Sunday, 29 September 2013

Carrot Cruncher Soup

So, there was nothing exciting for lunch, no money in the kitty to get something exciting for lunch & some stuff in the bottom of the fridge which was about to go wrinkly within the next couple of days.

Obviously, time for some soup-ing!

Here's what I used:

  • Some carrots
  • An onion
  • A little oil (which I forgot to put in the picture - sorry!)
  • Handful of red lentils
  • A couple of chicken stock cubes (in a litre of water, more if you like thinner soup)
  • BIG dollop of crème fraiche
  • Bunch of coriander
  • Some grated cheese (if you fancy it)

And here's how I made it:
  1. Put a couple of chicken stock cubes in a litre of water, stir and leave to dissolve
  2. Put a little oil in the bottom of your saucepan (use a big pan)
  3. Chop the onion and fry gently in the oil for a couple of minutes
  4. Chop the carrots and add to the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes and stir it around to make sure it doesn't catch and burn
  5. Add the stock-water and a handful of red lentils
  6. Simmer for about half an hour
  7. Stir in the crème fraiche
  8. Chop up the coriander and stir in; cook for about five more minutes
  9. Whizz in the blender or blitz with a stick blender
  10. Serve up and sprinkle some cheese on top
YUM! And cheap! And quick! And Carrot-Girl ate it all up!

And there's some left for tomorrow too!

Friday, 27 September 2013

The Cheap School Run

Ahhh, the school run. Thankfully, Carrot-Girl's school doesn't seem to be populated by parents using the school run as a fashion parade. Even if I had bags of money, I don't think I could compete, as the idea of having anything more sophisticated than jeans and a sweatshirt on first thing in the morning on a non-office day is just something I can't contemplate!

Carrot-Girl's school is just over a mile from us, but a test-walk undertaken by her and her grandparents was not a huge success, since they had to ring me after walking for 40 minutes to say they couldn't find the school. Turns out they just hadn't walked far enough, and on the basis of that experience, I decided that walking for 40+ minutes with a dawdling girl who wants to look at everything on the way was not going to result in a calm start to the school day.

So, then I tried it on my bike and RESULT! 11 minutes!

The only downside is that it's all up hill on the way to school and since Carrot-Girl is not only getting heavier, but expects a conversation whilst sitting in comfort, that's quite hard work.

My bike came from Lidl, and cost around £90.00, the bike seat came from a charity shop for £2.00 and Carrot-Girl's helmet was a present.

I estimate that petrol would be at least £1.00 - £2.00 per day, plus the wear on the car caused by starting the engine cold twice a day for really short journeys.

Even using my lowest guess, that's £200.00 per year saved on petrol, plus (hopefully!) some health benefits thrown in.

Do you cycle? Share your cycling-savings with me!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Two Random Thoughts....................

Random Thought Number One:
I'm gearing up for The Great British Bake Off, as all sensible people who can watch the BBC should be. As usual, I am preparing by thinking "hmmmm, I should make a cake", so I go and get my Mary Berry Ultimate Cake Book

and start flicking through, looking to see if I have all the ingredients for any of them.

And I notice, nearly all the recipes call for "Unsalted Butter" (which I don't have in stock and rarely buy, I use either salted or cooking margarine), but then go on to add "a teaspoon of salt".

Ehh? I had sometimes pondered if my cakes would be better if I used unsalted butter, but now can't see they point, giving I'm adding salt back in.

Random Thought Number Two:

I am an avid recycler. Nothing goes in my "normal" bin, if I can recycle or reuse it. Also, we now have food recycling here, once a week, which is great.

We didn't use to have much in the way of food waste when we had a dog, as he recycled it all for us.

We do still have a cat (more stories about her to follow) and today she presented me with one of these:

Nice. She was roundly scolded by Carrot Girl "Naughty Catty! You did spit a bird out of your mouth!"

Carrot-Man backed off rapidly, Carrot-Girl pretended to be revolted but kept coming back for a look, so it was left to me to deal with it (the cat having long since got bored and wandered off).

So, (random thought), dead birds are food waste, right?

Monday, 23 September 2013

Mashed Potato - Buy It or Make It?

I am not a lover of vegetables, to be honest. I know they are good for me, I know that will make me thinner, fitter and taller (well, maybe ,if I'd eaten them as a child, instead of pushing them around my plate and hoarding them, hamster-style, in my cheeks until I could sneak off and spit them down the loo).

But, I am not thin, fit or tall, and I still don't like veg. I consider Pringles to be one of my 5-a-Day. They count as two if you choose the Cheese & Chive flavour and three if you eat them with a glass of wine (grapes, you see).

I am also quite easily tempted to be lazy, which is why, wandering around Sainsbury's, I nearly picked up a pot of ready-made mash. It was £1.00 for 400g, so not expensive in the grand scheme of things, but at Carrot Towers, a pound saved is a pound earned. I would have bought one pot to serve two of us.

