Home-made soya yoghurt the lazy way.

I do actually own a yoghurt maker, which was a gift from my parents. It’s a nice round contraption with cute little jars which make great individual serving sizes, and it keeps a constant temperature so a great guarantee of consistent results, and super-handy in winter time. The little jars are a bit of a faff to sterilise though, and at the moment I’m going through a lot of yoghurt because I like to use it as a salad dressing mixed with vinegar, smoked paprika, garlic and hot sauce, so I thought I’d try something new.

soya-carton

UHT soya milk is already sterile, so no need to scald it then wait for it to come down to temperature (110-115F), instead I got a large stock pot (also a gift from my folks!) and filled it 3/4 full of warm water. I got the temperature to around 120 degrees and then stood two sealed litre cartons of milk in the pot (one Value and one Organic one I had left over from when they were on offer for 59p!) and left them for 20 minutes to warm through. I then opened them up and tipped some of the milk into a glass for later (to make a bit of room in the cartons), and tipped a bit more into a measuring jug. I mixed about 6 heaped tablespoons of live plain soya yoghurt into the milk in the jug, and them poured half into each carton, sealed them well up and stood them up in the water bath, which came to just below the tops of the cartons.

The temperature had dropped to just below 110 degrees when I put them back in, but I just put the gas on a low heat underneath until they’d come up to 115, then draped a folded bath sheet over the top and sides. The volume of water kept a good heat (I think it being a warm day probably helped too), and after 7 hours I had yoghurt! It’s a bit lumpy, but I’m just going to be mixing it up with other stuff so I don’t care.

One concern I had (after I’d started making it) was that the cartons tell you to store them in a “cool, dry” place, which the stock pot most definitely¬†was not! I started worrying that the plastic lining of the cartons wasn’t designed to be heated, and would leach harmful bits of itself into my yoghurt, and when I tried to find information on how safe Tetra Paks are to heat food in it was surprisingly difficult, however I did find something assuring consumers that they’re designed to withstand heat such as being left in a hot car, and a car’s interior can get well above yoghurt making temperature in the summer so it looks like it’ll be okay! ūüôā

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Not-hummus pizza

In my last entry I posted a recipe for sunflower-seed and chickpea¬†spread. After I had finished my lunch I changed my mind about putting the spread away as it was, that amount of sunflower seeds made a very rich smooth spread, but I decided it was a bit too rich so¬†added about 2/3¬†cup more chickpeas, more lemon juice, garlic and water, so there’s been¬†plenty to keep me going over the past few days.

Some got turned into a sour-cream and onion dip for crisps and tortilla chips by adding in a few spoonfuls of Tesco plain soya yoghurt, along with dried onion powder, cider vinegar and nooch, but I still had a tub left. Since I was making bread today anyway it was no hassle to make a pizza base from some of the dough, chop up some onion, yellow pepper, a few mushrooms, a couple of cloves of garlic, add a couple of spoonfuls of chopped tomatoes and some dried mixed herbs, pinch of salt, mix that all up with a splash of oil, cover the base with the veg and then dollop a few spoonfuls of chickpea spread and smush it onto the top, along with a few halved olives. This went into the oven while it was pre-heating for the rest of the bread РI know conventional pizza-making wisdom says make sure your oven is smoking hot before putting your pizza in, but I defy convention :p

pizza topped with veg and chickpea-sunflower spread

I am under no illusions that this is a pretty picture. Not bad for about 5 minutes of actual hands-on cooking though! ūüôā


Sunflower not-hummus

I wouldn’t want to risk enraging Ottolenghi by calling the creamy chickpea dip component of my lunch hummus. This has never seen a sesame seed, but it gets a good dose of seed-based oil and fibre from sunflower seeds. It’s not exactly low fat, but the fat that is in there is un-heated and unrefined (if that is important to you).¬†Spread on crackers, topped with cucumber and red pepper slices, I’d say this does the job of filling-in for hummus quite nicely, thank you very much.

Sunflower not-hummus

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup hulled sunflower seeds
  • 2/3 cup chickpeas
  • 2/3 cup water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cloves of garlic (I like garlic!)
  • 3 or more black or green olives, pitted (optional, but I like to add a subtle¬†olive taste without quite so many calories as using olive oil).

Method:

Put the sunflower seeds and water into a blender and blend until they make a paste. Add the rest of the ingredients and carry on blending, pausing to stir now and then until everything is nice and smooth. Add more lemon juice/salt if necessary, or a splash more water if it’s too thick. Garnish with smoked paprika, chopped herbs, chopped olives etc.

