Thursday, July 30, 2015

How to save money in the kitchen

I think we all like to save money where we can. This may be so we can spend money in other areas, to prevent debt, or to save up for holidays or other big costs. I am fortunate to eat in a way that isn't too costly (unless I go to Whole Foods...) but still like to cut costs where I can. This allows me to periodically buy vegan desserts and chocolate (which any regular reader will know I value!) and put funds towards things that matter to me and Mr Bite.

There are lots of money saving tips out there and this isn't meant to be a definitive collection of ideas. Instead, it is a collection of things that I find worthwhile and which I find easy to implement.

I would love to hear your ideas too!

1. Have a few easy, cheap meals in your rotation.

I don't routinely calculate per serve costs for our meals. However, I am aware that a few of our regular meals are very cheap to make. Basic legumes and carbohydrates work particularly well and the following key examples come in at around £1 ($2) per person:

Chickpea flour pancakes with vegetable-bean fillings 

Estimated saving: If you have at least one cheap meal per week, £3 to £15 ($6 to $30) per person per month.

2. Look out for end-of-day discounts. 

Many bakeries and chain stores discount products at the end of the day. In the UK, Boots is particularly generous and often marks sandwiches, salads and other prepared meals down to just 50p ($1.00). This is a whopping discount from the £2 - £3 they cost at full price. Of course, you need to be able to eat the meal quickly but if you want an easy, light dinner they're an incredibly cheap option.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Out and about in England - Manchester

As some of you may have gathered from Facebook, Mr Bite and I have just returned from a weekend in Manchester. We took advantage of Virgin's train sale to get £10 tickets (per person each way) from London to Manchester. To make an event of it, we took today off work as well. There's nothing quite like a 3-day weekend!

Manchester town hall

I had never been to Manchester before and Mr Bite had forgotten his childhood visits. It is an impressive city. Living in London, I find it a bit hard to slot smaller cities into a category (or alternatively phrased, to not just compare them to London) but Manchester does many things well. The mix of old and new architecture was particularly pleasing.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Leon-inspired chickpea, aubergine and mint stew

It's getting a bit embarrassing, the way you can track my recipe progression. In addition to my ongoing enjoyment of aubergine, this stew carries forward the mint theme from my last recipe and features the chickpeas that allowed me to create a vegan mousse with chickpea brine. What can I say, my kitchen activities are transparent. It may also be obvious that I don't have enough time to create surplus recipes to mask this transparency!

Whilst some of the flavours in this dish are familiar, it definitely deserves recognition in its own right. The recipe is adapted from one in the Leon cookbook, which is published by the creators of the popular UK Leon restaurants. Leon is all about real, healthy, fast food and many of the dishes draw on Mediterranean and African ingredients. This recipe epitomizes the Leon style.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Peach and mint green smoothie

I've had a slow start to smoothie drinking this summer. I accepted that as a phase and was confident my smoothie love would surface again eventually. Fortunately, it now has and I'm keen to make up for lost drinking time!

This peach and mint green smoothie was what heralded the switch from "I guess I could use up these greens in a banana smoothie, but I'm not sure I can be bothered" to "I really can't wait to whiz these ingredients up and drink them". It's a great summer smoothie, with the mint and peach pairing together beautifully and conjuring up images of beach-side cocktails.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Raspberry and rose mousse {vegan}

Chickpea brine, or aquafaba, is turning up everywhere as the latest craze ingredient. I can see why - it's a vegan alternative to egg whites and can be used to make meringues, pavlova, mousse, marshmallow fluff and many things besides. Given my love of mousse, I was pretty excited to hear about it.

I first tried using the liquid to make chocolate mousse, following this recipe from Mouthwatering Vegan. The recipe and photos really were mouthwatering, but unfortunately my mousse did not turn out quite so well! It was grainy, and tasted a bit beany, and didn't fully set. I blame user error rather than the recipe but it did dampen my enthusiasm for aquafaba for a while.

Fortunately, my enthusiasm rebounded and I tried a different type of mousse this weekend. This version is flavoured with fresh raspberries, almond essence and vanilla essence, and I scatted rose petals on top for good measure. To ensure the mousse set, I used some vegan gelatin as well as the chickpea liquid. There was no graininess, no beaniness, and plenty of fluffy joy.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Recent food finds

I'm used to sharing what happens in my kitchen each month, but this post is about foods that come from outside of my kitchen and often never make it home.

First up: 100% Natural Foods raw chocolate brownies.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Vegan cannelloni with spiced tomatoes and aubergine

I posted two aubergine recipes in June, which (to me at least) were a logical extension of each other: vegan lasagne with aubergines and hummous, and then vegan potato and aubergine bake with tahini. This recipe drops out the creamy hummous/tahini element, but is inspired by the lasagne I enjoyed so much. In fact, the cannelloni tubes are made from lasagne sheets. And yes, aubergine is involved.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Out and about in London #5: Museums, Regent's Park, the Grand Union Canal and plenty of vegan food

After their arrival 18 days ago, my parents are now en route back to Australia. They returned to London for their last couple of nights and we enjoyed playing tourist again and seeing some new-to-us places.

