Sunday, 14 October 2012

Fruit and veg to make you smile

Now, the key to successful frugal feasting is definitely to eat more vegetables.

However,  according to an article I read today, these humble foods also make us happier.

And 5 a day apparently is not enough-  other European countries suggest 7-10 as a recommended minimum. (In Japan 14 is the recommended tally!)

In my quest for an even more economical shopping basket I was planning to use more veg in this week's dishes- but now I'm challenging myself to make some recipes which contain at least 4 veg. (I'm assuming you can get your other 3-6 portions from fruit juice, sultanas in your breakfast cereal, salad with your lunch, fresh fruit for your pudding and so on.)

First up is Boston Baked Beans- containing (tinned) butter beans, cannelini beans, onions, carrots and celery- served on garlic toast with a green salad to accompany. (Even better if you make the green salad from a mix of spinach, lettuce and rocket or watercress.)

Mixed green salad

This costs just 79p (1 euro) per portion- and there are even enough leftovers to put in a baked potato for lunch with a little grated cheese.

Dice the onion,carrot and celery finely and fry in a little oil until soft, drain the cannelini beans and add them to the mix. Mix in 1 tablespoon black treacle (or muscavodo sugar and 1 tsp honey), 2 tsp of Worcester or chili sauce, 1 squirt of tomato ketchup, 2 capsful of cider vinegar and 1 tin of chopped tomatoes. When bubbling, add the butter beans with their water (the starchiness of the water helps to thicken the sauce) and adjust seasoning to your taste.To make a meaty version, at this point you can add chopped smoked ham, fried bacon lardons or chopped leftover sausage. I've added chipolatas here, but chorizo would be good or whatever you have. Turn down to a simmer and cook until the sauce is thick.

Boston Baked Beans

Meanwhile cut thick slices of baguette or ciabatta, toast on one side and then spread the other with garlic butter or garlic oil and grill. Dollop on the beans - and enjoy!

Next up is Vegetable Chow Mein (again, less than £1 a portion): choose a selection of vegetables such as peppers, beansprouts, carrots, onions, mushrooms etc
Fry in a hot wok for 5 minutes, sprinkle on 2 tsp Chinese 5 Spice Powder and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce (or more if you prefer). Add a splash of water and bring to the boil. The vegetables should be crunchy but not tough. Serve with egg noodles.

Vegetable Chow Mein

How about sweet potato or pumpkin gnocchi? Served with roasted vegetable ratatouille (and any meat/fish you fancy, if you want to make this a meaty meal. Good choices would be sausages, chicken, salmon or pork steaks). It stands on its own as a veggie meal though.

For the gnocchi : leave the skin on the sweet potatoes and cut them into quarters or use 1 small pumpkin cut into crescents. (You won't use all the pumpkin ( but there will be more leftover pumpkin recipes coming up next blog!)
Coat the pieces with olive oil,  crushed garlic and lots of salt and pepper, and roast in the oven at 170 degrees for about 40 minutes.

Roasted vegetables
 When nice and soft, peel off the skins and put the flesh and juices from the roasting pan into a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of flour and one egg yolk (don't forget to freeze the egg white for another day!) and mix into the flesh to make a soft dough- add more flour if you need to, but be careful as you don't want them to be dry and stodgy.

Pumpkin gnocchi

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, take out walnut-sized pieces of dough, flatten slightly with the tines of  a fork to give them their characteristic appearance and drop them one by one into the boiling water. They cook quickly- and you can tell when they are ready as they float to the surface.

You can eat them hot like this (delicious with a little grated parmesan and some sage butter on them too) or drain them on kitchen paper and then re-fry them in a little butter or oil when you're ready to eat.

I bought a pumpkin for a £1 (1.2 euros) (it is Hallowe'en soon after all)- and I reckon this uses a quarter of it.

For roasted vegetable ratatouille- first, roast your vegetables! Choose a summer mix of courgettes, aubergines and peppers or a winter mix of carrots, parsnips, fennel/sprouts and onions and roast them in some flavoured oil, garlic and salt and pepper as above. When cooked, mix them into a good rich tomato sauce.

Roasted vegetable ratatouille

Other good vegetable recipes on this blog include: Bronze Vegetable Curry, Tomates Farcies, Sweetcorn fritters, Butter Bean Mash, Twice Stuffed Potatoes, Vegetable Stew and Vegetable lasagne.

Fruit is easy to use in larger quantities if you make it into pies or crumbles. This week I did a pear and blackberry crumble- as these are still in season. Use whatever fruit you have- nectarine and raspberry is good for late summer, apple and pear for autumn, summer fruits (including strawberries which go well in a crumble when they are a bit squishy) etc

I make a crumble mix from 1 part plain flour, 1/3 part butter or margarine, 1/3 part sugar and a few  chopped nuts. Oats or dessicated coconut are good added to crumble mix too.

Another fruit pud idea- poached fruit, left to cool in its own syrup. Really simple but delicious with cream or ice cream.

And don't forget other fruit recipes on the blog- Summer Pudding, Sister Dolly's Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Red Fruit Salad, Fig Tart and Tarte aux Framboises. Just use the Search option.

By the way- this week's evening meals were Boston Baked Beans, Gnocchi with ratatouille, Curried Pumpkin and Apple Soup (recipe in the Halloween blog to come!), Salade Nicoise, Vegetable Chow Mein with Prawn Crackers, Cottage Pie with veg and All Day Breakfast Salad.

Total cost: (for four portions each meal): £19.15 (slightly down on last week- and dropping!)

It's enough to make anyone smile!

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