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Monday, 30 May 2011

There is such a thing as a free lunch!

Went out yesterday with the local foraging group and discovered a lot of new edible wild plants.

Been playing round with them in the kitchen and will put some recipes up later.


Sunday, 29 May 2011

Egg Fried Rice

I remember paying a fiver for this once and thinking 'I could make this for pennies'.

So, lets try it and this is based on a frozen version I saw in a supermarket once.




1 Cup of Rice
3 eggs,
1 onion,
Clove of garlic,
1 mug of frozen peas,
Tiny pinch of chilli powder,
Pinch of tumeric,
Chopped flat parsley,
Half a teaspoon of garam masala,
Two tablespoons of oil,
Salt and Pepper.

Boil the rice and when its half done put the frozen peas in to cook.

Chop the onions and fry them in one table spoon of oil. After about 5 minutes add the garlic and spices, season and give everything another minute or two before taking everything out and putting it on a plate.

Beat the eggs and cook them as a flat omlette in the pan with the other tablespoon of oil.

Drain the cooked rice and peas and add them to the pan together with the onion in and spices.

Turn the heat t0 maximum and stir fry quickly. When its nice and hot, stir in the parsley and check the seasoning before serving.

You can have this as a side dish but I often use it as a lunch or evening meal by bulking it out with some fried mushrooms and a bit of salad on the side.

Vegans can replace the egg with some thinly sliced fried tofu. Nice and easy, tasty, filling and the amounts given here are enough for three and the total cost is about 70 pence.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Breakfast

I suppose that being a vegetarian food blogger, my breakfast OUGHT to consist of something like organic muesli, macrobiotic yoghurt, gluten free rye bread and herbal tea - but it doesn't.

I've tried having cereals for breakfast, but I find myself starving by ten, whereas if I have a proper breakfast it'll do me all day. Of course, the creature munchers always say the one thing they'd miss is a 'proper' breakfast if they went veggie. So tell me what's not proper about this one.

This morning, I got down to Yasar Halim just as the flatbreads were coming out of the oven. They were still so warm I could have taken them back and used the as a bed warmer. One huge great loaf for just 70 pence.

Then, into the grocery section for some eggs. The cheapest 'value' eggs cost you 99 pence for six in a supermarket. YH sells half a dozen large eggs for 79 pence. I had some mushrooms left over from a risotto I'd made earlier in the week and some cheese.

The biscuits you can see are little gems. They are chocolate stars surrounded by shortcake, absolutely gorgeous and another little bargain at 49 pence. I've never seen them anywhere other than YH and I love Coffee came from Iceland, Red Mountain at £1.00 a jar. Its good strong coffee with a solid taste.

So all I did was slice the bread and spread it with some olive oil spread and Vegemite. Next I added a thin slice of strong cheddar. I sautéed the thinly sliced mushrooms and spread them over the top. I poached the eggs because thats the way I like them. They were added to the mix and seasoned with salt and a good spot of black pepper. The biscuits I have afterwards with the coffee.

I am sure the health conscious will have a flying fit about this breakfast, but let me tell you, there's no better way to start the day than with a good old fashioned 'heart attack'.

It'll certainly set me up for my walk later today with the local food foraging group. They go out once a month round the local area looking for edible wild plants. They are meeting today outside The Castle Climbing Centre at 2.00. Come along and give it a go.


Friday, 27 May 2011

A different kind of 'weekly shop'

I sometimes think that if Social Services came round and looked in my food cupboard, they'd probably want to have me taken into care!

This is my main food cupboard and as you can see, there is not a lot there but that's because there is no need for it.

Living in this wonderful area, I can get amazing food 24 hours a day and at prices that would shame the supermarkets. So, I figure, why do I need to keep loads of stuff in stock?

What I keep are raw materials. There are the pastas, rices and things like polenta and cous cous. About the only tinned good I have are beans. Now, I know you can buy dried beans round here. But, sorry, its just too much like hard work for me. I'll very often not make up my mind on what I want to eat until I get home from work, so I would never be able to plan ahead to pre-soak them.

In that big black box are various spices and things like garlic and stock cubes. Again, I don't see the point in making stock just for me. In my fridge, I keep a sealed box for herbs which helps them stay nice and fresh.

These are the things I stock up on every week. I then decide what I want to make with them and thats when I go shopping. I have nothing in the larder at home, because there are a dozen larders just at the bottom of my street - Amazing!

Monday, 16 May 2011

A Food Revelation

Are farmers markets another branch of Rip-Britain? This question occurred me when I visited one at Alexander Palace. The company running most of London’s farmer’s markets insist that produce sold at them must be truly local.

Given that, I was not impressed to see carrots grown up the road costing more than twice what my local independent greengrocer charges for ones he imports from Cyprus. And don't get me started on the mushrooms at £65.00 a kilo!

The one point I continue to ram home in this blog is that local is (or at least should be), cheaper. The main road I live near contains many independent greengrocers selling fantastic produce at prices that put the big supermarkets to shame. I therefore see no good reason to tramp several miles on a Sunday morning just to pay Fortnum and Mason prices for basic vegetables bearing the 'farmer's market' label.

