Saturday, 26 May 2012

Beanless Chilli

There is a well-known cultural divide across the Atlantic, between the British and the Americans. As a result, there tends to be differences in just about everywhere, from speech (try asking an American and a Briton what suspenders are, for instance), to table etiquette (while Brits tend to cut steak up as they go along, the Americans will cut it all up first), to cuisine.

While people Stateside don't think of jacket potatoes as anything more than a baked potato with butter, perhaps at most sour cream, chives and bacon bits, served as a side to go with steak, over here in the UK people tend to have it as a meal on its own, using a wide variety of toppings - tuna mayonnaise, coronation chicken, and chilli con carne, just to name a few. And while the British don't think of chilli con carne as much more than just a bolognese sauce with chilli and kidney beans, in the States, there's a mind-boggling variety of chilli types, debates over the inclusion of beans that can border on the religious, and closely guarded spice mix recipes.

Amongst the more unusual things I have encountered while reading up on American chilli include the use of beer and coffee, and even the norm in Cincinnati, Ohio of serving chilli with spaghetti and grated cheddar. With about one serving to go in my pack of Basics minced beef, and plenty of odds and ends from the Basics range in my kitchen, I decided to try incorporating some of my discoveries in a beanless chilli.

Fry some Sainsbury's Basics mince together with some Basics garlic. Season with Basics black pepper and herb mix, and a dash of Basics vinegar.

Start adding in Basics beer (lager or bitter is fine), in quantities of about a mouth at a time. At some point stir in some Basics instant coffee as well.

Add Sainsbury's Basics chopped tomatoes and leave to simmer. Meanwhile, soak some Basics spaghetti so as to remove it of its starch. Add to the pan and simmer everything together until the spaghetti is done. Sprinkle with grated Basics cheddar (or Basics grated hard cheese, if you don't have cheddar), spike with your chilli of choice, and serve.

This turned out well, generally speaking. It was difficult getting the balance between the beer and coffee right,  but they lend an unusual, if bitter, edge to the final result. Certainly an interesting way to use your bolognese ingredients, and not too difficult to whip up if you already know how to do spag bol.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Vegetable Spring Rolls

Sainsbury's is currently offering a £5 meal deal which gets you a main and two sides (or a main, a side, and a dessert) until 22 May  Apparently, this includes ready-made items from the Sainsbury's Basics range, but if they are offering items for a flat fee getting Basics items probably would not make much monetary sense. I did come across the Sainsbury's Basics Spring Rolls reduced to 29p however; given the price, I decided to buy this, saving it for when I might need a snack to tide me over to the next meal.

Preparation seems simple enough - pop in the oven for a set amount of time, depending on if you took it out of the fridge or the freezer.

The spring rolls were surprisingly good - the skin was crisp and the filling - while having an odd hint of five-spice powder - tasted like the spring rolls you would get from your nearby Chinese takeaway. While one can certainly go for higher-quality options, there is no need for gourmet ingredients to make a good spring roll.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Vegetable Spring Rolls£0.592+£1.66 for 4Not known. Other types of spring rolls available.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Peanut Butter French Toast

As we continue to wind things down here in preparation of a change in location, I am finding less incentive to buy groceries, including Basics items to make the stuff that go on this blog. Of particular bother is the bread I have bought and frozen a few weeks back, and the peanut butter from even longer ago. There are only so many peanut butter sandwiches that I would be willing to eat before I grow tired of them, so I thought of a way of jazzing it up.

I have come across a few bloggers on the Internet who have made peanut butter French toast by coating peanut butter sandwiches in beaten eggs before pan-frying. I am curious about how much oil I can extract from the Basics peanut butter for cooking purposes, so this would be a particularly interesting context to find out.

Oddly enough, the name used in France and other places for French toast is pain perdu, which translates to stale (lit. lost) bread.

An attempt to fry the peanut butter in an attempt to extract oil from it resulted in the butter being slightly caramelised. This explains the slight oil discolouration you might see in the photos.

Defrost two slices of Basics bread per person and spread with Basics peanut butter. Make a sandwich, and cut into four triangles, as shown.

Beat an egg until frothy, and soak the triangles in them. Pan fry until slightly golden-brown. Serve warm.

The blend of flavours from the peanut butter with the egg reminded me of min chiang kueh, a pancake-like snack served by the slice stuffed with a peanut paste. It was a pleasant surprise to discover this, and would be useful to know should I need to bring some sort of dessert for a group event or pot-luck. Unfortunately, I still have plenty of bread and peanut butter to go.
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