Friday, 28 May 2010

Normal service...

...will be resumed shortly. Hopefully. Hold tight, hang loose and share and enjoy mon amis. x

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Happy Towel Day

Today is Towel Day. For those not in the know the 25th May is a day of remembrance for Douglas Adams; author, mac user, screenwriter, musician and conservationist best known for his series 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.' He died in 2001 from a heart attack aged just 49. Towel Day is so named after a section from Hitchhiker's in which the guide itself expounds on the usefulness of always knowing where your towel is:
"A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with."
Chapter 3 , Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams.
Now - I freely admit I am more than a little anal about Douglas Adams including but not just limited to, Hitchhiker's. I have all the books in many different covers including H2G2* itself in Norwegian, Turkish, Spanish and French. You get the picture? So today - I salute you with a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster held high Douglas Adams, and I thank you for the wondrous stories you brought into our lives and onto our screens.
*H2G2: Hitchhikers Guide to the Glaxy

Monday, 24 May 2010

Oaty Cookies

Whilst my experiments with cooking with oats have been a solely savoury journey so far and will remain predominantly so I'm certainly not averse to a little playing with the sweet stuff. :-D
This recipe was labeled as 'Healthy Oat Cookies' - I can only assume they're alluding to the dairy-free spread listed rather than the sugar content but it sounded a good basis for a quick simple cookie recipe I could make for the bakeathon my work was holding for charity.
I changed some of the ingredients around and personally found the cooking time / temp totally inadequate though that may be more to do with my oven than the recipe. Here's my version:

Oaty Cookies - preheat oven to gas 3/170
100g butter
50g light brown sugar [or whatever you've got]
2tbsp runny honey
0.5 - 1 tsp ground mixed spice
100g self raising flour
100g oats
50g candied peel and crystallized ginger chopped fine

Melt the butter, sugar and honey together in a microwave.
Weigh flour and put in sieve. Weigh oats and add peel / ginger to it and stir well so the fruit doesn't stick in lumps.
Sieve in flour, add mixed spice, oats and peel/ginger and stir well to combine.
I found the mix a little dry at this point so added a splash of water.
Put spponfuls of mixture on greased baking tray, flattenuing slightly and put in oven for 15 mins. After 15mins have a look and see they're not even vaguely 'golden' looking so turn gas up to 4-4.5 and put in for another 7ish mins.
Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.

Nice but I wish I'd seen the comment a user had put on the original recipe about these continuing to harden as they cool. Mine did finish up a bit hard, I think a combo of the cooking time and the dryness of the mix. These were more like a biscuit then a chewy cookie. My oven does seem to be a little unreliable at the lower temps so next time I think gas 4 for 10 mins and a little more butter or a splash of milk in the mix.
I'd like to try these using ground ginger in place of the mixed spice with pieces of chopped crystallized ginger. There's infinite variations you can try really, dried cranberries could be a nice xmassy type, or orange choc for a rather less healthy version.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Surprise gift

I returned home yesterday to find an intriguingly rattly and slightly portly envelope residing on the doormat. I love receiving proper post but sadly it barely happens these days, it's either all junk mail or the bank / utility companies telling me something I don't want to know. This then was a lovely little lift for me at the end of a long day, especially when I recognised the handwriting of a very good friend on the envelope.
Intrigued I tore in, noting that the postie had been kind enough to let me off the 19p underpayment on the stamp, plus a £1 'handling fee'! Thank you postie! :-)
I had...seeds!! I love seeds, I am addicted to seeds and although I may have a plethora of seed packets spilling out of their box and threatening world domination; or at least front room domination, I am certainly not averse to receiving some more.
My friend had sent me a mixture of veg, leaf, herb and a gooseberry which I've never grown before, with a little note to say she thought I may like these. What a star, and what a simple thing that made me a happy bunny for the rest of the evening.
I shall wrack my brains to think of a suitable reciprocal little item to send winging it's way to her.
Small kindnesses gladden my heart and make the world that little bit nicer a place.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Final, leg 1: Chiefs v Bristol

Last night was the first leg of the final against Bristol for a chance for either Bristol or the Exeter Chiefs to go up to the Premiership. So just a wee bit important then.
A sell out game meant 10,000 supporters crowding into Sandy Park stadium and it was pretty busy. Not impossible to get around though and as is generally true with rugby all very good natured.

