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

Thursday, 7 June 2012

This Week (Saturday June 2nd - Friday 8th June)

Saturday - Coconut and chick pea curry (my own invention, basically just cumin, tumeric, onions, chickpeas, carrots, mange tout, baby corns, water and creamed coconut. Yum  

Sunday - Onion and oat savoury steamed pudding, mashed swede, broccoli, savoy cabbage and gravy. Rhubarb crumble and soya custard

Monday - Vegan aubergine parmazano, red onion, cucumber and tomato salad and bread for dipping  

Tuesday - Cashew nut stirfry and egg fried rice  

Wednesday - Millet casserole, peas and sweetcorn  

Thursday - spag bol  

Friday - Veggie stew and dumplings.

Friday, 23 March 2012

A Tribute To My Nan

My Nan, along with my Mum taught me to cook and in fact (sorry Mum) it's standing next to my Nan and her stock phrases which stand out in my mind when I think of my early cooking experiences. She was a key inspiration for this blog. She sadly passed away on 23rd February this year and I miss her so much it actually physically hurts.

But she lives on in my memories and my heart and is there with me everytime I bake a cake or make the dinner and so it's fitting that I dedicate this post to her.

My Nan had five children and nine grandchildren who were comforted by her clever and satisfying home cooking. In fact, at her funeral, her last day holiday hash even got a mention. Nan and Granddad didn't have much money when my Mum and her brothers and sisters were growing up, but they never missed a meal - largely due to my Nan's skill at frugal cooking. Both my Nan and my Granddad prioritised food. Offering guests something to eat was fundamental to welcoming someone into their home, to the point that if you decline my granddad will keep offering a range of tasty morsels until he finds something that suits (and if you're not hungry that's no excuse).

My Nan's mother was a cook and she passed her secrets on to my Nan and in turn they were passed on to me. My apprenticeship including cakes (fruit and sponge), souffles, quiches, how to make a basic roux (and from there a white sauce and a whole host of other dishes) and even on one occasion rainbow trout (I didn't like it). I was a vegetarian (well pescatarian until the age of 15 when I finally declared no more fish after a 14 day fish diet instigated by my Granddad to help me with my exams - brain food don't you know) from an early age and this was unquestioningly accomodated by my Nan. It was a common Saturday ritual to discuss what I wanted for dinner and then have my Nan help me cook it. My favourites were cauliflower cheese and vegetable lasagne (that basic roux came in so handy). I can hear Nan's voice now, "As my Mother said, gentle persuasion is the key Trudie". This gentle guidance was given in response to my over zealous mixing which splattered the walls and surfaces with molten cheese sauce.

We never used a recipe and apart from cakes I don't remember doing much measuring. It was all stored in our heads having been orally transmitted from my Nan to me. I'll let you in to the secret of the white sauce later.

I suppose my training started even before I could reach the cooker when I come to think about it. My early memories involve standing with my elder cousin and a play rolling pin in my Nan and Granddad's conservatory or shaking milk in a jar to make butter (rancid after a day of shaking by little hands on a sunny day).

And before I give you my family method for a white sauce, there's one more tip. "Use the heat of your hand". This is invaluable when creaming butter and sugar when making cakes ;-)

Nan's white sauce:

A large dollop of butter (or marg if that's what you have or are sticking to the dairy free thing)
Plain flour (although if I've only got self-raising I'll use this instead)
Milk (or milk and water, or soya milk - my preference)
Salt and pepper (and now I tend to add a bay leave too)

First slowly melt the fat.
Turn the heat down a bit.
Shake in flour and stir until you've got a smooth lump (this is a roux). You can probably look up the flour to fat ratio, I do it by eye.
Slowly add the milk stirring, stirring (remember gentle persuasion) so it's smooth.
Don't worry if you get lumps, you can beat them out with a whisk and usually I abandon the wooden spoon and move over to a whisk at this point as a matter of course.
Keep adding liquid until you get the right consistency (e.g. the thickness you like).
If I'm making a cheese sauce (either using actual cheese or nutritional yeast flakes for the vegan option) I'll make the white sauce a bit thinner than I like because the cheesy stuff will thicken it up.

