June: Throw together a cherry tiramisu

DSC02564I’ve become much more focused on time efficiency and mess minimization since I started this blog.  I feel that life is too short to spend excessive time in the kitchen, and I have started seeing cooking as really just throwing together food that I actually want to eat.  So this recipe is super simple.

Cherry Tiramisu

There are only seven ingredients:

Cherries, washed and halved, pits removed

Sugar or honey, 2 teaspoons

Very strong coffee, 50ml

Cognac or similar liquor, 1/2 tablespoon

Amaretti biscuits, 150g

Double cream, 150ml

Dark chocolate, 100g

 

And only a few steps:

Simmer the cherries in a small amount of water with the sugar or honey until softened, then drain and allow to cool

Chop the dark chocolate into crumbs

Brew the coffee and stir in the liquor

Break the amaretti biscuits in half and mix with the coffee

Whip the cream

Layer the tiramisu with by placing the coffee soaked amaretti biscuits into your dish, followed by the cherries, then whipped cream and finally dark chocolate crumbs.  Enjoy!

 

A quick evening meal: crispy potatoes and egg

I enjoyed a relaxing Sunday yesterday, which was complete with a filling lunch, plenty of coffee and some nice reading materials. When it came to the evening, I looked for a nice light option – something light but still indulgent.  I chose to make crispy potatoes, and top them with gently fried eggs with soft centers.

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Here is a great method to make the perfect crispy potatoes…

  • Find some good potatoes.  I have found that red potatoes give the most crispiness.
  • Take time to cut the potatoes finely.  I do this by chopping them into four long quarters, then rotating the knife to cut them into wedges that are as thin as possible.
  • Melt two tablespoons of coconut oil in a small pan.  This melted oil is great for your gut, and heating it will make it easy to work with, and the heat will kick start the crisping process.
  • Toss the potato wedges, oil, good salt and flavourings, such as garlic powder together.
  • Bake at a high temperature, turning every 5 to 10 minutes to carefully get the potatoes super crispy but not burnt.
  • Gently fry an egg to top the potatoes with.
  • Make this dish even nicer by including a side, such as gherkins or fried mushrooms.

In this way, you can really get value (flavour, mouth feel, health value) from a few simple ingredients.

 

Caring for sensitive skin while travelling

I have been surprised with a lovely last minute trip to Belfast this week.  My other half was asked to work here, and I decided to tag along.  I’m so glad I came – I’ve been able to enjoy so much culture, crafting and delicious food.

I do do have sensitive skin that is prone to eczema, so I have taken a few simple steps to keep  my skin calm and happy…

I have reduced the amount of products that I use in my skin care routine.  This means less bulk in my suitcase, less cost, and less risk of reactions to unfamiliar products.

I have used only water to wash my face. I simply use two hands to splash water onto my face, which is an adequate was to cleanse without using excessive products.

I have used a simple, hypoallergenic cream with few ingredients to protect my face from wind and rain.  I find that cream is most effective when applied immediately after washing my face.

I minimize contact between my skin and hotel towels.  Hotel towels are often washed in biological cleansers and bleached, which is not ideal for sensitive skin.  I allow my skin to air dry after a quick rub from a towel, and use cloths or a flannel from home to dry areas that are particularly prone to skin sensitivity.

I rinse any toothpaste off my mouth, so that the fluoride does not cause my lips to flake, and use a simple, petroleum free lip balm.

I make that most of the opportunity to relax and de-stress, which is great for skin.

Also, I practice some simple yoga stretches to give my muscles a chance to recover from airplane seats and bag carrying.

When I return home, I plan cleanse and moisturize my skin fully to encourage recovery.

 

I am enjoying my holiday, and enjoying my clear skin!

 

Eating Frugally in February

This February has been a challenging month for me in some ways.  I feel that there isn’t much seasonal produce available in February.  I have had to slow my thinking down and do some research on what I might be able to purchase that is fresh and affordable.

My first discovery was mackerel.  February is mackerel season.  I was able to purchase a whole fresh mackerel from the fish counter in a good supermarket for only £2.  I asked the fishmonger to take off the head, tail and guts, and deboned the fish myself.  This produced a delicious meal for two.

My second discovery was free range osso buco pork, which was delicious when seared in a skillet and slow cooked.  I was able to purchase 2 joints for £2, and the butcher told me how fresh this cut was, as pork is particularly fresh in February.

And finally, there is cauliflower.  I plan to cut some large cauliflower steaks, and cook them with a strong spice, such as paprika, then top them with shredded pork shoulder.  Yum!

 

How to cook fresh mackerel, with a miso marinade:

  • Debone the fish.
  • Make a miso paste from equal parts of miso, honey, rice vinegar and mirin.
  • Rub miso paste onto the flesh side of the fish.
  • Sprinkle the skin side of the fish with a good salt that does not contain additional preservatives, such as rock salt.
  • Bake for 10 minutes at a high temperature.

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Showstopping meals for pennies: sardine paella

I have recently returned from a lovely holiday in Spain, where I enjoyed local paella in local, inexpensive restaurants. I was careful to avoid popular tourist destinations, and to seek out local flavours.

