Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Frugal Food: Crunchy Granola

Starting again!  I am full of admiration for those who blog regularly, some even daily.  It's not that I don't think of or photograph things to blog about.  I can compose away in my head but I just don't seem to get round to actually sitting down to put those thoughts into readable words!  Mind you, procrastination is my middle name...........

Which is why I am now typing about my summer breakfasts in October! Dear oh dear.  

That photo is of a bowl of crunchy granola, served with yoghurt and strawberries, and eaten on holiday, looking out over the sea on a beautifully sunny August morning.  The recipe is from Lighten Up by Jill Dupleix.  She is one of my favourite cookery book authors as her recipes are always simple to follow, never have a long list of ingredients and always, always taste delicious.  

I have the gall to label this one under 'Frugal Food' as I made it using up all sorts of odds and ends of nuts and seeds from my pantry and, padded out with yog and fruit, it seemed to last forever!  Below, I have reproduced the original recipe for you to tweak and make your own.  

Seeing those strawberries is taking me back to another summer holiday memory - strawberries grown in Mevagissey, Cornwall.  We are talking real, proper, red, ripe strawberries, that actually taste of strawberry and the smell............. ohhh, they are worth buying for the smell alone! Clotted cream optional!

Crunchy Granola

Makes 10 or more servings

400g porridge oats
3 tbsp sunflower seeds
3 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp linseed
100g almonds
100g walnuts or brazil nuts
100g dried shredded coconut
pinch of salt
4 tbsp honey or maple syrup
3 tbsp olive oil or hempseed oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
100g dried cranberries
100g dried sultanas

Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.

Heat the oven to 150ºC/Gas 2.

Toss the oats, seeds, nuts, coconut and salt together in a large bowl.

Warm the honey, olive oil, cinnamon and nutmeg in a pan, stirring, until just melted.

Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients, tossing well.

Spread evenly on the trays.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, shuffling everything around once or twice to prevent sticking.

Remove from the oven and cool.  

Add the dried fruits.

Store in an airtight container for up to a month.

Friday, 24 May 2013

London For Free: Somerset House and the Courtauld Gallery

This has to be one of my favourite places to visit in London.  

Somerset House has played numerous roles over the years, in fact my first visit in the '80s was to get a copy of my birth certificate!  Now it is known as the host to London Fashion Week and the place to come ice skating at Christmas. 

What's free?  Well, for a start, many of the exhibitions held in the various gallery spaces.  One I just have to see opened yesterday, the work of Erwin Blumenfeld but there's also one at the moment of contemporary rugs, photos of the churches built by Hawksmoor and the National Art and Design Saturday Club Summer Show opens on Sunday.  

I visit Somerset House for its exhibitions but the buildings themselves are just as big a draw; they are gorgeous.  Free guided tours are held every Thursday and Saturday.  

One corner of the courtyard houses the Courtauld Gallery.  If you visit only one art gallery when in London, visit this one.  It is fairly small so not as overpowering as a visit to the National Gallery, for example.  The collection spans from the fourteenth century to the twentieth, with a mighty fine selection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings.  The art is a joy to behold but so are the architectural details in the rooms they are displayed in.  

Yellow Irises, Pablo Picasso

Entry is not free but the top price is, by London admission prices, a reasonable £6.  On Mondays, including bank holidays, entry is half price.  I managed to visit for free as I current hold an Art Pass. I visited the Becoming Picasso exhibition, which closes this Monday.  One way it would have also been possible to skip the admission fee was to have gone along to one of the Picasso Lates dressed as a 1901 Parisian!

Have you paid a visit?  Can you recommend any places to visit in London that won't break the bank?

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Frugal Food: Apple Crumble Makes You Rumble

Actually, this is a rhubarb and apple to be precise so extra rumbly.....!

We used to get copious amounts of rhubarb in our garden when I was a kid.  I didn't enjoy eating it AT ALL then but loved using the big leaves as a hat.  Now my tastebuds are more uhhmm mature shall we say, I am quite happy to eat it but the cost is prohibitive.  It tends to only come in pricey packs at the supermarket.  Waitrose was doing a half price offer of £1.50 for 400g but I got a couple of almost-out-of-date packs reduced to 99p each.  

