Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why Pay For Our Pleasures?

Although not intending to write my next blog so soon after the last one, something in the newspaper today caught my eye - this relating to what I mentioned yesterday.  Hallow'een.

Now - far be it from me to suggest we deprived our children of all the fun they can get from this day (or maybe evening), but it is the cost of it all that worries me.   Remembering the days when I bought a cheap cloak for my grandson, plus hood and mask, and he then had a lovely time knocking on doors for his 'Trick or Treat', really that didn't cost much at all.  Nor did the small handful of sweets, or a toffee apple, or home-made biscuits, flapjack etc given by residents. Now it is all so different.

What was once just this small celebration for children the paper says 'is turning out to be the biggest party night after New Year's Eve, and until the early 'Noughties' (first decade of this century - making it 10 years ago?) Hallow'een was mainly for children....but the event has now been adopted by adults as a great excuse for a party with an annual rise in demand for costumes, masks, and - of course - party food and drink.

Yet we all enjoy a party, so what's wrong with that?  Nothing if we do-it-ourselves, but reading that Britons are expected to part with £350 MILLION on costumes, treats, and pumpkins etc. took my breath away.    Why do we allow ourselves to be ripped off?

It's estimated that Tesco will sell 2 million pumpkins, (these 25% bigger than usual due to the warm summer), and Asda expected to sell 1.4 million.   I shudder when I read that two-thirds of us (and this does not include you or me) will discard the inside of the pumpkins, creating 18,000 tonnes of unnecessary waste.

The newspaper gives a suggestion of how to make easy soup using pumpkin innards:
Roughly chop the flesh and put into a saucepan with chopped onion and a litre of chicken or vegetable stock.  Simmer until the flesh is really soft (around 30 minutes) then add 3 tablespoons of double cream and whizz with a stick blender to a smooth consistency.  Add more stock if too thick - and more cream if you fancy.
Yes, I expect this will work, but no mention has been given to add seasoning, so suggest we find a slightly tastier recipe in a cook book, or maybe a reader can send one in before Halloween erupts.

Along with a few other Hallow'een essentials are mentions of what we could buy - such as Toffee Apples for 75p each (or 2 for a £1).   Far cheaper to make our own (another estimate expects 450,000 toffee apples will be bought.  Even easier would be to play 'apple-bobbing' where apples are floated in a bowl of water and have to be picked up just with the mouth/teeth.   It's been a good year for apples, and if we have been able to grow our own, or buy the smaller, cheaper apples  (small are easier to 'bite' out of the water), then have fun with these (even though 3.2 million apples expected to be bought for bobbing, do we HAVE to buy?).

Am sure there are many readers of 'a certain age' who can remember the leaner years (pre-1960) when treats were few and far between, and parents used to make decorations, presents, and provide a lot of the food for parties held at that time.  We have only to watch the Christmas episode of 'The Good Life' to realise how much fun can be had even when we have barely a penny to spend. 

Same with Bonfire Night with old clothes stuffed with straw or fabric to make Guy Fawkes.  He would be perched on top of the bonfire, and we would stand around (at a safe distance) with simple fireworks such as Catherine Wheels, sparklers, and letting off a few rockets.  Potatoes would be roasted (in their jackets) in the ashes of the bonfire, gingerbread would be handed round, also 'cinder toffee' (aka honeycomb toffee), and hot drinks there for the asking.  The lovely smell of wood smoke plus the 'gunpowder' odour left by the fireworks all added to the atmosphere.

Nowadays we never see children sitting in the streets with their home-made Guy asking for 'a penny for the Guy', and not that many families have fireworks in their own garden.  Usually there are much larger fireworks for the public to watch and very beautiful they are too.  What I really hate are those fireworks that do nothing much more than explode with a huge bang.  Youngsters love to set these off in the streets, often days before Nov. 5th.  These terrify both the elderly, young children, and most cats and dogs (and other animals).   It's not so bad when expected, for we can prepare for the noise on Nov. 5th, but at other times we are caught unawares - fun for those who set them off, but not for everyone else.  Like most things that used to be very enjoyable and cheap with it, now all our celebrations seem to have been taken over by the manufacturers and gone over the top.  It doesn't matter if the fireworks make too much noise (some people like it that way), it doesn't matter if we stuff ourselves with sugary treats (as long as we always buy them),  it is FAR better to throw a party for adults as well as children, then the wine can flow as well - making even more profits for those whose only interest is in what they can persuade us to buy.

Oh dear, don't I sound like a bitter old lady, trying to prevent people having a good time. Not at all.  All I wish is that we could see what is happening - and continuing to happen (especially in this time of recession when we are all supposed to have less to spend - so why encourage us to throw away our cash?).  Have yet to see a prog. on TV (or articles in the papers and mags) on how to make our own Hallow'een without needing to spend, spend, spend.   Nearly as bad at Christmas, although occasionally we are shown how to make decorations, and maybe cook a few treats. 

My feeling is that now our celebrations have become 'commercial', however good it gets, we have lost the true meaning, and forgotten how to enjoy ourselves in the good old fashioned way.  Perhaps too late to do much about it this Hallow'een, but we still have time to bring back the old-style Christmas and am sure that young children (and even older ones) will enjoy this far more than the one they might expect.  
We could begin by suggesting they make their own Christmas presents instead of buying them (pointing out that this would be far cheaper anyway might make them think it's worth doing).

As always, feel a lot better after having a moan, and hope you don't think I'm turning into Mrs. Scrooge.  The way of the world IS different today, but this doesn't mean we continually have to spend money to enjoy ourselves.  It's the manufacturers that are doing the persuading.   We are not sheep, we don't always have to follow what everyone else seems to want to do.   Be different.  Be unusual.  Eventually you will prove that you can have your cake and eat it too.

That's my blog for today - and apologise if I have offended those who see no reason why they shouldn't have a splurge this Friday.  We are all free to make our own decisions, who is to say mine are the right ones?

When we moved here five years ago, for the first 3 years we had several 'Trick or Treaters' calling, think they enjoyed the home-made muffins, cinder toffee, popcorn and biscuits (no bought sweets then).
The next year, for some reason I hadn't baked, so had bought a large tin of sweets for B to offer to the children when they came to the door.  What did he do - tell the first lad off for taking a handful "you can only take one sweet' B said to him (more left in the tin for B to finish off).  Apparently mutterings at the gate after that, and since then no-one has called again.   We have been black-listed as being mean.
Will be making some biscuits etc this year just in case.  Might be really mean and eat them all myself if no-one calls. B can watch me do it.

That's is for this unplanned blog, but better a blog than none at all.  TTFN.

 .   
Having said that, it was me that really gave B a telling off when the other year he offered an open tin of Quality Street to a 'Trick/Treater' then admonished him for taking a handful.  'You can only have one sweet' he said to the lad.  Now that IS being mean.  I'm not THAT bad.
B admitted that if he allowed the children to help themselves, there would be none left for him.

In previous years we had loads of children call at the door, and I would have a basket full of home-made biscuits, muffins, and popcorn to give out. 

Looking Back....

It was the comment from Kate (in Australia) that gave me food for thought.  The Australian spring heat is causing her parsley to grow past its best.  "Ah", I thought "perfect for making parsley honey".  So I looked up my (personal) recipe index that my son had done for me (not everything remains on the blog due to necessary editing), and the recipe for this was shown as being published in Sept. 1007 and also 3rd May 2007. 

Checking the publications for the Sept 2007 it seems as though the recipe for parsley honey had been deleted, but - as ever - I found plenty of recipes in that month that I was very pleased to rediscover (and had forgotten about).  So it's worth scrolling down just to have a look-see.   For instance, on the 14th Sept 2007 there was a mention of 'egg substitutes' - very useful when you haven't enough eggs when baking (or even no eggs). Not to mention some absolutely gorgeous recipes.  Even made my mouth water.
The month of May 2007 DID have the recipe for parsley honey on the 3rd, as well as other very useful recipes that have tempted/inspired me to make many of them again (and again, and again....).  So it is always worth looking back through the Archives for I feel the oldest ones have the best recipes and also very useful hints and tips.

From the 'flyers' that come through our letterbox  (and also on Tesco's website), it does seem that there are now a lot of Hallow'een type sweets on sale.  Give the manufacturers a reason to prise more money from our purses and they will do their very best to make us feel we are being mean if we don't provide 'the necessary' for the children.

Hallow'een celebrations are now much more common in the UK  than they used to be, and the 'Trick or Treat' knocking on the door is a fairly recent thing - and being my age a lot of things are 'new' that didn't happen when I was younger.  Not that I mind the children calling, but they can often be more than a nuisance and it has got to the point that I now pray for rain so the children will stay. Normally we just carve out a pumpkin (face) and put a candle in it to celebrate the occasion, but of course (thanks to the US) this has gone from strength to strength and maybe some families in the UK do decorate their homes - causing more expense. 
Here in the UK, less than a week later we have Bonfire Night.  Really we don't need both, and if it was me I'd stick to the fireworks and 'penny for the guy'.  Come to think of it, 3 weeks after Hallow'een is the American Thanksgiving'  Then comes Christmas.  Seems there are a lot more reasons to celebrate in the US than here in the UK.
Normally, the only time we decorate our homes is at Christmas.  Long may that continue.

Good to hear Margie that reorganising you pantry you find relaxing. Me too.  It gives me a feeling of security to know I have foods that will help me last through the winter months, without being too clever about the dishes we make.  There is often nothing better than starting the day with a warming bowl of porridge, and later in the day a good bowl of chunky home-made soup to satisfy our appetites. 
It's not always how much we eat, more about what we eat.  Nature has provided us with the right foods for each season of the year, and the root vegetables store so well, these also perfect for stews, casseroles, soups....

A welcome to livecheaperdaybyday  who is another reader from Australia.   Kate says it is 26C in Oz at the moment, and our new 'commenteer' mentions 40C - this probably being the mid-summer heat.  Certainly too hot for us in the UK.   Think 30C is the most I remember it being this last summer and that only in the London area. We are now down into the low teens, and will soon get colder.  By the end of this week it will be November, hard to believe.

