Thursday, 31 March 2016

Spiced Bread and Butter pudding - a Thermomix recipe

I'm using my Varoma a lot more than I used to and starting to get adventurous - well, a bit adventurous anyway.

I had some drying hot cross bun loaf that was still fine for toast but I had a thought, tried it out and it worked so I am sharing it with some of my readers who are Thermo owners.
You could make this with ordinary bread.  Just add spices to the custard.  Left over hot cross buns, tea loaf, etc - no problem!  You could use some cream instead of some of the milk.  You could use a brown sugar.  You could add citrus zest.
Oh, you get the idea.  Adaptable is its middle name!

Spiced Bread and Butter Pudding
Really delicious and filling too.

Ingredients to make two good helpings.
Two slices of hot cross bun loaf (made using a 1 lb loaf tin), buttered and cut diagonally into quarters
a little more butter for greasing the dish
Some sugar - I used about 1 tsp-ish as the bread is quite sweet.  If you use ordinary bread, you'd need more
More sugar from sprinkling over the top
Some dried fruit.  I used sultanas.  The loaf already had dried fruit in it

For the custard.
250 mls milk (or mix of milk and cream)
1 egg (medium)
A good grating of nutmeg.

You also need an oven proof dish that is not too deep and, most importantly, fits in the varoma.  You can see what I used in the photos: the dimensions are 12x18cms

Grease the inside of the baking dish with butter.
Arrange the half of the buttered bread in the dish, then sprinkle over some sugar and some dried fruit.
Put the rest on top and again add sugar and dried fruit.

Mix the milk with the egg (I used a hand blender) and add the nutmeg.  

Pour it carefully over the bread and butter.  Push the bread down with a fork and then leave it for about half an hour so that the liquid soaks into the bread.  There should still be some milk visible, it won't all soak in.

Cover with cling film (the photo doesn't show this) and place in the varoma.

Boil some water and add it to the bowl - my timing relies on the water being boiling.  Put on the bowl lid and add the varoma with its lid.  The middle shelf isn't needed.
Cook on varoma heat, speed 2 for 12 mins.

Preheat your grill.  Remove the cover from the dish and sprinkle over some sugar (I didn't do this and I wish I had).  Put the dish on the grill pan and pop it under the grill for about two to three minutes - ish, until brown and crisp on top.  Keep checking.  This is the one stage where you cannot go away and do something else.
Or you could use a blow torch but I don't have one - they scare me to death!

Serve hot or cold.  If I'd had cream, there would be some in the photo!

Thursday, 24 March 2016

An ad hoc vegetable korma

Made for the same lady as the fish pie so same food issues.  This didn't have much depth of flavour or heat but was very tasty all the same so I thought I'd share it.  I haven't stated amounts because it is a throw it all in and see idea!

One onion, peeled and sliced
A bit of butter
Some Patak korma paste (OK, so I cheated - don't we all from time to time?  Also it was an ingredient my friend knew she could have without repercussions)
A selection of veg, peeled and chopped.  I used carrot, potato, parsnip, sweet potato and peas
Some vegetable stock.  I used Marigold.
Boiling water
Coconut milk - about the same amount as the water.
salt and pepper

Saute the onions gently in the butter long and slow until translucent and golden.
Increase the heat, add the paste and fry, stirring often.
Add the rest of the veg, stirring to coat with the korma paste (add more paste if you think it is needed).
Then add the stock powder, the water and the coconut milk plus the seasonings, stir well, cover and either simmer gently on the hob or pop into a medium oven.

It cooked for about 90 minutes but was ready before then.  It's a very forgiving recipe!  If it's too watery, take off the lid and evaporate some of the liquid away.  If it is too thick, add some more ware or coconut milk.  Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.

You could add meat or pep it up with some garlic, chilli and ginger, if you wanted, or some fruit such as pineapple or apricot.

We ate it with basmati rice and it was most satisfying

I'm very pleased that there was enough left to freeze for when my friend returns in a fortnight.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Frugal leftovers: tattie scones

So super frugal it's incredible.  Left over mash, some plain flour, a bit of butter and maybe some seasonings if your mash wasn't already seasoned.

