Tuesday, 24 May 2011

GUEST CHEF - Marcus "Pierre White" Lim

Dear readers, no doubt in recent days you may have heard that your regular, trusted blog author has been laid low from an acute case of salmonella poisoning, due in no small part to a rather misjudged attempt at making custard from some pigeon eggs he found on a ramble through Hyde Park.

In much the same way a trusted senior executive is often jetted in to rescue an embattled, and embezzling CEO, or how shadowy American forces are parachuted in to extricate a banana republic dictator, I am very glad to be invited by Señor Alwyn Tan to guest host this gleaming bastion of bargain banqueting, this towering mansion of marked-down mastication, this truly magnificent den of discount

Today, we will be recreating an old classic, oven roast chicken breast stuffed with sage-infused mustard butter, wrapped in seared Serrano ham, over a bed of ravioli alla spagnuola.

As usual, apply to your nearest Sainsbury's for their cheapest choice products as follows:
1. Basics Chicken Breast (£4.27)
2. Basics Tomatoes (£0.67)
3. Basics Mushroom Tortellini (£1.12)
4. Basics Salted Butter (£0.54)
5. Basics Mushrooms (£0.85)
6. Basics Tomato and Herb Sauce (£1.67)

The other three products are not in the basics range, but as Alwyn is busy vomiting up his smaller intestines in the next room, I feel it safe to embark on a few value judgements the cheap bugger would otherwise nix.

Firstly, Taste the Difference Serrano Ham at £1.87 for five slices,
Fresh sage at £0.78, and
Sainsbury's French Dijon Mustard, at £0.57 - a whopping 12p more expensive than their basics tin of yellow goo.

Preparations - Meat course
To begin, chop the tomatoes in sixths, and then the mushrooms.

Layer fresh sage leaves seven deep, roll up lengthwise, and shred. Take a moment to breath in the smell, and think of the French countryside.

Combine shredded sage in a bowl with four tablespoons of French dijon mustard and three of butter. Mix well. Think of a French milkmaid churning butter.

Slice chicken breasts halfway through the fleshiest parts. Think of the French milkmaid's.....er.. cows....

Spoon a generous amount of sage butter into chicken breast. Then, carefully wrap with two slices of Serrano Ham for each breast.

Sear breasts in a hot oiled pan for 30 seconds on each side, until brown.

Transfer to a pan and roast in preheated 210 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Preparations - Tortellini
Sautée mushrooms in pan, when brown, add tomatoes.

Combine in saucepan with Tomato and Herb sauce. Bring to boil

In separate saucepan of boiling water, boil tortellini for no more than 7 minutes.

Spoon generous amount of sauce into bowl, then using a slotted spatula, spoon three heaps of tortellini into bowl.

Mix sauce and pasta, then transfer to plate.

Remove chicken from oven, let rest for 2 minutes.
Slice and serve.

Just d'alors! We are done, no? What is it you say? It looks too good to be just a Sainsbury Basics dinn-ah?

Mais oui! You are correct, a maintanente, it eees 'ow you say eet? A bluff...

You think a dinner pour deux like dees costs only £12.34?

Yoo are mistaken! eet was actually flown in from my restaurant on zee Amalfi Coast, and would 'ave cost yooo almost two 'a-hndred euros, plus service.

What you say? eet does not look like a two 'a-hndred euro meal, well zehn, Ah speet in your face, Ah have nev-ARH been soo insulted in mah lahfe.....

To contact our Guest Chef, you may write to:
Marcus "Pierre White" Lim
Ristorante The Le Tratteria
512 Rue le Fiffi, Via del Puttacesca
The Amalfi Coast, BRISTOL

[Editor's note: Today's post is brought to you by a good friend of mine from my secondary school days. If you haven't done so already, please peruse the oxygen masks that have deployed from the overhead compartments. We shall resume our normal programming shortly.]

Tomato and Herb Pasta Sauce

I was supposed to have a guest contribution this week from a friend of mine who cooked lunch for the both of us, using as much Sainsbury's Basics ingredients as he could bear himself to use, but unfortunately he has yet to submit it to me. He did leave behind a fair amount of leftovers though, and curiously, a new item. I've wanted to review the Tomato & Herb sauce as it was the only other tomato-based pasta sauce in the Sainsbury's Basics range, but saw little need to do so, as I felt that its relative high cost compared to the one found in jars would preclude the university students in my target audience. When he left behind a tub of the fresh sauce though, curiosity got the better of me.

