Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Live Below the Line - Day 3

I'm finding it a bit more difficult today, I'm a bit more hungry and more frustrated. I've eaten nice things so far, but the lack of choice and variety is the frustrating bit. I am now looking at people's take away coffee with huge envy. I didn't think that would be what I missed most, when there are things like meat, cheese and wine in the equation, I just keep thinking about hot frothy milky coffees... I don't even have them that often in every day life!

Yesterday I had Butternut Squash soup and flat breads for lunch again, with a tiny bit of leftover Dal. Then for supper I made a Chickpea, Tomato and Paprika Stew, a take on this stew but without spinach or pancetta, which was lovely; eventually... I soaked the chickpeas all day, but hadn't read the label properly about how long they needed to cook, so when I thought they were just about ready to serve they still had an hour to cook... At that point I was a bit tired and emotional, but actually it turned out lovely. Dried chickpeas are definitely tastier than tinned, and the stew was pretty good, rich tomato and spicy with paprika. It worked out at 47p per portion, there was enough leftover for lunch today too... Tonight is Pasta with Tomato, Chilli and Anchovy sauce...

I have also raised loads of money which is brilliant! £525! Amazing, thank you so much to everyone who has donated. I am on the leader board at 110th out of thousands so feel very proud! Have a look and feel free to sponsor me if you haven't already! https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/annahedworth

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Live Below the Line - Day 1

I have completed Day 1 of my Live Below the Line challenge! Yesterday I did my shopping, which was a bit stressful. I went to Asda, and only took the exact money I could spend. TLI has joined me on my adventure so I had £10 to spend, £5 each for 5 days. Supermarkets you don't know are stressful to begin with, I had no idea where anything was and their range of dried pulses was pitiful, I should have stuck with Morrisons... Buying loose vegetables to an exact amount of money is also stressful. I stood by the scales with a calculator and a notepad weighing each carrot, leek and potato one at a time!

I went to the self service till in case I went over my budget and had to put stuff back, it seemed less embarrassing at self service; I did have my sums wrong, but ended up being £1.85 under, so I still have that to spend. I couldn’t face heading back into the aisles so have yet to decide what else to buy.

I unloaded when I got home and surveyed what I had bought. I'm not sure how two of us will live on it for 5 days, it looks pretty impossible at first glance to be honest. Ten pounds just doesn’t seem to go very far, especially when you choose some fresh produce.

My first day didn’t exactly go to plan, as I spent most of it eating nothing at all. I was off to the Farne Islands for a meeting about a very exciting new project I'm getting involved in. It was beautiful to be there, but I couldn’t accept tea or coffee, and when I got back to the mainland later than expected after no breakfast I was pretty hungry. You don’t know how good those fish and chip shops looked... Who would know? But I stayed strong and got in the car...

My first proper meal, late afternoon was Roast Butternut Squash soup with flat breads. I roasted the squash with onion and garlic, then simmered a potato in chicken stock and blitzed. It was fine, not my best ever soup, a little thin, but should be enough for 4 portions. It worked out at 33p for a portion of soup and 3p for both of the flat breads, so 36p in total. Not a bad start...

For supper I had Red Lentil Dal with flat breads which was delicious, spiced, warm and filling. I topped it with fried onions and cumin seeds and a couple of flat breads on the side. It was really tasty, I'll definitely make it again. This worked out at 49p for the dal and again 3p for the flatbreads, so 52p in total.

I'll keep you posted on how I'm getting on the through the week. thank you so much to everyone who has sponsored me, I have raised an amazing £395 so far!


Sunday, 21 April 2013

Live Below the Line

That stray fiver in your pocket what can you get for it? A coffee and a pastry? A sandwich from Pret and a magazine? How about living on it for a whole week, that’s a pound a day – not enough for a metro ticket or an egg mayonnaise sandwich... Could you do that?

You're walking in to the supermarket and you only have one solitary little gold fella to spend, what would you buy? What springs to mind? I started by racking my brains for the cheapest things in the supermarket. A bread bun, a tin of beans or soup, a packet of rice, a baking potato. What can you think of that costs less than a pound? And then how would you make 3 meals with it? Not just your lunch, but every meal for the whole entire day... It doesn’t really seem feasible does it?

Last week I received an email from Oxfam asking me to take part in the Live Below the Line challenge. A campaign to help change the way people in the UK think about extreme poverty and also raise money through sponsorship at the same time. Surviving on this small amount each day is the reality for the 1.4 billion people worldwide, currently living below the Extreme Poverty Line. The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on the equivalent of US$1.25 (2005 PPP) a day, roughly the equivalent of £1 here in the UK. I was pretty quick to say yes, I worry about people not having enough to eat and I feel terribly guilty when I throw food away or waste anything.

