Monday 29 August 2011

How not to waste open jars and packets

One of the main things that stops me - and I guess you - being frugal is the tendency to use an ingredient for a single recipe then fail to use the rest of it. The problem is it requires constant thought - remembering it's in the fridge (or cupboard) and incorporating it into - or even letting it inspire - another meal.

But this week on holiday in France with slightly less on my mind I managed it.

When we arrived at the house we found there wasn't much to go with the sausages we'd picked up at the local shop. We had a tin of haricots blancs, a jar of red peppers, some garlic and a few shallots. I sweated off a couple of the shallots and a clove of garlic, sliced about a third of the peppers and added those to the pan along with the rinsed beans. French tinned beans break down more easily, I find, so you get a kind of rough-textured garlicky purée that's particularly good with sausages. A holiday staple.

The next day I made a piperade (spicy scrambled eggs - above) with another of the shallots, another third of the peppers and a pinch of hot paprika, let it cool slightly then stirred in 5 lightly beaten eggs and scrambled them. You need to cool your pepper mixture first otherwise it turns the eggs an unappealing shade of salmon pink or, worse still, pink and green. Hot peppers and eggs are a great combination.

And the next I concocted an impromptu hors d'oeuvres with hard boiled eggs, sardines, some tapenade toasts (toasted leftover baguette spread with olive paste) and the remaining peppers which finished off the jar.

Part of it I think is being aware you have limited time in a place so you don't want to stock up with a lot of food you can't use. And maybe being too idle to go to the shops in the heat. (Sorry, shouldn't rub it in. It has been gloriously hot and sunny here.)

But it's a good way to eat and use up what you buy.

How good are you at using up leftover ingredients? Any two or three-way recipes you can recommend?

Friday 26 August 2011

Wine of the Week: Tesco Finest Manzanilla sherry

I make no apologies for being a sherry fan. In fact it amazes me that it's still so unpopular and still so underpriced.

This classic style from Bodegas Barbadillo is a real treat. Ultra dry, nutty and ever so slightly salty, it's designed to be drunk well chilled with tapas such as nuts, olives and slices of chorizo (Tesco has a good one which works well in cooking too). It's also really good with fried fish.

This is the first of a weekly slot where I'll highlight a wine I think offers good value for money. At £5.49 a 50cl bottle (£5.21 a bottle if you buy a case online) - enough for 5-6 glasses - this is bang on the mark.

Available in 286 (i.e. larger) Tesco stores.

Thursday 25 August 2011

Now Credit Crunch Drinking posts will appear on this blog too

I've come to the conclusion I have too many blogs. Five, at the current count which is ridiculous.

The logical step is to drop Credit Crunch Drinking as a separate blog and incorporate it here. Regular readers will remember I did this once before then rather weakly resuscitated it.

I should have stuck to the original decision. After all if you're interested in keeping down the cost of your food shopping, chances are the same applies to wine and other drinks. And if you're a fan of the Credit Crunch Drinking blog you may appreciate a few frugal recipes too.

So win/win, I hope. There will continue to be posts like this under £6 selection of bargain buys from M & S which ends on September 4th and this well-priced cider from the Co-op. Let me know if there are any drinks you'd particularly like me to cover.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Two great things to do with corn

As I'm away on holiday I'm taking the easy way out and posting links to two inventive recipes for sweetcorn which is cheap and in season right now.

One from Helen Graves of Food Stories who says she paid just £1 for 5 cobs last week. She barbequed them over hickory chips as you can see from her post here and served them with paprika and lime-flavoured butter.

And a delicious-sounding Roasted Corn Custard from Saveur which dropped into my inbox this morning.

Grilling undoubtedly adds a smokey edge to corn which offsets the sometimes excessive sweetness of new varieties. I shall be trying them out when I get back from France.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

How to cook purple potatoes

Having whinged about veg boxes for years, I'm now giving them another try. Why? Because I've found a really good scheme on my doorstep. Well, 7 odd miles away at the Barley Wood Walled Garden in Wrington.

This week's box (amazingly good value for £10) included purple potatoes so I've been debating for a couple of days what to do with them. My friend Elly had told me they disintegrated quite fast and ended up paler than she'd expected but I wanted to see if I could keep more of the shape and colour. (A similar challenge to my recent chiogga beets experiment.)

My initial idea was to buy a bunch of beets and combine them with the potatoes which I hoped would stain them a deeper red but when I cooked them (slowly, and for a shorter time than conventional potatoes) they actually looked quite pretty on their own.

I dressed them with a mustardy dressing, scattered over a few pieces of the red onion I was cooking with the beets, crumbled over some feta-like sheeps cheese in oil that had been lurking in the fridge, drizzled over a few drops of balsamic and a little extra oil and scattered over some parsley. A few edible flowers would have provided the perfect finishing touch.

I did however prefer the flavour of the roast beet and potato salad combo (see top of post) wich streaked the potatoes with an amazing magenta colour. I also added in the roasted potato skins, a super-thrifty touch which accentuated the potato flavour and crunch. My husband and I were discussing what would go well with this and came up with Stilton (or other blue cheese) and leek tart, German style sausages or other salty/smokey porky products and smoked mackerel. Not all on the same plate, obviously.

Anyway, try it for yourself:

Roast beetroot, red onion and purple potato salad

Serves 6-8

2 large beets or 3 medium-sized ones
500g purple potatoes
2 red onions
About 2 tbsp chopped parsley
A few chives
For the dressing
1 good tsp Dijon mustard
1 large clove of garlic crushed with 1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
6 tbsp light olive oil or 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and 3 of sunflower oil
A little balsamic vinegar (optional)
A pinch of cumin
Freshly ground pepper and more salt if you need it

Set the oven to 190°C. Cut off the beet leaves*, scrub the beets clean and wrap loosely in lightly oiled foil. Place on a baking tray and roast for about an hour to an hour and a quarter, depending on size until you can pierce them with a sharp knife.

