Cooking with a Girl Called Jack – Soda Bread

This is my first attempt at Soda Bread.Image

 

Looking Good. Thank you Jack.

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Cooking with Jack – Sausage and Lentil One Pot Dinner

I often make a sausage casserole loosely based on a recipe from this book.The Student Cookbook

I used to use fresh carrots and potatoes, turning my nose up at tinned veg, until I started to read A Girl Called Jack.

I wanted to make Jack’s recipe as I have a cupboard full of lentils that need to be used. I wasn’t sure that The Gamer would take to lentils so I made both versions. All left overs are used for lunches so, don’t worry, there was no waste.

All my ingredients are from Aldi although I get most of my fresh and dried herbs from a local grower, Urban Herbs. Ingredients gathered

The sausages I used are from the Aldi Specially Selected range and are high in pork content. I will not compromise and buy nasty cheap value range sausages. You may as well just mush up some bread, lard and salt. If I cannot afford good meat I would rather not eat meat.

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I am experimenting with a lot of recipes and noting prices of everything as I am planning for my week of living on a £1 a day for the Live Below the Line Challenge. It was while looking at the recipes suggested by the organisers that I started to write more about food. I was shocked to see how unhealthy some of them were (think of value white bread and sausages) so set out to come up with a healthier way to eat and drink on a pound a day. I wish Jack Monroe had been blogging then!

One of my very early posts was written for Blog Action Day 2011. Written at Heathrow Airport waiting to fly to San Francisco, those taking part had been given a theme to write about, in 2011 we were asked to focus on the many issues related to food, such as health, hunger, quality, culture, farming, access and waste to coincide with World Food Day.

So back to the sausages.

Sausages with baked beans

Student sausages with baked beans

My version uses baked beans instead of lentils and tinned tomatoes with a bit of mustard, tomatoes puree and Worcester Sauce to give it a bit of kick. A bit of flour was added to the sausages and onions before adding the other ingredients to thicken it up.

Sausage and Lentil One Pot Meal

Sausages with Lentils

The lentils in Jack’s recipe absorb the liquid from the stock, which as well as thickening the casserole, give it its texture.

As ever, I decided to tweak the recipe, and added some curry powder to the one with lentils, as I thought it would work. It did. I am sure Jack won’t mind.

The verdict, The Gamer still prefers the original as it is sweeter (that will be the baked beans) but he didn’t hate the lentil version. Vinyl Man loved the lentil version as did I. 2-1 to Jack. And I am at last using those lentils.

Night off tomorrow as The Gamer is cooking.

Cooking with A Girl Called Jack – Pork Kokkinsito

After last nights success with the Mango and Chickpea curry from this book,

A Girl Called Jack

A Girl Called Jack

I asked The Gamer to choose a meal tonight as curry and chickpeas are not his thing.

He chose this. DSCN0754

The only shopping I had to do was to pop to Aldi and choose the pork. I had the option of belly or loin. The cookery snob in me wanted the loin, yet at £5 something for 400g (I think) that seemed a tad expensive, so pork belly it was at £1.99 for 500g. Everything else, bar the wine, I had in the house. I have rosemary growing in the garden.  I don’t need an excuse to buy wine.

This is a doddle to cook, all in one pan, browned off the pork, added the onions to sweat and then chuck everything else in. I did add a bit of flour in to absorb the fat and to thicken the sauce, before adding the wine and tomatoes, but I always tweak recipes. That is what I do, control freak that I am. DSCN0755

It says it serves four, but with a generous portion of mashed potatoes it served three adults tonight and there is enough for two lunches tomorrow.  DSCN0756

Not only delicious, jolly good value too.

Thanks, Jack.

Cooking with A Girl Called Jack – Chickpea and Chorizo Burgers

Continuing to try out some more of the recipes from one of my food heroes, A Girl Called Jack. Today these burgers worried me as I am not a big fan of chickpeas.

