Saturday, 25 April 2015

Frugal recipe: croutons

I don't know a soup that isn't enhanced by crunchy, golden croutons with a slight sprinkling of Maldon salt (must support the local industries) on top.

You can buy croutons in packets that cost the earth and a half and, to be honest, I don;t think they are really all that nice.  They're not fresh, for a start.

My croutons start with the noggins of my home made bread.  You know what I mean - the crusts either end of a loaf that are usually the last bits left (I use the first crust to cover the main loaf to keep it fresh) and which are just a little too stale for comfort and which one is inclined to chuck.
Well, I've stopped chucking them.  At first I zizzed them into bread crumbs but I have enough breadcrumbs so now I have a noggin bag in the freezer into which I chuck my - er - well, noggins.

To be fair, this involves a hot oven and I had a hot oven because of the bread making.  You could use a grill or a halogen oven.  I chose to use my oven because it was already on.  That's frugal!  Heating it up specially would not be.

All I did was take two crusts (I make small loaves), let them thaw just a bit and then cut them into cubes of a size I wanted.
I popped them into a poly bag and splashed in some oil.  As I am frugal it was veg oil from Aldi but olive oil might be nice or garlic oil . . . mmmmm.
 I sort of tossed them around for a short time and then poured them into an oven dish, popped them in the oven, turned them after five minutes and in ten they were done.  Gorgeous, crisp, crunchy hot croutons.
I sprinkled a bit of Maldon salt on top and added them, a few at a time, to my soup (home made, of course!!!) and enjoyed a most delicious lunch.

And it was very frugal!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Recipe: almost seedless raspberry jam

I found some raspberries in the freezer and made jam.  It's one of the easier jams and tends to set pretty quickly.


Put the raspberries in a pan with just a very little water and heat slowly.  As they warm up, the raspberries release juice so you don't need much water at all and the less you add the quicker the setting time.
Simmer the berries until they're all lovely and mushy.
Either put the berries through a mouli or push through a seive to catch the pips.  It takes a while but is well worth it.  I can't stand jam with pips/seeds like those found in raspberries and blackberries.
One could use a jelly bag and let the juice drip through but I consider that an awful waste of raspberry pulp.

Throw the pips on the compost heap.

Now weigh the raspberry pulp and add the same weight of granulated sugar.  You could use jam sugar but it is more expensive.  Then add a good squeeze of lemon juice (about half a lemon)

Put the pan on a low heat and allow the mixture to come to a simmer, stirring often.  The idea is to make sure the sugar has dissolved before the jam boils.

While this is happening, wash your jars and get them into a warm oven to warm up.  Then place two saucers in the fridge for testing setting point.

Once the jam is boiling, increase the heat and let it boil vigorously for five minutes, stirring often.  Then remove the pan from the heat while testing the jam for setting point.

To do this you spoon a small amount of jam onto the chilled sauces and put it back in the fridge for two or three minutes.  The you push a finger through the jam.  If it has formed a skin and is starting to clot or 'jell', it's ready.  if it is still runny, boil for another two or three minutes and test again.  Always take the pan off the heat while you are testing.  The more water you used to cook the berries, the longer it will take to reach setting point.

Skim any scum off the surface and place in a small dish (it is nice, goes well on toast or in porridge, just doesn't look nice in the jam but no point wasting it) and then carefully ladle the hot jam into the hot jars.  Screw the lids on firmly and allow them to cool before labelling.

Keep in a cool, dark place.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Frugal: Pat Parker's Marmalade Cobbler

Another frugal but actually rather delicious idea, borrowed this time from a closed Facebook page called 'Feed Yourself for a Pound a Day'.  I've only just 'joined' and it seems a lovely place with plenty of great ideas and some very supporting users.  It also seems well moderated, which is always a good thing!

Anyway, I can't post a link so I have Pat's permission to write it out - thanks, Pat.

Marmalade cobbler

6oz SR flour
3 oz sugar (I used granulated)
Some garam masala to taste (I queried this and yes, it's right and actually it works really well.  I guess one could use cinnamon, allspice, mixed spice, etc instead, but I'd encourage you to try garam masala if you have any)
Milk and water to mix to a stiff paste (I just used milk)

1/3 jar value marmalade (I used home made which is beeyootifully frugal)

Mix the flour, sugar, spice and milk together.
Put the marmalade in the bottom of a pudding basin and put the mixture on top.  Cover with cling film and pierce in several places.

