Sunday, 26 February 2012

Turkey Legs Coq au Vin

At most Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, the roast turkey takes centrestage. Often however, people favour the succulent breast of the bird and little else; this is also why there is a market for turkey crowns - breast meat joints. Most of the time, the other parts of the turkey - the legs and wings - end up mostly in post-Christmas/Thanksgiving sandwiches over the next few days.

I have come across two other interesting uses of turkey legs though. A significant feature of Disney theme parks are stalls selling turkey legs. Closer to the UK, the BBC has a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for a coq au vin made using turkey legs. What intrigued me most about the recipe is the flambeing of the poultry. I have made coq au vin several times for my friends when we were all in university and had the time to prepare such food, so given the budget-themed nature of this blog, I thought this would be a fun recipe to relive those memories, using the Basics turkey drumstick.

I decided to make a few variations to the original recipe, using sliced onions instead of the small pickling ones, and using mushrooms and a packet of Sainsbury's Basics chopped tomatoes in place of all the other vegetables.

The Basics turkey drumstick, flanked by the alcohols it is to be doused in.

You would notice that the packaging for the Basics Red Wine has changed. The bottle is now plastic instead of glass.

So we start by frying the bacon in butter, along with the onions shortly after. These were then set aside in pan, and then put into an oven to keep warm at 150 degrees Celsius.

I then attempted to flambe the turkey as directed by the recipe, but I struggled to get the turkey to even cook, as it was unable to maintain contact with the pan. After a few attempts with the matches I got a brief blue flame which died out soon after, so I gave up and put the leg into the pan along with the other ingredients.

The pan was then deglazed using red wine, with the mushrooms and Basics chicken stock added soon after. This was then added to the pan, and left to cook at 150 degrees Celsius in the oven for about an hour.

The meat was surprisingly tender, and the sauce went well with it. It is however a lot of work having to carve all the meat from the turkey leg, so I am not sure if I want to do this again. I have enough to feed me for three meals though, and at £1.61 per turkey leg this works out very cheaply. This recipe would be most useful for people who already cook in bulk and have extra time on their hands.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Spinach and Soft Cheese Lasagne

I still had a large bag of spinach that I managed to get for cheap (around £2.50 if memory serves). Whatever was left of it was quickly expiring and I had to somehow cook it in one go. I have seen vegeterian lasagnes made of spinach and ricotta before in my travaills. Since spinach was the main ingredient in those pasta dishes, it seemed a good idea to make use of those.

And so I set off to Sainsbury's. While getting the Basics Lasagne sheets was pretty straightforward, a question arose as to what I was going to get to top the lasagne. I noticed that at least for my local branch, Sainsbury's has withdrawn the Basics Grated Mild Cheese and replaced it with Mild Grated Cheddar, which costs slightly more. I decided to go with it anyway, as it seems reminiscent of the grated cheese that most university undergraduates are familiar with.

So I started by frying the spinach with some garlic until it has wilted slightly.

From experience, even though the box states that the lasagne sheets can be used immediately, from experience they dry up when exposed to the oven. I soaked mine in water for a few minutes.

Combine the spinach with some cream cheese, and use it to build a lasagne in brick-and-mortar fashion, starting with the cheese and spinach layer, then lasagne sheet, and so on.

In case anybody is wondering, that was my flatmate's salmon, which he had for dinner. The lasagne was on the right, flanked by sheets of lasagne that have been exposed to the oven. I still have no idea how to use the sheets properly, so any feedback would be highly appreciated.

For those who crave meat, I would imagine adding some spicy sausage or bacon would be great.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Lasagne Sheets£0.40250g+£0.48 for 500g (ie +4p for 250g)Not known
Mild Grated Cheddar£2.30500g+£1.10Better-tasting cheese

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Spam Carbonara

Sometimes, your kitchen will not be as well-stocked as you hope it to be, because of your commitments, so much so that you will be left with very little to make something meaningful. I encountered one such situation today when all I had left was the leftover Basics chopped pork and ham, frozen from last time, a serving of spaghetti, an egg and some spinach. Then again, the British Army, known for their resilience, have managed to make do with less for much longer.

Due to the United States' involvement in World War II and its resultant global military presence, Spam was to be found almost everywhere you go, having left its cultural mark in the post-war period in the UK, South Korea, and the Philippines, amongst other places. It is claimed that in the mean time, the Italians were supplied by American occupation troops with bacon and eggs, giving rise to Carbonara, though the veracity of that claim cannot be ascertained. If it were true however, they could have just as easily used Spam instead, and so it would have been interesting if they really did. With all that in mind, I decided to make myself some luncheon meat carbonara.