Sorry to hear your freezer switches had 'tripped' Cheesepare.  Wonder what caused that?  If the contents were still cool, then probably re-freezing will 'hold' them safely until they are (thoroughly) cooked.  I have read that as long as there are some ice-crystals still in the foods (probably meat/fish) then these are safe to refreeze.  Not sure how it would affect the texture thought.
Yes, it would be good to meet up at the (repaired) Eric Morecambe statue when it has been replaced. Had not heard of any other statues being damaged in this way, but you did mention some had been in Cumbria, so maybe there is one person who is inclined to do damage in this direction.  Let us hope they find out who.

Many years ago a neighbour (in Leeds) used to tell me how she went to the wholesale market to buy sacks of carrots/potatoes/onions etc, as they were so cheap bought this way.  Trouble was, the market was open in the wee small hours (like 4.00am) so that the greengrocers could go and buy their daily produce for their shops.  Wholesalers are the very best place to get the cheapest prices, but expect to buy by the sack or crate. 
If able to share with family, friends or neighbours, then buying almost anything in bulk can make a saving.   This can be done small-scale even in a supermarket.  Buy the largest cauliflower, or white cabbage etc, then share between one or two friends.  Do the same with Bogofs. 

Also when living in Leeds, a friend and I used to use the same supermarket and go shopping together.  We'd see what was on offer, and work out which Bogofs we would share, what fresh produce we both wanted but that we could divide etc, and end up saving ££££s this way.

Although the hour has now gone back Ali, and you sound as though you will not enjoy the first dark evenings, have to say I quite like them.  Certainly it is good to have the day start off a bit lighter, and myself find it cosy to draw the curtains late afternoon - this helping to keep in the heat from the central heating (the one window that isn't double glazed is the large bow window in our sitting room). 
I've still to order from Approved Foods, and whether I will or not remains to be seen - my larder is still overflowing in the 'dry goods' department, as these are the ones I tend to use least.  The other side (and end) of the larder contains all the canned and bottled foods, these used more often.

There is one 'food substitute' that I do use regularly, this being Bisto.  Not the ordinary Bisto, but 'Bisto Best' (stronger and better flavour, I keep both beef and chicken granules), and was very surprised the other day to see a well-known TV chef (forgotten which) using gravy granules in a meal he was making.  So if he can do it, then why should I feel guilty about doing it too?

This week happened to come across a small recipe booklet published by Bisto (many, many years ago). Perhaps this was a coincidence?  Myself like to think it was meant to be, for now I can give a few recipes from this book that will help us get through those first few months of the year when our stocks are running down, and maybe we haven't as much meat to use as we wish.  Less meat, less expense anyway. 

French Onion Soup: serves 4
4 large onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 oz (25g) butter or marg
3 heaped teaspoons Bisto (beef flavour)
1.25 pints (625ml) water
4 slices French bread
3 oz (75g) Cheddar cheese, grated
Fry the onion gently in the butter until soft and beginning to brown, add the garlic towards the end. Mix the Bisto to a smooth cream with a little of the water, then add remaining water and stir this into the onions/garlic.  Simmer for 45 minutes. 
Top the sliced bread with grated cheese and brown under the grill.  Float each slice on an individual bowl of soup before serving.

Second recipe uses a can of corned beef, so - in a way - it is still 'store-cupboard cookery'.  If you have canned cooked chicken, then use this instead of the beef and use the Bisto chicken granules.
Using more of the vegetables, you could then make five or six 'turnovers'.
When wishing to 'mash' corned beef (as for this recipe) then use the tin as stored in the larder (room temp).  When wishing to slice (for sarnies etc), then chill the can before opening, this prevents the meat breaking up when sliced.

Myself feel the 'turnovers' end up more like 'finger food' (in other words a bit small).  So suggest you make them larger - remembering you may then end up with only two.  If you prefer, use short-crust pastry and make them 'Cornish Pasty' shape.    Or - divide the mixture between small pie dishes, cover with pastry and bake as small pies.  You have the filling, you have the pastry, now it's up to you to make and bake in any way you choose.

Savoury Turnovers: makes 4
1 small potato, coarsely grated
1 small carrot, coarsely grated
1 small onion, grated
half oz (15g) butter
1 x 198g (7oz) corned beef, mashed
1 tablespoon Bisto Best Gravy Granules
5 fl oz (150ml) boiling water
1 small pack puff pastry
egg to glaze
Gently fry the vegetables in the butter until softened.  Stir in the corned beef.  Make up the Gravy Granules and pour this over the meat mixture then leave to cool.
Meanwhile, roll out the pastry on a lightly floured board to a 12" (30cm) square.  Cut this into four squares (3"x 3"). Divide the mixture between the squares, dampen the edges and fold over to make a turnover. Seal well  Place on a baking sheet, glaze with egg, and bake for approz 20 minutes at 220C gas 7.

Last recipe today am including as it can make use of smaller amounts of raw or cooked pork or chicken (or even cooked beef/turkey) that are given in this dish.  Just add extra veg to make up the shortfall.  Basically, this is a stir-fry, so using cooked meat means several minutes of fuel saving.  Cooking raw meat means this HAS to be cooked through before being eaten.  Use the Bisto granules that are the correct flavour to go with the meat you have chosen to use.  If you have no meat, then suggest using chicken flavoured granules.

Sweet and Sour Pork (or whatever): serves 4
1 lb (450g) lean pork, cubed (see above)
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 tblsp plain flour (or cornflour)
3 tsp Bisto (chicken or your choice)
1 x 225g (8oz) can pineapple chunks in syrup
5 fl oz (150ml) water
1 small green pepper, deseeded and sliced
2 tblsp brown sugar
1 tblsp tomato puree
1 tblsp soy sauce
2 tblsp vinegar
Quickly fry the pork in oil, then stir in the flour and the Bisto.  Cook gently for one minute.  Add the pineapple syrup and the water. Bring to the boil, stirring continuously, then stir in all the remaining ingredients.   Cover and simmer gently until the meat is tender (up to 45mins for raw meat, 5 minutes if using cooked meat).  Serve with boiled rice.

Went and had my ultrasound scan this afternoon.  Successful up to a point. Have now to wait and see what the consultant has to say (if more tests needed etc).  Otherwise my pills seem to be working well and I now feel almost back to normal, although still taking it fairly easily (good excuse).
Hoping now to get back to writing more regularly, but am sure you will understand if I take a day off now and again.   Hope to be back blogging tomorrow (if not, then the day after). Hope to see you then.





     


Friday, October 24, 2014

Catch Up...

Have been resting a lot since my last blog so not a lot to write about.  Still feel a bit wobbly, but once the rest of the test have been done (next one this coming Monday), the meds will be adjusted and then I should feel more energetic.  At the moment am to do only as much as I feel I can cope with, so that's a good excuse not to do much at all! (Normal for me, ha,ha).

As always have had a wish to visit Australia, was very pleased to be able to watch a film this week called 'Charlie and Boot's (Paul Hogan was 'Charlie, the father....).  Mainly about a son taking his father a 3,000 mile journey up Australia for a fishing holiday.  Not a lot of action, mainly driving from one place to another (and not a kangaroo in sight).  The roads were long and very straight with hardly any other vehicles to be seen - apart from huge articulated lorries (almost the length of a small train) driven by (butch) women!!

Much of the countryside was agricultural, harvest time as there were lots of fields full of bales of hay, and wasn't at all how I expected Australia to look.  Apart from it being very flat.  Very flat.  An occasional hill here and there, but generally - flat!

Was amused by the motels they stayed at overnight.  Not sure if they are run by the same company, but it seemed that each morning a lady would bring breakfast to the room on a tray, the food covered in lovely metal domes to keep it hot, very posh by our standards, left it outside the motel door to be taken in and then collected later.

Also saw the Australian outback (?) way of entertaining themselves.  More American than English, a sort of Hoe-Down, Barn-Dance, or maybe Line-dancing.  Stetson's worn by men.  Looked a lot of fun.
Being me, nodded off towards the end of the film, so didn't see them arrive at their destination, but hope it will be on again as it gave me a good feel of the way of Australian rural life, and very laid back it seems to be.  Wish I could visit.

My organic veggie box that I had delivered each month used to contain many veggies with some of the soil still covering the root produce (esp potatoes), and some of these I still have in brown paper bags.  Every so often bring out some small potatoes or sweet potatoes, and it does seem as though the soil has kept them 'fresh'.  So, Kathryn, just spread your veggies out until the soil is dry, then rub off any clumps, bag them up and they will probably keep all winter.  My dad used to 'clamp' a lot of his veggies in sand or straw (then covering the clamp with soil) to keep the produce 'fresh'.

Sorry you were disappointed with your 'English Tea-room' spread Mandy, myself have noticed that rarely do we get our money's worth in places like that.   When we first visited this area  (in search of a place to move to) we once went into a café and the tiniest wedge of cake I've ever seen.  Think we were charged over £3 for that!!!  Every time I moan about it, I'm told that the overheads are so high and as the tea-rooms are usually only open 'during the season' that is why the food costs such a lot. Can understand that, but it certainly makes me check the prices before I choose whether to eat out or not. 
My fault for 'being a cook' I suppose.  I know just how much it would cost me to make what is sold, and this helps me keep my purse strings tied tight.  Then go home and make it myself.  Possibly.

Thanks to Eileen for giving the info to Mandy and Granny G about the Eric Morecambe statue. Don't think they have found out who tried to saw through the leg, but it was unsafe once this had been done so had to be removed and will be repaired and replaced. 

The 'V' shaped pillow I bought is really comfortable, and I do sleep a lot better using it in bed.  Can't pop up the head end of the bed as you suggested Jane, as have had to do this with the foot end. 

As for B attending to my needs jane, he does try, but need prompting.  He is so used to me doing everything, that he doesn't realise that things don't just suddenly appear as if by magic.  Anything more complicated than Marmite on toast sends him into a bit of a panic.
The other day, for the first time, and even while I was there instructing him what to do, he managed to do something to the washing machine that caused it to make a very odd noise after he had loaded it and switched it on.  Think he had turned the knob in the wrong direction.  Managed to get it working - at least the second half of the its cycle, I haven't dared try it since and won't let him touch it again.
Will be glad when I feel well enough to take over all the chores again.  B has always had a very bad short-term memory so can never remember what I ask him to do (or is that his excuse?).  On his way out to the kitchen this week B asked me if I would like a cup of coffee, and even before he left the room he had obviously forgotten I said 'yes', as he returned with 'his' mug full of coffee and nothing for me.  You have to laugh.

