Monday, December 22, 2008

'Tis the Season...

So much seems to have happened during the last 24 hours, where do I start? Firstly, let me thank Silversewer for her timely explanation of the best way to cook a turkey crown. After carving up our cooked crown yesterday, it did give about 18 good sized slices plus two packs of smaller pieces destined for later Cold Meat Platters. At the moment they are all in the freezer - and, moving stuff around to make room, discovered the missing pack of frozen peas. Ah well.

After a fairly slack period, the Goode kitchen yesterday was a hive of activity as I decided to make some Lemon Curd in the microwave, using up the old lemons (new ones being delivered). Then thought I had better make some mincepies ready for over Christmas, so defrosted a pack of shortcrust pastry (take the easy route I thought). When I came to use the pastry, discovered it was mouldy throughout, so it must have been one I had kept in the fridge, decided I wasn't going to use it and then froze it without first checking the date). Luckily a second pack was fine. Made a dozen mince pies plus one larger Cornish Pasty shaped for Beloved.
Decided also to take a look-see how the couple of eggs saved and kept in the fridge (use-by date February 08) would appear once cracked. Expected them to be black and smelly, or the yolks would be runny, but would you believe they appeared as fresh as though they had just been laid. Not that I used them. Even I was a bit doubtful. But it did prove something.

Also yesterday morning made an apple and blackberry crumble, cooked some red cabbage with apple (to eat with beef another day), and made turkey stock from the bones.
The groceries arrived around 4.00pm and although Beloved helped unload from the boxes, it was in my own interest to put everything away then I would know where it was. this took AGES.
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. In the very last bag I discovered a fresh turkey crown that I had ordered after all and (if you have been reading the recent postings) had believed I hadn't. On looking back through my additions to my orders (over several days, a few at a time) did discover it, so had obviously not checked thoroughly enough. However, my daughter said she would like it, so it was given to her as a Christmas gift and as she is returning home today, she will be able to make good use of it.

Yesterday evening's supper was (courtesy of daughter and SIL) Chinese Takeaway, the Goode kitchen provided assorted quality cheeses, cheese biscuits, grapes etc - plus wine for afters, as well as the mince pies. Most of the pies have now been eaten, so will need to make a further batch tomorrow when the next visitors are due to arrive. Did not myself order any Chinese (for me) as having been dealing with food all day, had quite lost my appetite.. so I just sat and watched them, nibbling on a prawn cracker now and again. For cook-dieters, this is the one great thing about Christmas, we still have the fun of preparing and cooking the food, tasting as we good, and also enjoying the aromas - but several hours of that we never feel like eating much at all. Perhaps this is why some TV cooks remain so slender.

It goes without saying, that with the food, wine and good conversation, the evening was a jolly one, and everyone staggered up to bed very happy. With half the groceries (only the dried and canned) still to be put away, plus mounds of plates and cutlery, wine glasses, coffee cups to be washed up, there was not a clear space in the kitchen. Was too tired myself to deal with it last night, so for the first time for years, got up at five and went downstairs (instead of writing my blog). Did the washing up, put the gammon joint on to cook, and reduced the turkey stock down. Put most of the groceries away so the table is clear for brekkies.
The ham is still cooking, although should be done shortly, Beloved has been asked to turn out the gas under the pan when the oven-timer pings (and to shout upstairs to me to tell me he has done so). The ham will stay in the liquid until cooled - this will help to keep it moist. Not quite sure how the flavour will turn out, but for the cooking liquid I used the end of a bottle of ginger ale and also some cider.

Reading through my grocery statement, over £30 went on non-foods and the turkey crown (am including the turkey as not keeping it). Having given practically all my freezer bags and foil containers to another daughter, discovered I had none left, so had to order more. These plus a large pack of rolls of kitchen paper, some paracetamol, washing up liquid etc (plus most of the food) are intended to keep me going for several weeks beginning New Year.
Apart from the fresh produce, practically all the other food items were for the store-cupboard (chopped and plum tomatoes, baked beans, some risotto rice, couscous, pasta penne, tea-bags, makings for muesli, dried pulses, dried fruits, packets of jelly, pots of mustard, assorted jars of spices, and a jar of honey.). Did order that extra packet of frozen peas, and also two packs of fish pie mix, all to be kept in the freezer.

The problem with setting up a store-cupboard is where to start? In all honesty I have built up a good stock of the basics, but this has taken months if not years. Do we really need the full range of basmati rice, easy-cook long-grain rice, Arborio (risotto) rice, paella rice, brown rice, pudding rice? No, of course not, but rice keeps for almost ever, and over a long period of time have found that using the right rice for the dish really does make a noticeable difference. At a pinch, pudding rice would serve for all the dishes that need a short-grain rice (such as risotto), and the long-grain for everything else. Or if only one, keep the long-grain.

