Thursday, April 17, 2014

Life's Too Short....

Firstly, a big thank you to all who sent me birthday greetings.  It was a lovely sunny day, no wind, and it felt almost timeless as we drove over to Lancaster to our daughter's house.  So many trees covered in blossom.  Even the bluebells are flowering, at least 3 weeks earlier than normal.
It was altogether a lovely day, one of my best for a long time.

Just a couple of comments I wish to reply to.  Mary in Perth (Australia) has asked in the Dairy Cookbook is still available from our milkmen.   As milkmen now are becoming few and far between, cannot myself answer this, but maybe a reader still has her milk delivered and can give the answer.

Like you Pam, I am wary of getting involved in spiritualism, although am still attending the meetings (3 so far).  A recent enquiry from a reader asked whether the mediums charged for their services.  My neighbour asked this very question on Tuesday and we were told they did not.  Some who had travelled long distances sometimes claimed expenses only, but mostly they did not, even if it had cost them quite a bit to get to Morecambe (they come from all over the country).
However, I have had some rather strange experiences since I went to the first meeting, nothing frightening, more like a door opening.  Will have to see what happens on Saturday when the plan is my neighbour and I go to another meeting where there will be a medium in attendance.

This afternoon was watching a repeat of a Hairy Biker's cookery prog.  They were discussing the market place (farmer's markets, the rise of supermarkets etc).  They visited an organic farm, the first to deliver the organic veggie boxes around the country, and I noticed the name 'Riverford' in their café.  This is the company that supplies my veggie box.  It was good to hear all about how it began, and how it has progressed since then.

A few easy recipes today.  The first makes use of courgettes - these not my favourite veg, but no doubt they will appear in the veggie box so about time I found recipes such as this to make use of them.
When I have no fresh mint then I use a teaspoon of mint sauce (from a jar).

Courgette and Potato Frittata: serves 2
2 medium potatoes, sliced
1 tblsp olive oil
2 medium courgettes, sliced
4 eggs
handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped
salt and pepper
4 oz (100g) Cheddar cheese, grated
Boil the potatoes for about 5 minutes or until just cooked, then drain and set aside.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the courgettes for about 5 minutes until golden , then add the potatoes and fry for a further couple of minutes.
Break the eggs into a bowl and add the mint and seasoning to taste.  Beat together the pour this into the pan over the potatoes/courgettes.  Give a brief stir so the egg falls into any gaps, then reduce heat and continue cooking for 5 minutes.
As the egg begins to set, but still slightly runny, sprinkle the cheese on top then place under a pre-heated grill and cook for 5 minutes until the eggs  are set and the cheese is bubbling and browning. Serve cut into wedges.  Good eaten alone or with salad.

This next dish can be as simple or as complicated as you wish.  The basic recipe is given, but any vegetables that go well with the potatoes and eggs can be included.  It's a cross between a Full English Breakfast, and a pizza, with a nodding resemblance to the frittata above.  I'd definitely be using a lot of onions (because I like them) and sliced, cooked sausage (or chorizo). Or maybe ham, corned beef, Spam.  It's a great dish to use up tiny amounts of mushrooms, red peppers, frozen veg such as peas and string beans, and not forgetting that last rasher of bacon.  My mouth is already watering at the thought of it.  Pity it is too late for me to make it like NOW!

Please note, this is intended to be a meal for one, and probably would be if you use only the ingredients given, but include any (or all) the above and a few more eggs and it should then feed the five thousand.

Use What You Have Eggs plus: serves 1
1 tblsp olive oil
2 cooked potatoes, sliced
few cherry tomatoes, halved
1 shallot, sliced
pinch salt, generous amount of pepper
basil leaves for garnish (opt)
Put the oil in a frying pan and fry the potatoes until golden brown. Add the tomatoes and shallots and fry for a couple of minutes until softened.  Season to taste (plenty of pepper), then shove the potatoes etc around the sides of the pan leaving room in the centre, into this break the egg and continue to cook until as set (or runny) as you like. Scatter the basil leaves on top (if using) and serve.

Final recipe is a speedy way to make Minestrone Soup.  Or a cheat's way if you prefer. It's a good way to use up small amounts of frozen veg.  Either from a pack of mixed veg, or make up your own mixture. If you have no spaghetti, crush up larger pieces.  
Although this is a vegetarian soup, no reason why we couldn't make it with beef stock and include a little cooked minced beef.

Minestrone in Minutes: serves 4
4 oz (100g) spaghetti
1.75pts (1 ltr) hot vegetable stock
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
12 oz (350g) frozen vegetables
4 tblsp pesto
olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese
Break up the spaghetti into small pieces, then set aside.   Into a saucepan put the stock and canned tomatoes and bring to the boil.  Add the spaghetti and cook for 5 minutes or so or until the pasta is almost (but not quite) al dente., then add the veggies and bring back to the boil.  Simmer for 2 - 3 minutes until the veggies and pasta are just cooked (don't overcook). Serve the soup in individual bowls, and drizzle over the pesto, a little oil and a good sprinkling of Parmesan.  

'Life's too short to stuff a mushroom',  Shirley Conran (was it?) once said.  Well, I don't agree.  Today I was choosing the mushrooms from the large 'value' box (Tesco) for B's stir-fry, and the 'rooms were so fresh that I really fancied eating some myself.  I love raw mushrooms when they are as fresh as that.  So I helped myself to 8 large 'caps', removed the stalks (they went into B's stir-fry), and stuffed some of the centres with some chilli-flavoured Philly-type cheese, and the rest with some Moroccan-style hummous.  They were really, really tasty.

Although Philadelphia cheese can be bought chilli-flavoured, I tend to make up my own by buying the cheaper Tesco cream cheese, and then folding in some of my favourite Heinz Fiery Chilli Ketchup.  It works out cheaper and tastes just the same (if not better, as I can add more chilli).
I suppose there are all sorts of spreads that could be used to stuff a mushroom - peanut butter for instance.  Or smoked mackerel pate (or any other pate for that matter).  Not more than a teaspoon of filling is needed for each mushroom, so a little goes a long way.  Would make a good buffet 'nibble'.

Like the Queen, I also have an 'official' birthday.  Or like to think I have as I was born on Easter Sunday so I count that as my special day too.  Only twice since I was born has my date of birth fallen on that day.  Perhaps never again in my lifetime.

Anyway, that's it for today.  As am busy over the next few days, am planning to take a break from blogging over Easter, however as I get withdrawal symptoms if I leave it too long, my next blog should be published on Monday.  Do hope you all have a lovely Easter holiday and make the most of the good weather while we have it (due to rain Sun/Mon further south).  And thanks again for all your lovely comments.  TTFN.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spring has Sprung!

It's been a beautiful day today.  Washing dried almost in minutes after hanging on the line, and it always smells so much fresher when dried outdoors, rather than on in indoor airer.

When we drove out this afternoon (en route to the Spiritualist Church), the houses that had front gardens were full of flowering trees, huge magnolias, ornamental cherries, and others whose name I cannot remember.  Our small pear tree (planted 3 - 4 years ago) is loaded with blossom.  Let us hope we don't get any severe frosts.  There was supposed to be some last night, but no sign of it in our garden that is sheltered by trees, shrubs and high fences, also neighbouring houses are fairly close, the back gardens being quite small.

There were not so many people at the discussion group this afternoon, and have to say quite a lot of the time I was speaking about my 'psychic experiences' over my life-time.  They wish me to develop these and they do have development meetings, but to attend these I'd have to join the church.  This is not something I had planned on doing, and really would not wish to (preferring to feel a free spirit if you like), but can continue attending the discussion meeting and the Saturday ones where there is a medium who passes on messages etc.   So will just have to go with the flow for the moment and then see what happens (if anything), and take it from there.

This evening watched the first episode of The Allotment series, and feel a bit confused.  It seems that the contestants will be competing against each other, growing fruits and vegetables, and when they are ready to harvest, then these are compared.   At the end of the first episode, it had been several months before the necessary crops were ready to pick, and not all in the same month.  But two competitors were voted off because what they had done wasn't up to the quality of the rest.

Well, if they all started off by growing the same things, some cropping early, some cropping later, it could be that the later crops already being grown by the losers would have done very well indeed, so it doesn't seem a very fair judgment.  Even so, if you like gardening and exhibiting, it was an interesting programme.  From the cooks viewpoint I'd rather eat misshapen produce that has excellent flavour than a plateful that look exactly the same with hardly any taste at all.  For isn't that what vegetables are all about?  To eat, not admire.

Thanks Mandy for your comment, yes of course I do remember you.  Please don't feel sad about your granddad, he would almost certainly 'visit' you from time to time, probably when you dream.  Problem is many people don't remember their dreams.  On those mornings when you wake up and feel happy for no particular reason, feel assured that contact has been made with the person you wished.
This last Saturday a 'message' from my Mother was sent to me. Something was said that was so unusual that I'd be the only one there to know about it, so really did believe there was some sort of connection.  But my mother died in 1981 and this was the first time she had 'approached' me, although had appeared in dreams with my father now and again, but nothing that made me think she was contacting me directly.

A welcome to LesleyLynn.  Have vague memories of that 'Pashka' recipe, and did make this Easter dessert for several years, but not now for a long time.  It was very good.

Good gracious Margie, the weather in Canada turned cold again.  Suppose in a way it is a bit like that over here.  We were supposed to have good weather over the Easter holiday but now it seems that part of the country (further south) will have rain.  It is very warm when in the sunshine, but quite cold in the shade, so although it feels (and looks) as though it could almost be summer, we still have a long way to go. 