I had mash leftover from making the fish pie (see precious entry).  It was rather nice mash so I didn't want to just chuck it.
From Google Images
I first had tattie scones when we lived in Belfast for four years in the 60s.  Then I enjoyed them when visiting my in-laws who were Scottish.  Home made and wonderful.  So when I wanted to use up this mash, that's what I turned to.

You need some cold mashed potato.  Then add flour in the ration 1 part flour to five parts mash and add very soft butter in the ration 1 part butter to ten parts mash.  Sounds more complicated than it really is.  Weigh your flour and divide it by 5 for the flour and divide it by 10 for the butter.

Bung it all in a bowl and mush it together to a sort of very soft 'dough'.  Add any seasonings you want.  I just added a grating of pepper because the mash had already been seasoned and the butter adds some more salt, of course.  What you're going to do is roll out lumps of it to circles about 3 to 5 mms thick, and cut into quarters.  I had 160g mash and the mixture made two circles cut into eight tattie scones.

Melt a bit of butter in the pan and carefully lay in the scones (they are soft and need careful handling).  Fry on one side until brown, then turn and ditto on the other side.
Not my photo but just how mine looked.
Eat while hot and crispy.  Gorgeous.  I had a poached egg on top of the three pieces I had for breakfast and I don't know when I enjoyed a breakfast more!

I'm unsure if they freeze or not so I am trying it out with the remaining five.  Wrap individually in easy-leave or similar, lay them in some sort of rigid container and freeze.  I suspect I will reheat in a pan but without adding any more butter.  I'll let you know!

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Ad hoc fish pie

There was created for a friend who has some difficulties with certain foods so cannot eat them.  Normally I would have added other ingredients too but I'm always up for a challenge!
It's an idea-type recipe and amounts were not measured except by eye!  Flexible is the name of the game here.

butter - use as little as you can for each stage.
half an onion, chopped
a salmon fillet - from a bug of frozen fillets from Aldi
a white fish fillet - I used basa which is reasonably priced and not too large and liiked good on the fresh fish counter in Morrisons
some frozen peas
some sweet corn (out of a small can and I served the rest as a side veg)
milk (I forgot to get cream but milk worked fine anyway so no problems)
half a carton of Savers soft cheese
some thickening granules
a pinch of dried herbs
some salt and pepper

potatoes suitable for mashing -  I used Estima from my bag of wonky potatoes  and they mashed beautifully

Heat the oven to 180C
Peel and cut the potatoes into smallish chunks and put them on the hob to boil in salted water.
Cut the fish into bite sized chunks.

In a pan, melt a bit of the butter and saute the onions until they are soft and translucent.  Remove from the pan.  If necessary, add a little more butter, add the fish and gently fry until just cooked.  It might take two stages.
Remove the fish.

Add the peas and corn and some milk.  Pop in some salt, pepper and a pinch of dried herbs and bring to a simmer.  Add the soft cheese and stir as it melts into the milk to make a thicker sauce.  Then, depending on how thick it gets and how thick you want it, add some thickening granules and stir them in.  Taste and re-season, if needed.

Carefully replace the fish and the onion in the sauce and gently stir it in.  Spoon the sauce into a high sided oven-proof dish.  I used a slatted spoon in case there was too much sauce, but it was about right.  You could reserve any spare sauce for pouring over your veg.

Drain and steam dry the cooked potatoes, then mash really well with some added butter.  You could also add some more soft cheese, which I would have done had I thought of it but I didn't so I didn't!  Taste and re-season, if necessary.

Spoon the mash over the fish mixture and smooth it over, using a fork to ruffle up the top as you wish.  Pop it in the oven, on a baking sheet to catch any drips, and bake for about 30 mins until the top is browned.  Serve with side veg (I had corn and broccoli).

I wish I'd taken a photo - it looked delicious and tasted great.

I could have added some broccoli instead of having it on the side.  I could have made a different mash for the top, maybe sweet potato or a mixture of root vegetables, or perhaps a savoury crumble topping.  Different fish would give different flavours and one could add some prawns.  There's lots of variations.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Honey oat biscuits

I love searching Google for recipes.  There are so many out there now!  This week I've made shortbread and gingernuts and was looking for something different when I found this very easy, very delicious, store cupboard recipe.