Well, it was a tough game with neither side wanting to give anything away. We spent most of the first half in our own half of the pitch but managed to prevent Bristol from scoring a try. Half time came with an equalising penalty for Bristol leaving us both with a measly 3 points apiece. Both teams had attempts at a try in the second half but none were allowed after consultation with the video ref; Exeter managed to ground the ball first a couple of times right in front of where I was standing to our great relief.
The match ended as a low scoring 9-6 to Chiefs, all points scored from penalties in an uncomfortably close game.Next Wednesday we're up to Bristol although unfortunately I'll have to watch that leg in the pub. We'd have liked to go with a bigger margin but if we can just hang in there as we did last night, prevent Bristol from passing and running then maybe we can win by not necessarily being better than the opponents but by preventing them from winning.
[Oh dear, that almost sounded like our dumbass farce of a recent election...]
All still to play for then.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Stoo & Dumplin's

I wanted to try one of the handful of recipes involving oatmeal that I had searched out in the interests of this months frugality. Oatmeal is not just for porridge and flapjacks! Oh no, it can thicken and bulk out a soup or stew, make a tasty veggie roast stuffing dish and even form a crumble on a sweet or savoury dish.
I had come across this recipe in the WW2 section of the interesting 'History Cook Book' resource. Wartime recipes had to be pretty frugal but still generally utilised lots of fresh veg. I changed their recipe a little to make it veggie and because I (erroneously) thought I had no paprika, and I added dumplings on a whim. Hadn't had dumplings in months and they're so simple. Perhaps not the most summery of recipes but it hasn't been the most summery of Mays and Sunday (when I made this) was cold and rainy.

Veg & Oatmeal Stew
1lb mixed root veg
Decent splosh olive oil and/or knob butter
2oz oatmeal
Dried herbs
S & P
1 pint veg stock

Peel veg as necessary and dice. I used 1 onion, 1 leek, 1 carrot, 1 parsnip and some swede for my 1lb of veg. I meant to add some garlic but forgot!
Heat the oil and/or butter in a large heavy based pan and gently saute the veg until a little cooked. I used both oil and butter as the butter can add flavour but remove for a vegan dish.
Add the oatmeal and stir until the fat is absorbed.
Season; I added 0.5 tsp Cayenne, 1 tsp dried rosemary, 0.5 tsp dried basil, 0.5 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp celery seeds, 0.5 tsp garlic salt and a grinding of black pepper.
Stir in the mushroom ketchup. You could use something like marmite here I guess if you were COMPLETELY INSANE and like the stuff but I'm not a fan personally. (Can you tell?! :-D)
Add the stock and cover. Simmer gently for an hour, remembering to stir from time to time or it'll stick and burn on the bottom. I found it necessary to add extra water from about half way into the cooking time. Probably added just under an additional half a pint. I wanted liquid to cook the dumplings in though and it was plenty thick by the time it was served.

Dumplings Prepare these once the stew is on to simmer, they need approx 30 mins cooking time.
6oz self raising flour
0.5tsp salt
1.5oz fat - I used veggie suet

Sift the flour into a bowl. Add the salt and suet.
Rub the fat into the flour well.
Add water a little at a time until you have a sticky dough.
Shape into balls and boil for 30 mins.
I made fairly biggish dumplings so got 9 and they needed more like 40 mins cooking time so aim for about 12 from this recipe, or size as you like adjusting cooking time appropriately.

I thoroughly enjoyed this stew. I know it looks a little 'grey' perhaps but it was thoroughly lovely and cheered me up no end on a miserable evening. I must admit I wasn't sure about the cayenne when I tasted the stew during the cooking but by the end of the cooking time it had faded to the background and just lent a pleasant edge of warmth. The oatmeal had thickened the stew nicely and the long cooking time meant you couldn't really discern it. I'd definitely make this again.