Your idea of prepping veggies in advance can be a good idea, but the problem with this is that sometimes they then start to lose vitamins quite rapidly, especially once peeled.  A quick blanch in boiling water, then drained and refreshed under a cold tap, and drained again before putting into bags and kept chilled could prevent vitamin loss.   It goes without saying that the very best way to eat vegetables is within minutes of being harvested, but at least nature does allow some to have a longer 'shelf' life (root veggies, potatoes, onions, squashes etc) so we can keep eating 'fresh' through the winter months.  It is the leafy veg that lose vitamins rapidly. 
When lettuces are picked, they stay 'fresh' longer if the root end (with roots still intact) is stood in water, so it keeps on growing for a while.  Same with cabbage, and Brussels sprouts (pick the whole stem and plunge the end into water).
Not of course that I tend to do any of this.  I just buy and eat the veggies that need eating first, and even these could be several days older than they should be.

Many thanks to Eileen for her good wishes (and she did visit me later this afternoon so an added bonus).  Her books mentioned (Dairy book and Bero) are some of the most widely used.  It sounds as though the Bero book is still available.  Is it the same as I remember, about 9" long and 4" wide? Brown in colour, with sepia coloured printing and illustrations?

As Eileen mentioned, tomorrow is my birthday (will be 81!!!!), and B and I will be going to our daughter's for a birthday meal.  It could be that I'll be tired when we get home, so I may miss writing my blog Wednesday night (for Thursday), but will blog on Thursday night to publish ready for Friday.  May also take much of the Easter weekend off (blogging), but again this depends on what we will be doing.   My suggestion is 'just watch this space' as sooner rather than later I plan to return. 

Had a delivery from Tesco this morning - a week earlier than normal but wanted to have enough in for Easter (my excuse).  I ordered the free-range medium eggs for £1, and when the groceries arrived there was one substitution.  The 'Tesco free-range medium eggs' not available.  The substitution was g 'Tesco Lancashire free-range eggs' for £1.  Checked the price of the latter on the Tesco web-site and they were £1 anyway, and under the Tesco label, so what's the difference?

It is now exactly midnight as I write (happy birthday me), so I'm planning to go to bed soon, so just one recipe to end with.  Even though a goodly amount of watercress is used, it doesn't have to be so much and myself would use the bits of watercress that are often left over from a bunch or bag (these soon wilt so need using up).  The semi-soft cheese used could be Brie, Boursin, soft goat's cheese, or the Philly-type cream cheese (plain or flavoured with herbs/chives).
Instead of using risotto rice (Arborio), instead make this using pearl barley (cooks in less time if soaked in cold water for a few hours before cooking).

Watercress and Cream Cheese Risotto: serves 4
2.5 pints (1.5 ltrs) hot vegetable stock
knob butter
1 tblsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
12 oz (350g) Arborio rice
1 bunch watercress, chopped (see above)
4 oz (100g) semi-soft or cream cheese
Have the stock simmering in a pan on the hob.  Take a wide saucepan or deep frying pan and melt the butter with the oil over medium heat, then fry the onion for 3 minutes.  Stir in the rice until all the grains are coated and shiny.  Pour in a ladle of the stock and simmer until completely absorbed, then continue adding stock, a ladle at a time, continuing to stir until the rice is tender (takes about 25 minutes). Add the watercress and cheese.  Remove from heat, and if you wish add another knob of butter.  Give a final stir, then serve.

That's it until my next blog (may be tomorrow, maybe the day after). Enjoy this spring weather while we have it,  and we'll meet again soon.  TTFN. xx


Too Much of a Good Thing

Seems as though we are going to have good weather over the Easter holiday.  Frost is forecast tonight over much of the country (due to clear skies) and am hoping the pear tree - now in full bloom - will not get caught.  It is close to our garage wall that soaks up the sunlight during the day, and as it has been a glorious sunny day today, am hoping the wall with let out the warmth towards the tree during the night.

Lovely comments from readers (as always).  Thanks to all for your good wishes, and pleased to say I am feeling quite a bit better now, still tend to feel tired, but not now exhausted.  Even my knees are not as painful as they were. 

A few replies from me.  Joy - who has loads of cookery books - will probably find, like me, that many of the recipes have never been tried.  They do say that only 2% of recipes in cook books are ever used, and as most cook books tend to give about 100, that means only 2 of them.  Have to say in some of my cook books 0% have been used.  With others, about 5%.  With the older books, like the Marguerite Patten 'Cookery in Colour', think I must have made about 75% of the recipes.  If not more.

As I so often say, all recipes in the newer cookbooks (over the last decade or so) are all variations on classic dishes.  Some may seem to be new, and maybe new to us if they originated from the other side of the world, but even these are normally based on traditional ones, cooked for centuries.

Today my thoughts went to ingredients used, not specific recipes, and suppose that it would be quite possible to 'invent' a new dish based on ingredients that have always gone well together.  Bed mates we could call them.   It's a bit like that 'deconstructed' Ploughman's Lunch I mentioned the other day. Bread, cheese, onion and a glass of ale.   Or put together in a different way turn out as a variation of French Onion Soup. 

My Beloved's stir-fries are quite often is made from the same veggies that I use to make vegetable soup (celery, carrot, onion, peppers).  Adding a few more could turn it into almost an Italian Minestrone soup.  So it's all to do with how ingredients are put together. 

An apple and blackberry crumble is virtually the same as an apple pie.  The only difference being the crumble mix (made exactly the same as pastry without adding any liquid), has sugar added.   And of course Spaghetti Bolognese uses exactly the same ingredients as when making a Lasagne, or Cannelloni.  It's just the pasta 'shape' that is different, and the presentation.

With Alison mentioning her allotment, this has reminded me that there is a new series begins tomorrow (a bit like '...Bake off' but growing veg instead of baking).  Allotment growers compete against each other to see who can grow the best of this, that or the other.  BBC 2 at 8.00pm. It should make good viewing.

Both Alison and Jane are interested in my visit to the spiritualist church.  The reason I went was because my lovely neighbour - who sadly lost her husband just about a year ago - has been feeling a bit down and she expressed a desire to go to this church and would I accompany her?  So I did. 
We chose the day when there was an informal discussion group, and it was really nice.  Only about a dozen there (including we two), and we sat in a circle, sang a few hymns, and just chatted about things of interest that had happened to each during the week.  As we were new, we had nothing much to say, but there were three mediums there who sort of picked up 'vibes' from certain members, including me, and said what had come into their head.  

Although I'm very open minded I don't necessarily believe everything I'm told, most of it far too vague, and could have applied to anyone.  In fact when others were 'contacted', what was said could have applied to me too.
However, the people were so pleasant and I really felt I known them for years, and we are going again tomorrow to a similar meeting.

However, on Saturday evening we went to the same church, this time to listen to a visiting medium, and again not too many in the congregation - about 20 or so.  After a few hymns and a bit of meditation, the medium began to gather info from his spirit contacts and passed messages onto various members of the congregation.  Much of the time I again felt that what was said could have applied to me.
My neighbour and I were sitting slightly apart from the rest and she was so hoping to have a message from her (now deceased) husband.  Then the medium turned and looked towards us and said he had much to say, but it was to me (I felt so sorry because my friend must have been disappointed). 
Certain names were given and I did recognise them, also the names of a couple of friends who were still 'in this life'.  These were accurate.  My mother 'came through', not much was said, but something very strange at the end.  The medium mentioned he was to 'give' me a red rose, AND freesias - these meant something.

The day my mother died I had bought her a bunch of freesias (one of her favourite flowers, the others being sweet peas and roses), and she had died before I reached the hospital.  So I left them with her body, and also threw a bunch of freesias onto her coffin when it was lowered into the ground.  So that really did mean something to me.  

However, I was very poker-faced all the time I was being spoken to, it is so easy for someone to say something that sort of 'fits' if you know what I mean.  I would need to hear a special name, and we have many unusual ones in my family, before I could really trust anyone.  This is not to say the medium was not authentic, I just want to be sure before I feel more secure. 

However, it does seem, from the discussion group and what I mentioned and what was said that I am very psychic (that is something I suspected as readers may remember the many strange things that have happened to me that I've written about).  I told them I was too scared to develop it as I didn't know where it would lead me - what with all the evil spirits that might be about. 
One strange thing was said to me: "you've spent much of your life inspiring people".  How she managed to work that out I don't know.  Or even whether she was right. 

Anyway, at both meetings I felt so very much at home that I shall continue to go just to see if anything unusual happens.  Even this week I've had a few strange experiences happen, so maybe a bit of my brain has woken up after a deep sleep.  Last night I had the most lovely dream where my late auntie came to visit me, she had such a pretty dress on, a sort of golden aura all round her, and she had the most lovely happy smile on her face, and handed me a huge bunch of mixed flowers, all the colours of the rainbow.  A dream maybe, but even so.....

But I'm not here to chat about the paranormal.  Recipes coming up.  First is a warm salad, best made with the new season's Jersey potatoes (there are none better), but as nowadays we can buy baby 'new' potatoes all year round they are as good as any.  Even - dare I say it - the canned potatoes could be used.
This could be a good dish to serve this weekend if entertaining family or friends. Any left-overs can be chilled to eat cold with a green salad and cold meat the following day.  Or just reduce the amount by half or a quarter if that's all you need.

