Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Navarin of Lamb

My friends got me a copy of the official Economy Gastronomy book, which was fitting, given what I do here. One of the recipes that was found on the book that I have been meaning to try since watching the first episode of the programme was the Navarin of Lamb, basically a tomato-based lamb casserole, which appeared to be a very easy gastropub-style dish. As the only Sainsbury's Basics lamb items all had bones however, I was originally doing a Navarin of Beef, using the Basics Casserole Beef that I have featured previously, until I came along this little gem.

This was recently introduced to the Basics line, and is originally meant to be used for roasting. As a result, it is very well-marbled with fat, so that the lamb can remain moist and tender while in the oven. With this in mind, on hindsight, I should have taken the trouble to either render or trim the fat away from the lamb, so that the result would not have been so oily. Still, at £4.19 per kg it is possibly the cheapest boneless red meat by weight; £2.72 can easily serve three to four. By contrast, the neck of lamb that the recipe calls for costs £10.70 per kg at Sainsbury's, although in both cases one would probably get better prices at the local butcher.

The Navarin of Lamb requires bite-sized pieces, so prepare the lamb breast accordingly. I found the meat rather tough to cut, which is to be expected, coming from the front of the animal, hence being more suited for slow-cooking.

Once that is done, coat the pieces in flour, and fry in an oiled pan until golden. If possible, try to use the fat from the lamb to oil the pan for extra flavour. The flour would combine with the fat to form a roux, which will thicken the subsequent sauce that it is to form the base for.

Fry an entire chopped onion and a head of garlic, cut horizontally.

Once the onions have caramelised, add Basics white wine, and reduce by half.

It's only very recently that the Sainsbury's in my area introduced Basics White Wine to complement the Red Wine they already offer. Either that, or I've not been very attentive when searching for this. Unfortunately, like its red counterpart, it is found severely wanting. The main problem with this wine is that it lacks any flavour whatsoever, and drinking it one is reminded of very diluted turpentine.

The fruity flavours are certainly there. Just not there in adequate force. Still, for a cheap cooking wine where its flavour is not meant to be noticed it would do.

Add a can of tomatoes and the lamb, reduce by half again.

Finally, add chicken stock and season with Basics herb mix, reducing by half once more, leaving for an hour.

The finished product, not shown in this post, should be a thick, dark red sauce with lamb that quite literally melts in your mouth. Possibly one of the more successful posts of this blog. Consider also that neck of lamb at Sainsbury's costs more than the Basics lamb breast, and one will realise that we have actually managed to improve on the original recipe in terms of cost efficiency.

(with apologies and gratitude to Paul Merrett, for the original recipe. Show your thanks by visiting his gastropub someday.)

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Lamb Breast£4.19/kg (typical 650g)3-4N/AN/A; no equivalent
Spanish White Wine£2.53750mlvariableBetter wine. Recommended

Friday, 25 September 2009

Garlic Baguette and San Marco Pizza

It has been a long work week, so I was planning to get dinner done with as little effort as possible. Thankfully, I have planned ahead and had some items in the freezer waiting to be used. Tonight's dinner then, was garlic bread together with some frozen pizza that I shared with my flatmate.
I rarely bought this, since I rarely ate garlic bread, preferring to just have pizza alone for dinner, but generally this is considered to alright even when compared to its regular counterpart. However, I decided to make this post because I have a more important message I need to get across to you, dear readers.

And that is this: DO NOT BUY SAN MARCO PIZZA. IT IS NOT WORTH YOUR MONEY, RISK TO YOUR HEALTH, OR THE TORTURE YOU IMPOSE ON YOUR TASTEBUDS. San Marco is made by Northern Foods, a dominant player in the frozen and convenience food industry, and originator of the ubiquituous Goodfella's brand of frozen pizzas. To this day, why they would decide to sully their reputation with San Marco is quite beyond me.

The pepperoni on this pizza, as you can see, does not compare even to the Basics pepperoni I've used in several of my posts. The amount of pepper is pitiful to the point that they shouldn't even have bothered. But perhaps the single greatest problem with San Marco is the cheese. If you can even call it that. Look at the box again, and notice that the pizza is not topped with cheese, but cheese flavour. The ingredients list it as cheese flavour analogue, which is made of "Water, Vegetable Oil, Milk Proteins, Starch, Salt, Emulsifying Salts: Sodium Citrates, Sodium Phosphates, Colour: Beta Carotene". Yummy.

