Saturday, 31 October 2009

Cornflakes with Yoghurt

I knew somebody in my residential hall during my first year who like everybody else coming to the UK for the first time, was taken aback by the foreign currency exchange rate. During her first term, she had almost the same thing for breakfast every day, having bought a large bag of Sainsbury's Low Price Cornflakes (yes, they did not really come in boxes) and supplementing it with milk and the dried fruit I had covered in an earlier article. I had originally wanted to try making something else today, but it turns out that it would involve buying two litres of cider and later working out what to do with the cider I do not want, so this time, I will just be revisiting this experience from times gone by.

As you can see, the bag is gone, replaced by the standard box-and-bag packaging. The cornflakes are similar to the last time I sampled them, when the friend I mentioned bought them. The flakes appear to be somewhat thinner, but otherwise everything else remains the same.

Instead of milk however, I have opted to use yoghurt. I've had a look at the ingredient breakdown between this and the regular yoghurt, and find no difference whatsoever; the Basics yoghurt does not have any additional ingredients or additives other than milk.

For some reason however, the consistency seems to be a bit thinner. Ironically, that would probably suit my purpose of mixing into cereal.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Cornflakes£0.46500g+£0.49Slightly thicker flakes
Natural Yoghurt£0.46500g+£0.32Slightly thicker yoghurt, cap to ensure freshness

And now, some bonus content. I stumbled across a review of the Basics instant noodles by, who reviews packets of instant noodles from around the world.

A friend of mine helped me to translate what the review was saying, and the clincher was the last line, as follows: "While at first I thought it tasted kind of crap, as you keep on eating you're eventually able to accept the taste as kind of ordinary"

Monday, 26 October 2009

Toasted Salami Sandwiches

As a result of my earlier post for Bread and Butter Pudding, I have added an additional loaf of bread to our existing stash, and our kitchen is thus now overflowing with sliced bread. Some of my flatmates have expressed their annoyance at my escapade, and so to appease them, I've decided to have sandwiches for some of my meals. Dinner for tonight was two sandwiches.

I opted to toast the bread, since as it is, the bread slices are too dry for use. Toasting would make the slices more durable, and make them dry and crisp, rather than dry and soft, which would be less pleasant.

So on to the sandwich filling for today. This is the first time I've encountered both the Salami and Lettuce. The Salami comes in relatively thin slices, but still has full-bodied flavour which makes it suitable for use in sandwiches. That said, the regular version does not cost much more, and has higher meat content.

On the other hand, I heartily recommend the Basics lettuce. The exact variety of lettuce varies, but the quality is good. And if you are lucky like I was on the occasion I bought this, you would get Romaine lettuce, which would make it perfect for use in a poor man's Caesar salad.

I was actually so happy with the sandwiches that I made a couple more to bring to work tomorrow for lunch. This allows me to avoid having to spend at the canteen at work, and helps me deal with the excess bread problem we currently have.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Lettuce£0.491 head+£0.29Not much, especially if Basics lettuce is of premium variety
Salami£1.09150g+£0.14Slightly thicker slices, 136g vs 122g of pork per 100g of salami. Recommended.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Bread and Butter Pudding

It is about time that I cover yet another culinary item that is unique to the UK. Bread and butter pudding happens to feature quite prominently in British cuisine, and I suspect that is due to the ease at which you can dispose of large amounts of stale bread at a go when making it. It appears quite commonly and is thus associated with catered school lunches. The structure of this warm dessert is simple: layers of buttered bread with raisins in between, with the entire assembly lathered in custard and powdered with sugar for glazing, before being put into the oven.

Both the Basics custard and dried mixed fruit are completely new to me, although I remember that I had a hall mate in my fresher year who used the latter to supplement the Basics cornflakes that she had. The dried mixed fruit is actually more commonly used in Christmas puddings or stollen, but I've used it here instead of raisins to have a bit more variety. Overall, both items taste alright, and would be good when preparing dessert for a large number of people, where ingredient quality is not a high priority.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the Basics white bread, not pictured. Like its wholewheat counterpart, it tends to disintegrate too easily, probably indicative of how dry the bread is. You are probably better off getting either the Basics wholewheat bread, which is much more durable, or a more expensive brand of white.

So start as follows: Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease your pan with butter, and slice your bread slices into triangles.

Butter your slices. If using Basics white bread, take extra care when spreading, to avoid disintegrating the bread. Once this is done, lay down the first layer of bread.

Sprinkle the layer of dried mixed fruit before laying on the second layer of bread.

Ensure that custard can is lukewarm. This is to ensure that the bread does not harden when soaking in the custard. Open custard can, and pour contents all over the bread and fruit assembly.

Leave to stand for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar for the glazing, and then bake for another 30 minutes.
End result should be as below. Since it's the custard that gives most of the flavour, this recipe is mostly failsafe.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Custard£0.25 (£0.63 / kg)396g+£0.60 for 1 kg (+£0.22 / kg)Possibly thicker, richer custard
Dried mixed fruit£0.65500g+£0.73Avoids using palm oil for glazing. Note: 4% less vine fruit content

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Aubergine with Mince

I didn't always like aubergines. Growing up, I could not get my head round the sticky texture when used in stir-fries, as was commonly the case where I was. At some point in time however I did warm up to the idea and is now one of my favourite vegetables.

The Basics aubergines come in bags of two, with each aubergine nicely sized to feed one hungry person. As with other Basics vegetables, being Class II it might not look very pretty, but that would not matter anyway when it is diced up.