Warm Potato Salad: serves 12
3lb 5oz (1.5kg) baby new potatoes
3 tblsp Dijon mustard
grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
5 fl oz (150ml) extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
large bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
6 spring onions, sliced diagonally
Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 10 - 12 minutes until just tender.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the mustard with the lemon zest and juice, then slowly whisk in the oil to make a smooth emulsion.  Add seasoning to taste.
When the potatoes are ready, drain and tip into a large bowl, sprinkling over the dressing, then gently mix together.  Set aside for about 15 minutes so that the potatoes can absorb some of the flavour of the dressing, then add the parsley and spring onions, folding them into the potatoes.  Add more seasoning if necessary.  Serve whilst still warm.

One can hardly call the above recipe inspiring, but it's now well on the way to 2.00am on this Tuesday morning, so l really need to get to bed, and writing out more recipes is not top priority at this time of night.  Perhaps I should go back to daylight blogging.  
Tomorrow, after our next visit to the discussion group, maybe I'll have more spiritual chat to share.  Or maybe you frown on this sort of thing.  Me - I always try to keep an open mind.  Not everyone believes in the same things.  What is right for one can seem to be wrong for another.  Live and let live.  Believe me, I've dabbled my toes in almost every religion to find the right one for me', and still have not yet found it.  Most religions seem to have a that theirs is the only true one (and those who don't belong will have no place in heaven) and that type of belief is not for me thank you very much.
We are all God's children, every last one of us.  It's how we act in this world, not which church we belong to that matters. 

Don't worry, I'm not a 'holier than thou' person, I just make as much a mess of my life as the next, and no doubt have committed more sins than even I thought possible.  Can't waste my time regretting things, just have to put up with painful knee joints (perhaps that is my penance). 
Expect me back again tomorrow evening, maybe a little bit earlier, these late nights are causing me to rise later than I should (so still waste half the morning).  TTFN.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Another Week Begins

Thanks for all your comments.  Am pleased to say I seem to be getting myself out of my 'slough of despond'.  Still feel tired, but this more towards the end of the day rather than all day.  It could be because that went somewhere interesting, unexpected as it was because my neighbour wished to go somewhere and wanted my company.   This was to a local spiritualist church.  In fact we went twice - once to a discussion group and yesterday to a meeting where there was a medium.  I'll leave you to guess what happened then!

Before I begin giving my usual ramble with give my replies with first a welcome to Elaine who remembers how her mother used to fry eggs in the cut-out middle of slices of bread.  Just goes to show how nothing is really new when it comes to cooking.

Reviewing cook books is something that would take a lot of time Margie.  Thankfully the hundreds I used to own have now dwindled down to about 20 - and I've kept the most interesting ones, usually the informative type, not always recipes.
One book used constantly in my early-learning days of cookery was the Marguerite Patten 'Cookery in Colour' (mentioned some days ago),  and also an early publication of Delia Smith's Book of Cakes. Other books that are certainly worth reading are the Time Life cookery series, each one specialising in a particular subject (soups; salads; pulses; beef; pork; poultry; game; biscuits; cakes; desserts..... there are many).  I used to own all of them but have kept only a few.

Adding that cappuccino powder to the other ingredients when making biscuits is a lovely idea Grub-lover.  We are all familiar with adding flavourings such as orange or lemon zest, cocoa, vanilla, ginger.... but it got me thinking for there are so many other things in our cupboards we could use.  Next time I make fork biscuits I'll flavour some with coconut, others with Camp Coffee (I have a jar still unused - and no, not left over from wartime, it can still be bought).

How true that however much our families trough their way through all we cook - as though there was no tomorrow - when we think of cooking as a creative art,  it's nice to get our 'making's out of the way as soon as possible so that we can get on with making something new, so as long as we look at it as more of a skill than a chore we can carry on cooking with pleasure.  Obviously it helps if some foods we make CAN be stored out of sight so that on the days we don't feel like cooking we can bring them back to be demolished, but generally a cook really does like to carry on cooking.  At least I do.

That's a good idea Sairy to fry egg in wavy-edged scone cutters.  Children would love these.  The plain-edged cutters are also good to use as 'rings' to cook pikelets.  Anyone who recently saw Mary Berry's first programme (repeated the other day), would have seen her tin of her scone cutters in ever-decreasing sizes.  I have one just like that, also had it for years, and all complete.  I use it all the time.  I do have a similar set in plastic, useful in that each of the rings has the size printed on the side, one edge being plain, turned over it is wavy.  Not able to be used in hot pans as these would probably melt.  Still prefer using the metal ones as they are quite sharp and give a neater cut.

Cheesepare, I do have what I think might be a Lakeland microwave  rice cooker.  It is a dark green deep bowl (with a flat base) that has a white inner liner with holes in the bottom and tiny feet under.  The idea is to put water in the base and then what needs to be cooked inside, a lid on, and then put in the microwave to steam.  It takes as long to cook rice in the microwave as it does to cook on the hob, so I don't use it for rice, just for steaming veggies (and these I tend to steam on the hob anyway).  Am not a great lover of microwave cooking although do find it very useful for melting jelly in a small amount of water, to make custard, lemon curd, heating peas from frozen, and speedy cooking of 'jacket' potatoes.  Also for reheating home-cooked meals (chillis and curries take exactly 8 minutes on HIGH from frozen).

Morrison's in Morecambe sell Beanfeast (and not all the assistants seem to know where it is or even heard of it but it is normally on the bottom shelf near the pasta ranges).  This is a MUST in my larder, and although normally use it with minced beef (to extend the mince), have to say I enjoy it as-is.
Not sure whether Nella Last would have liked it, but during war-time I think everyone would have thought it really good.  It took me a time to become accustomed to textured vegetable protein (TVP) and can't say I would use it other than as in the 'Beanfeast' range. 

Thanks to Christopher, who drops in from time to time.  We don't know much about you Chris, but pleased you enjoy reading this blog.

After all that palaver I see today that Tesco HAVE finally put the half-dozen free-range medium sized eggs (for £1) on their on-line grocery site.  So that's good to know that someone listens (although the missing item would probably have been discovered anyway).

Next weekend is Easter, and I may (or may not) take Good Friday and also the Saturday and Sunday off writing my blog - it all depends on what we'll be doing.  Will give fair warning as we get nearer the time. 

Now for some recipes....
The mention of frying eggs in a hole-in-one (slice of bread),  reminded me of a more elaborate (but still easy dish to make.   I've made it in teacups, in muffin tins, in metal scone cutters, and a very good way to use some of that very thin - what I call 'frilly' - ham that is often sold.  These eggs are baked in the oven, not on the hob. 
You could call these a 'not very full' English breakfast, but nothing stopping us serving 'sides' of sausages, mushrooms and baked beans when we want the full Monty.

If you prefer this dish even simpler, omit the frying of garlic, use four canned PLUM tomatoes, using the tomatoes only (drain off the juice and use this for another dish - or freeze remaining juice and tomatoes), chop the tomatoes before placing in the dishes.
If you wish to move up the ladder instead of stepping down a rung, then improve the dish even more by topping the eggs with a layer of grated cheese before baking.

Baked Ham 'n Eggs with Tomatoes: serves 4
sunflower or olive oil for frying  (see above)
1 clove garlic, crushed (see above)
1 x 400g can chopped (or plum) tomatoes
few fresh basil leaves, shredded/torn
8 thin slices ham, roughly torn
4 eggs
salt and pepper
grated cheese (opt - see above)
crusty bread for dipping
Heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry the garlic for a few seconds then add the tomatoes. Simmer for about 10 minutes until thickened, then stir in the basil.
Grease the chosen moulds/tins with a little oil and line with overlapping pieces of ham.  Spoon the tomato 'sauce' into the base of each and break an egg on top.  Add seasoning to taste.  Place on a baking tray and bake at 180C, gas 4, for 12 - 15 minutes until just set.  Serve with crusty bread.

With Easter coming up this next recipe has all the flavours of Simnel Cake without the expense and hassle of making one. 

Simnel Tart: serves 4 - 6
7 oz (200g) mixed dried fruit
zest and juice of 1 small orange
1 x 375g sheet ready-rolled puff pastry
3 tblsp apricot jam
7 oz (200g) marzipan, grated or crumbled
 Mix the dried fruit, orange zest and juice together until well combined then set aside.  Unroll the pastry onto a baking sheet and mark a 2cm border around the edges with a knife (but not cutting right through).  Spread the jam over the inside section then chill for 10 minutes.
Drain the fruit and add the marzipan, then place this over the top of the jam, keeping it inside the border. Bake at 200C, gas 6 for 20 minutes or until the pastry has risen and is golden.  Cut into squares/oblongs for serving.   Good eaten with ice-cream or crème fraiche.

Next dish  - made with chicken breast - is said to be quicker to make than a ready-meal. It would probably take even less time if made with minced chicken/turkey or a vegetarian substitute.  Omit the chicken and use mushrooms or chunks of sweet potato.  Or maybe canned tuna instead of chicken? Well, it's just one of those dishes that cries out for experimenting with.  That part I'll leave up to you.

Spiced Chicken with Chickpeas: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 - 3 chicken breasts, cut into small chunks
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 tsp each ground cumin and coriander
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained
7 fl oz (200ml) chicken stock
salt and pepper
1 x 250g bag spinach
Put the oil in a frying pan and over medium-low heat gently fry the onion for 5 minutes.  Raise the heat and add the chicken, frying this for about 3 - 4 minutes until golden.  Stir in the spices and lemon zest and fry for a further minute before adding the chickpeas and stock.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.   Add seasoning to taste then tip in the spinach and replace the cover, leaving the spinach to wilt (takes about 2 minutes), then stir it into the chicken/chickpeas.  When ready to serve, sprinkle over the lemon juice.

