Sunday, 25 July 2010

Chilli Beef Nachos

I remembered buying Basics Tortilla Chips with my flatmate on a semi-regular basis. Our university household were regular wine drinkers, and since our budgets could not afford fine cheese and crackers to go with our wine, we tried using Basics Tortilla Chips and Basics Dip as an alternative. The idea was to basically have some sharp flavours to contrast against the wine, so I suppose it worked out well, to a fair extent.

For tonight's dinner I decided to just cook a simple beef chilli using the remaining salsa from the previous post. As we are using Basics minced beef, we will render it of its fats first, draining it away. Once that is done, season with a little Basics vinegar and black pepper.

Add the salsa, and cook until the mixture has reduced. While reducing, prepare a bowl of tortilla chips. If you would like to have some hands-on fun, throw in a pitta bread as well for scooping the beef into to make some improvised tacos.

I wonder why I have not tried this out while at university. It might have been the presence of admittedly unhealthy tortilla chips, and a lack of proper carbohydrates. I could have thrown in the pitta bread, but remember that these come in packs of 6 and have a general shelf life of less than a week (I got unlucky with this and had only 2-3 days before the Best Before date). Still, it might be fun to serve this up to your friends.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Tortilla Chips£0.25200g+£0.65Flavours, more regular shapes
White Pitta£0.256 small pittas+£0.24Higher quality bread
Salsa Dip£0.69300g+£0.64Chunkier salsa, choice between mild and hot

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Fake Quesadillas

With the grated cheese in my fridge getting further and further past its use-by date, some drastic measures have to be taken before I let yet another food item go to waste. Surprisingly, despite being over a week past the date, the cheese still tastes pretty good. This information would probably be useful to the university students and cost-conscious amongst the readers.

Anyway, on with the posting. Some colleagues of mine at work brought up the idea of making quesadillas with the cheese. Given that Sainsbury's have salsa dip and pitta bread in their Basics range, the suggestion was definitely worth a try. Since true quesadillas use tortillas as the staple however, what we are doing today  would just be a cheap imitation.

In terms of the quality of the two items to be introduced today... well, you get what you pay for. The Basics salsa dip was less chunky than its more mainstream counterparts, and the Basics pittas, like other Basics bread items, has a tendency to crumble very easily. Of the latter, one has to be very careful when trying to slice it open, or it would fall completely apart.

Preparation is pretty straightforward. While your oven is preheated to 200 degrees Celsius, cut open the pittas.

Put a layer of cheese on one side of the pitta, top with salsa, and finish with another layer of cheese.

Cover with other side of pitta, and put into the oven until golden brown.

The end product looked a bit strange, having some resemblance to quesadillas but also bearing some similarities to a close-faced bit-size pizza-like pastry I had in Sardinia some time ago. Looks don't matter when the food tastes good though.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
White Pitta£0.256 small pittas+£0.24Higher quality bread
Salsa Dip£0.69300g+£0.64Chunkier salsa, choice between mild and hot

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Leftover Stew

It's come to my attention that despite blogging on a staple range used by university students throughout this country using memories drawn from university, I have not done too many meals based on leftovers, and none especially tailored to dealing with leftovers. However, recent circumstances have conspired against me, such that I'm now forced to try to get rid of, amongst other things, the baked beans from the previous post, the burger patties and grated cheese used for the Ramly Burger, the latter now 5 days past its best-before date, and the Basics instant mashed potato mix from long ago.

So it is with great relief that somebody has provided a solution. I owe it to The Everything Meals on a Budget Cookbook, by Linda Larsen, a copy of which I bought when Borders was having its closing down sale in Birmingham. The book had a section catered specifically for leftovers, one of which was the Everything Stew. Basically, the recipe involved throwing together tomato juice, pasta, cooked vegetables, mince, cheese and curiously, potato flakes, into a saucepan and bringing it to a boil. That effectively covers everything that we have to get rid of, as shown below (not shown: Basics instant mashed potato).

So start by bringing the packet of tomatoes in juice to the boil in a saucepan.
Add the pasta, boil for 1-2 minutes, and then throw in the rest of the ingredients except the cheese and potato flakes, in this case, the baked beans and hamburger patty.
Keep boiling until the beef is cooked and the pasta is soft. Add Basics mashed potato and cheese to thicken.