I have recreated a paella experience, using easy to source ingredients.  I used a whole kilogram bag of onions, which were on special offer this week.  After doing some research, I have found that very seasonal produce, which is often on offer, is much more likely to be fresh than the normal supermarket stuff.  This is a very frugal way to find fresh, good quality ingredients.

Cooks often recommend purchasing a paella pan.  However, I have achieved very good results by using a good quality stainless steel skillet with a lid.

My technique was very simple, to the point where I didn’t need to follow a recipe.

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Ingredients:

1 kg bag of onions, chopped, 40p

Approximately 100g paella rice, 15p.

Paella rice will absorb water, and can triple in size.

1/2 fermented lemon, 10p, rind chopped into very small strips

I fermented my own lemons, which was really easy to do.

100g frozen peas, 15p

Good quality mushroom or vegetable stock cube, 10p

Tin of sardines in spring water with no salt added, 45p, large bones removed

This produced enough for two meals each for two people, so the cost per serving was 35p per serving, and the servings were hearty enough for a good weekend meal.

Steps to follow:

Chop the onions, and fry them gently.  I used a skillet with a lid, so that I could get a nice crusty layer of caramelised onion to flavour the dish.  I let my onions cook gently for a full hour, which really enhanced their flavour.  I kept the temperature low, added a little water to the pan, and used a lid, so that I could let them cook and do other tasks without worrying about them.

When the onions are soft and tasty, and the paella rice, stock cube, water and the chopped rind of the fermented lemon.  Replace the lid and allow to cook for another 30 minutes, adding water a little at a time as the rice expands.

Add the sardines and the peas, and allow to cook gently for another 5 minutes.

This recipe was so simple, and so tasty!  The cooking process did take 2 hours, but I was able to walk away and leave this to slowly cook on its own.

How to wash up faster

Take a few minute to read this article and consider how to streamline your washing up routine.  Every minute that you save will be saved every day in the future, adding up to a lot of time saved!

Here are the steps that I have developed.  I follow the same steps every day so that I don’t have to spend time thinking.

  1. Take off your watch, and glance at the time to monitor how long this takes you.  Try to reduce the time you take by a minute or two.
  2. Put leftover food in the fridge, and put any other food where is belongs.
  3. Put non-food items back in their storage places.
  4. Put away any items that do not need to be cleaned.
  5. Rinse out any items that do not need a full wash and leave them on a bench to dry.
  6. Put all the knives, forks and utensils in the sink.
  7. Put plates and bowls closest to the sink.
  8. Wash the plates, bowls and any other items that are easy to dry with a tea towel, and quickly put them in a draw near the sink.
  9. Wash the remaining items and leave them on the drying rack.
  10. Wash the knives forks and utensils last, when most of the dirt has already been removed from them by the washing of other items.
  11. Do a quick visual check of the room, and put your watch back on.
  12. If you have sensitive skin or eczema like me, do remember to wash your hands after using washing up gloves.

Showstopping meals for pennies: chick pea and sweet potato soup

This recipe is for days when you want to produce a hearty meal with plenty of flavour, and you want to spend time slowly cooking simple ingredients to produce and amazing result.

Chickpea and sweet potato soup

£1.25 for two generous servings

Ingredients:

Stock: kombu seaweed, vegetable scraps, onion, left over spices, and other scraps 20p

Dried chickpeas 10p (dried chickpeas will taste much fresher, and have less preservatives than the tinned version)

3 large onions 15p

1 tin tomatoes 40p (whole tomatoes tend to have less chemical preservatives than the chopped version)

Chicken stock cube 10p (you could use chicken bones in your stock instead)

Approximately 300g sweet potatoes, peeled 30p

Preparation before the meal:

Hydrate and cook the dried chickpeas. Gently boil the stock ingredients in filtered water for a few hours.  I use a slow cooker so that I can walk away and do other things while this is cooking.

The cooking:

This cooking process could take up to one hour.  I like to have some podcasts to listen to while I am cooking.

Chop and slowly fry the onions in a large pan for 40 minutes, moving them around the pan to prevent sticking and adding a little water to prevent them from drying out.  Make sure that you really turn down the heat to get yummy, slow cooked onions.  I have find that I get the best results from melting a little coconut oil in a skillet, and cooking the onions slowly with a lid on them.  I do find that I need to open a window in the kitchen to prevent the room from being filled with steam.

Add tomatoes and gently cook and stir for 5 minutes to combine the ingredients.

In a separate bowl, combine the stock, chickpeas and the peeled sweet potatoes and boil for 20 to 40 minutes until the sweet potatoes turn orange and soft.

The whole soup should combine and taste sweet and warm.  This soup will keep warm in a lidded pan until it is needed.

Free food: ways to use food waste

It’s great when we can have free food!  I have found 6 clever ways to use food waste products in your kitchen.  This way, you get more value from your food, and you produce less rubbish.

