Saturday, 31 March 2012

Fun with Cheese: Cheese oil for cooking

While making the Macaroni and Cheese last week, I couldn't help but notice that the Basics mild grated cheddar I used was very oily. A thought crossed my mind then to try extracting and using the oil for culinary purposes. If proven effective, it would possibly be a way to save having to use more oil than necessary when cooking cheese-based dishes.

Chinese takeaways usually come in plastic microwave boxes with lids, so I microwaved the cheese on a lid on high for 30 seconds to see what happens. While the cheese quickly melted and gave up its oil readily, it was difficult to transfer the oil to the pan for cooking, since oil tends to stick to the plastic. An alternate approach was then tried where the cheese was put on low heat in the pan, and spread around to even out the distribution of any extracted oil.

Note the glossy sheen of oil the cheese has given the pan.

To see if the cheese oil is suitable for cooking, I made a three-egg omelette, adding a bit of Basics milk to stretch it out slightly and pepper for flavour.

From the photos, I suppose it is clear that the oil from the Basics grated cheese will be useful for frying. I suppose the most relevant application of this will be the making of cheeseburgers. The grated cheese can be microwaved or melted over low heat to form slices to place in the burgers later, with the oil it exudes used to grease the pan or grill to cook the burger patties.

It's a pity that the omelette, while tasty, did not turn out quite as well.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Macaroni and Cheese

It has been a while since I've posted here, but work and social obligations have been getting the better of me, and as a result I have not been eating at home as often as I would like to. This has been a post that I have been planning for a while though; a few months ago I came across a post on Lifehacker that suggested cooking pasta in milk as a base for macaroni and cheese, the staple that Americans love. I happened to have most of the Basics ingredients that are needed, leftover from previous posts, so I thought I might as well run the stockpile down and experiment with this.

The only ingredient that I did not have though is milk. Up till now I have been using fresh milk as and when needed. I was aware that supermarkets usually stock UHT milk, but the thought to actually check the corresponding aisle for Basics UHT milk did not occur to me until the time I actually walked past it. Since then I have been waiting for an opportunity to use this in a blog.

Ultra High Temperature milk gets heated to a point where the flavour changes, but all bacteria gets killed. This is why you can store packs of UHT milk without refrigeration. This contrasts with fresh milk which is only pasteurised, killing only a large proportion of bacteria, hence requiring constant refrigeration to remain fit for human consumption. To date in the UK, I have only encountered UHT milk at gatherings where milk is provided for addition to tea and coffee, where the flavour of the milk does not matter so much so long as it has not gone bad, and this is perhaps where the Basics UHT milk is most suitable.

Preparation is a simple matter of boiling Basics pasta in milk, and adding Basics grated cheddar, finishing with Basics grated hard cheese on the top. To liven it up a bit I added Basics pepper and herb mix, and topped it with Basics bacon grilled to a crisp.

This was a resounding success. This is easy to prepare and very filling, and since the excess starch from the dried pasta goes to forming the sauce rather than being poured away when draining the pasta after cooking, very little gets wasted. Care should be taken however when boiling milk in a pan, as the milk close to the bottom might burn, making washing up more difficult afterwards.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
UHT Milk£0.491l+£0.32Choice of semi-skimmed and full cream, possibly better flavour

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Fried Rice

It has come to my attention, and a bit of a surprise to me really, that despite the slight Asian theme that this blog takes, I have never managed to cover fried rice, that mainstay of Asian cuisine. Given that this blog started out aiming for readership from university, I'm almost ashamed that I have not talked about it, given that it is a very quick meal to prepare (especially if you already have cooked the rice from previously) and a highly effective way to use up leftovers. I happen to have ingredients available to make fried rice with ham and peas, both pretty prevalent in the diets of many Britons, so I thought it would be rather fitting to do something along these lines.

The Chinese have an interesting technique for cooking the rice, which involves mixing egg into the rice until everything is evenly coated in egg. This is commonly referred to as "gold covering silver", a reference to the golden hue of the egg yolk coating the whiteness of the rice grain. I will attempt to demonstrate this today.

I will be using two canned items from the Sainsbury's Basics range today, processed peas and ham. I got the latter around the same time I got the tinned chopped pork, the difference on initial inspection of the tin appearing to be the lower salt content. The texture is meatier, and feels less like the processed food product that is the Basics Chopped Pork and Ham. Still, some people might actually consider that as a bad thing.

Mince some garlic for the fried rice. Fry quickly, and then throw in the ham and peas.

Mix egg into portions of rice at a ratio of 1:1. Add to the pan, and keep stirring to prevent the egg from sticking. Serve.


This meal turned out to be quite enjoyable. The peas however were starchy and heavy-going, so I would advise against using these, recommending instead the Basics Frozen Peas. These only come in bags of 2kg however. It's nice to see though that the eggs have lent themselves well to the slightly yellowish hue of the rice; with practice, I might be able to do this for guests.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Ham (tinned)£0.99200g+£0.40Leaner, healthier ham

Friday, 2 March 2012

Turkey Lasagne

I'm afraid that today is going to be a very straightforward post involving the use of leftovers. While I was having the Turkey Leg Coq au Vin for dinner last week my friend quipped that it looked a lot like a pasta sauce. As the turkey leg was large enough to last me for a few days, I have to come up with a way to add variety to my leftovers or I would get bored pretty quickly. I happened to have Basics lasagne sheets and shredded cheddar from previous posts, so I thought, how about a lasagne?

This turned out really well, and took very little effort. The lasagne sheets were actually much more manageable than the Spinach and Cream cheese one I did a while back. I now know what to do with leftover bolognese sauce.
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