Cook in the microwave for approx 5 mins - test after 4 mins with a skewer.

I made half amounts and it made enough for three helpings.   The cobbler is quite 'stiff' and not at all cakey and the garam masala spices it up beautifully.  Pat says one could add oil and/or and egg to make it more like a sponge.  I suspect one could add egg substitute such as a very ripe banana that needs using up and I may well try that at some point.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Frugal: sourdough crumpet

It's frugal if you are growing a sourdough starter, otherwise probably not particularly!
I first made crumpets years ago, somewhere fairly near the beginning of my Diary of a Teacher blog, when it was a snow day and I was very, very bored.  They are fairly simple but, made the usual way, it is a long process from start to finish.

It is frugal though because one uses what would otherwise be thrown out - the 'discard', as they call it.  When you're growing a sourdough you have to keep taking some dough away and feeding the remainder to keep it alive.   They say to throw this discard away which does not sit easily on my conscience so I looked around for ways to use it and found this recipe.
Sourdough Crumpets
Taken from the site above
It's a doddle.  I did quarter measures and it made one crumpet but I used a ring and mine was much thicker than those in the photograph.  Those just don't look quite right to my British eye.  The baking took the longest time of the whole process as you just have to wait until all the bubbles have risen and the top is cooked: of course, mine was thicker than the ones in the photo and that adds to the time as well.  I remember on Bake Off, when they were making crumpets in bread/dough week, one lady got impatient and turned up the heat, only to find that the bottom burnt!  Ooops.

Mine didn't < smug smile >!

The only problem I had was that the batter stuck to the side of the ring.  It shouldn't have done that as they are non stick but next time I will lightly grease the inside of the rings and that should sort that issue out.

It smelled lovely and the raggedy outside bits that I trimmed off tasted lovely too but, as the porridge was on and slowly cooking, I was very controlled and will freeze it for a future breakfast with a poached egg on top.  Poached egg on a toasted crumpet with a light sprinkling of sea salt crystals is a lovely, lovely thing, to quote John Torode.

Cost?  Well, I haven't the foggiest but as the sourdough starter would just be thrown away and the rest is tiny amounts I am giving it a nominal price of 3p per crumpet.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Frugal: basic biscuits

The original is here.

I don't have much of a sweet tooth but when it lands a biscuit usually hits the spot.  I could pop to Morrisons and get some of their savers digestives but I rather fancied doing some baking anyway.  I searched and found a very simple but adaptable recipe.  However, this makes 35 biscuits and 35 is a lot to have around, calling out to you, so I got out the calculator and reduced it by a third.  I frugalised it by using baking spread instead of butter, using granulated sugar and zizzing it to caster sugar and, of course, using Savers flour

Ingredients to make 12
75g baking spread (12p)
36g sugar (5p)
90g plain flour (3p)
pinch or so of spice, if wanted - I have gone up to the next whole pence for the ingredients above which should more or less cover the little bit of spice used.

Heat oven to 170C (fan 150)/gas 3
Zizz the sugar until caster sugar consistency
Add the spread and beat until the mixture is fluffy.
Fold in the flour and spice (I used mixed spice).
Use your hands to squidge the mixture into a dough.
Using floured hands, roll the dough into walnut sized balls, place them on a baking tray (it says no need to grease - mine was non stick) slightly apart and flatten slightly with a fork.

Bake for around 15 mins.
Cool on a wire rack.  They are soft when hot and firm off as they cool.  You could sprinkle them with caster sugar and if I had guests I might do so, but not just for me.

Each biscuit costs around 1.5p so you could have a couple with your cuppa for 3p.  They're very light, soft and crunchy.  More-ish so they are now out of sight in a tin!

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Frugal: Jack's peanut and honey granola

The other day instead of having the porridge with pineapple and yogurt I had planned I had a single portion packet of granola that had been given to me a while before and which needed using.  I just mixed it with the yogurt, pineapple and the light syrup that the pineapple was in and, you know, it was really delicious.
Then I remembered that Jack Monroe had created a granola recipe that I liked a lot so I dug it out and made some.
The recipe can easily be found here, on 'A Girl Called Jack' but as I converted some of the measures so that they were all weight, not capacity and rounded some up or down, here's what I did.
However, please go and visit Jack's site - she gives ideas for things to add and, anyway, it's a brilliant place to visit and look round.