  1. Coffee grinds: coffee grinds can be reused once they are baked.  I scoop mine into an old baking tray over the weekend and leave them in a warm place to dry out, before baking them for a few minutes.  There are many possible uses for coffee grinds. My favourite use is to keep them in the fridge to freshen the odour.
  2. Old lemons: slice old lemons, remove the seeds and bake them to make a pungent pot-potpourri. This will really freshen up your kitchen.
  3. Old garlic: this can be thinly sliced and baked.  You can then break the slices into powder, to use as a seasoning, or add to a soup stock.  This will increase the strength of the garlic flavour, and prevent the garlic from rotting.
  4. Soup stock ingredients: vegetable scraps, Parmesan rinds, bones and leftover spices can be added to soup stocks to add depth to the flavour of the soup.  I freeze my scraps while I collect enough of them to make a stock.
  5. Jars of food: I leave a teaspoon in nearly empty jars of food so that people hunting for a snack can scrap out the last drops of food.  I sometimes save the empty jars for food storage.
  6. Watermelon rinds: I cut the green parts off these, then boil them into candies, using raw can sugar.

It’s so much fun to find creative ways to reuse items that are already in your kitchen.

Ramen for £5 a head

This weekend, it was time for a ramen feast!

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2 beef short ribs £5.50

Chicken bones, free

Ramen noodles £1.50

Vegetables (garlic, carrots, celery) 70p

Dried mushrooms, star anise and bay leaf, already in cupboard

Kombu and bonito £1.30

Volvic mineral water 20p

Total: £9.20 for two, or £4.60 per head

I could reduce this by using fish bones instead of bonito.  However, I do need to use my existing bonito supply within about one year.

My ramen making method was simple: boil vegetables, star anise, bay leaf and chicken bones to make a broth, gently simmer kombu and bonito in volvic mineral water to make dashi, cook the beef short ribs, by braising and slow cooking, and then combine the results! This does take time, so plan out the stages to make sure that everything will be ready.

Other meals resulting from this:

The ramen broth was frozen for another meal, as was the chicken stock.  I used the kombu and bonito to make extra dashi, and used this to make agedashi with a vegetable tofu soup.  I also fried the rehydrated mushrooms, finely chopped the some of the kombu to serve with rice.  I froze the remaining kombu and bonito to make further dashi.

Simmering the leftover kombu in soy sauce:

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Cauliflower recipe set

A November Recipe Set

Want to cook a series of meals with a few ingredients?  Here is a set of recipe that will provide maximum impact for each of the ingredients that you purchase.

Black truffle rice

I developed this recipe to make the most of each ingredient.

  1. Soak two dried mushrooms in filtered water
  2. Fry onions until caramelized, then add paella rice and chicken stock, dried mushrooms and the water they have soaked in.  Add this liquid gradually, as the rice expands.  Cook gently, without stirring until paella rice expands and becomes soft and tasty.  It is difficult to overcook paella rice, so don’t be afraid to let this sit for a while.
  3. While the rice is cooking, prepare your vegetables.
  4. Cut two, one inch thick steaks from the middle of your cauliflower, and save these for later.  Divide the remaining cauliflower into small florets and slice thinly.  Fry these thin slices in a small amount of butter and add seasoning, such as garlic powder.  Fry them on high at first, then on low until their colour changes.
  5. Wash and fry the wild mushrooms and normal mushrooms, adding a splash of cognac.
  6. Take the sliced truffle out of the jar, blot off the liquid, and cut a few of the slices in half.
  7. Add the halved truffles, mushrooms and cauliflower to the rice dish, and continue cooking until the rice is soft and yummy.
  8. Place in individual dishes, with a raw egg yolk in the centre of each dish.  Garnish with truffle slices and serve!

Zero waste tip: Add the liquid from cooking the vegetables to your rice dish, to add flavour.

Cauliflower steaks

  1. Slice two one inch thick steaks from the centre of a cauliflower.
  2. Brush both sides with olive oil and seasonings and bake each side until tender and browned.
  3. Chop up some small potatoes, onions, carrots and mushrooms, toss in olive oil, season and bake under the cauliflower.
  4. Mix mayonnaise with a few drops of soy sauce, and spread the mixture over one side of the cauliflower.
  5. Toss panko bread crumbs with oil and place on top of the mayonnaise.
  6. Bake for another five minutes, until panko crust starts to brown.

Zero waste tip: Prepare most of the ingredients before you preheat the oven, then bake all of the ingredients at the same time.

 

Ingredients for this recipe set:

Cauliflower, mushrooms, wild mushrooms, onions, carrots and small potatoes and eggs are available cheaply or on special offer in November.  You can check on the weekly special offers at Lidl here https://www.lidl.co.uk/en/index.htm

I used half a jar of preserved black truffles.  I actually received this as a gift, but this ingredient is easy to access in the autumn or winter from a good supermarket.

I already had dried mushrooms, rice, bread crumbs, mayonnaise and soy sauce in my cupboard.

I picked up chicken bones free of charge from my local butcher, so I made a large batch of chicken stock a few weeks ago and froze the stock in a mix of differently sized containers.  I also save vegetable scraps and freeze them to add to stock.

If you have left over cauliflower, you could marinate this in miso for a light tasty meal.

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