I hope you’re all doing well. My only task today was to read a sociolinguistics paper but I was bored titless before I even got to the methodology, so I’ve given up and have come to procrastinate on the food blog instead.
My pal Judith mentioned to me the other day that I should write a post advising what’s best to make and what’s best to buy when it comes to food. The book already exists of course – it’s called Make the Bread, Buy the Butter. I’ve not read it yet, but apparently it’s very good. It costs around £10 but you get the first tip for free via the title, which is a nice touch. Nigella’s How to Eat is comparatively stingy in this respect.
Having done a lot of weird stuff in the kitchen (haha yeah – and that), I’ve decided to share my own abridged version of Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, but of course I can’t call it that. It’s called MAKE THE CAKE, NOT THE STEAK BAKE. It’s not, I just made that up, but you get the gist.
Here are some things I prefer to make, and some things I prefer to buy. Obviously, I don’t give a rat’s arse if you buy the things I prefer to make – you do you hun. But this is my blog and here’s what I think is best.
● BROWNIES AND CAKES
Pls. Shop bought cakes and brownies are never as good. And don’t be fooled by those packet mixes. Making your own from scratch is well worth the extra ingredients and we’ve all got slightly more time on our hands at the moment. Here’s a brownie recipe. Here’s a ginger cake recipe. Here’s a man getting turned into a hay bale.
● PASTA SAUCES/CURRY SAUCES
If you haven’t already, check out Nat’s What I Reckon on Youtube. We have a shared hatred of jarred sauces. Not only are they overly sweet and made with crap ingredients, they’re also hella expensive in comparison to making your own. Here’s a recipe for tomato pasta sauce. Here’s a recipe for vegetable pasta sauce. And another one. In terms of curries such as green Thai curry and Indian style curries, go ahead and by the concentrated flavour pastes. They’re good news. But I implore you, please don’t buy those 89p jars of curry sauce because they taste of shag-all and you can 100% do a better job yourself with a jar of paste and a tin of coconut milk.
It’s literally 4 store cupboard staples. Flour, eggs, milk and a little oil. Don’t buy those ridiculous shakers, because they’re 8x the price, a waste of plastic and are full of shit. Here’s a savoury pancake recipe. You can find a normal one right here: mix 2 eggs with 110g of flour, and slowly add in 250ml of milk and 30 ml of water whisking out any lumps. Melt 2 tbps of butter and stir it in. Fry them off. Eat them.
Fuck the shaker.
● RICE AND GRAINS – couscous, bulgar wheat etc
Those pouches with Jamie Oliver’s face on them cost so much money in comparison to just boiling your own grains for 10 bloody minutes. Here’s a link to Uncle Roger reviewing white people making fried rice.
Making your own soup is a really good idea. It’s cheap, hearty and filling – just like eating a tube of expanding foam. Here’s a recipe for butternut squash and ginger soup.
If you’re making a roast, please make gravy out of the pan juices, some stock, some flour and some wine. The only acceptable time for instant gravy is if you’re my old flatmate Jenny, who has it on plain pasta with mustard. That level of sacrilege actually demands a disgusted sort of respect, and I would never want to take away someone else’s guilty pleasure. Mine is those floppy cheese singles that look like post-it notes. I love them. But don’t put instant gravy on nice chicken or anything; it’s disrespectful.
BUY, BUY, BUY DELILAH.
Here’s what I’ve made before and can tell you straight up that it’s actually not worth it and that you should get your wallet out instead.
Pine nuts are unbelievably expensive. Any Italian hard cheese is expensive. Heck, basil is expensive when you have to use the quantity you need to make a decent amount of pesto. Stick to buying it premade and save yourself the eyewatering Tesco receipt.
Look, I know it’s fun to make and everything, and if you’ve really nothing better to do, go ahead. It can be tastier than the bought stuff but good lord it’s faffy, and terribly easy to overcook if like me, you have the attention span of a gnat.
● BEEF BURGERS
Ok, ok, I know I’ll get some flack for this one. But whenever I’ve made my own beef burgers, they’ve never been quite as juicy or flavoursome as the ones you buy ready to go on the grill. Mine dry out quickly and I’ve never got them to stop hovering around ‘flipflop’ in texture, despite using a good percentage of fat in the mince.
Shortcrust pastry is pretty easy to make, but it’s understandable if you want to buy it. Much more difficult to make however, is puff pastry. As demonstrated in my 10 things to do with puff pastry blog post, it’s an invaluable resource to have in the kitchen and is cheap when you buy it in frozen blocks too.
● CONCENTRATED FLAVOUR PASTES/SPECIALITY SPICE BLENDS
Stuff like harissa paste, garam masala, tom yum etc. The individual ingredients in these mixes are sometimes faffy and expensive to come by, and I certainly won’t use up a whole pack of lemongrass in one go if I’m making a paste from scratch. The jars and spice mixes either keep well or are small enough to be single use, which does reduce waste in the long run. The only spice mix I’d maybe think twice about is generic curry powder. You’ll be able to build a much more exciting curry by going to your local indian supermarket and getting all the different bits and bobs yourself – but this naturally depends on your commitment level and how clueless you want to look in front of all the blokes behind the meat counter because you can’t find cardamom pods for the life of you.
Well, that’s it for now lovelies. I’ve got loads more but you’re bored, I’m bored, we’re all bored cos it’s lockdown. I’m off to go and rinse Waitrose of all their yellow labels and hopefully come back with some 65p venison. Wish me luck.