If the dish looks unappealing I regret to inform you that the result, while not unpleasant in taste, makes you wish that you haven't had so many leftovers to clear. In addition, you might experience a slight carb overload as aresult of having both baked beans and pasta in the same sitting. Tomatoes have a slight amount of sugar too, so feel free to reduce the amount of pasta used in the process.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Baked Bean Hamburger Chilli

As is relatively clear from this post, I still have another 3 Basics burger patties to go. Planning recipes to run down the Basics inventory is never easy, and the patties are probably my most difficult challenge so far. I have a number of ideas though, one of which I will carry out today, but that also means that I will not be able to introduce Basics items not previously covered for a while.

This will not be the first time I have done a meal based on minced beef and baked beans, however, it would be the first time I have done it properly. As mentioned on separate occasions in the blog, when I was a kid, my mother would fry minced pork with onion and garlic before adding baked beans to the wok. It was a lunch that I was fond of, since back then I did not particularly like rice, and my mother would serve this with bread as the staple.

At Wendy's, one can order chilli con carne, made from hamburger patties which have been left on the grill for too long and thus are too dry to in buns to customers. Combining the two ideas together, I proceed to prepare dinner.

Mince some onion and garlic, and the burger patty. Feel free to substitute this with mince of any kind.
Cook some rice or use leftover rice from a few dinners ago. Open a can of baked beans.
Bring a wok to medium-high heat with a little oil . Start frying about one quarter of the Basics mince/patty you have to draw out the fats. Add the onions shortly after.

Follow this up with the garlic and the rest of the mince. Season with whatever you might find handy.
Now, add small amounts of the baked bean liquid to the wok, ensuring that it stays hot. Follow this up with small amounts of baked beans, until there is enough for dinner. A bean to patty ratio of about 1 to 1 by mass should be a good rule of thumb.
And dinner is served.
It is amusing to think that when broken up, the Basics burger patty pieces don't look too different from the meat chunks you would get from the Meat Feast pizza from the frozen section of your supermarket or your local delivery. The patty mingled nicely with the baked beans, but overall there was quite a heavy aftertaste of meat throughout the chilli. This would probably be best appreciated on a cold winter's evening, when strong flavours would probably be in favour.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Quick Cheese Salad

My mother reminds me on a regular basis to take my servings of fruit and vegetables every day, and I must admit, doing so has been a challenge, since I am not particularly fond of them. As such, I occasionally resort to various methods to make the experience of eating vegetables and fruits that much less unpleasant.

Today while waiting for my chicken kiev to cook in the oven, I thought I would take the opportunity to make a quick Basics salad using the leftover Basics shredded cheese in the fridge and the Basics young leaf salad I bought two days before to appease my guilty conscience (and my mother). I cannot add too much cheese however, or the salad might end up containing more saturated fat than an avocado.

On the other hand, I didn't want to end up eating bland salad, so it was a good thing that I bought Sainsbury's Basics French Dressing. Unfortunately, while the dressing was significantly tangy, I personally felt that there wasn't much else going for it in the flavour department.

With the recent spate of weather and subsequent outdoor activities though, this French Dressing might come in handy when bulk-catering salad, to complement your barbecue. Besides, barbecued sausages, burgers and chicken wings are probably so strongly flavoured that people might not notice the lighter flavoured dressing. They might even appreciate the contrast, who knows.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
French Dressing£0.70250ml+£0.18More oil, better tasting dressing?

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Basics Brownies

I had to get rid of a few items this week, specifically the stick of butter I used to make scones earlier on, and some Basics self-raising flour from long ago. In addition to that, some of my colleagues have been following this blog with interest, and have taken the opportunity to suggest that I do something for them to try, proposing that I do brownies within the next two days.

Through my years at university, I've seen a few of my guy friends try their hand at baking to win over the hearts of various individuals, with varying degrees of success. This post will hence be a tribute to them and their valiant efforts, as I try my hand at making something commonly used as gift food.

