My maternal grandmother was an amazing cook who taught me all I know, but she didn’t have a spice and herb rack quite like my dad’s mum. So whenever I went to stay with her I would be desperate to try out the different flavours and mix them together. I would nag my grandmother from the moment I arrived to be allowed to mix the different ingredients and see what I could come up with. She would often look horrified at what I mixed together but she always managed to nod her head and smile sweetly.
A lot of what I tried did truly taste disgusting and of course like any child I insisted everyone tasted it!! These days I am still not afraid to try new things especially if it is a case of throwing it away or trying to make something from it.
Last Friday I was sorting out my fridge before doing my weekly shop and realised I had some tomatoes, cream cheese, olives, spring onions, lemon grass and ginger that needed using up.
I chopped up the spring onions, lemon grass, green and black olives, and ginger and put them in a large saucepan with the tomatoes and cream cheese, then added a couple of tinned tomatoes from my cupboard store and some basil from the garden. Boiled them up until soft then once cool blended them with a hand blender and added some frozen cream cubes – see below hints and tips.
This type of sauce can be used as a rich soup but is also delicious on pasta, chicken, fish or beef. I usually end up freezing and using it at a later date when I have people round for dinner.
Hints and Tips
Whenever I have some double or whipping cream left over in the fridge that needs using up, I whisk it until firm then place it in an ice cube try and freeze. These frozen cream cubes can be added to sauces and soups to bind them and make them soft, creamy and silky.
I usually use the Dr Oetker brand of bicarbonate of soda as it has slightly larger granules and makes a better scrub.
I also use a bit on my teeth after brushing to keep them white and conditioned and my breath fresh!
If your hair has dry ends pop some coconut oil on your hands and rub through the ends after washing.
Sloes are early this year, are in abundance and ready to be picked. I know you should wait until the first frost but there won’t be any left by then so I have picked mine and popped them in the freezer. Once I have bought my gin I will get them out and defrost them. Sloes can be found in hedge rows not only in the country side but councils quite often plant them in urban areas along main roads. There are loads along the main road close to where I live.
For the Gin I buy the cheapest I can find, usually from Aldi or Asda. Sloe Gin makes great Christmas presents and taste so much better than the bought stuff which is incredibly expensive and well below par when compared to the homemade variety. The only thing you will need is a little patience whilst you wait a couple of months for the sloes to immerse into the gin.
You will need:
If you find it a bit bland when cooked add some grated nutmeg, or any other spices you are particularly fond of. When used as a salad, I find a bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil sets it off perfectly, it is also great with chopped apple and/or sliced avocado.
If you read my blog about Sauerkraut and used it with some Spinach to make a salad you would be creating a really healthy and nutritious meal for the same price as a family sized packet of crisps
Mint is a great appetizer or palate cleanser, and it promotes digestion. It also soothes stomachs in cases of indigestion or inflammation. When you feel sick to your stomach, drinking a cup of fresh mint tea can give you relief. It also helps with fatigue and depression
Both Rosemary and Thyme are great for helping to boost memory, improve mood, reduce inflammation, relieve pain, protect the immune system and stimulate circulation. They help detoxify the body and protect it from bacterial infections, preventing premature aging, and healing skin conditions.
Basil leaves contain health benefiting essential oils such as eugenol, citronellol, linalool, citral, limonene, and terpineol. These compounds are known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
Parsley has potent antioxidant capabilities. Its naturally occurring eugenol content may also help reduce blood glucose levels. It is incredibly rich in vitamin K as well as A, C, and several B vitamins.
Something else I am very fond of taking on a regular basis to improve my immune system and boost my general health is a blend of Turmeric, Honey and Ginger. I started taking this on a daily basis last Christmas and haven’t been ill since. Even when my whole family have come down with terrible colds and flu it hasn’t touched me.
Turmeric has incredibly health benefits due to Curcumin which is the active ingredient of turmeric. It is an anti-inflammatory molecule with anti-cancer properties. Other benefits include:
Honey contains flavonoids, antioxidants which help reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease. It also helps reduce ulcers and other gastrointestinal disorders. All honey is said to be antibacterial, because the bees add an enzyme that makes hydrogen peroxide. It also reduces cough and throat irritation. As a child my mother insisted I have a spoonful of honey every day.
Ginger contains Gingerol, a substance with powerful medicinal properties including helping to treat nausea and muscle pain, it has anti-inflammatory properties which can also help with arthritis. It can help reduce blood sugar level and also help reduce the risk of heart disease. Gingerol, is also said to help lower the risk of infections.
For my little health elixir I mix the following together and take a spoonful each morning.
Chopped raw vegetables and plenty of fruit
I usually have a variety of chopped raw vegetables such as carrot batons, cucumber, onions and plenty of fruit in the fridge to create vegetables for dipping into different sauces and fruit for desert and to make pre-pared smoothies
The great thing about all this pre- prepared food is that it is easy for the older children to get out of the fridge and make meals for themselves. It saves you time during the week and gives plenty of options when they all want something different. It saves you money by recreating their favourite restaurant food making eating in not only fun but also tasty and nutritious!
So grains and pulses are the new super food
Luckily for us they are also some of the cheapest food you can buy!!
Dried or tinned lentils, beans and pulses are incredibly cheap and what’s more, they are really good at filling you up. They go great with salads, chillies and wraps. This summer I have been using my left over Sunday lunch with some pulses and grains to make a great dinner on Monday which has continued in various forms until Wednesday.
I have also added some tomatoes, olives and avocados, sprinkled some balsamic vinegar and olive oil. If you want some extra protein, mix in some diced tuna or Salmon alternatively some diced chicken or cooked mince. Tastes delicious, keeps you fuller for longer and is as cheap as (and better for you than) chips!!!!
I have been eating this regularly for the last two weeks in preparation for my holiday and noticed that I am also losing weight as it is keeping me fuller for longer and replacing some of the carbs I’d usually be eating. Helping to save money and lose weight what could be better!!!
The other Sunday I heard a lot of swearing and banging about in the kitchen. Whilst hubbie loves eating homemade food he doesn’t love cooking it. ‘The bread is broken’ I heard him shout.
‘How can you break the bread’? I ask
‘I couldn’t get it out of the bread tin and now it is in pieces all over the cooling rack’.
‘Did you grease the bread tin before you put in dough in’? I ask
‘Of course I bl**dy did’ is the response.
Not convinced I inspect the ‘broken bread’.
‘OK Summer Fruit Pudding for us this evening’ I tell him.
Having never had it before he looks both relieved and confused.
Luckily at this time of year there's plenty of fruit on special offer, we have an allotment so my freezer is spilling over with frozen raspberries, strawberries, blackberries etc.
Always use the ratio of 2:1 i.e. double the amount of flour, butter and sugar to the number of eggs used for instance if you wanted to make a larger sponge you could use:
8 Oz Self raising flour
8 Oz soft butter
8 Oz sugar
Whisk the eggs, butter and sugar together then slowly sift in the self raising flourFor the extra light sponge now add:
1 tsp baking powder
1 desert spoon of hot water
Whisk again for another 15 seconds
Pour into two 7 inch greased round cake tins lined with grease proof paper (if you are making a larger sponge make sure the cake tins are deep enough)
Bake in the oven on 180 degrees until golden brown
To test the sponge is cooked thoroughly see if it bounces back when you press your finger on the centre
Once the cake tins are cool enough remove the sponges and place them on a wire rack until cold.
Then add whatever filling and topping you prefer