I followed the recipe almost exactly, just adding about half tsp ground ginger, so I won't reproduce it here.  Just click on the link.

It was easy to make in Thermione too.  Just melt the wet ingredients and the butter on 90, add the other ingredients and reverse mix on 2 or 3 until it all comes together.  If the mix is a bit soft, let it cool slightly and it will firm up.

It's always useful to have a repertoire of 'useful' and simple biscuit recipes that can be knocked up quickly and this one fits the bill exactly.
(it also makes the house smell great!)

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Not-From-A-Mix Brownies

I found this recipe on the Frugal Girl's site.  I've long been a reader of Kristen's blog and a lot of what she says resonates very firmly with me.  Contentment, simplicity and wisdom with a big dollop of achievable and sensible frugality.  The recipes sound pretty good too!

You can find the original recipe here.

I won't post the whole recipe because it is out there and easy to find but I did have to translate the measures into real ones - you know, grams, etc, so here they are.

150g plain flour
60g unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder

70g butter
250g sugar

2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp coffee powder or granules pushed through a sieve.
(I added this to the dry ingredients.)

For the method, follow the link above

And here is Kristen's photo of them.  Yes, mine look just like that!  Nom nom nom, as my daughter would say.
easy homemade brownies

Edited to say that Beth and I had some each with custard for dessert today and it was amazing!   Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Crunchy shortbread biscuits

These are gorgeous.  They are shortbread but I roll them out quite thin so they go crunchy rather than soft.  If you prefer soft you just roll them out thicker but you won't get so many biscuits.

I can't remember from where or who this came but if any of my readers lived in Nairobi in the 1970s, you probably gave this recipe to me and thank you very much because I have used it a LOT over the years.
This is what I used - the purple size, but they are lovely cut out with the tiniest cutter - you get loads and they are perfect for little hands.

I might have posted this before but it will have dropped a long way down so here it is (again).

2 1/2 ozs plain flour
1/2 oz corn flour
1 ozs margarine or soft butter 
1 ozs caster sugar

Heat the oven to 145C (Fan)

Put all ingredients into a bowl.  Knead until they all come together and form a soft dough.  Roll out on a floured surface until the desired thickness.
Cut out using a biscuit cutter - I use a flower shaped one as it seems just right for the taste!  You can re-roll and re-cut so no need to waste anything.
Prick holes in each biscuit and transfer them to a baking sheet lined with parchment or a teflon sheet.
Bake for around 15 to 20 mins until pale golden.
Cool on a wire rack and sprinkle caster sugar over.

When completely cold, transfer to an air tight tin.

You can jazz them up by adding lemon/lime/orange zest or a favourite spice.  I gather you can add dried fruit like currants, but I haven't tried that.  You can drizzle over chocolate or icing.

They make enough biscuits for one to enjoy for a few days!  The recipe is easily doubled.

Monday, 7 March 2016

More frugal bread - I'm on a mission!

Today I followed exactly the same recipe as the other day . . .
. . . only this time I used 180g value plain flour and 20g Aldi strong white flour, thus raising the price by 0.5p to no more than 16.5p.  I say 'no more than' because I have estimated a maximum of 10p for the salt, sugar, dried milk, yeast and oil.

I was amazed at the difference.  Suddenly there's bite to the bread, a chewy texture, as well as the flavour that I am convinced comes in part from the autolysis that I start the whole process off with.

Next time it will be 20% strong flour, but not for the next few days as I have loaves to deal with first.

Another handsome loaf . . .

. . . with a more relaxed crumb and a better chew.
(Apologies for the poor lighting.)

Macaroni cheese: a Thermomix recipe

I made this yesterday.  It was such a hugely big hit with everyone I thought I'd post the recipe, even though it is fairly well known anyway.
From Google Images - as usual, I forgot to take any photos, sorry.
I used Thermione for the cheese sauce and for cooking the macaroni, so if you have one, just look in the accompanying book for instructions both for cheese sauce (I added extra cheese) and for cooking pasta

This is what I did.