If the produce did not impress me, the PRODUCED goods certainly did and one provided me with a true ‘road to Damascus’ moment.

Having tramped to the market on a breakfast of thin air, I arrived at the market feeling really hungry. The stall selling cheese toasties looked tempting, but the long queue didn’t. A few nibbles at some of the yummy chutneys offered by one stallholder got my palate going. But I avoided the African chili sauce samples. I’ve had them before – and they are (deliciously) lethal and best avoided on a Sunday morning!

The Mediterranean/Middle Eastern nature of the area I live in means I am quite accepting of something spicy for breakfast. Thus, my first course was Moroccan flat bread with spinach, feta, mushrooms and harrisa paste. Though a little bit oily, it was utterly yummy and a bargain at £2.50.

For afters I had a massive lump of the best chocolate slab cake I have tasted in years. And at £1.50 a slice this was a real bargain, as was the fresh strawberry smoothie at £1.00 a cup.

But in between the flat bread and chocolate cake, I happened across a small stall right at the top end of the market. Now, this was a truly local stall. They don’t even have a name. The daughter selling her mum’s produce said they were going to call it the Indian Den but just settled on Mrs Amin’s after her mum (and I hope I got the name right).

I looked down at the small range of goods and the lentil loaf looked good. If anyone can do good things with lentils, it’ll be someone from an Indian background.

But what really caught my eye were these little pasty type things called a Kachori.

Containing flour, peas, moong dal, coconuts, ginger, chillies, coriander, salt and a touch of lemon juice, they looked rather tasty. And at just a £1, it was worth giving one a try.

Earlier in this blog, I talked about my first taste of a true Cornish pasty. Well, the first bite into this thing was a repeat of that moment! ‘It hits every spot, doesn’t it?’ said the stallholder. It certainly did.

Firstly, there was this lovely sweet blast from the peas. Then the rest of the flavours had a little dance round the inside of my mouth. The chilli and ginger hit their spots closely followed by the coconuts and the lemon juice with the salt and coriander providing the encore.

Earlier in the week, I’d watched Scottish chef Tony Singh get pipped at the post in the Great British Menu semi final with his Indian-based food. I reckon if he’d put a couple of these true delicacies from ‘Mrs Amin’ on the menu, he’d have romped home. Served as a starter with perhaps a thick dal, they wouldn’t look out of place in a Michelin starred restaurant.

One thing is for certain. Next time I go back there, I’m taking a sealable box with me, because a few of these little stunners would be ideal for a lunch at work.

I’d only decided to visit the Farmer’s market on a whim. As I say, where I live I don’t need to go anywhere to get food. But just finding mum’s Kachoris made the trip well worth it. Thanks mum! :)

Thursday, 5 May 2011

A spot of luxury

English asparagus is in season right now and so I thought I would splash out AND pig out!

I bought two bundles and some muffins.

Gently boiled the asparagus and poached a couple of free range eggs. Toasted the muffins, put a slide of cheese on each one (yes, I know, gross, but its nice) and then put the poached eggs on top with the asparagus on the side.

Topped the lot off with some butter and chopped parsley.

Very nice!

The £20 Challenge: Meal 2

So, onto the second meal and the recipe card calls for Haddock fish cakes.

My version is

Sweetcorn and Red Onion Fritters

250 mls of batter
500g of frozen sweetcorn
1 large red onion
Chopped Parsley
Oil for frying
Salt and Pepper

Cook the sweetcorn and drain
Chop the red onion.
Make the batter up, but keep it thick.
Mix the sweetcorn, onion and chopped parsley into the batter and stir it all up.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and spoon in 4 or 5 large dollops of the sweetcorn mix
Leave them to fry until set them turn them over and fry until the other side is cooked. Then add the other dollops until all the mixture is used up.
When done, turn out onto kitchen paper.
Serve with chips, carrots mixed with peas and brown sauce.

Total cost for this one, around £2.00 for four people.

So far then, two nights worth of meals for less than £4.00. Not bad really.







Sunday, 1 May 2011

The £20.00 Challenge: Meal 1

So, can I create five meals for four people for less than £20.00?

Well lets see what happens with the first meal. The supermarket version is Turkey and Bean Pasta and this is my vegetarian version.

Mushroom and Bean Pasta (for 4)

Ingredients Qty
Carrots 220g
Mushrooms 200g
Onions 1
Red Kidney Beans 420g
Tin Tomatoes 400g
Pasta Shapes 350g
Stock Cubes 1
Clove of Garlic 1
Oil 15ml
Pinch of Chilli 1g
Dried Herbs 10g

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add in the onion and garlic and fry for 5 mins. Next, add the chopped carrots and a tiny pinch of chilli, the herbs and the finely chopped mushrooms.

Drain the Kidney Beans and throw them in with the tomatoes and the stock cube crumbled into 300mls of warm water.

Boil it all for 5 minutes and then let it simmer for 15 minutes while you are doing the pasta in a separate pan.

When the pasta is ready, drain it and drop it into the sauce and stir well. Serve in bowls.

Simple, yummy and cheap. Total cost of the ingredients (mostly bought locally): £1.26.

One nil to me!