The haul from Aldi

I tweaked the recipe and whizzed the chickpeas, breadcrumbs, egg and the sliced spicy meats I had in a food processor, and added them to the onion, garlic and carrot I had fried in a pan. I managed to make 8  burgers, the current lodger, The Tax Man, came in and remarked how good they looked, so let him have one.

Chickpea and Chorizo Burgers cooking nicely

My shopping bill today, Chick peas, 39p from Aldi,  as I had all of the other ingredients in. I did buy some chorizo but then discovered we had so left over spicy sliced meat from when we made pizza on Saturday, I had some breadcrumbs in the freezer I had made from the last bits of bread that was a bit stale, and already had eggs and vegetable and the spices I needed.

Verdict?

Another A Girl Called Jack recipe success

Absolutely nom.

I will make a veggie version for my daughter and pop them in the freezer.

And my chickpea aversion? Mushed up they are lovely. I wonder if this could solve my hatred of red kidney beans? Mmmm.

You can find the recipe here.

Not buying it – from the Big 4 supermarkets

Not a year without supermarkets, just not using the Big Four

I would love to think I could avoid supermarkets altogether like Team Pugh and I probably could if I was willing to drive to buy groceries. We have some good butchers on my local high street and recently the Halal butcher has increased his range of fruit and veg and everyone who has been there has said how lovely he is. The outside of the shop looks welcoming, which I hope translates into custom.DSCN0285

He also sells a good range of tinned items, dry goods, cooking oil and dairy.  Of course he has a niche market in the Halal offer and the customer service is excellent. I do shop there occasionally, but he is the other end of the high street, so to carry heavy items from there is an issue for me, and to take the car is also a problem as parking outside is limited. I suppose the solution is to get a shopping trolley!

I love Aldi

However the real reason, despite me wanting to support indies is that I like to shop at Aldi. It is good value, good quality and meets most of my shopping needs. I usually go on foot and buy what I need each day, and as by being limited to what I can carry this limits my spending too.

As it was dreadful weather so I chose to use the car for the 200 yard drive or so and stock up on things that are too heavy to carry. Total spend was £54.29 and that included non essentials such a bird food for £6.99, cleaning and personal hygiene items and some of their excellent New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc which at £5.79 a bottle is a steal. Potatoes were on offer at £2.36 for 5kgs. At less than 50p a kilo I would be hard pushed to get them that cheap at the markets.

Meal Planning

I am still planning meals on what I have in the house already: dinner Wednesday was pork chops, mashed potatoes, and various veg with a cheese sauce, as I had bits of cheese that need using up and chops in the freezer. Yesterday I made the pasta bake based on this Jamie Oliver recipe. I have also just found this brilliant meal planning resource from Butcher Baker.DSCN5623

Pasta at 29p for 500 g, why would anyone spend more?

DSCN0426

British and Local

What I really like about Aldi is that most of the fresh meat (if not all) is British as is much of the fresh vegetables. We really need to support our farmers. So while I am shopping at a supermarket, it is local to me. I usually walk there and use other local and independent shops and businesses. I am supporting British farmers. Not perfect, but it feels better to me than using Tesco or Asda. I am definitely spending less money and wasting less food by shopping at Aldi. I also visit local farmers markets, usually the one in Harborne, get fresh and dried herbs from Urban Herbs and most of my clothes come from the local charity shops.

My Girl called Jack week

Next week I have 4 days of only feeding 2 people and am thinking of this being my cook like A Girl Called Jack, to use up the lentils, rice and potatoes as the 2 mouths I am feeding will try anything new. The other mouth  The Gamer is off on an Outward Bound type week somewhere in the Welsh Borders with The Princes Trust. His team has to cook once and while he can’t remember where they are going, he has already planned what they are cooking and made a shopping list. And proper cooking, not noodles in pots or sauces from jars and beans on toast. Easy spaghetti bake from this Martin Lewis book.DSCN0435

I am doing something right then.