The preparation was very simple: start by frying the luncheon meat with some garlic, while the spaghetti is cooking. Throw in the spinach when the spaghetti is almost cooked, and then add the pasta. Take the pan off heat, beat an egg, and then pour it into the lot, stirring vigourously. Add Basics grated hard cheese and serve.

This was quick to prepare, and satisfying. The only drawback here would be the nutritional value, but if you are, hungry, in a hurry and caught short on kitchen stock, that would probably be the last thing on your mind. Oddly enough, this also brought to mind the Spam sketch, Monty Python's last ever comedy item, where the overwhelming presence of the word "Spam" on the cafe's menu gave rise to its use to describe Internet junk mail.

Saturday, 4 February 2012


With February comes Valentine's Day, and with that come the joys and perils of courtship and romance. During this period, the sharing of gifts and food is just as common as the sharing of affections, and desserts often feature heavily. I fondly remember in particular my ex-flatmate, who, in the run-up to 14th February, made tiramisu repeatedly so that he can perfect his recipe and technique for his then-girlfriend. Needless to say, the entire household benefitted from all the tiramisu prototypes lying around. Given the timing of this post, I thought that it would be appropriate to attempt tiramisu.

One of the key components of tiramisu is Savoiardi biscuits (known as sponge fingers in the UK), soaked in a blend of espresso and Marsala wine. As none of these are available from the Sainsbury's Basics line however, we are going to have to make do with shortbread fingers, instant coffee and brandy.

In a region where people are very serious about their coffee, I've always been surprised that a product like instant coffee can thrive here. Sainsbury's Basics only recently introduced their version of instant coffee very recently, but would be handy to people like the final year medical students in my flat, who are currently studying for their final exams and would probably appreciate preparing a hot caffienated drink for cheap. The coffee itself is nothing yo write home about though, and from a cook's perspective, would be more useful in chilli con carne and stews than in desserts, where the ingredients get more attention.

As noted earlier, Sainsbury's do not have Basics sponge fingers, so I decided to use Shortbread Fingers instead. Other than being similar in shape, they also are richer than most biscuits, and hence share cake-like characteristics with the thing that they replaced.

I was planning to get Basics dark rum in place of Marsala wine, since fermented molasses sounded like a good substitute for sweet wine. However, it appears that Sainsbury's has discontinued both dark and white versions of the Basic rums. An empty shelf with a tag saying "Sale: While stocks last" stands where the white rum used to be. The only other spirit that I know is used in desserts is Brandy, so I grabbed a plastic bottle of the Basics version. Just as well, since in my opinion it is closer in refinement to Marsala wine than rum.

In making this Tiramisu I followed a recipe from the BBC by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi from the programme Return to Tuscany, with the ingredient substitutions made above, along with Basics soft cheese in place of mascarpone. I also merged it with information from Cooking for Engineers, specifically the part involving making Zabaglione, to avoid food poisoning from consuming raw eggs.

So I started by beating three egg yolks, saving the whites for later. I then added 100g of sugar and about 85ml of the Basics French Brandy.

The mixture was then heated on a hot water bath until thick and smooth. 125g of cream cheese was then  beaten and added in.

About 125ml (use less if you're attempting this) of double cream was then whipped and added. The mixture was constantly kept warm and whisked frequently until thickened. If the mixture starts becoming lumpy it's being overdone, the result of which you can see in the final photo.

Prepare a cup of coffee using 3 teaspoons of Sainsbury's Basics Instant Coffee, and another 85ml of Brandy. Dip one packet of Basics Shortbread Fingers, biscuit by biscuit, and make them form the first layer. Cover that layer with the cheese/eggs/cream mixture, and repeat for one more layer.

Store in the fridge overnight.

I have very high hopes for this and will write back tomorrow on the outcome. Initial sampling of the cream cheese mixture has been very positive, and the substitution of the ladyfingers and mascarpone has turned out much better than expected. If this works well, this would be a very cheap way to make a very impressive dessert, especially with the soft cheese now costing 75p for a large 300g tub.

(Back to Sainsbury's Basics accepts no responsibility for any adverse effect this recipe or blog post might have on your marriage, engagement or relationship. Use at your own risk.)

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Shortbread Fingers£0.37160g+£0.31 for 200gNot known but probably not much
Instant Coffee Granules£1.64100g+£0.30Stronger coffee
Brandy£9.29700ml+£1.20Not known
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