Wednesday, 30 July 2014

#onepoundpantry - Wednesday

Tonight I cooked beetroot ravioli for my housemate and I, and given that I was not at work today I had a little extra time to spend. Saying that, dinner probably only took an hour from start to finish once the ingredients were in place.

Yesterday, aforementioned housemate bought a bunch of beetroot for £1 from the '£1 a bowl' man on the corner. I gave them a good wash before drying them and putting them in a roasting pan on a bed of sea salt and thyme stalks I had dried in a cupboard. This was fully enclosed with a foil lid and popped into the oven at 180C for about 45 minutes. The beetroot need to be cooked until they are tender so check them from 30 minutes onwards as their size will affect cooking times.

Once they were cooked I left them to cool with the foil still on the tray, allowing them to steam as this makes the skins much easier to remove - when they're cool enough to handle, that is, and wearing rubber gloves! Once they were cool I blitzed them in my food processor with seasoning and a little cream cheese I needed to use up to make a purée. I should mention at this point that some of my beetroot a turned out to be golden, and others pink, so I decided to make not one purée but two, in different colours. I kept a couple of little beetroots back for later.

Then I got onto making pasta. I bought a box of mixed weight free range eggs for £1 and beat two larger ones together. Once clean and dry, I used the food processor to blitz 200g of type 00 flour I need to use up on the cupboard with a good couple of pinches of salt. Then, with the motor running, I drizzled in the beaten egg just until the mixture looked like couscous. You will probably need to use all of the egg. If it clumps together, add a little more flour. You can mix it together by hand as well. Once you have the mix, knead it for 10minutes before leaving it to rest wrapped in cling film for half an hour; if it feels too dry, leave it to rest with a damp tea towel covering it instead. 

After half an hour, you're ready to roll! I have a pasta machine at home I bought for less than €20 on holiday in France that has served my needs fine, but if not you can roll it out by hand with a rolling pin. Dust surfaces with flour before you start and keep extra pasta covered with a damp cloth. Extra pasta sheets need to be dusted with semolina while you work on filling the others.

I worked out the sizing of my ravioli and used piping bags to pipe beetroot filling onto a sheet of pasta before carefully laying another sheet on top so that the edges matched together.

Then I used the blunt edges of a small cookie cutter to 'seal' the filling in the middle of the ravioli and cut them out with a larger one - but you could equally use a knife.

I put a large pan of salted water on to boil while I made a mint butter by melting a large knob of butter in a pan until it sizzled before adding wedges of the cooked beetroot I'd kept back. Once these had browned I added finely shredded mint leaves from the garden.

The ravioli take about 2 minutes to cook and can then be tossed in or drizzled with the butter - which would also work well with toasted pine nuts. Tonserve, I alternated the ravioli with the different colour fillings and piped on top some of the beetroot purées. Beautiful to eye and to palate!

TOTAL #onepoundpantry SPEND: £2

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

#onepoundpantry - Tuesday

Today's dinner made use of some turkey breast fillets from the freezer, a nice lean form of protein, and some frozen bacon, which is less so! Whilst not entirely the weather for it, the crushed potato-topped turkey and bacon pie with tarragon gravy was delicious.

I chopped an onion and softened this with defrosted and trimmed bacon rashers before adding the defrosted turkey, cut into bite-sized pieces. This was seasoned well and once the turkey was cooked I added some tarragon I found lurking in the fridge. I let the mixture simmer a little before adding some finely shredded green cabbage I bought for 69p. This all released a fair bit of liquid, so I added some flour to thicken the sauce. Meanwhile I boiled some new potatoes donated from a relative's weekly veg box - a bag every week seems to overwhelm them in summer and they were about to sprout! Once the potatoes were cooked, I crushed a few and used them as a topping for some of the turkey and bacon mixture in a mini casserole. I dotted a little butter on too, seasoned with salt and pepper and put it in the oven at 180C for about 15 minutes. 

And lovely it was too!

TOTAL #onepoundpantry COST: 69p

Monday, 28 July 2014

#onepoundpantry Monday

Todays's #onepoundpantry dinner was pork tenderloin with fennel and apple.

I bought and froze a couple of pork tenderloins that had been reduced in the supermarket a while ago, for a bargainous £1.99 for 400g, each one enough to feed two comfortably with this recipe or three with some added carbs such as mash or roast potato. This cut of pork can be cut into 150-200g pieces and cooked on a bed of fennel, apple and onion slices in a greaseproof parcel for each diner.

