Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Warming up...

Thanks Les, for your offer of assistance, but managed - all by myself - to unblock and today new comments popped up in my email box as per usual. What I did discover was that blocked comments were still being sent but unseen by me as sent directly to the email 'delete' file, had I known this would not have panicked. Had to go through Google search to find out how unblock, but eventually found a way to do this, although I had to have two attempts before being successful.

Luckily we did not get as much snow as the rest of the country, there is a little less on top of the fences as I look out of the window (dawn is just breaking), and had to smile when our son rang yesterday to enquire whether his Dad had managed to fly to Spain (he had the day wrong), and told us there had been a lot of snow in Manchester and he had to struggle to get through to the corner shop to fetch milk, he said no cars had been moved in his street, all had about 10" of snow on the top, even the telephone lines had about 3" of snow on them.

Well, of course he wouldn't have had to go out at all if he had made sure he or his partner had stocked up with long-life milk would he? So was pleased to read Kathryn's comment (who was also just about snowed in) where she now can enjoy the pleasures of making meals without having to venture out to buy the necessary.
Loved that idea she had of making a 'two-handed mitten' so love-birds can share it and hold hands. In the old days children used to take oven-baked jacket potatoes to school with them in their pockets to keep their hands warm, which they would eat for lunch (or elevenses). Also can see the sense of walking out (in Victorian times and earlier) wearing a fur muff hanging round the neck, and hands would be tucked inside these to them warm. Sometimes a sort of hot water bottle or heated brick (or even a jacket potato) would also be put into the muff to warm it up before use, and even kept inside when wearing it.
Something like a 'foot muff' I believe was used to put feet into when travelling in a horse-drawn carriage. Those were the days.

Reading through some missing comments in the delete file (most of which I have now answered) came across one from Cheesepare that was an early one and not previously seen. Sorry about the delay in replying CP, you were asking about how I am going about the current Challenge. Do I set an amount of money each week to replace any foods? Basically it is a matter of using up all the foods in store and not buying anything unless absolutely necessary (like fresh milk, eggs...). If the meat runs out then we could eat vegetable protein if there is some in store. If the pasta runs out, some would be made. If yeast runs out Soda Bread could be made. Sooner or later flour will run out, but as myself always keep plenty of bread mixes in store, also strong plain flour, plus plenty of 'ordinary' plain and self-raising flour, these should see us through several weeks if not months . It is a lot easier to cope when there are only two to feed. With a family, the food runs out that much sooner.

Am thinking of allowing myself up to £10 a week to replace food. This seems a lot, especially as there are only two of us, and - as mentioned in a previous posting - none of it at the moment is being used anyway. Am not sure whether to budget on a 'roll-over' system so that money left from a previous week can be added to the next, then used to buy 'something special', or just make do with spending no more than £10 a week and only when the very basics such as milk and eggs need replacing. The latter seems to make more sense of the Challenge. However, when most of the stored food has been used (by this I mean food in the fridge, freezer, other vegetables and the canned and bottled foods) leaving only the 'sundries' (sauces, raising agents, spices, surplus jams and marmalades etc), THEN will be the time to re-stock and the money saved from the weekly £10 budget will go to pay for these.

Looking at the wider picture, if our stores will keep us going for 10 weeks without buying anything more than eggs and milk, then there should be a good £80 left in the kitty to spend on replacements.

Les sent in useful info as regarding freezing different types of cheese. Beg to differ with the cottage cheese. It can be frozen (everything can be frozen), but like some foods, freezing affects the texture. In other words if you want cottage cheese as-is then don't freeze it. However, having - many years ago - bought a tub of cottage cheese reduced in price (not on offer, just 'old stock') did put it into the freezer. On thawing out a few week later discovered all the lumps had broken down and when the liquid was drained away and the cheese forked up, it ended up looking like curd cheese (which in a way I suppose it had then become) , which I have to say, was very useful indeed for at that time (and even now) was not being able to buy curd cheese. Frozen (thawed) cottage cheese is excellent as a substitute to curds when making cheesecakes, curd tarts, and even dips.

No snow yet in Devon Mrs M? By the time you read this you should have had a snowfall. It really is bad for the whole country weatherwise. Despite global warming, one part of the country usually gets a few days of snow now and again during the winter months, rarely do we all get it at the same time, and nothing as bad as this has been over recent years (ignoring times past when it was often worse). Am thankful that the worst of the snow is moving south (although sorry for readers who live in that area), mainly because it might be that B will be still be able to get to Manchester airport and fly away on Saturday. Luckily the boat does not sail until the Monday, so even if the flight is delayed, all he might miss is one night in a hotel. But nothing is certain at the moment.