Final recipe today is another speedy one, those of us lucky enough to have a freezer will probably have the makings (cooked prawns, green beans, sweetcorn), but we can make do with fresh.  Never thought I'd ever say 'having to make do by using fresh' but then frozen anything is as good as fresh, isn't it?  I'd even go so far as to say use canned sweetcorn kernels.   We use what we have, or something else when we haven't

Pasta with Prawns, Corn and Beans: serves 4
14 oz (400g) pasta penne (or similar)
7 oz (200g) frozen string beans, chopped
14 oz (400g) frozen sweetcorn kernels
5 tblsp crème fraiche or fromage frais
5 tblsp green pesto
7 oz (200g) frozen cooked prawns (thawed)
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, and 4 minutes before the end of the cooking time add the beans and sweetcorn.  Drain and leave in sieve colander.
Blend the crème fraiche and pesto together and pour this into the saucepan the pasta had been cooking in, adding the prawns. Replace over low heat, just long enough to warm through , then tip in the pasta and veggies.  Toss well together then remove from heat and serve.

And that's it for the Monday blog.  Like the proverbial bad penny will be back again this time tomorrow night.  Hope to see you then. TTFN.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Can't wait to feel Better.

It's not like me to have a 'downer' that last several days.  Maybe I haven't yet caught up with spring.  I just feel so very tired all the time, despite eating at least 7 fruit/veg a day.  And plenty of bean. And eggs and fish. I've had this feeling before, when feeling at a loose end,  a waiting for something to happen to point me in the right direction. And it always does.  So now I wait.

So another short blog as I've done nothing much but keeping off my feet as my joints are playing merry hell at the moment.  So then I nod off, many times,  and at least that makes the day go fairly quickly.  Nothing on TV either that interests me.

Tomorrow is baking day - B has used up all the bread (again) but there are still a couple of rolls in the freezer to keep him going until the new loaf has been baked, plus another batch of rolls.  He loves them so much they last only a few days.  After learning that tip about banging the tins on the work surface as soon as they are removed from the oven, can tell everyone it works.  Works so well the rolls are twice as thick as normal, so can now make them flatter so that after the Big Bang they too will proudly stand to attention, and almost certainly I will be able to get at least a couple more rolls from the dough.

Thanks to everyone who has sent sympathies re my feeling 'off', and congratulations to Pam (Texas) who has now got her US citizenship.   Dare say if we all had Skype (if that is the thing) we would be able to watch me as I type my blog.  Not a pretty sight, my specs pushed to the end of my nose so that I can read the screen more clearly over the top of them.

Thanks to Alison for sending her list of veggies she bought.  It does sound a mite expensive, but maybe some veggies were more expensive, others much the same as from supermarkets.
The way I tend to look at all purchases such as these - especially when wanting to get the most for my money - is to work out how many meals can be made from them.  Or perhaps I should say portions (depends how many you cook for).   If purchases (can be anything) work out at less than 50p a head, then that's workable.  Many magazines now give recipes that show the price per portion, and it's rare for them to be below £1 a head, the average being about £1.60. 

In one magazine read recently I saw a good way of presenting fried eggs - what they did was cut a hole in the centre of a slice of bread - wide enough to hold a shelled egg - and the lightly fry the bread on one side, and when turned over, break the egg into the hole and cook until the white was set and the yolk still runny (or set if you prefer it like that).  Very simple idea, but my mega-thrifty mind immediately saw that there would be a decent sized circle of bread taken from the slice AND THIS CAN BE USED IN OTHER DISHES. Or to make breadcrumbs (to freeze).  Waste not, want not.

We are familiar with using a chicken carcase to make chicken soup, but many meat bones that are leftover from a roast can flavour a soup. If you have only a few at a time, then freeze them immediately so when there is enough (can be a mixture) the soup can be made.
 Here is a recipe from Scotland that makes the best use of these bones with extra ingredients being something we all have in our kitchens.  Yes, even pearl barley and if you have none, then buy some next time you shop for it is one of the cheapest grains, and a very good substitute for rice in a risotto.

The bare ribs in this soup are the ones that have been saved from boned-out chops or roasts.  To keep with tradition, serve this soup with oatcakes.
Fife Broth: serves 6
12 or more bare ribs of pork (see above)
7 oz (200g) pearl barley, soaked overnight
salt and pepper to taste
4 pints (2 litrs) water
1 large onion, finely chopped
12 potatoes, sliced
Put the pork bones, barley, salt and pepper, into a pan with the water.  Cover and bring to the boil. Over low heat simmer for a couple of hours then add the onion and the potatoes.  Simmer for a further half hour and when ready, remove the bones and serve.

Am loving reading this book on soup as it comes up with some very economical recipes - but all traditional.  This next was taken from 'The Fine Art of Italian Cooking', that goes to show that good food can still be made from the simplest of ingredients.
Fresh tomatoes are plentiful in Italy, but costly to buy here, and not nearly as flavoursome, so I'd be inclined to open a tin of Italian plum tomatoes (chefs swear by them), and chop or puree these to replace the fresh.
Even if you have home-made or bought bread that is going stale (hard, not mouldy), never throw it out as it can be dried off to make breadcrumbs (or breadsticks), and is exactly the type of bread needed for this soup (see below).

It is important that the bread is not soft.  It should be sufficiently old, several days at least, rather hard and - if possible - dark rather than light.
Although called a soup, the consistency of this dish is not liquid at all.  It may be eaten hot, lukewarm or cold, or reheated the following day.
Bread and Tomato Soup:  serves 4
1 lb bread (450g) cut into small pieces
1 lb (450g) very ripe tomatoes (or use canned)
4 fl oz (100ml) olive oil
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
pinch of dried hot pepper flakes
1.5 pints (3/4 ltr) chicken or beef stock
salt and pepper to taste
4 or 5 fresh basil leaves
Put half the oil in a pan and add the garlic and pepper flakes. Sauté very gently for 10 - 15 minutes taking care the garlic does not begin to burn or it will then taste bitter.  If using fresh tomatoes, skin and remove seeds, then chop the flesh and add to the pan (or add the contents of a can of plum tomatoes).  Cook for a further 15 minutes, then add the bread and the chosen stock with seasoning to taste, and the basil leaves.  Stir very well to combine and then simmer for 15 minutes, then remove pan from the heat, cover and leave to rest for 2 - 3 hours.
When ready to serve, stir again very well and reheat if you wish to eat it hot.  Spoon into individual bowls, sprinkling 1 spoon of the reserved oil on top of each, with a little more freshly ground black pepper.

Final recipe today is - I have to day - what I would call a dessert, not a soup.  But whatever, am sure it would be eaten with relish by both children and adults.  It's different - what more can I say?

Fried Breadcrumb Soup: serves 4
4 oz (100g) fresh breadcrumbs
2 oz (50g) butter
2 pints (1 ltr) boiling milk
5 fl oz (150ml) raspberry syrup/puree
sugar to taste
Melt the butter in a frying pan and brown the breadcrumbs, then remove with a slotted spoon and place into a soup tureen.  Pour in half the milk, cover the tureen and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Pour in the raspberry syrup, adding sugar to sweeten it, then add the remaining milk, stir gently, and serve. 

Before I leave, must thank Granny G for her comment.  Chipotle sauce/paste is quite feiry and a little goes a long way.  Believe it might be made from jalapeno peppers that have been smoked, but whatever peppers are used, they are smoked and dried (look a bit like sun-dried tomatoes).  Myself love chilli, but if not used to it use sparingly and then build up once the body becomes used to it.

With any highly spiced dish (curries, chillies etc), the way to overcome the burning in the mouth is to eat a spoonful of yogurt.  This is why I always provide a bowl of yogurt when serving chill con carne (or put a dollop on top), and Raita with curries.  Sugar also is supposed to kill the heat.  Drinking water makes it WORSE.

For several weeks now I've been taking the weekend off, so my next blog will probably be written either late Sunday night (for Monday reading).  
We're having some lovely weather at the moment, so hope many of you will be able to get out and enjoy it this weekend.  The housework can wait. I'll even shut my eyes to you having a take-away if it gives you more time to spend in the fresh air.  But make it fish 'n chips for at least these are considered 'healthy' compared to some others.    TTFN.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Time Flies...

Still feeling under the weather, so stayed in bed later than normal.  Felt better later this afternoon, and now, nearly midnight, feel tired again, so this will be a shorter blog than normal (do I hear sighs of relief?).

As I've nothing of interest today am just giving a few recipes - these discovered today in a catering book on the 'soup' section.  Was reading through it to see if there was any that contained beer (as I'm still working on Jane's query), and there was one.  Can't say I'd be inclined to make it, but then someone else would probably enjoy it.  If we have nothing else to make soup with, then this could be the answer, especially when entertaining for it is an authentic traditional Swedish recipe.  They call it 'Schwedische Biersuppe' - and despite the difference in language, this is easily translated into English. Not sure whether Swedish beer is weaker than our stout/Guinness, perhaps more like lager.  Does anyone know?

Swedish Beer Soup: serves 4
1 1/2 pints (3/4 of a litre) of beer
1 cinnamon stick
2 tblsp flour
4 tblsp cold water
3 egg yolks
3 tblsp sugar
8 fl oz (1/4 of a litre) of milk, heated to boiling
Put the beer in a pan with the cinnamon stick and bring to the boil.  Mix the flour with the cold water and stir this into the beer.  Bring back to the boil.
Meanwhile beat the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy, then pour on the boiling milk, beating with a whisk.  Remove the soup from the heat and take out the cinnamon stick.  Stir the egg mixture into the soup, beating vigorously.  Serve immediately.

