July 20, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 9:46 am

You know I moved a few weeks ago? I am now in a flat with some very nice but slightly squeamish girls. I heard them discussing how meat was a bit icky in general. Rare steak is apparently quite grim -  especially the blood. :roll: I think I might have some fun here. :twisted:

So the next few weeks might include some cute and fluffy ingredients or, even better, slimy things from the sea and “interesting” bits of offal. I’ve already had half a rabbit complete with liver and kidneys in our fridge. That went last night and now the lamb hearts are on display. Mwahahaha! 

I don’t think I can top James’s and Kirsten’s dad on this one though. Imagine coming home and finding half a pig’s head bubbling away on the hob!  

Now this is a good idea…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 9:37 am

No more tough chewy bunnies for me! :D

I started buying and cooking rabbit a couple of years ago but always had a bit of trouble with it. It was fine in little pieces, say in a rabbit supreme or in a paella, but rabbit joints would turn out very dry. I think I’ve discovered why.

I use lots of internet recipes and they will tell you to cook rabbit in liquid for about 40 minutes on gas mark 4. THEY ARE LYING!!! Long slow cooking is much better for rabbit joints. I tried it last night . I made rabbit with a dijon mustard sauce and mashed potato.

Rabbit with dijon mustard and mashed potato

I cooked the rabbit in liquid as usual but this time I had the oven at about 150 C (just below gas mark 3) and cooked it for two and a half hours.  When I came to eat it, the meat came off the bones easily.

The mustard sauce is pretty good too. I’m usually a bit ambivalent about rabbit. It’s got an interesting flavour but I prefer most other game meats. This sauce, however, complemented it well and I think I’ll carry on making sauces with more bite to go with rabbit. It was lovely mixed up with the mash too. Here’s the recipe.

July 19, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 8:49 am

I think I’ve found the signature dish for my imaginary restaurant.

Lavender Lamb with Butterbeans


Yes, I ate all that meat. It was that good. This is a rare leg of lamb roasted with lavender, rosemary and garlic and served with butterbeans crushed with cream and thyme and asparagus.  It tasted absolutely fantastic and made the whole kitchen smell of lavender.

I got the idea from the BBC food website’s page about cooking with flowers. After investigating the herb stalls in Borough Market, I came across some culinary lavender and then made up my mind to find a nice juicy lamb leg. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to get my hand on the last half leg in Tesco and rushed home to get it in the oven.

The recipe for this is suprisingly simple given how good it tasted. I made little slits all over the lamb leg and stuffed them with garlic and rosemary. Then I ground 1 tablespoon of lavender into a powder, rubbed it all over the leg and roasted the lamb until it was rare.

The flavours were incredibly good. I love rare lamb, and the combination of this with the subtle lavender and bursts of rosemary and garlic was fantastic.

The butterbeans were inspired by a dish I had in Solo in Leamington Spa. They did an excellent lamb neck fillet with creamy white beans. for my version I simmered the butterbeans in cream with fresh thyme and a little crushed garlic. I used a potato masher to crush them then added more cream until they were the consistency I wanted. Butterbeans don’t taste of much but have a great texture. Their lack of flavour is not a problem because they will take on the taste of any herb you cook with them

Recipes is here now. This is definitely one to try!

July 18, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 9:31 am

After all the cheap eating I’d been doing for the experiment, I felt like cooking something really extravagant. So I made “Penne with Wild Boar and Porcini Mushrooms and a Truffled Cream Sauce.”

Truffled Wild Boar Pasta

I got this idea from a meal I had a few years ago in Casa Vallee in Leamington Spa. It is still one of my favourite Italian restaurants, although I can’t really visit it anymore now. The dish is quite simple to make. I fried the boar with rosemary, thyme garlic and the mushrooms. The sauce is similar to a carbonara but has chopped thyme and rosemary added to it along with the pan juices from frying the boar, about a tablespoon of white truffle oil and the excess liquid squeezed from the soaked porcini. Before serving, I drizzled the pasta with more truffle oil and then served the pasta with a side of purple sprouting broccoli. 

I made a bit too much pasta and so the sauce was a bit sparse. Apart from that I was pleased with the outcome. The balance of flavours was good. Recipe is here.

On another note, I got to borrow a very interesting cookery book last week.

Women's Institute Poultry and Game Cookery Book

It’s an out of print Women’s Institute recipe book that belongs to Jean Skillen. It’s got some good game recipes in it but is even more interesting for the strange assortment of game animals in there.

There are some game birds which I hadn’t even heards of, lots of recipes for hare and one for rook. This one has got to be my favourite!

Squirrel Stew

So if you see me running around Hyde Park with a net, you know why! :wink:

July 17, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 8:50 am

It seems that even when I have half a week off cooking there is lots to write about!