So today I'll use it in one of the aubergine dishes that I'm fond of. Start by dicing the aubergine, and rendering as much fat as possible from the mince.

Don't wipe off too much fat though, or you'll lose all the flavour that the aubergine could otherwise absorb. On hind sight, it might have also made sense to rub salt into the aubergine, to remove the bitterness found in aubergines. I guess this is what happens when you decide to improvise.
While the aubergine is cooking, find more ways to extract more fat from the mince.

Finally, add the mince back to the aubergine, and season with dark soy sauce.

Serve with Basics rice.

End result would have been good, if not for the mistakes I have noted for above. Given that this did not take too long to cook and the washing up was kept to a minimum, I am not entirely sure why I did not do this at university, though I guess at £0.82 per aubergine it was a pretty expensive vegetable.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Aubergine£1.64 (£3.28 / kg)2+£0.36 (-£0.17 / kg)Not known but probably not much.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Vegetable Stir-Fry

I originally wanted to incorporate this in a dish, but extenuating circumstances meant that I was going to be cooking with a group, and that my cooking duties would be overtaken by my flatmate's fiancee. Since she incorporated the vegetables into her own stir-fry, which does not exclusively use Basics ingredients, I am unable to publish the recipe for today. However, it has been some time since I last posted on this blog, so I will give a description of the item, which is what you're looking for anyway.

Towards the end of my university, my flatmate found preparing the obligatory vegetable stir-fry for dinner extremely cumbersome, until he discovered that Sainsbury's has a range of pre-washed and cut vegetables which are ready to cook. He eventually moved down to the Basics version when he realised that he could get much more vegetables for the same price and with little degradation in quality.

Generally speaking, the Sainsbury's Basics vegetable range are worth the money, especially if the vegetables are to be cooked, instead of prepared raw in say, a salad. EU regulations require that the regular range of vegetables are Class I, which basically mean they have no visual defects, which allows the Basics range to be Class II. I am not sure how the quality of those Basics vegetables with flavour would differ compared to their regular counterparts, eg. tomatoes. Also note that since these are Class II vegetables, not much attention would be given to their presentation, so they might be processed with less care, in particular, as noted earlier, the mushrooms would not have the dirt scrubbed as thoroughly from the bottom of their stalks.

For stuff like vegetable stir-fry and other light-tasting vegetables like peppers or aubergines though, you should do okay.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Vegetable Stir Fry£1.00650g+£0.09 for 350gNot known but probably not much.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Prawn Spaghetti

When I was a fresher at university, the Sainsbury's Low Price range, as it was then known, featured significantly on my shopping list, as unlike many of the freshers coming from my country of origin to study here I was not terribly well-funded. One of the few items that I did not buy a Basics version of however was the pasta sauce. It was the colour of the sauce that made me think twice. Unlike the deep red sauce found in the regular pasta sauce jars, the Low Price sauce was a sinister orangey red. My better sense told me to avoid it, and so I have, for the past five years or so. This week however, my curiosity got the better of me, and I thought I would post something about it, purchasing the sauce in advance.

Sadly, the orange-reddish hue is still there. I was supposed to have done this blog post on Saturday, so that this year's batch of freshers would benefit, but was delayed - by the time Sunday came round, I found I was too late; the local Sainsbury's was teeming with eager, bleary-eyed university students.

The sauce itself tasted very bland, with slightly sour hint of tomato. This can be attributed to the near lack of tomatoes in the ingredients. Some of the listed flavourings do come through, albeit barely noticeably. As a consolation, Sainsbury's had the decency to bottle this in transparent glass jars, so that buyers would be able to tell what they are getting themselves into.

Being a carnivore however, I was not intent on cooking Spaghetti Pomodoro tonight. To this end, I got myself a bag of frozen prawns, having already done the likes of Bolognese and Carbonara and variations thereof to death.
At the time of writing, you'll be able to find these in the frozen section in Sainsbury's; if you live anywhere near me, it's the final aisle at the very inside of Sainsbury's, next to the wine. Unlike the pasta sauce, I've used these before when cooking Laksa for my flatmates several years ago.

This recipe is straightforward, so expect more photos than text. Chop finely a small onion and some garlic, in the meantime heating some oil in a pan. Olive oil is preferred, to try to impart some flavour into the sauce.

Fry the onion until it caramelises slightly, then add the garlic.

Add the prawns next. Care should be taken not to let them shrink too much, if need be, turn down or take it off the heat.

Employ a trick apparently used by the Italians, if the packaging of most of Sainsbury's pasta is to be believed. What they supposedly do is that they'll cook the pasta halfway, and then add it to the sauce, warming gently. Doing this will allow the half-cooked pasta to continue cooking, absorbing the moisture and the goodness from the sauce.

Except that this time I decided to add the pasta before adding the sauce. Season lightly with pepper and herb mix.
Add the pasta sauce, turn off the heat, and stir until the sauce is well mixed and the pasta is evenly coated.
Leave to continue cooking, and you're done.

The pasta turned out to be palatable. My more discerning flatmates sampled some of it and generally agreed with me. Having now found out for myself how good the Basics pasta sauce is however, I think it would be safe to say that my satisfied curiosity would be my sole significant gain from tonight's exercise.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Cooked & Peeled Prawns£1.76 (£0.59 / 100g)300g+£1.23 for 350g (+£0.27 / 100g)Larger (and sweeter?) prawns
Tomato Pasta Sauce£0.363 (440ml)+£0.62 for 500mlRicher tomato taste, more sauce variety. Recommended.
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