For so long the word vulnerable has been something most people link with the ‘frugal’ generation. I have been staying with a couple of vulnerable types (mother and uncle) for nearly a week in a bid to keep them from leaving the house, which is another story. She believes that if we “can win the war we can beat this virus thing!” You are probably feeling my pain.
Over the week I have learnt a lot, besides how to watch daytime quiz programmes. On arrival I chaired a ‘confined to barracks committee meeting’ to go over the stay at home rules we would all have to adhere to. I was fully expecting to have to lay the down the law. That was mistake number one. Between the two of them they had a hand washing routine, outdoor (garden) lists, indoor (wet weather) lists, the menu planned for the whole of the following week with further thoughts on the week after, without any of us having to leave the house! These two formidable pensioners did not bulk buy anything. They do not have large freezers but did as we asked people to do 2 weeks ago, ‘Plan not Panic’.
Both Mum and John did what most of us did, they froze a few pints of milk, separated a few loafs of sliced bread into smaller portions (6 slices a bag) and made batches of meals from anything available in their cupboards. So between them they are confident that they can last for a month without having to be too much of a burden on other people. One chicken carcass, some veg and pulses, lunch for two people and 4 portions in the freezer.
Fortunately, kind neighbours have also helped by offering to do some shopping if required as well as passing a Tupperware container of delicious soup over the fence. This was immediately divided so we had enough for our lunch and 4 portions for the freezer!
Another lifeline has been a number of small, local business that have the flexibility to do home deliveries. As mentioned last week we must all be grateful to anybody who has continued to work to provide us with food and other basic services. I clap and bang my pots and pans to you all but a special mention to the following below.
Morris Pasties in Newquay, www.facebook.com/morrispasties (01637 852678), is a small company owned by Sam Morris they have started a free home delivery service of cooked or frozen pasties. These were really easy to order and pay for over the phone.
Sam duly turned up at my uncle’s house the next day in his van with 6 frozen pasties. These will supplement his menu over the coming weeks. As an aside what was especially pleasing was when Sam turned up he immediately asked if my uncle was well and if he needed anything. This will ensure I use this young lad in the future. Nice one Sam!
Milk and More (https://www.milkandmore.co.uk/) also deliver. They are currently experiencing huge demand as they also use local produce from local suppliers and offer up to 200 different products, not just milk and diary. Requests for home deliveries during the past 10 days have flooded in and so they are currently recruiting to meet this increased demand. I hope all these new customers continue to use this company even when we get back to ‘normal’.
Anyway, getting back to my first week with ‘The Oldies’ as my mother insists on now being called. This generation are naturally frugal. That is how they were brought up. No underfloor heating, double glazing or dare I say electric blankets for this lot. It was shutting doors behind you to keep the expensive heat in (not opening a window when it got too hot), switching lights off when not needed and wearing sufficient clothing to keep your core temp and feet warm! Vanity had little or no place in their households when growing up. I am beginning to see where it all started to go wrong! But this is only part of it.
Lighting an oven for just one thing is not acceptable if they can possibly help it. If they are roasting a chicken or joint of meat, they throw in a couple of jacket potatoes as well or maybe some celery or leeks for braising. At one stage they also put in a pudding (crumble on this occasion). How much you can put in will of course depend on the size of your oven, but essentially you are using the same amount of gas for cooking one piece of food as you do for a full oven, so fill it as full as you can without compromising the cooking times and quality. This does take some practice and experience, so why not call an ‘oldy’ in your family and ask them for advice. I’m sure that if they are vulnerable and ‘confined to barracks’ they might be glad of the chat.
Most things that you cook will freeze in one-person portions if you don’t need them immediately, and most can be reheated either on the hob or in the microwave. Leeks and most other vegetables work well, squashes can be a little trickier especially if you over cook them.
Any leftover vegetables make the most scrumptious bubble and squeak. Simply chop an onion and any leftover cooked potatoes and fry gently in a little butter until onion is soft. Add some chopped mushrooms and fry for a further five minutes or so, then add leftover veg of any kind. Cook until very hot. I have also been known to add some brown sauce or curry powder while cooking but you can throw in whatever is in the bottom of the fridge that needs to be used.
Puddings also work well. A portion of leftover fruit crumble or rice pudding reheats in minutes, either in the oven or microwave. These guys do like their puddings, which isn’t great seeing asI thought I might lose weight during this confinement!
Make a friend of your slow cooker, you can cook practically anything in them, and they need minimum attention once the cooking starts. Take a look at this recipe as an easy starter for slow cooking - https://fayregamepursuits.com/recipes/venison-and-red-wine-stew
You can buy some really good packet sauces for slow cookers, or just invent your own. Throw a whole chicken into the pot, stuffed with fresh herbs. A little thyme, a stalk of rosemary and 4-or 5 sage leaves works wonders, as do all fresh herbs. Add a couple of garlic cloves and a bay leaf or two, then squeeze half a lemon over it all. Put the squeezed lemon half inside the chicken too, then add about a quarter of a pint of chicken stock or white wine and a couple of chopped celery sticks. Leave it all to cook for about five hours on “low”, then when it’s almost ready to serve boil or steam new potatoes and some green veg. Dinner is served! Unfortunately, there is no crispy skin with slow cooking, but the leftover chicken freezes well for another meal. Either cold with salad and pickles, or as a filling for omelettes, or in a stir-fry.
Never underestimate how easy it is to do a stir-fry. I wanted to contribute to the cooking and know these guys would never cook this type of meal themselves. This is a good way to use up anything and everything, and it is easy. Right up my street. Onions, garlic and ginger are always a good place to start with a stir-fry. If you don’t have fresh, then garlic and ginger paste work well. Mum does not have a wok so I used a large frying pan. Fry the onions until soft then add the garlic and ginger. Add a few sliced mushrooms and fry for a further few minutes, adding thinly sliced or chopped whatever veg you have before adding shredded cooked chicken (a breast from the night before). While this is cooking, I added a packet of dried noodles to a pan of boiling water, which take 2-3 minutes to cook. When the noodles are soft add them to the stir-fry, adding a sauce if you have one. Finish off with a few drops of sesame oil if you have it and a good shake of soy sauce. Delicious, easy to do and it uses up all the odds and ends of leftovers.
I have also tried to make my own pasta.
So, as we enter week 2 they have promised to teach me something my gran would have called ‘a boil’ which involves root veg, cabbage leaves, shin or brisket and suet! Not sure I am ready for that!
I hope to expand on bulk cooking of stews, poultry and pies. This week has taught me that we have become a wasteful society especially where food is concerned. Children that won’t eat meals because of colour or how it looks will eat when they are hungry. We all really must re-assess our reliance on fast, processed food. This pair waste next to nothing.
Out of the kitchen they have also been using less of everything, from toothpaste to bars of soap (not liquid soap which simply goes down the drain). They’ve even cut back on using loo roll, just one piece less everytime they had to ‘spend a penny’. Enough detail on that!
Lastly, what has really struck me this week is the kindness of others. Why does it take a crisis for us to be nice to each other? Even drivers (on my one trip out) were corteous, giving everybody else plenty of space; car social distancing perhaps? I have to thank several members of my family for enlightening me on how to make less go further. Imagine the impact we could have on the environment if we all tried to be a little more frugal. It would take some of the pressure off our farmers, producers and suppliers. Looking forward, our over reliance on imported produce has surely got to stop in preference for local, seasonal, ethically sustainable produce.