Thursday, 29 April 2010

English Breakfast Omurice

A recent spate of outings and days spent dining out had a significant impact on my expenses, forcing me to be a bit more creative when preparing meals for myself. The photo below illustrates what I was down to when preparing dinner.
Research has shown that eating protein-rich eggs for breakfast reduces hunger and decreases calorie consumption at lunch and throughout the day. Unfortunately, I had this in mind when I ate breakfast at work every day last week, and so was unable to make myself an omelette for dinner, since that would be too many eggs consumed in one day. This week however, I have managed to stay off eggs for a long enough period of time to bring you today's recipe.

I first encountered Omurice when I went back home for a visit. A Japanese idea, it involves some form of fried rice wrapped in egg, hence the name. Apparently, rice fried with ketchup is quite common, although anything else is possible. The idea of having tomato-based rice wrapped in egg led to thoughts of the full English breakfast, and so, with a tin of Basics mushrooms and one Basics sausage, we proceed to create the dish featured today.

Start by washing 0.5-0.75 cup of rice, enough for one person, and then pour the chopped tomatoes and juice into the rice cooker. Meanwhile start cooking the sausage in the oven.

A word of caution: you might end up with burning at the bottom of the rice cooker pot. Under these circumstances, hope that the person who owns the rice cooker would not mind your misadventures in the kitchen and that his future spouse would not yell at you for the same.
Take sausage out of oven and cut into pieces. Heat oil in pan.
Saute mushrooms and sausage together. I found the Basics tinned sliced mushrooms to be relatively alright, though not anything of particular interest. I suppose it would be good for those who like me, love their mushrooms but cannot buy fresh ones because they don't cook regularly enough.
Add in the tomato rice, and season with herb mix. Drain the liquid from the tinned mushrooms, and slowly add bit by bit to the pan, ensuring that the liquid gets boiled away before adding the next bit. Set aside.
Now beat the eggs. You might want to add the mushroom liquid to thin it out and hence make a slightly bigger omelette, but this will come with a bigger risk of the omelette falling apart when folding it. Season with pepper if desired.
Add the eggs to the pan.
Now, add the fried rice to the centre of the eggs when it is partially set, and try to fold it to make an omelette.
If you fail, tell yourself there will always be next time.
At the very least, the large quantity of food more than made up for anything. The tomatoes tasted a bit sharp and overpowering, but overall the meal was still enjoyable. Omurice may actually be a good meal idea to rapidly use up unwanted eggs and leftover rice.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Sliced Mushrooms in Water£0.49290g+£0.38Not known

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Sausage and Bacon Pasta

I bought a packet of Basics Smoked Back Bacon for my regular cooking about a week ago. Before Sainsbury's introduced their Cooking Bacon, this was the cheapest form of pork rashers that was available, and it saw me through the better part of my university life. Everybody loves bacon for its taste, and some also for its relative longevity in the fridge, and so Sainsbury's Basics Smoked Back Bacon was a source of comfort despite my austere lifestyle as a student.

This would originally have been a post about Penne Amatriciana, except that I lacked chilli and cheese, the former not available on the Basics line, and wanted to add a sausage to my meal to run down my inventory. Thinking about it, if Sainsbury's were to really introduce Basics chillies, they might be able to get the attention of students from cultures where the vegetable is regularly used.
In an effort to minimise the amount of fat I would consume in this meal, I trimmed the fat from the bacon, and grilled both sausage and bacon to let out more fat.

While waiting for the meat to cook, a thought occurred to me that I could attempt to cook the Basics pasta in the sauce. The motivation is two-fold: I could skip on having to cook the pasta separately, and at the same time, get it to absorb the excess liquid and hence, some flavour, from the peeled tomatoes. The only problem is that adding the pasta directly would result in the excess starch getting into the sauce, an unwanted effect. To get around this, I borrowed an idea from the Chinese, who would wash their rice with water several times before cooking. I treated the pasta in a similar manner, stopping when the water was no longer cloudy as it was the first time.
In a heated wok, add the meat hot off the grill, and the garlic, and fry until garlic is fragrant.
Add 1 tablespoon of Basics vinegar and pepper and Basics herb mix to taste.
Add in the pasta and Basics peeled tomatoes. Add a bit of water as well, such that the pasta is covered. Leave to cook until pasta is done, or a little longer if you want more of the liquid to evaporate.
The experiment with the pasta was a success. The sauce was definitely worth doing again, and even the sausage was pleasant. A comment made on the MoneySavingExpert forums that the latter can be a bit sagey is accurate. However, I'm not sure my friends would be warm to the idea of me cooking pasta in this manner, so this would be a cooking technique I would only subject myself to.
DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Smoked Back Bacon£1.20300g+£1.04More regular shapes, fewer but thicker slices

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Chocolate Dessert Mix

In my halls of residence when I was in university, each room had a small personal fridge, which was suitable for storing perishables like milk, sandwich fillers and beer, essentials for any student life. However, the unit had no freezer compartment. Instead, a large freezer found in the kitchen was shared between several rooms. As you can imagine, thefts can happen, particularly if it involved expensive ice-cream, like Ben & Jerry's.

An alternative to risking your money buying pint-tubs of ice-cream and storing it in a contentious area would be to find a dessert similar to ice-cream, but does not require freezing. One such product would be Angel Delight, a dessert that seems to be a cross between mousse and melted ice-cream, and is simple to prepare, requiring only milk and lots of whisking. Sainsbury's Basics carries products of this type, which are insanely cheap, at £0.09 per packet.

Start with a glass of milk for preparation.
Add the packet contents, and whisk.

About midway into this little exercise I realised that whisking with a spoon is a nightmare. After very careful consideration I resorted to using my flatmate's whisk, knowing that might be retribution for doing so. Your end product should look smooth and partially set.

