…in a good way!
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!
Back from my journey to Aldi, followed by a walk into the city centre. The good news: I got a 1.27kg red cabbage (grown in the UK) for 45p! This is by far the cheapest I’ve seen red cabbage in a supermarket, they’re usually about 80p a kilo. The bad news was that there were no fresh potatoes available for less than £1. They had 500g bags of carrots for 27p, and I decided to buy one of those instead of a 1kg bag for 49p, even though it works out at 5p more a kilo, because I think 100g of carrots a day will probably be sufficient and it gave me a bit of extra cash to play with.
I left Aldi and walked into town via the medium-sized Sainsbury’s on Humberstone Gate. I was hoping for better potato luck there, but the only loose ones they had were bakers for £1.25 per kilo, so I didn’t get any, but what I did get was a special offer tin of tomato purée for 20p, which I think is going to make my split peas taste a whole lot better, so I’m really pleased with that! That means I have £1.17 left to spend.
I also dropped by one of the Tesco Express shops in town. They didn’t have any usefully-priced potatoes either, but what they did have (although I didn’t buy them) were 500g bags of oats for 68p:
Now, you can get 1kg bags of oats for 75p in Morrisons, larger Tesco stores and Aldi (they didn’t have any today though), so these aren’t the best value around, but if I end up being desperate for oats with less than 75p left it’s worth knowing about them, as until now I thought 75p was the lowest price available for oats.
A friend was shooting a video for one of her songs yesterday and asked for volunteer “crowd” so B and I drove to the shoot (mildly exciting!). On the way back we were passing Aldi and dropped in to see if they had any flaked almonds. Unfortunately, they seemed to be out of almonds completely, flaked or otherwise, as they were last time I visited in December, but I did manage to pick up a kilo bag of oats for 75p.
I wanted to see if my oat and coconut flour pastry would work in savoury format but had been low on oats, so it was good to get more to play with. I tried the pastry with a ratio of 2:1 oats and coconut, plus a splash of olive oil, pinch of salt and water to bind. I made a simple red onion and chickpea flour quiche-type filling. Seemed to work okay, though the coconut flavour is a little unexpected in a spiceless savoury dish.
You may be wondering what I’ve used to fasten up the bag of oats, although those of an urban-foraging disposition may already know. It’s a strip of bicycle tyre inner tube, tied to make a sturdy rubber band. I cadged loads of inner tubes from a local bike repair shop, and they were happy for me to take them as they were much punctured and repaired and would otherwise have been thrown away. Once I’d brought these home I cut them across once to make a tube, then slit the tubes end-to-end. I popped the tubes into the washing machine on wool cycle and they came out nice and clean, ready to be used for craft and DIY projects! They’re a perfect free sub for rubber bands as you can make them almost any length and they’re much less likely to perish.
Quite a while back, I put in an order for six kilos of assorted chocolate chips from Plamil foods, a company with a dedicated dairy-free facility. Now, I don’t care if something “may contain traces” of dairy, I’m not severely allergic and it’s the intended ingredients that concern me, however I know it’s a big deal for people with allergies or just preferences not to have their chocolate cross-contaminated by unintended dairy, so I like to support this company, and a big plus for the budget-conscious is that they offer free postage over a certain spend, and their bulk packaged chips work out to a very reasonable price, especially if you catch them during one of their special offer periods.
My order was mainly for dark chocolate of varying cocoa content, however I thought I would give their alternatives to milk and white chocolate a try, so ordered a kilo of each. I’d been hoping to use them for truffles, however they didn’t behave quite as I’d expected them to upon heating. I was able to use the milk-chocolate chips in cookies and brownies in the end (rather than melting for couverture purposes, the rice-milk content makes it a bit too grainy/fudgy textured for that) but the white chocolate seemed to disintegrate when I tried to use it in cookies, leaving puddles of toffee-like goo in their place – perfectly tasty but not what I was expecting, nor very aesthetically pleasing.
In consequence, I’ve had nearly a kilo of white chocolate sitting around unloved for many a moon, and now I’m almost out of dark choc chips I thought some more about whether I’d be able to use the white ones for anything. As it turns out, they work brilliantly in a custard pie/cheesecake type application! I’m not over my pie jag yet, and have eyed up nearly all of the remaining ingredients in my cupboard with a view to pressing them into a pie dish. Being out of nuts (apart from cashews and about a tablespoon of walnut pieces), but discovering some dessicated coconut I thought I’d see how a coconut oat press-in crust would work, which resulted in a very rich tasting pie-crust which holds together surprisingly well.
