eight ways get your moneys worth

A whole chicken roasted is a Sunday ritual, even a birthday dinner. A dish to be anticipated, requested and shared. It would be wrong to celebrate by eating a bird that had been treated cruelly, was ill, or drugged. Conventional meat chickens (I mean those not labelled free range or organic regardless of brand) could be ill, may be fed antibiotics to make sure they grow excruciatingly fast or be barely able to walk.  click here to read the Dec 2012 TVNZ article. This has been much in the news lately and quite rightly so.  I would like to congratulate "safe" on their recent campaigns raising awareness of animal cruelty in factory farming in New Zealand.

In my house only free range or organic chicken is eaten.  This may sound pretentious or as though we are dripping in cash but the truth is, I would rather go without chicken than eat cheap tasteless crapPerhaps it is just growing up on farms, or maybe I'm a bit of an old nanna, but in my books chicken is a treat worth paying for.

I wont have it in the house, but here are some other places I wont support unhappy meat either; in a frozen meal, a restaurant meal, a bakery chicken sandwich, a cafe salad, on a plane or a pizza or even at a party.  If free range or organic chicken is not stated I am  more comfortable being a little hungry.  I'm in no danger of starving, I'll grab something, somewhere-else later.

Watching our for the "implied organic" in cafe's and restaurants important too.  Like the "Organic" cafe at Auckland airport where the only thing organic is the coffee (I asked).

It is one thing to have a wee rant like this, but another to offer some useful hints, I have been eating organic and free range on a moderate (sometimes less so) income for nearly ten years.  The key to making it affordable is not sexy. It is good old fashioned planning and stingy frugalness behind the scenes.  Here are a few of my tricks for bringing organic and free-range into range for the meager food budget.

8 ways to get your moneys worth in the organic and free range world...
  1. Use the scraps, there may not be time to make a stock today, but chicken bones will keep in the freezer until you have a moment, roasted bones will still make a stock.
  2. Stash it; if you are not making a gravy, set aside the pan scrapings to flavour another dish, adding these to chicken stock gives it a lovely roast chicken flavour, also handy if I need a gravy but didn't get many pan juices(or I burned them)
  3. Buy on special and freeze to take advantage of good price points.
  4. Use organic or free range chicken as a condiment rather than the main event, risottos and pilafs are a great place to start.
  5. Serve heaps of vegetables and pulses with your chicken to keep everyone satisfied and excited.
  6. Cultivate a relationship with your butcher, support their business and they are bound to appreciate you. 
  7. Serve with fruit and vegetables purchased in the middle of the season when they are most plentiful and therefore at the best price.
  8. Flavour your chicken meals with  your own herbs they add excitement and give you versatility. They are much cheaper to grow than to buy as there is a lot less wastage.
As a general note the website for the Wellington based organics store commonsense organics  is a great resource of anyone interested in more general information on organics.

Beware the Warranty..

Standing at the kitchen bench pretending not to eat the roast chicken this evening I started thinking about pots.  I had roasted our chicken in my big le creuset.  It used to belong to my mother, it will probably be handed on to my daughter.  I am a stinge with pots and pans, I own only what I need, no more no less.  My collection of pots has been scrounged second hand from family members, friends, sales at old jobs and the odd junk shop.

Tell me about your favourite cookware, fancy, old, new or borrowed..
I own very few pans under 25 years, however the worst pot I own I bought a little over two years ago.  A medium sized stock pot purchased new with a warranty and everything.   This pot pitted at its very first use (crayfish stock). The manufacturer helpline claimed the shop should exchange and the shop stated the manufacturer should replace.   Mid book shoot, while organising my wedding and filming a pilot for a TV show this pot got filed in the too hard basket. I spot it occasionally at the back of the shed and groan, I could have had new fancy shoes for the price of that damn pot.

This experience keeps me sober when I get all hot about having new cookware, or cookware that matches, or stuff that stacks tidily.  The old pots are the best, in second hand shops I make a bee-line for kitchen stuff, every few years it pays off (last year I got a lovely black enamelware roaster with its original leaf imprint lid).

The only positive exception is my tall enamel dipped pot. Lime green, probably the reason for the sale price, it is perfect for my Chinese whole chicken soup. This pot also served as a jam pan until I got a real preserver. I used my lime green beauty on Good Morning and it received more comments than I ever got. This pot is scratched and sad inside but a quick re-enameled and it will be tickity-boo. It may be a new pot but it has old values.

A counting and re-appreciation of my current pots;
  1. milk pan, bought to celebrate being single again, fantasy of morning cappuccinos and the lifestyle section of the paper all to myself.
  2. small saucepan; from the sale of old pots at Nestle NZ when we upgraded the kitchen
  3. medium saucepan
  4. medium saucepan; as above
  5. medium le creuset; broken handle, still works though...
  6. large le creuset; found it  with the medium one in the woolshed at mums. Remember her getting these for Christmas when I was about 6.
  7. tall enamelware pot, closing down sale at Nest - 30 bucks, total score.
  8. crappy stockpot, hmm no further comment
  9. giant heavy gauge stockpot, left over from when I had a catering company
  10. preserving pan, wedding present!
  11. cast iron frying pan, a hand-me-down from dear friends up north
  12. small seafood frying pan- was in a kitchen we took over to open a restaurant
Beware the warranty, the oldies are the best. 

The Gloves are Off on Intolerances...

As a chef I didn't  believe in food intolerances.  I thought that most "gluten free" people needed to get tested and were probably just faking it.  I was pretty sure that lactose intolerance in the Caucasian population was a myth, although I swore Soy milk was better for my skin....When a friends wife got "bovine allergy", I giggled behind my hand. 

Although I reckon its a great idea to eat a variety of food and not a mono diet I basically thought "What rot!". 

However I am now eating my hat... Since the bodily trauma of childbearing, birth and finally a caesarian my guts have hit the skids. 
So taking my own advice to heart, with a shamed face, I stomped off to the naturopath to get tested.  Suspecting a dairy intolerance I switched to oat milk, switched my new daughters supplementary formula (I didn't have enough milk because I was suddenly allergic to everything and she started losing weight) to goats milk.   We awaited the results.  To my husbands amusement it came back that I am allergic to not Dairy but Soy and yes, intolerant to gluten, pork, hazelnuts, and the deadly nightshade family; potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines et al, oh and caffeine.

It seems that no matter how much I try to ignore these new dietary guidelines my body will not comply.  A sniff of praline or a hint of bacon and I'm groaning and clutching my belly for a good 48 hours.  Last nights soy sauce chicken a cause for complaint. As a food writer I despair at having lost so much food from my pantry of ingredients.  I believe that the overload can be cleared with a good rest..  Fingers firmly crossed that a short stint of abstinence will reset these intolerable intolerance's.  But when it all boils down a life without toast, tofu, soy lattes and blts ain't so bad.

I'd love to hear about your intolerable intolerances, let me know what you've discovered in the comments....

The Return...

After many months off line due to "trolls" @laurafaire is back!