What are you cooking this week and what are you not buying?

Jamie and Jack

Aside

As Jack gets flak for having a job and still writing about food poverty….

travellingcoral

So today, everybody is talking about Jamie Oliver and his rant about poor people (did he really say that?) who choose big tellies and chips over mange tout from the market.

I hope his mom has phoned him and given him a proper telling off. He flunked school and if it wasn’t for the fact that he had parents owned a pub and gave him the opportunity and encouragement to follow a food career, he too could be one of those poor people living on a diet of Kyle instead of Kale.

I like Jamie, I really do, he put his head over the parapet and criticised school dinners, got the government to increase the spend on school meals. Turkey Twizzlers were revealed to be made of pink slime and his books improved my husbands cooking.

He is a bit gobby, he gets angry when children are passed burgers…

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Not buying the cook book – step one of not buying it in 2014

Most of us, even those of us who don’t make resolutions at the beginning of the year are looking to find ways to cut back on spending at this time of year. For some of us it is because we spent a lot at Christmas,  for others it is because we are facing higher fuel bill and the last few winters have been very cold.

My cook book collection

I am cutting back for two reasons, I want to save up for more holidays and short breaks, and I want an uncluttered home. I am in the process of re reading Not Buying It and planning to incorporate some of the principles into my life. I am continuing my mission to clear the clutter in my house and mind. I have also been inspired by Team Pugh, the guys behind A Year Without Supermarkets, who plan that 2014 is their Year with Less and will be following their progress with interest. The first rule of decluttering, for me, is to stop bringing more stuff into the house. I am hoping that by not buying things I do not need will not only save me money but also reduce the amount of stuff crap we seem to have accumulated over 30 odd years.

I think I passed my first test of temptation earlier this week when I popped into a local supermarket. Those of you who read my posts will know that I am not a big fan of supermarkets, especially the ones who offer bogofs and other such marketing ploy that tempt you to buy things you really did not plan to buy or more than you need. And it is so easy to get sucked into the lair, with jolly background music, amazing offers at the end of every aisle and heavy discounts on my weakness, books. This week I had to visit the big green supermarket to return an unsuitable Christmas gift, and as I did not have a receipt  I was refunded via their store card. I decided there and then that this was going to be my only visit in 2014 so I would need to spend the £5 today. I was also very keen to avoid making another trip there in the car, hunting for a parking space and negotiating zombie like shoppers mindlessly filling up oversized trolleys with food and bargains and stuff. So I had a mindless wonder around the shelves (a rooky mistake, no list) and then I saw it. It was a cookery book that had been recommended, and it was reduced from £14.99 to £5. Bargain! And somehow it found its way into my basket and before I knew it I was heading to the tills, giddy with the notion that I had bagged myself a bargain.

Just in time I remembered where I was and realised that I had fallen under the retail spell. I then gave myself a good talking to reminding myself that I had reduced my hoard of books at home by about 50% in 2013. And I really did not need another cook book. And I put it back. I did manage to spend the £5 (on some rather good wine from New Zealand) and now I have no reason to shop there again. Later today I am going to the Birmingham Markets, to see if it is cheaper to shop there than the discount supermarket I usually buy most of my food from. The Super Six fruit and veg offers are good value but I am finding it a struggle to get through a kilo of carrots or sprouts (made soup, frozen the sprouts) especially now we don’t have the chickens who used to get a lot of the excess veg.

Join me on the Not Buying It journey and see how I get on.

School Reunion part one #indielove

I am going to a school reunion at the end of this month. My secondary school, Holly Lodge, recently had an open day and a lot of ‘old’ girls and boys went along to see the new buildings. I was away that weekend, or I would have gone. I loved school, really, I would wake up every day and look forward to going. So after a few had posted on the Holly Lodge Facebook Page, somehow plans were made for some of us to meet up again.