I began with the question of what I was actually going to eat... I started with research, meals plans and recipe pricing. I'm aiming to actually make my food, not just buy cheap tins and ready meals, but it's pretty difficult to be that imaginative with £1. I've been researching the cheapest vegetables, cheapest grains, cheapest tins... Meat is out of the picture, it's just too expensive. Eggs are a possibility but only if I buy battery ones, cheese no, drinks no, fruit no, greens no... perhaps I can stretch to a couple of bananas... Root vegetables and pulses are cheap, flour, pasta, spices and rice too... But you can't have all of these, just two or three things really, because by the time you have bought some lentils and some vegetables you're £3 down already.

It's the lack of choice that is so very difficult, not just being hungry, but such little scope for variety or opportunity. If you buy rice then it's rice all week, you can't have pasta and lentils and rice and vegetables, just one or two options, that's it.

I started with the idea of buying a chicken and roasting it to make salads, sandwiches and chicken soup; but even a cheap battery chicken is about £4, sometimes cheaper if it's on offer. So you also have to make choices about animal welfare and food provenance, if you only have £1 a day can you afford to care? You can get Asda smart price eggs for 9p an egg, the free ranges ones are 17p each.

There are some rules. You can price things like spices, herbs and salt by the gram, so you can add flavour without having to buy a whole pot of spice, but everything else needs to be bought and priced for the whole packet or tin. You are allowed to use food you have grown, as long as you factor in the cost of production, unfortunately I only have some damp seeds in pots at the moment which do not look like a tasty snack...

So far on the menu I have planned a roast butternut squash soup; a butternut squash at £1, a tablespoon of vegetable oil at 2p, a stock cube for 6p and half an onion for 12p, roast then blend. It makes about 4 portions and works out at 29p per portion. That covers lunch, with 71p left to make dinner. It's hard, so I'm hoping to find something amazing on the discount shelf at the last minute.

Flatbreads roll in at at only 3p each if you make them yourself! Winner! I'll be eating a lot of them I think. 150g of flour with half a teaspoon of salt and 80ml of warm water makes enough dough for four flat breads. With a bowl of daal, full of spices and onions, that sounds like a lovely meal. But once I have bought a bag of lentils, it will be lentils every night I guess... Lentil kofte, lentil burgers, lentil soup? Couscous and rice are cheap, pasta is cheaper. Ideas for my menu so far include couscous with roast butternut squash, pasta with spicy tomato sauce, chickpea curry and rice, homemade hummus, leek and potato soup, curried parsnip soup and baked potatoes.

'Cheap Family Recipes' is a brilliant blog with very cheap, priced, imaginative meals, if you are looking for inspiration, as is the Live Below the Line Facebook page which is full of photos of meals people have made so far, it is pretty pulse heavy, so I see I am making similar choices to the rest of the folk taking part. I will be updating my blog with my progress if you would like to keep track of how I'm doing.

My current menu is looking a little as follows, it seems that I will be mainly eating butternut squash, lentils and flatbreads...

Sunday – Roast Butternut squash soup for lunch with a flatbread, Lentil daal and flatbread for dinner

Monday - Homemade hummus, carrots and flatbreads, Roast butternut squash and chickpea stew

Tuesday – Roast Butternut squash soup for lunch with a flatbread, Chickpea, Paprika and Vegetable stew

Wednesday - Vegetable soup for lunch with a flatbread, Lentil and Carrot Curry with flatbreads for dinner

Thursday - Homemade hummus and flatbreads for lunch, Lentil daal and flatbreads for dinner

I might have a bit of a break from flatbreads when I'm done! My shopping list is basically dried lentils, dried chickpeas, a butternut squash, root vegetables and flour. I might be able to stretch to a few bananas, and I'd love to come across a bag of discounted spinach so I am eating some greens!

From the 28th of April to the 2nd of May I will be doing my bit and raising some money from sponsorship. If you would like to take part yourself, you can sign up on the website, it is really very simple. If you click here you can sponsor me, read recipe updates before the challenge, and follow my progress day by day during the challenge.

So far people who have signed up have raised £216, 254 through sponsorship. Over the course of the 5 days, Live Below the Line is also running in Canada, Australia and the USA simultaneously, with more than 20,000 people spending 5 days living below the line. 

