Monday, 28 February 2011

Blue Cheese and Mushroom Risotto

My flatmates have expressed their concern for the rate I go through Basics food items, only to leave them lying around in the kitchen while I fret over the possible recipes I can use them in. More often than not, I fail, and am forced to throw grossly expired items away. I am more or less open to ideas, so if you have a creative solution to make the most of the Italian hard cheese and blue cheese sitting in my fridge right now, feel free to contribute through the comments.

For now however, I have managed to come across something interesting. I have not come across blue cheese risotto before, but there are several recipes floating around the Internet for such a dish. When I saw one that incorporated mushrooms, hence negating the need to cook meat separately to make a complete meal, I was sold. The recipe originally appeared on delicious magazine, but I've come up with my own version, shared here.

Dice some mushrooms, garlic and onion. Fry the mushrooms until cooked, then set aside. Add more oil to the pan to brown the onions and garlic.

Toast about 3/4 cup of Basics rice in the wok until slightly brown. Add a glass of Basics white wine and continue to stir until the rice has absorbed some of the liquid.

Crumble half (not one as I did) cube of Basics chicken stock into the wok, and slowly add a bit of boiling water at a time until you have up to about 1.5 cups of water in the pan per person. Cover for about 10-15 minutes.

Finally, stir in Basics Italian hard cheese and Blue Cheese and add in the mushrooms. Stir everything together until the entire thing is consistent.

I'm not sure why I ended up with the brown hue as pictured, though I suspect that it's due to the use of the Basics chicken stock cube. Reducing it by half and perhaps using vegetable stock instead would probably result in a better colour, and improve the flavour by not having so much sodium and glutamate. The italian hard cheese, blue cheese and mushrooms also contributed to the glutamate levels in the risotto, resulting in a rather meaty flavour but leaving me very thirsty afterwards. I suspect this can be counteracted by reducing the amount of cheese involved, since the risotto can already hold itself together.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
British Blue Cheese£6.49/kg~ 200g+£0.86/kgShropshire Blue. Proper Stilton will cost even more.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Lemon Curd Ice-Cream

I might have mentioned this before, but I love ice-cream.One of the things that I would probably miss about the UK when I leave for good is the regular offers on Haagen-Dazs, Ben & Jerry's, and other premium brands of the frozen confectionery. It is a pity though, that the Sainsbury's Basics range offers few products that would give these brands a run for their money, largely due to the cheap ingredients they use to keep things cheap. The only exception would be the Basics Vanilla & Choc Cones, whose ingredients list more closely resembles something you would find from the more upmarket equivalents. This still leaves a gap in the Basics product line for good ice cream sold in tubs though, and it seems that one has no other choice but to make it from scratch.

Amongst other sources, I regularly scour the Internet for recipes, looking through culinary blogs to find something that would fit the demanding and unique circumstances that I have to work within. I was reading through thecattylife's ice cream recipe for cookies and cream, when I chanced upon one of the comments made on that post. The comment mentioned a recipe she came across on the MoneySavingExpert forums which merely involves a tin of Basics custard, a jar of Basics lemon curd, and an ice-cream maker.

A brief sanity check validated the recipe: most of the ice-cream recipes on the Internet involved making some form of custard before freezing the contents, so why not use ready-made custard? I don't have an ice-cream maker, but a quick Google search turned up this excellent article written by David Lebovitz showing how to make ice-cream without using a machine. Excited, I made a quick trip to Sainsbury's to pick up the ingredients.

Apparently, lemon curd has been quite popular as a form of dessert spread through the ages in both the UK, with the States catching on through lemon-meringue pie. To be honest, I have not come across lemon curd ice-cream during my various trips taken around the country during the warmer parts of the year, but would most certainly look for it specifically now.

The mixture seems pretty resilient to freezing. I was not disciplined enough to check on it every 30 minutes as prescribed by Lebovitz, only giving it a good whisk once before tumbling into bed. When I checked on it the next morning, the texture still resembled some form of ice-cream.

It tasted pretty strange though prior to freezing, somewhat like Strepsils, although the strangeness was a lot more toned down after freezing. I attribute this to the lemon curd used. Perhaps I could explore using other ingredients to make Basics ice-cream though, like adding rum-soaked raisins to Basics custard before freezing. It's certainly an avenue worth exploring!

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Lemon Curd£0.22411g+£0.57Less artificial taste?