Tomorrow is Saturday, on Sunday the hour goes back (an hour extra in bed), and Monday I go to have tests at the hospital, so not sure when I'll next be blogging.  Sooner rather than later - that is if I can find something interesting to write about.  All I seem to do these day is knit/crochet, and make B's supper.  Cooked him meatballs for his supper tonight.  I'd made the meatballs, they just needed heating up, and so I took the easy route, first frying chopped onion, then adding the meatballs, and for the 'sauce' tipped in a can of lentil and bacon soup.  Tasted OK, but as I had two almost empty bottles of tomato ketchup and HP sauce, rinsed those out with a little hot water and added that as well, just gave it a bit more 'kick'.  Served the meatballs/sauce on a bed of pasta penne (drained, tossed in butter and Parmesan cheese).  Enough left over for me to have some, and I did enjoy it.

Yesterday made a vegetable curry (sweet potatoes, ordinary potatoes, onions, cauliflower...) adding a jar of Jalfrezi curry sauce.  served with rice.  Also good.  At least a darn sight better (and far cheaper) than the instant heat-in-the-microwave meals that B had bought for himself from M'son's, while I was in hospital.  He had bought quite a few (2 for £4, what a bargain" he said. Not!), so he was able to heat up one or two for me as well on my return and what a waste of money they were.  Hope it proves to B that home-made meals are far cheaper to make, you get a lot more for you money, and they are also far tastier.

That's my blog for today.  Think it's Hallow'een in a week's time.  Leaves fast falling from the trees, and summer seems now to be well and truly over.  This year we've been blessed with having a lovely spring, summer AND autumn, so nothing to grumble about there.  Wonder what sort of winter we will have. 

Thanks again to all who have sent comments.  In fact there have been so many, and although I have read all of them (blogger send them via my email 'box') have a feeling I've not given personal replies to each, especially some new names that appeared.  Normally I jot down replies as I read each one, but these past couple or so weeks (maybe longer), my routine has gone out of the window, and I'm feverishly trying to gather up the missing strands to weave my life back together again.  Am sure you will be patient with me while I do this. 

Will try to write a short blog this Sunday, otherwise it will be early next week.  Enjoy your weekend. TTFN.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

It's an Ill Wind....

Another short blog, but better a few words than none at all.  Not that 'few' is a word I recognise.  Know what I mean?

Howling gale blowing rain at the windows as I write.  Almost forgotten what that sounded like.  Once this is over we again are supposed to be getting warmer weather.  Could be Christmas before the real chill sets in, and maybe not even then.  All I can say is that it feels good to be indoors.  It has now started to hail!!!
Danger with high winds and rain at this time of year is that it blows down a lot of leaves and these then become very slippery.  If I can persuade B to shovel them up into sacks, they will make good compost for next year.  So an ill wind can blow good as well as bad.

It's been a wonderful year for leaf-colour change.  We have a large forsythia bush in our front garden, and although pruned down quite a bit after flowering, it has really shot up again.  Normally it ends its year by shedding just green leaves, but this year - and I've never seen this before - the leaves began to change colour, and many 'spikes/branches' began to show deep red.  I first thought it was another plant that was growing through the bush, but it was the forsythia.  More and more red spikes appeared, and now the rest of the bush has changed to all shades of pale yellow to orange through to red.  It's a wonderful sight, and very visible from our sitting room (about the only bush that is as the window sill is fairly high).   It's as if our garden is bursting to show how lovely it can look when it tries.
As I look through the long, narrow window above my desk, I see the vivid Acer bush, a glorious copper colour. that looks even more impressive against a back-drop of dark-green cordyline and holly.   Some Acers change colour as they approach autumn, but ours is always copper coloured from the first leaves in spring, although seemingly even deeper and brighter in colour all through this year.

Went to the doc's yesterday for an update.  He was very pleased with my speedy recovery, faster than either he or the hospital expected apparently.  A whole new lot of pills, taking the place of the old ones that have now been stopped, and most will have to be taken for the rest of my life.  Just a couple more checks at the Lancaster Infirmary, then - fingers crossed - will be back to (almost) normal.

Yesterday bought myself one of those 'U/V' shaped pillows to help me sleep better in bed, and have to say it worked well.  Doc said best for me to sleep slightly propped up to make my breathing easier (had water on my lungs - this will disappear naturally over time), and the new pillow is just right.  Had the best night's sleep last night for nearly a month.

Thanks for comments.  Not sure if you've now returned to Perth (Australia) Mary, or just moved on from the Midlands area on your visit here. 
While in hospital, a new patient arrived in our five-bed ward, her bed opposite to mine, and she was on holiday in England, her home now being in Australia.  Think she was a Lancastrian as she had kept her accent, no sign of an OZ accent even though she had lived there 23 years.
She gave her address to a patient next to her, and I can't now remember it, but it was in Perth, sounded like a suburb (began with a C), and have forgotten the name of the road - it had an almost Aboriginal sound - something like Woranattah.   Or Warattanah?  Am sure you will know the one I mean. 
Who knows, you may even know the lady (her name was Mavis).  Stranger things can happen.

It's an interesting thing about what has been said about hospitals and care there.  Myself have been in only two - St.James (Jimmy's) in Leeds, and now Lancaster Infirmary, but in both had amazingly good care AND good food. 

Even in  our small ward it was noticeable how some of the patients who were well enough to speak, used to complain a lot.  'Food is AWFUL' said the bed next to mine, pushing it away and refusing to eat any of it.  But the lady was very poorly (99 years old on the 23rd of this month), and after she had a blood transfusion, she suddenly got colour in her cheeks, said she was hungry, and promptly ate everything put before her saying it was lovely.

Another patient was endlessly complaining, and I noticed she switched her moans and groans on only when one of the nurses or orderlies entered the ward.  She seemed OK at other times, chatting happily to Mavis, and actually smiled and waved goodbye to me when I left.  She just needed a bit of attention I think beyond what the nurses could give her, and have to say they were so kind to her, all the time they were in the ward.  Me, I'd have felt like giving her a slap.  I'd never make a good nurse.

Not sure that I was the most popular patient in the eyes of the others.  When their visitors came, all they did was tell them how dreadfully they were treated and moaning-millie (above) pleaded with her son to send her to a private hospital where she could have a private consultant etc. etc. 
My visitors (either daughter, B or my next-door neighbour) spent most of the visiting time shrieking with laughter over one thing or another.  As a family we find fun in anything.  B happily munching his way through the odd snacks that I'd put to one side and hadn't yet eaten (wasn't going to eat them anyway).

Maybe, one day I'll be ill in hospital and not feel like finding any enjoyment in anything.  In a way I felt a bit like that this time - couldn't even be bothered to listen to the radio or use the TV (each bed had one).  Just wanted to like back and get better, but at no time did I feel like moaning.  Most of the time I spent thanking the nurses for all the attention, love and care, they were giving me.  They deserve to be thanked.

Perhaps some hospitals are better than others, and the Morecambe Bay Hospitals have had a bad press recently (despite the name, this name covers all the hospitals in Lancashire, Cumbria, Lake District etc).
Did hear two nurses talking together as they changed the beds, most of them live several miles out of Lancaster, one has had to her sell her car as she couldn't afford to run it due to the low wages, and it takes her ages now to get from home to the hospital as she has to change buses more than once.  The working hours seem long too.  The nurse was saying she will probably have to move closer to the hospital.

Just because nursing is considered a 'vocation', doesn't mean the wages should be lower than those given to others who work far less hard.  Nurses, I am sure, work a great deal harder than most.

I've contacted Steve re the possibility of a 'communal site' where you (and I do mean YOU) make, photo, and send in a recipe from this blog (or 'Goode' books), that you recommend worth making  Am hoping that will collect the best recipes together, and these then easily able to be found - and tried by those who wish to make them.  More on this later.

Over the past few weeks I've been busy knitting and crocheting, and have now several old cushions re-covered with hand-knit.  Was gratified to see a couple, very similar to mine, in a Sunday supplement, also a 'throw', the cushions starting at £45!  Certainly has 'lifted' the ambience (whatever that is) of our sitting room.  Almost looks good enough to allow in visitors (once B had cleared up all his clutter!!!).

Between times I knitted 'hand-warmers' (like mittens but without defined fingers/thumb).  Just a piece of ribbing knitted for 8 rows on 31 stitches, then plain knitting (purl on backside) for 28 rows, picking up the middle loop of every 5th row to make an extra stitch until I had 35 stitches on needle.  When 28th row was completed, then knit-one, purl-one rib again for 14 rows, then cast off.
Stitch up sides together, leaving a small hole under the short rib for the thumb to stick through.  The short rib becomes the top of the mitten, the longer rib fits round the wrist.
Very simple to make, a pair can be knitted in less than 2 hours, and they really do keep hands warm without restraining the fingers (or thumb).  When the weather gets colder I'll be wearing these indoors once out of the kitchen).

That's all the chat I can muster today,  probably be back again before the weekend.  TTFN.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Worth Being Ill For....

Just been catching up with Gill's news (regular Sunday phone call), she was on holiday last week, so didn't know about my spell in hospital.
As sitting at my desk (land line phone by my side) thought I'd take the opportunity to write my blog before I settle down to do the rest of what's needed to be done today, and then put my feet up.

Am still improving, albeit slowly.  Seeing the doc tomorrow so should then know how much I can do and can't do. 

Another huge thank you for the lovely comments sent in.  A welcome to Joitsie (and a few others who have sent in their first comments recently).

Your mention of hospital food (esp soup) Jane, has prompted me to write down the menus for the couple of days I was in hospital.  Just in case anyone is interested.  Myself feel we were given a good choice.
Menu lists were left at the side of each bed the evening before, and we would then tick the boxes to show what we had chosen.  We could also choose small, medium, or large portions.  Naturally I chose large, but am not sure if that was what was given to me, they didn't seem THAT large.

Saturday lunch (for week 1) we had Roast Parsnip and Rosemary Soup - a James Martin recipe. This followed by a choice of three main courses:  Lamb and Potato Pie (also J'M's recipe), Vegetable Lasagne, or Cottage Cheese and Pineapple Salad. (I chose the cottage cheese/salad).
To these we could add 'extras': 'potatoes of the day', and/or 'vegetables of the day'.
We could choose one dessert from the three listed: Jam Sponge and Custard, Rice Pudding, and Fruit of the Day (I chose the Jam Sponge).