This makes a good batch, I’ve got enough to stick in a tub in the fridge for a few sandwiches next week. I’m pretty sure this was cheaper than making regular hummus too, since I got the sunflower seeds in bulk from Currant Affairs, I think they were about ¬£3.20 for 1 kilo. I don’t know if you can get tahini for that price, but I doubt it. And despite being a bit unbalanced when it comes to essential fatty acids, sunflower seeds are pretty good in terms of nutrition. The¬†chickpeas were¬†¬£5 for 5 kilos from Tesco, which works out cheaper than split peas.

As an aside, I was planning on having this with what I thought was left over bread in the freezer from Below the Line and gherkins I bought from Lidl. When I’d actually defrosted the “bread” I discovered it was an experimental peanut butter and jam cake I’d made in my practice run before the challenge! I did toy with having it anyway (a la brioche bun with a burger or one of those terrifying doughnut burgers) but then I couldn’t get the gherkin jar open either, so it ended up on rosemary crackers instead!


Worth the salt

I’ve still got most of the kilo of salt I bought for 25p a month back for the challenge (this is not a surprise when you think about it, I would probably be dead if I’d eaten that much salt in so short a time period!). Now, I’m not exactly a salt snob, I’ve always owned a big plastic container of the next stuff up from Basics (I think it’s worth paying about 12p more for the convenience of not having to heft a large plastic bag of salt around, and being able to close it up easily so bits don’t accidentally fall in it or a huge avalanche come out if it’s picked up wrong), but I also like to buy bags of proper sea salt when I’m on holiday, particularly in places that specialise in salty treats, such as Lanzarote with their salty potatoes, and if I see some smoked salt, or fancy pink Himalayan salt cheap on sale you know I’m going to buy it, so I was already pretty well stocked up.

Meanwhile, I’ve been on a huge baked tofu jag recently. I can get about 600g for ¬£1.30 from one of several places around Leicester (usually Asiana¬†or The Farmlands)¬†and I’ve been dicing¬†that up and coating it in combinations of sesame oil, soya sauce, smoked paprika, pepper, liquid smoke, allspice, Herbamare, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, ginger and garlic. Sometimes I’ve made one batch, let it cool enough to scoff half and fridge the rest and then gone on to make another batch in the same Pyrex roasting dish. Consequently, the flavouring was really baked onto the dish as well as the tofu and despite soaking overnight I had a huge struggle trying to clean the dish today. Then I remembered the salt I’d decanted into an espresso cup to make it easier to use. There were about 3 tablespoons left, and I poured half onto the burnt pan and used the previously-ineffective scourer with the salt and a squirt of washing-up liquid to give the burnt-on grease a beating it won’t forget in a hurry!

I’m sorry I didn’t take before and after pictures now, it was a very satisfying transformation. I know salt isn’t news for dish cleaning (especially if you have a dishwasher. I don’t, but I’ve seen them in action), but I was happy to realise I had this low-cost and high impact way of tackling the problem. Now to go out, buy more tofu and begin the whole cycle again!


A new low for oats…

…in a good way!

lidl oats

I noticed earlier this year that a Lidl store was “under construction” on their store-finder 0.7 miles from my house. I’ve been checking the site every couple of weeks since then and it finally showed as open when I looked today, so I eagerly trotted over to check it out.

I found¬†a few good bits and bobs. I got a can of coconut milk that is actually mostly coconut (rather than 48% plus thickeners and water, like some I have seen) for 79p, 4 big bulbs of garlic for 89p and some cashew nuts at ¬£1.49 for 200g (so just under 75p per 100g). They also had some of the lowest prices I’d seen for a few staples I didn’t buy at this time but wanted to note for future reference. I didn’t buy the oats pictured above, but in a real penny-watching situation the information that 500g bags¬†are available for 39p is useful. These packets didn’t say what country the oats are¬†from that I could see, but I did find¬†some Scottish porridge oats at 99p for 1kg, which is also a pretty good price. Other highlights included big jars of gherkins for 65p (I’ve had them before and they’re really nice, and the jars are a good size for re-using), and 1kg sugar for 49p, which is the lowest price I’ve seen sugar for quite a while (EDIT: I’ve since been to Aldi, who are also selling sugar for 49p and theirs is produced in the UK, a bonus for my next challenge which is going to be a local eating one).

Lidl¬†is¬†good in marking a lot of their own brand stuff suitable for vegans, even if you have to take a magnifying glass to the label to spot it sometimes, so that’s another plus for them. They also had a not-too-bad selection of Fair Trade and¬†Rainforest Alliance certified goods and one or two organic items as well.