Sponsor me and find out more here: www.livebelowtheline.com


Monday, 8 April 2013

Homemade Butter

Butter! It suddenly occurred to me the other week sitting at my desk... Homemade butter! Why had it never occurred to me before? I set about looking up how to make your own butter; whisk some cream is the short answer... Sounds pretty easy. I'm going to make my own bloody butter. No sooner had I announced my intention on Twitter someone suggested I smoked it, my goodness, what a brilliant idea. I love butter, I love smoked stuff, happy days. So far I have only got as far as making the butter, I will smoke the next batch and keep you posted. I was just a bit too excited not to eat this lot straight away. There were hot crossed buns and fresh bread hanging around, realistically the butter wasn’t going to last long.

So on a sunny Good Friday morning I began my foray into the world of butter making. The arrival of the sun was as welcome as the butter. I am becoming so fed up with winter clothes and constantly being cold. It's still cold, but over Easter weekend we had lunch outside in the sunshine, up the coast in Newton, it was delightful! This never ending winter is finally showing some signs of coming to an end. I also dashed off to Lisbon for a few days last week to watch Newcastle lose a football match; but on the plus side I didn’t wear a coat or socks the whole time I was there! I loved Lisbon, so pretty and friendly, I'll post a few photos soon...

So some things I learnt before I began the butter; everything needs to be spotlessly clean; bowls, sieves, spoons etc... Start with your cream at room temperature as this will give you a head start, so leave it out of the fridge for up to 48 hours before you start. Look out for cream that has been reduced, bargain homemade butter is even better... It is a superstitious process historically, because things often went wrong, scattering primroses over the threshold and using a dead man’s hand to stir the churn were both recommended. Luckily this batch worked out well without flowers or dead people...

I Started with 600ml of thick double cream, it was on offer and I figured using a thick double cream would give me a little bit of a head start. In short you whip and whip until you get butter... I used a hand whisk and it probably took about 15 minutes and a bit of a sore arm, but is by no means unachievable. If you have an electric whisk then even better, you’re in for an easy time..

First the cream thickens and I couldn’t tell if I was imagining it turning slightly yellow or not. After it reaches a very thick stage little flecks start to form in it, this is butter. Keep beating it, it will turn grainy in appearance and finally you will find it sloshing around in a pool of buttermilk as it separates fully.

Place it all in a sieve with a bowl below, keeping the buttermilk, which you can drink or make a soda bread loaf from. I went with the latter, my own bread and butter, I was so proud! Return the butter to the bowl and beat it a bit more, and drain again. Then take a clean bowl full of very cold water and add the butter, squeezing it and washing it to remove any last buttermilk. I changed the water a few times, washing the butter until the water stayed clear. The buttermilk makes the butter go off much quicker, so you need to get it all out. Finally I added salt, you don’t have to, but it keeps much longer and I prefer it personally... Add ¼ of a teaspoon for every 110g of butter. From 600ml of cream I got 315g of butter, which I wrapped in little parcels of greaseproof paper and took on my trip up the coast.

It's so delicious, I made a soda bread loaf with the buttermilk, and it might have been my imagination but it was some of the best bread and butter ever, perhaps it was the sunshine and I was a bit giddy... It was so creamy and smooth and lovely, I cant wait to make it again. I will try cold smoking some, and perhaps flavour some with garlic, wild garlic or anchovies... Definitely one of my new favourite discoveries.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

New Supperclub date!

'The Grazer's Distinctly British Feast'
19th April 2013 8pm - Midnight


What is this?

'The Grazer's Supperclub' a regular pop-up feast hosted by The Grazer at Ouse Street Arts Club. A night of feasting in a totally unique space, fire, food and booze...

What will we eat?

A three course Distinctly British feast, think table long smorgasbords full of potted meats and pickles, breads and homemade cheeses... Hearty chicken and veal pies, truffle mash and wild garlic liquor... a scattering of puddings, ginger and rhubarb, sponges and chocolate black pudding... The menu will be confirmed and sent out to you a couple of days before the event.

What will we drink?

There will be a special cocktail on arrival, inspired by the menu and setting. Following that this is a BYO affair. You will be sent the finalised menu prior to arrival so you can decide on your chosen tipple to bring.

Where is it?

Ouse Street Arts Club, a brand new creative space within Newcastle’s vibrant Ouseburn Valley. An interventional development with xsite architecture converting 2 ISO shipping containers to realise a unique and innovative social event space.

How much will it set me back?

You will be given an envelope at the end of the evening. We ask you to leave what you think your whole evenings experience has been worth, venue, food, drinks and service... How do you put a price on an evening of feasting in a shipping container, you decide... Please bring cash.

How do I book?

Just email me at annahedworth@hotmail.com to reserve your place, these events sell out very quickly so don't hang about... We will confirm back to you in writing asap if you have secured a place.