The lady in the next bed to me had chosen the Lamb and Potato Pie, and it looked and smelled gorgeous and I wished I'd had that instead of the salad.  Maybe next time?

Saturday supper was: Lentil Broth, followed by either a cheese and tomato sandwich on wholemeal bread, or chicken mayonnaise sandwich on white bread, or Tuna Salad with a bread roll and butter (this being my choice).  Not sure why, but the bread is never buttered or 'marged', it is just plain bread with the chosen filling.  Ok if the filling consists of something with mayo, but very dry if just cold meat.  They give us little pots of butter/marg AND jam/marmalade to spread on our breakfast toast, so if I have to stay in hospital again think I'll take my own 'extras' to top up the meals.
Also chose the 'extras on the Saturday menu - these being Mini cheese crackers.
Dessert was Victoria Sponge (J.M's recipe and my choice) or fruit of the day.

The Sunday Menu was:
Pea and Ham Soup (J.M's recipe and it was lovely), and either Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding (also J.M recipe) or Vegetarian Sausages in Gravy and Yorkshire Pudding (my choice).
Extras were: vegetables of the day (my choice), creamed potatoes, roast potatoes (my choice), gravy.

Desserts was either Fruit Crumble and Custard (my choice) or fruit of the day.

As I went home before the Sunday supper was served, have now forgotten what I ordered.  Think it was much the same as the Saturday, just different choice of flavours.

Margie's mention of her mum being in hospital for five days (after having a baby) reminded me of when I had our first two.  Mine were born so easily (approx. 2 hours from start to finish), but in those days they kept us in bed for up to 2 weeks.  Nowadays it is 'get up and go' as soon as possible after the baby is born. 
With our fourth (last) baby (who started at 5.00am and born 20 minutes later), I was up later that day making bacon sarnies for B's supper.  Obviously I was one of the lucky ones.

Now then, I had a BRILLIANT idea yesterday (at least I thought so).  Regular readers may remember that some time ago I said I was working on starting another web-site, this to be just for recipes plus hints and tips.  It's ready to go (almost) but as my camera didn't work, couldn't then take photos of the dishes I'd cooked and wanted to put onto the site. 
Steve bought me a new camera, but due to recent health issues have not yet begun working on the website and still have to find out how to use the camera to its full potential (it doesn't come with instructions other than those on a disc that have to be read via the comp). 

How about the new site being OUR site.  Yours and mine.  What I would like to happen is readers choose one (and more) recipes that have been either published on this blog, or in the various cookery books that I've written.  Find the ones that they like and can recommend, then make, photo, and put on the new website.  Also altering the dish if they feel it can be improved (or made even cheaper).
That way we get a good idea of what the dishes do look like -- and a picture paints a thousand words, hopefully tempting others to make the same.  And if they don't like it when made, tell us why.

But it doesn't have to be just MY recipes, why not include your own?  If you like the idea I will get on to Steve (who is setting up the site for me) and he will then tell us how to forward the photos/recipes to him. 

Scrolling back through Archives to view the thousands of recipes already on this site. I know there are hundreds worth making, but never easy to find, and if these are made and put onto this new site,  it'll be a bit like a cookbook written by all of us.  Everything together to find at the press of a button.    

Please let me know what you think of this idea. TTFN   

 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Wake Up Call...

Not yet up to blogging daily, but felt well enough to pop in and thank all of you for your lovely comments and kind thoughts.  So many new names to welcome. I am blessed.
Many thanks to Eileen who kept you posted.

Suffice to say am now feeling a lot better, and after more out-patient scans/tests should know more about what caused the problem.  Have been given four more new meds to take to keep me ticking over as I should, so can't grumble.  Am enjoying putting my feet up.

Maybe I'm one of the few people who actually enjoy being in hospital, and this because all my meals are cooked for me, not by me.  This alone is a real treat, and when I saw that several of the meals were a 'James' Martin recipe' (he has done a lot of work improving hospital meals) I was very pleased.  Even though I didn't always eat 'his' dishes, all the soups were tagged with the little chef's hat (James M's), and these were gorgeous.  The whole ward exclaimed that his pea and ham soup was wonderful.

The day began with a wake-up call  of a hot drink (tea or coffee), then breakfast (choice of cereals, toast (brown or white) with butter or marg, jam or marmalade, then another drink at 'elevenses', then a 3-course lunch, then an early supper (soup, choice of sarnies with salad, and dessert), then a late night hot drink and for those that were still hungry a 'snack' bag containing a sandwich, yogurt, fruit juice and a banana on request.   You can see that even while I felt poorly, food wasn't far from my mind.

Know you will understand if I keep this blog short, and as it is Friday will also take tomorrow off (and prob Sunday as well) before returning.  If I don't feel well, then I won't blog.  For once I am putting my needs first.  Not like me, but there you go.  Needs must as they say....

However it is good to be back, and hope to catch up with comments over the next week.  Weather still good here, they say we are in for an Indian summer!  Just as well, I still haven't planted the spring bulbs or brought in the geraniums.
Soon be Hallow'een, then Bonfire night, then the run up to Christmas.  Perhaps, not surprisingly, I've gone off eating and thinking about food.  Difficulty sleeping at night, so nod off during the day.  Time now for my next nap.   Love and kisses to all.  TTFN.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

First Things First

Sorry no blog yesterday but felt so tired.  Although a little improvement in my health, not enough for me to get on top of things.  If no improvement after this weekend will have to see the doctor.
Finding I'm getting breathless, gaining weight rapidly (even though hardly eating at all - probably due to water retention), and this could be cause by heart failure or pernicious anaemia or a host of things, so it needs sorting.  At my age what else can I expect? 

Was so tired yesterday that I nodded off during the final of '....Bake Off', although I did wake to discover the winner.  Hoping to keep awake to watch the repeat at the weekend.

Got the days mixed up and it wasn't Tuesday there was a footie match, it is tonight, so as this room will be occupied all evening by B, thought I'd get the blog written this morning.  Am going to make a big pot of soup for B's supper, and by the afternoon will then need to have a nap (again!), so with no need to get up and feed the brute, his meal will already have been prepared.

B has asked me to make more bread for him tomorrow, and - perhaps for the first time - I'm going to say no.  He'll have to make do with bought bread.  Never before have I put myself first, but now I feel if I don't, then I'll go downhill fast. 

Until this health problem of mine is sorted, almost certainly won't be doing anything interesting to write about, and the last thing you want to read is a list of my ailments and how I'm feeling each day.  I want to write a happy blog.  So - if it's OK with you - will maybe take a day or two off now and again, and return when there is something worth writing about, although I will check comments regularly and find time to reply to any that need replying to.

Normally I take Saturday off anyway, and occasionally Sunday.  May even take tomorrow (Friday) off and return on Monday.  It all depends on how I feel. Do hope you understand.  Just please don't switch me off forever, I'd hate to lose you.

However, there are all those seasonal recipes, money-saving hints and tips piled up in the Archives, so if I haven't written a blog for the day, then read what I wrote about one year, two years.....six years ago on the same day (or close to).   Myself can read my old blogs (they are far more interesting then they are now) and as I have completely forgotten what I wrote then, it's like reading someone else's. And I enjoy them!!! (modesty is not my strong point).

So - for the moment - expect me when you see me.  Let's hope it's sooner rather than later, and if can't write a proper blog, will find time once or twice a week to give you an update and maybe a recipe or two.  One or two given today.

With a mention of 'junket' the other day, came across this recipe in an old book.  You may wish to try it.  My mother didn't sweeten her junket or add flavourings and possibly this was why I didn't enjoy it.

junket:
Warm 1 pint of milk to blood heat, add 1 tblsp of honey or sugar, a few drops of vanilla essence or rum or other flavouring and 1 tsp of rennet.  Pour into a bowl and leave to cool and set.  Serve with fresh fruit and cream.

From the same book comes an easy 'farmhouse supper'.  Perhaps too easy for 21st century palates (that have become used to more complicated and tastier dishes) but this is still comfort eating and makes use of any foods we might have that need using up.  Portions seem smaller than we would expect, but in those days people ate to live, not lived to eat.  So make as much as you need.
I write the recipe as printed in the book.  In those days ingredients were not listed, just mentioned in order of use.  I include metric equiv. where I can.

Farmhouse Supper:  serves 4
Soften 8 oz (225g) of chopped streaky bacon in a frying pan until the fat runs, then remove bacon an pu in 1 lb (450g) of chopped cooked potatoes and a finely chopped onion in the pan to brown lightly.  Season, add the bacon, and transfer to an ovenproof dish.  Put 4 lightly fried eggs on top, sprinkle with 4 oz (100g) grated cheese, and place under the grill for 1 minute before serving.

My last order from Tesco included a couple of substitutes.  They sent me 11x150g cans of Heinz Beanz instead of a few larger cans of their 'Five Beanz'.  Working out the difference in price I would have paid a lot more for the small tins that I was charged (think this saved me over £2 due to their 'price-match).

In a way the small tins were more than useful.  Just enough for one (saved me opening a larger tin and then finding a use for the remainder when serving them to B).   Best of all - these tins were the type where they could be opened from either end using my tin-opener that removes lids without leaving rough metal round the edge. Not many tins/cans these days can be opened from the base as well as the top.  So now, as I use the contents of each of these small beans tins, I also remove their base, and - after a good wash - these are now ready for me to use as containers (like the 'cook's rings' where they pile food inside to serve as 'towers').  I can use these tins to make individual cheesecakes, and also hold individual servings of home-made ice-cream.  So - instead of returning substitutes that I didn't really want - am very glad I kept the small cans.

Have to say that writing recipes has cheered me up a lot (even though still feel exhausted when I think of the chores in front of me).  Before I finish, must thank Margie for her comment - the only one that came in over the past couple of days.  Don't forget you can all read comments sent by each other - all make interesting reading.  So please keep the comments coming.  Remember to use the comment blog on THIS (today's) page, as using any other the comments won't be shown except on the blog-page they were written, and few people bother to look back a day or two.

