Friday 19 July 2013

Foodie Friday - Why Buy Things When You Can Make Them

We all lead such busy lives these days that sometimes it's hard not to cut corners when it comes to food. A lot of us have takeaway numbers saved on our phones, and we have cupboards fulls of packets and cook in sauces, and freezers full of ready meals. I'm no different I usually have lots of Chinese sauces, pasta sauces and emergency risotto mixes in the cupboard, and I always have a a few of the amazing Amy's Kitchen vegetarian and often gluten free ready meals in the freezer. Nowadays it's all to easy to pop into a supermarket and pick up a jar of sauce to have with our pasta, and there's nothing wrong with that, but sometimes I think we forget how easy and how much fun it is to make things ourselves.

I've had a bit of a make it myself fortnight, and I've made a couple of things that take just minutes to make and that taste amazing

Spicy Tomato Salsa

1 Tin Of Chopped Tomatoes
3 Small Onions 
3 Cloves Garlic
Chilli Flakes
A Few Pickled Jalapenos
A Couple Of Fresh Tomatoes
Fresh Lime Juice
Ground Coriander
Salt and Pepper 

Put the onion, garlic, tomatoes, Jalapenos, and 3/4 of the tinned tomatoes into a food processor or blender. Give a zap till everything is chopped up to the consistency you like, if you'd like a smoother consistency add all the tinned tomatoes at the beginning. Then seasons to taste with the chilli flakes, ground coriander, lime juice, and salt and pepper. Then if you wanted a chunkier salsa mix in the remaining tinned tomatoes.

This is a super versatile recipe where you can add what you like, and make it as mild or as spicy as you like. Obviously you can use fresh chilli but I just used what I had. It's also amazing with fresh coriander but if like so many people you can't stand it just leave it out completely. This makes a huge bowl which easily keeps in the fridge for a few days. You can use it for dipping, or for nachos or even as a pasta sauce or as a pizza topping.

Perhaps one of my favourite pasta sauces has to be pesto. I love basil so much especially when it's teamed with cheese and tomato. Basil isn't the cheapest thing to buy especially for the amount that you need here but you can grow it pretty easily yourself, which is what we do, this is our monster before I trimmed it :)

Basil Pesto

2 Large Bunches Of Fresh Basil
Small Handful Of Salted Peanuts
Small Handful Of Grated Mature Cheddar
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper To Taste 

Give basil a quick rinse and pop it into a blender or a food processor then add your nuts and give it a zap, then add your cheese, and slowly start adding the oil till you get a spoonable paste. Season to taste and give a quick zap to combine. Pop into a sterilised jar (mine made a jar and a little bit), top with a little bit of oil and put it into the fridge where it will last for about a week. You can eat it straight away but it tastes better if you leave it for a few hours or even overnight.

The recipe I've used here isn't that authentic but it was based on what I had in. Traditionally you would use pine nuts, but they were £4 for a tiny bag in Tesco!!! - salted peanuts work really well as you don't need to add much if any extra salt. You could also use cashews (the majority of supermarket jars use those) or even walnuts for a different flavour. Parmasan is also traditional but it isn't vegetarian and the alternative pecorino isn't cheap so I'm using a mature cheddar for a nice kick. People assume that pesto always have to be made with basil, it doesn't you can use what ever herb you like, coriander is particularly good. 

Pesto is great with pasta and tonight I'm going to be using it in my creamy mushroom pasta dish (recipe here). It's also great in a mozzarella and tomato sandwich, and on a bruschetta.

The last thing that we're making instead of buying this week is strawberry jam. My mum went to a local fruit farm where you can either pick your own strawberries or you can buy them freshly picked for you that day.

It's a little bit more expensive to buy them this way but the quality is amazing and some of these ones were the size of small peaches!! My mum makes them into lovely homemade jam, as she says for a taste of summer in the depths of winter. The recipe she uses comes from an ancient cookery book Readers Digest The Cookery Year (you can buy it second hand on Amazon here). Here are some of today's strawberries macerating in a ridiculous amount of sugar for 24 hours ready to be turned into yummy jam tomorrow.

Don't get me wrong I'm not knocking the supermarkets by any means and I still by lots of pre prepared things but we can often forget how easy it is to make a lot of things that we would buy ready made. Sometimes it's cheaper to make them yourself  but the key reason to give it a go in my opinion is that you know exactly what's gone in to it. There are no preservatives or added nasties, and if you don't like or can't eat something then you can just leave it out or replace it with something else, everything that you make yourself is super fresh and tasty. Do you try and make things at home? let me know in the comments.

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