Ingredients to make good helpings for five
For the sauce:
50g cornflour or (plain flour) - use 40g if you don't want a thick sauce
80g strong cheddar, cut into chunks
20g Parmesan or equivalent, also cut into chunks
1/4 tsp mustard powder
a pinch of cayenne
salt and pepper to taste
400g milk

250g macaroni

A little more finely grated cheese for topping

First, make the cheese sauce.
Put all the ingredients except the salt and the milk in the bowl and mix for 10 seconds on speed 5.

Add the milk and cook for 6 minutes on speed 4.  Then taste, add a little salt if needed (the cheese is often enough) and cook for two minutes more on 4.

Pour into a dish, scrape the bowl and cover the sauce with cling film, pushing the film right down to the surface of the sauce to avoid a skin forming.

Then cook the macaroni.
Place the bowl back on the base (no need to wash it) and add the basket.
Measure in 250g macaroni.
Add enough boiling water to almost cover the macaroni.  Add 1 tsp salt and briefly mix (a few seconds on 6)

Preheat the oven to 200C

Cook the macaroni at 100/speed 4 for 20 mins.  Check after ten minutes and top up with boiling water if needed.  I also broke up the clumping pasta with the spatula a few times as it cooked.

When the macaroni is cooked, tip it into a large bowl, add the cheese sauce and fold it all in so that the macaroni is covered.  It can be frozen at this point.

(after this, the bowl should be fairly clean and will only need minimal scrubbing)

Tip the cheesy pasta into an oven proof dish, sprinkle over the finely grated cheese and pop into the oven until the top is browning nicely.
Serve straight away.

If you are serving it later, make it up to the last stage and allow to cool, covered.  Then bake it in a medium oven to re-heat for about 290 mins, turning the heat up at the end if it needs more browning.

If it is from the freezer, allow to defrost thoroughly before sprinkling over some grated cheese, re-heating and browning.

If you don't have a Thermomix, there are a lot of sauce recipes online.  Here's a couple you could use.
Don't be afraid to add extra cheese if necessary and mustard and cayenne go beautifully in a cheese sauce, as does nutmeg.  If you like them, use them.

Top Tip: crusty bread.

Thank you, Google Images!
To get a better crust on your loaf of bread, just before popping it in the oven, gently brush water all over the dough and then shake over some flour.

Have a tray of boiling water in the bottom of the oven to create steam unless you are one of those lucky people who have a steam producing oven!

Have your oven very hot and as soon as the loaf is in, reduce the temperature to the correct heat.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

The very expensive looking frugal loaf - update

It worked really quite well.  It was never going to taste like a 'proper' loaf as plain flour just doesn't have the gluten content necessary for the crumb and the 'chew'.

So, compared with a good sourdough loaf, the texture and crumb was as far as east is from the west!  Ditto compared to a loaf made with more expensive high protein bread flour.  The texture, I suppose, was rather closer to a soda bread but much 'softer' and less cakey.

However, on its own,without comparisons, it's a jolly nice loaf with a pleasant flavour.  It toasts really well, making deliciously crunchy toast for breakfast.

Looks OK, doesn't it, although you can see that the gluten strands didn't develop.  It is that shape because that's how I wanted it to be, hence the slashes down the loaf.

I know that 50/50 plain and strong flours makes a good loaf but I wonder how much I can reduce the strong flour and still have the gluten texture and crumb.  I shall have to experiment!  It is nice to have the time.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

A very expensive looking frugal loaf

After a wonderful morning at a Thermomix bread demo thingy where really lovely, expensive flours were used, I came home with a strong urge to see if I could go all frugal and make a loaf that looked much more expensive than it really was and which also tasted good.

I fell back on my normal bread recipe that I have written about in this blog and did what I did when it was Live Below The Line time - use ordinary value plain flour.

I know - Paul Hollywood would turn in his grave . . . if he was dead, that is!

I made a few changes, one in technique and one in the equipment I used.

Taking the second first, I proved the dough in one of my new and already much loved bannetons.

The technique change was that I did a sort of autolysis.  I mixed the flour with 75mls of the water and let it rest for an hour or so before adding the remaining ingredients.

200g plain white flour (I used value flour which came to 6p)
around 125 mls/gms water (63% of flour)
half tsp each of instant yeast, salt and sugar
a splash of veg oil

extra flour for kneading and to sprinkle over the uncooked loaf.