25g butter (I fear I used baking spread instead because that's what I had)  5p
100g peanut butter (I used Savers crunchy)  18p
60g honey  38p (expensive because I used what I had which wasn't a cheap honey!)
300g oats  22p

Turn on the oven to 180C/ gas 4
Place the butter (or whatever), peanut butter and honey in a large bowl and microwave on high for around half a minute until it's all soft and the butter has melted.  Mix it all together.
Stir in the oats until well combined.

Spread the mixture on an oiled baking sheet (I used two medium sized non stick trays) and flatten down with the back of a spoon or similar.

Bake for 15 mins (it smells wonderful).
Remove and allow to cool.
Break into small clusters.
When cold, transfer to an airtight container - I used a kilner jar.
It should keep for about a month.

According to the prices above, the lot will cost 83p.
My portion size is 40g
After baking, the lot came to 466g
That gives me 11 portions at 7.5p, let's call it 8p, per portion.  It would be less if I had used cheaper honey

But it gets better.  Because I am doing Breadline at present the oats and the peanut butter have already been paid for.
So, given that, each portion will cost 4p plus whatever I have with it.  Can't be bad!

Monday, 6 April 2015

Store cupboard: Tuna melt.

I had some tinned tuna mixed with mayo left over after having some on a jacket potato.  This is what I did with it.

You need to use a grill.

2 slices bread, fully toasted on one side and just lightly toasted on the other side
left over tuna mixed with mayo. OK, it doesn't HAVE to be left over, you can open a tin and use some of it!
Some finely grated cheddar
some creamed horseradish

No specific amounts, it's all to taste.

Add the cheese and horseradish to the tuna-mayo mix and stir well.
Spread the mixture over the lightly toasted side of the bread.  Pop under the grill until it's all hot and the top is browning.
Eat immediately!

It's delicious.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Recipe: hot cross(less) buns

'Cross(less)' isn't any kind of personal statement, I just can't be bothered with the decorative cross on the buns.

I used this recipe from my online friend Rachel Pattison who owns the wonderful site 'Freshly Baked'.  You can find the recipe with lots of detail here.

I was reluctant to try hot cross buns as all previous efforts have ended in failure without exception.  Failure to rise, failure to have a soft texture, failure to taste as a hot cross bun should taste.  However, seeing as I have made quite a lot of dough based things in recent years I though I would have another go and Rachel's recipes are good - easy to follow and successful.  Please do visit her site: it is a treasure chest.

I more or less followed Rachel's recipe but made half quantities and adjusted the milk to allow for the extra half egg - I wasn't going to faff around with half an egg!  The dried fruit I used was very dried (see - using up old stuff makes them frugal!) so I made some strong tea and soaked it in the tea for a while.
Also, I used Thermione and added the fruit after the dough had been kneaded to stop it (the fruit) from being torn to pieces.  It was a very soft dough but not too soft to handle.

In the name of frugality and also of weight loss I made eight buns rather than six which is quite a nice size really.

And the important bit - yes, they taste wonderful, absolutely gorgeous.  One for a snack and seven in the freezer double quick!  The nicest I have ever tasted.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Frugal tip: cooking bacon

Do you ever buy 'cooking bacon'?  It seems an odd name - after all, isn't all bacon for cooking?
This consists of the off cuts after slicing, chopped small and rammed firmly into a container and sold as a 'Savers' product (in Morrison's it is anyway) for around 80p.

I had some and this is what I did.

I separated the meat from the fat, not a quick thing to do as it's all chopped and sort of mushed together but it wasn't hard.

I put the meaty bits into little single portion pots.  Eleven pots-worth at 8p a pot.  They are now labelled, bagged and in the freezer for future use.

Then I looked thoughtfully at the left over fatty bits (which did have a lot of bacon fragments on them).  It seemed a shame to just chuck them, especially as I am doing Breadline, one of the abiding principles of which is minimal waste.

So I popped them all in a frying pan and rendered the fat down over a slow heat.  It took a while but needed minimal attention.

Once the fatty bits were all cooked and crispy I strained off the fat and will use that for cooking.

Then there were the bits.  I tasted a few and they were lovely - crisp and not fat-textured in the least.  So I sprinkled them over my lunchtime soup for extra flavour and texture - those that hadn't already been nibbled, that is.  Delicious.

So in the end there was nothing to throw away!  Yay!