24 05 2011

Today, I have a large dollop of mayonnaise in my lunch box.

We get through quite a lot of mayonnaise in our house. At the end of last year we obtained half a bucket of it from a café that was closing down and we got through it in no time. It was gorgeous – the kind of mayonnaise that you get when you go out for a meal, not the kind that’s available in the supermarkets. We’ve got through a good few jars of it since that ran out, attested by the mass of empty jars in the cupboard waiting to be re-used. We also get through masses of ketchup and BBQ sauce.

In some cases, my lunch box being a case in point, I think the sauces are being used to make up for slightly flavourless cooking. I have left-over mash and peas in my lunch box and, while they were nice in the context of mince and Yorkshire puddings, they are not that nice on their own. It’s not a particularly bland mash (see here), it’s just not very appetising.

I’d like to have a go at making some sauces in bulk and jarring them up at home. To be quite honest, I don’t have a clue what BBQ sauce is even made of and I don’t know what’s in ketchup beyond tomato and sugar. It would also be interesting to see how much bang we get for our buck, so below are the prices of the sauces we are currently buying. At first glance, it looks as though there may not be an awful lot to be saved on mayonnaise at least.

Sauce Price
Mayonnaise 7.6p/100ml
Ketchup 10.0p/100g
BBQ Sauce 31.3p/100g

So, what goes into each of these sauces?

There seem to be quite a few different recipes for mayonnaise out there, but the common ingredients seem to be eggs, oil (various kinds have featured), lemon juice or vinegar, some kind of mustard and salt & pepper.

The tomato ketchup making taking some experimenting with. The recipes I have seen so far required large quantities of fresh tomatoes, which we are unlikely to have. We can, however, get tinned ones at 77.5p/kg. We will also be needing sugar, which we should be able to get at 82p/kg. There don’t actually seem to be any other ingredients common to all the recipes and the quantities of sugar required seem to vary enormously.

BBQ sauce recipes seem to vary massively, so the most sensible starting point would seem to be the ingredients of the product we’re currently buying (see below), which sounds rather costly. Another experiment, or perhaps we need to just make up our own.

Water, Sugar, Concentrated Tomato Purée (14%), Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Cane Molasses, Spirit Vinegar, Modified Maize Starch, Red Wine Vinegar, Apple Purée, Salt, Natural Flavouring, Smoke Flavouring, Preservatives (Sodium Metabisulphite, Sulphur Dioxide)

I will try to fit this in over the weekend and post an update and, hopefully, some results! I suspect it’s something we’re not going to save much money on, but it’ll be fun, maybe healthier and, who knows? We may end up with something we prefer to commercially-available brands.

It would be great to hear other people’s sauce experiences and recipes!


The mash was made by finely chopping, but not peeling, the potatoes and par-boiling them. I then didn’t drain them, but just added a dash of milk and a few spoons full of stock from the mince I was cooking.


Mince and tomato pie

21 05 2011

Tonight, we were right at the end of the week’s grocery supplies and were out of fresh fruit/veg, apart from onions. I’d taken some mince out to defrost last night and we’ve had quite a lot of pasta and rice recently, so I thought I’d knock up a pie.


Makes four good-sized portions, sufficient to be eaten on their own.

For the filling

  • 500g mince
  • 2 – 3 cups of porridge oats
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 4 teaspoonfuls of rosemary (optional)
  • 3 small red onions

For the pastry


Before starting on the pastry, I put the mince, three teaspoonfuls of dried rosemary and 3 small, red onions, diced, in a frying pan and left them to brown. At the same time, I put a pan of porridge on to boil for a few minutes. When the oats are mixed in with the mince and sauce, you really can’t taste that they’re there – they are just a cheap way of bulking out meat. I was using them in bolognese, chilli and pies for ages without anyone noticing; it was my leaving the packet out that gave the game away in the end! Once the porridge is cooked, rinse thoroughly with boiling water to get rid of the white gloopy residue and just leave the oats.

Pie filling

Check that the mince is thoroughly browned, then add the porridge and the tin of chopped tomatoes and stir together thoroughly. Leave it to simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the pan.

Perhaps because ready-made pastry is available in the supermarkets, there seems to be a perception that pastry must be tricky or time-consuming to make. This really is not the case. There are three core ingredients for pastry: plain flour, butter and water. The weight of the flour should be twice that of the butter. Cut the butter into the flour with a knife (see below) and then rub with your finger-tips until all the lumps of butter have been thoroughly dispersed and the mixture has a bread-crumb-like texture (see below). Add water by the teaspoonful until the pastry binds together and leaves the bowl (and your fingers!) clean. If you find you’ve added too much water and the pastry becomes too sticky, just add a little more flour, but do this cautiously: don’t let the flour to butter ratio get too far from 2:1.

Cutting in the butter

Flour and butter rubbed together to achieve a bread-crumb-like consistency

Ready to roll!

Choose a smooth surface to roll out your pastry and dust it with flour; this will help prevent the pastry from sticking. If you don’t have a rolling pin, don’t worry – a smooth bottle or glass will do just as well! Dust your rolling pin (or substitute!) with flour too – although it left your fingers and the bowl clean, it’s still sticky stuff! Roll out your pastry, turning it as you go, so that it’s rolled in each direction and is an even shape – don’t let it get long and thin, unless you’re using a long, thin dish for your pie of course.

No rolling pins here!

Grease an oven-proof dish and lift the pastry onto the top of it, gently easing it down into the dish. There’s no need to push it too far into the corners: it will settle once you’ve filled it.

Ease the pastry into the dish

Pour the filling in and fold the edges of the pastry over to cover the top. Personally, I don’t see the need to try and make it look pretty for the average meal – it will still taste the same and it’s a lot quicker to just use the one sheet of pastry, rather than cutting out a base and a lid.

Filled pie-crust

Top folded over

Sprinkle a teaspoonful of rosemary over the pastry and put the pie in the oven at 190C for half an hour or until the pastry is cooked.

The finished article

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