Monday, 17 May 2010

A Crisp Experiment

Crisps are my downfall, I admit it. Not for me the craving for chocolate, or cake, or sweets - I'm a savoury girl and I love my crisps. Generally ready salted or sea salt and black pepper. *drool* I am addicted. I try and stay away from them, I really do. They're terribly bad for you; full of fat and salt and calories. Also they're actually worse for your teeth to eat in the middle of the day than sweets are! (Thank you QI for that bit of doom and gloom.) The starch in the potato adheres to your teeth potentially causing more damage than a bagful of humbugs. Pah!
Anyway, I was heating some oil for prawn crackers on Saturday (yes - another highly unhealthy snack) and I thought to myself 'I wonder if I could do crisps like this?' I grabbed a small spudato (just an ickle one as this was an experimental type of party), sliced it as thin as I could, patted the moisture off on kitchen towel and chucked into the hot fat. Left them until mostly golden (I was a little impatient), hauled them out and sprinkled with sea salt. YUM!!!! The slighlty thicker ones were a bit chip tasting but I reckon this could be the way forwards. The future of the Ruth / Crisp symbiosis no less. Not health wise evidently but if it can save me 60p out of the machine at work I'll be a happy frugal crisp munching bunny. Now there's an image. :-D

Friday, 14 May 2010

Voyage into the unknown - Dried Bean virginity

As it was a bit cold and miserable and I'm still feeling a bit under the weather I decided to make this nice sounding soup from the Veg Inspirations blog. I had meant to make it Weds eve but didn't get round to it so did it last night instead. I put the beans on to soak before leaving for work Weds morning. I bought dried Haricot beans from the Weigh & Save, first time ever I've used dried beans! Hated pulses when I was younger though so it was a long time before I'd consider buying them in any form let alone dried. They're a very frugal way of buying an ingredient though being only 19p per 100g. The recipe called for a cup which by chance was exactly what I had - 150g for a measly 29p. Not bad. Here's how I made it; mostly following the recipe just with a couple of ingredient substitutions where I didn't have the stated item

Bean & Barley Soup
1 cup dried beans - I used Haricot
1 onion
1 tsp gound ginger [I used this as I didn't have any root ginger in the house]
0.5 cup pearled barley
2 tomatoes
2 carrots
1.5 cup sweetcorn
4 bay leaves
1 tsp cayenne peppper [I used in place of chilli powder]
2tsp cumin seeds [recipe called for powder but I only had the seeds]
4 cups (1 litre) veg stock, I used Marigold Bouillon
2 tbsp oil
4tsp lime juice

Soak beans overnight / day time with pinch of soda.
Drain, place in a large pan with fresh water and boil until soft but not mushy. After their 2 days of soaking my beans had 50mins boiling which was possible slightly over, 45mins may have been better. Drain and reserve.
Rinse pearl barley off and reserve.
Score toms all way round through skin 2x as if cutting into quarters. Cover with boiling water and leave. This will enable you to remove the skin.
Heat oil and fry finely chopped onions gently until approaching transparency. Add ginger and stir.
Skin toms and chop into small bits, add to pan and cook until soft, stirring occasionally.
Add bay leaves and spices and stir.
Add carrots, sweetcorn, pearly barley and stock. Bring to a gently simmer until veg / barley cooked. Mine had 20mins.
Add beans and stir well. Simmer for 15 mins to amalgamate flavours.
Remove from heat and add the lime juice. Stir through and serve.
A hearty looking soup however I was a little disappointed by how this tasted. First off next time I would halve the amount of cayenne / chilli pepper used. I like a little heat but I also like to taste the flavours in my food and all I was getting was chilli.
I kept my pan covered whilst cooking, and as a result the soup was a bit more watery than I expected and the broth part not particularly flavoured (except with chilli) so next time I'd leave the pan uncovered at least to start with and see how it went. I also think that this is an occasion where I'd be tempted to use the deeper flavoured OXO veg stock cubes as I feel they'd stand up better.
I like a bit more crunch to my carrots so I'd add these at the same time as the beans. I'd also double the amount of them in the recipe, ditto the toms; there didn't seem to be a lot of point to their presence.
As I was using cumin seeds rather than powder I really should have added these with the onions to get more flavour from them. I'd halve the amount of oil used to saute the onions.
I ended up adding milk to this after cooking to temper the chilli a little. I added 100ml to 3/4 of the total amount of the soup as left in the pot. I also added a handful of oats to soak up some of the liquid and hopefully some of the chilli. Later in the evening I mashed the beans in a bit to thicken the broth part; although that may be more because I overboiled them in the first place!
Had a second portion for lunch today and it was improved. I know the original recipe says serves 3 but I got 4 generous portions from this (2 in the freezer) and I didn't even have bread with it last night. If you served this as a starter with bread I reckon you could do 6 easy.
Verdict - nice but not as nice as I expected. Needs tweaking to suit my tastes.
Re: Dried Beans - easy just time consuming for the cooking. Cheap although I wonder how much extra power I used for the long cooking time.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Spinach & blue cheese stuffing bake - otherwise known as making it up as you go along food #2

