5 March 2011

Getting to grips with being thrifty

I try, as far as I am able, to be thrifty in the kitchen.  Well, not only in the kitchen in fact.  However, a certain percentage of my thriftiness has been good intentions, rather than put into practice.

It just so happens that, this weekend, I appear to be putting a certain amount of good intentions into operation.  Such as the red wine situation.

I bought a bottle of red wine - not one of the most expensive, or one of the cheapest - but a nice enough, albeit young, bottle of Merlot to use exclusively in cooking.  Or, in particular, for the Kielbasa recipe and the Chicken Liver pate (which I have yet to blog about).  Both recipes used around 125ml each, which left the very good part of the bottle sitting doing nothing.  Now I agree, I could drink it.  I'm not a very great drinker of alcohol - never have been - but a small glass of wine in the evening is extremely convivial and, I understand, useful from a good health point of view.  However, we've already got two bottles of Chianti earmarked for that job - and it's always good to have a little red wine available to include in cooking.

This morning, I remembered the "red wine ice cube" way of keeping wine that was surplus to requirements and, as an ice cube tray was free, filled it up and popped it in the freezer - just to see what would happen, rather than anything else.

Apologies for the poor photo - you can (just) see the cubes!

Well, what a jolly good ruse this has turned out to be!  I now have a bag full of red wine ice cubes, with another tray freezing as we speak.  Now I shall be plopping ice cubes into just about everything (except maybe scrambled eggs. ~shiver~ No, don't think so).

Owing to the Pepper and Bacon Lasagne having been bumped from the menu in favour of fish & chips last week, I now have a surfeit of peppers taking up huge amounts of room in my fridge.   This has got me to thinking what I could do with them.  Soup immediately comes to mind, but knowing how often I have (in the past) made soup for lunchtime that has been passed over in favour of baked beans or a marmite sandwich, you probably understand why I didn't give that a lot of thought.

Not charred to death - still got some life in them.
However, something that I've always wanted to have a go at, but never attempted before today, was making char-grilled peppers.  I have a ceramic hob, which I'm nervous about using for char-grilling peppers because, basically, it was my Mum's cooker that she adored and it almost broke her heart to give it up when it wouldn't fit into their new kitchen when they moved house.  So you can maybe understand my reticence in using its ceramic hob to set fire to peppers. 

What I do have, however, is a flamethrower.  Oh, all right then, it's a blowtorch.  Not quite a flamethrower, even though I do treat it with the respect a flamethrower would engender.

So, I stuck a long-handled metal fork into the pepper and blowtorched it.  It didn't take as long as I thought it would.  Having spent a couple of hours in a plastic bag, I've just scraped all the burned skin off and sectioned up the flesh, sploshed it with olive oil and had a taste.  Goodness, but it's really yummy!  The loss of the skin is only to its benefit, in my opinion, as so often the skins are really quite tough.  The flesh isn't exactly cooked, but it has softened whilst still retaining a tad of crunch - which is very nice indeed.  The smokey flavour of the charred skin is very much still there and I'd say that they are 100% nicer than any char-grilled pepper that came in a jar.  I've done an orange and a yellow pepper and, with addition of some salt & pepper, will include them in the salad that's going with the Chicken liver pate for tonight's dinner.  As the family seems to be giving them the thumbs up, I may well convert the remainder of the peppers to char-grilled and freeze them for use in casseroles.   

So, I'm feeling really quite pleased with both those experiments.

Herbs included for size comparison
Aside from all that, I recently received a voucher to sample some of Innocent's new juice.  Either orange (with bits or without) or apple, in their new 900ml carafe.

Unusually, we shopped at Sainsbury's last Friday and lo and behold (apart from Blood Oranges - which is quite another blog post entirely) there was the Innocent Juice, so I picked some up.  For all that the voucher quite clearly said it was for a 900ml container, I hadn't quite got my head around how big 900ml was.  Hence, I was quite surprised at how much you got!

I love Innocent's labelling, it's demonstrative of the entire company having something of a sense of humour.  Even down to the underside of the Carafe, upon which is embossed the words "Stop looking at my bottom!".  Their labelling is always worth a read, in the process of which I learned that the juice contained therein was completely unsweetened.  Now that came as something of a surprise, as - in comparison with something like Copella - it tasted so much sweeter.  I guess it's just the type of apple that they use.  The juice didn't suffer for being sweeter, in my opinion it was still jaw-droppingly gorgeous and if I could afford to pay £1.99 for 900ml of juice, instead of 90p for a litre of not-so-nice juice, but agreeably palatable juice, then I'd be buying Innocent - and maybe the odd Copella when I needed a hit of sharpness.

Lastly, to round off this posting of "things I must write about on my blog", I just had to show everyone the flowers that my hubby bought for me today.  They are so cute!  They're the first flowers I can remember being given from him for ages - and all the sweeter for it.

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