Mix the flour with 75mls of water.  Cover and leave

Some time later (I left it for an hour), add the remaining ingredients with most of the remaining water, mix well and then knead until a soft, slightly sticky dough has formed.  You will need to sprinkle flour on the working surface at first to prevent sticking.

Oil or butter the inside of a bowl or other container.  Pop in the dough, cover and leave until double in size (which does not mean double in height!).

Sprinkle more flour on the working surface, tip out the dough, gently knock it back, which just means gently press it all over with fingers or knuckles.
Stretch and fold, stretch and fold until the dough is the shape you desire.
Then either pop it into a prepared loaf tin (a one pounder) or into a floured banneton.  Cover again and leave to prove.

If you're using a tin, once it has come up over the top of the tin, pop it into an oven heated to 230C, close the door and immediately turn it down to 200 (fan 180) and bake for about half an hour

What I did was pop the dough into the floured banneton, covered it with cling film until it had risen again, then turned it out onto parchment on a baking sheet.  I then brushed the surface with water, sprinkled it with flour and slashed it longways three times.  Then I baked it as above.

Can't wait to slice it tomorrow and taste it.  I will try and remember to take another photo.  The texture won't be quite the same although the autolysis should have helped, and the taste will be 'different' but I remember that it tasted great during Live Below The Line.  That might have been a contrast thing though.

We will see.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Sourdough crackers

I finally got round to making these after saying I would for several days.
The original recipe is here:
where you can find the recipe that can be read in cups, imperial or metric plus a very nice photo that refuses to copy over to here, darn it.

I reduced the amounts down and these are what I used.

60g wholewheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
120g unfed discarded sourdough starter
30g soft butter
1 tsp mixed herbs
oil for brushing
salt for sprinkling on top (I used Maldon salt)

Preheat the oven to 200C (180 C fan)
Mix together the flour, salt, unfed starter butter and herbs in a bowl.  I used the handle end of a wooden spoon which it a trick I picked up from Jack Monroe's site.  Very little sticks to it.
It makes a nice, non sticky dough.
I then did just a bit of stretch and fold as well, although that's not mentioned in the original recipe.

Shape the dough into a block and wrap in cling film or similar.  Place in the fridge for at least half an hour until the dough firms up.

Tear off a piece of parchment to fit a large baking sheet.  Flour it, the top of the dough and a rolling pin.  Place the dough in the middle of the parchment and roll it out very thin.  It should cover the paper.  Make it as even as possible.

Transfer the dough and the parchment onto the baking sheet.  Lightly brush with oil and sprinkle salt over the top.
Cut the dough into small squares or rectangles.  Prick each cracker with a fork.

Bake them for about 20 mins or so.  Check frequently near the end - there's a fine line between done and starting to scorch.

Remove from the oven, transfer the crackers to a cooling tray.
When cold, keep in an airtight tin for up to a week or they can be frozen (or so it says - I'd want to check that one).

They are so, so tasty.  crunchy, crispy and flavoursome.  Nice with butter, nice with cheese spread or a slice of cheddar.  They're disappearing rapidly . . .

I think they'd be lovely with some added finely grated cheese, maybe frugal not-parmesan.  I shall have to try it and see.

A very good reason for keeping sourdough starter discard!

A cheat's korma

It started off with a jar of Sharwood's korma sauce that I got from Approved Foods a while ago and which ought to be used up.

So this is what I did - amounts are vague because I didn't measure and anyway they really don't matter.

What I used
some butter
two small-ish onion, peeled and sliced
one sweet potato, peeled and chunked
some frozen red, green and yellow peppers (fresh would be fine)
some mushrooms, chopped
some chicken, chunked
some frozen peas
some fried apricots, sliced
a jar of korma paste as mentioned above
some boiling water, as needed

I sauteed the onions in the butter, then added the sweet potato and continued sauteeing.  Then in went the peppers and the chicken for a quick fry, followed by the mushroom, chicken and peas.

Then I poured in the sauce and some boiling water plus the apricots.  I brought it up to a simmer, put the lid on the pan and bunged it in a slow oven while I went over the road to tutor a child.

When I got back it was done!  And very tasty it was too with plenty left over for other days.