Yesterday, after writing up the blog for the day, I felt decidedly crappy, but cooking generally helps me feel better.
Today, I feel a LOT better about things, and I’d like to thank everybody for their kind words and support. I was very close to shouting out, “WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!” but it turns out, you have. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Although today is the last day of this challenge, it’s still possible to donate to Unicef until the end of June 2014, so if you read this tomorrow or next week, don’t let that stop you.
With that out of the way, in the end I still went out bargain-hunting yesterday. There was’t a lot of exciting loot to be found, so I figured I’d splash out on a 32p can of baked beans (at the time of this writing). I couldn’t be bothered to keep the receipt but feel free check the link to confirm the price.
I did however notice some discounted bread and milk at 5p each, so I brought a whole frickin loaf of bread and three pints of milk, for a total bill of 52p.
This may seem puzzling. After all, today being the last day of the pound-per-day challenge, I didn’t need to stock up. But before I get to that, let’s take a look at the financial status first – Add 4p worth of tea for throughout the day and we get to a pre-cooking status looking as follows:
Total spent so far: 375p
Money left: 125p
Come breakfast, I decided to keep it simple – toast and milk. I managed to not entirely burn the toast this time, I might yet get the hang of this cooking thing.
I still had near a whole cabbage, and no real plans for it, so I brought it in for lunch along with bread. To make the cabbage chewable, I microwaved it for a few minutes. If you ever need cabbage leaves to look as green as possible, this may be the way:
In any case, for lunch I had a cabbage toast-sandwich. Cabbage on bread. Not recommended.
Sure, it looks pretty enough. But it’s dull and chewy. And I had another. At least I wasn’t hungry.
It would have been a lot easier to just eat the baked beans for lunch. I had other plans for the baked beans though, so I decided to be conservative.
Now for dinner, I figured I’d trick out a bit. Here’s what I did.
I warmed my remaining two pints of milk in a saucepan and added 1 gram of calcium chloride. I proceeded to heat it to 85°C. Meanwhile, I mixed half a teaspoon of citric acid with some water and microwaved that, so that that, too, would reach the same temperature. I then added the citric acid solution to the hot milk.
This caused the milk to curdle. Milk is a chemical buffer; it maintains its pH (acidity level) even when small amounts of acid are added. Add enough acid, though, and the buffer won’t hold, the milk will split and it will curdle. Those curds can be used to make cheese. There are many ways to make cheese, some involving enzymes (rennet) but the cheese I was going for was a simpler kind. I could probably have done without the calcium chloride; it merely helps improve the yield, as do high temperatures.
Once the acid was added, the cheese began to curdle. The benefit of citric acid over lemon juice is that only a minute amount is needed to make the milk curdle; since it’s a pure chemical, the results are more consistent than using lemon juice, and it works out cheaper as well. I probably could have used vinegar just as well.
By the way, vinegar is a total rip-off nowadays. Only two years ago, a pint bottle cost 13p (when I first did this blog). The same product costs 35p now. Hello, inflation.
Once the curds had a few minutes to set, I poured them into a colander lined with a sterilized tea towel to separate the curds from the whey, after which the curds were squeezed further…
… to finally be dry enough to collect. I then placed the curds in a ring and pressed them down.
After removing the ring and refrigerating the result for a while, the result was a block of unsalted paneer cheese.
I also had far too much bread left. I took six slices and gently dried them out in an oven at around 120°C. This temperature is high enough that water will boil and evaporate, and it is still below 150°C, the temperature around which the Maillard reaction normally occurs – the reaction that causes browning. As a result, I ended up with bone-dry white bread, which I proceeded to crush. I then continued to sieve the crushed bread to separate the bits from the crumbs, and I crushed a bit more, until I was satisfied that I had enough bread crumbs.
I then proceeded to drain my can of baked beans, through the sieve, into a saucepan, and rinsed the beans with a cup of water to collect as much as possible of the tomato sauce into the sauce pan. I then rinsed the remaining tomato sauce off the beans.
This gave me two products: baked beans, and tomato sauce.
I reserved half of the baked beans, and proceeded to reduce the tomato sauce. I also added a bay leaf, two cloves, a spoonful of sugar, some salt and vinegar. For good measure, I added a few drops of liquid smoke. The result was that the boring baked bean tomato sauce had now turned into a rather tasty barbecue sauce.
I pureed the other half of the baked beans and spiced them up with cumin, coriander, black pepper, paprika powder and a splash of soy sauce. I then shaped the bean paste into balls. I took my last egg, briefly beat it with a fork and proceeded to give the bean balls a triple coat of bread crumbs, after which I fried them in a small amount of oil.
Finally, I rubbed the paneer with some salt, kashmiri garam masala and turmeric and pan-fried it. I shredded a bit of cabbage and plated it all up.
I present dinner: Spiced, breaded baked-bean balls with BBQ Baked Beans and pan-fried paneer on a bed of shredded cabbage.
And after accounting for pantry items – I’ve got a whole pound left.
How’s that for frugal eating?