Store Cupboard Challenge ~ Days 6 and 7


Sunday, 30 September 2012

 I haven't made much of a dent on the supplies at all really. We finished up the frozen chickpeas but I have soaked and cooked the dried chickpeas so we have plenty of those still. I used up quite a lot of lentils yesterday in a somewhat disappointing lentil and ham soup. I have sprouted the remaining mung beans so that we can have beansprouts for salads and an oriental-style fish dish I am planning next week.

We haven't eaten the frozen fish and I was pleasantly surprised to find there were 10 chicken breasts and not 8 as I'd thought. This means there are enough for a meal next weekend.

I used up some chicken stock but I also made more, likewise the yogurt and bread.

The granola has gone. I'll make some more tomorrow but they will have to make do with toast in the  morning.

The butter has held out as has the milk but the cheese has gone. I have used up all but one of the eggs  in today's pudding and in a bowl of egg mayonnaise for the next couple of days' sandwiches.

An unexpected but welcome addition to the food supplies came this morning when I noticed a single quince had managed to survive the April storms. Not a particularly big specimen but it will make an apple pie extra special next weekend.

This year's quince harvest

This week's menus
Breakfasts ~ toast with jam or marmalade or sunflower butter/ granola/ scotch pancakes
Weekday lunches ~ chicken sandwiches/cheese and coleslaw sandwiches/pitta pizzas/baked potatoes, cheese and coleslaw/ leftover soup
Snacks ~ flapjacks, apple muffins, bread and jam, apples

Baked potatoes with cheese, sweetcorn, coleslaw, salad
Apple fool

Chicken stew made with leftover chicken, mash, peas
Apple fool

Chickpea and squash curry, raita, rice
Apple fool (this lasted a long time because nobody wanted it except me. No idea why; it was lovely)

The children all had beans on toast
Charlie and I had tuna-cheddar chowder and toast which was much more delicious than it sounds.

Potato, onion and ham hotpot, peas

Lunch ~ lentil and ham soup with croutons and bread
Supper ~ fried eggs with smoked paprika roast potatoes with sweetcorn and courgettes

Lunch ~ baked potatoes with the last of the cheese, beetroot, carrot and apple salad and sliced tomatoes
Supper ~ griddled chicken breast marinated in barbecue spices, garlic and olive oil with rice, sliced tomatoes and peas
Clafoutis aux framboises

Saturday supper

Beetroot, carrot and apple salad

Simple griddled chicken
Clafoutis aux framboises (Raspberry batter pudding)
A clafoutis is basically a thick pancake with fruit in it. I wanted to make a proper pud for Sunday by which I mean something solid and comforting. A bowl of raspberries (with which I am well supplied) was not going to cut it. Crumble and pie were out because I didn't have enough butter, as was anything cakey. I had no cream either so mousses, ice creams and fools were out. I could have made meringue but I can't eat meringue without cream.

I found a suitable recipe here. I replaced the cerises with framboises and reduced the quantities by a quarter (because I didn't think my dish was going to be big enough) et Robert est votre oncle.

Grease a thick based pie dish or tatin tin with butter

Melt 30g butter

Mix together
75g plain flour
55g caster sugar
a pinch of salt

Whisk in bit by bit
3 beaten eggs
Then add little by little
150ml milk and ½ tsp of vanilla extract
Finally stir in the melted butter

Arrange about 250g of raspberries (or other fruit) on the base of the tin.
Pour over the batter.

Bake at 210°c (190°c fan oven) for 10 minutes then reduce the temperature to 180°c (160°c fan oven) and cook for 20 minutes more. Serve warm or cold. Sprinkle with icing sugar if you like.
Next Week
I am keen to continue. This week has made me appreciate just how much food I already have that can be made into perfectly good meals without the need to buy new stuff. It has also made me aware of those few foodstuffs I find it hard to do without - butter, milk, eggs and cheese especially (clearly veganism is not an option for me). I'd really like to continue for as long as possible although I will need to start replacing things soon, yeast, sugar, olive oil for example.

I spent £33.25 on food this week, that's reason enough to carry on.

