I have been feeling very upset about the huge rise in people needing to use foodbanks in Britain. There is so much being kept out of the regular news –  http://welfarenewsservice.com/disabled-man-found-fit-work-killed-sickness-benefits-stopped/  [  ‘This article was written by Steven Preece and first published by the Welfare News Service on 26/12/13 and has been reproduced here with permission’] WNS are great and keep reporting what the papers barely touch, including that within 6 weeks of having their benefits stopped, so many disabled people are killing themselves, well over a thousand in 2013, as the bedroom tax has made a bad situation worse.

The more upset I get, the more pain I feel, that’s the way fibromyalgia works sadly, so please understand I am not glossing over this situation when I say I am choosing to make myself feel better by doing what I can: finding a candle to light in the darkness.

I have made a test batch of high protein, delicious protein bars (taste like ordinary flapjack/yummy cake) but will release energy in stages – sugar rush, then fruit, nuts and oats…to get a child through to their free lunch or an adult from one shift to the next.

They’re also great for us pain and fatigue peeps! I’ve been having one 80g slice for breakfast and it keeps me full for at least 4 hours. Of course I’m not doing heavy labouring, but even so, pretty good… It’s like having a small bowl of VERY rich muesli 😉

I’ve also made a savoury version, more like a scone, but again with a much higher protein count, with grated cheese or finely chopped nuts. I’ll add some more photos when the chili nuts come next week and I make the next batch.

Now I’m on disability benefits so can’t afford to spend a lot on ingredients, so how can I use my catering skills not just to adapt a recipe, but to exploit my knowledge of how nonsensical best before dates often are, and use completely safe, but supposedly out of date ingredients from my online bargain store?

I’ve marked AF next to an ingredient if I got it cheaper than normal, and my costings are based on being able to get similar bargains fairly regularly.

My Approved Foods challenge: vegan suet is 5 bags @ 180g for £1!

Savoury Scones

DSC_009012oz S R flour       6oz/18og suet AF

2oz/50g sunflower seeds AF

6oz grated cheese or 150g FINELY chopped chili or dry roasted peanuts AF

black pepper, mustard to taste eg 1/2 to 1 TEAspoon

sea salt (if no salt with the nuts) AF

10fl oz/ half pint of cold water

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Mix the dry ingredients, including the suet, with your well washed hands or a fork. Add most of the water and stir gently with a dinner/table knife. The aim is to make a soft dough, that holds its shape but is NOT sticky, so if necessary add the last bit of water very slowly. One fist of dough makes 2 scones. If you look at the photo, you can see I haven’t needed to use any flour to make the dough workable.

Shape into 12 large rounds (like scones!) or make oblongs and space well apart on greased baking trays, dab tops with a drip of water (or milk or egg)

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Bake for 30 min at gas 5/ 200 c / in a warm – hot oven until crisp and golden brown. If necessary turn upside down after  20 mins (my oven’s fan is very iffy!)

If you make a cup soup or hot marmite, you can balance the scone over it or dunk  to warm the scone, so someone in fuel poverty can get a hearty snack with one mug of hot water 🙂

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PAN SOUP: CARROT AND CUMIN

I also made a carrot and cumin soup, very simple, just well fried onions and 2 green peppers, add 1 litre of boiling water with 2 veggie stock cubes or 1 TABLEspoon of Marmite/Vecon, then 1 kg of half price carrots, topped, tailed and cut into chunks. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. I whizz my soup with a blender stick, but you can chop the carrots smaller and skip that! This made 6 medium to large bowls, so multiply out as necessary 😉

I added black pepper, sea salt, mustard and 1 TEAspoon of cumin seeds for flavour (and cumin is good for boosting immune system) but you could use any herbs you like 😉

if you’re worried your child might not like it, well, Emilia’s Finn liked both

DSC_0055-001soup and scone 🙂

There were smiles from another visitor too, who took home two scones for another day 😉 I suggested toasting or warming them, as we had them warm from the oven, which made them extra yummy 😉 You can even fry them, like a stovey/ hash brown.

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Easy Flapjack

flapjack can be shaped to ‘breakfast bars’ and make a very nutritious snack/ meal if you use lots of nuts and dried fruits (rich in minerals as well as sweet!) Mountaineers use Trail mix, so think how much energy dried fruit, nuts and seeds have in 🙂

375 g/ 120z vegan margarine gently melted on a low heat with

250g/ 8oz brown sugar and 100g golden syrup

until they bubble

I added:

125g/40z  deluxe fruit and nuts, (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds finely chopped in a whizzer) AF

[but 100g salted peanuts, 1 TABLEspoon each of peanut butter and lemonjuice is a great variation and cheaper] AF

then 500g/ 1lb oats/oatmeal/ flapjack kits AF

stir until stiff, being careful to not let the ground nuts burn onto the pan base!

Turn out into a large foil case or 2 swiss roll tins and press down well with the back of the wooden spoon.

Bake at 200 c/ gas 5 for 10 mins, then turn tin/s round and bake for another 10 -15 mins until it is dark golden brown.

Leave to cool in the trays! When completely cool turn onto a chopping board and cut into bars, 5 cm/2″ wide. If they are crumbly, cut them into 8cm squares instead and add more golden syrup or less raisins etc next time.

I once baked and sold 800 flapjack slices as a fundraiser on a stall at North Shields Fish Quay Festival! Oh my! Today my hand is really cramped after making one foil tray!

But they taste very good, Elizabeth enjoyed her slice and said what a difference the ground nuts make 😉 and I have had plenty for visitors over New Year as well as my breakfasts 🙂

I am going to keep one of each for as long as it takes to go mouldy so I can put a use-by date on for the food bank. To be honest I’ve never seen mouldy flapjack, too much sugar and fat, it’s a descendant of pemmican and other foods stored by encasing in fat with sugar. The scones I think will be fine for a week, they have sea salt in, but they will get drier – one good reason to use suet rather than margarine, suet pastries are moister, not just because they’re often steamed, but the way the fat is isolated within the flour.. read some Heston Blumenthal for the science 😉

Altogether, I’m very pleased with my experiment, and the tasters agree, challenge MET! There was no indication that discount ingredients had been used, but the batches costed out at roughly half to a third price because margarine is so dear now (particularly vegan) and dried fruit and nuts and even oats are a lot dearer (agrochemicals as well as delivery costs go up when oil prices rise…)

Savoury Scones – 12 large scones £1.60/ 13.3p, say 15p each inc gas and they have protein in and are MUCH more satisfying than a bread roll

Flapjack – 14 large bars (80 – 100g, over twice the size of an ordinary breakfast bar)

£3.20/ 23p, say 25p each once wrapped and labelled, at cheaper than the price of a 40g bar…with protein in…

For £5 I can give 26 high protein meal replacements, well worth it?

And because they look and taste like a treat, I hope people will use and enjoy them, and feel a little more cared for, instead of being kicked when they are down 😉

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