Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Gardening and eating

This is a garden blog so I am doing my very best to avoid it becoming ‘all about food’ BUT….

I am going to allow myself one preaching rant about the relationship between growing your own and eating and money.

I get fed up of people who have never had to do it (Jamie Oliver et al) boning on about how ‘poor folk’ should do better.  I can feed two of us for £20 a week (once the cupboard staples are in!) if I had to; and that’s fine if it is for a short while but a 'potato and minced beef' diet gets decidedly tedious if you have a lifetime of it.  Notice it also presumes a back stock of basics.  If you have a very low income – where do these come from?  Anther thing these pundits don’t understand is that people don’t necessarily have a cooker or pots and pans and if (like me way back when) they do have those basics, the next worry is the cost of fuel.  You can’t cook if you don’t have ‘two bob for the meter’.  In circumstances like these, even if you know how to cook, it takes a lot of self discipline to beat the lure of a bag of chips and the hell with it.

That rant aside, I could feed two of us (with variety) for £40 a week.  This becomes even easier if you can grow your own.  Hence my chunnering about food in my garden blog. If you have the tiniest ‘garden’ area you can cram in quite a lot of veg.  Even a few pots on a balcony will do something to help the budget – better still you will get hooked on creating food from seed to plate.  If I hear you screaming who can afford pots and compost if you are that strapped for cash?  Necessity is the mother of invention.  Grow in plastic bags, plastic milk containers (with their tops cut off) anything you can find.  My latest wheeze will be Ikea shopping bags - big ones 40p each and small ones 20p each.  Produce grown from seed will always save loads of money when they come to fruition so try save up a bit here and there for the compost. 

Just this once I decided to share our Sunday, Monday, Tuesday meals with you as they all came from one chicken and GYO.  If you can't face chicken, chicken and chicken three days in a row then just freeze the soup stock for another day.  The leftover cold chicken for the salad (or any other dish) will keep in the fridge for a couple of days

On Sunday we had Spanish Baked Chicken (Pollo Estofado) with potatoes and runner beans, followed by strawberries and cream.  The chicken recipe has a link at the top of the page to the recipe.  It is really lovely, give it a try.

This was followed by the yummiest of huge strawberries from the lotty plus cream.

When I jointed the chicken for the estofado I was left with the back section of the chicken with quite a lot of meat sticking to the frame.  This went in a slow cooker on high with just enough water to cover it and simmered away all evening (three hours?).  You can do this in a casserole (tight lid) in the oven on a low heat or in a saucepan on top of the cooker (but check this now and then to make sure it isn't boiling dry).  Always, always use a chicken frame for stock.  It can be raw like this one or the cooked frame from a roast chicken.  Either way, after straining out the bones and skin and stuff it makes the best base ever for a multitude of things.  The simplest being a chicken soup.

This was our next meal.  No recipe for this just add what you have around - This one had four runner beans (saved from the previous day's batch), four baby carrots, one courgette, one small onion and some (**)celery.  This is all chucked in at the same time.  I also added the sieved jus from the casserole which had a glorious flavour of wine and garlic and herbs.

When making soup a proper recipe will tell you to sweat the vegetables and add them at various stages, believe me 'the chuck it in the pot' approach is just fine.  Bring to the boil, simmer very gently until cooked, add back in the chicken pieces you've pulled from the frame you made the stock with and heat them through.  Serve with crusty bread - this was a part-bake baguette - another freezer staple.  If this is your main meal of the day have a substantial lighter meal later like a cheese and potato (leftovers again) omelette.

Our third meal was a sort of a salad. Bit of a cheat here as I am still having to buy tomatoes - hey ho!

I know it looks odd with sauté potatoes but, honestly, it is lovely.  It was a cool day and I didn't fancy potato salad.  These are done on a fairly high heat with a mix of olive oil and (not salted) butter.  They don't stick, come out crispy and not greasy and with a great taste.

So, for the cost of one chicken and some tomatoes, veg from the lotty and store cupboard items we had main meals for three days.  I rest my case.

PS - you could have got a sandwich out of this too but we reckon three chicken things a week is overload enough. 

(**) My other half hates celery but I think it is vital to most casserole, soups,stuffings, so I employ a crafty ruse.  I buy the occasional celery heart and enjoy the wonderful centre.  All the outer stems get chopped and put in a plastic box in the freezer.  When I want to add it to something I take out the amount I need and while it is still frozen chop it very, very finely.  It is dead easy to do while it is frozen and you can chop it into oblivion - almost literally.  When it cooks down in the dish it totally disappears. 

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