Food for Free

No, I’m talking about foraging today. I’m thinking about those “stealth” free foods that live in my freezer. You might remember I talked about my top ten freezer favourites last week.  Today I want to introduce you to a few things that make my life easier and feed us practically for free.

  1. Spicy chicken wings. Every time we buy a whole chicken, I cut off the wings before cooking. Save them up in a tub or a bag in the freezer and next time BBQ season comes around defrost them, steep in a spicy marinade of oil, soy sauce, chilli flakes and fresh ginger. Roast in a hot oven or cook on the BBQ for a tasty snack that has cost you almost nothing.
  2. Pizza toppings. Next time you open a jar of pasata, scoop out a couple of tablespoons and freeze in a small tub.  If you paid attention last week, you can use this to top a small pizza base, add a few frozen veg, some herbs and some of that frozen grated cheese and voila – an pizza snack for one. Serve with a baked potato and salad for a perfect Friday night tea
  3. Save left over chilli, curry or stews and freeze in individual servings. They make perfect ready meals and can easily be stretched by adding frozen left over rice, pasta or frozen vegetables.
  4. Pea soup –  a bag of  frozen peas makes a quick soup, add some frozen ham leftovers or mint for flavour.  There’s a great quick pea soup recipe on the BBC Food website. We grow our own garlic and onions, so I tend to think of them as free food.
  5. End of the week soup. OK, so not strictly free. Most of us find a few veg lurking in the fridge or veg basket at the end of the week. Use a decent stock cube if you don’t have fresh stock in the freezer (or  look out for 9 Meals from Anarchy stock (see link in sidebar (not sponsored).  Chopped onions, garlic and herbs can be used for flavour. BBC Good Food website has some great recipes for soup you can make from leftovers. Even a potato and a couple of carrots can make a delicious soup. Top with some of that frozen grated cheese and a few toasted nuts or seeds (again you can make a batch and store in the freezer).

Feeding yourself and your family quickly and cheaply is an art form. You can learn it and passing these skills on to your kids prepares them for when they inevitably leave home. You might also like to take a look at my store  cupboard staples page and stock up your kitchen. Next week I’ll be sharing five quick and delicious meals you can cook from the store cupboard – you might be surprised!

Save

Save

Save

Save

On the Table and In the Garden in January

carrot-soupHow did it get to be February already? Every time I wander into the garden I see more signs of spring, the bulbs are peeking through and the early snowdrops are starting to flower. I know that we might still see snow, but just for today I’m thnking we might be at the tail end of winter.

January on the table was mostly about soups, hearty stews and substantial puddings. We needed “stodge” to see us through the cold, dark afternoons. I stuck pretty close to my January meal plan and it has definitely saved us money (a household bill of £193). Scroll down to the end of this post if you’re interested in what we spent and how we could save more. The highlight was Diana Henry’s book Simple, which has fed us well. Our favourite has to be the Red Lentil and Pumpkin Dal, which also wins the prize for “meal that most looked the picture in the book”. We also swapped out the pumpkin for sweet potato a couple of times, equally delicious.

diana-henry-dal

You can pop over here to Diana’s website for a list of her books and some great recipes. It’s hard to recommend just one of her books, I love them all. She “sits” on the shelf between Nigel Slater and Sophie Grigson. I like to think of it as the  “hope they are as nice in real life as they write and appear on tv” category! Talking of Nigel Slater, his easy  Hot Chocolate Pudding from Appetite has appeared on the table more than once. Served with a dollop of creme fraiche it doesn’t photograph well, but it’s so easy and delicious. The recipe is available online on the Telegraph website, so why not pop over and give it a try. It’s the perfect last minute bake and gluten free, which is a bonus.

hot-choc-pudding

As we move into February, I’m starting to think about plans for the veg plot. Last year we stuck to “old favourites” like peas, onions and potatoes. This year I’d like to be more adventurous again. Of course the fruit bushes and artichokes look after themselves, giving regular crops. This makes me a bit lazy and I must learn not to rely on the perennials. We still have a few leeks in the ground and onions in storage, and I’ve noticed the herb pots in the greenhouse are starting to look more “awake”. The parsley has seen us right through the winter and it looks like the chives and oregano I hid in a corner have fresh growth. I wish we had put more potatoes in pots, it was such a joy to have home grown “new” potatoes at Christmas, but they didn’t last long.  The daffodils and early bulbs are making strong growth, and the woodpecker is still visiting daily. The Goldfinches are still perching on the fennel heads, in the vain hope they might have missed a few seeds, and they sulk if the bird feeder gets too empty. The robins (we still have two regular visitors) are so bold now, they hop at our feet every time we venture out. Sometimes I oblige them by digging over a small patch of earth or pulling back a few dead leaves, which seems to make them very happy. I know it’s wrong to give them human characteristics, but they do seem to puff up and look so pleased with themselves when they root out a small grub from the freshly dug soil.