I’m pleased to add this option to the already wide choice of supermarkets nearby, especially as it means I can now walk there then wander around for hours on my own, price-checking stuff and peering at labels and telling passers by that this is a great price (yes, I did that to some poor man nearby when I spotted the oats today!), rather than having to con someone into giving me a lift and then trying their patience so they eventually resort to “herding” me towards the tills!


I <3 peanut butter!

Eating peanut butter every day on the Below the Line challenge in no way diminished my fondness for the stuff. As a child I found it unpleasantly claggy and did not enjoy the taste, but as an adult something changed and now I love peanut butter in both savoury and sweet recipes, crunchy or smooth.

I found I had just over 100g left of my value jar, and since the rest had gone into savoury crackers and salad it was time to bring on the sweetness. I whipped up a batch of simple cookies with the help of some brown sugar and a dash of rum.

Ingredients:

175g self-raising flour

105g crunchy peanut butter

45g vegetable oil

50g water

125g brown sugar

10g rum (optional, or you could use vanilla. I’m finding the alcohol base in flavour extracts goes a long way to boost baked goods, regardless of the ostensible flavour, and¬†using supermarket brand rum is about half the cost of vanilla¬†extract).

Method:

Weigh peanut butter into mixing bowl. If it’s the last of the peanut butter in the jar, add the oil and water to the jar and shake vigorously to help dislodge the last of the stuff hanging on to the bottom and side of the jar. Scrape into mixing bowl. Add the rum and sugar, and mix it all up to a runny paste.

Add enough flour to make a soft dough. In my case this was around 175g, you might try a bit more or less. Mix in with a table knife or spoon until no dry flour is left.

Take spoonfuls of dough and roll into the obligatory walnut-sized balls. Flatten down a bit and place on a lined baking sheet in a 180c/350f/gas4 oven with a cm or so space (they do spread a bit) for around 15 minutes (check after 10 to make sure they’re browning evenly and not burning) until just beginning to turn brown. This length of baking turned out crunchy-topped biscuits which are still a little soft and cakey on the inside, if you want them crunchy all the way through turn the heat down a notch and bake for longer.

These are a simple cookie which I think would go nicely with a banana milkshake. Sultanas and/or chocolate chips would be a great addition as well. Maybe next time!

peanut butter sweet cookies on a blue and white patterned china plate

peanut butter sweet cookies on a plate


What’s left in the cupboard after Below the Line

In terms of surviving I did fine on this challenge. I have hayfever or some kind of seasonal blossom allergy which is¬†lessening my¬†appetite anyway, which I guess was a kind of silver lining last week! Even so, I got quite sick of some of the things I had chosen – it’s going to be a good long while before I can face a pickled onion again, although if I was having to eat on less than ¬£1 a day long-term they are definitely a valuable flavour addition (just not for nearly every meal!).

Here’s the list of items left at the end of 5 days:

  • approx 30g tomato pur√©e
  • 20 teabags
  • approx 125g mustard (about 2/3 of the jar)
  • approx 200g pickled onions & pickling liquid (just under 1/2 of the jar)
  • 230g cornflakes
  • 810g flour*
  • 250g carrots*
  • Maybe 70g peanut butter (about 1/5 of the jar)
  • 378g red cabbage (plus about 1/2 a tupperware container of slaw leftover, and maybe 200g of the stuff I cooked)
  • The vast majority of the salt!

* 330g of the flour is in the freezer, along with about 250g of the carrots, which made spectacularly brick-like carrot bread. I had been planning to take this bread on my journey but it was too heavy and unpalatable, so I will defrost it some time to use as something like beanburger bulk filler.

There are no potatoes or split peas left. Unfortunately I did not consume all of the split peas, I had an accident where I dropped one of the containers and at least¬†half¬†of the cooked peas¬†spilt over the cooker and the floor and¬†I didn’t feel they could all be saved (although I did rescue and wash off what I could of the ones that fell on the counter-top).

This means over the course of 5 days I’ve consumed

  • ¬†690g flour (2450cal, about 65-70g protein, some calcium, iron, niacin and thiamin)
  • 1500g potatoes (1155cal, 30g protein, some vitamin c, iron, b6 and magnesium)
  • about 280g peanut butter, 290¬†minus¬†10 for what’s left of the slaw (1898cal, 73.9g protein)
  • 270g cornflakes (1007cal, 20.25g protein, an average of 45% rda per day of vits B1, B2, niacin, B6, folic acid, b12 and pantothenic acid, and 30% rda of iron)
  • about 220g carrots, 250 minus¬†30 for what’s left of the slaw (90cal, 2g protein, beta carotene to make vitamin A – sources vary really widely in their estimates, I’m going to guess I averaged 50% of the rda, but that’s a very very rough estimate)
  • 542g red cabbage, 892 minus¬†150 for what’s left of the slaw and about 200 left of cooked cabbage (168cal, 7.6g protein, about 100% average daily vitamin c rda)
  • Approx 500g cooked split peas (590cal, 40g protein, 22mg iron)
  • And a few odd calories and nutrients from the onions, mustard and the greens I foraged.