Sampler for September

Store Cupboard Challenge ~ Day 5


Friday, 28 September 2012

The butter situation is getting a bit desperate. There is enough for our toast for the next three mornings but I may have to think of something other than sandwiches for Monday's lunches and there is not enough for baking or pudding-making this weekend.

Puddings this weekend will have to be butterless. I have quite a lot of eggs still and plenty of raspberries so I may find a raspberry mousse recipe.

The milk situation is also not great. There's enough for drinking but if I want it for cooking I shall have to use dried milk. In fact I used some this evening for our supper.

Tonight's supper

Tonight we had an old favourite from Jocasta Innes' super book The Pauper's Cookbook. Potato, bacon and onion hotpot is filling, cheap, easy to make and delicious. It is simply thinly, sliced potatoes, sliced onions and bacon or ham layered in a casserole and covered with white sauce. I used reconstituted dried milk to make my sauce. The sauce can have cheese added if you like. I pour half the sauce in when my dish is half full and then the rest when it is full. This ensures the sauce is well distributed throughout the hotpot.

Allow a good sized spud and a  medium onion per person. Use as much bacon or ham as you can spare, or leave out the meat and put sliced cheese in between the layers of potato and onion.

Bake your hotpot for one hour covered at 200°c (180°c fan oven), then take off the cover and lower the temperature to 180°c (160°c fan oven) and bake for another hour.

I used the meat from this cooked ham hock. It's been in the freezer for a while. It isn't very big and weighs about 500g.

I cut the meat off the bone. I shall use the bone plus some of the meat to make soup tomorrow with beans and barley.

Friday baking

I usually bake something nice on a Friday to mark the end of a hard week of studying and work. Bearing in mind the butter situation I opted for muffins which I can make with sunflower oil. Using up four bruised apples I made these wholesome  muffins which have yogurt, oats, sunflower seeds as well as the apples. They taste similar to my apple cake and are lovely and moist. I made 24 and put half in the freezer.

Store Cupboard Challenge ~ Days 3 and 4


Thursday, 27 September 2012

It's going very well. No one has noticed that anything is different about the food I have been cooking this week. There hasn't been anything different. I am seriously considering carrying on the challenge next week and possibly even the week after that.

Taking Stock

I have made very little impact in my dry stores, there are still plenty of lentils and other pulses and lots of pasta and rice. The dairy produce is being used up fairly fast though and I will have used up the frozen chicken, the ham hock and fish by the end of the week. The bread flour is all gone. I have made six large loaves this week four of which are in the freezer and one waiting to be cut in the bread bin. That should be plenty to see us through until Monday. The coleslaw I made on Monday is still going strong. I have been putting it in Charlie's cheese sandwiches and eating it myself at lunchtime. There is 4 lb bag of apples still unopened which is quite an achievement round here.

Breakfasts and lunches

I made Scotch pancakes this morning, but other mornings have been toast or granola.

Sandwiches on Monday and Tuesday had chicken mixed with mayonnaise and mango chutney (sort-of-coronation-chicken) in them, yesterday there were pitta pizzas. Today and tomorrow it's cheese with or without chutney or pickles. I have a sandwich most days but today because George was home for lunch I baked a couple of potatoes which we had with cheese and coleslaw.

The picture above shows our evening meal yesterday. It is chickpea and squash curry with rice and cucumber and mint raita. I used all of the small butternut squash pictured in Monday's post. It had hardly any seeds in it and had a nice potato-like texture. My curries are very inauthentic but they are quick and easy to make and always seem to go down well. They can also be pulled together with store cupboard ingredients.

Simple Vegetable Curry for 4-6 people

In a roomy pan with a lid fry a chopped onion or a handful-sized portion of vegetable hash in a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil (or butter, or ghee). Once it has softened add a crushed clove of garlic and 2-3 teaspoons of curry powder.*Cook over a gentle heat for a few minutes -add a little water if it looks like it is starting to stick.

Next add a couple of handfuls of chopped squash/carrots/sweet potato/potato. Stir to coat with the spices and onions.