This next recipe HAS to be included as it is a most unusual soup from the Provencal region of France.  Said to have extraordinary virtues: 'nothing can resist it: hangover, illness, childbirth - there can be no convalescence without "boiled water".  Boiled water saves your life'

Boiled Water: serves 4
2 pints (or 1 litre) water
1 tsp salt
12 - 15 cloves garlic
1 - 2 bay leaves
1 - 2 sprigs sage
4 tblsp olive oil
slices dry bread
grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese
Put the water in a saucepan with the salt and add the garlic.  Bring to the boil.  After 10 minutes add the bay leaves, sage and a dash of oil.  Cook for a few minutes more then removed from heat and cover, leaving to stand for about 10 minutes, then strain.
Put the bread slices into a soup tureen, cover with grated cheese and sprinkle with remaining oil, then pour over the strained infusion.

The 'soup book' is amazing, it has some very unusual recipes, and over the next few days I'll be trying to find some that fit into our cost-cutting way of life.   As there is still time to give a further recipe before I retire, you may wish to try this as it can be made from almost any sort of cabbage (I prefer the white) and the tomatoes needn't be fresh, at this time of the year use either passata or the canned chopped toms.
The stock could be chicken, beef, or vegetable - each adding a different flavour to the soup.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup: serves 6
1 small cabbage, finely shredded
3 pints (1.5 ltrs) stock (see above)
5 fl oz (150ml) tomato juice or sieve tomatoes
3 apples, peeled and grated
1 onion, grated
salt and pepper
2 - 3 tblsp lemon juice
Put the stock and the tomato juice in a saucepan and bring it to the boil, then add the cabbage, apples, and onion.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, then season with salt and pepper to taste, and before serving stir in the lemon juice with sugar to taste.

That's it for today.  Now that I've found my catering books (full of recipes that are often not found in domestic cookbooks) let me know if there is any ingredient or dish you wish to try, or have a problem with making.  The books may tell us what to do/how to make.  
Until this time tomorrow.  TTFN.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Can't Stand the Pace!

Not sure whether it was caused by my going out of my comfort zone and meeting more people, but today suddenly felt quite poorly and took to my bed for a few hours.  Felt a bit like I was about to have an attack of flu, but after a nap felt a lot better - just as B arrived and ready for his supper.  Thankfully this was liver, bacon, cabbage and potatoes that did not require a lot of expertise or labour.

After Jane's request for recipes using stout, I scrolled down my list of recipes published on this blog and did find the one for my favourite Beef Carbonnade.  Not sure why (other than it is very good and worth repeating) but I'd given it three times.  Once on the 15th Dec. 2006, again on the 8th March 2007, and also on the 19th August, 2007. 

Despite having the correct date, the last published blog each month comes up first, so I have to scroll down to reach the right day, this I find really interesting as there is so much there I'd forgotten about and I wish I could write as well now as I did then.  Must give a mention to 'Sticky Toffee Pudding' (B calls it 'ticket office pudding') towards the end of the December page - that's also a great favourite and I bake a slab of this in a 9"x9"/20x20cm) tin, and then pour over a thick layer of the sauce.  When cold it is so rich there is enough for 9 portions, these freezing very well indeed, needing slightly less than a minute (no more) to re-heat in the microwave. 

Both the March and August pages also have lots of interesting reading/recipes, and one at least has a couple of photos worth looking at. 

The Beef Carbonnade makes a lovely gravy, and this is so tasty that - for economy - I often use less meat.  Any leftovers would make good fillings for 'Beef 'n Ale' pies.
If money is no problem, then the Carbonnade could be made using venison.

Another way of flavouring meat with ale is to cook diced stewing/braising steak, or a brisket in a slow cooker (pref with sliced onions) using ale as the liquid (it can be diluted with water if you wish).  The meat juices would flavour the stock and any surplus liquid could be frozen to later make gravy.

Am pretty sure that beer can be used when making bread (probably German bread) I'll have to see if I can find a recipe, and following on with that thought I'm feeling that as a glass of ale can accompany a 'Ploughman's Lunch', this could be 'deconstructed' (as is the fashion today) and onion soup made with beef stock plus some ale, with the bread lightly toasted, then covered with grated cheese to float on top of the soup. 

Here is a recipe for Irish Barm Brack (teabread).  A Welsh version soaks the fruit in tea, the Irish usually soak it in tea with Irish whiskey, and as I've made a fruit cake using ale (still haven't found the recipe for this), why not soak the fruit in ale?  Here is my version, you may wish to dilute the ale with water.

Irish Barm Brack: gives 10-12 slices
1 x 375g pack mixed dried fruits
5 fl oz (150ml) ale
5 fl oz (150ml) water or cold tea
8 oz (225g) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
4.5 oz (125g) soft brown sugar
1 large egg
Put the fruits in a large bowl and add the ale and water/tea.  Stir well, then cover and leave to soak overnight.
Next day sift the flour, baking powder, and spice into a bowl, then stir in the sugar.  Make a well in the centre and add the egg with a few teaspoons of the liquid from the soaked fruits.  Beat together. 
Drain the fruits over a bowl, reserving the liquid, then add the fruits to the cake mix and fold together.  The mixture should be soft enough to just fall from the spoon.  If too dry mix in a little more of the soaking liquid.
Spoon into a greased and base-lined 2lb (900g) loaf tin and bake at 160C, gas 3 for about 50-60 minutes or until the cake has risen and a skewer inserted comes out clean.  If your oven browns too fast, bake at 140C (fan).   Leave to cool in the tin for 15 or so minutes before turning out to cool on a wire rack.
When cold, wrap in baking parchment or clingfilm and then over-wrap in foil and leave for a couple or so days before eating.   Serve sliced, spread with butter.

Sorry to hear Grub-lover that you have much the same difficulties with walking as myself.  It really frustrates me as I used to love walking and would walk for miles.  Each time I sit down I feel younger and ready for a ramble, but the minute I start to raise myself from my chair all I get is aches and pains and needing to grab my walking sticks.  Still, there are many worse off, so should be thankful for that rather than feeling sorry for myself as I should expect this at my age.

So now you're having to cope with a gluten-free diet for your husband Pam. Do agree that gluten-free bread does not taste as nice,  but much depends on the brand and whether better quality or not, they are all far more expensive to buy than 'ordinary' bread.  It's worth buying some gluten-free flour and baking your own.  You can also make up your own flour using a mixture of flours made from rice, tapioca, maize (cornmeal), and buckwheat.  Also potato flour.  Xanthan gum (actually a powder) is often used with gluten flour as it helps to bind and thicken and also give 'bounce'.
Am giving a few recipes that you might like to try.

The first is for a fruit loaf, and doesn't contain g.flour other than polenta (cornmeal?). Gluten-free baking powder should also be used, but if you have none use Xanthan gum instead.
Date, Banana, and Rum Teabread: gives 10 slices
9 oz (250g) stoned, ready to eat dates
7 fl oz (200ml) boiling water
1 large banana
4 oz (100g) pecans or walnuts (chopped)
7 oz (200g) raisins
7 oz (200g) sultanas
4 oz (100g) fine polenta
2 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp baking powder
3 tblsp rum (or orange juice)
2 egg whites
Put the dates into a small pan with the water and simmer for 5 minutes.  Drain and reserve liquid. Process the dates until finely chopped, then add the banana with 4 fl oz (100ml) of the cooking liquid and blitz until smooth.
Put the nuts, dried fruit, polenta, mixed spice and baking powder into a bowl and mix in the date puree and rum, stirring until well combined.
Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and fold these into the mixture, then spoon into a greased and lined 900g loaf tin.  Bake for one hour until golden, testing with a skewer to make sure it is cooked through.  Cool in the tin completely before turning out.  Cut in slices to serve.

Here is a recipe for a walnut seed loaf.  You could omit the seeds if you wish, and also use white bread flour instead of brown or a mixture of each.
Malted Walnut Seed Loaf:  cuts into 12 slices
4 oz (100g) cornflour
11 oz (300g) brown bread flour
3 oz (75g) potato starch
2 tblsp soya flour
2 tsp xantham gum
1 x 7g sachet easy-bake dried yeast
1 tblsp caster sugar
1.5 tsp salt
16 fl oz (450ml = 1 US pint) warm milk
2 tblsp sunflower oil
1 tblsp white wine vinegar
4 oz (100g) mixed seeds: pumpkin, sesame, hemp...
2 oz (50g) walnuts, chopped
Put the flours, potato starch, soya, xantham gum, yeast, sugar, and salt into a large bowl.  Into a jug put the milk (hand temp), oil and vinegar.  Stir this into the dry ingredients until it forms a soft dough. Cover with oiled clingfilm and leave in a warm place to rise for one hour.
Tip the dough out onto a board and knead in most of the seeds and walnuts, then shape into a large round ball.  Roll this in the remaining seeds, then lift the bread onto a lightly oiled baking sheet, flattening the top slightly, then leave to rise again (it will also spread) for another hour.
Bake at 200C, gas 6 for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180C, gas 4 and continue to bake for a further 30 minutes or until the base sounds hollow when tapped.
Leave on a wire rack to cool, covered or wrapped completely in a clean tea-towel (this helps to keep the crust soft).

Thanks Kathryn for explaining about horses hooves not always needing trimming. How fortunate that Dolly doesn't need shoes - they can be very expensive to keep replacing. As are human shoes I suppose (the few pairs of shoes I own are umpteen years old, but being leather they last quite a long time). 