Indoors, I have been working hard on new designs. I still haven’t got much to share as contracts insist I keep things a secret, but work is steady and that’s a good thing. Don’t forget, if it’s mostly the knitting and crochet you’re looking for, head over here for updates on my latest pattern releases.

So, that was January. Dull, damp and gloomy it may have been. But our house was filled with laughter, good company and great food. That has to be a “win” surely?

Happy making x

 

What we ate and what we spent in January

Mostly, we stuck to the meal plan for January, and our household bills came to £193. I think that’s pretty good, especially as we both work from home, that works out at about £6 a day for all our food, cleaning products, toothpaste and toiletries. Of course we’re lucky that a well stocked freezer and larder mean we always have access to  herbs, spices and every day essentials. And, it certainly helps that we have garden produce. I did think about ways we could cut down this bill if we had to and came up with a few things I’m just not prepared to compromise on. When Mr T was made redundant many years ago, we mostly lived on value ranges –  bread (10p a loaf), beans (3p a tin) and tinned tomatoes (7p) – I feel so lucky that we came through that scary year unscathed and still able to live well. I also believe (perhaps wrongly) that supermarkets are still led by customer demand, so if I keep buying Fairtade or British products they’ll respond by offering more and better choices.

So here’s my “no compromise” list

Local meat, often from the farm gate or butchers I trust – supermarket own brand would be cheaper I know.

Decent coffee, usually Fairtrade – we only drink one cup a day and even buying top of the range is still cheaper than I’ve seen people pay in “Costabucks for a latte!

Organic, local, fresh in season veg – using what we have definitely saves us money – but I won’t give up my Fairtade bananas!

Tinned beans and pulses – yes, dried are cheaper.  After a busy day it’s so much easier to reach for a can of lentils or chick peas, these are my “ready meals”.

Indulgences we could do without

We’re still working our way through the dozen bottles of wine we bought at Christmas – dry January? Not in this house!

 

 

 

 

 

What We Ate in 2016

chocolate covered candied peel

Candies orange peel – we used the juice to make a citrus cheesecake.

Looking back over last years food diary, it would appear the Todhunters ate very well. Inspired by Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Dairies, last year I resolved to keep a journal of what we grew, cooked and ate. I am starting to regret not blogging about it here – especially when I checked the stats yesterday and realised just how many of you still visit this website every day (far more than my “official website”). So, in case any of you are interested, or simply looking for a bit of frugal food inspiration for the year ahead here are a few highlights.

Delicious lemon buns from Bake me a Cake as Fast as You Can

Delicious lemon buns from Bake Me a Cake as Fast as You Can

All our meals  are inspired by the cookery books on my kitchen shelves and local library.  The most thumbed is a school exercise book which contains hand written recipes dating back to my student days – when we ate frugal food because we had to, not because it tasted so good!! These days, we just eat the food we like. It happens that we grow a lot of our herbs and veg, so we eat seasonally.

A glut of radishes meant we discovered lots of great recipes

A glut of radishes meant we discovered lots of great recipes

We grew lots of old favourites and ate well on the produce from our home veg plot.

New potatoes, grown in the green house and dug up for Christmas lunch

New potatoes, grown in the green house and dug up for Christmas lunch

The highlight of 2016 had to be Rachel Allen’s Nectarine Frangipane, which I made for New Year. It’s been on my list of recipes to try for most of the year, but the right occasion never presented itself. You can find the recipe in Rachel’s book Every Day Kitchen. We eat from this book at least once a month, the fish curry  is a firm favourite. Sadly, we demolished this too quickly for me to pause and take a photo – and young Miss T and her boyfriend took the left overs home with them! You can find a link to the Frangipane recipe on my Baking and Making Pinterest board. You cn also find a selection of recipes on Rachel’s website.

So, happy 2017 and welcome back to the Baking and Making blog. I just want to thank all of you who have dropped by over the past few months expecting something new and been disappointed.  I shall be adding a page with my favourite  store cupboard ingredients shortly and a page listing my January meal plan. As the year progresses I’ll add links to the recipes as we make them. If you have any recommendations for frugal, tasty family food I would love to see them, so leave me a link to your blog or Instagram.