Add a couple of handfuls of cooked chickpeas/other cooked beans/lentils (no need to cook lentils first).

Now add either 1 400g can of chopped tomatoes or a 500ml carton of passata. I like passata best.
You can also add a can of coconut milk at this point, or as I did yesterday a chunk from a block of creamed coconut plus some water. Bring it all to the bubble, add more water if it looks too thick and likely to stick (particularly if you are using red lentils). Then turn it down to a simmer and cover. Leave for 30 -40 minutes, stirring now and again, until the veg are all soft.

Taste and season. It will probably need salt. I some times stir in some mango chutney at this point.

Lastly add a handful of frozen peas and let them cook through, this only takes a minute or two. Peas aren't essential but I like them for colour and vitamins.

You can use other vegetables; spinach, mushrooms, okra for example. I choose ones I know everyone will eat. And you can of course replace the pulses with leftover meat.

*I used madras curry powder yesterday but I really like Patak's curry pastes and would have used one of those if I had had it. I will at some point find a recipe and make my own curry blend as I am sure I have most of the necessary spices.

Today's Supper

Katie and Tom have to be at school  to 'help' with an open evening. I believe Tom is playing the drums. I have no idea what Katie is doing. Tom has to be there for 5.45, Katie for 6.30. Needless to say they will both be there at 5.45. Better things to do than drive around Worcester all evening. All this means they need to be fed early, so beans on toast for them it is. George has to eat at around 6 because he has to go out. This means I need to be cooking at precisely the time I am driving Katie and Tom to school. George will be getting himself beans on toast too. Charlie and I will have omelettes. Yes I know I should have made a tart or casserole which we could have all eaten at different times but I haven't.

Store Cupboard Challenge ~ Day 2


Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Supper yesterday. Very simple -baked potatoes with cheese, coleslaw, sweetcorn and salad. Very filling

At the hairdresser

This morning I paid my annual visit to the hairdresser. Once again my resolve to grow out my hair has ended in a sudden desire to have it all chopped off.

 On this visit I had a new stylist, the fabulous Raza from Lithuania. I immediately got on the right side of her by not only knowing where Lithuania was but also knowing that its capital was Vilnius. Raza had short fair hair in a tight curly perm. This with her wide cheekbones made her look absolutely stunning and I knew I was in the hands of someone with style. I explained that I was after a Judi Dench 'only not grey' I chortled. Raza snipped away for some minutes in silence 'I am a quiet hairdresser' she said 'good' I thought. At last she picked up a mirror to show me the back 'oh, did you put some product on it?' I asked noticing an unfamiliar colour on my hair 'errm no' she said 'then what's that grey stuff?'

Why has no one told me I have grey hair?

Raza made a fantastic job of my hair despite revealing its greyness. I do hope she doesn't go back to Lithuania.

My hair doesn't have much to do with my store cupboard challenge except that it cost £32 which is almost as much as I've spent on food this week. There were lots of lovely meaty comments on yesterday's post, thank you, I am glad this challenge has caused so much interest. There were some common themes in the comments yesterday which I will try to address;

How I do lunch boxes

 I don't do them any more. But when the children were younger I would pack them a sandwich or roll, a piece of fruit and one other thing like a muffin, a couple of biscuits or a flapjack. Sometimes I would add carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, raisins and other healthy extras that the kids didn't really want.

Now they prepare their own lunches. I make sure there is something to go in the sandwiches; sunflower butter, cheese, egg, ham or salami. Katie only likes meaty fillings but since I can't afford to buy enough ham or salami to last the week she has to put up with other fillings some days. I don't  pander to  fussiness (she eats cheese at other times so why not in a sandwich?). Sometimes I make pitta pizzas or a pasta salad. I usually make sure there is bread sliced, not because they can't slice their own bread but because they slice it so damn thick. For the same reason I grate the cheese in the food processor -have you seen how thick a teenage boy cuts cheese for a sandwich?