I had planned on soup last night. [Yes - actually last night - I finally caught up!] I was feeling a bit like a mahoosive cold was bearing down on me as the day wore on and thought soup would be the ideal solace whilst I nested on the sofa and felt generally sorry for myself. However, not getting home until 7.30 then by the time I'd faffed about I'd lost nearly another hour I was really no longer in the mood for lots of chopping and messing about so I turned my thoughts to what I could chuck together quickly and easily and then for preference, bung in the oven. This was what I came up with.

Spinach & Blue Cheese Stuffing Bake
2 lumps frozen spinach - approx 4oz frozen weight
1 pack S'bury's Basics stuffing
1-2oz Blue Cheese - I used approx 1.5oz Cornish Blue
Black Pepper

Preheat oven to Gas 6 / 200c. Butter oven dish.
Cook spinach. Meanwhile make up stuffing to pack instructions.
Drain spinach really well once done; I used a sieve and pressed the excess water out with the back of a spoon.
Mix well with the stuffing.

Roughly chop / crumble the blue cheese and mix in a little at a time until you achieve your desired taste. You may want to add more if you're a real blue cheese fiend but I just wanted it to offset the spinach nicely but not dominate; as mentioned I used 1.5 oz of a Cornish Blue, a fairly mild cheese though it has been in the fridge maturing a while.
Grind in some Black Pepper and mix thoroughly.

Tip into prepared oven dish and smooth evenly with the back of a spoon. Place in oven and bake for 30-45 mins until golden and as set as you want. Keep an eye to ensure the top isn't burning - if necessary cover with foil.

I baked mine for 30 mins as that's what the pack said for the stuffing mix but it was still pretty sloppy at the end of that time. if I did this again I'd either bake for longer or possibly add a little oats to the mix to help soak up the extra liquid from the spinach and cheese. Tasty though and not overly salty like the last time I used this mix.
I served this up with comforting yorkshire puds, sweetcorn and gravy. Very nice it was too!

Yay! And some severe miscalculations...

A little yay, just to myself. :-D Tee hee

The miscalculation - well if you were paying attention you may have noticed that apparently over 3 recipes I got 750-800g of spaghetti from a 500g pack. Hmmm - methinks not. Now I've had a niggling feeling about my scales for a while now but that's quite a lot out. :-(
However, should you wish to approach one of the 'ghetti dishes with the notion of giving it a go they're all adaptable to how many you want to serve, what you've got in the house etc. You may only have half a broccoli head in the fridge, or no nuts - it doesn't matter just go for it. It's all about the 'ish' of cooking! If I was forced to hazard a guess I'd say perhaps recipe#1 was 200-250g, #2 was 100g and #3 150-200g. Approximately. Ish.
[Now tell me I'm not the only one that thinks that'd be a great title for a cook book: "The Ish of Cooking." You saw it here first!]

Spaghetti recipe #3 - Lemon Broccoli

For the last recipe to use up my batch of CFC bargainous 'ghetti I adapted and added to a recipe from the Good Housekeeping book 'Eat Well, Stay Well' making use of the ingredients I had in the house. [Although this book has a good review on Amazon I personally don't rate it that much, it's ok but I hardly ever go to it for anything.)

