread. 

So will be cooking up in the next couple of weeks:

  • Gujerati lamb
  • venison stew
  • Indian lamb with peas
  • goulash 
  • pork with cider and leeks
  • more home made baked beans
Also removed this morning: lamb bones and previously diced and cooked veg, for this week’s soup, and some tomato paste for tonight’s home made pizza. 
 
We should probably catalogue the other cupboards too (Pete did the “spares” last week). But not today 🙂
 
 

turkey and moooose pie

Well, not really, but …

We went to my daughter’s house for Christmas, and it was lovely. But the downside of being away is you get no leftovers; thankfully, she offered us the turkey carcass to take home, and so we did, despite her protestations that there would be no meat left on it. As soon as we got home, I lobbed it in the big slow cooker with some water, and left it alone for about six hours.

The next morning, I surveyed the vegetable drawers. They contained sundry carrots, three courgettes on the edge of disaster, two fairly dried up leeks, four sweet potatoes in need of eating, and a rather soft swede.

I small-diced the courgettes (half of one of which I had to throw away – how I hate that), the leeks, and half the carrots, and put them in the medium slow cooker with a little olive oil to cook down. Then I peeled and larger-diced the rest of the carrots, the swede and the sweet potatoes, and put them in a big pot to cook for root mash later.

Then I turned to the turkey carcass – readers, there was loads of meat on it, so I picked it clean like a vulture. Then I foraged in the freezer for some puff pastry (yes, ready made – who makes puff pastry?).

Took a pack of bacon lardons from the fridge and set them to cook off slowly in their own fat. When they were crispy, I added about a tablespoon of flour and cooked it in, a good splash of white wine from a bottle that was going over a bit in the fridge, and then some milk, until I had a nice creamy constituency. Added some chopped garden herbs, most of the turkey meat. and enough of the slow cooked veg to make the mixture fill a pie dish. Then Pete obligingly dealt with the pastry side of stuff (he’s much better than me at the rolling out side of things), and made these charming pastry moosen with a cutter that friends brought us back from Norway.

We ate it with the root mash, and sprouts – there was enough of everything to repeat the performance the next day, which was fine by us.

The rest of the veg went into the soup pot, with the remaining turkey meat, the stock and some barley.

Not bad for “no meat”, eh?

And here’s a picture of my  Christmas cake, just because. As I said a few weeks ago, I made it in a ring mould, and covered it the weekend before Christmas with orange slices caramelised in water, sugar and a hefty glug of Cointreau. Rude not to, really. One of the eight or nine smaller cakes went in the middle, and I added fresh holly on Christmas Eve.

Untitled

chickpeas for lunch

I soaked and boiled some chickpeas on Wednesday, in preparation for a vegetable tagine. But then I didn’t fancy the tagine, and our schedule for the next few days doesn’t really accommodate it, and anyway, we had no soup left for lunch. Shocking, I know.

So into the medium slow cooker this morning went some chorizo, red onion and a bit of olive oil. An hour later, I added the cooked chickpeas, a little boiling water, some lemon juice, and some chicken Bisto granules. And some sea salt and black pepper. And then some Ras el Hanout, because it seemed to be lacking something. Left it another couple of hours, added some of the enormous bunch of parsley, chopped, and consumed it with a mini naan bread. And there’s enough for a second round tomorrow.

Tonight, I shall be experimenting with a Philips Airfryer; not sure it’s my sort of thing, but I’ve been given it to review, so it would be rude not to.