Saturday, 27 October 2012

Beef in Tea

During the house move I chanced upon this. It was a recipe book left behind by one of my flatmates, most likely from my homeland. I remember these rather fondly, seeing them in local bookstores, with rather interesting recipes with a distinct Asian slant.

Most of the recipes in the book describe rather unusual, if not outright weird, cooking techniques. One that caught my attention in particular was for cooking beef in a strong brew of tea. The idea sounded very strange, but given that the British are known for being regular tea drinkers, I thought I would give this a try, and proceeded to buy Sainsbury's Basics tea bags.

A quick search on Google reveals that Basics tea is actually one of the better products in the line, and certainly one of the most value-for-money. The next brand up costs more than twice as much for half the amount of tea.

The pleasant, slightly sweet fragrance of tea wafts out when the box is opened. I brewed a cup for myself to see if it was good as it smelled. Sad to say, the tea was rather weak, perhaps because I was using a larger mug. This is more or less in line with reports made by others on various Internet forums, but most were happy to just use two bags per cup, which still works out to be slightly cheaper than the regular Sainsbury's own-brand tea.

The recipe book called for beef stewed with tomatoes and radishes, but I decided to go with Sainsbury's Basics green beans instead. These are unlike the string beans featured earlier in the blog, perhaps of a different variety. They retail for 99p for 200g, which make it similar in price to the Basics string beans. On hindsight, using these beans in a long-cooking stew may not have been for the best, and it might have been better to go for hard root vegetables.

I decided to go with mushrooms as well, since the glutamates they contain can add to the umami or meaty flavour of the beef.

Marinate the beef beforehand if desired. Brown the beef with garlic and onion, adding the chopped vegetables once the surface of the beef is no longer raw. In the meantime brew one cup of tea using 3-5 bags of Sainsbury's Basics tea bags.

Brew 1-2 more cups of tea using the same bags. Cover and simmer for one hour.

The stew has a long turnaround time, mostly the one-hour spent simmering. The resulting stew was very pleasant however, if a little bitter from the tea, and with some tweaks I'm sure it would be very welcome especially with the cold winter approaching.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Tea Bags£0.2980/250g+£0.41 for 40/125g (!)Slightly stronger tea?

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Herring Roe on Toast

A recent trip to my local Sainsbury's turned up an interesting find: there seemed to be a new Basics item in the tinned fish aisle, near the Basics Tuna. At £1.19 for 125g though it certainly was not cheap, compared to the sardines it was next to, or even the Basics Tuna itself. This was Herring Roe though, and if memory serves, the next best thing was caviar, certainly out of reach for most people. Curiosity got the better of me and I bought a tin home.

Further research on the Internet revealed that the Basics Herring Roe was merely a rebrand from their own-brand range, similar to what they did with the Grated Hard Cheese some time ago, with a price drop of 20p. Herring roe was traditionally enjoyed amongst the working classes but fell out of fashion over the last several years. There has been a recent surge however in interest in cheap fish like pollock and mackeral, perhaps driven by the recent economic crisis, and as part of this trend, last year Waitrose reported healthy sales of fresh herring roe. One could infer that the Sainsbury's rebrand is to encourage people with lower budgets to try it as an occasional treat, in other words, a poor man's caviar.

I bought Basics Part-Baked Baguettes along with the herring roe to try this. A common suggestion is to serve the herring roe fried with hot buttered toast with lemon squeezed over, so for lunch, while baking the baguette, I pan-fried the herring roe, and then topped the sliced baguette with it.

The taste was surprisingly familiar - I remember my mother deep-frying fish roe along with fish for dinner when I was younger. Overall, it was enjoyable, though I perhaps should have gone with the suggestion to butter the toast before laying the roe on. As noted, it's not cheap, but might be useful as an affordable starter when hosting visitors for dinner.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servingsTrade-up PremiumTrade-up Benefits
Soft Herring Roe in Brine£1.19125gN/ANot applicable, next suitable alternative is caviar.
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