Spaghetti & Broccoli in a lemon nut butter sauce
1oz hazlenuts -toasted
1.5-2oz butter
3 cloves garlic
1 lemon
0.5 tbsp dried basil
10oz / 300g ish fresh spaghetti
Broccoli - approx 1 small-med head
2tbsp sgl cream (I used the last of the dbl cream I had in the fridge and a little milk to make about 2 tbsp)
S & P

Chop the hazlenuts and toast gently under the grill, I found it easiest to do this in a small foil pie dish or you could make a dish shape from foil. Keep an eye on them and remove once done.
Zest and juice the lemon, keeping the 2 seperate. I added some of the pulpy flesh to the juice as well.
Melt butter until golden brown in a big enough pan to take the broccoli and pasta as well. Meanwhile peel and thinly slice the garlic.
Once butter's golden brown (keep an eye on it to ensure it doesn't burn) add garlic and nuts and cook, stirring, for 30ish secs. Add lemon zest and dried basil, stir and remove from the heat.

Chop broccoli into bite size florets, cook and drain. Cook and drain the spaghetti. Stir both into the butter mix over a low heat for 2-3 mins.

Add lemon juice and cream and stir in. Taste and season as required with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

This was pretty good; if making again I'd probably use slightly less lemon and perhaps a little more cream. The lemon did dominate more than I expected. However lemon will 'cook out' so a little more heating can help neutralise this.

Adding this amount of broccoli made this into a 3 serving meal, one to eat and 2 for the freezer.

I make it that I got 9 servings from a 500g bag of fresh pasta once I'd added the seafood / spinach / broccoli. Not bad for the 79p it cost plus the 50ish p for the double cream. Everything else came from the store cupboard / freezer. Even more satisfyingly I now have 5 portions of ready made scrummy pasta goodness secreted in the freezer for the month ahead.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Sat 08.05.10: Chiefs v Bedford Blues plus a sating of stomachs

The all important semi-final was here. Would we make it through for a chance to prove ourselves in the 2 legged final and beat Bristol for a chance at the Premiership? Damn we hoped so!
Bristol had easily beaten London Welsh on the Friday night so we knew they would be the foe to face in the final. Having the most points over the season they got choice of home / away for the legs and had opted for away first followed by home meaning if we won today we'd be seeing them at the Chiefs ground for the first leg weds 19.05.10.
First however - we needed to win...
Well - it was a bit of a one sided try fest for us again much like last week. Like last week our opponents; the Bedford Blues only had a penalty given 3 points most of the game. Like last week they got a try near the end (but didn't convert it). This time theirs was a 'proper' try though and very well done too. We won comfortably 37-8 this time as attested to by the score board here.
One of their players was unfortunately stretchered off the pitch after being knocked out cold by a tackle. I wish him well.
Now - bring on Bristol!! The games this time are mid-week evening games, not ideal for your average supporter especially with one leg being played away, I suspect the insidious fingers of the TV people there. At least it's only Bristol though, it could have been Doncaster!

Well - what do a lot of sports fans that have been thirst-quenching all afternoon need on a Saturday evening? That's right - a curry! My friend shouted me a lovely indian with some of our fellow spectators at The Ganges in Exeter. I've been here before but some time ago and it's been recently refitted. I have to say the interior is stylish and welcoming and the food was great. Service was polite and generally fast, except when our first drink order got lost in translation! I had the veggie Palak Kootu; a spinach, coconut and dal (lentil) dish with mustard, garlic and curry leaves. It was truly lovely with the mushroom rice I also ordered. Probably didn't need Saag Aloo with it but myself and my friend are addicted to this (he especially so since a stag night he was on where the groom stole his and only owned up after my friend had argued with the waiter) so if there's Saag Aloo available, and especially if there's a dearth of spinach deficient welsh stags about, we will order it. We even took a photo to send the aforementioned offending welshman. :-D Cost us £115 inc tip for 5 of us; 2 drinks each, poppodums with dips, main, 4 x rice, 3 x veg and 2 x peshwari naan so not too bad for a restaurant meal either. Thoroughly enjoyed and recommended if you need somewhere in the area.

Spaghetti recipe #2 - Spinach

This was the second 'ghetti dish I made from the CFC pasta find from Thursday, using store cupboard bits with spinach from the freezer and a little of the leftover dbl cream. A very quick recipe indeed if using fresh pasta.

