Monday, 4 July 2011

Free Food

I volunteer at a centre which has to feed a large number of people on fairly short notice and as a result the store cupboard is jammed full with dried foods which can be cooked quickly. Every month the shelves have to be checked for things which are going out of date, or are already out of date. At the end of June I was set to the task, and told that I could take anything I wanted if I put a donation in the food kitty.

Well, it was quite a haul! I suspect that the checking in previous months had been interrupted part-way through, as some things were rather badly out of date (but as the date is checked again before it's cooked, I don't think anyone will have been served out of date food).

I sifted through the stash at the end of the day and chose the things I thought my family were likely to use. I'm not too fussy about best before dates, or even use by dates; as long as I can't detect any signs of actual problems then I'll eat it. That's a good thing about being vegetarian - it's far less likely that your food will kill you.

Anyway, here is what I brought home, as guarded by my cat Mo:

You want some foods? I have foods.

Other than the desiccated coconut, none of it is something we would really buy ourselves, but we do eat all of these things - just normally made from scratch. In case you can't see, clockwise from the left we have Moroccan cous cous, desiccated coconut, cupcake mix, spicy tomato chilli sauce, vanilla essence, peppermint flavouring, instant fairy cakes (vanilla and chocolate), savoury scone mix, savoury crumble mix and a sweet pastry dish.

So far we have used one packet of the crumble mix, the pastry case, and the chocolate fairy cake mix. I made a form of ratatouille (is it still ratatouille without the aubergine?) in my slow cooker and transferred it into a casserole just before it was done, sprinkling the crumble mix over the top.

It was actually very tasty, but I was disappointed because the crumble mix didn't solidify like sweet crumble does; instead it behaved like breadcrumbs and just fell apart when served. If I make it again, I'll be doing so without the expectation of beautiful presentation and I think that will be enough to make me happy with it.

The chocolate fairy cakes were interesting. I was making a cake anyway, so I decided to take advantage of the oven being on and try them out. All you have to do is fill the bottle with milk up to a certain line (about 150ml apparently) and shake it all up, then pour it into bun cases and bake. The result was a deliciously gooey chocolatey bun, although as my mum commented they look more chocolatey than they taste. I wouldn't buy the mix again, because it's cheaper to make your own, but I am considering adding milk to a regular recipe to see if I get the same effect.

The pastry case is from the Sainsbury's Taste the Diffence range and was still in date (by two days) so I knew it was going to be nice. We filled it with stewed blackcurrants and ate it as a form of cheesecake and it was delicious. I'm not a huge fan of unsweetened cooked blackcurrants, but the sugar in the pastry offset the tartness very nicely. Mmm.

We've still got two packets of the savoury crumble mix to use up, and they went out of date in April so I need to have a think. The cous cous is being saved until my stepdad goes on holiday, because there is only enough for two and he dislikes cous cous, whereas my mum and I are both much more enlightened.

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