Thursday 30 April 2009

melty leeks

I often find I have a lot of leeks in the veg box, and I do throw them into stews, but the kids find them a bit stringy to manage like that, so I like to indulge in the following sometimes as it uses up lots of leeks but cooks down to small portions.

Depending on the size of the leeks, trim the ends off 2-3 leeks, run a slit down the length and chop into discs about half a centimetre thick.

Chuck into a lidded saute pan with a good generous ounce of butter, a spritz of olive oil and a very light sprinkling of salt. You do need the salt even if you don't normally add salt or the leeks don't break down properly. Stir around until the leeks are evenly coated and the butter is melted and cover, turn low, and leave it alone for 20 mins. At least. In my case I went to feed the smallest person and put her to bed. Come back and stir it about a bit and if you want to, add a little more butter. I know, it's decadent, but it's not every day, and it's worth it!
Cover again and leave, again on as low as possible, but keeping an eye on it not to blow out if it's gas. Leave for maybe another 15 mins, or as long as it takes to griddle some gammon, or grill a pork chop, or fry some bacon, or whatever you're having with this.

I also quickly scrubbed and diced a few potatoes, no peeling required, and microwaved them for 5 mins, then tossed in olive oil and a little salt, spread on a baking tray and bunged in a hot (220 deg) oven for the 20-30 mins the leeks took.

The leeks won't hurt being left longer as long as they don't burn, so keep the flame low, and remember you want the skin of the potato cubes to be crispy in places too.

No gravy needed, the leeks are so soft, they are like a sauce.

Wednesday 29 April 2009

broad beans, hooray. A word on lunch.

now those of you reading closely might be wondering what happened to the overlooked broad beans from Monday 27th. Well, here's the answer: lunch!
I tweaked a Sainsbury's feed your family for a fiver recipe card that I'd used in the past, halved the quantities and made a really simple and scrummy broad bean and smoked salmon risotto. It was nowhere near as poncy or expensive as it sounds. I still had some chicken stock in the fridge from what I made from the pot roast carcass, so I used that. The 2 yr old likes smoked salmon so I often buy the Basics pack of trimmings which costs 88p and keep it in the fridge and she has a few spoons for a snack as and when. I used about half a pack, with the broad beans, and yes I had made the offender pod them, and then I made him "de-jacket" them too! A bit of lemon and and handful of the ever ready frozen diced onions and a few minutes of patient stirring, and lunch was gorgeous, filling and yet light and summery too. And certainly a change from reheating last night's dinner. Lunch has been my budgeting downfall for the past 3 years ish. For some reason during my pregnancy I found myself unable to eat left-overs at all. I've never been a fan of sandwiches, so I found I had to find something altoether different to eat at lunchtime. Add to that the fact I couldn't even vaguely cook or prepare food for about 8 months due to violent pregnancy sickness, and we're looking at take aways, rice pouches, packets of noodles, and lots of scrambles on toast.
Lunches must be budgeted for. Be realistic about what you will or won't eat. My hubby has never liked eating left overs. Taking left over soup or stew to work in a tiffin box is never going to be his thing, but many years ago I used to pack him a lunch box and he was happy with that, he's quite a breadaholic anyway. As I said earlier, I get very anti-sandwich, so I'm normally the one zapping the pasta or stew in the microwave and scarffing it down in delight. If we have people over for dinner, I often don't eat much, so then I do like to have my portion the next day at lunch. When I was a teenager I was also well known for having my portion the next day for BREAKFAST. Especially my mum's kofta curry and spiced basmati rice, both Madhur Jaffrey recipes. These days I stick to no added sugar/salt muesli, but I will do a breakfast post at some point. The point is don't just menu plan the evening meals, or you will go hungry and you will snack/buy junk/be tempted to eat out or order it, but be realistic with what you plan.

next week

I've just done my shopping online and it came to just under £49 including the delivery!! Well done me!! Our box delivery company is leaving us a bit in the lurch this week as they are changing our delivery day, so we'll go a slightly longer time between deliveries.

I'm just gonna blog the menu plan for the week right now, and I'll try and post recipes on the day of cooking, or soon after.

Saturday 2nd May: black daal - Panjabi style with kidney beans, served with rice and naans.

Sunday 3rd May: slowcooker day -lamb with olives and tinned tomatoes served with pine nut and raisin cous cous and some veg, perhaps a purple sprouting broc.

May the Fourth Be With You: gonna pop some soaked haricot beans in the slow cooker in the morning with some tinned toms and other good stuff and have home made beans on toast in the evening. With some salad.

Tuesday 5th May: jacket potatoes with mushroom sauce. My housemate doesn't eat mushrooms but he always said he loved mushroom sauce. I decided to make it a couple of weeks ago, with no real idea of what I was aiming for, showed him the finished product and asked naively "how do you usually make it?" His reply: "Dunno, it's out of a packet.". He LOVED my homemade version. Will probably use some of the previously mentioned red cabbage left with some of the endless carrots and make a slaw. Heck I might even make the mayo for the slaw!

Wednesday 6th May: chicken thighs stewed (maybe acutally on the hob this time) with sweet potoatoes, non-sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes and some more of those carrots. Maybe some of the dry cider we don't like drinking.

Thursday 7th May: saw a recipe in Good Food magazine for quick to make garlicky pizza breads, with tomato sauce. Felt I wanted to add a little meat so bought a pack of pepperoni. M 7yr old adores garlic bread, so should love this. Might even get them both making the bread. I just love the smell of garlic and butter on a toddler. She had spring onion breath yesterday!

Friday 8th May: something quick and easy as there's a Ladies Indulgence Evening at school and I HAVE to go... some pre-flavoured salmon fillets which are on offer with some boiled new pots and something from the veg box that should arrive in the day. Bit of a cheat this one with regard to the shopping bill, as one pack of salmon is in the freezer, and housemate is a fishmonger so will pick up another pack in the week.

this week

my week runs from Saturday to Friday, I often cook something more time consuming on the weekend and use left overs in the week, so I tend to shop on the weekend too.
Here's the plan for the week we're in currently.

Sat 25th April: pot roast chicken using leeks, carrots and potatoes from veg box, Sainsbury's basics whole fresh chicken. Use chicken carcass to make stock and keep left over meat and veg for later in the week.

Sun 26th April: use up 2 small pots of leftover sauce, cook one big pan of Basics penne pasta. Also use very tired looking lettuce from veg box and a serving of frozen peas and 3 left over rashers of Basics middle bacon to make a braised lettuce and pea with bacon "sauce" so that we have a choice of 3 pasta toppings.

Monday 27th April: broad bean and pea creamy wholewheat pasta from the Tesco Healthy Living booklet. Except housemate can't find broad beans and uses frozen sliced beans instead. I wasn't cooking cos I was helping out at Brownies having already fed my 7yr old and her multi-allergic best friend before hand. That's a WHOLE other blog! Anyway, it still tastes fine, but I have to find something else to do with those broad beans now...

Tuesday 28th April: chicken noodle soup. Using that stock made on the weekend, and yes, I did save carrot peel and celery tops to put in with the carcass. Also diced up all the leftover pot roast veg, some more veg and about half of the left over chicken. Freeze rest of chicken to use in a couple of weeks' time. Very amusing watching a 2 yr old eat noodles.

Wednesday 29th April: Basics pork chops which I saw reduced a couple of weeks ago and grabbed to shove in freezer. Defrosted overnight and then put in slowcooker along with half a red cabbage from veg box, half a pear 2yr old didn't eat, a couple of somewhat manky apples no one would otherwise eat, some wrinkly potatoes with their sprouts rubbed off, a teaspoon or so of brown sugar, a mugful of dry cider (it was the one on offer) and some salt.

Thursday 30th April (ok, so I haven't cooked these yet from here) : gammon steaks from the freezer which I bought a few weeks ago, got 2 packets of 2 on a BOGOF. Cooked 1 pack the same week I bought them and put this 1 in freezer. Gonna just pan fry or griddle it with some slowly cooked in butter leeks. No more no less, simple but yum.

Friday 1st May : cauliflower (from veg box) cheese with tinned salmon flaked through. With purple sprouting broccoli on the side, again from veg box.

a weekly challenge

like many people, I recently realised I had to get my weekly shop down in price, and when I looked around for advice and tips on how to achieve this, I found most of the usual suggestions were for things I already did. I've planned my weekly menu since I first started cooking for myself at uni, and I still have all the books of weekly plans since then! I've always aimed for at least one veggie meal a week, and one fish meal a week, and tried to mix and match the meats and carbs and accompaniments the rest of the time, and I've always been careful with BOGOFs and known to look in the reduced fridge at the end of the shopping day.
I've always made a list and stuck relatively strictly to it, and I've always read cookery books and magazines looking for more ways to save, and for inspiring ideas.
I've recently discovered the slow-cooker, and I've always used a pressure cooker and microwave, as these save time and money also. We've had a veg box delivered for a number of years now, and I've learned lots of ways to use up stuff at the bottom of the crisper.
So I wanted to get MORE ideas, and a few months ago I sent an email to some of my friends asking them to give me a sample week's menu to see if it would inspire or help me. Almost everyone replied, and I was delighted by the quick and happy responses. Most of them felt the way I did, and everyone was keen to share recipes and suggestions. I picked up quite a few tips and it occurred to me that maybe my friends would benefit from each others tips as well as my own, so I forwarded each email to the other people I'd asked if they were interested and some people were intrigued.
So it turned out I'd been menu planning long before some of my friends but had fallen into a bit of a rut, perhaps because some of the adults in my house are fussy eaters (the kids eat fabulously unfussily!) so I decided I'd blog my menus and share them. Anyone who knows me will understand why I didn't start the blog then and there, but now I've set myself a budget challenge and I have to stick to it, I've got the motivation I need to blog it too.
For the past few weeks I've aimed to spend under £50 on the weekly supermarket shop, bearing in mind its not all food, and I'm feeding 3 adults and 2 children each day, plus an extra adult most weekends, plus lunches for 2-3 adults and one of the children too!
I'm delighted to say I've managed it almost every week since I started and I thought it about time I started sharing the love!!! I must add the caveat that I do have a veg box delivered too, and that's roughly another tenner, and I'm a bit spoilt as one of the girls' Godparents pays for that, to benefit her, and as a contribution as he spends a lot of days and mealtimes with us, and he's generally sweet and likes to help out. I still think it's a pretty good budget, but getting it even lower is the next challenge!
Please feel free to comment and share budgeting cooking tips with me too!