Spaghetti in a spinach, cream and nutmeg sauce
0.5 pt veg stock
2 lumps frozen spinach [I'm guessing they're pretty much the same size from diff shops but mine is Iceland: 1 kg=£1]
Ground nutmeg - 1 teaspoon in total
2 fl oz / 60ml ish dbl Cream
200g fresh pasta / barely cooked pasta (al dente) [I think = approx 100g uncooked dry pasta]
S & P
Lemon juice

Place stock and spinach in pan and bring to simmer.
Add half tsp nutmeg and several decent grinds black pepper. Stir in the dbl cream.
Add pasta and bring back to boil to reduce further.
Taste and adjust seasonings. I found that a lot of the nutmeg taste seemed to have 'cooked out' at this point so I added another half teaspoon and a splash of lemon juice. Lemon will also disappear the more you cook it so plate up straight away.
Serve with plenty of black pepper ground over and if got; a sprinkle of grated parmesan.

Nutmeg goes well with spinach and I think the lemon in the recipe helps it from becoming too 'spinachy' if you know what I mean. Stops it from just tasting 'dark green'.
I thoroughly enjoyed this and it was enough for 2 portions - 1 for me now [er - then in fact. Fri 7.5.10] and one to freeze for later.

Brekkie fit for a PM...if we had one.

Well, it's now the morning of the day after the great debacle that was the latest general election [or it was when I made this brekkie and post - updating later gets confusing huh?] and - surprise - we have a hung parliament. Which as far as I can see means naff all will happen for a bit longer - so the difference is?...
Anyway, I made this rather scrummy omelette with a couple of the aforementioned flat field mushrooms from Stokes, some tarragon, 1 egg, a smidge of dbl cream, S&P and cheese melted on top. Served with buttered toast and a dollop of mayo on the side it's not the healthiest of brekkies but substantial enough to keep me sustained through a morning'news' telling me the country'undecided'. That's those that got to vote of course. Those not turned away at the door because the system/people couldn't cope or they'd run out of ballot papers [!!!] or people were taking 25-30 mins to vote. (Surely you've made up your mind by that point? I mean - what can you do in there for that long? "Eeny, meeny, miny, mo...")
I must admit though there was the odd enjoyable moment in the coverage. The first ever Green got in -go those crazy kids in Brighton! Several declarations I saw had booing when the BNP [hwaak-ptuh] result was read (and they lost all their seats :-D ). Best of all though was the comedy gold duo of Jeremy Paxman and Boris Johnson - is there anyone better for comedic value than those two together? Throw in Ian Hislop and I'll never complain about the licence fee again, promise.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Spaghetti Recipe #1 - Seafood

Whilst perusing the local CFC* for inspiration for dinner I spied a pack of 500g fresh pasta reduced to 79p and decided to see what I could make out of it. Having previously alluded on here to the fact that I never cook spaghetti this actually was, yep - spaghetti but I figured for 79p I could just scissor it into sensible bits and get over my whole strange spaghetti aversion already. [I love pasta but for some reason spaghetti has just never quite pushed the right buttons for me in a pasta stylee way. I have no idea why so please don't ask.)
Anyway, I thought I'd try and use up some store cupboard / freezer bits in the dish and hence add a bit of frugality kudos points to the 'ghetti. This has in necessity made it fairly idiosyncratic but use the basic sauce base and add what you like / have lying about. After all, who doesn't have a jar of marinated octopus chunks gathering dust in the back of the cupboard??! :-D

Spaghetti con frutti di mare, i pomodori e la crema
Ok ok it doesn't need to be called that but hey - it sounds good ok?
Olive Oil
1 Onion
2 Cloves Garlic
Dried Basil - 2 generous pinches
Dried Oregano - 2 generous pinches
Carton / Tin chopped toms in juice (400g)
Approx 250-300g fresh pasta
5 fl oz / 120 ml dbl Cream
Handful cooked prawns, defrosted
Half a jar marinated Octopus chunks
S & P
Last few sad leaves of your 'live' basil plant

Heat a little olive oil in a decent size pan. Finely chop the onion and garlic and soften over a low heat in the olive oil. Add the dried herbs and a generous grinding of black pepper.
Add the toms - I had a S'burys basics carton - only 33/4p ish, and bring to a simmer to reduce.
Cook pasta according to instructions. I cooked the whole 500g bag but only used about 1/2 to 2/3 of the pasta in this sauce. Once cooked drain well.
Add the cream to the sauce, use as much or as little as you like depending how creamy / healthy you want it.

