Just cook – what’s available!

Who hasn’t been to the shops, list in hand, only to find that some of the things they wanted had sold out?

It’s not a problem really; there’s still plenty of food in the shops. All we need is a bit of imagination and the willingness to experiment.

CAULIFLOWER GREENS

I’ve been using cauliflower greens in soup for years – I usually cut the lot straight away and put it in the freezer to use in batches.

But when I wanted to do a stir-try the other day and couldn’t get any bamboo shoots or water chestnuts, I thought, “I wonder…”

Here’s the result and it was delicious. I threw in some sliced cauli florets too which gave a nice crunch.

.

Next I tried some cauli greens cooked with tomatoes, cream cheese and cream to go with a cooked chicken drumstick for lunch.

And of course, I made some soup. (Well the weather has cooled off lately.)

So whatever you can buy, you can cook and who knows what great ideas you’ll come up with. Why not share them here?

Quote of the month – time and health

Saving time to harm your health isn’t a good deal for me

Dr Rangan Chatterjee

Every cloud has a silver lining. The current crisis has allowed us to consider the importance of our own health.

At the moment we’re all doing our best to stay safe and well in ways we may not have considered previously.

I’ve been without my health before – for 1 ½ years – so for me it’s been a priority ever since.

While we have time, this is the perfect time to decide to put a bit of effort into being well.

  • Your daily allowed exercise.
  • Sunshine and fresh air.
  • Connecting with family and friends online.

Underpinning it all is what you put in your body – FOOD is a crucial factor. You can choose to ditch the health-damaging junk food and instead support your body with a bit of time in the kitchen, cooking from fresh ingredients. 🙂

Something Soothing for a Cold

Mother always said, “Go out with wet hair and you’ll catch a cold”. Well I came back from the swimming pool without drying it and, sure enough, a few days later, I succumbed.

More recently, research has found that breathing cold air affects how well your defence mechanisms deal with invading viruses, making it more likely you’ll catch something. The Common Cold Centre in Cardiff has experimented on some poor volunteers. The evidence is equivocal but it seems that blood vessels in the nose and throat contract when you are cold and wet which reduces the number of white blood cells available to protect you. That short period of time when your defences are lowered can be enough for the viruses around us to take hold.

I saw it off fairly fast with a combination of rest, bouncing and this concoction:

  • Lemon juice – source of vitamin C and antioxidants
  • Honey (½ tsp) – complex and mysterious with anti-bacterial healing properties, honey is still sugar so use in moderation.
  • ½” chopped fresh ginger root – it’s anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral.
  • 3 cloves – anaesthetic properties (ever popped one by your gum for toothache?) They’re also anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and expectorant.
  • 1 tsp coconut oil – it’s anti-bacteria, anti-fungal, anti-viral and soothing.

Pour on boiling water and let it steep for a minute or two to make a tasty, soothing drink.

And the bouncing? It speeds up the flow of lymph around your body. Use an old-fashioned skipping rope or go gentle on your knees with a trampoline.

Top tip – Mum was right; it’s worth spending time drying your hair and getting bundled up with a hat and scarf before going out in the cold.

Feed the Family – Spag Bol

As I say in my book Survival Guide for the Skint, children are expensive! This puts extra pressure on finances during school holidays so I’ve been doing a series of great value, fully costed meals on my Survival Guide for the Skint blog.  All of them cost less than £2 per person.  Here’s one for you now – a firm favourite across the country – Spaghetti Bolognaise.

I’ll publish the rest here soon or follow the links:

Pea and Chorizo Risotto with Sea Bass

One-Pot Chicken

Pasta with Salmon Sauce

This is my Italian grandmother’s recipe so you’re very privileged to see it. Well almost – she never bought mince but I doubt you’d want to spend time cutting best steak into tiny cubes. Kidney beans are an unconventional ingredient but she put them in and for me the sauce would be lacking without them.

Melt a big knob of butter 20p

and a good slug of olive oil in a very big pan 20p

Chop 2 x large onions and cook gently until transparent 40p

Add 3 crushed cloves of garlic 6p

Add 3lb mince and cook until no pink bits remain £11.50

Can add a few rashers of chopped bacon as well 25p

Add 3 x tins chopped tinned tomatoes £1.05

¾ tube tomato puree 35p

300g chopped mushrooms 85p

You may need a bit of water.

Season with salt and pepper

Desert spoon of dried oregano 10p

Desert spoon of dried parsley 10p

Simmer, stirring occasionally until it’s 3h since you started which allows the flavours to develop.

At the end, stir in 2 x drained and rinsed tins of kidney beans £1.10

Total £16.16 or 95p per portion (makes 17 portions.)

For 2 people, cook some pasta 25p

Top with grated parmesan cheese 25p

(For the best taste, buy a whole piece and grate it fresh. If any is left, freeze it to use straight from the freezer next time.)

Serve with salad and home-made dressing 52p

Total for the meal £1.46 per person.

You could also add some porcini, soaked in a bowl of boiled water before adding. That’s another £1 or 6p per serving. You can miss them out but they do add depth to the flavour – £1.52 per person with porcini.

 

Cooking – not rocket science

Eating real food brings many benefits to your figure and your health. People tell me they buy microwave ready-meals because they lack the confidence to cook from fresh. They think it takes ages or fear it’s complicated. We used to learn cookery by helping our mothers or in cookery lessons at school. Now in some younger families no-one knows how to make a meal from fresh ingredients. Cookery programmes on TV have increased in popularity as entertaining viewing but the people I speak to would never attempt to cook the dishes for themselves; they are too far removed from day-to-day real life.

Cooking need not be rocket science. You can prepare tasty, nutritious meals without even using a recipe. A friend of mine once said that cooking is common sense and the application of heat. He’s so right.

Find out where you can buy good quality meat and fresh fish locally to you.  Then why not have a go at these 2 meal ideas? No measuring, no fancy techniques and ready in ~20 minutes.

(1) Grill pork or lamb chops on medium heat, turning every 4 minutes. Meanwhile, boil some potatoes and put together a mixed salad (green leaves, carrot, celery, tomato, radish, etc). In a jug, mix some olive oil with balsamic vinegar as a dressing.

(2) Boil some brown rice in salted water. 6 minutes before it’s ready, put some white fish fillets above it in a steamer. Sort of prop the fish up round the side rather than lying it flat across the bottom, and put some sliced carrots in the middle. 2 minutes before the end, put in some sliced cabbage.

Done with beans, instead of carrots.

Done with salmon and beans for a change

What could be easier?

Top tip: Forget rocket-science; cook simply.