That's another day gone by, the trees are now unfurling their pale green leaves, and my tubs of daffodils are all in bloom - I planted so many in each tub that I've had to thin some of the flowers out to enjoy as cut flowers (but prefer them in their natural state).  Hope we can all meet up again tomorrow in the usual way (a virtual coffee morning, me one side of the comp - you sitting at yours.  At least my thoughts are always with you when I write as to me you are real persons, each an individual not 'en masse'.  Hope you feel the same.  TTFN.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Life Beyond the Kitchen...

Would you believe I've now been out twice - once last week, and once today.  Both to local community groups, and thoroughly enjoyed the experiment.  I've not been out socialising since we moved here nearly 5 years ago  (or is it 6?), apart from a very few time to B's sailing social club where nearly everyone sails and talks of not much else.
Even better, I'm going out again to another meeting this coming Saturday.  And none of it to do with food. 

So now I'm feeling a new woman, but having to compartmentalise my life into Shirley the 'sous' (chef) and Shirley the gad-about.  The two don't really go together.  But am enjoying it. B kindly takes me to where I need to be, then collects me afterwards.   Otherwise it would be taxis.  Both my knees are crippling me, am walking with two sticks that really do ease the pain but as I tend to walk with a bent back when using them think I must look like those huge gorillas that walk supporting their front with their long arms, using their hands/knuckles as feet.

This has reminded me to ask anyone who has knowledge of horses (Kathryn comes to mind), that if horses that run wild have no treatment to their hooves, how do they keep them 'trimmed'.  We once went to a small zoo (rapidly closed down due to poor treatment) where a pony's hooves had grown and grown so they curled up at the front.  We also see donkeys abroad that have the same problem.
Tamed horses are shod, presumably to ease their hooves on hard roads, and when they need replacing, the horseshoes are removed and the hooves trimmed before the same shoes are nailed back. No need for new shoes each time.

Have had an email from Tesco re my comment about the cheaper eggs, but it seems that not all stores will be supplying these with on-line orders, only available in the shops 'due to lack of demand'.   Maybe if enough people buy them in the shops they will then add them to the on-line listing. and it would be interesting if readers in other parts of the country do have these six free-range medium eggs for £1 in their local Tesco AND on their website, as apparently stores don't always have exactly the same products on sale.  In the London area possibly more of the unusual are on sale.  I want to buy Tahini, but so far have been unable to buy any, from any supermarket in Morecambe, not just Tesco's.

Your mention Anna of sugar in fruit (fructose?) reminded me when I was in hospital with cellulitis, and had been diagnosed with diabetes was told I couldn't eat the grapes that friends had brought me - because of the sugar they contained.  Yet, here in Morecambe, the diabetic nurse said it was quite alright to eat grapes and all fruits (in moderation I suppose).  Personally, I've got past caring.  I avoid sugar by not (often) eating ice-cream, gateaux, biscuits etc, but do occasionally have marmalade on my toast, and Werther's sugar free caramels (the dietician said these were ok and they taste like the proper ones).  At every check up my diabetic level has gone down and now remains well below the diabetic level, the only thing that needs to be lowered is my 'bad' cholesterol (at the normal level but it seems that everything now has to be lower than normal apart from the 'good' cholesterol which has for some reason, risen.
Maybe I've just got used to eating the right things and not eating the wrong ones, and tend to eat what I want when I want with out any complications arising from it (other than still finding it hard to lose weight).

Had to smile with both Anna's and Alison's comments re those who smoke cigarettes but extol the virtues of eating healthy foods.  Apparently food that is cooked on the barbecue until charred is very carcinogenic (only the burnt bits), and I suppose well-done toast is much the same. 
Once we start thinking hard about how we should cook (or not cook) everything properly, it almost takes the enjoyment out of preparing a meal.  Well, it does for me.  Perhaps if I was a nutritionist I'd look at everything differently.
If my B is now working his way to his mid-80's, with the physical age of around 60, and eating what is said to be all the wrong things (butter, cream, home-made beef dripping, jams and marmalades, and countless desserts) then why doesn't he have health problems?  As I've said before, my personal opinion (and not necessarily correct, although I like to believe it is), is that if all food eaten is 'natural' (whether cooked or uncooked) then these shouldn't do us harm anyway.  It's the additives and preservatives in many processed foods that do us harm.

Just one recipe today - this for a fruit fool.  Rhubarb because it is in season, but any fruit that can be pureed could be used.  This recipe makes good use of spare cream and home-made custard (I make my custard using Bird's custard powder).
When folding cream, custard, yogurt, or beaten egg whites together they combine much more easily if they are all the same consistency,  so - with the recipe below - beat the cream to the thickness of the custard, or beat a little milk into the custard to thin it down if too thick before folding with the cream/rhubarb.

Rhubarb Fool: serves 4
12 oz (350g) rhubarb, chopped
2 oz (50g) sugar
1 tblsp water
5 fl oz (150ml) whipping cream
5 fl oz (150ml) cold custard
2 oz (50g) chopped nuts (opt)
Put the rhubarb, sugar, and water into a pan and poach until tender and breaking up.  Set aside until cold.
Lightly whip the cream then fold this with the custard into the rhubarb.  It can be completely blended or left in a ripple effect.  Spoon into individual serving glasses, topping each with nuts (if using) then chill for at least an hour before serving.

Jane, I do have some recipes that use beer/stout, and hope to be able to find and publish them tomorrow. Dark beer is very good blended with beef stock when making Beef Carbonnade, and I'm sure I've a fruit cake recipe that also uses beer.  And a soup.  So watch this space.

That's it for today, the comp. clock shows 12.17 (although blogger will give it at 11.17.  Here in Morecambe it is now Wednesday and if all goes well I'll be back blogging this time tomorrow.  Hope to see you then.


Monday, April 07, 2014

Spoilt for Choice

From the comments sent it does seem that we have plenty of choice when it comes to fruit and vegetables, with many being fairly low in price.  Loved hearing about Alison's (Essex) assortment, most coming from her allotment (with some being frozen).   Just shows how an allotment can produce almost all we need to see us through the year. 

In fact that was what the first allotments were meant to do - enough land to grow food for the year to feed a family (of at least four people). 
Nowadays, this amount of land seems too much so usually let off in half-allotment sizes, and often these are shared between two friends - still providing plenty of produce (weather permitting).

Although I tend to find it difficult to eat five a day when cooking a basic meal (meat and two veg), when making a salad it really is easy-peasy.  No problem there at all for it can contain quite a large number of veggies that we keep in the freezer (or onion basket).  If short of veggies then include fruits such as avocado, grated apple, pineapple chunks, banana, blueberries. 

Nothing much of interest happening in the Goode kitchen at the moment, I've sort of gone off the boil when it comes to cooking.  Did make B a Fish Risotto for supper, but as I'd run out of frozen (fresh) salmon, used canned salmon instead, and it seemed to work well.  Enough in the standard size can to use for the Risotto and also to add to my salad.

Having tried banging the loaf tins on the table as soon as the bread was taken out of the oven, and - like shown on TV - it really did work.  Normally I take the bread out of the tins as soon as they are baked, then leave them to cool on an airer where the crust seems to crumple/shrink a bit.  Banging the tins kept the crust beautifully rounded on top.  I'm always going to do this in future.
For those that missed the 'why', the baker on TV said it was the atmospheric pressure in the room being heavier than that in the loaf (or something like that), and by banging the tins on the worktop it balanced it out.  Don't ask me how this works, but it seems to, and that's all that matters.

Emailed Tesco customer services yesterday, they said they'd get back to me, and although I haven't heard, maybe I missed a phone call when out of ear-shot.  No change yet, the £1 eggs still are not able to be ordered from my local branch.

Morrison's have been giving a '£10 Easter bonus' voucher in the run-up to Easter when a customer spends £40 or more for the next two weeks (last week and this week I think).   First thought was that each voucher was worth £10, but obviously not and even with two vouchers these can only be used if a further £40 (or more) is spent between the 14th and 19th April, when £10 will then be taken off that bill.  Sounds a good discount, but not when we consider that at least £120 (or more) has to be spent to get this, and within a set period. 

Latkes are little potato pancakes traditional to Jewish cookery.  Normally made with matzo meal they can also be made with fine breadcrumbs, with our without added flour.   Instead of potatoes this version is made with carrots and shallots (or we could use parsnips and or sweet potatoes, and red or white onions instead of shallots...).  We could include red or green cooked lentils or any of the cooked beans varieties (mashed).
These pancakes are cooked in the same way as drop scones (aka Scotch pancakes), and they can be small (heaped teaspoons of the mixture) similar to blinis in size, or use tablespoons to make larger ones.

Carrot Latkes: serves 4 - 6
1 lb (450g) carrots, grated
2 shallots, grated
2 eggs
salt and pepper
3 oz (75g) matzo meal (see above)
oil for frying
4 - 6 tblsp sour cream or crème fraiche
When the vegetables have been grated, place on kitchen paper, covering with more paper and press to extract as much moisture as possible.   Beat the eggs in a bowl with seasoning to taste, then add the vegetables and matzo meal.  Stir well and leave to stand for 10 - 15 minutes.  Stir again to make a firm dropping consistency - adding a little more matzo meal (or flour) if necessary.
Drop spoonfuls of the mixture into shallow, very hot oil in a large frying pan, and fry until golden on both sides - approx. 3 minutes each side.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.  Serve while still warm with sour cream.