Drain half the jar of octopus and if liked chop the chunks into bitesize pieces. Add to the sauce and let simmer again until consistency you prefer.

Add the prawns (s'burys basics again) and last few leaves of the sad looking basil plant on the kitchen windowsill and ensure prawns heated through. Season to taste with S & P.

Add the pasta and stir well to ensure evenly coated and heated through.

I was pleased with this, it had the taste / look of a far more expensive dish to prepare and was really tasty. I have to admit I had seconds (hungry work that voting lark) and this still gave me enough for 2 portions to freeze.

I think it would be very nice with a grating of parmesan over; I didn't have any in the house but it would work.
*CFC: Condemned Food Counter; where you find the reduced stuff that's going out of date soon. Courtesy of the Cottage Smallholder Blog.

Round and round and round she goes, where she stops nobody knows...

Prize for best juxtaposition of the week goes to this in the playground of the primary school being used as my local polling station. 'Game of the week' indeed; farce more like. Well I voted, fat lot of difference that it'll make but if you don't vote you can't complain. :-p

Shop local lol

Sometimes you know you just spot things and they make you if not actually lol, then grin a little? I'm sure this should read Trail mix rather than Trial mix but I rather liked the image it conjured up in my mind of a bewigged and gowned judge surreptiously snaffling up handfuls whilst in the middle of a case.
Weigh & Save is one of my regular local shops. It's great as everything is sold loose by the weight so you can just buy the amount you want of any one thing; especially handy for items you use infrequently where the recipe just calls for a couple of oz's etc. You then don't have a whole pack of stuff sitting around in the cupboard waiting to go out of date, you don't have the attendant cost if you've been forced to buy half a kilo or whatever and you don't have all the excess packaging either. As I'm going to try and be pretty frugal this month I picked up some of their 'broth mix'; looks like pearl barley, red and green lentils and yellow split peas. Also got some dried beans (for the first time in my life believe it or not) so will have a little experiment with those as well.
Although I don't drive I don't mind trekking about a bit to get the best deals on my shopping; if I did a massive shop in one place I wouldn't be able to carry it all home anyway. I try and keep a mental list of where's best for what; I know the local Stokes veg shop often has flat field mushrooms on offer at the same price as the regular mushrooms which is a far better deal than the local Scumerfield/Co-op hybrid. I always get my frozen sweetcorn at Iceland as it's £1 for a kilo, better by far than the other stupormarkets. [I've tried growing sweetcorn with zero success and I'd never be able to keep up with my own demand anyway so buying a couple of kilos a month seems to be the best solution for me.] Aldi for veg stock cubes and a check on their weekly Super 6 - heavily discounted fruit and/or veg deals for each week. If you have the inclination and time I think it's well worth doing, if not then think about other shops you may need to visit in the week and what else is in proximity to them, after all if you're going to be there anyway...

Sat 01.05.10: Chiefs v Nottingham

Chiefs being Exeter Chiefs - the local rugby union team. We're currently in the Championship which is one down from the top flight Premiership. They've switched to a new play-off format this season with the winner of Group A playing the 2nd placed team in Group B and vice versa. Basically we were through to the Semi final unless Nottingham beat us by 50 odd points but a win for us meant we got to pick a home semi for the following Sat 8th May. Well, we won pretty convincingly as the score board shows. I felt a little embarassed for Nottingham as their only try was a penalty try - not even a true 'run the ball over the line' try. Ah well. Onwards for us and the prospect of the semi final at home against Bedford in a weeks time. If we get through that then the final is most likely to be against Bristol. They came down last season and unfortunately for the last few years it's held true that whoever comes down one season seems to invariably go back up the next; a cycle we'd truly like to break this year. Fingers x-ed!

Fret not...

I'm back! Sorry to disappoint anyone but I have not dropped off the face of the earth or been swallowed by aliens (although it sometimes feels that way) but have merely had a week off to enjoy the (mostly) sunny May weather. I shall endeavour to bring this up to date over the course of today.