The recipe I followed comes courtesy of the BBC GoodFood, and in summary, involves making a chocolate-butter ganache and a sugar-egg mousse-like foam, combining the two, folding in flour, and baking. This time round, there are no new Basics items to introduce, but if you wish to know more about the items involved in today's post (or at least what I think of them), you're free to peruse the tags found at the bottom.

Start by preparing a water bath by placing a Pyrex bowl over a pot of boiling water.

Add two bars of Basics dark chocolate and about 200g of Basics butter to the bath, and let everything liquify, stirring everything together.

While waiting, whisk four eggs with about 250g of sugar. You're aiming to get a frothy foam, so it might take ten minutes by hand. Good luck.

Meanwhile, your chocolate-butter ganache should look something like this:

Combine egg foam and chocolate, and sift about 75-85g of flour into the mix. Fold the flour in.

Now, preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Grease a baking sheet with oil, and pour as much of the mixture in. You might find that the mixture comes off very easily from the bowl and sticks more to itself than to other surfaces, use this to your advantage.

Bake for 25 minutes, until you get a paper-like crust and a knife comes out clean when dipping into the brownie. Cut up and store/serve.

Now, find yourself some office workers or significant others to feed.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Ramly Burger

Summer is upon us, and with that comes the holding of barbecues. What one eats at a barbecue would vary from region to region. While the most popular item to be had from a grill pit on the seaside back home would be chicken wings, if one were to join a summer party held in somebody's backyard in London the order of the day would almost certainly be burgers.

It is hardly surprising then, that Sainsbury's would introduce Basics Beef Burgers in the fresh meat aisle, to capitalise on the season and the current economic downturn. One look at this burger though, and the prospective consumer might think twice.

For a start, the burgers are small, and are grey in colour. Even if one were to buy in bulk, for 50p more per packet one would be able to choose from a range of juicy-looking Quarter Pounder Beef Burgers, or even venture to the Taste the Difference range. Unless you're catering for a large number of people that you resent, yours truly would strongly encourage you to spend a bit more and have a more enjoyable barbecue.

That said, this blog serves two purposes. Since this post has fulfilled the first, it can proceed with the second, to attempt to provide students from my home country with the means of using Basics items to create meals they are familiar with back home or might encounter here. This time, we shall write on the former.

The Ramly Burger is a curiosity from Malaysia, perhaps the country's answer to the American McDonald's. In reality the term refers to the burgers served up at stalls run by Ramly Moknin and his franchisees, but ask anybody in the know and they would almost immediately think of the variant where the patty and condiments are wrapped in egg. As Mr Moknin does not appear to want to enforce consistency between franchisees, the burgers served between stalls may vary highly; Wikipedia notes that some burgers might be cooked with condiments as interesting as curry powder.

We are in London though, and the British might not be as adventurous. As such, we will stick to the items that we can find in my refridgerator, and that would be the grated cheese from my previous post and the Basics mustard.

Preparation is straightforward. Cook the patty using your usual method. If frying, you might be interested to know that some Ramly franchisees might slice the patty lengthwise to form a butterfly shape, to speed up cooking. This method is controversial, critics saying that doing so would result in a dry patty.

When done, fry two eggs as you would a sunny-side up, trying to spread the white as much as you can.
Add your condiments, and then the patty. Attempt to wrap the egg around the patty and flip over to seal the package.

Not bad, for a first try, in my opinion. The patty consists of 70% beef, and certainly reminds me of the burgers I've had whilst at various fairs in the UK. It was a good idea then, that I prepared a Ramly burger, or at least, a cheap knockoff of it, because on its own it would probably have been rejected, if not by me, then at least by my stomach.

Given London's reputation as a major gastronomical city, I think the Ramly burger could catch on, especially if marketed as authentic street food, which it is, and affixed with an upmarket price tag. There is a Malaysian restaurant that would be well-positioned to do this - the Awana in Sloane Street. A delegation was sent from my country to study the feasibility of a state-coordinated effort to introduce its cuisine on a long-term basis to Londoners. Perhaps Malaysia should follow suit.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Beef Burgers£1.504 x 100g
+£0.97 (+£0.50 if on offer, see notes)Higher meat content, quarter-pound patties, healthier looking burgers. Currently on 2 for £4 offer.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...