Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Eating Through the Pantry – II

Another week, another challenge issued to myself. This week’s shop has involved quite a bit of tweaking. For the first time ever we are having our groceries delivered, as I can no longer carry everything myself on the bus, and it takes a good portion of the day to go into town and get them (we usually get distracted by books and coffees). Since we don’t have a car and will soon have a newborn, it seemed like this would be the best way to go and I’m glad to start trialing it before the baby comes.

The online ordering bit has gone well. What I really like is that I can adjust my order until late the night before, which means that anything I no longer need can be removed. It also means I have a really good idea of what the bill is going to be before I pay, and with a very expensive shop this week I have managed to cut about £10 off the Sainsburys bill with last minute adjustments and substitutions. Besides, being at home for an hour (of my choosing) is much easier than the 1.5-2 hours it takes if we go into town, and means I can get other stuff done and stay relaxed.

Anyway, this week’s challenge ingredients: a packet of taco seasoning and about a cup of puntalette (it’s a pasta that’s like orzo):

Monday: BBQ ribs, orzo pilaf with rosemary & lemon, and corn on the cob:

I purchased the meat at Tesco's as part of a 2 for 5 deal, and it came ready to cook. The corn was delivered with our groceries on Saturday, and everything used in the orzo recipe came from the pantry. So the only things that I needed to purchase for this meal were the things I have to purchase every week, namely fresh meat and veg. 

Verdict: Delicious! It was also really quick to make and there was no prep required which was particularly good news tonight as I had an ultrasound at the hospital and didn't get home until 6pm. I modified the orzo recipe slightly, by cutting out the salt (since I used salted butter) and by using dried rosemary instead of purchasing fresh. I also used a cup of orzo and increased the water by 1/4 cup. When it was fresh off the stove it was a little like risotto, although by the time I had everything served all the excess liquid had been soaked up. The butter is really important, as it gives a good creamy flavor to the dish. That said, I refuse to have margarine or any other processed oil butter substitutes in the house so having to use butter wasn't a big deal. The flavor wasn't overpowering so it made a great side to the ribs, and it's an nice alternative to potatoes or rice. 

Thursday: tacos with salsa, sour cream, and guac; oven roasted Bird's Eye garden peas:

Tacos end up being a bit of an expense since we don't eat enough Mexican food to keep all the necessary ingredients on hand,  but they are also a quick and easy mid-week supper. Due to some changes to the grocery list, I allowed a bit of a splurge in the form of spicy Old Elpaso salsa instead of making my own. However I did make my own guacamole, as I only recently found a recipe for guac that tastes as good as the one you mix from the packet (it is so hard to get good guacamole out here). The oven roasted peas were an improvisation, since the pepper I had meant to use had turned moldy between the humidity & rain this week. I did learn that in oven-roasting the peas, from frozen, they taste as close to garden-fresh as possible. When I boil them they tend to lose their sweetness, but this method seemed to trap the moisture in and they were delicious! I am not usually brand-loyal, but the Bird's Eye ones we get here really are delicious.

As for the grocery bill, we unfortunately went over budget this week despite my best efforts to the contrary. Partially to blame is because I chose to make tacos with the taco seasoning, which required buying all the extras for fixings. Mostly to blame, however, is that we ran out of a bunch of staples (plain flour, olive oil, dish soap etc) and I also have a fair bit of baking planned this week (2 types of pizza doughs, Nanaimo bars, biscuits...) and that always means having to buy larger quantities of eggs and flour. We also have planned to eat at home every night this week, and we had our phone bill on this week’s shop, so that always makes it a bit much. Still, we try to keep our grocery bill to no more than £10/day for food for two people, excluding last minute snack purchases and we ended up below target for food.

This guacamole recipe is the only one that I've ever found to work, aside from ones where you use a packet of mix and add it to the avacados. Ones using fresh ingredients never seem to get the same depth of flavor, and the tomatoes always end up too runny and the onion is always too sharp and the garlic is overpowering. But this recipe tends to balance nicely, and it even worked on my less-than-ripe avacado (I used my food chopper to blend everything together, so it was more of a diced & seasoned avacado topping than a mashed guacamole). I always have the seasonings in my pantry, aside from salsa, but normally if we're having something that wants guacamole we're also having salsa so it's doesn't require a bunch of extra purchasing.

Storecupboard Guacamole
  • Avocados (number according to the size of the crowd)
  • About 1/8 tsp seasoning salt per avocado
  • About 2 tbsp salsa per avocado
  • About ¾ tsp garlic powder per avocado
  • About ½ tsp onion powder
  • About ½ tsp lemon or lime juice per avocado
  • Hot sauce to taste
 Mash avacado(s) and mix in other ingredients.


  1. During my last days in Paris, I picked up some guacamole off the shelf of a grocery store. What folly! What I opened in the hostel was not guacamole but green-tinged jelly with the odd taste of chemical. I threw it out. At home, I make a very simple guac: avocado, tomato (with watery part removed), crushed garlic, lime juice, salt. Which is very much like yours, except I never thought to try onion powder!

    1. I've tried one like yours, but I can never get the seasonings right.

      As for the guac, in England the only premade one I could fine comes in a plastic squeeze tube and is sold in the dry-goods aisle, which is not promising. It is so bitter tasting that David and I had to throw it out as well as a good portion of the food we put it on!