After a day of gales and rain, and despite the chill in the air (we have now put the central heating on), the sun still shines most of the day.  Leaves turning a lovely colour and if we can keep away from too much wind we should have a lovely autumnal display.  Probably down south they have already got theirs.  It takes about six weeks for the season to work its way up the country from the tip of Cornwall to (let's say) Hadrian's Wall, so depending where you live, your leaves may have already fallen from the trees.  Ours are still clinging.

As I said, it could be a day or two before I blog again.  But keep checking.  I'll be back.  God willing.  TTFN.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Thank Goodness it's Over, Or is It?

Since my last blog thing keep going wrong.  On Saturday - my baking day - we had two power cuts. The first during the night, apparently one of the small electric sub-stations had blown up or something.  Thousands still without electricity, but expected to be on again by 10.00am.  Came back on at 9.00am.  So began baking.  The power then went off again for quite a while, so I was very fed up, cakes ruined.

Added to that I'd been feeling more and more grotty.  Weakness, breathlessness, dizziness.  Realised after a few days that almost certainly I was anaemic again, and luckily had one iron pill left, after taking that, a few hours later felt a bit better, but as it was the weekend, couldn't get more pills until Monday, so went downhill again.   Asked B to get me some Vit.B12 pills as well, and am feeling a lot better now, but not quite back to normal.

Made three huge quiches for the Harvest Supper held at the Spiritualist Church on Monday evening, B was to take them there some time after 3.00pm, but he told me he would be helping out his upholstery mate until 4.00pm so he came home collected the quiches and took them to the church.  He phoned me to say the church was locked, no-one there.  I phoned the organiser - she WAS there, the doors were unlocked, and she said she'd go outside to find my husband's car.
Phoning B back to tell him, discovered he'd gone to the wrong church!!!  Why was I not surprised?  He'd taken them to the Foodbank (held in a Methodist Chapel).  Anyway, all sorted and they got delivered. 

We had another electricity cut last night, just as I sat down to write my blog, so went to bed instead of waiting to see when it came on again. 
B is working again this morning, and as I was to make a cake to take to the Sp. church this afternoon (for their coffee morning tomorrow), went to switch the oven on.  The timer was flashing, not re-set after the leccy cut (B always resets it for me as I don't know how to do it), so the oven wouldn't then work.  Eventually I managed to get it working and the cake has been made.

This morning, when sitting down to write my blog, the computer took AGES to sort itself out - again due to the leccy cuts.  But seems OK now.  Phew.  Don't want any more problems thank you.

Quite a few comments to reply to, so here goes....
Yes Jane, I do remember that 'sausage wrap' but can't quite remember how to do it.  I'll look up the method (it's in one of my books, might be in Goode For One), and will then let you know.

It's amazing how much more expensive chicken joints are compared to the same (by weight) from a whole chicken that has been jointed at home.  So, buttercup, whenever you see fresh chickens on offer (sometimes 3 for £10...) worth buying them, jointing them up (wrap/freeze separately or they tend to stick together) and use the carcases for making stock. 
The winglets I tend to collect in one bag as these make excellent stock without the need for a carcase, so useful in the future when (horrors!) I've run out of chicken stock. I NEVER want to run out of that.

Think my favourite patchwork pattern was the log cabin, as this used strips of material, and not sure what the 'whirlygig' looks like.  jAnother favourite of mine is 'Cathedral Window', this mainly plain material folded (so no backing needed), and small pieces of coloured material sewn into spaces that have been formed.  I really looks very pretty, and a great way to use up old (plain) sheets and very small pieces of material.

Well remember that huge sea surge in 1953 Sairy.  This was due to exceptional high tides and gales blowing the sea onto the land.  We have a large book written about it, and in Blakeney there is a marker on the wall to show how high up the sea came.  Good to hear about the parade in honour of those American servicemen who helped with the rescues.

A welcome to Christine K, who is asking about the size of 'dripping tins'.  In the old days, when huge joints of beef were turned on a spit, there would be a large tray set on the ground below to catch all the melted fat (aka dripping) and the meat juices.   Today we roast the (smaller) joints in the oven and choose a roasting tin that is the right size.  Best to roast the meat on a grid that sits on the base of the pan, then it doesn't sit in the drippings, but it doesn't really matter. 
My mother used to roast her joint on a rack and about 45 minutes before the meat was ready, would pour off most of the fat, and replace the tin/meat in the oven, pouring Yorkshire pudding batter into the tin below the meat.  Any meat juices that dripped would then go into the Yorkie and make it taste lovely.
Today we normally make Yorkshire's separately, and there are special four-section tins for this purpose, but often I use a shallow sponge cake tin to make a larger one, especially when serving with a beef casserole as the meat/gravy can then be spooned inside.
For Toad in the Hole, I would use a fairly shallow 8"/20cm square tin, but the size really depends on how many people you wish to serve.  Part cook the sausages in the tin, pour of some of the fat before pouring the batter over but ALWAYS make sure the fat is very hot before doing that, otherwise the batter ends up with a soggy bottom.

Thanks Eileen for your memories.  Vaguely remember Cremola Foam, at least the name, don't think I've ever had any. 

Thanks also to londonlass to whom we give a welcome.  Think tripe was traditionally a Yorkshire meal, as well remember 'tripe and onions' being mentioned when we lived in Leeds.  In Leeds market there is a stall that sells only tripe, and believe there are four different types (tripe coming from a cow's stomach, that has four 'compartments'.

Think that today the only way we can be sure of buying skirt beef is from a local butcher, and then probably has to be ordered.  My butcher in Leeds told me that it is their favourite cut of beef, so the butchers themselves tend to take it home to cook/eat, and this is why it isn't on sale very often.

As to junket.  My mother made it often and how I hated it.  Every time my spoon went into it, it split up into curds and whey.  She didn't seem to flavour it, although maybe did add a bit of sugar, I can't remember, but have never eaten it since, although have used the same process to make soft cheese (after breaking it up and draining it).

Interesting that you like Pear's soap Margie.  My mother used to think it was wonderful, but it was too hard for me (didn't soften when it water), don't think it made too many bubbles either. Supposed to be good for the skin, and am pleased (for your sake) that you have been able to find a source. Myself tend to use Johnson's Baby Soap, not for any particular reason, just like the smell.  I use their baby talc too.  Perhaps brings back memories of having babies of my own.

The weather has really turned.  So cold now compared to a few days ago, and half a gale at the weekend that has brought down a lot of leaves.  B is asking if we can have the central heating on for a bit during the evening.  Not sure whether he'll get any benefit as he tends to spend most of each evening in this room watching 'his' TV (and no heating in this room - other than a gas fire that has not yet been used).
Tonight he'll definitely be in here as there is a footie match on.  Was going to make him some Fork Biscuits to snack on, but didn't as I was cross with him for not re-setting the oven before he left this morning (I hadn't then been in the kitchen). He obviously knew it had to be done, you couldn't miss the light flashing on and off to remind that it wasn't working.  He always HAS done it without being asked, but the day I need the oven he ignored it.  Men!!

Anyway, that's it for today.   Sorry no time to give recipes - am at the church this afternoon, then preparing B's supper, then settling down for the night and planning an early night.  With B in here no opportunity to use the comp (he doesn't like me using it when he is watching TV).

If feeling back to normal, will be writing again tomorrow.  If not may take the day off.  Expect me when you see me.  TTFN.










Friday, October 03, 2014

Gone But Not Forgotten...

A welcome to essexgran who remembers Kunzle cakes.  How can we forget them? They were so special and absolutely gorgeous.

Many prefer to 'live for the day', others look to the future.  Myself enjoy past memories.  Does that make me a sad old lady?  Perhaps.
However, many foods and other products that we loved - or even hated - seem to have disappeared, so it would be interesting to hear from my lovely readers other names they remember..  Maybe then could find a recipe so that we could have a go at making the foodie ones ourselves.

My mother always used to have a box of bloaters sent from Great Yarmouth to arrive home (in Leicester) after our holidays in Norfolk.  These I believe are a bit like kippers but not dried.  These were eaten by my parents, so don't recall ever being given any, and wonder if herrings are still  processed in the same way today.
The fish called 'snoek' - sold during World War II - is best forgotten.  Believe it was whale meat, but could be wrong.

During the war when sweets were rationed, we children would go to the chemist and buy Ovaltine tablets to suck.  Not sure what the real purpose they were made for, but they did make a good sweet substitute.  Doubt these are made today.
Don't let us forget Zambuk.   Beecham's Pills.  Vim.  Omo.   Cherry Blossom Boot Polish....a there must be other non-edibles that were really good.  Do they still sell carbolic soap today?  My mother used to buy this for scrubbing the kitchen floor - think it came in big yellow blocks.

Mum also used to buy Pear's soap for washing me when I was small.  Think it was Pear's, the tablets were oval, darkish pink in colour and clear, looking a lot like very solid jelly.  I hated it.  For herself she preferred Knight's Castile soap.  These two may still be sold today.

In my late teens there was Helena Rubenstein's Silk Face powder, and I did buy some and it was very special. Or at least it made me feel special.
Max Factor Pan-stick was my chosen 'base' and boy, was that a mistake.  I would spread it on my face and a few hours later the once pale 'undercoat' changed to a deeper orange.  Never did get 'make-up' right.  After marriage tended to hardly wear any, just a bit of lipstick and a dab of powder, and like to think that is why I've hardly any lines on my face now (although that probably is due to me being overweight rather than for any other reason).

There are lots of foods bought/cooked/eaten in my youth that can still be bought today, but usually have to be ordered from a butcher, and not all can provide them.  Capons (castrated cockerels; boiling fowls; pig's heads, pig's ears, pigs trotters.
Beef skirt is now hard to obtain, and also tripe (but who would want that anyway?).  Apart from liver and kidneys, the other offal:  brains, sweetbreads, heart, lungs (aka lights), and other unmentionables are now mainly forgotten about but probably the most nourishing and cheap because no-one wants them. 

The squash family (marrows, butternut, pumpkins etc), all store well once harvested.  In fact they will keep for months until cut - then need to be used up.
With Hallow'een on the horizon we could be planning to buy a pumpkin, and suppose we could stick black paper on a pumpkin to make a face (eyes, nose, mouth) leaving it uncut.  More likely we will be carving it out to make a hole in the centre to place a candle and cut the facial features out throught the peel so the light can shine through.

