Saturday, March 22, 2008

Less is More, More or Less

An old-fashioned ways of dieting was "The chew everything 35 times before swallowing". My aunty always believed in doing something similar, and she was very fit. So many mothers serve their family first, then have little time to leisurely eat their own, so it is gobbled down in time to serve the next course., and this habit can last a lifetime (as I know to my cost). Taking time to eat can make us feel full, even with food left on the plate. Anyone who has attempted to eat a Chinese meal using chopsticks (pref. a learner), will know that by the end they can barely finish. Certainly no room for pudding, which in any case are not usually served with a Chinese meal (certainly when eating out). It is said that after 20 minutes of eating, we should feel satisfied, and not wish to eat more, so it is not surprising that people who eat their meals quickly feel they can cope with seconds and even thirds.
An easy way then, to cut costs, is to try and get everyone to eat more slowly. Perhaps sitting around the table together, having a chat as we eat, will slow down our eating, and eventually we can end up serving less. A win-win situation on every count. Spend less, more family time together, slim down. Must try it sometime. Must try it TODAY.

Originally an allotment was for people who had no gardens, and was of a size that was sufficient to grow enough vegetables to feed a family of four throughout the whole year. This covered everything from potatoes, onions, all seasonal vegetables and maybe some soft fruits, often - as with salads - it was possible to get more than one crop per year from the same strip of ground. Today the allotments still stay the same size, but many are divided into two as being more easily managed in today's busy life.
In the olden days, father would disappear to the allotment on summer evenings, bringing home a box of very fresh produce for mother to cook. Nowadays, the same can happen, but this time all the family take part in growing foods, which is much more fun, and again, the freshest of produce taken home each time. If time is short, then plant raspberries, gooseberries, black and red currant bushes. Potatoes, onion, and crops that need little attention once established. Soft fruits particularly are very expensive to buy, but cheap enough to plant. Raspberries in particular grow so many side canes (the old ones being removed after fruiting) that they can take over the whole plot/garden (as ours did - and we started with only 6 canes. At one point friends (who lived in the next town) used to come round and 'pick-their-own' we had that many. Just think of the price of raspberries in the shops. Barter the surplus for something that you don't grow.

For those with only a back yard in which to grow things, do not despair, as long as it gets some sun during the day, quite a lot can be grown. Potatoes can be grown in black sacks tucked into a dustbin. An even better way is to start of growing them in an old tyre from a car. Put the bag of soil in the middle and plant one potato. When leaves appear, cover with soil, add another wheel on top, filling up with more soil everytime the leaves appear, and evenually you will get a stack of about 4 or 5 tyres, holding a fair amount of good sized potatoes which can be harvested. So edibles CAN be grown almost anywhere, even on a windows sill. And if no windowsill (some double-glazing seems to lack these) - seeds can still be sprouted in jam jars, and grown into bean sprouts.

At this time of the year, large oranges juicy oranges are for sale. We particularly like the Navels, as they contain no pips. Valencia have few pips and are even sweeter and juicier. Although not as cheap as they used to be, oranges can make a very simple and delicately scented dessert. Although this recipe uses one orange per person, if the oranges are very large, then three should be enough for four. Another way of getting the most from almost anything is to slice as thinly as possible, so that less can look more.

Salade d'Oranges: serves 4
3 or 4 oranges, depending upon size
3 tblsp orange flower water
3 tsp ground cinnamon
Peel the oranges, removing all the pith. Slice thinly and lay them on one large, or four individual plates. Sprinkle slices with the orange flower water, and give a dusting of cinnamon.

This next recipe is more of a dessert than a cake. Soaked in the syrup it eats best the day after it has been made.
Orange Syrup Cake: serves 6 - 8
4 eggs, separated
5 oz (125g) sugar
2 oz (50g) ground almonds
zest of one orange
2 oz (50g) flaked almonds, finely chopped
juice of 3 oranges
3 oz (75g) sugar
1 stick cinnamon
1 tblsp orange liqueur
Mix together the sugar, ground almonds, orange zest with the yolk of the eggs. Beat the whites until stiff and fold these into the mixture. Pour into a greased and floured 8" (20cm) cake tin (preferably a spring-sided tin), or line the base. Bake for 45 minutes at 180C, 350C, gas 4. Cool, then remove from tin and place in a shallow dish/serving plate.
To make the syrup, heat the orange juice (this should be about 10fl.oz/300ml - make up with water if not enough) and stir in the sugar and cinnamon stick. Simmer until the sugar has dissolved, then add the liqueur. Remove the cinnamon stick.
Stick a skewer into the top of the cake in several places, then pour over the syrup slowy, so that some of it soaks into the holes in the top of the cake. Leave any residue in the bottom of the dish and allow the cake time to soak this up. Preferably overnight. Best served at room temperature.

When eating large oranges, if you have the time or inclination, either cut the orange in half and remove the flesh, or cut partially through the orange so that the two halves can be carefully peeled away, leaving orange 'cups'. These can be put into bags and kept in the freezer.
Two ways these can be used: as containers for an assortment of diced fresh fruits (fruit salad), or fill with jelly (made with half the recommended amount of water to keep it firm), and then - once set - these can be cut into wedges, to be eaten in the hand if you wish. A plate of jelly wedges in all colours: strawberry,lemon, orange, lime etc, look very pretty and great for a childrens party. Make the jelly up with champagne, or an alcopop and you make the adult version.