Traflagar Square - not new, but delightfully balmy on a summer evening (this was about 7.00pm)

On a rather mammoth day yesterday, we took in the Foundling Museum and Sir John Soane Museum, before browsing in Foyle's bookstore and walking through Regent's Park and along the Grand Union Canal. I don't have pictures of the museums but would highly recommend both. The Foundling Museum tells the story of London's Foundling Hospital, set up in 1739 by Thomas Coram to care for babies at risk of abandonment. It was an impressive effort and similar work continues today through the associated charity Coram. Sir John Soane's museum is an incredible - mind-blowing - collection of art and architecture. The building itself is a delight and the contents span from paintings to scultpures to a full-size Egyptian tomb.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Apple and nectarine crumble

Our fridge/freezer decided to die this week. It's been inconsistently cooling for a few weeks now (since our Australian freezer debacle, we always have thermometers in the fridge and freezer) but this week it just stopped. Kaput. I'm not sure if I'm more upset by the £215 replacement cost or the fact we have to throw out so much food and buy replacements of that!

Luckily, I made this crumble before the fridge died. The crumble doesn't really need refrigeration, but you may want to serve it with custard and/or ice cream and they do benefit from chilling.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Peanut butter cacao energy balls, with berries and coconut {vegan, no bake + no food processor}

I know I say this every time I share a new treat ball recipe, but this latest version really is very good! The ingredient list alone makes me swoon, with cacao nibs as well as cocoa powder, goji berries, dried cranberries, and coconut - as well as the all important peanut butter. When mixed together, the result is just as delicious as it sounds. I particularly like the contrasting texture of cacaco nibs and goji berries against a creamy peanut butter base.

Another advantage of this recipe is that you don't require a food processor. By starting with peanut butter instead of whole nuts, you can make these in a single mixing bowl. They don't need refrigeration to set either. It doesn't get any easier!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Harissa-spiced tofu, beetroot and sweet potato salad

I had trouble titling this recipe because I felt like all of the ingredients were stars. However, harissa-spiced tofu, beetroot, sweet potato, carrot, broccoli and kale salad with lemon and mint was too much of a mouthful. Rest assured, though, that you'll appreciate all of the ingredients in this dish should you choose to make it.

I don't mind confessing that the harissa in this came from a jar. I bought it on the same shopping trip that gave me preserved lemon paste. Both were impulse buys, but useful ones that have given rise to some new recipe ideas. For this salad, the harissa was key in flavouring the tofu and I balanced the spice out with lemon juice and mint.  I am still quite new to cooking with harissa but really enjoy the depth of flavour in the spicy paste.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

In My Kitchen - July 2015

I am linking this in to Celia's monthly In My Kitchen event at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

In my kitchen last month, I mentioned signs of summer. In my kitchen this month, summer is here with a vengeance and it is currently too hot to cook. London registered the hottest July day ever yesterday (36.7'C / 98'F) and with no air conditioning at home or at work it has been a sweltering few days. I thought I was leaving such heat behind in Western Australia!

So, my kitchen is not producing many hot dishes. I am enjoying lots of soda water with lemon and fresh mint, plucked from my windowsill, and lots of salads and ice cream.

Prolific mint

I am also enjoying more dairy-free products from Tesco. Layered yoghurt pots are the latest addition to their 'free from' dessert range.

These have a sweet fruit layer at the bottom and a surprisingly thick yoghurt layer above. I am really enjoying them as a dessert-worthy alternative to plain yoghurtsl

I am also enjoying - wait for it! - my beloved Sakata roast tomato and balsamic rice crackers. These were my favourite of Australia's small flavoured rice crackers, and my parents kindly brought over two packets.

The UK does do large chocolate covered rice cakes well, and the Nature's Store dark chocolate orange version is a favourite. I never see this variety in supermarkets, but it is usually available to buy online when we do our 4-6 weekly online supermarket order.

In my kitchen, I have moved on from summer berries to peaches, nectarines and melon. I should note that I still like berries just as much, but my local market stalls are now selling fewer berries and more stone fruit. The peaches (not pictured, as I ate them all!) have been particularly delicious.

In my kitchen, there have been roses from our downstairs front garden. Technically that land is shared, but our downstairs neighbour tends to it, so I always feel slightly guilty if I pick a flower. I usually wait until he's out before appropriating one! As the picture below shows, there are currently plenty available.

Summer flowers (and my bike)

What is happening in your kitchen this month?