Believe it or not, some people throw away the pumpkin 'innards'.  You don't do you?  Here is a recipe for pumpkin soup, and while you are preparing it, save those seeds as they can be washed, roasted and eaten as 'snacking seeds'.
If you have a very large pumpkin and wish to use up all the flesh for soup, then freeze the surplus, garnishing it after thawing and reheating.

Pumpkin Soup: serves 6
4 tblsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2lb 2oz (1kg) pumpkin, peeled/seeded, chopped
1.5 pints (700ml) chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper
5 fl oz (150ml) double cream
garnish:
4 slices granary bread, crusts removed
handful pumpkin seeds
Heat half the oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the onions for 5 minutes until softened, then add the chunks of pumpkin and cook for a further 8 -10 minutes, stirring often, until the flesh begins to soften and turn a golden colour.
Add the stock to the pan with seasoning to taste, then bring to the boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes until the pumpkin is very soft.  Stir in the cream and bring back to the boil, then remove from heat and blitz to a puree using a stick blender directly in the pan, or using a food processer.
While the soup is cooking, cut the bread into small croutons.  Put the remaining oil in a frying pan and fry the bread until it begins to crisp.  Add the pumpkin seeds and cook for a few minutes longer.
Reheat the soup if necessary, check seasoning, then serve in individual soup bowls, scattering croutons and the pumpkin seeds on top.

Whether we live alone, or maybe can't afford to buy meat this week, if we have sausages we can still make a meal by removing the skins and either rolling the meat into meatballs (fry in a pan and then serve with a good tomato sauce and pasta), or make 'burgers' with the meat (adding extra ingredients to make it good further - such as onions, breadcrumbs, herbs....).

Here is a recipe for a quick sausage bolognaise, and allowing two sausages per person, easy to adapt to feed just one or the four intended with this recipe.  Makes sense to use the best sausages we can afford - and, sadly, these can sometimes work out at up to 40p EACH.  So keep an eye open for offers and then freeze them for later use.  If sold in packs, don't freeze the pack as it will then be difficult to separate the sausages if you only need one or two,  open-freeze separately before bagging them up, then you can use as little or as many as you wish.
Goes without saying that we can make our own tomato 'pasta' sauce if we wish.

Although we often call sausages 'bangers' (whatever the quality), they were called this during World War II when the sausages were made with very little meat plus a lot of bread, water  and other things we'd probably rather not know about (my mother swore she found a mouse's tooth in a sausage).  When fried in a pan, these sausages would burst out of their skins (explode), hence the name 'bangers'.   I use this name just because it begins with a B as does the Bolog.

Banger's Bolognaise: serves 4
8 good sausages, skins removed
1 tsp fennel seeds (opt)
9 oz (250g) mushrooms, sliced
5 fl oz (150ml) red wine (opt)
1 x 660g jar tomato pasta sauce
10 oz (300g) pasta penne or other pasta shapes
grated Parmesan cheese (opt)
Heat a large frying pan, the crumble in the sausage meat.  No need to add any oil as some will come out of the sausage, break it up with a fork as it cooks.  Add the fennel seeds and fry for a few minutes until the meat is golden and the fat is released.  Stir constantly to break up the meat as much as possible.
Add the mushrooms and continue frying for a few minutes until these are beginning to soften, then stir in the wine (if using).  Let it bubble away for a minute then add the tomato pasta sauce.  Bring to the boil, reduce heat and let it simmer, uncovered to reduce down the liquid.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta as per packet instructions, and when ready, drain well and add to the 'bolognaise' sauce mixture.  Mix well until the pasta is completely coated with the sauce, then serve in individual dishes, sprinkling the tops with a little Parmesan (if using).

While thinking sausages, here is another recipe where we can use these - again with skins removed. A recipe for onion marmalade was given just a few days ago.  The skins are left on the apples so the dish looks more attractive if red apples are used, but green ones are OK.
Although lovely eaten with potato (as given), the meatballs-in-sauce would also eat well spooned over couscous or other cooked grain such as rice.

Fruity Pork Meatballs: serves 4
10 oz (300g) good sausages, skins removed
1 small onion, grated or finely chopped
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
3 tblsp caramelised onion marmalade (see above)
half pint (300ml) hot vegetable stock
2 red eating apples, cored and thickly sliced
mash or jacket potatoes for serving
Put the sausage meat into a bowl with the onion and herbs and mix well together (best done with clean hands).  Then wet the hands and form the mixture into 16 meat balls.
Heat a large, non-stick frying pan  (no need to add oil) and brown the meatballs over high heat (shaking the pan so the balls roll around to colour all over - this should take about 2 - 3 minutes.
Stir in the onion marmalade, the stock, and the apples, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the meatballs and apples are cooked and the sauce has thickened.
Spoon these over a base of mashed potato or inside a split jacket potato.

That's it for today, and as I'll be taking the weekend off (maybe even Monday) due to all the cooking I'll be doing, it will be 'expect me when you see me' (hopefully Monday, definitely Tuesday). 

A thanks to Sheridan for her comment re the temperature in Australia.  Not too different from the day temperatures down south here in the UK, but the other side of the world heating up for their summer, while we are now chilling down for our winter.   Cold air is now pushing in from the northwest, and this next week might be the last we have of a good, gentle, and extremely lovely autumn.   We haven't had such good weather all year for decades, the best September on record it is said.  Other parts of the world have not been so lucky.  This year our turn to have been blessed. 

Enjoy the weekend before the weather breaks, and please keep sending in comments, they really cheer me up.  Because I have a 'reader counter' I know the daily/weekly numbers are constant (and rising), but it is lovely to have real 'contact' with you, almost (but not quite) as good as having a proper one-to-one chat with you over coffee and cakes at my kitchen table.
Suppose, in the future, people will be able to 'skype' when blogging and actually see a reader who wishes to make visual contact at that moment of writing.   Just as well we can't do that or you'd soon be fed up with me - I can never stop talking once started!  TTFN.

  

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Chill in the Air..

Definitely a lot cooler, although wall to wall blue sky all day, almost a touch of frost in the air this evening.  I can smell it!  Breathing it the cold air as I went into the bedroom, catches the back of my throat.  Must bring the geraniums in this weekend.  They are lined up by the side of the garage wall at the moment where they are protected by the reserved heat the south-facing wall soaked up during today, so should be OK.  Tonight there is clear sky and a bright (half) moon.  That is when frosts strike.  We don't get frosts on cloudy nights - at least don't think so.

Thanks to all who sent in comments. It was lovely to have them to read.  First reply is a welcome to Nell, who enjoys my blog.  Hope you keep on reading and would love to hear from you again.

Never heard of bread being added to Shepherd's Pie Jane, although am sure that many cooks used to add breadcrumbs to many dishes to help eke out the meat and also give body to a dish, and some books do have recipes using bread(crumbs), but not for that particular dish.

A memory has come flooding back as I write.  My mother used to, and I always did run a slice of bread or the crust through the mincing machine once the meat had been minced as this is an excellent way of cleaning it - although of course it still needs washing, just gets rid of any meat that still sticks to the insides.  Am sure we used to add this to the minced meat due to the bits of meat mixed into it, so maybe that is what happens.

As I've had a butternut squash in my 'onion' basket for months Margie (and these do keep for months if uncut), also some sweet potatoes, think I'll make some soup with those.  Don't have turnip, but do have parsnips so will add those as well.  That's tomorrow night's supper sorted!
Must have a go at making mushroom risotto (for me) as Tesco now sell family 'Value' packs of mushrooms that were normally white, but now chestnuts - these much nicer as they are firm, last longer than the whites, and very 'meaty'.
Once sliced - for frying etc - they don't collapse and soak up fat like the 'whites', they remain firm but do absorb flavours quite well.  Like to add them to the pan when I've been frying meat, as can then use less meat.  Works well when making Stroganoff.

Thankfully Eileen, due to me ordering on-line, I don't get to see all the sweets and Christmas 'goodies' that now seem to be piling up on the supermarket shelves.  However I usually do order one box of Quality Street or Roses as a treat for B.  Myself use the tin for storing things, only now rarely do they pack the chocs in tins, this now made of strong cardboard (which is also good for storing).
In the kitchen have several tall plastic bottle that Christmas chocs used to be sold in, these now hold pasta penne, caster sugar.... am always on the look out for more.
At one time we used to be able to buy (very cheaply) the big glass jars that held sweets in a proper sweetshop, but these were very heavy so later got rid of them preferring the plastic ones.

Interesting to hear Granny G, that now our shopping habits are changing to 'little and often'.  Myself still send one on-line order once a month to Tesco, although B does sometimes bring in a few things from Morrison's for me when he goes.
Up until we moved to Leeds (1969) shopping was always 'little and often', as it was usual then to go to the local shops (no supermarkets at that time - although there was a Woolco if I remember), and buy fresh food for the evening meal.  This almost daily although we were lucky to have a baker deliver three or four times a week, a greengrocer twice a week, milkman six days a week, even a butcher and a fishmonger would deliver, but I tended to prefer to buy meat/fish/poultry from the respective shops.
It was a bit of a shock when we arrived in Leeds and found the only deliveries would be the milk (although the milkman also carried cheese, cream, yogurt, butter, orange juice, lemonade, and potatoes, as well as several types of milk).  We had a shopping parade a few hundred yards from where we lived, and at that time it was old-style with a sweet shop, haberdashers, two butchers, a greengrocer who also sold fresh fish, a bakery/tea rooms, a toy shop, a fish and chip shop.  A newsagents with the Post Office at the back of it, a shoe shop, a cobbler's, a Sketchley laundry, and a Lipton's grocers, also a Co-op grocery fairly close by.  Oh yes, a betting shop on one corner. Other shops that were of no interest to me (clothing, building societies, estate agents, travel agents...)

There was even a small branch of the then Midland Bank where my money was saved (not that often), and compared to today was so old-fashioned. I would go in with a small amount of cash to save (or draw out), and my account would be in a big ledger where the man behind the counter would carefully write in the details using a proper pen and ink while I stood and waited.

Pleased you enjoy my tales of yesteryear Mandy, my thoughts are now often in that direction, perhaps because I prefer the old days, the old ways to many of the new (although I give thanks every time I use my washing machine.  Years of having to wash and wring out (by hand) clothes for four children (and husband), and having the first three children so quickly - our son not quite three when the third was born - you can imagine the amount of nappies that had to be washed.  No disposables in those days, just terry nappies and same-size muslin nappies we used as liners.  Every day the washing line was full.

