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Posts Tagged ‘cheap’

I have a few favourite gadgets in the Vicarage kitchen. Today I’d like to introduce you to my best pastry-making tool: a paint scraper.

I used to make most of my pastry in my food processor, but I found that it was too easy to blitz it and end up with the fat chopped too small and the pastry too tough. Since I started using the paint scraper (NB I’ve never scraped paint with this one) I’ve been able to ensure that plenty of gravel-sized pieces of butter/lard/hard marg remain. This gives me a lovely flakey shortcrust pastry that seems to go down very well with consumers.

It’s therapeutic to chop the fat into the flour, too – sometimes I imagine that I am chopping junk mail into tiny pieces. And no fat in the fingernails either – my pet hate with pastry-making. So there you are – a cheap and useful gadget that can also be used to remove welded Weetabix from the kitchen table. Every kitchen should have one.

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Things in parish have been a bit crazy since the new school term began and my blogging habit has rather dried up. But today I’ve just about got my act together and thought I’d share a great recipe for autumn – my mother-in-law’s lentil soup. The Vicar comes from a small town in the Scottish borders with views over heather clad hills and a high street of family run shops. This warming soup is very inexpensive and simple to make and feels like a little slice of old fashioned rural life. Lentils are especially great for those on low GI diets and for diabetics as they are low in carbohydrates and release their energy slowly.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 or 2 leeks, sliced
  • 2 or 3 carrots, sliced
  • Other diced vegetables such as swede, butternut squash or potatoes, even leftover veg from Sunday lunch such as mashed potato or runner beans can also be used
  • 1 cup (250ml) orange lentils
  • Ham stockcube (or genuine ham stock if you’ve cooked a ham recently, but usually I haven’t, or the ham’s been cooked in coke, which isn’t so great in soup)
  • Approx 1.5l boiling water

Gently fry the veg until softened, then add the lentils, stock cube and hot water. Simmer for about 20minutes until veggies and lentils are soft. Then use a stick blender to create a smooth soup. If you don’t have a blender, a potato masher will give you a slightly chunkier soup. The Vicar likes to add a lot of pepper – no need for salt because of the ham stock.

Serve with crusty brown bread if you remember to pick some up. This soup is very filling. I often make a double batch, which fills a casserole dish and keeps us going for Vicarage lunches for most of the week. Lentil soup has the strange property of thickening every time it is cooled, so you may have to add a little water on reheating or after freezing. It freezes brilliantly.

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So now we’re all back to school and back to the realities of the parish after a great summer break. I’m glad that today the Vicar dragged me up into the tow-un to run some errands. On the way we passed our open air market, where you can buy cheap fruit, mobile phone accessories, underwear, overalls and all sorts of clothing. Everything on the market is pleasingly good value. We bought the Queen a gorgeous deep pink furry fleecy throw for her bed there. She adores it and sleeps under it in preference to her duvet.

The jumper stall is my absolute favourite, though. He sells a random selection of very end-of-line (but still brand new) knitwear, from shops I’d buy from anyway. Over the last couple of years I have bought (or been given) three excellently warming long cardies for Vicarage wear from the market. And today we had a great jumper day, stocking up for the Vicarage winter. The Vicar acquired three M&S v-necks (including a gorgeously toasty lambswool one) and I bought a Next jumper dress and a Monsoon angora/wool mix cardie. Total bill £17. Result. Sometimes I can be cheered up by pretty shallow things…

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Thought I’d share with you all what I consider to be an essential piece of Vicarage equipment: my sugar shaker. I know that it’s another year until you can add this to your Christmas list again, but at £3.05, I reckon you could sneak this in with a cup of coffee and an almond croissant at the Ikea cafe and not notice the strain on your purse.

This great piece of kit allows me to serve endless cups of tea and coffee for Vicarage callers without the added faff of pouring sugar into a bowl. And without people putting their wet stirring spoons back into the sugar and making coffee sugar clumps (yuck). Each shake delivers a teaspoonful of sugar – easy peasy.

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We had Sainsbury’s yoghurts for pudding yesterday. Too tired even to make Easy Peasy Elegants. I bought their Basics yoghurts as an experiment on my last expedition to the Savacentre. They offer 2 strawberry and 2 peach low fat yoghurts for 15p. Yes, 15p! I reasoned that I could afford to throw them out if they were inedible.

But they weren’t. Astonishing. And they can’t be made in China. It’s too far to transport them. So those will be going in the Vicarage trolley again. Just thought I’d share the frugality wisdom. So you can spend the spare change on chocolate or gin or something.

Cheap AND edible. Brilliant.

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