As some of the girls are coming up for the weekend, I offered to give them a mini guide of what to do in Birmingham while they are here. Simon Calder must have heard about this as he pipped me to the post in this article, 48 Hours in Birmingham.

As I think I know the city better and have an interest in promoting all things indie, I was not swayed and here is my guide, for a group of fantastic fiesty fifty something ‘old’girls’. We will not be wearing purple nor wearing red hats. However this is a Warning to you, Here Come the Girls!

Visit the Christmas Market, early. It is so busy later on and it gets a bit lairy for my liking. I do however recomend a sausage for lunch. DSCN9189A ride on the carousell may be fun though ladies!

Time for tea or coffee. Avoid the horrid chains and visit some of the best indie cafes there are. Yorks, Cherry Reds, (see also hereUrban, Six Eight (at the back of Rackhams) and Brewsmiths are all different and all fantastic for tea or coffee. In my view the best cake is at Six Eight, not don’t got to Druckers almost next door. Really no, don’t.

The music at Brewsmiths is fantastic and the furniture an eclectic mix of scrubbed pine and vintage. A bacon butty and a muc of builders tea is my choice here, yet there is an amazing rage of teas and seriously good coffee.

Urban is also another favourite, New York loft style. Good coffee and tea although I don’t rate the food. But squashy sofas upstairs and good music make it a favourite of mine.

Six Eight cakes are to die for. Seriously, go.

Yorks is also loft style and have an interesting range of teas.

I have not visited Home is yet, but it is on my list as is Cherry Reds.

So that is coffee and cake sorted.

My next post will be shopping and why you have to visit the Crafty Muthas.

Reducing waste and saving money

I have now tallied up my receipts for food shopping for the past 7 days. Just under £30 for three adults, eating three meals a day. That works out at under £1.50 per person a day, and we still have some leftovers to cover lunches for a couple more days.

carrots  £       0.49
broccoli  £       0.49
apples  £       0.89
Cauli  £       0.89
cereal  £       0.89
mozzarella x2  £       0.88
fresh herbs  £       1.80
chicken breasts  x3  £       3.95
soya milk  £       0.59
milk  8 pints  £       2.00
broccoli  £       0.49
baked beans x3  £       0.75
sugar  £       0.85
bread x2  £       2.00
FR eggs  £       1.00
tin tomatoes  £       0.31
mince  £       3.69
passata  £       0.29
potatoes  £       1.99
bread rolls  £       1.00
ham  £       4.00
 £    29.24

What we ate.

Breakfasts have been toast, cereal or banana smoothies. Lunches have been a mixture of sandwiches and left overs from the previous nights meal and homemade carrot soup.

For dinners this week we have had: pasta with left over sausages and passata; curry with ingredients from the freezer; greek pie using up the puff pastry and some vegetables; sausages and mash (twice); pasta using up some of the vegetables with mince; chicken coated in breadcrumbs with stale bread and baked potatoes and passata; take out fish and chips. And I made an apple and sultana crumble.

Most of the evening meals gave us at least one leftover lunch.

I find doing exercises like this useful to inform me where I could be saving money. A third of the spending is on meat. The three chicken breasts now seem to be an extravagance, and when they were bashed with rolling pin, one and a half would have been ample for three of us. The ham (on a buy two for £4 offer) made 6 lunches yet I could have got off cuts of ham much cheaper, which I plan to do going forward. As these packs are so big I tend not to buy them as I am worried I won’t use it all before the use by date. With a bit more planning I could just divide it into daily portions and freeze it.

I also need to think more about making double the amount and freezing meals so that when we don’t feel like cooking we have something to fall back on rather than order a take out.

And I need to explore some vegetarian options that we all will like. I really do want to use those lentils.

I am off to Malta next week and I am really looking forward to a week of no shopping or cooking.

Travelling Coral is off travelling again. Hooray. Expect lots of pictures of food.