Am trying to remember what type of clothes the children wore when tiny.  Vests were made of 'chilprufe' material, and they had very clever necks where the front and backs overlapped at the shoulders.  This made them very easy to slip on over tiny heads without leaving a wide amount of next to get cold.
Vyella and Clydella were two materials especially good for frocks/shirts as this too was warm to the touch, probably a mixture of wool and cotton.  Do remember a silkish sort of fabric called 'shantung', it was made of silk but a bit coarse as it had roughish bits in it.  Difficult to wash silk, so hardly ever used it.

There was no baby-grow in those days, so the babies wore nighties made from Vyella I think, and in cold weather they would also be put into a sleeping bag that folded up at the bottom, fastened with buttons.  These of course got damp due to the rubber/plastic knickers worn over nappies never really holding in all the wetness.  That meant more washing and being thicker material took longer to dry.

Cot bedding was usually Vyella sheets with one or two blankets on top,usually cellular ones as these kept in the warmth, then tucked in with a fairly light quilt on top.  Bedrooms then had no central heating so we used to warm the beds first with a hot water bottle, nighties and pyjamas would be warmed on the nursery fire-guard in front of the fire, and after a warm bath, be dressed in these and then straight into bed, tucked up nice and warm ready to listen to the bed-time story, where they were usually fast asleep before I got to the end.  Little ones would have lullabies sung to them.

That toffee you are making sounds lovely Ali. Myself love Werthers Original toffee but due to me being diabetic (below the level now but still try not to eat much sugar) had stopped eating them. Recently discovered they make Werthers Original sugar-free, and so allowed to eat those. Have to say they are rather small, but it's lovely to have the real toffee taste without the need to feel guilty.

Food memories are a bit vague, but do recall some wonderful Kunzle cakes that my mother used to send me to buy from the local cake-shop.  Think they were like elaborate Bridge Fancies, small iced cakes, maybe with a type of truffle inside, and chocolate and icing coatings. Anyone remember these?
There were also large cakes sold at the same shop, can't remember the name but they had a lovely icing, think it was called 'American Frosting', sort of firm on top (like royal icing) but softer underneath, like marshmallow.   Today's easy-to-roll-out fondant icing is not the same.  In fact I really dislike eating fondant icing, it is far too sweet and would be better if much more thinly rolled. Give me royal icing any day. 
Not sure if people make royal icing any more, but if they/you do, one way to make it easy to cut (as it can get very hard), is to add a very few drops of glycerine into the icing when beating it.  The icing will still set firmly, but can much more easily be cut through with a knife.

Always on the look-out for 'healthy' baking, came across the following and thought it fitted the bill. Although the biscuits, once cooked, are best not frozen (they will keep for a few days in an airtight container), the uncooked dough can be frozen.
Walnuts are now one of nature's 'wonder-foods', said to help lower cholesterol, as do oats, so a double whammy with these cookies.  Use sultanas if you haven't raisins (or no-soak apricots or dates, also chopped).
I don't have rolled oats in my larder - unless this means what I call porridge oats.  So I use porridge oats. They work.  Oats are oats are oats after all (Scots would not agree).

Walnut and Raisin Oatcakes:  makes 40
half teaspoon baking powder
4 tblsp milk
6 oz (175g) softened butter
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
11 oz (300g) rolled oats (see above)
5 oz (140g) wholemeal flour
2 oz (50g) raisins, roughly chopped
2 oz (50g) walnuts, roughly chopped
Dissolve the baking powder in the milk.  Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then mix in the oats, flour, raisins, walnuts and milk to make a stiff dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to about 1cm thick.  Cut into circles using a 5cm scone cutter (or cut square ones or fingers if you prefer). 
Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 180C, gas 4 until lightly golden.  Leave to cool on the tin before removing.   Eat the day of making or store in an airtight tin for up to 3 days before serving.

As so often happens, another recipe catches my eye when some ingredients are the same (or could be) as another I've chosen to give. It is useful to be able to make something completely different at the same time when the oven is at the same temp..  This tea loaf can be frozen when cooked and cooled.

Date and Walnut Tea Loaf: serves 10-12
7 oz (200g) stoned dates, chopped
pinch of salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
half a pint (300ml) hot water
10oz (280g) self-raising flour
4 oz (100g) butter, chopped into small pieces
2 oz (50g) chopped walnuts
4 oz (100g) dark muscovado sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 tblsp Demerara sugar
Put the dates, salt, and bicarb into a large bowl and add the hot water. Stir well and leave until cold.
Place the flour in another bowl and add the butter, rubbing together until like breadcrumbs. Stir in the walnuts and dark sugar until well combined.
Tip the flour mixture and egg into the dates, beating well to mix, then pour into a fully greased and lined (base and long sides) lined 2lb (1kg) loaf tin.  Give a shake to level the top, then sprinkle the Demerara sugar evenly over the surface.
Bake at 180C, gas 4 for 1hr - 1hr 15mins (or until a skewer comes out clean).  Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
For best results, after cooling, wrap in baking parchment or clingfilm, then overwrap in foil before storing in an airtight container.  Keep for a couple of days before eating. 

Almost midnight, and there is a late prog on TV that I want to watch, so think I'll not have an early night.  Not a lot to do tomorrow other than my usual coffee morning with my neighbour and getting B's supper.  My bakeathon starts (mainly prep) on Saturday, then Sunday, and also Monday.  This should mean I'll manage to fit in a blog tomorrow some time.  Hope you can join me then.  TTFN.












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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Now it's October....

One of the few days when no comments have arrived for me to answer.  However, I will try to find something to talk about.  First is a mention of the Cottage Pie made yesterday for B.  Asked him today what he thought about it (my version was 'dreadful') and he said it was lovely, and he'd like me to make it again for him.As it happens I'd made enough for two meals so one has been frozen.

Reason why I disliked it was the texture.  In the 'old days' my mother would mince up cold beef from the Sunday joint to make Cottage Pie, and as the shredding disc part of my food processor has broken, I had to crumb the sliced cooked beef I wanted to use.  It really did end up as fine crumbs, and even though I mixed these into a pan of fried onions, plus a little gravy (thickened) and a dash of HP sauce, it was more like baby food.  Not to my taste at all.

Perhaps, even worse, I topped the Cottage Pie using instant potato.  B has always said he dislikes this, but decided to make it anyway - with milk, butter, and plenty of seasoning.  Once piled onto the meat I knew it would crisp up in the oven, although B's choice was to re-heat in the microwave and then pop it under the grill to brown.  I'd suggested he might like to sprinkle grated cheese on top before grilling, and did hear him grating some cheese, and suppose this did add extra flavour to the potato. Anyway, he liked it and that's all that matters.

Today I remembered I had a very old mincing machine that belonged to B's mother, never used it myself, but am sure it will work just as well now as it did then.  Still have a lot of sliced beef (now frozen), and next time will try mincing it properly. 

Now that I can't grate cheese using the food processor, do it the old way using my mother's grater, and having seen the same type/shape in a book of antique 'kitchenalia' am wondering if she used it before I was born.  But it still works which is more than can be said of more recent graters that have now gone blunt.

Trouble with grating by hand, I have to be careful of my thumb knuckle as more than once a bit of it has ended up in the grated cheese. Pity they don't make metal protectors for thumbs like they make thimbles for fingers.

Tonight B had his favourite Fish Risotto.  It really does taste wonderful, mainly because I take the trouble to make it correctly.  Like all cooks/chefs I do taste as I cook, checking the seasoning etc, and today I wished it was me eating the risotto.  One day I will make enough for both of us. 

I've noticed in Italian restaurants that risotto is never on the menu (or at least not in the restaurants I've visited).  This probably because this dish needs to be cooked to order and it will take half an hour from start to table, making this one of the very best dishes to serve at home because we are unlikely to be able to order it when dining out.

Today is the 1st of October, and the newspaper today says that already mince pies are appearing on supermarket shelves despite there being 12 weeks to go before Christmas.  But like Hot Cross Buns, do mince pies ever disappear?  Some seasonal 'treats' seem to be sold most of the year. 

Am not wishing to think Christmas at the moment, although now it will be cooler up towards the northern part of the country, the south still keeping fairly warm during the day.  We also will be getting strong winds, this will bring down the remaining leaves on the trees, not to mention the last of the apples.  In a week or so the clocks will go back to GMT and time to pack away summer clothes and bring out the warmer ones.

That's what we USED to do in my youth, winter clothes packed away, many with mothballs as quite a lot of winter clothes contained wool (and how warm they kept us).  Now it seems that, due to central heating, cars with heaters etc, many of the clothes we wear are suitable all year round.

My concession to winter clothing is to bring out the long sleeved sweaters, but still keep sleeveless and short-sleeved T shirts to hand as they can be worn as vests under the jumpers.  Do ladies wear vests these days?   Do children wear Liberty bodices any more?  I wore those, my girls wore those, and they had rubber buttons. 

Still knitting and crocheting am remembering my youth (again) when wool was sold in hanks and I'd sit for ages holding these in my hands, arms outstretched, while my mother used to wind the wool in balls.  In those days it was wool, and how soft it felt compared to the yarn sold today.  Wool is still sold but SO expensive, nearly £4 a ball (the yarn is under £2).

What I have noticed is that with many of the balls of yarn I'm using, these contain knots.  One ball I had had three knots, and I thought this might be because I bought the yarn from the 'reduced price' basket.  When I mentioned it to Gill, she said she has had knots in the fully priced yarn and wool that she has bought and used, so standards are slipping.  Perfection is disregarded these days.  Or we have to pay over the odds for it.

Think I've now made enough squares to stitch together to make a throw, just need to lay them out to make an attractive pattern.  It would - of course - been cheaper for me to buy a throw, but I don't care - it is so nice to be able to pick up where I left off.  Many years ago I seemed to be always knitting, and although then I couldn't crochet, it is never too late to learn. 