Eating some stewed, dolloped on porridge, is ideal for me but my little girl was not so keen (surprise, surprise!).  

I sliced up a cooking apple, spread it over the top of some stewed rhubarb, made a batch of crumble topping, cooked it for 30 minutes at 190º, poured over some plain yoghurt and voila!  

Gone in 60 seconds!

Basic Crumble Topping

120g plain flour
90g butter, cold, diced into small chunks
6tbsp sugar

Rub the butter into the flour, using just your fingertips so as not to melt the butter, until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar. 

You could also add some porridge oats in for some more fibre.  

Any other suggestions?

Friday, 17 May 2013

Upcyled Shirt

Upcyling, as they call it these days, 'making good use' as the Wombles would say or 'you can't throw that away, it might come in' as my dad would say.  

Just like I did when I was a child, my little girl wears one of her dad's old work shirts to protect her clothes when she is busy painting and pasting. 

Worn back-to-front, with the sleeves rolled up and the tail brushing her ankles.  

Hopefully it will be used for many more years. 

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Family and Friends Railcard

See all those zeros?!  A pleasure to behold!  

I love taking my little girl out-and-about to explore and experience new things.  Going by car, now that filling up the petrol tank is getting ridiculously expensive, is now a luxury.  The bus is always an option but I much prefer the train.  

I found out about the £28 Family and Friends Railcard  which would cut the cost of the fare by a third for me and 60% for my daughter.  Not bad - but could I cut the cost of the card too?!  

I ended up exchanging £14 of Tesco clubcard vouchers for a one year pass.  Here's the link but I see it has risen to £15 now.   The Daily Mail is currently running an offer for a free two month pass

We have used our pass once so far and made a £7 saving.  No doubt we will make better use of it during the school holidays.  I've been meaning to go the Turner gallery in Margate or perhaps a day trip to Brighton or a day out in London or Bath or York .......................

Where would you go? 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Frugal Food: Pork and Butternut Squash Casserole

This dish is a great in the colder months, which seems to mean all year round here!   It is quick to make, fairly cheap to make, only has a handful of ingredients and absolutely never fails to satisfy.   I dish it up with a dollop of mashed potato.

The cut of pork I use is shoulder, a good one for slower cooking.  It used to be one of the cheaper cuts but, with the way food prices are going here, its purchase still needs to be thought about.  We are eating more meat-free meals and most of the meat I do buy has a reduced sticker on it and gets put straight into the freezer for another day.  Having said that, I reckon this casserole is worth every penny!  Only about half a butternut squash is used, leaving plenty for another meal.

It's a Waitrose recipe, btw.

Pork and Butternut Squash Casserole - serves 4

2 tbsp oil
500g pork diced shoulder
1 onion, chopped
200g butternut squash, diced 
1 large carrot, sliced
500ml stock (I do half veg, half chicken)
Preheat oven to 180ºC, gas mark 4.

Heat 1tbsp oil in a large flameproof casserole dish.

Add the pork and fry for 5 minutes to brown and seal.  

Remove the pork and set aside.

Add a further tbsp of oil to the pan and fry the onion, butternut and carrot for 5 minutes.

Gradually pour in the stock.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes, uncovered.

Remove the dish from the heat, add the pork and season to taste.

Cover and put in the oven for 35 minutes or until tender. 

Let me know what you think! 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Car Boot Season

The car boot season is upon us once again - although with another wet summer being forecast, it may well grind to a halt very soon!

When we moved into our new home, I made a determined effort to to thin out our belongings as we just seemed to have too much 'stuff'.  Picking up 'bargains' at the car boot sales and in the charity shops was partly to blame.  Now I only go into charity shops to drop things off, with no browsing allowed, so when I went to the boot sale I made sure I bought only things that would be of use.  

My little girl can spend hours playing with Hama beads.  I found the mother lode on one stall!  For £6 I got a pile of the plastic shape boards, eleventy billion beads AND a brand new, unopened, safari theme box.  The safari set, which would retail for about £15, has been squirreled away in my box of gifts for birthdays and Christmas. 

I also bought for £1.50 the Paddington CD and a book with CD.  These have been put aside until our long car journey in the summer.  You can't have too much Paddington!  

Have you been to a boot sale yet this year?  Find any bargains?