So, after we returned from our lovely jaunt in Barcelona and Madrid, I found myself rather short of cash. It was time to cut back, and the first casualty was the shopping budget.
No more new goodies - time to make use of what was in the store cupboard. Oddly enough what was in the store cupboard was this little joyful misnomer, Assorted Oriental Delights:
I'm not quite sure where this originated from, but it's probably been in my flat long enough that we should start sharing the rent. It was time to bite the bullet and ask Assorted Oriental Delights to move on.
It's a mix of veggies, tofu and seitan, all in a slightly gelatinous sauce. Sound grim? Thankfully, it wasn't that bad. I ended up eating it twice, once with brown rice, once with basmati (that's what clearing out the cupboard will do to you. Let's call it fusion food rather than a complete car crash, shall we?)
And then there's the freezer to clear out. I had a pack of Redwood's fish-style steaks calling out to be used, and who was I to deny them.
Only, they were massively freaky. So freaky I almost couldn't finish them.
The freakiness stemmed from the texture. It was the most realistic meat analogue I think I've ever eaten - every mouthful made me think I was eating fish muscle, so realistic was the feel of it beneath my teeth.
Next time I'm in the market for a fish analogue, I'll stick to Redwood's fish-style fingers or Thai fish-style cakes, both of which are crackingly tasty but bear little taste resemblance to their namesake.
Next up to be sacrificed on the block of money saving was a packet of rice noodles and half a packet of coconut milk I found in the freezer. I'd never made laksa before, but I was pretty sure I had the two key ingredients right there.
A bit of internet rummaging yielded this curry laksa recipe from Yottam Otolenghi and a bit of cooking yielded this result:
I wasn't overly faithful to the recipe (mainly because I didn't have some of the ingredients and didn't fancy going out to stock up) but it still turned out wonderful - creamy, spicy, a gently chilli kick and a lovely burst of colour.
Only I ended up cooking a metric truckload too many noodles. What to do with them? This!!
Looks a bit like a swamp, I grant you, but no. It was an attempt at ramen, modelled on a recipe from Japanese Cooking Contemporary and Traditional. There's a whole lot that went into that - some vegan mince, veggies, noodles, and some kimchi dumplings that had been gracing my freezer for a while, all floating in miso dashi broth.
My first attempt was a bit underpowered, but it resurfaced for lunch the next day with the miso quotient amped up, and all was well.
My use up what you've got mantra also extended to breakfast. What happens when you run out of dried fruit for your morning porridge? You use an bit of old Christmas pudding, no?
What do you mean no? You're missing out!
There's not much in there bar the spuds and broccoli, milk, stock, onion and garlic but it was unfairly creamy for all that. It was soft and comforting and slightly silky, just what you want after a hard day at work, all for just a few minutes of chopping and a few more of simmering.
I was surprised to get so many good meals out of so little (or what I thought was so little) in my store cupboard. Turns out one week of eating frugally meant one week of cooking creatively!