This recipe is very much a work in progress which I hope to refine, but I was very pleased with the texture of the custard, which is thick and luscious.
Vegan white chocolate cardamon tart
1 cup oat flour
3/4 cup dessicated coconut, whizzed halfheartedly in a blender (that stuff is difficult to turn into flour! Too light, it just flies around the container!)
3 tablespoons marmalade (I expect maple syrup or agave or golden syrup would work pretty well, maybe better)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon water.
Pinch of salt (maybe 1/4 teaspoon)
Pie filling ingredients:
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups soya milk
1/2 cup marmalade
1/2 cup cashews
2 tablespoons custard powder
2 or 3 green cardomon pods (Just use the seeds if you’re not sure how well your blender will cope with the husks)
Pinch of salt.
Put the oats and coconuts into a mixing bowl, add the marmalade, oil and water and cut in with a knife until a crumbly dough is formed. Press into a pie-dish or individual tartlet cases and blind bake for about ten minutes in a moderate oven 180/350. This seems to burn quite easily so keep an eye on it to check it’s not getting too done. N.B. I don’t have the ratio of crust to filling quite right yet! You will probably end up with extra crust unless you make it very thick or have a wide but shallow pie dish.
Put all the filling ingredients in a blender and whizz them up until smooth. If you don’t have a high speed blender you might want to soak the cashews for a couple of hours, or boil them for a few minutes to soften them up, and just blend those with some of the milk to start with until they’re a smooth paste.
Pour the custard mix into the pie crust and bake for about another 20 minutes, until just beginning to get a golden top in spots. Keep an eye on it and reduce the heat a notch if it looks like it’ll start burning. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before slicing. The flavours develop after chilling for a while, so make the day before eating, if possible.
£6.57 still remains on day 21, so that’s just over a tenth of my original allowance to see me through the last third of the month. Fortunately, the extra work I’ve been offered later this week is within walking distance so I’ve no call to spend money on bus fare yet.
In case anyone is interested, here’s what I ate today:
Leftover marmalade cinnamon rolls (I didn’t get round to freezing them after all),
Toasted homemade bread, spread with leftover pumpkin seed sauce and mustard, topped with red cabbage coleslaw,
Smoothie made from frozen apple, frozen raw pumpkin (this goes really well in smoothies!), a tablespoon of flax seeds, a spoonful of frozen blackcurrants, a few sour dried cherries and a single piece of frozen rhubarb plus about half a pint of soya milk. This was an excellent combination, though it sadly finished off the expensive cherries. Must get more when February comes!
Lentil bake in a homemade roll with more coleslaw.
The coleslaw was made yesterday. I used half the red cabbage bought on Sunday, a large carrot, and made the dressing from half a cup of pumpkin seeds blended with about a cup of water, a dash of olive oil, 2-3 tablespoons cider vinegar, a clove of garlic, a teaspoon of flax seeds and half a teaspoon of Herbamare seasoning. I was chuffed with how this dressing turned out once I’d blended it up, it worked really well to bring the coleslaw together in terms of both flavour and texture.
The lentil bake was of necessity. I’d tried making rissoles yesterday but hadn’t drained the lentils thoroughly enough and after adding sautéed onions and carrots plus some leftover jarred pasta sauce they were hugely mushy, so I then had to keep adding more and more ingredients to get the mixture to firm up – I started by adding a cup of breadcrumbs, then got some chickpeas out of the freezer and whizzed them to crumbs in the food processor. Still no good! Added in some oats and even more breadcrumbs and finally they were just about okay but by then I had so much mix I would have ended up with about fifty rissoles if I’d made them all up! So today I just shoved the remaining mix in greased Pyrex dishes and baked them until they were starting to go brown. I’ve frozen some, and there are four portions in the fridge, so that’ll keep me going for a while!
The pumpkin pie was to use up the last of the pumpkin puree, continue my experiments with marmalade and experiment with caraway (as I have a 300g bag that until today was unopened). I used roughly the same recipe as last time but added in a teaspoon of caraway and instead of lemon juice and zest I used 2 tablespoons of marmalade.For the press in crust I used walnuts in place of almonds as I’m out of those. Verdict: a success, although on further nibbling I’m not sure the caraway adds much to this. It’s useful to know marmalade stands in well for lemon in this recipe though.
I’m still feeling a bit sore-throat-esque and also have been offered some casual work tomorrow morning so I’m not sure I’ll feel like getting up early and making potato scones as originally planned. Since I’m aiming to blog every day this month, if something gets posted just after midnight that relieves the pressure for a bit longer than normal!
Instead, here are some rather substantial snacks I made a few days ago based on this peanut butter and golden syrup flapjack recipe
Since my granulated sugar was nearer to hand I used that instead of light brown soft sugar. I didn’t have enough oats by about 65g, so I topped it up with about 35g of oat flour and 30g flax meal. To make up for no brown sugar I subbed one tablespoon golden syrup with molasses, but when I came to mix it all up it looked too dry so I ended up squeezing more syrup in anyway. I also wanted them to be ever so slightly cakey so I put a couple of spoonfuls of water in. I used sultanas and dried sour cherries instead of raisins, and I couldn’t be faffed with the topping they suggest so I just sprinkled 100g chocolate chips over the surface shortly after they came out of the oven. Apart from those adjustments I followed the recipe faithfully!
And yes, I’ve finally decided to try Instagram three years after everyone else.
On Tuesday I posted my whole ginger beer recipe, but in reality I had only got up to the ‘leaving it in a big container for a while’ stage. Yesterday I sieved out all the ginger-chilli-lemon-zest, set the pulp aside, bottled the ginger beer up, and it’s been building up pressure nicely in the bottles.
So I’m going to go back to that bit where you have your drinks bottles and pour them 3/4 full (actually, you might want to make it 2/3 full even, depending how many bottles you have spare). Your squeezed bottles should look like this:
(only you probably want less blurry bottles!) Leave them for a few hours in a moderately warm place, and you should come back to find them looking something like this:
You can now unscrew the cap a little bit, squeeze out all the air and make them look like the first picture again. If you’ve left them for long enough that the yeast has been fermenting wildly, be careful how you open the bottles, as they do tend to fizz up quite a bit!
I generally give them an extra 24 hours to ferment in the bottles before refrigerating and probably relieve the pressure 3-4 times during that period.
(Alternatively, if you want to leave them for a while to ferment out of the fridge and won’t be around to relieve the pressure, you can get a bit of plastic sheet (e.g. a section cut from a zip lock bag, make sure it’s clean), wrap that over the top, and then secure it with a couple of rubber bands (2 in case one breaks). The rubber bands expand to let the gas out, but vinegar flies (which you always want to avoid when you’re making alcohol, unless you want vinegar instead), and mould and other undesirable additions cannot get in.)
A sieving doesn’t get all the bits of ginger and solids from the mix, so a sediment will start to form in the base of the bottles. If this bothers you, you can get some more clean bottles and carefully pour your ginger beer off the sediment or even rack it off if you want to be fancy! http://www.homebrewtalk.com/wiki/index.php/Racking has a good explanation. If you don’t want fuss and don’t mind the possibility of a slightly cloudy drink, just pour it carefully, trying not to disturb it too much, as you would a bottle-conditioned beer. You could also have lined your sieve with cheesecloth to get out more solids, although you’ll still get yeast sinking to the bottom even then.
Ah, solids… remember the ginger-lemon-chilli pulp set aside earlier? Well, you could dispose of this by composting it or something, but there’s still life in the gunk, if you care to use it! After I’d finished bottling yesterday, I decided to make bread. There’s still live yeast in the stuff that’s been set aside that is perfectly adequate to raise a loaf. I also had half a can of chestnut puree left to use up so I got some plain flour (320g, but that was the only thing I weighed, sorry! I only weighed it to get an idea of how much liquid to add, but in the end I didn’t need any because the pulp and puree added enough), added in the pulp, the chestnut puree, a handful of sultanas, a spoonful of blackstrap molasses, a pinch of salt, and some oat flour and rolled oats for texture and heartiness. This combination resulted in a delicious loaf! Not very sweet, but perfect for breakfast toast. Unfortunately the chestnut puree made it a bit on the brown side, so it’s not the most photogenic of loaves, but it really was very pleasant indeed! The white specks are oats, in case you were wondering.