The tomato content of this is much better compared to the jarred variety, at 15% (8% tomatoes + 7% tomato puree), but is still pretty little compared to the regular tubs, at 57%, with Italian tomatoes to boot. If you're not too fussy about this though, it would make a better-tasting alternative to the jarred Basics pasta sauce.

I whipped up some seafood spaghetti using the leftover ingredients he left behind and my stash of Sainsbury's Basics frozen prawns, topping the whole lot off with Basics Grated Hard Cheese. It was pretty satisfying, the taste reminding me of a tomato-based seafood soup that I had at a certain pizza restaurant found back home. If you're cooking for many, it might be a good idea to buy this and blend it together with fresh tomatoes in order to save on pasta sauce, as well as time. The alternative would be to make your own pasta sauce but that takes longer to prepare.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Tomato and Herb Sauce£1.29500g+£0.21 for 350gMore variety, higher tomato content.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Green Beans and Prawn Stir-Fry

Originally this post was to be about experimenting with the remaining Basics feta-like cheese as an omelette filling. Sadly, the storage instructions to "consume within 3 days" once opened were to be taken seriously, and so I had no choice but to throw it out. This however freed me up to have a look at the Sainsbury's Basics Green Beans that I first came across about a couple of years ago.

I remember disliking eating green beans as a child, but grew to like them, especially when stir-fried with sambal belacan, a paste-like sauce made from chillis and prawns. Coming over here, I noticed that most vegetables in British cooking are almost always baked or boiled, but with the exception of mushrooms, never fried. Green beans are most commonly boiled in the UK, which makes for pretty bland eating.

The green beans that are available in Sainsbury's are mostly fine beans, which are thinner and firmer in texture. The Basics green beans are a bit mushier, but most people would be fine with this, particularly since when eating out back where I come from restaurants and other eateries would use this, being cheaper than fine beans.

While defrosting the prawns, prepare the beans by snipping off the ends and halving them, and mince 2-3 cloves of garlic.

Fry the garlic under medium heat, before tossing in the green beans, followed by the prawns. Season with vinegar, and optionally, some chilli or sambal that you can probably find at your nearest oriental supermarket.

With a decent amount of rice this could be eaten on its own, however most of the time this would be shared amongst 2-3 people along with a meat-based dish. As my flatmates are usually adverse to me serving them Sainsbury's Basics ingredients I would probably have to substitute products in their own-brand line if I ever cook this for them.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Green Beans£1200g+£0.50Trimmed fine beans, or Fairtrade fine beans.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Breaded Scampi Bites

Apologies for the delay, I returned from the States last week and took a while to get into the swing of things in the UK. It seemed that quite a bit has changed while I was out: I went to my local Sainsbury's hoping to get myself a box of Basics fish fingers only to find that they no longer appear to stock that in their frozen seafood section. Which is a pity, it was only recently that I found that it was Young's Seafood (yes, really) that supplied the product. I do however see a revamped line, and something new.

Scampi is a type of small lobster, small enough to be considered by most to be a prawn. It is also known as a Langoustine. Langoustines are considered a delicacy by Larousse Gastronomique, the French gastronomic encyclopedia, and should be prepared only by boiling very briefly in stock, to preserve its inherent sweet flavour. The British, perhaps in defiance of the French, and as a result of the animosity between the two, usually have theirs minced up, breaded with breadcrumbs, and deep fried.

This product is no different from the scampi the UK is familiar with. The amount of seafood is alarmingly small (the amount of scampi even smaller, having been blended with fish), but for £1, it's pretty cheap, considering that it will last you for about 2-3 meals.

It's still not as cheap as the Basics fish fingers though, and certainly not as nutritious. It's a real shame that Sainsbury's have decided to discontinue what is arguably a very cheap source of protein (I still remember being able to get this and the Tesco fish finger's at 20p for 10, as recently as 7 years ago). I might be mistaken about its status in the line though, since mySupermarket has not updated its listings, so if you do continue to see the Basics fish fingers at your local Sainsbury's, let me know.

UPDATE 1: It seems that the Basics Fish Fingers are available after all, now repackaged as Responsibly Sourced Fish Fingers. A lot of the product revamp appears geared towards sustainable fishing.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Breaded Scampi Bites£19-10 bites+£N/AN/A, no direct requivalent
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