Calorie total for 5 days is approx 7358, which divides to 1471¬†per day. I lead a fairly sedentary life although I do a reasonable amount of walking, and I’m not tall. To maintain my weight I probably would have needed to eat about 200-250 calories more per day. I certainly could have done this if I hadn’t been scared of running out of the peanut butter and rationed it more carefully than needed, or if I’d managed to eat more cornflakes.

Protein total for 5 days is approx 223.25g, which divides to 44.65g per day. That’s a bit low, I would have been okay if I hadn’t dropped the split peas, or been miserly with the peanut butter.

I hadn’t expected to hit the targets for everything, I don’t think I did, and that’s fine for this length of time. If I had been doing this for 10 days, or had combined with someone else so there was ¬£10 to spend for 30 meals rather than ¬£5 for 15 the whole thing would have been a great deal easier and more palatable, but doing it this way has made me even more grateful than usual that I don’t live in a food desert!

Once again, I should stress that I am exceptionally lucky to live in a big city, within walking distance of several large supermarkets with ‘value’ ranges of foods, and who need to price their other items competitively. I have easy access to the internet so I could price-check most of the items I was interested in online (the only one I had to visit in person to view the prices was Aldi). I’ve been looking at the World Bank’s report on extreme poverty¬†and realised anew that I can’t begin to conceive of the kind of life that people living on less (sometimes much less) than ¬£1 a day are having to put up with. Many of the countries with large percentages of their population living at this level have average life-expectancies of 50 or less. The percentage of people with access to the internet, television or even radio is far far less than in my country. I feel helpless when I see how vast the situation is, and yet according to that report there are less people in what they class as absolute poverty than there were 30 years ago.

I don’t know what the solution¬†is, at all. I really wish I did. I hope that donating to poverty-alleviating charities does reach the intended targets in a timely fashion, and I will continue to save where I can so that I can donate what I can, and hope others will do the same. It’s also worth considering what volunteering work could be done, either in charity shops for organisations providing aid, or in food banks to help communities who are struggling closer to home – if we can lift our own societies out of relative poverty the government will have even less excuse to reduce aid they provide to those in countries who need it most. And if you’ve read this far and¬†have any pet schemes for helping to raise people out of poverty, please let me know in the comments section!


Day two – lunch

Yesterday I opened my little tin of tomato pur√©e. You can’t keep food in the tin once it’s open (not sure why, but I know it’s a bad idea!) so I set about decanting the rest of it after I’d used a spoonful for my soup. I thought it would fit into a handy small glass jar I’d saved from something else¬†but it turned out there was about a tablespoon left over in the can that wouldn’t fit, so I thought I’d see if it made a difference to some quick-bread.

I filled the purée can almost to the top with water and stirred so the leftover tomato paste reconstituted nicely and then added that to 100g SR flour and about 1/8 teaspoon salt. Turns out there was too much liquid  so had to add another 50g or so of flour to make a rollable dough. I rolled it out to a couple of cm thick and baked it in a hottish oven (around 200 degrees) for about 18 minutes. I had a chunk for breakfast but about 2/3 went towards my lunch:

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I was quite pleased with this, it reminded me of a ploughman’s lunch. The tomato flavour is quite subtle, but it makes the bread a lot tastier, and to go with the bread I have red-cabbage slaw, dandelion leaves, a mustardy split-pea dip/spread (cooked split peas¬†with¬†pickle liquid, mustard, pinch of salt and water to thin, smushed with a hand-blender), a cold baked potato and a pickled onion.

I know I said I wouldn’t break down the cost of each meal, but just for the sake of curiosity I did it this time:

100g slaw – 5.6p

200g cooked split peas 9.4p

15g mustard (would reduce to 10g next time, it was just a bit too hot!) 2p

30g pickle liquid/an onion 2p

baked potato approx 200g – 11.6p

approx 100g flour’s worth of bread 3p

approx 15g tomato puree 2.11p

Total 35.7p


Day 1 – evening

I wasn’t planning on¬†going anywhere by car to buy food, I was going to get it all on foot, but I unexpectedly had the opportunity of a lift to Asda¬†where¬†they are selling¬†1.5kg (which worked out to 6) potatoes on special offer for 87p, so I’ve got my spuds after all. I even got half of them baked for me!