After the experiment I felt the need for a little time off. Since then I’ve visited three Chelsea restaurants. I’ve put up reviews for all of them now. On Thursday night I visited Kishmish, an Indian restaurant on Fulham Road. This was very disappointing but things got much better afterwards when I visited Deep Seafood Restaurant. That was an expensive but very satisfying treat. The next lunchtime I had tapas at La Rueda on the King’s Road. There weren’t many Spanish places in Shepherds Bush so I was delighted to find somewhere so near my flat that does good tapas at reasonable prices.

My empty fridge on Friday morning necessitated another Borough Market trip. This time I returned with a rabbit, some wild boar, more ostrich (I can’t get enough ostrich!) duck eggs and some cooking lavender.

In need of cooking inspiration I made a trip to the Borders in Fulham. Borders bookstores always have a range of discounted cookery books. They tend not to be from the big famous chefs, but quite often you’ll find thick £4 paperbacks with lots of interesting recipes from one particular cuisine. This weekend I picked up a book of Thai recipes and something called “On The Grill” which has lots of interesting variations on Mediterranean dishes.


New Cook Books


 I also got a little black book so that I can make notes in restaurants for reviews and make the staff nervous. Hehe. :D

July 13, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 8:02 am

On the last day of the experiment I couldn’t decide what I wanted to make. I found some mackerel at about £5.40 per kilo. This seemed cheap for fish, so I thought I should include it in the experiment, but I eventually succumbed to my craving for pancakes.

I bought the mackerel anyway and decided to do an extra student recipe with it the following night. It had been years since I had eaten it and I could barely remember what it tasted like. There were a few recipes with mackerel and various citrus fruits on the web, so in the end I tried out mackerel and orange fishcakes.


Mackerel and Orange Fishcakes


Yes, I know it sounds strange, but it works - trust me! I would do it again. Sharp flavours go well with mackerel. Only a little orange juice and rind should go into the fishcakes so that the orange doesn’t dominate. If you have curry powder around, a little of this can go in too.

I accompanied the fishcakes with rice tossed with chopped coriander, which a lot of Indian shops sell very cheaply. I had peas too, but spinach would probably have been better. The ingredients for 6 fishcakes came to £3.14. That is anough for 3 normal meals or 2 huge ones. The breakdown of the cost is as follows.

£2.60 for mackerel
£0.20 for 300g potato.
£0.09 for half an orange.
£0.05 on curry powder
£0.14 on an egg
£0.06 on 3 slices bread.
Rice will be about 7p per person and frozen spinach would be about 11p. So that makes it £1.23 for a normal portion or £1.74 if you are really hungry. The eggs and bread were leftovers anyway! The full recipe is here.

Now I have had enough of all this cheapness! What am I going to do with all the money I saved? Probably go to Borough Market and buy Ostrich!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 7:31 am

I’ve collected all my receipts together (the ones I could find anyway) and come up with a pretty good estimate on this week’s spending.

It went something like this

£1.07 for cereal (A very large pack of Tesco sugar-free muesli). There is a fair bit left.
£0.96 for milk (3 pints Tesco semi-skimmed)
£0.38 for a loaf of bread. About 5 slices are left but it’s on its last legs.
£0.64 for on cucumber for sandwiches.
£1.50 on tuna for sandwiches
£0.74 on an enormous jar of Tesco low-cal mayonnaise. Suprisingly it’s nearly all gone!
£0.84 on eggs. A couple are left.
£1.65 for the smoked haddock dinner
£1.45 for spaghetti and meatballs
£1.63 for duck wih honey and ginger
£1.08 for the liver and pasta dish
£1.75 for pork chops and apple sauce
£1.08 for devilled kidneys
£1.65 for chicken and mushroom crepes
£1.90 for soft drinks
£1.40 for random snacking
That is £19.72 in total! Hooray! I did it in just under £20.

You might remember that I said I’d add all unused perishable items to the bill. The only thing I haven’t used is the other half of the aubergine that I cooked with the meatballs. I haven’t used it because someone has stolen it! :x   I would feel cheated if I added it to the bill.  

You’ll notice that on several days I cooked for two and split the cost. This made things cheaper and also meant I could get more variety in what I was eating. If you can’t do this, it doesn’t matter. You can halve the quantities in the recipes to make enough for one. Most of these dishes can be chilled and reheated too (although I recommend an oven on its lowest setting for this, not microwaves, which seem to destroy things.) 

So it seems that you can eat quite well on £20 per week. The only thing I felt I compromised on was lunch.  You don’t have to live near a Lidl or Morrison’s either. I did nearly all my shopping at the 24 hour Tesco and Sainsburys on my way home. Incidentally, Sainsbury sometimes does better prices on vegetables.

Very soon I’ll write a page on all the things I learnt from this week’s eating and put it with the student recipes.

