March 2010

Frugal living

Posted on March 31, 2010 at 7:42 am in

This post was inspired by a comment I made on twitter about frugality.

The other name I was seriously considering for this blog was “your grandma was right”. Our grandparents lived incredibly frugally – meals were centered on fresh, seasonal, local produce; meat was a once or twice a week special thing; nothing went to waste. We have been spoiled by the ready availability of supermarkets and groceries that are frequently open 24/7.

The incident that inspired this comment was a ham. I got a ham at a good price from a local store, simmered it for 4 hours in water and produced an incredibly tasty, literally fall-off-the-bone ham. But I also had a stock pot full of tasty juices… so I stripped the meat off the bones, tossed in a little white vinegar, tossed the bones back in, and simmered the lot for a couple of hours. I then pressure canned the bone stock (which caused its own comedy later!) and now have 5 quarts of incredibly tasty ham stock to make soups, stews, or red beans and rice with.

We are now looking at taking out a subscription to our local CSA, and I am looking up recipes for vegetable stocks made from the bits you would otherwise throw away from the vegetables.

True frugality isn’t necessarily buying the cheapest thing possible. It’s about making sure that anything you throw away is truly no longer food. We are lucky to be living in a time where options are opening up again, where canning is cheap and readily available, and where information is so readily spread by people who live next door to you – on the internet, the whole world is your neighbour 🙂


Kitchen Failures

Posted on March 22, 2010 at 12:51 pm in

It’s something no-one likes to admit to. When you follow the recipe and… you fail.

I was looking forward to some nice tangerine and lime marmalade and, instead, I have lime/tangerine soup. Or maybe a marinade or glaze… but not something you can spread on toast, or crumpets, or whatever. I even tried opening up the jars, reheating the contents, adding liquid pectin to the soup… and it’s still soupy.

Failure is something even the best cook in the world will face, and I am far from being the best. How you recover from it marks out the difference between being competent and being good – can you honestly tell me that the first crème brulée was meant to look like that?!? No, some clever chef decided to call it “burnt cream” and make a feature out of their culinary fail.

In the mean time, I have 5.5 pints of tangerine lime soup. Maybe I will make a marmalade tart and call it “tarte au marmalade” or some other clever name!


Lime marmalade

Posted on March 18, 2010 at 5:55 pm in

This is the divine lime marmalade that the munchkin is loopy about!

12 limes
5 cups / 1.2 litres water
6.5 cups / 1.3kg sugar

Slice the limes thinly, saving any pips. Tie the pips in a cheesecloth bag and place the bag in a large non-reactive pan with the finely sliced lime. Add the water to the pan and bring it to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. The lime peel should become very tender.

After 2 hours, remove the bag, allow to cool, and squeeze out into the pan.

Warm the sugar and add to the pan, bring to a boil for about 15 minutes until you reach the setting point, 220F, 105C.

Unless you have litmus paper or a pH meter to check the acidity, assume that this is a low acid food and pressure can for 10 minutes.


This is why I cook

Posted on March 15, 2010 at 12:50 pm in

Yesterday I was cooking up some lime marmalade (see my previous article on marmalade) which filled the house with an awesome smell – slowly simmering limes, yum yum!

Once I had added the sugar and the marmalade got to almost the right thickness, I did a quick sample. It tasted awesome. I decided to run it past the resident 17 month old. His eyes locked on the spoon and he came running towards me already “nomming” the air.

Three spoonfuls of lime marmalade later, I gave him half a bagel with a liberal quantity of marmalade on it.

Making a 17 month old child happy is as good a reason as any to make it yourself 🙂



Posted on March 8, 2010 at 10:50 am in

So, what is the point of making all these tasty fruit preserves if you don’t have something to put them on? Yes, you can do toast, but crumpet is a uniquely British institution that is perfectly designed to soak up phenomenal quantities of butter and sweet toppings.

Ah, crumpets. As British as tea, the Royal Family, and curry.

… OK, probably more British than those particular choices 😉

What is a crumpet? It’s a yeast-leavened bread which is fried instead of baked. The texture is light and spongy, with many holes in the surface, hence its absorption capabilities. You can top it with savoury toppings, but sweet is where it really shines. Sadly, crumpets are something which are not readily available in most US supermarkets, so I made them myself.

450 grams/1lb bread flour
1 packet yeast
300ml/10.5oz water
300ml/10.5oz milk
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt

Warm the milk and the water together.
Place all of the ingredients into a bowl and beat until they become a smooth liquid batter (1 to 2 minutes).
Leave until the mixture is frothy and double in size – this will take an hour or so.
Grease and heat a heavy frying pan or griddle. Fill 9 cm/3 in rings about half full with the mixture. If you don’t have baking rings, use a small frying pan and you will get something like very fluffy, thick pancakes.
Maintaining a moderate heat, cook the crumpets for about 5 minutes until the mixture bubbles.
Reduce the heat until the bubbles have burst.
Turn the crumpets over and cook for a further 2 minutes. You can put the ready crumpets into a warm oven wrapped in a tea towel while the rest cook.
Serve hot with butter, jam, and a nice cuppa tea.