For my dinner, I thinly sliced the fennel bulb, bought for 80p at my local market, as well as an onion and two eating apples from a value bag. I sliced a couple of cloves of garlic as thinly as I could and tossed the vegetables together with olive oil, a little dried thyme from the cupboard and seasoning before laying in the bottom of a roasting pan. I trimmed fat and sinew from the defrosted tenderloin before seasoning it, drizzling it with oil and placing this on top of the vegetables into the oven at 180C. It took about 40-45 minutes to cook; check the juices run clear and if you have a meat probe use this on the thickest part of the meat.

Slice the tenderloin, place on top of some of the veg and dinner is served!

TOTAL #onepoundpantry COST: 80p

#onepoundpantry posts - the introduction!

Having thoroughly enjoyed cooking my way through a #FoodieWorldCup, stretching my culinary knowledge and techniques with dishes like Ghanaian Fotor, Brazilian Coxinhas and tea-smoked salmon for Russian blinis, I need a new challenge.

Times are a bit tough at the moment. Earlier in the year, my time managing a training cafe came to an end. Whilst I've had a fantastic culinary journey since then, learning abundantly through my time at Ashburton Chefs Academy, having lots of trial shifts in various kitchens and now working part-time at a fantastic restaurant, I am yet to establish what Sarah Serves does next for a stable income. This is all really exciting but it does mean the purse strings are fraying.

How to discover your personal OCD: Step 1.
However, one of the side benefits to this is that I've also got a bit more time at home than usual, and something this has been good for is reorganising my kitchen and having a good clear out! Not only are my cupboards slowly becoming more organised and tidy, but I've also found long-forgotten exciting and exotic ingredients at the back of cupboards that I'm looking forward to using. It's also time I emptied out my freezer to make way for BBQ meats, homemade icecreams and all those lovely summer berries growing out there ready for pies, sorbets and smoothies.

So it made perfect sense to put this together with my need for a new cooking at home challenge, and it starts today.

The principles of #onepoundpantry are simple:

  • For my main meal each day, I have to use what is available in my cupboards or freezer, given to me by friends growing vegetables or genuinely leftover from my sessions volunteering for FoodCycle Wandsworth
  • If I have to supplement the ingredients, I am only allowed to spend £1 per meal. If I need to spend more than that, I have to have the money 'in the bank' - it needs to be leftover from the day before. 
  • I'm starting the week with a few pantry staples, such as onions and garlic, milk and butter, and a reasonably occupied fruit bowl. 
  • If I'm cooking for more than one, I am allowed to accept ingredients from other diners up to a value of £1 per head, but need to try not to.
I appreciate that these rules are nowhere near as admirably stringent as challenges such as the breadline challenge or the belowtheline challenge. I'm using things in the freezer that I spent money on already, I'm not taking into account the cost of running my hob or oven, I'm ignoring how much it costs to grow the vegetables I'm given to use. The point of this personal undertaking is to do my little bit to help eliminate my food waste, save money and to make you, my readers, think about what's lurking in your cupboards and freezers unloved and unused. And to prove that you can have delicious dinners for not much dosh! I'm going to start by doing this for a week and see how I get on. You can see from the picture that there are a few exciting packets in my cupboards and there is no way I'm getting through the lot in one week. Why not have a try at this with me and let me know how you are getting on? You can follow my facebook page for updates, or tweet with the hashtag #onepoundpantry.

Good Luck!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Easy Cheesy!

Once upon a time, Christmas and birthday presents for me meant hair gadgetry, nail varnish or makeup. In the past few years, there has been a discernible shift as family and friends realise that this cookery malarky has gone way beyond being a hobby, and to reflect this, presents too have shifted towards food gadgetry and plate-up. A good thing too, hot kitchens, where hair is firmly scraped away from my face, melt most warpaint and pretty nails are now my stuff of legend.