It is strange that in this 21st century we are unable to cope with this heavy snowfall. With our central heating, and plenty of food in our stores, there should be little to complain about other than having to leave the house to go to work- when of course it can be difficult. In the olden days it must have been so much worse, yet everyone managed to battle through. Somehow it seems we have become so used to wearing 'man-made' fibres that wash easily and don't need ironing, that we have stopped wearing clothes made from 'real wool', and jackets and boots lined with 'real' sheepskin. It is these animal fibres that really do keep us warm. As do 'real' fur coats.
It is truly amazing how a woollen jumper can be so cosy and warm. Somehow the cold never penetrates through.
At one time the Army and Navy Stores used to sell heavy overcoats - think they were ex-Royal Air Force. Again made from fibres that kept a person warm, and perfect for wearing this weather. Very few people nowadays seem to own an overcoat (do not myself now have one), probably due to driving around in heated cars and needing to walk only a few yards. If we go back to the old ways of having 'winter clothes' we may find we can cope better.

For those that wonder how I keep warm when going out in the cold on Norris, have to admit to wearing two layers of clothing (including stockings), a fleece jacket over two layers of jerseys, a pashmina to wrap around my neck and hair, maybe even another scarf, and always wear woollen gloves. If I was thinner, would wear trousers. But ankle length skirts (two worn at a time) are almost as good. If only going out in the car normally indoor clothes and a cardigan and maybe a scarf is all that needs to be worn. But at the moment am definitely staying indoors.

From the news it seems as though other countries are also experiencing some heavy falls of snow. In China they are getting the heaviest snowfall since records began in 1933. But in the earth time, this is only a second short of a full hour, and as weather records have not been kept regularly in earlier centuries, then give little indication of the earth's own weather patterns. More information can be found by looking at the rings inside tree trunks, and the large cores of ice drilled out from the polar regions.
There has been global warming before, many thousands of years ago, swinging round to the Ice Age, and then back again. Between these there have been years of warm weather, and years of much colder weather. We can only remember the weather patterns we are living through. So hearing that this is the coldest it has been for 30 years just means we have been lucky enough to have been living in a 'warmer' period of time. We should never think this is the norm.
In Victorian times it was so cold that the Thames froze over for days, fairs were held on it, and people skated to and fro on it. Who knows - we might now be going back to the harsher winters and drier summers again which - in the old days - WERE considered quite normal. All we can do is wait and see. And be prepared!

Now to foodie things. Yesterday evening watched the first of a new series of 'Hairy Biker's', but not yet sure what to think of it yet. Have to give it time. Certainly remember making crumpets (we called them pikelets) and now will probably make some again.
Also yesterday, earlier in the day, watched the first episode of 'Kill it, Cook it, Eat it' on IPlayer. This deals with livestock that we normally eat, a different meat each day. The first being beef, followed last night by lamb (this I still have to watch today), later in the week it will be chicken.
This series is being shown on BBC 3 late evening each day of this week, and not for the squeamish. Each day begins with a potted history of the animals to be slaughtered, and the six members of the public in the series are then asked to choose two to go to the abbatoir. where they have to watch everything from the creature being killed, then - almost immediately - being prepared for hanging, parts where I have to admit to to keeping my eyes shut. Yet the last quarter of the programme is given over to using the meat (as we would do in the domestic kitchen) and this is very informative. The first episode gave reasons why hanging beef for a good length of time improves the flavour, also how supermarkets tend to sell beef that has not been hung long enough. It was also interesting to learn how beef should be checked as to whether they are right for slaughter (enough fat/muscle etc). Large herds are often just slaughtered as a job lot, so inferior beef is often for sale (again usually at supermarkets), and why I feel the butcher is the best place to buy well-hung meat.

In the episode watched, beef that had been hung for different length of time were minced, burgers made, then cooked and the results eaten and the comments were very interesting. Especially good was finding out how little meat was put into the cheaper 'burgers' that we can buy, and in comparison, how awful they tasted compared to those made 'properly'.

Scrolling past the first 45 minutes if you choose to watch on IPlayer, you will miss the rather dreadful abbatoir scenes (only dreadful in we are not used to seeing that sort of thing, the animals themselves were treated with great respect and appeared not to suffer). Do urge those interested to watch the last 15 minutes just to find out how our food ends up on the table, and feel it is worth readers taking a look at the remaining episodes (or all of them if you have IPlayer). After I have finished today's blog, will be watching the second on lamb (and how kebabs are made).

At this time of writing, the snow is again falling. Yet the weather forecast seemed to give the impression we would get little more, as it was moving south. Maybe we are getting the snow that Scotland is pushing our way. Nothing much we can do about it other than stay in and eat warm meals and drink hot soups.