About 20 minutes before the beets are ready peel and cut the onions into quarters or eighths, place on a baking tray, drizzle with a little oil and roast for about 15-20 minutes. Set the beets and onions aside to cool.

Meanwhile scrub the potatoes and cut into even sized pieces (small potatoes whole, bigger ones into halves, still larger ones into quarters, etc). Place in a saucepan cover with boiling water and bring to the boil. Add salt and simmer (not boil) the potatoes for about 10 minutes until you can easily pierce them with a knife. (They don't take as long as conventional potatoes.)

Make the dressing. Put the crushed garlic and mustard into a bowl, whisk in the wine vinegar, ground cumin, salt and pepper then gradually add the oil or oils until the dressing thickens.

Drain the potatoes and set aside until cool enough to handle and remove the skins. (You'll probably already find them peeling away as above). Put the skins on the baking sheet you used to roast the onions, trickle over a little oil and crisp them up in the oven. Remove and cool.

Cut the potatoes into large chunks, tip into the dressing and turn them carefully so they are well coated without breaking up.

Peel the beets and cut into large dice and add to the potato along with the roast onion, most of the crisp potato skins, parsley and chives if using. Tip onto a plate and decorate with the remaining skins and a scattering of herbs.

I reckon the basic purple potato salad would also be good with raw rather than roast onion and perhaps a few capers if you wanted to ring the changes. And you might get an even better texture and colour if you steamed them.

* You can use the leaves as suggested in my recent post here.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Devilled eggs

I've been thinking for a while about making devilled eggs since I spotted this feature in Saveur.

They are, of course, ridiculously old-fashioned. My grandmother used to make them as a cocktail snack, I remember. (She was a great one for drinks and nibbles for which she used to get dressed up in a gold braid-trimmed kaftan, right into her '80's. Even for me.)

You forget how delicious dishes like this are if they're freshly made. With a few crunchy Little Gem lettuce leaves they make a nice light summery lunch. Or even, if you dare, a retro dinner-party starter.

Serves 2
4 large eggs at room temperature
2 tbsp mayonnaise
a pinch of curry powder or a 1/4 tsp curry paste
a few drops of Worcestershire sauce
a few drops of Tabasco or a pinch of cayenne or chilli powder
1 tbsp finely snipped chives plus a few longer lengths for decoration
1 Little Gem lettuce or the inner leaves of a round lettuce
Olive oil
Crispbread to serve

Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and carefully lower in the eggs. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes then drain the eggs and run cold water over them. Leave until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile separate the lettuce leaves and wash in cold water. Drain and dry.

Crack the eggs lightly and carefully peel off the shell. Cut the eggs in half lengthways and ease the yolks into a bowl. Mash them and add the mayonnaise then season with a little curry powder or paste, a few drops of Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco or cayenne pepper and a little salt. Mix in the chopped chives.

Arrange the lettuce leaves on individual plates and arrange the halved egg whites on top. Spoon the seasoned egg yolks into the hollows in each egg white. Drizzle a little olive oil over the lettuce leaves. Scatter a few longer lengths of chives over the top and serve as soon as possible with crispbread. (Leaving them around discolours the egg yolk and dries it out.)

There are a number of different ways of doing this depending on what you have to hand. Anything fishy works well with eggs so you could mix the yolks with a little anchovy paste, crab paté, mashed sardines or tuna or that Scandi-style salmon paste in a tube. (If you wanted to jazz it up you could top the eggs with a bit of salmon roe.) Or you could mix in some finely chopped ham and spike it up with a bit of English mustard. Good party eating too.

Would you eat devilled eggs or would you feel embarrassed to serve them. What retro recipes (if any) do you make?

Thursday 4 August 2011

Strawberry cinnamon toast

Those of you who follow this blog will know that you get short-changed when it comes to desserts and other sweet things. Every so often I feel I ought to remedy that so I've been thinking for a while about writing about strawberries which are still plentiful and cheap despite being past their peak season.

Prompted by Niki Segnit's brilliant The Flavour Thesaurus (a fantastic book about how to marry flavours in your cooking) I was thinking along the lines of strawberries and cinnamon. Initially a crumble, though I worried that it might make the strawberries unappealingly squishy then I hit on the notion of strawberry cinnamon toast.

Segnit is right, the combination is brilliant - not as obvious as cinnamon and apples or plums but it gives even the dullest strawberries that extra lift that makes them taste utterly delicious. Perfect for a weekend brunch - less soggy than French toast, easier than pancakes.

Serves 2

2 tbsp caster sugar
1/3-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, depending how strong it is
About 1 tbsp flavourless oil
About 300g strawberries
2 thick slices good quality sliced bread - I used a Co-op white farmhouse batch loaf. You don't want anything too dense for this
Some soft butter
Half fat crème fraiche, fromage frais or Greek yoghurt to serve

Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5. Mix the sugar and cinnamon. De-stalk the strawberries and cut in half. Put the strawberries in a lightly greased baking dish or tin and brush lightly with the oil. Bake for 5 minutes, sprinkle over 1 tsp of the sugar and return to the oven for another 5 minutes or so then remove from the oven. (They should be warmed through rather than cooked and smell gorgeously strawberryish.)

Meanwhile toast the bread on both sides and spread one side generously with butter. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the buttered sides. Put the slices on a baking tray under the grill and heat until the topping is bubbling. Spoon the strawberries and their juices onto the hot cinnamon toast and add a dollop of half-fat crème fraîche, fromage frais or Greek yoghurt. Eat and be happy.