There are various types of flour, but if we keep raising agents, then plain flour would be the one to keep for it can be adapted to suit all purposes (unless you wish to make bread). Even using self-raising flour instead of plain doesn't always make THAT much difference. We should never stop cooking just because we haven't the ingredient called for, for we may have something very similar that could be used instead.

We can thicken liquids using plain flour, and if we can do that, do we need to keep cornflour in stock? Do we need to keep both chopped AND plum tomatoes. Why bother to keep three (or more) types of mustard? Why so many different types of oil (extra virgin, virgin, light olive oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, etc...). Then there is vinegar, brown malt, white (clear) malt, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar...). Even salt: cooking salt, table salt, sea salt, rock salt, celery salt, garlic salt...where does it end?
All I can say is that however similar things are, they also have slightly different flavours, and the more cooking we do the more we like to use the right product for the right dish. But when starting to build up a stores , few are what I call essential. Vinegar is vinegar, salt is salt, flour is flour. Begin with the bare minimum then add more when we can afford it.

Yesterday was reading the usual supermarket 'testing' done by AWT. This time it was Scotch pancakes (drop scones). For one thing I would never buy a pack because they average out at about 10p each, but mainly because they are so easy to make and home-cooked you would make about 30 pancakes for 2p each. So many things are easy to make, so why buy them?

After making lemon curd yesterday had kept back some egg whites to make a tub of soft-scoop ice-cream, but with no room in the freezer for an ice-cream tub, instead froze the egg whites so that I could make the ice-cream when there was more room. When working within a budget, it is very necessary to throw nothing away that can be saved and used later.

Beloved has just come up to tell me he has turned out the gas under the ham, and also that he cannot move the two wheelie bins to the street due to the cars blocking the drive. Beloved can get to work, but unless the rest of the family wake in time and get their car moved, we may miss having our bins emptied. Perhaps - for once - the vans will arrive later. Usually they are here by 7.30, and it is past that now, however - due to extra collections being made so they can have Christmas Day off, maybe they will be much later - if at all, for we also had a letter shoved through the door telling us that industrial action may be taken by the 'bin-men', so we may have no collections anyway.

Got past caring about anything at the moment. The whole of life seems to be going to pot. Can anyone tell me why we now seem to be getting slugs coming into the house? At least they are small thin slugs, and following their trails back, it seems they climb up to the ventilator (to give an air flow for our gas boiler) which is at the back of our kitchen, and come in through there. Not only that, they now seem to want to slither right across the kitchen floor, the last one having made its way right across the wooden hall floor and heading for the dining room. In slug-distance, this is MILES. Luckily these 'intruders' are few and far between, and perhaps sprinkle salt under the ventilator, spooning some salt in through the slats may prevent them.
We have also seen snails slowly working their way up the house and having a nap on one of the upstairs bedroom windows. At the moment I have better things to do than worry about such things, but it is puzzling.

Getting myself motivated today to make an early start in the kitchen, is turning out to be a blessing. I can spend more of the day relaxing and not end up a cross-patch. Still have bed linen to wash and fresh linen put on the beds, but that is all that really needs to be done and I do not intend ironing them once they are dry. The food is under control, Beloved is 'saving himself' for Christmas and says he will be happy with just sardine sarnies for supper (plus some apple crumble). The extra work this morning (and over the next week) will hopefully knock off an extra pound or so of my weight. Things are looking good.

Even though it is still early (not yet 9.00am) will wind up for today as someone else wishes to use the computer and will leave you with just the one recipe today - a variation on the basic drop scone recipe. If you wish them plain, leave out the dried fruit.

Sultana Scotch Pancakes: serves 4
1 egg
7 fl oz (200ml) milk
5 oz (150g) self-raising flour
1 tblsp caster sugar
3 oz (75g) sultanas
Beat the egg into the milk. Sift the flour into a bowl and stir in the sugar. Make a well in the centre and pour in the eggs/milk, beating with a wooden spoon, and working the flour in from the sides until it forms a smooth batter. Fold in the sultanas.
Dry-heat a large frying pan over medium heat, then grease lightly (dip a little pad of kitchen paper into oil or melted butter and wipe this over the base of the pan). Spoon tablespoons of the batter onto the pan, leaving room to spread then cook for a couple of minutes or until bubbles have risen to the top and the first ones break open, then turn with a spatula or fish slice to cook the other side.
Place a tea-cloth on a cake airer, leaving plenty of overlap, and when the pancakes are cooked, place on the cloth, overlapping and keep covered with the surplus cloth to keep in the steam and to prevent them drying out.
If necessary grease the surface of the pan again before cooking the next batch. Serve the pancakes warm with a little melted butter and maple syrup, or serve cold with a little butter and jam. They can be frozen but best freshly made.

Bye for now...back tomorrow.