I also make sure the biscuit tin has something home baked in it. I rarely fail at this but this morning the gingernuts were all gone so they went without. I was quite surprised to discover that they weren't particularly bothered by this. Katie said she'd have one of her sandwiches at break and the other one at lunch. Although they all eat plenty of fruit they don't take it to school any more -not cool.

Not on  my shopping list

I don't buy crisps unless we are having a family picnic -at an air show, or on the way to our holiday for example. Crisps are not something I see as real food, they're nice to have for a treat but not as regular item on  my grocery list. I occasionally buy Pringles- usually at Christmas and most recently for the opening ceremony of the Olympics. My mother in law dishes out crisps every Sunday when they visit her so my children do not suffer from crisp deprivation. Besides, they are old enough to buy their own crisps and snacks if they want.

Although I buy chocolate fairly regularly it is for baking with rather than eating as a snack. Occasionally I'll buy some for a weekend dessert rather than making a dessert.

I don't buy soft drinks or fruit juice except very occasionally - for example when my children weeded the drive recently I gave them some money for a bottle of Coke.

I rarely buy ice cream, fish fingers, ice lollies or biscuits (the last time I bought biscuits was when we were all ill with a bad cold).

I never buy breakfast cereals, pasta sauces, frozen pizza, ready meals, cakes or scones, desserts, yogurts, flavoured milk, loaves of bread, bread rolls, low-fat dairy produce, fake butter or margarine of any description, anything overpackaged, or peanuts.

In charge

As Susan said yesterday I am 'in charge' in my kitchen. That's how it has always been, very traditional but unintentionally so. It's worked out that way because I enjoy cooking and I enjoy running a kitchen and Charlie has no interest in it at all.

 I remember being at a friend's house with the children when George was about 10 and being horrified that her son (also 10) would just help himself to chocolate and crisps from the cupboards without asking (even after she had told him he couldn't have them).

I would find it impossible to run my kitchen efficiently and economically if my family helped themselves to the contents of the fridge and cupboards without asking me first. There is always something nice in the tin which can be eaten as a snack, and bread and butter with or without jam/sunflower butter/marmite is always available as is milk.

In the kitchen today

I have made flapjacks, my fall-back biscuit tin fillers. I made 48 (16 per tin). They should last the whole week and will keep for ages.

I have also made a batch of bread. I used to make four small loaves, now I have acquired bigger tins and make three large loaves. The loaves produce slices of bread which are a better shape  and size for cutting into sandwiches.

I had a little tomato sauce left over from Saturday's pizza making and a bowl of sweetcorn from yesterday's supper. I used them to make pitta pizzas for the lunch boxes tomorrow as all the chicken sandwich filling has been eaten.

For supper I used up the left over chicken from Sunday and the left over gravy to make a simple chicken stew to serve with mash and peas. Very comforting and tasty.

There was also a bowl of raspberries picked from the garden and apple fool.

Store Cupboard Challenge


Monday, 24 September 2012

Mrs Thrifty Household and I are doing a 'spending less on food' challenge this week. I am not certain exactly what form her challenge is taking but we were both inspired by The Non Consumer Advocate's food stamp challenge. Food stamps are part of the US government's benefit scheme to help those on very low incomes. The monetary value of food stamps is $4 a day per person. This works out as $140 a week for my family of five. That's about £87.

I thought £87 wasn't too much of a challenge as once I deduct my non food purchases like washing powder, loo rolls, and alcohol, I'm not that far over £87. So, I thought I'd try something that would be a bit more of a challenge to me.

I don't think I've ever been in the position where I have had no food in the house. I have always kept a well-stocked cupboard and freezer. And yet, every week I buy more food. Some of it, milk for example, I regard as a necessity and I buy it week in week out. But a lot of what I buy is not necessary because there are alternatives already in my cupboards. So, this week is going to be a week where I buy the essentials only and use what I have in my cupboards and freezer to feed my family.

Making a list

First thing to do was to take an inventory of all the food I had in the house. As I suspected, there is plenty. I have colour coded my list (doesn't everyone?) . Red for sources of protein, green for fruit and veg, blue for dairy, brown for starchy carbs, and black for everything else. I'm not claiming scientific accuracy, it's just an aid to meal planning.