Considering we are supposed to eat vegetables for the nutritional value they have (vitamins, anti-oxidents, minerals etc), am surprised that potatoes don't count for they do contain a lot of vitamin B. But then I'm hearing that other countries don't always follow the same guidelines as ours - we count baked beans as one of the five a day, others don't.  Same thing with fruit cake, we include it, others do not.  All this info can get very perplexing at times. 

Seems the best way to eat well is to eat a 'balanced meal', and have to say when I first started cooking for my family I nearly wanted to scream every time I heard/read these words.  The last thing I wanted to do was 'balance the foods out', cooking should be more fun that that.  Still, as we were still living in the 'meat and two veg' type of cooking, supposed the balance was there without having to think much about it. 
It's only in recent years when I have learned more about correct nutrition, and begun to understand its importance that I now stop and listen (or read), as always something new to learn, although have to admit to taking some of it with a pinch of salt.  Most cooks have enough common sense to know what is good for us and what isn't.   It's learning to like some of them that is the problem.  "Eat your greens" is something our mothers always used to say, and probably never really knew why, except that greens were good for us.  In those days they probably weren't as they were always over-cooked to almost a mush.

Even those who normally don't like eating cabbage - especially the darker leaves - will enjoy this next recipe, a variation on Dolmades - traditionally made with vine leave.
As the leaves are rolled around a filling, this can include meat (usually cooked minced beef/lamb) or omit the meat altogether.  Once cooked they can be served warm or cold with tzatziki or a pasta sauce.
As the dolmades in the recipe below are fairly small, they can be served as 'tapas', or 'meze' and as a starter when entertaining,

Grub-lover has given us a great idea whereby we can blend a good selection of vegetables together to make a thick sauce that can be cooked and served with pasta - or the above dolmades.   If we have only a mix of green veggies, then these could be blended to make a pesto (green sauce if you like).

Dolmades: serves 4 as a starter
20 cabbage leaves
4 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tblsp olive oil
4 oz (100g) long-grain rice
2 oz (50g) sultanas
2 oz (50g) toasted pine nuts
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
6 fl oz (175ml) vegetable stock
8 spring onions, chopped
1 tblsp each chopped mint, marjoram, parsley
half pint (300ml) tzatziki or passata
Remove the tough central stalk from the cabbage leaves, then blanch the leaves in boiling water for 2 minutes.  Drain and refresh until cold running water, then pat dry with kitchen paper.
Gently fry the shallots and garlic in the oil until just softened, then stir in the rice, sultanas, pine nuts,
and lemon juice and fry for a further minute.  Add seasoning to taste then add the stock.  Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Leave to cool then stir in the spring onions and herbs.
Put 2 heaped teaspoons of the mixture in the centre of each leaf and roll into a tight parcel, tucking ends under (or fold sides in to middle and then roll up).  Place in a steamer, fold side down, and steam for 5 minutes.  Serve warm or cold with chosen sauce.

Final recipe today is for Tzatziki (to go with the above dish).  It's almost identical to the Indian Raita and have to say this is how I make both (sometimes omitting the garlic).  Call it Tzatziki when serving with grilled lamb, kebabs, dolmades etc (with Greek dishes) and Raita (always with mint) when serving with curries. Call it either name when serving as a dip.
Tzatziki: make half a pint (300ml)
half a cucumber, peeled
2 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, crushed (opt)
1 tblsp olive oil
9 fl oz (250ml) Greek yogurt
salt and pepper to taste
dash of white wine vinegar
1 tblsp finely chopped fresh mint (opt)
Remove seeds from cucumber and finely chop the flesh. and put into a strainer placed over a bowl and sprinkle with the salt, then leave for a couple of hours for the salt to extract some of the moisture. Rinse under cold water, and then wrap in a clean tea towel and press out excess liquid.
Put the cucumber, garlic, oil, yogurt and seasoning into a bowl and mix well together. Stir in vinegar and mint.  Chill before serving.  Keep covered and it will keep for a few days in the fridge.

That's my Tuesday blog finished.  As this week is busier than usual am not sure what time I'll be writing my blog, it could be late at night, or early morning - or maybe even miss a day.  So this week expect me when you see me.  I'll try and make it almost daily, but am getting to the age when I can't now do as much as I used to.  Have to pace myself and if I'm tired all I want to do then is sit and nod off in my chair, and leave the computer for B to play games on.  How sad is that? 
As my main pleasure is to read your comments, please keep sending me some - that way I feel together we are what I call 'my happy band of thrifty munch-crunchers'.  TTFN.


Sunday, April 06, 2014

A Little of What We Fancy....

Many thanks for your comments.  It's been really interesting seeing the fruits and veggies chosen by readers (Margie's being the latest).  Les mentioned canned potatoes being cheaper than the fresh and although I do prefer the fresh spuds, always keep a can of new potatoes in the larder as, once heated they make a good mash( or 'crushed' potatoes) to be fried in a pan.  Not so good when roasted, but certainly work well cold-from-the can when chopped with onion and mayo to make potato salad.

Unfortunately potatoes don't count as a vegetable in the 'five/seven a day' (classed as carbohydrate), and not sure Les that you are right when you say eating something twice a day can then be counted as twice the number.  I have read (as Eileen mentioned) that if we eat the same more than once a day, it can still be counted as only one.  For those who really can't be fussed about numbers (and I may have mentioned this before), if we eat half a can of baked beans that counts as one, but the tomato sauce the beans are baked in also counts as another.  One small banana counts as one, a large banana counts as two.  So if we have half a can of baked beans with the sauce AND one large banana, already we have had four of our five/seven.

Although this sudden urge to get us to eat more fresh veggies and fruit does make us stop and review the way we eat, my mind then takes me back to wartime when all these fresh foods were in very short supply, and we would be lucky to get three a day (probably potatoes - which don't count - and carrots plus a green veg) for many years, yet apparently it didn't do us any harm.

Before commercial growing of vegetables, the only fresh (growing) green veg available in the winter months was - I believe - kale (or something similar).   Suppose it was the root veg and the dried fruits/nuts that would make up the shortfall.

More and more I just wish we could get on with our lives without feeling we're doing all the wrong things when it comes to the foods we eat (they keep changing their mind about these anyway). Just as long as we are given the info, they don't have to keep harping on it.  It's us to decide what we wish to eat, not be almost forced to eat what we are told.  It hasn't gone that far yet, but I can see it moving in that direction.   With the possibility of tax being put on sugar, that means all the jams, marmalade, cakes, biscuits, sweets etc will go up in price,  healthwise not a bad thing I suppose, but does it have to be like that?

Logging onto the Tesco grocery site I notice they have now removed the 'offer between set dates' with the Hovis bread, but still there is no mention of the half-dozen free-range medium eggs for £1, only the large at £1.30.  If still not corrected, will get in touch with the rep again to find out the cause.  I do know some of the branches don't stock some products that other regional branches do, but they ALL sell eggs.

Interesting comment from Paid in Chickens about how it took four council departments to work out which should be the one to clear up some rubbish - and none of them did until the local people moved it to an area they couldn't argue over.  It's amazing how often people are told to contact someone about something, then they say 'its the wrong department', giving a phone number for the 'correct one', and when this is contacted, they are referred back to the original.  It can carry on like that for days, no-one taking any responsibility.

Thank both to Carol and Christine for the mention/cooking of Kohlrabi.  Am hoping that we will have one in our veggie box as I'd like to try it.

Whatever the time/day the blog shows, it is after midnight and now Monday.  A busy seven days for me this coming week, so I need my sleep.  Will be back again this time tomorrow.  Hope you all had a good weekend.  We have had light rain, but it has cleared the skies over most of the country and we can all breathe again without wheezing.  Although the smog not really noticeable here in Morecambe, have noticed my eyes have been feeling sore/scratchy, and I have been sneezing.  Much better now.
And that's it for today.  TTFN.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Not so Expensive After All

Thanks to Eileen for her breakdown of fruit and vegetable purchases.  Seventy six portions is approx. enough for 10 days at seven-a-day.  With the total cost at £4.44p, that should mean no more than 45p a day.  My calculator battery is flat, so I've done a quick bit of mental arithmetic and as it is close to midnight and my brain has already shut down for the day, could be way out.  If it is correct, then this must prove it can be very inexpensive to eat a healthy meal following the new guidelines.

Thanks also to Christine for her shopping list, we are not too familiar with khol rhabi in the supermarkets, although it will probably turn up in the organic veggie delivery. I;ve yet to sort out my purchases, and may do this on-line or in-store, depends upon my knee joints that are really painful at the moment (am having to walk now using TWO sticks - soon time for a zimmer frame).

As you say Margie, cigarettes have been proved to be killers, and besides that are obviously a great waste of money (but then I suppose drinking booze is as well, and eating bars of chocolate).  With even more concern now about the recent smog covering most of our country, proven to have caused many breathing problems due to the pollution (petrol, diesel being the worst), am surprised than no-one has ever mentioned these could also be causing lung cancer.  Maybe the large tax on fuel would mean too high a loss if the government cut down on transport, if there are fewer lorries on the roads, this would mean less food able to be delivered around the country. 

It is true to do complain a lot about our 'nanny state' in the UK, and although we should always be told about things beneficial to us (such as the recent 'seven-a-day'), there are far too many stupid restrictions that are quite unnecessary.  Children not allowed to throw sticks up into chestnut trees to knock down conkers for instance (a conker might fall on the head of a passer by and then they would sue!).  Believe they are not allowed to play conkers unless they wear a hard hat and protective glasses.
Children are not allowed to pick daisies to make daisy chains in case a dog has fouled the area, and only recently a lady was taken to court for causing litter - her child in a push chair had dropped a bit of its sandwich on the pavement and before the lady had a chance to pick it up she was stopped by the by the litter police.  She got away with it because there was no evidence - a pigeon had flown down and picked up the crumbs before they had a chance to take a photo.  Ha, flippin' ha.