I had all the ingredients in the cupboards and fridge already; this is what you need to make enough for four:

  • 900g potatoes
  • 25g butter or cooking margarine
  • 2tbsp milk
  • 1tbsp crème fraiche (I used half-fat)
  • Salt & pepper
  • Optional - Pesto
My recipe comes from the Delia's Winter Collection. My rather knackered and splattered copy is below. It's a good book if you are a fan of casseroles and nice, filling, slightly stodgy winter food.


 This is how you make it:
  1. Peel & chop potatoes and steam or boil for about 20-25 minutes. I prefer to steam them, as they don't get bashed about and absorb lots of excess water.
  2. Drain when tender and return to the pan. Cover with a tea towel and leave for 5 minutes
  3. Add the butter, milk & crème fraiche and whisk together with an electric whisk. Add seasoning
  4. Add pesto, if you like it (which I do! I eat it straight from the jar with a teaspoon!)
So, how does the price stack up?
  • Potatoes - 90p
  • Margarine - 4p
  • Milk - 5p
  • Crème fraiche - 10p
  • Salt & pepper - 1p
  • Pesto - 15p
  • TOTAL:  £1.25
Some of my prices are a bit estimated (I have used the Sainsbury's website to try and price stuff) and my maths is usually a bit wrong, but, on this occasion I was right not to be lazy: £1.00 to buy a pot to feed two or £1.25 to feed four. Result!

Now, what shall I splash my saving of 75p on?

Saturday, 21 September 2013

(Almost) Free Food!

Soooo, I am luring you into my new blog with the promise of (almost) free food. How good is that?
I don't very often make desserts; I don't have a sweet tooth, I am currently built more for comfort than for speed, so don't need any extra food, plus, generally speaking, I just can't be arsed to cook anything else on top of the main meal.
But, when you have a guest, you have to push the boat out a little, right? OK, so, not much time to shop/cook/prepare and, in any case, money is in short supply in Carrot Towers at present, so it's time to fall back on my favourite dessert - Fruit Crumble.

I decided I could kill two birds with one stone and get the filling for free and get it for less effort by taking Carrot-Girl for a nice walk to pick blackberries and collect some apples from the house along the road who puts a nice big box outside with a "Help Yourself" label on.

When blackberrying alone, I always pick from above the height that I think a dog might wee on. However, Carrot-Girl is four, so the line between where she can reach and where a dog might wee is quite thin.

Best just to rinse well and not think about it too hard. Obviously, I decided not to share that information with Carrot-Man and the guest. And anyway, urine is sterile, isn't it?
Speaking of blackberries, years ago I once went out with a guy who had lived all his life in inner London (Elephant and Castle, for those who know London) but had, just before I met him, moved to the leafy (to his urban mind) Crystal Palace area.

He had a huge and fruitful blackberry bush in his back garden, so I suggested picking them and making some jam or desserts or something.

He looked at me as if I was utterly insane, saying "Are you mad? They are WILD! They will poison you!" To misquote Charlotte Bronte, Reader, I did not marry him. I didn't even stick around until the following blackberry season.

Anyway, enough about badly chosen boyfriends of long ago and back to the recipe. I am using a 2-pint casserole dish, which, if you have a set of three, is probably the middle one.

Rinse the blackberries well (even if you have picked from above dog-wee height), drain and put in the dish. Peel, core and chop your apples and fill the dish (I don't know the weights, I just fill the dish to the top, and left over fruit goes in the freezer until next time).
Next, make the crumble. You will need:
  • 170g plain flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 110g butter or cooking margarine
  • 55g sugar (basic granulated works best - yay, the cheapest is best!)
And this is what you do:
  1. Sift flour and salt into a bowl
  2. Rub in the butter until it looks like lumpy crumbs (below)
  3. Add the sugar (don't forget this, I did once, not good)

Put the topping onto the fruit and cook at 200c for about 45 minutes.

Don't worry about the enormous towering pile, as the crumble cooks the fruit will soften and sink and you'll end up with a flat-ish dessert..............................

.................... a bit like this one:

Yum! It tasted great! We ate three quarters and I polished off the remainder for my breakfast, before anyone else could get up and snaffle it.

You can make this with any fruit all year round. If you use a very tart fruit, like gooseberry or rhubarb, sprinkle some sugar on the fruit and but a sugar bowl out when you serve, so people can sweeten to taste.

So, what free fruit is available in your areas? I swear by the book Food for Free, by Richard Mabey. I've had my copy for years and it's great. Tells you what's edible, what's not and how to use the edible stuff. Maybe I should anomalously post a copy to my ex-boyfriend.

Thanks all for now,
Carrot Cruncher