Saturday, 26 March 2011

Salami in Rosé Wine pasta

I was originally supposed to pick up a bottle of Basics red wine for a lamb dish that I am planning to feature soon, only to find that my local Sainsbury's had run out of stock. In increasing desperation, I had to make a decision between choosing between white and rosé. I decided to go with the latter, as this would allow me to feature a new item on the blog.

Sainsbury's describes the wine as medium-dry with hints of raspberries and strawberries, which is more or less accurate. I did a recent crash course in wine tasting with my flatmate, and one of the things that I finally understood about the ritual was the swirling of the wine, which would indicate the alcoholic content (from the number of 'legs', or the little streams of liquid that form around and cling onto the glass surface after swirling), and the sugar content (from how slowly the legs would travel back into the glass). Sad to say, no legs formed post-swirling, and the liquid quickly went back to the base of the cup. Still, it made for easy drinking, and conceivably, would be a good mixer for punch.

For today's pasta lunch I simply fried Basics salami in the pan, without any oil. Before they turn crisp, I added half a glass of the wine, seasoned with Basics herb mix, and turned the heat down, allowing the heat to reduce.

Once the pasta is cooked, I added that to the pan, and tossed everything together until mixed thoroughly. After sliding everything into a bowl, I added Basics grated hard cheese, and settled down to enjoy it.

If there's one thing I have found cured meats to be useful for, it is to be able to fry in the pan without having to add more oil. Most of the wine flavour ended up being absorbed by the salami, but the pasta was still enjoyable thanks to the cheese.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Rosé Wine£2.85750ml+£variableMany

Monday, 21 March 2011

Cheese-infused Beef Ragu

It's been brought to my attention that the price of beef has gone up at Sainsbury's over the weekend. Sadly, the Sainsbury's Basics range was not spared, and so, a packet of diced beef now retails for £2.75, a 25p (10%) increase. I thought I should mark the occasion by making a beef ragu, using some interesting information I picked up a couple of weeks ago.

The Toasted Salami Sandwiches that I did the last time left me with the rind of the Basics Italian Hard Cheese. I was about to throw it away when I read on the web that many enterprising chefs would use the rind of hard cheeses in soups and stews, adding a rich flavour to whatever it infused. Armed with this knowledge and a sense of curiosity, I set upon making my own cheese-infused pasta sauce.

So I start by frying some an onion and garlic on high heat, before tossing the beef in. Seal the beef, you want it to be pink on the inside while seared on the outside. This will hopefully allow the beef to remain tender with the beefy flavours sealed in while the sauce is stewing.

Add the Basics herb mix and ground black pepper for seasoning, and then a splash of vinegar, before putting in one packet of Basics chopped tomatoes. At this point, drop the cheese rind in and mix everything thoroughly. Leave to stew until half the liquid evaporates.

The rind did lift the flavour subtly although it did not provide much more than that. I attribute it to the type of cheese used: had I used a strong quality Parmigiano-Reggiano it's likely to have made the sauce more cheesy. Still, it's a good way to make use of your cheese rinds.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Diced Beef£2.75440g+£0.74Leaner cuts.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Toasted Cheese and Salami Sandwiches

Heston Blumenthal did the ultimate toastie as part of his foray into food trends in the 1980s. One of the problems he faced was sourcing for a cheese that is stringy enough and also up to his gourmet standards. To that end, he went as far as to recreate the manufacture of stringy cheese (or so he claims) using two different types of cheese that he found acceptable, to great effect. I had some leftover cheese and the other ingredients necessary to recreate it in my own home, and I have not had a toasted sandwich in the longest time, so I thought to myself, why not?

Some quick research into the topic reveals that toastie makers are the least-used but most-acquired item found in the kitchen. My personal brush with the toastie was during my years in university, when helping out with the Christian Union. Our household currently does not have a working toastie maker now, so I will be using the oven to grill my sandwiches.

Heston Blumenthal starts by heating some white wine and lemon juice in a pan. He did not specify at what heat level he set the stove to, so I just set it such that the liquid was bubbling but not boiling.

He then adds the cheese and lets the entire mixture thicken. I'm not sure of proportions, so I'm afraid that you're on your own this time.

A word of warning, constantly stir and watch the pot, or your cheese would burn and discolour, like below.

Add slices of salami to 4 slices of Basics white bread, and grill until done.
The sandwiches were good. I suppose that the cheeses I used (Basics British Blue and Italian Hard Cheese) were crumbly in texture, so attempting to make them stringy is difficult, to say the least. Still, if I had some cheese more suited to this, I would not mind trying this again.

For those of you who want to see him in action, look no further than below.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Taste Test: Soya Milk

One of the problems living near my alma mater's campus is that there is little access to Asian groceries, which means that we have to go into London Chinatown on a regular basis, which can be a hassle. Alternatively, one could source for similar items in the nearby Sainsbury's. Soya milk from Asia is pretty expensive, so it might make sense to try the one offered by Sainsbury's. For today, I've set up a blind taste test between Vitasoy, a leading Asian brand, and Sainsbury's Basics Sweetened Soya Milk, to see if I can tell the difference.

Sadly, I can. Vitasoy, pictured left above, had a much stronger sweet soya taste, while the Basics soya milk felt more like slightly sweetened water. The colour also looked a lot paler to Vitasoy. A brief check of the ingredients list quickly revealed that there was a stark difference in soya bean content - 65% vs 6%. The regular Sainsbury's sweetened soya milk is little better at 8%. I had a brief discussion with my flatmates and we concluded that the supermarket chain made this as a milk substitute and is hence not supposed to be like the soya milk we are familiar with back home. That said, I personally feel there's nothing wrong with using Vitasoy with your breakfast cereal.

Well, at least it has additional vitamins and minerals.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Sweetened Soya Milk£0.591l+£0.06Marginally higher soya content. Skip both and get Vitasoy.
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