10 chicken breasts
1 ham hock
1 bag of  pollack fillets (520g)
2 bags of chicken carcasses and trim (for soup)
Black beans
Peas -half a 1.8 kg bag of petits pois and 1 unopened 1.8kg bag of garden peas (about 6lb in all)
Sweetcorn -1kg
Veg hash - 15 portions, enough for 15 meals
Raspberries - about 3lb, from the garden
White and redcurrants -about 2lb
Cranberries (bought last winter!)
1 large loaf
2 packets of pitta bread
4 pints chicken stock
2  pints lamb stock
Yogurt starter 4 little tubs of yogurt in 2 tbsp amounts

1 can tuna
1 can sardines
1 can anchovies
4 x 400g tins baked beans
Dried chickpeas
Moong dahl
Red lentils
Puy lentils
Green lentils
Mung beans 
Soup mix
Brown rice
Basmati rice
Pudding rice
Popping corn
4 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
2 x 500ml passata
8 jars Sunflower butter -I buy this in bulk as it is unavailable in shops
brazil nuts -I buy these in bulk and use them for granola
almonds - I buy these in bulk and use them for granola
Sunflower seeds -I buy these in bulk and use them for granola
Desiccated coconut -I buy this bulk and use it for granola
Dried apricots
Ryvitas, oatcakes and water biscuits
Gram flour (chickpea flour)
Chapatti flour
Plain flour self-raising flour
White bread flour
Wholemeal bread flour
Golden syrup
Caster, granulated, muscovado sugar
Dried milk
Tea and coffee
Rum, brandy, vermouth, sherry
Black olives
Sun-dried tomatoes
Creamed coconut
Dijon mustard
Chutneys, jams, jellies, pickles 
Worcester sauce, soy sauce
Olive oil
Sunflower oil
Homemade granola
Homemade gingernuts

Butter -about 250g
2 pints of milk
Cheddar -not much
5 Eggs
Lard -half a packet
Roast chicken leftovers -meat, small bowl of chicken fat, carcasses for stock
Leftover gravy
Leftover green beans
Bowl of apple purée
Leftover crumble
Whipped cream
Yogurt -not much
4 beetroot
Small white cabbage
1 courgette
Half a cucumber
Cherry tomatoes
2 little gem lettuces
2 lemons

Cooking apples
20 kg sack of spuds (£6.50)

Doing the shopping

I have an Ocado delivery each week. I am well aware that this is not the cheapest option but I have a delivery pass for which I pay £6.99 each month. I don't want to waste that so I have had my delivery as usual this week. I went to the farmshop for eggs and apples and veg.

Here are my food purchases for this week (no more shopping until next Monday)

From Ocado; 16 pints of milk, 2 x 500g butter, 750g Cheddar, 1kg oats, 1kg demerara sugar, 1.5kg strong white flour and 1.5kg strong wholemeal flour (both for breadmaking).
Cost £20.38
From Tesco; 227g coffee
Cost £2.50
From the farm shop; a dozen free-range eggs (£1.90), 4lb Lord Lambourne apples, 4lb James Grieve apples, a small squash, 780g carrots, 865g vine tomatoes, a red pepper
Cost £10.37

Total cost - £33.25 - just think how much lower that figure would be if I'd shopped at a cheaper supermarket.

So, that's what the five of us have available to eat this week. By any standards it is plenty. I also have the advantages of being able to cook, having a well equipped kitchen and having lots of time to do it in. Not everyone who has to live on a very low income has these advantages.

Getting started

This morning I have made several pints of chicken stock from the bones of the two chickens I roasted for yesterday's lunch, I chucked the leftover green beans in there too. I have saved most of the meat for tomorrow's supper. Some of it I chopped and mixed with mayonnaise and mango chutney to make a sandwich filling for the packed lunches.

I have also started off a new batch of yogurt. I mixed the leftover apple purée with the remains of the whipped cream and the last bit of the old batch of yogurt to make a rather delicious apple fool.

