Find out how I feed my family on a shoestring budget.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

What’s the Point of a Fishless Fish Finger?

This is an old blog post saved as a draft I've just published. I no longer eat quorn as it contains egg.

This week I bought a box of Quorn fishless fish fingers. I also have a packet of Quorn ham in the fridge, veggie sausage mix in the cupboard and soya mince, fake frankfurters, veggie bacon and veggie sausages in the freezer. I know what you’re thinking, “just what sort of vegetarian is this woman”. If you are a vegetarian yourself, you might be disgusted that I am eating these processed foods which are designed to resemble meat and if you eat meat you might be wondering why, if I am prepared to eat something parading itself as meat, don’t I just eat meat itself.

So here’s my answer. I am under no illusion that my veggie sausages are anything like real sausages (having said that a fellow mum didn’t realise the sausage rolls at N’s birthday party were actually vegetarian) and I don’t care. I haven’t eaten ‘real’ meat for 25 years. I know I used to like the taste of meat (I became a vegetarian for ethical and financial reasons not for culinary ones), but I can’t actually remember what meat tastes like. I do know I don’t like the smell of meat now, so I am personally quite glad that ‘fake’ meat isn’t too close to the real thing. Fake meat does however, lend protein and variety to my diet and is sometimes a welcome short cut.

I do like lentils, nuts, rice and beans and curiously, if cooking for non-vegetarians these are the sort of ingredients I’ll stick to. I only very rarely and with extreme caution give them ‘fake’ meat because although I do know some meat eaters who eat vegetarian sausages and mince through choice (it tending to be lower in fat than its meat counterparts), why compete in a losing race – I can choose meatless cuisines from all over the world that were designed to be that way rather than trying to trick people who'll look unfavourably on the imposter.

I am also quite wary of other people offering me 'meaty' alternatives. A few years ago, in Peru, I was served up 'Quorn' while in the jungle by someone who confessed they didn't agree with vegetarianism and had tried to feed me soup with the chicken fished out. I never asked where he managed to purchase such an ingedient in the Amazon. Instead I chose to disbelieve him and discretely passed the 'fake' Quorn to my companion under the table before taking the drastic action of knocking my front teeth out - ok so the last bit wasn't part of the 'not eating his food' plan but it was very effective at getting me out of tricky meal situations.

Anyway, back to the point: S really likes fake meat. He was a confirmed vegetarian long before we met, but he came to it at an older age than me and he’s not keen on cooking; he’d happily eat veggie burger and chips every day if I let him. I don’t, but cooking for a family’s is about compromise, so this week fishless fish fingers are on the menu.

Speaking of which here is the menu this week:

Saturday – Chiara’s mozzarella pasta and tomato, red onion and cucumber salad (with enough for the freezer)

Sunday -Steamed suet pudding (or stuffed marrow if there are any when I go to the allotment) with roast veg (parsnips, potatoes, carrots and beetroot)

Monday – Mixed pepper fajitas and guacamole

Tuesday – Fishless fish fingers, chips and peas

Wednesday – Veggie sausages, mash, veg and onion gravy

Thursday – Baked potatoes with cheese and baked beans

Friday – Pasta with (veggie) herb and meatballs

Crikey, there’s a lot of comfort food in there. I suppose that’s a feature of the nights drawing in!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Hearty Harvest

Photos still on my camera I'm afraid, which is a shame, because N and I made a cracking crumble. N loves blackerries, so off we went blackberrying on Friday (trying to teach a one year old about picking blackberries above the dog pee line challenged mny reasoning powers). I had some cooking pears S bought home from a garden he works in (with the blessing of the owner I should add), so we added these to the blackberries, had great fun mixing them and making a very rough crumble mix. It tasted great and I was dead chuffed to have cooked with my toddler. Anyway, there are photos and I will post when I download them.

