Monday, November 24, 2008

Frugal Fare Challenge Day 4: Tuesday

By the fourth day of my challenge, I had started to wear out the occupants of my fridge. They weren't looking quite as plentiful, and it was time for me to start pulling in the storecupboard staples to throw into the mix, and bulk out what few meat and veg items I had left. I was still on a mean mission to make the most of anything I could though, which forced me to be slightly more creative than I think I really have licence to be in the food department!

Lunch: Roasted Butternut Squash & Carrot Risotto

This is what I mean by 'creative' really...I think essentially there is something slightly wrong about carrots in risotto...I'm not even really sure why
but it just doesn't sit well with me - probably the texture or the fact that I know that in Italy I've never ever seen carrots in risotto. Ne'ertheless, I had a bundle of these cute baby chantenay carrots who were just a-beggin' to be cooked up, and who was I to argue with the little tykes? After all, I was only serving was time to experiment. See how they panned out below.


Shopping cart: Half a butternut squash, chopped; 3-4 thin slices bacon

Store Cupboard: 1 cup Risotto rice; 1 litre stock; handful whole chantenay carrots, washed & top/tailed; 2 sticks celery, diced; 1 onion, diced; 1 garlic, chopped; 1 glass white wine

Spread the roughly diced butternut squash and the carrots over a baking tray covered in foil (option to lay some thin slices of bacon over the top of the veg, which will crisp up and give the veg a delicious salted flavour) drizzle some olive oil over the top and season with salt and pepper, then roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes until soft. Meanwhile, in a wide flat saucepan melt a small lump of butter over a gentle heat and add a glug of olive oil, allow to heat through and then add the garlic until it sizzles, then add the onion and celery, stir and allow to soften slightly. Add the cupful of risotto rice, stir to coat the rice with the oil, so the rice grains go translucent; pour in a cup of wine which will puff up in a glorious waft of alcohol, stir and add a pinch of salt and season with pepper, and then start to add the stock liquid one ladleful at a time, stirring each until absorbed fully into the rice. To use the entirety of the stock liquid should take about 20 minutes, all the while stirring the liquid in, until the rice becomes a creamy mass and can absorb no more stock. Take the pan off the heat.
By this time the squash and carrots should be roasted to a tender, slightly sticky stage. Remove the by now crisped bacon, and chop roughly. The veg can be further chopped or added into the risotto mixture as is. Gently stir the squash and carrots into the risotto, serve onto warmed plates, and sprinkle the chopped bacon over each separate serving.
This would be ideal with some deep fried, crumbly sage leaves - sadly my cupboard didn't stock them!

Dinner: Baked Eggs

By dinner time I seemed to be consumed with this retro 70s desire for Baked Eggs.

I know - who eats those now?! Well, apparently I do. In fact, I've been dying to make them ever since I returned home and saw a plethora of little ramekins sitting unloved in one of our kitchen cupboards. And, as we've already established (and you haven't even seen Wednesday's meals yet), I have no qualms in going a little 'old-fashioned' in my eating. I would even go as far as to say, in these purse-tightened times, we all have a lot to learn from old-time cooks. In these days of plastic-covered apples, and styrofoam boxes, and 'ah-just-throw-it-away-and-buy-a-new-one' attitudes, the word frugal hasn't really been touted around a lot lately. But hark back to the 70s (I finally received my copy of The Pauper's Cookbook by Jocasta Innes - see below) or even as far as the war, and there were women stretching every single ingredient they were lucky enough to get their hands on. I've always been a little old-fashioned, me. You're just lucky I'm not posting pictures of me in my oh-so-flattering 80s cashmere cardie that I've been passed on by my mum. Though I'll confess that this isn't really for the fashion statement so much as the fact that this house is blimmin' freezin', with great gales screeching around each corner and biting at my poor wee ankles. Fashion just ain't a great consideration in the country!

'The Pauper's Cookbook' by Jocasta Innes, revamp of 1970s classic. Likely to feature a great deal in posts henceforth.

Anyway, enough waffle and excuses about my Baked Eggs. Let me just tell you now that this is a beautiful, versatile, simple little dinner, which doesn't lay heavy on your tum, but delivers a solid whack of protein and nutrients. Try it and see!


2 Eggs; a few snippets of any of the following - bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms, herbs, cheese, ham, in fact anything you'd add to an omelette; salt/pepper

Butter a small ramekin dish, and pop in your finely chopped ingredients (if using bacon you should fry it up first). This time round I was using mushrooms and tomatoes. Season well. Pop the ramekin in the middle of a high-edged baking tray, and then pour hot water in until it fills the tray/reaches about an inch up the side of the ramekin dish. Then pop all of this in the oven...I'm still figuring out temperatures as I'm using an Aga, so this would be about 220C. Allow to cook for 10 minutes or so - the mushrooms/tomatoes will steam slightly.
After the 10 minutes, bring the tray out - being very careful of the hot water - and crack the two eggs carefully into the ramekin. Season well again, put a piece of foil loosely over the top to protect from burning, and return to the oven to cook for a further 10 minutes or so, until the egg is set. I served mine with some buttered brown bread, just to be reeeally retro.

*Warning: as soon as you've finished, put the ramekin in to soak, otherwise you will be scraping egg bits off for days to come*

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