In times past, nothing was wasted.  Worn out clothes/materials were washed and then cut up to make patchwork quilts and cushions, heavier fabrics (coats etc) were turned into rag rugs. 
Although my mother didn't make clothes or quilts, she always saved worn out sheets, shirts etc, and these would be torn up and put into her 'rag bag', used with polish for shoes, shining silver, cleaning windows etc.
Old jumpers would be carefully unstitched and unravelled, the kinks in the wool washed out and after drying would be knitted up into something else.
My dad had a shoe 'last', and would sole and heel our shoes himself, and - during the war - would cut up old rubber car tyres to use for the soles/heels.

Older readers will remember the lovely nylon stockings that came into fashion after the war.  These were 'fully fashioned' with a seam stitched up the back, and often very sheer.  Many had patterned heel.  At that time nylons were very expensive, some could be £1 a pair, and so easily could become laddered if a thread was caught (maybe by a broken fingernail).  We used to be able to take the laddered stocking/s to a dry cleaners (maybe Sketchley's?) where a girl would sit in the window, using a very tiny crochet hook, and from the bottom of the ladder would painstakingly hook up the loop over each strand until she reached the break, then would stitch it closed. 
If we managed to catch a ladder before it began to 'run', a dab of nail varnish would anchor it, or even a bit of soap left to dry on the break. 

Before the war stocking were mainly lisle or rayon, also worn years after, nylons kept just for 'best'. The stocking came in many shades of brown (as well as black), and it made sense to always buy the same shade so that when one laddered, the remaining one could be matched with the rest.
When left with a pile of stockings of various shades of brown, we used to put them in a pan of water on the stove and boil them up,  the dye probably wasn't fixed at that temperature, so the stockings would then end up all the same shade.

Men's socks, often hand-knitted using four knitting needles (stitches held on three, one to knit with), would be made from wool, and soon the heels would wear out.  Many hours have I spent darning the heels of socks, and got quite good at it.  Darning  I found enjoyable, though have little or no reason to do it these days.  Not quite true, just remember I've darned the heels of my support stockings more than one, thankfully still having kept my wooden darning 'mushroom'.

One recipe today, worth filing away ready for Hallow-een/Bonfire night.  A box of these also good to give away as a gift at Christmas. 
Only four ingredients - how good is that?  Use a darker sugar if you want a more 'treacly' flavour, and jumbo oats if you want a crunchier finish.
If you have half a lemon (well you just might), then use this, cut side down, to press the mixture into the tin and level the surface.  This also helps to give a subtle lemon flavour to the flapjack.

Oat Flapjacks: serves 12
6 oz (175g) butter, diced
5 oz (140g) golden syrup
2 oz (50g) light muscovado sugar
9 oz (250g) porridge oats
Put the butter, sugar, and syrup into a medium saucepan.  Stir over a low heat until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.   Remove from heat and stir in the oats.
Line the base of a shallow 9" (23cm) square tin with baking parchment, then press the above mixture into the tin, levelling the surface.
Bake at 180C, gas 4 for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown on top.  Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then - while still warm - mark into bars or squares with the back of a knife.  Leave to cool in the tin completely before cutting through and removing.   If removed while still warm the flapjack will break up.

That's it for today, busy weekend coming up but am hoping I'll be able to drop in for the daily chat over the next couple of days, then will have to take both Saturday and Sunday off to bake for the Harvest Supper (Monday), and also make cakes for a meeting on Tuesday.  Being of some use to someone helps to keep me feeling young(er).  TTFN.







Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pre-supper Chat

Not my usual time to blog, but as I've just returned from the church meeting, and B's supper is already to re-heat in the oven and get a crusty top (Cottage Pie), thought I'd write now so that I could go to bed early if I wished.  With footie on TV tonight, this room won't be free until after 10.00pm.

Got up early this morning so managed to work through quite a lot, in fact had 'cleared my desk' (in other words done all on my list) by 11.00am, so decided to sit and do some knitting, with the TV on so that I could part watch/listen to first The Waltons, followed by 'Little House....'   then half a hour of BBC news.  Pleased to discover that I'd managed to knit a whole square (for my throw) in that time (first putting 40 stitches on the needle, not sure how many rows, then casted off).  Tonight, after my own supper (salad with seasticks - or shall I have hummous and crudités?) then might manage to knit and/or crochet another couple of squares.  Think already have made nearly 30 squares so soon be time for me to lay them out to make an interesting pattern and find out if I need more of a certain colour before finally crocheting/stitching them all together.

My Beloved is helping his upholstery friend occasionally, and I've asked for any offcuts of foam that he may have so that I can cut them up into little pieces to stuff my cushions.  These have been promised to me, so that means very shortly hope to have at least six knitted cushion covers to scatter onto the two couches. 

Am sure you are right Jane, as my back pain could be caused by different posture, not so much caused by my knee, but the fact I've lost about a stone over the past few weeks, and in the past have found this tends to change my balance slightly.  The aches and pains are not too bad, just an occasional twinge.

In the past my mother always used to send me to the butchers/grocers to buy Wiltshire cured back bacon, number 4.  The number was the thinness of the slices as in those days the sides of bacon were always hung on hooks in the shops, brought down and then placed on the slicer to be cut to the width the customer wanted.  The flavour (and smell when cooking) was absolutely gorgeous and although I have - several times - bought Wiltshire bacon (pre-sliced and packed), it is nothing like I remember.

It's a small world.  There is Anna, now living in France, who remembers well Berkswell, Warwick Castle, and the ice-cream sold in Henley-in-Arden.  Too much of a difference in our ages no doubt for our paths to have crossed, but it is good to know that people recognise places I talk about.

One place I don't think I've yet mentioned is where my parents often used to take me on picnics when I was small (pre-war).  It was a place called Yarningale Common, and all I remember was there were quite a few trees, bushes and scrubs, with clearances where we would sit on the ground to have our picnic.  Can't say it was my most favourite place, and expect now it has been built over.  Not even sure where it is/was.  Anyone know?

As you know, each time I make bread (using a 500g bread mix) I always add half as much weight again (250g) using strong plain bread flour.  Plus half as much water again, although I tend to use half milk, half water and to save me working out exactly how much more liquid I need, find that 500ml is exactly the right amount.

The dough is made in my bread machine, and after the 45 minutes (when the dough is ready and risten) I remove it from the pan and remove one third - the two-thirds I place in a greased and floured loaf tin, slightly larger than the standard 2lb loaf tin.  The remaining dough I make into small rolls.

However, this extra dough can also make pizza bases, so I could make several rolls and still have enough dough left to make one medium sized pizza.  Here is a recipe worth making when we have the spare dough (freeze it and make it later if you wish.

As always, alter the toppings to suit what you wish to use (get rid of in other words), and use this recipe as a guide.  Myself prefer to first fry the onion slightly then scatter this on top of the tomato puree mixture before adding the tuna, etc.  Also omit the rocket because usually I have none.
Tuna, Olive & Rocket Pizza: serves 2
Enough bread dough to make a pizza base
2 tblsp tomato puree
2 tblsp water
salt and pepper
1 x 185g can tuna in oil, drained (reserve oil)
1 tblsp capers
1 x 125g ball mozzarella
10 black olives, pitted and halved
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
small handful rocket
Mix together the tomato puree, water, seasoning to taste, and the oil from the canned tuna.  Then roll out the dough on a floured board to make two fairly thin pizzas base (or one large thicker if that is your preference), then place the bases on an oiled baking tray.
Spread the dough with the tomato puree mixture, then top with flaked tuna, capers, cheese and the olives.  Bake at 240C, gas 9 for 10 - 15 minutes.  Serve scattered with the onion and the rocket.

We often see 'onion marmalade' suggested as an accompaniment to a pork (or other) dish. Not a true marmalade as we know it, and one that is normally made to be eaten within a day or two, not stored in jars in the larder.  As this relish would eat well with cheese, thought it worth given the recipe.  We can alter the flavour by using red onions instead of white, a different sugar, and maybe balsamic vinegar.  So worth having a play. 

Onion Marmalade: serves 4
1 lb (450g) onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 oz (25g) butter
3 oz (75g) light muscovado sugar
4 fl oz (100ml) red wine vinegar
Put the onions and butter into a pan and fry gently for 10 minutes until softened and lightly browned. Stir in the sugar and vinegar.  Cook for approx. half an hour, stirring constantly, until the onions are slightly caramelised and very soft, and most of the liquid has evaporated.  Serve warm with roast pork, or cold with cheese.

Ten people at the meeting this afternoon, but nothing very interesting happened. Each week we have a raffle (we each bring a small gift), and as often it is packets of sweets or biscuits, I always bring one back for B to munch while he watched TV.  Unfortunately, my number was called last, so by the time I got to the table there was only a very tiny teapot, a small ceramic jar with china roses stuck on it, and a tube of foot balm.  None of these of any interest to either B or myself, so came away with nothing, so this evening he will have to make do with an after supper snack of cheese, biscuits, grapes.  That should be enough, he is having Cottage Pie and Apple Pie (with cream) for his main meal. 

Thinking about the way restaurants charge what to some of us are ginormous prices for dishes on their menu, suppose it is not that much different to paying hundreds (and that's the lower end of the price range) for shoes, handbags, and designer clothes.   Thing is, almost everything we do pay a lot for we can at least use again (and again, and again).  Once we have eaten a meal - that's it. Same, I suppose goes for a bottle of wine.

The bonus of home-cooked food - at least for the cook - is that the pleasure comes from creating something, and most people who do crafts are not interested in what they make, it is the MAKING  that brings the enjoyment, then put it aside and make something else, then something else.....
When we cook we don't have the meals left lying around, they get eaten, so it's even better - we can continually make, bake, and create.  This may seem a chore to some, certainly not to me - and most of my readers am sure feel the same. 

An interesting programme last night about the differences between men and woman.  Just about proved there were differences (monkeys proved this when given certain toys to play with - the makes interested only in things that had wheels, and the females in the dolls). Certainly men seem to see things more in black and white, while women see the many shades of grey (and I'm not thinking 50) between.  Also all the women seemed to be more creative, and enjoyed being so.  Not that men aren't creative, but on balance there definitely is a difference and almost certainly naturally built-in so that the genders complement each other.

Anyway, supper time so I'll take my leave.  Not sure what time I'll be blogging tomorrow, but should be back.  Weather still good, although France has not fared so well - they have had a LOT of rain in a very short time.  Just as long as it doesn't come our way.    Already looking forward to tomorrow's chat - so see you then.