See? It doesn't even melt like real cheese.

Do yourselves a favour: don't buy this pizza. And warn your friends too. Especially the incoming freshers who might not know any better.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Garlic Baguette£0.4410 slices+£0.45Richer, more buttery.
San Marco Pizza£1.001N/AN/A, does not deserve comparison. Culinary Hazard, avoid like plague.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Tuna SurpRice

There is a thread on the MoneysavingExpert forums collating a number of recipes that supposedly would feed 1-2 people for 50p. Ironically, the thread starter's recipe of couscous with sardines does not cost just 50p despite her claims, at least, according to my own calculations. However, it has given me material for my blog; I've adapted the gist of the recipe to put together what I'll like to call Tuna SurpRice.

The sardines with couscous called for the use of fresh vegetables, which would have made things quite expensive, even if you pick according to season. A cheaper alternative to get one of your recommended five servings of vegetables per day would be to use Sainsbury's Basics frozen mixed vegetables. Since it's frozen, there is relatively little taste, which is what you would expect anyway.

So on to the recipe. Prepare your ingredients beforehand. Chop some onion and garlic, wash the Basics rice, drain the canned tuna saving the water and open the can of tomatoes. A point about the rice that I have neglected to mention in previous posts involving it is that because the rice is broken, it's also not very well polished, so expect to see some grains of brown rice, ie. rice whose husk is still attached.

Melt some butter in a pan.

Add the onions and garlic, followed by the tuna.

Add the washed rice and fry for a while, to allow the rice to absorb some of the flavour.

Add the tuna water, canned tomatoes and stir in the frozen vegetables.

Season with Basics black pepper and herb mix, and then cover and turn heat to low, leaving to simmer until done.
The end result was actually quite pleasant, being similar to the Chili con Carne Risotto I made some time ago, but perhaps a little lighter due to the non-addition of wine or red meat. Costings totalled £1 exactly (58p for tuna, 35p for tomatoes, 7p for garlic, onion, rice and everything else), and fed two people, so you could easily cook this for yourself for 50p.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Mixed Vegetables£0.771kg+£0.13Not known

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Mushroom Tortelloni with Pepperoni

Towards my final year of university, when I had a bit more cash to spare, I discovered that fresh pasta was extremely convenient, being much quicker to work. Filled pasta made things much faster as well, since I don't have to mess around trying to put together a pasta sauce. All I do instead is drizzle olive oil, some herbs, maybe chilli flakes, and if I'm feeling a little generous, two teaspoons of pesto.
Sainsbury's has a very good range of filled pasta under their Italian branding, with a variety of fillings so that you won't ever get bored of it. From time to time, they would go on offer, at 2 for £2.60, but if you are impatient, there's always the Basics tortelloni to fall back on. These come in two uninspiring varieties, pork, and mushroom. The latter was bought for this post, since I wasn't keen on going through what may potentially taste like greasy meatballs wrapped in dough, or wantons suffering from an identity crisis. The mushroom tortelloni actually was quite passable, the flavour of mushroom very strong, perhaps slightly overpowering.

Oddly enough, I remember Sainsbury's offering filled pasta which was non-Basics, but not under the Italian branding. These were available before the Basics tortelloni were introduced, so one must have replaced another.

Preparation is straightforward. Boil the pasta quickly, according to the instructions given. Meanwhile microwave the pepperoni to render as much fat as you can away. Combine in a bowl, add olive oil, Basics herb and pepper. Serve.

I must apologise for the lack of any real cooking in recent posts. This is largely due to difficulties with time, ideas, and other extenuating circumstances. Rest assured however that I do have a couple of ideas in the pipeline.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Tortelloni£1.59500g+£0.41 (£1.50 for 300g)Better quality pasta, more variety. Recommended.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Pepperoni and Mushroom Pizza

Everybody likes pizza. Well most do. One could hardly go wrong with cheese, tomato, and a good Italian sausage. Generally however, the amount of effort and money spent creating the pizza I'm sharing with you today is probably not worth it. Sainsbury's and the other major supermarket chains would regularly sell brand name frozen pizzas at heavily discounted prices. While you would have obviously less control over what goes into the pizza, and by extension, what goes into your stomach, it would be more economical.