Yesterday, for want of a better idea, made a curry for supper using some chunks of turkey (thawed from the freezer) and a small box of large prawns (one from those Buy One Get TWO free offers). Fried off a sliced onion, then stirred in the turkey and a can of Korma sauce. Let it heat through thoroughly while the rice was cooked, then finally added the thawed prawns. The curryl wasn't bad, but the prawns had no flavour (possibly why they were on offer), and the turkey (as expected) was not 'curried' enough if flavours as it would have been if cooked as raw meat in the sauce. Nevertheless it made a substantial (and easy to make) meal, which was pleasant enough but could have been better if made - let's say - differently.

Can hear Beloved clanking his spoon in his bowl, this means he has eaten muesli for breakfast, and this means the supply in his tin is now fairly low, so today can make up a new batch, on the other hand, could wait until he is away and make it shortly before he returns. Have to think about that. Need to still have 'things to do' while he is away, as normally end up making myself an easy meal when alone, such as beans on toast. Perhaps, during the Challenge, should take time to make myself real meals. To do this I would need to role play, either pretend I am making it for someone else, or demonstrating to an audience how to make it. Just making it for me hardly seems worth while.
My best bet would be to make meals in bulk, freeze several portions away, and just keep one portion to eat for the main meal of the day - which might be eaten at lunch time rather than around 5.30pm. These days prefer a lighter evening meal as then I seem to sleep better.

Last night was the first time I have felt slightly chilly when in bed. The past few weeks have been wearing a loose knitted bed jacket made by a friend of mine. When laid flat it looks like a wide band of loose garter-stitch, with the short ends joined up and a cuff knitted on. It has ties on the top of one side to knot together to stop it slipping down. This certainly keeps me warm, and yesterday decided to pull the back part of the jacket up and over my hair, and this immediately warmed up my head and was very comforting. Going back to the old days, it was normal for men to wear night-caps, women probably did wear something resembling tea-cosies (if you have a tea-cosy, then it now has a second use!). Everyone wore bedsocks during the winter, and myself remember in the cold winter, our small children being zipped into 'sleeping bags' (like dressing gowns with bottoms that folded over and were buttoned up) before being tucked up under several blankets. The older children wore flannelette pyjamas, sometimes even a jumper over the top (we had no central heating in those days), wore socks to keep their feet warm, and had a hot water bottle with a knitted cover to cuddle. Remember tucking them up in flanellette sheets with blankets over, the final cover being a candlewick bedspread, and watching them drop to sleep whilst being read a bedtime story.

One recipe today, perhaps worth making for my Beloved's supper, although normally do not wish to serve the same meat on two consecutive days. This makes use of left-over turkey, ham from Christmas, and also used mushrooms (am glad of this as have four left that need using up).
Use the wine if you have some (the reason why I keep boxed wine for cooking purposes as it does make a difference to flavour), otherwise make up the shortfall with more stock.
Note there are two egg whites left over after making this dish, so why not make something else with these?
Turkey and Ham Pie: serves 4
2 oz (60g) butter
2 oz (50g) plain flour
3 fl oz (75ml) white wine
6 fl oz (175ml) chicken stock
3 oz (75g) cream fraiche
1 small tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
Make the sauce by melting the butter, then stirring in the flour. Cook for one minute, then whisk in the wine and stock. When smooth, work in the creme fraiche and mustard. Simmer for 10 minutes over a very low heat, season to taste and stir occasionally. In the meantime prepare the filling:
1 tsp sunflower oil
6 oz (175g) mushrooms, sliced
1 lb (450g) cooked turkey, shredded
3 oz (75g) ham, diced
Gently fry the mushroom in the oil until tender, then drain away any oil and add the mushrooms, turkey and ham to the prepared sauce. Transfer to an ovenproof dish and leave to cool.
approx 1.5 lbs (700g) mashed potato
2 oz (50g) creme fraiche
1 oz (25g) butter
2 medium egg yolks
salt and pepper
Heat the creme fraiche with the butter, adding seasoning to taste, and beat this into the mash, followed by the egg yolks. When thoroughly mixed, spoon this over the filling, forking it up to make a rough surface. This can either be baked immediately, or left in a cool place for up to two days.
Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 40 minutes or until the topping is golden and crispy (if chilled allow a little longer). Eat hot and serve with a green vegetable.

The snow has stopped, the sun is shining and nothing now but blue sky. How pretty it looks outside, but no doubt treacherous to walk where the paths have been cleared. Do take care if having to leave the house.
Hope you will all be free to join with me again tomorrow, and look forward to meeting up with you then.