There have been several cases where people have been in difficulties in a canal/river (even a child) and the police wouldn't go and rescue them (even thought the water was shallow) because they 'hadn't been trained' and got the certificate to prove it).  They just stood helplessly on the edge of the water and then usually a passer-by does the rescue.

Suppose we should be grateful for all the care and protection that is given to us, but myself feel that children miss out on a lot of things that used to be great fun when I was a child, like being allowed to climb trees, make rafts to float on the river, and just run around the countryside with a fair amount of freedom as in the 'Just William' books, and those by Enid Blyton.

The other day there was an experiment where a few very small children were left to wander amongst a crowd on strangers in the city, not sure where (might have been a railway station or shopping precinct).  The idea was to see how long it would be before anyone noticed they were 'lost' and took care of them.  Nobody did.  But then today, if any stranger was seen to approach a child and talk to it, especially a man, they would almost immediately be arrested for possible child abduction.  People are now afraid to help anyone in trouble it seems whatever age they are.

Yesterday I mentioned I'd just emailed Tesco re their 'prices down and staying down' promotion, and had a phone call from their customer services early this morning (it is still Friday as I write).  Had a really useful conversation that lasted nearly half an hour. 
Despite their representative having the reduced price eggs shown on her screen, mine still showed the higher price, and after several checks she discovered my local distribution store (Carnforth) HAD not shown the lower price, so she was going to rectify that immediately our conversation had ended. 
She also agreed that the lower price for Hovis bread - shown as reduced for only a few weeks - was also very misleading, and perhaps because this was a branded item, whereas all the other were under the own-brand label.  This too she wanted to get sorted. 
The outcome was she seemed very pleased that I'd pointed out the error (which had not been noticed prior to my call), and myself made the point that if people find the a store misleads or cons them, they then won't trust it any more and move their custom to another one.  Think this got the message across, and it really is useful both to the customer and the store if we complain when we feel something isn't as it should be, rather than just doing nothing but grumble to ourselves.

I've just checked the promotional site again (and the normal grocery site) and still no mention of the free-range medium eggs six for £1.  Will wait until Monday and if no correction has been done will email them back and complain again.   Maybe readers in other parts of the country will have the correct pricing for the above, or whether they too don't have this shown.  I'd be interested to know.
Tomorrow (Saturday) is my normal non-blogging day, so although you will be reading this on Saturday, there won't be one on Sunday.  I'll be writing the Monday blog late on Sunday night, so depending on what time you go to bed, you might be one of the first to read it.  Or wait until dawn has risen.  It could be I decide to have an early night on Sunday and write at first light Monday.  Whatever - there will be a Monday blog, one way or the other.  
Do hope you all have a lovely weekend.  Bye for now. xx  

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Food for Thought

Whether it is the hundreds of books, magazines and TV programmes all dealing with food, it does seem today we have become almost obsessed with what is basically fuel for our bodies.  In the old days we just ate to live, not live to eat as today.  There was a lot more things to get interested in than what we would eat each day.  Perhaps this was because then the food was pretty basic, we always knew what to expect each day of the week.

Now, with the arrival of convenience foods and products imported from practically every country around the globe, it's almost as though Christmas has come every day.  So much choice, so much temptation, and if we don't now have the money to keep feeding ourselves to the standard we had achieved, then we feel very short-changed.

Will this 'eat seven a day' (fruit and veg) do much to alter things?  As Sairy says the government are always trying to persuade us to eat this that or the other, then a sudden U change when they discover they hadn't got it right the first time round.  Whether we choose to follow guidelines is up to the individual, and our gut instinct.   Myself like to believe that all natural foods are good for us as long as they are either eaten raw (when applicable) or cooked properly (in the old days we boiled the life out of most of our veggies).  It's all the over-processing, additives and preservatives that do more harm than good.

Although I tend to eat what I want (not what the nutritionists always say I should), have to say this 'seven a day' has given me food for thought as I'm now trying to follow this.  It's never been too difficult as I eat a salad at least once a day, but even then don't always make it to the 'five'.  Today ended up with 8 veggies in the salad as I'd miscounted (iceberg lettuce, cucumber, mushrooms, beetroot, bell pepper, shallot, tomato, and apple - all chopped and mixed together.  Seasticks (also chopped) was the protein content.
The above can be varied:  white cabbage, onion and carrot as coleslaw; celery, walnuts and apple as Waldorf salad. Cauliflower florets, sugarsnap peas, olives, grapes, blueberries, pomegranate seeds, avocado, raisins, banana... not of course all at the same time, but anything that can be eaten raw usually ends up in my salads.  When a salad fanatic (as I am tending to be) it's not that difficult to eat a variety of the necessary.   But it's my choice, not swayed by the nanny state.  It just makes sense because these foods are all natural, mostly fresh, and packed with the vits and mins we really do need.  

Moving away from food for the moment, this dreadful 'smog' lying over half of the country has been caused by pollution blown from Europe, plus our own, with the Sahara sand layer keeping this from escaping.  We have been lucky in the North West, and although just about reached us, the wind has now changed direction and the rain forecast should clear all the filth from the air and the country will be back to normal.

Not unconnected with the above (you'll understand if you read on) is the new packaging suggested for cigarettes - unpleasant enough for youngsters (at least) to find not 'cool' enough to want to have on display.  One good reason not to smoke is that it is such a waste of money.  Literally ££££s going up in smoke!
Also smoking causing cancer.  And it probably does, yet there was a time when just about every adult smoked and I don't remember hearing much about it causing cancer then.  Perhaps the rise in this disease matched the rise in transport.  When I was young very few families owned a car, now it seems that most do, and some families have more than one car (often one each). 
With the warning that  - during the past few days of smog - car drivers should not use the fans/air conditioning in their cars as it would draw the polluted air into the car and cause breathing problems, this pollution would be mainly car fumes anyway, and as these are now always around, isn't it possible that a lot of health problems are caused more by the diesel/petrol fumes than cigarettes?  

Anyway, back to food.  Pleased to hear that Eileen is going to see how much fruit/veg she can buy for £10, with Margie following her example.

It is true Ali (Shropshire) that some veggies do go off quite rapidly, but there are many that have quite a long shelf life when stored in the fridge.  In fact all veggies I purchase - with the exception of baking potatoes and onions - are kept chilled.  The ones that have the shortest shelf life (less than a week) are the ones eaten first, or - when possible - made into pesto or soup that can be frozen to eat later.

Still not happy with the 'foods down in price and staying' promotion mentioned yesterday, I've emailed the store as to their wording as some of the products are reduced for only a set period, and one is at a high price than given in their ads.   I will let you know the outcome when/if they reply.

In the mid-1940s nutrition experts showed Winston Churchill the 'Basal Diet' - this being an estimation that 'in extremis' each citizen could survive on 12oz bread, 1lb of potatoes, 2oz of oatmeal, 1oz fat, 6oz of vegetables, and 3/5ths of a pint of milk a day.  This supplemented (whenever possible) by either more of the same, or tiny amounts of cheese, pulses, meat, fish, sugar, eggs, and dried fruit. Luckily for everyone this plan was never introduced, and wartime rations were slightly more substantial. 
Reading this certainly puts things into perspective, and we are so lucky now to be able to choose from an enormous variety of food whether fresh or canned, frozen or processed, but maybe being spoilt for choice can do us more harm than good. 

Do we really need so many different brands of the same product? Take baked beans as an example.  There must be at least 9 different brands, and within these several different levels of quality that is reflected in the price.  And with aisles full of nothing but biscuits, again do we need all these?  Not sure about all readers, but when I buy biscuits (rarely now as I bake my own), still never bought more than a couple of different ones (usually digestive and custard creams).  

Maybe I'm not a good consumer as tend to stick to buying the same things all the time (but not always at the same time as I wait until each are on offer), and there must be hundreds of products on the supermarket shelves that I've never even noticed, and even if I have, not wished to try them. 

Was watching 'Supermarket Secrets: Spring' this (Thursday) evening, and found it quite interesting, especially how the bakers banged the trays of freshly baked buns before removing them - this prevented them from sinking (something to do with the atmospheric pressure outside the oven  being slightly heavier than that in the hot buns).  Must try that next time I bake bread rolls.
Very interesting too about how they tested the eggs before packing.  The mention that they had a (store) shelf-life of 21 days so needed to be sold before then, shows that they are not all as fresh as we expect.  It's easy enough to test the freshness of an egg by putting into in a jug of water.  If it sinks to the bottom, it is OK, if it tends to lift slightly still OK but should be well cooked (hard-boiled or used in baking), if it floats to the top it has gone 'off' and should be thrown away.

Apparently one store (maybe others) are now packing eggs in plastic cartons instead of the usual compressed paper ones - this to prevent breakages.  So that means more plastic to recycle (if it can be), I've never had a broken egg in a cardboard carton, but have had one in a plastic one, so what's the point?

I'm liking this idea of readers taking up a challenge.  We could keep doing this and share our results.  Next week intend to scoot around Morrison's and see how much I can buy for £10 (not just veg, but all food worth eating).  Then see how many meals can be made from it.  You may like to have a go.

Just about midnight, so that's my Friday blog ready to be published.  Back again in 24 hours.  TTFN.