Happy making x

Save

Save

Recipe: Salads with a Twist

I love beetroot, jewel colours, tiny globes of sweet flavour which brighten up winter mealtimes. Yet, for most people, mention beetroot and their first thought is the vinegar steeped slices bought from the supermarket. If you can get hold of fresh beetroot it’s truly delicious, easy to cook, versatile and very good for you. You can even eat the tiny young leaves in a salad.

LOWRESthenaturalvegmen_3143Earlier this week, I picked up a bunch of tiny, overwintered beetroot from the Veg Men (I wrote about them here). I decided to make a salad for lunch, using up a few left overs from the fridge, added some slivers of Gabriel Blue (a ewe’s milk cheese) bought from my favourite Cockermouth deli last weekend and a few slices of baked beetroot. Looking for a bit of added “crunch” I made some candied nuts as a gluten free alternative to croutons. Here’s how you can recreate your own version. Mix and match your flavours to suit what you have. Think of it as a twist on the classic goats cheese salad you find on so many restaurant menus and experiment.

sliced beetrootThe Basics

150g of mixed salad leaves (either home grown or find a local producer)

100g candied walnuts or pecans (see below for instructions)

75g goats cheese (I used a blue ewe’s milk because that’s what I had – and I didn’t weigh it – a small handful should suffice) chopped into small cubes.

3 or 4 small baked beetroot (see below for instructions)

A simple dressing made with 3 tablespoons  walnut oil and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

Method

Whisk together the oil and vinegar to make the dressing. Shred the salad leaves, slice the beetroot and combine all the ingredients in a large salad bowl. Leave to stand for a few minutes for the flavours to develop beofre serving.cheese and walnut salad

Candied Nuts

The ideal nut for this salad would be walnuts –  the eagle eyed among you will spot I used pecans – that’s what I had in the cupboard! To be honest, that’s what I’d use again, the flavour of cooked pecans worked really well with the blue cheese.

1 tablespoon of dark muscovado sugar

3 tablespoons of water

100g nuts

Mix the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved, add the nuts and stir until well covered in the syrup.

Pour onto a baking tray lined with silicone paper or baking parchment and cook at gas mark 6 for about 5-7 minutes. Start checking after five minutes, you want the nuts cooked, but not burnt. Leave to cool. The nuts can be stored in an airtight jar for about a week. They make a great snack too.

As a variation you could substitute maple syrup for the sugar, add a little ground ginger, plenty of sea salt and perhaps even a little paprika. Combine with a small bag of mixed nuts and make the perfect gluten free nibble to serve with drinks. These may take a little longer to cook, in my oven I give them 10 minues.

Baked Beetroot

Wash the beetroot, but don’t scrub. It’s important not to break the skin or the colour will “bleed”. Trim off the leaves, leaving about 1cm of stalk and  then trim the roots. Place in a shallow baking dish and add a little water (as a general rule I add a tablespoon for each beetroot). Cover with foil and bake at gas mark 2 for about an hour. The baking time depends on the size of your beetroots, “golf ball” size take about an hour, larger ones will take longer).

Once cooked, leave to cool before trimming the stalks and roots. You can then peel them if you wish and add them to salads, make a delicious dip or make a puree.

Veg Men salad

When I was a little girl, a “salad” meant a slice of lettuce, tomato, cucumber and if we were really pushing the boat out, slices of hard boiled egg. This would be smothered in Heinz salad dressing. Today, we eat some kind of salad almost every day. Even if you only have  a small plot or a window ledge, it’s easy enought o grow a few salad leaves. Even during the winter you’d be surprised what will grow.

Save

Recipe: Elderflower Champagne

The elderflowers are here! Just a few sunny days and they’ve gone from tiny, tight buds to full bloom and I’m ready to spring into action. First up is the annual batch of Elderflower Champagne. Always a big hit at summer barbeques, I try to make plenty, but there are so many delicious things to make with this crop that there never seems to be enough. This June seems to have been  so much warmer and sunnier than last year, let’s hope that’s a good indication of how summer will be this year. So, in anticipation of  glorious summer evenings sitting outside with good food, friends and family , here is my 20 years old and never failed yet recipe for elderflower champagne:

6 – 8 heads of elderflower, picked warm from the sun on a dry day

4 litres of boiled and slightly cooled water

500g granulated sugar

juice and finely chopped zest of 2 large organic  and unwaxed  lemons

2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar

Method

In a non metallic container:

Dissolve the sugar in the water, add the lemon zest and juice allow to cool, add the remaining ingredients, cover and leave for 4 – 5 days in a warm, dark place (I put mine under the sink as the airing cupboard gets too hot).