If you think about it, this might actually be a fun way to consume your milk, if you don't mind the extra time invested in whisking. This would be useful to those whose parents still nag to drink milk.

Also available in strawberry.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Chocolate Dessert Mix£0.095 (or 1 large)+£0.21More flavours

Monday, 5 April 2010

Hot Dog Hotpot

Since today's post involves sausages, you might like to take a look at the previous post that I have done if you have not done so already. As mentioned there, the meat content of the Basics sausages was highly similar to that found in hot dogs, and since I had the necessary ingredients available, I thought I should attempt to parody Allegra McEvedy's Hot Dog Hotpot, as shown on the first episode of BBC's Economy Gastronomy.

Meanwhile however, some major things have happened with Sainsbury's Basics line since the last time I cooked something for this blog. Notable among them are the absence of Basics cooking onions (at least at my nearest branch), and the change in packaging for the chopped tomatoes to cartons, as shown below.
Just a couple of words about the cabbage: Sizing is highly inconsistent. This might actually play out to your advantage if you can get a head of cabbage bigger than what you might get if you spent a bit more. I decided however to get a smaller head since I know I wouldn't be able to finish this on my own.

I'm going to take a few liberties with the recipe linked above, and will document these here. For a start, I decided to chop up the sausages to speed up cooking time, and also to ensure that they are thoroughly cooked. If possible, grill the sausage slices as well, to remove excess fat.

Start frying slices of onion, minced garlic, and the sausage slices until the onions are caramelised and sausages are browned.

Add mustard and vinegar and mix until combined.

Tear off a few cabbage leaves, wash and chop roughly. Add this to the pan and continue cooking until softened.

Since Sainsbury's Basics range does not include egg noodles, prepare Basics spaghetti, but halve the required cooking time. Add this to the pan, along with half a Sainsbury's Basics chicken stock cube, before adding the chopped tomatoes.

End result was acceptable. It does not help that the sausages tend to be rather bland, and all the ingredients required for the recipe are rather lacking in substance, eg. the lack of intensity in mustard.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Sausages£0.488 links
+£0.49Almost twice the meat content. Skip both and go for the more premium brands for health and culinary reasons.
Cabbage£0.69Variable+£0.13More consistent sizing
Chicken Stock Cubes£0.1010 x 10g+£0.86No palm oil

Thursday, 1 April 2010


Originally the content of this post was supposed to be incorporated into another, but I figured that the resultant post would have been too long, so I thought that it would be better if I split it. Before I left for London, my mother strongly advised me against eating British sausages at all. And this despite the fact that sausages are an integral, if not important, part of British cuisine, being present in bangers and mash and the full English breakfast, just to name a few. Given its significance, I think I am obliged to dedicate a post to the typical British sausage. Besides which, I've already had the occasional sausage while here.

She did have reason for her warning though. The last time she was in the UK, she bought a pack of Tesco value sausages to feed us. She was used to the idea of boiling sausages, having worked mostly with frankfurters, so you could imagine her horror when she started boiling the Tesco sausages.

EU regulations dictate that the label 'Pork Sausage' can only be used if the sausage contains at least 42% pork. Since the Sainsbury's Basics Sausages only contain 32% porcine flesh, they have to be labelled as just 'Sausages'. For our non-British readers who are less familiar with things here, the rest of the sausage is made up of water and Butcher's rusk, a wheat-based food additive, and related to the rusk biscuits given to babies. In particular, water was responsible for the popular term banger, since during World War II, water was added to sausages to make up for the scarcity of meat, leading to sausages of that era exploding when cooked.

For this post, I cooked two sausages with two different methods to supplement our household dinner. Since the grill function in our oven is faulty, I resorted to baking one of the sausages. The other sausage will be boiled, to recreate what my mother encountered.

Note the large number of fat globules in the water.

Due to the poor meat content, the sausages were unbearable to eat, reminding one somewhat like greasy chewable rubber. Taste was bland, almost indiscernible. These might be cheap, but perhaps not worth the displeasure of going through them. Still, these are somewhat similar in meat content to the hot dogs featured in Allegra McEvedy's Hot Dog Hotpot (She of Economy Gastronomy fame), and so, a knockoff is in order!

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Sausages£0.488 links
+£0.49Almost twice the meat content. Skip both and go for the more premium brands for health and culinary reasons.

Chocolate Mousse

I was originally planning to do a post on the Sainsbury's Basics sausages, but was put off and scared away by how awful they looked and tasted. In addition, a fair number of people in the UK are taking working leave in the run up to the Easter weekend, and for myself, this break is a bit too enjoyable and important for me to ruin with a traumatic experience. Thus, I seek refuge in the simple things.
If memory serves, the last I had this was at university. A hallmate of mine had a fondness for Cadbury's chocolate mousse, and having seen him always end a day with the dessert several times, I realised that I wanted to do the same too. The problem was that Cadbury's mousse cost 99p for a pack of 3 back then (it is now the same price for a pack of 4 55g pots). Thankfully, there were cheaper alternatives. At 25p per pack, I could afford to have dessert too, which brought about a generally better quality of life despite the tight budget that I was on.

The mousse itself is significantly airier than the more upmarket offerings that are available, but given that it is so cheap, one would probably not feel so guilty about having a second pot if the first proved insufficient. The chocolate content appears to be lower as well, but any resultant difference in taste was barely noticeable. Overall, I feel that this is a good investment, and would greatly benefit the scores of university students looking for a morale booster while preparing for the exams in summer.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Chocolate Mousse£0.254 x 62.5g+£0.54 for 6 x 62.5gHigher chocolate content
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