Having said that however, a few comments would have to be made. The tomato and cheese pizza cannot be eaten on its own, and you would have to top it up with other things to make a substantial meal. Otherwise, it would suffice for a snack.

There are other things worth noting however. Sainsbury's has reduced the pack size of their basics mushrooms and adjusted their price accordingly. The new packs go for 89p and come in sizes of 400g. Mushrooms seem a bit dirtier than they used to be, especially at the base, so make sure you wash thoroughly before use.

But by far the darling of this post, and possibly the entire Basics range is the Mozzarella ball. If memory serves, the mozzarella is made from Germany. Not that it matters though, it tastes absolutely creamy when eaten raw, and has a nice stringy pull when it is cooked. The only problem would be that there is enough mozzarella for two servings, and all of it has to be used within the same day. Still, at 47p, this is a bargain and would easily enliven your meal where used appropriately.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Tomato and Cheese pizza£0.75100gN/ANo accurate equivalent.
Mushrooms£0.89 (£0.22 / 100g)400g+£0.12 / 100g (£0.87 for 250g)More thoroughly washed mushrooms, easier portioned sizes
Mozzarella Ball£0.47125g+£0.48 for 150gNot known, but probably not much
Pepperoni£1.29100g+£0.71Thinner pepperoni slices made in Italy with better texture. Recommended.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Quick Pepperoni Spaghetti

My flatmate and I came back from the second last night of the Proms, and he decided to have a quick evening snack. I wanted to join him, but I didn't have anything convenient to whip out in a short amount of time. Then I remembered that I had this can lying around.

I bought this originally because I wanted to incorporate this in an article, although I wasn't sure exactly what I would cook with this. Turns out, the tomato sauce used in this was the same kind used for baked beans. The British happen to like having baked beans on toast from time to time, and this canned spaghetti is sometimes used as an alternative.

Since I just came back from Sainsbury's, I happened to have the Spicy Pepperoni on hand to add as garnishing. This was supposed to be used for my pizza, but there is plenty of pepperoni in this one packet. The only problem is that it is sliced thicker than the regular pepperoni, and its taste is slightly waxier, akin to the British pork sausage snack Peperami.

Preparation was simple. Put pepperoni in spaghetti, add herbs and pepper, microwave for four minutes. Done. Results tasted horrible though. The only consolation I had was that I don't have to worry about getting rid of the canned spaghetti anymore.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Canned Spaghetti in Tomato Sauce£0.141+£0.17More spaghetti, better sauce. Skip both and use pasta sauce.
Pepperoni£1.29100g+£0.71Thinner pepperoni slices made in Italy with better texture. Recommended.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Choc Ices

Here in the UK, ice cream is relatively cheap. The major supermarkets here hold regular promotions on the premium ice-cream brands Haagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry's, particularly towards the end of summer and in the middle of winter, where the 2 for £5 offers would compensate for the relatively sluggish demand.

But what is one to do when nobody's offering discounts? One of my flatmates resorted to buying Sainsbury's Basics Choc Ices to satisfy his cravings, and introduced me to it. I've mainly used this and its Tesco equivalent during my student days to tide me over slightly more depressing periods of university life, like academic deadlines. Probably because they reminded me of the Magnolia Eskimo Pies I had as a kid.

A few years on, and I've almost completely forgotten about this most affordable of comforts (at 6p a bar these things are a bargain!), until recently, when I was thinking about setting up this blog.
The ingredients, if memory serves, remain the same. I was surprised while researching for this post that the regular choc ices have exactly the same ingredients in the same proportions. I fail to see why despite this the regular ones taste better, so you have to trust me on this one. That said, the coconut oil would probably not do you much good.

Observe the thin chocolate coating and the anaemic-looking cold centre posing as vanilla ice-cream.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Choc Ices£0.6010+£0.40Better product, choice between dark and milk chocolate coatings. Recommended
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