Two of the most favourite of my foodie friends bought me 'The Big Cheese Making Kit' for my birthday this year and, spurred on by the fun I was having with my #FoodieWorldCup challenge, I decided to give it a go. As it turns out, whilst the kit makes a great present, with the process neatly packaged and cute, it is by no means obligatory as the ingredients are readily available on a high street near you. It is also almost disappointingly easy, and takes no more than an hour from start to finish. In fact you could, as I did, start your pizza dough, get your passata on the hob reducing away happily and make mozzarella so that the whole thing comes together in time to pop a delicious <insertfavouritepizzahere> into the oven for dinner! I started with mozzarella and plan to give ricotta a go soon, and may commence a quest for world cheese domination shortly afterwards. All I need is ready access to vast lakes of milk. And probably someone else to do the icky cow-rearing stuff for me.

What you will need (makes approx 900g):

  • 8 pints milk - fresh, full fat stuff! Don't use UHT. I resisted the urge to bulk-buy buffalo milk in Waitrose as this would be a) very expensive and b) a bit mental for my first go.
  • 1.5tsp citric acid - this is available from Asian supermarkets and will keep long enough for you to use for next year's elderflower cordial (click link for my blog on how!). It coagulates the milk and causes it to separate.
  • 1/4 of a rennet tablet - traditionally, rennet is enzymes derived from animal stomach linings, but vegetarian rennet is readily available in supermarkets and chemists and is what was provided in the kit. It helps the curds to set and keeps very well in your freezer
  • A large, heavy-bottomed pan (capable of holding aforementioned 8 pints of milk) with a lid
  • A long knife - a bread knife will do
  • A large slotted spoon
  • Rubber gloves - fairly thick preferably to protect your hands from heat
  • A thermometer - food temperature probes are, in my opinion, an incredibly useful bit of kit. Try to get one that will withstand temperatures for deep frying, making caramel and warming to 'blood heat', preferably digital for accuracy.

How to do it:

  • Dissolve the rennet in one ramekin of 50ml room temperature boiled water and the citric acid in another.
  • Pour the milk into the pan and add the citric acid solution. Stir thoroughly up and down - I used a potato masher to "mash" the mixture.
  • Heat the milk to 32.2°C, stirring frequently to ensure it heats evenly.
  • Once the temperature has been reached, remove the pan from the heat and gently "mash" in the rennet solution for 30 seconds. Then put the pan on the lid and leave it to have a think for 20 minutes.
  • After this time there the mixture will have separated into solid curds on the surface and yellowy-green whey liquid underneath.  Use the knife to cut the curds into 3cm cubes.

Whey-hey! (Apologies, it had to be done)

  • Put the pan back on the heat and warm to 40.5°C whilst gently moving the curds with the slotted spoon. They will break up at this point, and that's ok.
  • Use the slotted spoon to remove the curds into a microwavable bowl, or gently drain the curds in a colander and tip into the bowl. 
  • Microwave the curds on high power for one minute, before draining off excess whey, putting on those rubber gloves and kneading and folding the hot cheese (congratulations, you now have cheese!) for 30 seconds, removing as much whey as possible. 
  • Microwave for another 30 seconds, add 1 tsp salt (preferably flakey sea salt) and knead and fold the cheese for another 30 seconds. The more you knead the cheese, the firmer it will be. 
  • Microwave for another 30 seconds then continue to fold and stretch the hot cheese. At this stage, feel free to add herbs like basil or oregano, chilli flakes or chopped sundried tomatoes to jazz up the mozzarella. If the cheese doesn't stretch easily, microwave it for another 30 seconds as it needs to be too hot to handle with bare hands.
  • When the cheese is smooth, elastic and shiny, shape it into balls however you like. It can be eaten immediately but if possible, pop it into a bowl of iced water to cool it down and help it keep its shape. 

The cheese will last for up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge but should not be stored in water. Leftover whey can be used in bread making (such as that pizza base!) or for soups, smoothies, soaking pulses or even in a bath! There will be quite a bit so it can be frozen and safely stored for up to three months. 

If you don't have a microwave, once the curds have been drained, heat the reserved whey to 82.2°C, shape the curd into two or three lumps and put them into a sieve. Dip them into the hot whey for a minute, remove from the liquid, knead and add the salt. repeat this until the cheese is smooth and elastic before shaping and storing as above. 

It was great fun to make and tasted just like it should. I like my mozzarella to be so soft that it's falling apart, which mine wasn't, leaning more towards the firmness of large blocks available in the supermarket, and this meant its melting capabilities were a little under-par. But I'm definitely giving it another go soon. 

Pizza night, anyone?