This evening we will have big baked potatoes (the ones in my sack are enormous) stuffed with cheese and sweetcorn, served with coleslaw, and salad. We don't usually have weekday puddings but today there is apple fool.

I will be back during the week to let you know how we are managing. Very comfortably I suspect.

It would be fantastic if others would like to join Mrs Thrifty Household and I in our challenge. Why not see how little you need to buy this week and still feed your household?

A Week in my Kitchen


Sunday, 23 September 2012

Everything I cooked in my kitchen this week except for yesterday's soup which I forgot to photograph. A pretty typical week chez Quince.

Three large white loaves
Sweetcorn and black bean stew. We ate this with cheese sprinkled on top and big doorsteps of buttered white bread. .
Another apple-clove cake which I doubled and baked in a traybake tin (about 13'' by 9'').

Three jars of bread and butter pickles
Spaghetti with chicken, bacon, peas and cream

Almond and lemon biscotti
A big fat homity pie -pastry filled with cooked potatoes, leek and onion and cheese.

Vegetable fritters - potatoes grated with an onion, mixed with  eggs, a couple of tablespoons of flour, salt and pepper then divided into three bowls and grated courgette, carrot and beetroot added. Big spoonfuls fried in about 1cm of sunflower oil until crisp on both sides. Traffic light fritters. Served with crisp bacon.
Three large wholemeal loaves

Chickpea and apricot stew -onions fried with middle-eastern spices, chickpeas, dried apricots and leftover tomato-pepper sauce ( from a fish casserole). Served with rice.

Tomato and black bean soup (not pictured)
Pizza -one with cherry tomatoes (olive-y portion for Katie) and one with bottled artichoke hearts.
Apple purée -made with Bramley apples and sieved until completely smooth. Lovely with yogurt for breakfast.

Roast chicken, roast potatoes, gravy, beans and carrots
Plum, blackberry and raspberry crumble

Thank You


Thursday, 20 September 2012


The sun was so bright yesterday that when I went in after taking these pictures I couldn't see properly for some minutes. Today it is chilly and I have unearthed my slippers.

I have one or two housekeeping matters to take care of today.

First, thank you for all the positive feedback following The Quince Tree's new look. I chose it because I liked it but is very nice to know others like it too.

Second, I must apologise to anyone who was following my 'sarcastic and irritable' board on Pinterest. I've deleted it I'm afraid. Every time I logged on to Pinterest I was confronted by all those annoying things I'd pinned on that board -the brainless quotations (or quotes as people will insist on calling them), the pointless gadgets, hideous baby photos and bad grammar. I suspect they were annoying others as well. What began as a cathartic way of channelling my annoyance was beginning to have the opposite effect. There's a quotation floating around Pinterest which says 'Don't bash what you hate; promote what you love'. That's what I'll be doing from now on - pinning things that inspire me and ignoring those that don't. No more clicking on the 'quotes' category for me.

Third, I haven't said this in months, but to every one who visits The Quince Tree to see what I've been up to, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to read, to comment and to even try out a recipe or two. Comments are the lifeblood of a blog. If you have asked me a question I do try to reply in the comment box. Sometimes I reply to comments which aren't questions but I don't reply to every comment so please don't take offence if I appear to ignored your comment. I read every single one and appreciate all friendly comments.



Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The red admiral butterfly finally stayed still long enough for me to photograph it.

The crab apple tree is having some sort of mid-life crisis. Rotting fruit on one branch; blossom on another.

The cosmos from my mum's garden have lasted at least five days in their jug.

Katie made 13 coconut fairy cakes for her friend's 13th birthday iced with 13 different colours.

There were cobnuts from Kent at the farmshop. Sweet and milky, we put them in the mortar and bashed them with a pestle.

Nigel Slater is the best food writer in the world. I don't just mean that he writes a good recipe, he does of course, but that he is a wonderful writer as well. This is a book to take to bed and read like a novel as well as to keep in the kitchen and cook from. I shall be doing both.

Jonathan Lovekin's photography as always is gorgeous. Above is a chocolate disc with rose petals and sea salt.

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