I took the rest of my daily portion of slaw and 2 pickled onions in a container with me to serve over a potato, but ended up just eating a half-potato as I have been strangely un-hungry this evening. I will eat the rest cold over the next couple of days, but I also saved the other 3 to boil/mash/add to soup.

Since I’ve got everything I planned to, pretty much, here’s my final list for the week:

  • Tesco yellow split peas, 500g – 53p
  • Tesco value cornflakes 500g – 31p
  • Tesco value crunchy peanut butter 340g – 62p
  • Tesco value silverskin pickled onions 440g – 30p
  • Tesco value self-raising flour 1500g – 45p
  • Tesco value mustard 190g – 25p
  • Tesco value teabags (40) – 20p
  • Tesco value salt 1000g – 25p
  • Sainsburys tomato pur√©e 142g – 20p
  • Asda ‘Extra Special’ Rudolph potatoes 1500g – 87p
  • Aldi red cabbage (weight not listed, but weighed by me at 1270g) – 45p
  • Aldi carrots 500g – 27p

That leaves me 30p as I couldn’t decide between a jar of jam,¬†a bulb of garlic, an orange or lemon, and I was even kind of tempted to buy some Love Hearts sweets, even though they probably have even less nutritional value than the jam.

I don’t know if¬†there’s much point in my costing out each day’s worth of food (I did make a start but it got fiddly with all the components in each thing I made), but I will run through what is left at the end of the challenge and work out the total spend and average nutritional intakes that way.

I already know I have enough here to last the 5 days in terms of calories and protein and will do roughly okay with regard to some vitamins and minerals although I’ll be falling short on a few things e.g. essential fatty acids and B12 and won’t manage to make the 5-a-day fruit and veg goal unless I eat more dandelions and other freebies.

I’m lucky to have plenty of spare time to source the cheapest item from each store, cook from scratch, and to own the equipment and know-how to carry that out, and I know that has made my cash go a lot further.


Day 1 – breakfast and lunch

Maybe it helps that I’ve got hayfever at the moment so I’m not tasting things as much as I could be, but I don’t think the 20p-for-40-teabags tea is as bad as people have been making out! It’s certainly a huge improvement on having to go through caffeine withdrawal! I had four cups this morning.

Having said I’m not a breakfast person, I woke up peckish so I had 25g dry cornflakes in the privacy of my own home.

I ate the¬†6 snack crackers I took to work throughout the morning along with my cups of tea, then went into town on the never-ending quest for affordable potatoes. Nothing doing in Leicester Market, they had 1kg potatoes for ¬£1.10 (I’ve got ¬£1.17 left from the fiver, I could spend it all on potatoes, but I was hoping to get something else for flavouring as¬†well, like a bulb of garlic), or some people were selling bowlfuls for ¬£1 but lesser quantities did not seem to be on offer. Marks & Spencer didn’t have any for less than ¬£1.75 a kilo. There’s an ‘International Supermarket’ (smallish grocery shop selling some fresh produce) on Granby Street, and they had 2 kilo bags of potatoes for ¬£1, but they were outside in the full sun in an orange-toned plastic bag and I didn’t trust them not to be green¬†once the bag was opened.

Empty handed I started for home, but on my walk back I saw some cleavers¬†peeking through a hedge on New Walk so I gathered a small handful of those, they’re supposed to be a good spring tonic.

When I got home I made a very simple bannock from 100g self-raising flour, a pinch of salt and enough water to make a soft dough, rolled out a bit into a circle and baked in a hot oven until it had puffed up and just picked up a tinge of brown on top. I ate half of this with soup made from 150g split peas, 15g tomato purée, 25g chopped carrot, the cleavers and 2 dandelion leaves finely chopped, salt, and water to cover, simmered until the carrot was tender. I topped this with a couple of spoonfuls of the cabbage cooked with pickled onions that I made last night.

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The soup was… functional? It wasn’t bad, and the dandelions stopped it from tasting too boring by making it very slightly bitter, but it would have benefited from some spices and a squirt of lemon.

The other half of the bannock I had as a sandwich with 50g coleslaw and 5g mustard. This was good, I will make something similar again.

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I calculate I’ve had around 885 calories and 32g protein so far, which isn’t too shabby. I’m about to take a walk to Morrisons now to see what I can come up with for that final ¬£1.17.