July 12, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 7:56 am

When I was little, my favourite school dinner was mushroom crepes, chips and peas followed by butterscotch tart. No wonder I was a rather rotund 10 year old. My parents must have hopeful that I’d be following in their vegetarian footsteps, but that didn’t last long after i discovered lasagne.

Last night, I realised I had just about come to the end of the experiment and had three eggs and a fair bit of milk to get through. Pancakes seemed like the natural thing to make. I wanted mushroom crepes but, with all the walking I do each day, I wanted to add some protein. Chicken seemed like a natural choice and chicken legs at £2 per kilo were perfect for the experiment.

The crepes were more difficult to make than usual. I blame this entirely on my hall’s electric hobs. I’m glad I didn’t learn to cook on one of these. They are horendous! It would have put me off for life. It is impossible to control the temperature on them. I managed to burn a couple of crepes. :(  

The filling was made from the chicken legs, onion, mushroom, chicken stock, garlic and leftover cream. I’d found some reduced stringless beans to serve with the crepes and also added a couple of new potatoes.


Although there are only 2 crepes in the picture, there was another which i had later so it was a very big meal. It came to £1.65 excluding the eggs and milk. These added about 20p but made about 6 crepes, whereas 2 or 3 are enough for one serving.

1 1/2 chicken legs 0.80
Half pack reduced stringless beans 0.20
3 new potatoes 0.09
80g mushrooms 0.18
half onion 0.06
chicken stock 0.07
garlic, oil 0.05
cream 0.10
flour and margarine 0.10
Total 1.65

That is the most expensive dinner so far at about £1.85 but it was a good way of getting rid of some leftovers. Also if you cooked for 2, the extra crepes mean the price would work out to be  £1.75 per meal.  Here is the recipe.

Technically, with breakfast and lunch tomorrow, that should be the end of all this silliness. However there is one more thing I want to try, so one more student meal is on its way. The food shopping bill still needs to be checked (and there are a couple of things there that need clarification) but i’m reasonably sure it will be just short of £20.

July 11, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 7:51 am

Yes, there are things you can do with kidneys other than making pies.

Devilled kidneys were traditionally eaten for breakfast during Edwardian times. The kidneys are cooked in a gravy of worcestershire sauce, mustard, cayenne pepper and stock to give a slightly spicy dish with lots of flavour. The usual accompaniment is toast but, when this is replaced with mashed potato, devilled kidneys make a great evening meal.

Lamb kidneys, like liver, are very cheap. They cost around £5 per kilo. They also vary in texture and flavour depending on how you cook them. I’ve never been too keen on the kidneys in steak pies so, for this dish, I seared them in small pieces and then let the residual heat from the “devilled” sauce cook them until they were pink in the center. The result was suprisingly tasty.

Devilled Kidneys, mash and peas

The only problem with kidneys I found is coring them. That is removing the tough white bit from the middle. This is a nuisance, but I guess you should expect to do some work if you buy meat that cheap.

The meal cost about £1.10 for a portion.

200g kidneys 0.51
300g white potatoes 0.12
100g peas 0.12
half an onion 0.06
cream for mashing 0.05
lamb stock 0.07
cayenne, oil, flour  
worcestershire sauce,mustard 0.15
Total 1.08

The recipe is here. Now I’ve spent about £17.50 which leaves me with £2.50 for tonight. Shouldn’t be a problem. :)

July 10, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 2:30 pm

I hate Sundays. Last night wasn’t the first time I’d been stuck hungry at 6pm with only the “Express” and “Local” shops open. Even worse, these little stores don’t tend to stock the kind of student food I’m looking for. They’re fine if you want pot noodle. But if you’re cooking from scratch you’re stuck with popular middle range products.

The best I could get my hands on were a couple of pork chops for £2.19. They were pretty big but had a bit of fat on them. They would have to do. I thought pork chops, apple sauce and mash would be possible. I had half a savoy cabbage left too. 

For some reason I hadn’t noticed that, since moving out of my last house, I had no potato masher and no potato peeler. The trials of living in halls! So the mash had to be replaced with rice.

The breakdown should have gone like this:

2 pork chops 2.19
600g white potatoes 0.24
 half cabbage 0.32
2 golden delicious apples 0.38
half onion 0.06
stock 0.07
herbs, garlic 0.06
single cream 0.15
Total 3.47

With rice it turned out a little bit cheaper. Some of the cream was replaced with milk and butter. This was the result. Again i was having issues with my camera- but nevermind. You can just about see it.

Pork with apple sauce

I hadn’t wanted to spend this much at this stage- but the Sunday trading laws had made frugality impossible. Still, at approximately £1.70 per portion it wasn’t the end of the world. It was fairly good. Mash would have been better but I couldn’t really nip out and buy equipment on a Sunday. Recipes will follow for all of these eventually. 

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