Thursday, 23 December 2010

dinners that last for days...

After thinking about what we would probably like to discuss and investigate ourselves ,both as people who cook for joy and for a living ,and as parents concerned about what our children are eating on a daily basis, we have decided that we are mostly concerned with the source of food, the treatment and processes, the cost of making dinner these days and the benefit , or harm, it causes our children.
To this end we will be regularly (as often as possible)  blogging about adventures in frugal food, growing, preserving and cooking. We watch hundreds of chefs and celebs tell us how we can grow our own veg on a window-sill, and how to cook well on a small budget , but is all this actually do-able and practical for a busy growing family ??? Well we're on a mission to find out, from the heart of rural Dorset.
In the coming weeks and months we will be investigating the cost of local farm foods at source compared to the local retailers of the same produce, and to the cost of supermarket equivalents. Testing how you can grow your own at home and if its worth the effort in the long run, and where to buy the freshest products grown buy someone else! Also, of course, giving lots of tips and recipes around feeding the whole family, well, and on a shoestring.
Anyone is welcome to join in the experiment/ experience, all questions will be answered as well as possible, and we won't sell you a thing....................

Monday, 20 December 2010

snow and stuffing....

Well i don't know about anyone else but i only just realised that having not planned for a white (well slushy at the mo) christmas, it could infact cause me some grief !!!
So some last minute menu changes might be in order... ( no-one'll notice once they've been eating solidly for several days !)..
Didn't buy the stuffing? well fear not !
         You can whip up stuffing as follows.. grated stale bread, lemon juice/vinegar, fresh/dried herbs of choice, crushed garlic, grated onion & a beaten egg, mix thoroughly with seasoning, cover in cling film and bung (or place thoughtfully, your choice)it in the fridge over night.Done , as Gordon says. Use as usual stuffing.
Having a party...have no party food and can't trudge to town ??? How about...
  • "Bocconcini di pollo", or in english - chunks of cooked chicken breast wrapped in bacon and baked, great with garlic, sage, paprika, basil or any other flavour you fancy adding, a bit of cheese maybe?
  • Or "Arroncini" which are italian rice balls, very simple and quick if you don't make them quite as authentic as an italian as it would involve rissotto and such things! Basically boil some rice (any that you have)add a bayleaf and salt if you can, drain and leave to cool so it forms a sticky mass. Then cut some small chunks of cheese (mozzarella is great but not essential) and cover the chunk in a small hand ful of rice , rolling into a ball. When you have many rice balls dip each into a beaten egg and then roll in either breadcrumbs or flour, you then deep (or shallow if you prefer) fry until golden, serve hot or reserve and micro blitz when required !
  • "Caramelised onion tarts" - make/buy some short or puff pastry and line tart tins, slice onions and add to a pan with equal amounts of balsamic vinegar & brown sugar, leave to simmer until liquid has been absorbed and onions are coloured and sticky, add to pastry cases and top with goats/blue cheese or beaten egg, bake at 200 for approx 20 mins.!
All of the above also make simple starters too....

Not to forget easy peasy QUICK desserts !
  • "festive cheesecake "heat some double cream (750 mls, big pot), add a generous splash of baileys or tia maria and broken up milk chocolate (about 300g) stir until dissolved & pour over a crushed biscuit base ( crushed plain biscuits, brown sugar & butter), refrigerate as long as possible, not less than 2-3 hours.....and yum cheesecake !
  • Homemade ice a hurry, its not the proper way, but its quick and it tastes lovely: whip double cream and add some vanilla essence/pod, then stir in some smashed fruit, berries or banana if you can or failing that a splash of your favourite liquer, mix well and freeze for at least 4 hours.
i'm guessing thats us blogged out until the New Year, but you never know , we might be snowed in with nothing better to do !!!!!!
Merry jingle christmas to all.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

the gift of food.......mmmmmh..

Its not too late to whip up something lovely and edible to treat those near and dear ( or those you suddenly realise you have fogotten , and actually don't know that well, but really should give a gift to...), after all everyones gotta eat, and you can make a little go a long way and seem much more heartfelt, with the true meaning of giving, than if you rushed out to buy a last minute something or other...
There are such a variety of foods that can be made into gifts, most of which require little or no culinary know how, here are some ideas to get the imagination going:
**Chocolate Truffles **- alcoholic, non-alcoholic, coated in nuts or chocolate, flavoured with vanilla or coffee ans so on... the basic recipe is a Ganache, the same thing that masquerades as very thick chocolatey frosting, this is made by using the same amount (or there abouts ) of double cream and chocolate, heating the cream to boiling point, removing from the heat and stirring in the chocolate until melted, this mixture is then left to cool for an hour-ish until thickened to a pliable consistency and simply scooped and rolled into above you can add flavours and coatings as you wish, wrap in cellophane and tie with ribbon to make a lovely gift.( store in the fridge to avoid softening)
You can also use the Ganache poured into a baked pastry case to make a rich chocolate tart.
**Chutneys,** jams and pickles are always a favourite, but if your short on time you can make a salted vegetable preserve instead the boiled vinegar variety..... shred cabbage, carrot, couliflower  and any other firm raw vwg you fancy (green toatoes, cucumber etc..)layer in a bucket with a good fistful of salt between layers and wieght down with a pate with a heavy object(s) on top, leave for 24 hours and remove weight, leave another 24 with a lid on .......and you will find that you have a buket full of pickled but still crunchy veg in its own pickling juice, simply fill sterilised jars.
** Baklava** a traditional christmas pastry in Greece and the Balkans can also be made speedily if using shop bought filo pastry. In a suitable baking tin layer filo pastry brushig each piece with melted butter,add a layer of brown sugar and cinnamon sprinkled all over the pastryand repeat until you have approx half the thickness you require, at this point you spread your filling mix( traditionally this is crushed almonds and walnuts with vanilla and cinnamon, though you can add any dried fruit and nut you might like) between 2 or 3 layers of pastry and tnenm finish off with the pastry butter and spice as before, bake at 200 for 1/2 an hour-ish until the pastry is crisp and golden. At this point it is customary to pour over "sherbet" which is a mix of equal parts water and sugar bolied to a thin syrup, however for those less fond of sugary sweetness a dusting of icing sugar may suffice.
There are so many alternatives the list is endless, from making your own olive antipasti mix by adding fresh herbs and chilli to shop bought olives, to making flavoured oils, decorated with herb sprigs in the bottle, right up to making and decorating a range of xmas baked goodies.......The main thing is that you thought of it (and got off your bum after a long day to make it ) much more the point of giving than actually how good the end results are, to be certain.

Friday, 17 December 2010

liquid dinners always go a little further...........................

And no i don't mean a pint of bitter or 3, i'm talking about the frugality of creating a home-made soup, the ultimate comfort food and a fair old meal for the meagre ingredients required. Not least also a solution to the old nerve grinder of attempting to feed an entire family from weaning baby to gammy grandad without having to empty the food cupboard and use every pan in the house.
Basically as long as you can make a good flavourful base you can't go too far wrong and the combinations of flavours are endless.
my favourite staple is a vegetable and pearl barley soup with simple homemade bread, so easy is it that i can write a few simple lines instead of an entire boresome recipe, here goes:
gently fry chopped onion, garlic, celery , carrot and leek, add water or veg stock, bay leaves and salt (leave seasoning until you have cooked the base soup and remove a small portion then for young babies)boil and then simmer til soft, blitz with a hand blender, return to heat and add barley, oregano, pepper and a pinch of cumin and simmer until barley is cooked. if you prefer creamy soups also add a touch of milk with the barley. And there you have it.
If you love home made bread try making a plain loaf with oil instead of butter, 1.5 kilo of bread flour, 1 sachet dried yeast, pinch of salt & sugar and around 4 tablespoons of oil, mix and add enough warm water to mix to a smooth dough, knead and leave in oiled tin in a warm place til doubled in size, splash with a little water to dampen surface and bake at 200 degrees for approx half an hour.
Otherwise sliced bread rubbed with the cut side of half a garlic clove and griddled/grilled is just as nice. For young children i griddle this bread then use a character cutter to make it a little more tempting, my son who refuses to eat anything remotely "runny" can unwittingly polish off a bowl of soup just by soaking it up with these little toasts.
As a traditional girl at heart ,but a working mum in reality, I love the knowledge that I made a wholesome meal for the family in ONE pan and in less than an hour AND not having to abandon my one handed attempt to eat dinner everytime someone throws a "i don't like it, its dissssgusssting" wobbly.......