The bounty that is provided by the early Autumn is probably one of the reasons my shopping bill was only just over £28 this week. I've got potatoes, onions, beetroot, (a few) carrots, leeks and strawberries (I know I can hardly believe it) from the allotment. S has a friendly client with a surplus of runner beans and the most beautiful pears I've ever eaten and another client with apples and peppers. Added to that we've got tomatoes, watercress and salad leaves in the garden and blackberries galore from the hedgerows. It's a very good time of year for reduced shopping bills.

Our dinners this week have been and will be:

Saturday - Butternut squash risotto (I bought the butternut squash)
Sunday - Leek and potato soup (our own leeks and potatoes) followed by blackberry and apple Eve's pudding
Monday - Vegetarian stroganoff (a firm family favourite and very quick to make)
Tuesday - Curry with rice and naan bread (using curry from the freezer)
Wednesday - Lasagne (from the freezer) and garlic bread
Thursday - Pizza (I bought the bases this time as I am working away from the home all week, but we'll add the toppings)
Friday - Stew and dumplings (made with the remaining butternut sqaush and swede)

The soup and risotto has taken care of our lunches for the early part of the week and I am looking forward to my cream cheese, tomato and watercress sandwiches tomorrow.

The recipe of the week is the blackberry and apple Eve's pudding.

1 cup of blackberries
2 medium cooking apples
2 eggs
4 oz butter/marg
4 oz sugar
4 oz self-raising flour

1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 5
2. Wash the blackberries.
3. Peel, core and roughly chop or slice the apples.
4. Mix the fruit together in an oven proof dish.
5. Cream the sugar and butter until pale and fluffy.
6. Beat the eggs into the butter and sugar mix.
7. Fold in the flour.
8. Pour the sponge mix over the top of the fruit and bake for about 40 minutes or until risen and done.
9. Serve warm on it's own, eith cream or ice cream or (like us) with custard.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Crikey, it's been a while!

Well well well, after a frenetic but shortlived start to this foray into the world of blogs it all went ominously silent. Ah, well there are a million excuses: I wanted to do some 'proper' design work so it looked good, I had lots of other things to do, I was too damn busy making meals from scratch and boiling vats of jam to actually blog.

These excuses are all true and valid, but if I let them stall me then my whole idea of 'Trudie's Food' unravels. So I am back. My blog might not look the way I'd like it to, my posts may not be as sharp as I'd like them to be, but as long as I get up some meal ideas and recipes then I'll be able to cross off 'blog' from my to do list.

And what's more, I can reveal a new insight into budget food shopping:

Write your list and send someone else!

I sent S to do the shopping this evening. He spent just under £25 – wow, hats off even from me. Now it’s true that this is the best time of year to have an allotment and have lots of fruit growing friends. There’s very little in the way of fruit and veg we need to buy at the moment, but still, a jolly good shop.

So what will be eating based on this bargain shopping list:

: Vegetarian lasagne, tomato, red onion and cucumber salad and garlic bread - We’ve an abundance of toms at the moment and the garlic bread is left from yesterday (and so last weeks budget)

Sunday: Shepherds pie - I made this today using allotment potatoes and served with donated runner beans

: Crunchy pie, veg and mash - A freezer special from a few weeks ago

Tuesday: Stuffed peppers and courgette fritters - I saw someone making courgette fritters on Come Dine With Me last week and thought I’d copy as I’ve got plenty of courgettes right now.

Wednesday: Chilli and rice - From the freezer

Thursday: Stroganoff - Ah, a firm favourite.

Friday: Spanish omelette - I will need to buy some more eggs, but there’s plenty of slack in the budget.

I will just share my recipe for tomato, red onion and cucumber salad. There are no real revelations in there, but S (a self-confessed salad denier) loves it.

Tomato, Red Onion and Cucumber Salad

Equal amounts red onion, cucumber and tomatoes.
Balsamic vinegar
Olive Oil
Salt and pepper
Calamata olives (optional)

Cut the tomatoes and cucumber into chunky cubes.
Slice the onion (I cut it in half first to make slicing easier)
Toss together, dress with slurps of vinegar and oil.