Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cheap Eats

Quite a few people are expressing concern about the current economic downturn. While I am of the personal opinion that it has more to do with old men playing with imaginary numbers, that doesn't change the reality that many families are worried and suffering right now for many basic things, like food.
I was born outside of my generation, raised by a mother who felt the hand of the Depression still present within every action, every mouthful. The order of the day was always waste nothing, learn how to stretch every meal to it's fullest on the smallest amount of money, make do, and use your noggin.
In light of that, I'd like to share a few of my favorite recipes to help you make it through the best and worst of times, keep everyone in your circle happy, safe, and fed.

First up is colcannon. Some say that is an "ancient Irish dish" but that is a matter best left to historians. Some say that it dates from turn of the century Irish immigrants, but other dishes in the Old World seem remarkably similar. Either way, it's delicious, and no matter how much you make, the pot will always be licked clean by the end of the night, it's cheap and can feed lots of people. I must give fair warning: My recipes are never in exact measurements, but rather "a pinch, a bit, a pile"rather than 1 cup etc. It makes altering a recipe a bit easier, if you only have 1/2 an onion, or whatever.

You will need:

1/2 onion
1/4-1/2 of a large purple cabbage (green is more traditional, but purple gives it a rich, fresh flavor)
about 10+ well sized potatoes
1 stick of butter (it really isn't the same with margarine, but that will do in a pinch)
black pepper, preferably cracked
Oil. Either olive, or whatever you have on hand.
Milk, cream, or half-and-half.
1 pan
1 pot

Chop the onions; it doesn't have to be minced or cut finely. This is hearty peasant fare, and tastes better when you treat it as such. Heat the oil in your pan, and add a bit of the rosemary when it seems to be crackling nicely. Add the onions and allow them to caramelize slightly, sort of brown around the edges, but not black. Chop the cabbage into about finger width shreds, and add them to the pan. Throw in some salt; it helps to bring out the flavor, and allows the cabbage to break down a bit faster.

While all this is happening, take a potato, throw it in the microwave for two minutes, flip it, and go for another two minutes. This is the big time saver! Or you can bake them in the oven ahead of time. Slice the potatoes, skin and all, into your pot. Add a bit of water, milk/cream, and sliced butter to taste. Basically, you are making homemade smashed potatoes, see?
Turn the burner on beneath it, and mash the potatoes. The consistency doesn't have to be Betty Crocker boxed perfect, you really don't notice it.Just get it as smooth as you can. Add a healthy amount of rosemary, a bit of thyme, and salt and pepper. Stir in the entire lovely pan of cabbage, onions etc., give it a stir, and ring the dinner bell.
Warning: It is best to stand to the side, because you WILL be trampled in the kitchen by hungry hordes ;)

Next time, bread or biscuits. Which ever you like. How to REALLY cook grits, maybe? Mmm fried apples... *drool*

Blessings to you and yours,


Greymentality said...

That is a good replacement for mac and cheese type dishes while cheese has become so expensive. And, that works so well for me because I have a rosemary bush and a thyme plant just sitting right outside. :) I never really thought about putting cabbage in smashed potatoes, but... that really does sound yummy! I'm sold!

Something we've been doing lately that's easy and fairly cheap is veggie soup (or veggie beef if you have leftover beef bits).

-1 huge pot
-Beef broth (two boxes)
-Chopped onion (s)
-Frozen bag(s) mixed veggies (they seem to be on sale a lot)
-Baby carrots if you're feeling bunnylike
-Peeled and chopped potatoes
-2-3 large cans of crushed tomato
-Quite a few dashes of worcestershire sauce
-pinch of sugar
-salt to taste

Throw in ingredients order of how long it takes to cook from most to least and let it simmer for a good while stirring every now and again. Next day has best flavor.

It'll last you a long time and is great on a cold day. It's just something I can never get tired of and I wanted to share.

Two Strands Soap Works said...

Thanks Carmin!

I'm trying Colcannon out tonight. I love cabbage. :o) My sister gave me a similar recipe on Weds. It's from Bolivia. It uses chili peppers as well as cabbage and potatoes.

FWIW - my sister in law in MA taught me to save all my veggies snippits (tomato tops/carrot ends/onion ends/etc) for soup bases. :o) Every week I have a big old bag in the freezer for weekend soup. It's nice if you have leftover stuff like rice, cous cous, or bulgur, too. Freeze that and add it to the soup once the veggies are soft. Makes LOTS and you don't have to use a ton of broth. I normally use maybe 3 cups and rely on the veggies and any herbs for flavor.

That's my money saving tip from MA. :o)