Then, strain through a double layer of muslin into a jug and pour into glass screw top bottles. Don’t screw the lids too tightly (I screw mine on then undo a quarter turn just to be sure). Leave for 4-5 days in the dark. Check the contents are beginning to fizz, if not leave and check daily. After a week or as soon as the bottles are effervescent, tighten lids and store in the fridge.

Ours get drunk quickly so I’ve no idea how long the bottles last unopened. But according to River Cottage, they should last several months. And, if you aren’t used to making your own wines or cordials, this might prove helpful.

Just a couple of tips if this is your first time making hedgerow drinks, cordials etc:

Do make sure you shake the flowers thoroughly to dislodge any bugs – and do rinse the flowers thoroughly! (2015 update – the Elder tree is full of Cockchafers!)

You might find it easier to strip the flowers from the stalk if you rake them with a fork (hold the flowers over a large bowl to catch them as they fall).

Finally, whatever you do, don’t be tempted to try and stuff the flowers into a narrow necked bottle.I’ve seen lots of these photos on Instagram this year –  and while it makes a great photo – it’s a real chore to try and strain the liquid. Keep your pretty bottles for storing the finished drink or giving as gifts!

Don’t forget to sterilise your bottles (any decent preserving book will advise you).

I’ll be sharing some of my other  favourite elderflower recipes later, including a flavured gin, cordial and the ever popular elderflower curd.

And yes, I have blogged this recipe before. Some readers said they had trouble finding it, so here it is again in full.

Enjoy x

 

 

 

 

  • Follow Me

  • I’m Tracey Todhunter. I’m a freelance writer. specialising in green / ethical living – with a “sideline” in craft!

  • Follow Baking and Making on WordPress.com
  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Today I have been planning recipes, working on new design commissions - and tidying my small, but perfectly formed  stash of beautiful British wool!
#bririshwool #britishfibre #wool #stashenhancement #minimalism #knittersofinstagram #crochet Slow down, look around you and see the beauty in small things. Breathe fresh air, watch sunsets, make time for friendship, love and laughter. 
A bit philosophical for a wet Tuesday morning, felt the need to remind myself there is beauty in the ordinary. 
#slowliving #naturelovers #foraging #permaculture #homesteading #keepthewildinyou #hedgerows #beautyintheordinary Major dessert envy last night - Mr T chose the baked alaska - need to go back & try this for myself! Delicious food, great service & my "Heaton Mess" was delicious!! Oh and the gin menu - superb! If you find yourself in Newcastle check this place out - Chillingham Rd. Xxx
#heaton #puddinglove #newcastle #eatingout #instafood #foodphotography #bakedalaska Passionflower. One of the joys of our holiday this year was stumbling across the unexpected. We walked past a garden fence covered in these flowers & their ripening fruit. In my schoolgirl French I asked the elderly gentleman if I could take a photo, in better English than my French he invited us in to admire his plot. You can read more about him on the blog, where I've also been writing about how having too much can be a good thing - even if you're a minimalist!
#slowliving #minimalism #permaculture #ediblegarden #girlgardener #zerowaste #livingwithless #bakingandmaking #homesteading #simplethings Star baker! Finally got a photo of me wearing my new sweatshirt, bought from @mirandagorebrowne I ♥♥♥ it so much. The fabric is soft, it fits really well and now washed 3 times it still looks like new! Go buy one before they sell out (also available: "nice buns" & "jammy dodger")
#starbaker #gbbo #kitchenschool #bakemeacakeasfastasyoucan  #bakersofinstagram #baking #lovelythings #instafood #eatme I miss this view so much. Even our current view of sunset over the wheat fields can't compare to a French field of sunflowers!
#naturelover #sunflowers #yellow #countryliving #slowliving #simplethings #keepthewildinyou #floral #seaofflowers #seekthesimplicity #pursuepretty
  • Previously on the blog…

  • Recent Posts

  • Categories

  • Currently Reading (not sponsored): No Serial Number

  • Products I love (not sponsored): 9 Meals from Anarchy Veg Stock

  • Engaging the Public with Climate Change (Co Author):

  • Crochet: Learn It, Love It (Author)

  • Woman’s Weekly Guide to Crochet (Author):

  • The Drift Collection (Contributor):

  • Whimsical Hats (Contributor):

  • Hand Made (Contributor):

  • Dorling KIndersely Guide to Crochet (Contributor)

  • The Legal Stuff: