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.
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! 🙂
(Relatively speaking, that is.)
If you are a vegan/milk-avoider who enjoys chocolate you’ll know that it’s usually not cheap. It’s possible to buy 100g of plain Value/Basics chocolate for around 30p, but most of those contain milk (I’m told Morrisons sell a bar without milk listed in the ingredients) but when I tried a non-milky one several years ago I was not at all impressed with the taste. If you’re going to have a luxury food, it has to actually be a pleasure to eat, or what’s the point?
I’ve always been a fan of Plamil’s range of dark chocolate chips. If you buy a small pouch of their diary-free chocolate drops they’ll cost over £3 for 175g (you might think that’s reasonable if you only want a small amount, especially if you have allergies, as they’re made in a dedicated dairy and nut-free environment), but if you look at their bulk options the price gets a lot more attractive. They will sell you a kilo of organic, fairtrade baking chocolate drops for £8.63, so 86p per 100g. If you buy over £25 worth of goods, they don’t charge for postage. They also offer 10% off for first time orders, and once you’ve registered your email address with them (and this is what prompted this post – hey, direct mailings do sometimes work!) they also offer 10% off deals throughout the year, such as for this Bank Holiday weekend.
Where the savings really come in is when you start buying their catering packs of 7.5 kilos. At the moment they are selling ‘Free From’ Baking chocolate drop Catering Packs of 7.5kg, 53% cocoa, for a reduced price of £45.89. Take 10% from that and it will cost £41.30, so 55p per 100g, for something that actually tastes nice eaten straight up. (NB – If you want 10% off you must either be a first-time customer or buy this weekend or the next time they run an offer!)
If you want fairtrade organic, the 7.5 kilo bulk boxes are £52.13 for the 53% stuff, which is £46.92 with 10% off, making 100g cost 62p.
It’s quite a bit of money to find in one go, but if you’ve got a cool dry place to store it chocolate will last for a long time. You can also split the cost of an order with one or more friends or neighbours.
I know I sound like a blaring advert for Plamil. I swear I am not affiliated with them in any way, I’ve just ordered from them several times and I’ve always been pleased with the service and pleased that I splashed out the money. That amount of chocolate will keep me going for more than a year and is brilliantly handy for making gifts for birthdays and festivals. When you consider how much a 100g bar of allergy-friendly chocolate normally costs, this seems a much better option in the long run.
The chickpea tofu and crustless quiche version of same got a second outing in baked form. I’d already baked the quiche-type-thing for a good 35 minutes previously, whereas I left the plain tofu to set in the fridge. In my opinion, twice baking is definitely the way to go. Cubed, tossed in a little soya sauce, cayenne and with a crafty squirt of liquid smoke, then baked for another 20 minutes or so, it was delightfully firm with a bit of chew and a hint of crunch, wheras the single baked stuff was more like baked polenta, where a thin layer of crisp gave way to a softer texture inside. Pleasant enough, especially maybe if served with a ratatouille-type sauce, but not a patch on the twice-baked for eating out of hand.
Just the rest of today and tomorrow to get through in the challenge! Yesterday I was called at lunchtime to see if I’d urgently cover for someone who was off sick at short notice, so I hadn’t bought a packed lunch, and didn’t have much time to get anything. I’d had grain-based cereal for breakfast, so peanuts and some fruit seemed a good choice for lunch, but I was shocked at the rise in price of peanuts! I’m sure the last time I looked they could be had for around 30p per 100g, whereas all but the largest bags I could see at Tesco yesterday were around 50p per 100g. They didn’t have any Basics ones for sale, so that may have been the reason (edited to add that I’ve just looked at their online shopping prices and the Everyday Value ones are actually still only 24p per 100g. Phew! Must just have been in a poorly-stocked or rip-off-y branch!) but in any case I ended up paying £1.86 for food, which left me with just over £2 for the month. When I visited Co-op to look for clothes washing stuff, they had ‘simply value’ fabric softener (which I never use) for 55p, but no equivalent value washing powder or liquid. The cheapest stuff was £2. Seemed odd.
Although I toyed with the idea of trying to just use fabric softener I didn’t think it was worth the risk to spend a quarter of my remaining funds, and I didn’t want to spend all of my money on the powder, so left it. Fortunately I had clean tights, so the no-clean-sock problem isn’t too urgent.
£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.
A while back, someone over at the Post Punk Kitchen forums started a thread about iron-rich recipes. Since I’ve been eating a lot of pumpkin over the past few months, including seeds, and because I like to check out the nutritional content of my food, I recently became aware that pumpkin seeds are a really good source of iron, and suggested a variant on the Post Punk Kitchen sunflower macaroni cheese recipe. I was asked if pumpkin seeds got creamy in the sauce and had to confess that I hadn’t tried it. Well, now I have, and they do!
I had to make a couple of subs/omissions due to the challenge: I didn’t have any nutritional yeast, which Isa mentioned in the recipe comments as being necessary for texture. I put a tablespoon of oats in the blender instead of that and hoped for the best. I didn’t have any tomato purée and couldn’t find any very small tins when I went shopping. I wasn’t going to buy a tube because I hardly ever use it, so I put in twice the amount of some jarred pasta sauce. Obviously I omitted the sunflower seeds and used pumpkin seeds instead, and I halved the recipe as I wasn’t sure how well it would work, however I was very pleased with the taste of the final pasta dish, which I served with leftover pumpkin coleslaw and peas.
I had to buy pasta and carrots for the recipe, which I got from Morrisons. I was also after some green veg, but after weighing up my options (literally weighing all the piece-priced items on the in-store scales), I opted for a red cabbage as the best balance between value and nutrient-density.
I bought carrots for 85p, cabbage for 79p, value pasta at 29p and a not-strictly-necessary jar of value marmalade for 27p. I plan on using this last item for some baking experiments and then using the jar for some home-made preserves of some kind. It seems it’s way cheaper to buy jars this way than it would be to buy them empty, unless you’re getting tons of them.
That lot came to £2.20, so I’ve still got bus fare for a journey or two.