Monday, 21 February 2011

Broccoli and Stilton Soup

The Aurora restaurant in Soho was the venue for a social outing involving my Christian fellowship group, and it was there that I was introduced to Broccoli and Stilton Soup. Arguably, the soup was really good, and might impress even people who have an aversion to blue cheese. I have since been meaning to reproduce this in the kitchen using Sainsbury's Basics ingredients, but have not gotten round to doing so as fresh and new ideas for items keep popping into my mind. With a recent dearth of ideas however, and a naan and some butter expiring in my fridge, I thought the time has come for me to present this.

A quick Google search indicates that the recipe is relatively straightforward: dice some broccoli, potato and onion and fry everything together in butter or olive oil. Add flour to combine with the fat to form a roux before ladling in chicken stock, leaving the entire thing to simmer for about half an hour. Finally, crumble some blue cheese and add to the pan along with some milk, leaving the result to cook for another 10 minutes. Add a tablespoon of cream before serving. This is thus very useful for novice cooks who wish to make something unusual for a group party.

The Sainsbury's Basics British Blue cheese is the closest thing in the range to Stilton; the latter holds Protected Geographical Status such that any cheese claiming to be Stilton has to comply with strict requirements, including being made in one of only three counties. I am unsure as to the origin of the Basics Blue, but if you are not too fussy about authenticity, I guess this will suffice. It is certainly not one of the strongest tasting blue cheeses I have had, which would probably bode well for people who do not wish to offend at the dinner table.

I couldn't taste much of the blue cheese in the soup. The recipe at CookUK suggested 55g of cheese for 2 servings, which I suspected to be insufficient to get a nice strong cheese flavour. If I ever get the chance to do this again, I'll probably increase it by half. Overall however, the soup is filling and provided some warm comfort amid the cold spell of weather that we are having. It's cheap too, coming up to a ballpark figure of £1.40 for two servings (the wedge of cheese I bought was £1.41 for about 225g, with milk costing 45p and the potato and broccoli costing 45p each). I had it with the remaining naan bread I had, which should see me through to breakfast tomorrow.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
British Blue Cheese£6.49/kg~ 200g+£0.86/kgShropshire Blue. Proper Stilton will cost even more.
Plain Naan£0.592+£0.30Not known

Friday, 11 February 2011

Curry and Naan

Yet another new Basics product from Sainsbury's spotted at my local this week. It seems though that the Sainsbury's Basics Naan has been around for a while, being first given attention in the MoneySavingExpert Sainsbury's Basics forum thread around July 2009. Whoever runs the Sainsbury's product development department probably realised that Indian food is very pervasive in life in the UK, and that introducing Naan in the Basics range would be a godsend to university students and everybody else looking to reduce the grocery budget, particularly during the more intense periods of the economic crisis. Not having had Indian food for a while, I thought this would be interesting for today's post.

I needed something to go along with the naan though, and I have already covered the Sainsbury's Basics Curry Sauce in a previous post. Wandering around the aisles, I remembered there were other curry products in the Basics range, and one of them came with no staple, and so fit the bill nicely.

Canned food is cheap, lasts long, and is often ready to eat by heating the contents, making them suitable for university students, who often have tight budgets, may have to cancel plans for dinner for last-minute outings, and could devote the time or energy usually used to prepare food to other things that make university life so fulfilling. Most of my friends from or at university though shun this because we all come from a country that places emphasis on good food. So the only reason why I'm venturing to try the Sainsbury's Basics Chicken Curry is to complement the naan.

Since I have the Sainsbury's Basics Italian Hard Cheese lying around, I could make a really nice cheese naan, which could double up as my fall back meal should the canned chicken curry prove to be horrible.

And horrible the chicken curry most certainly was. It turns out that 13% chicken content in a tin of chicken curry amounts to almost nothing, short of a few strands here and there. The curry was bland, and almost lacking in any spicy kick, suspiciously similar to the Basics curry sauce. You might as well buy a jar of the curry sauce and add in your own vegetables and meat, as illustrated in the Kiev Katsu Kurry Don I posted a while ago.

On the other hand, the naan managed to save the dinner by being soft and chewy with a pleasant flavour. The addition of Basics Italian Hard Cheese also added a nice touch. I ended up finishing the curry first before going the naan, saving the best for last.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Chicken Curry£0.48392g+£0.60Choice between mild and hot, triple the chicken content. Recommended.
Plain Naan£0.592+£0.30Not known
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