Saturday, 27 August 2011

Tuna Pasta Bake

Sainsbury's recently ran a campaign where they offer plans for five meals that you can feed a family of four with. The second meal plan had for one of the meals a tuna pasta bake, that consisted largely of Basics ingredients. Aside from the ingredients you see above, and aside from the obvious pasta, the bake also contains mushrooms. I decided to give this recipe a little go this time as it involved something that I still have some doubts over - the Basics pasta sauce.

 While preparing the mushrooms for the bake I noticed that the caps of most of them were fully open, gills exposed. I remembered from the article about the white button mushroom and its brethren on Wikipedia that what are commonly marketed as white mushrooms (Sainsbury's included) are young mushrooms that have closed caps. Portobello mushrooms on the other hand are those who have been allowed to fully develop into giant caps of mushroom flavour. Those that go into the tubs of Basics mushrooms then are those that are neither here nor there. If you are not planning to go for presentation though, like slicing mushrooms for pizzas, and don't mind the extra effort to clean the dirt off the mushrooms, they make a good buy.

Most of the recipe can be found in the link above. For this particular one I left out the tomatoes as I didn't want to buy the fresh ones or the canned ones (too expensive, and too much liquid respectively)

The pasta sauce threatened to ruin everything, but ultimately it was the mozzarella and mushrooms which saved the day. I still don't think I can easily recommend the pasta sauce to people yet, until I can find a way to compensate for its sourish flavour. It also does not help that it does not have much actual tomato content, understandable given the relative high price of tomatoes.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Peanut Butter Cups

A regular reader of mine sent in this link, asking if I could try doing this with Basics ingredients. Oddly enough, I do miss eating peanut butter cups, which are readily available in the States and back where I come from, but are difficult to find in the UK. And I'm not alone. My housemates and their friends are all pretty fond of the confectionery, and I have to keep that in mind when I buy some to take back with me. Indeed, once when a group of Americans asked me why I was buying a sizable supply of Reese's Mini Peanut Butter Cups in New York, I simply pointed out the lack of availability where I was based. They nodded understandingly and approvingly.

I would need some form of paper cups to put my chocolate in though. Luckily, my local Sainsbury's stocks Petit Four cases, available in packs of 100, for under a pound. It's unlikely I would be needing this very often, so I'm glad that I didn't have to pay too much for this.

The recipe was originally sourced from Epicurious, which in turn cited it from the December 1990 issue of American food magazine Bon Appetit. While following the recipe I made some improvisations and mistakes, detailed below.

Make the peanut butter blend according to the recipe instructions. The recipe called for sour cream and whipping cream to be blended into the peanut butter, but not wanting to buy a tub of each for the express purpose of making confectionery, I improvised and made the blend from one tablespoon of peanut butter and a splash of semi-skimmed milk. The effect achieved was similar, a smooth peanut butter filling.

Leave the peanut butter filling to cool for a few hours in the fridge.

 A couple of hours later, start up a steam bath and proceed to melt some chocolate.

Use a teaspoon to pick up a dollop of melted chocolate and drop it into the centre of a paper case. Use the back of the teaspoon to then line the walls of the paper case with chocolate, as shown above. Leave to cool in fridge for 20 minutes, and do not do as I did, which was to proceed to the next step without the fridging.

Drop a dollop of the peanut butter filling into each case, and seal off with chocolate. Leave to cool at room temperature before packing into a box for further cooling in the fridge.

It was good being able to bite into something that I have started to miss when my supply of Reese's ran out. I'm guessing that this would probably be most useful to the sizable population of Americans, particularly the youth, who are currently based in the UK for one reason or another, and miss peanut butter cups but are unwilling to pay the price charged by some places here for the privilege of eating them. In the meantime, I suppose this experience may come in handy when entertaining guests in future.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Dan Dan Mian

Dan Dan Mian, or dan dan noodles, consists of noodles in a spicy soup consisting of minced pork and other tasty ingredients. Some variations would add a dollop of sesame paste, especially when eating in Taiwan or the United States. Since peanut butter bears some sort of resemblance to sesame paste, putting together a Sainsbury's Basics version using Basics Peanut Butter should work.

Or so the theory went anyway. Fortunately for me, there are some versions of the noodle dish in the States that indeed use peanut butter in the soup, so I should be in safe territory. In recent times I have been taking a look at peanut butter, intrigued about how something as cheap as that (Sainsbury's Basics' version costs 79p) can provide so many calories per unit weight (615 calories per 100g, to be precise), and wonder if it can be used for more than breakfast sandwiches and confectionery. If an university student can work out how to incorporate this into his meals, and does not mind a bit of monotony, he would be able to last that little bit longer on the same food budget.

I started off by dicing an onion and slicing up a few mushrooms. This is largely for flavouring, extra bulk and to add extra liquid to the soup I will create later.

Once that was done I heated a pan, and browned the Sainsbury's Basics mince. Because its fat content is pretty high and the pan is non-stick, there was no need to add any oil. As the fat is saturated though you might want to consider draining it off at some point. Add onions and mushrooms and continue to cook.

Add half a Sainsbury's Basics Beef Stock Cube and a healthy tablespoon of Basics Peanut Butter to the mix. Follow this up with as much chilli flakes or oil-based chilli sauce that you can willingly take.

Cook spaghetti according to instructions, but drain two minutes early. Add to the wok along with some hot water to make the peanut soup.

I was pleasantly surprised by the result. To be honest, I thought this was going to be another of those pre-planned failures involving a crazy idea for a recipe. The noodle soup was filling, and for good reason too, thanks to the carbs from the pasta and the peanut butter from the soup. Ingredient cost is also pretty low too, and could possibly go lower if you could bring yourself to use the Sainsbury's Basics Mince from the frozen section, but that's scope for another discussion. Authenticity would probably be off the mark, but it's good to know that some form of dan dan mian can be created using things from the Sainsbury's Basics line.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Chicken & Vegetable Pie

I have just returned from my break, and I am slowly getting round to my regular routine again. That includes posting regularly on this blog, although again, I am doing a slow-rolling start instead of jumping straight into cooking demonstrations that are de riguer here. One of the things I managed to stash prior to going for my break are the Chicken & Vegetable Pies shown above.

Aside from Fish & Chips, pastry pies of various sorts are deeply ingrained in British cuisine, offering warm comfort from the colder parts of the year. It's somewhat surprising though that the Sainsbury's Basics range only offers Chicken & Vegetable pie. The other pies in the range are usually potato-topped, or pork pies, which are slightly different from the pies that people outside of the UK are used to. Beef is not that expensive in this country, and in fact, there is a Sainsbury's Basics Cottage Pie, so I fail to see why there isn't a beef-based pastry pie available.

As I was feeling particularly hungry, I decided to pop two pies into the oven. Given also that I have spent two weeks eating outside of the UK, the pies were a gentle reintroduction to the food I'm used to over here.

While the pies had real chicken (making up 9% of the total pie, according to the ingredients), and had chicken stock to flavour the filling, the pie still tasted bland overall. The pastry was pretty good though, being crispy though not too greasy. The pie would probably be best accompanied by richly flavoured mashed potato, say with cheese or mustard, to make up for the blandness of the pie.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Chicken & Vegetable Pie (frozen)£1.004 x 121g+£1.00 for 4 x 150gHigher chicken content. Recommended.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...