So here's to you Nan. I've already had N on a chair next to me in the kitchen and I promise to cook with her, teach her your recipes, methods and phrases and above all to remember the love you put into food and me.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Dairy free and sugar lite

My youngest brother gave up sugar a couple of years ago and I don't mean sugar in tea. He just literally gave up all sugar. No more sweets, no more chocolate, no commercially produced bread (yes bread contains sugar), no tomato sauce. The list goes on. He gave it up partly to control his weight and partly to stave off tooth decay.

He did continue to eat honey and fructose, so my Mum would make him 'special cakes' made with fruit sugar, but recently he's gone even more hardcore. Sugar substitutes are out now too. That means his diet is essentially savoury and unprocessed.

He's also recently given up dairy and is a committed vegetarian. I have to say his will power is stunning!

Now I like sugar. Not on my cereal or in tea, but I like sweets and cakes. A bit too much. Just before Christmas I realised sugary treats had ceased to become treats and were a daily addiction. I don't like that sort of feeling of powerlessness and my trousers were feeling tight. Sugar had to go. My resolve was increased when I did a life expectancy test (motivated by a programme on Radio 4). Given my lifestyle my expected life expenctancy was 98, but the feedback suggested I could do a bit better with a few small changes and limiting sugar was one of the changes I could easily make.

So I've gone sugar lite. I'm not as hardcore as my brother, and I like the occasional treat, but I firmly believe that's all it should be. I've also given up dairy - I used to be a vegan so this is no big deal.

The remarkable thing is that I am less hungry than I was. I think my blood sugar must have been in turmoil from the sugar highs and crashes.

Here's my sugar lite and dairy free menu for this week

Saturday - Pasta with slow cooked cabbage and pinenuts (this is much nicer than it sounds)
Sunday - Snitzel with mashed swede, roast potatoes and parsnips and broccoli.
Monday - Sausage casserole and sweet potato mash
Tuesday - Savoury roly poly with mashed swede, green beans and carrots
Wednesday - Sausage and chips
Thursday - S is cooking (he doesn't like me to plan his days too often)
Friday - Millet casserole.

I've just realised that everything except Friday's dinner begins with an 'S' - maybe I should change Friday's menu.

I should also add I made leek and potato soup for lunch on Sunday, which is sustaining me though lunches all this week. I grew the leeks so it's been a particularly cheap week of lunches. In fact Sunday is becoming decidely soupy in our house, but that's for another blog.

I thought you might like the recipe for the savoury roly poly as it was super nice.


Roly poly part
4 oz vegetable suet
8 oz of SR flour
pinch of salt
water to make a dough

2 medium onions
tsp of bullion powder
tsp of veggie gravy granules
3-4 tbs of veggie mince
splash of water

Mix the suet, flour and salt together and add enough water to make a dough. Put in the fridge to chill.

Cut the onions into slivers and fry off. I like to brown mine, but you could cook them more slowly.
Add the rest of the ingredients and heat the mice through.

Roll the pastry into a rectangle about 6 inches by 10 inches. Spread the filling over the pastry leaving the top quarter empty (so the filling doesn't all sqidge out).

Roll the pastry up like a swiss roll and tuck in the ends.Wrap loosely in foil if steaming or in greasproof paper if microwaving.

You can steam the package for 1.5-2 hours over a steamer if you like. I haven't got a steamer so I microwaved mine for 7-8 minutes.


Thursday, 12 January 2012

This week/next week

This week

Spaghetti sorentina
Leek and quorn pie (ah allotment leeks, yum), served with allotment cabbage.
Cauliflower cheese
Almond and coconut korma
Quorn chicken, chips and peas
Shepherds pie
Medjerra (My recipe's slightly different to this, but I am being lazy, posting this link instead of writing it up). It's soooooo nice though, really tasty - much more than you'd think.

Next week
[Away until Tuesday's dinner]
Sausage and tomato casserole and mash
Egg and chips
something previously made from the freezer (I'll let S decide as it's his turn to cook - I'm hoping he'll go for toad in the hole)
Leek, walnut and lemon pasta