Friday, January 29, 2010

Breadwinners or Bad Buyers?

This is a dish that can be prepared a day ahead, kept in the fridge overnight, and baked the following day.
Passata is a smooth tomato puree, but something similar can be made at home by rubbing a can of plum tomatoes through a sieve. If you have no tomato pesto, use tomato paste preferably mixed with some finely chopped fresh basil leaves.
Vegetable Lasagne: serves 4 (V)
1 celeriac, peeled and diced
9 oz (250g) turnip, peeled and diced
1 large parsnip, peeled, cored and diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 onion, chopped
1 x 340g jar Passata
2 tblsp tomato pesto
salt and pepper
8 sheets dried lasagne
1 x 250g pack of cream cheese (full, low-fat or light)
4 oz (100g) strong mature Cheddar cheese, grated
Cook the celeriac, turnip, parsnips and carrot in boiling water for about 10 minutes until just tender. Drain and reserve the water. Fry the onion in the oil for four minutes then stir in the garlic and fry for a further minute. Add the passata and pesto and 14fl oz (400ml) of the reserved cooking water, adding seasoning to taste. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, then stir in the vegetables.
Place a layer of the vegetable mixture in a shallow ovenproof dish, and cover with some of the pasta. Repeat the layering, finishing with the pasta.
Put the cream cheese into a bowl and mash in half the grated Cheddar. Spread this on top of the final lasagne layer, then scatter with rest of the cheese and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 45 minutes.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Change is as Good as a Rest

SweeterRita, it really would be good if you could set up your own blog, for when written as a 'posting' all the information you have been sending would be read by far more people than on this site, for not everyone reads comments sent in, and in any case these are almost impossible to find if they wish to be referred to later. Myself find that when I take a look at other websites rarely bother to read comments as it will be the main text that appeals to me most. Comments are worth more to the person who writes the site, than the occasional reader. Or perhaps I am biased.
It is easy enough to set up a site, and it doesn't have to be written up each day, some people do it when they feel they have something worth writing about, others do it once a week, some only once a month. This has made me realise it is not necessary to write daily, and also I should possibly write far less - as not everyone has time to read my seemingly endless babble each day so perhaps time for me to change. Might give it a try.

All comments are worth receiving, but the ones that I find really pleasing are from readers of this site who share how they cope with their budget, shopping, the meals they make, produce they grow, and anything that relates to the cost-cutting aspect of this site. This way we learn from each other and turn an onerous taskinto something enjoyable.

So today thank Ciao for telling us about her supper and making good use of some Pannetonne. This has reminded me that there are still Pannetone crumbs in the freezer to be used up.
Also Les who seems to be at a 'make-it-up-as-I-go' level of cooking. That in itself is not an easy thing to do and will be interested to hear of meals made. There is no real need to hunt out copies of my books Les, as a lot of the contents have already been put up on this site.

Moira's mention of making stock using a whole chicken - as shown on Hairy Bikers this week - is the correct way to make that rich stock that is often called 'Jewish Penicillin', all the more interesting as the medical profession are now saying that this stock really does have 'something' that does us good.
Although good stock can be made from just a chicken carcase (plus veggies), there is a lot more depth when a whole bird is simmered very gently for several hours (with carrot, onion or leek, and celery). In the old days this bird would be an 'old boiler', and although it seems a waste to make stock using a young 'roasting' chicken, this when cooked in water does give moister flesh - which seems to go further - and once the bird is out of the stock and left to drain, it can either be eaten hot as we would when roasting, or left to get cold and sliced. All the cooked flesh can be used for pies or what you will, in the normal way.
When in Leeds, was able to buy a 'boiling fowl' from the butcher, but it needed to be ordered, and although making wonderful stock, the flesh was a bit tough, although could be minced and turned into patties, rissoles and the like.

Your term 'large economy size' Stella - referring to us larger ladies - has quite a bit of truth in that, for we really do seem to have 'low running costs', as we appear to be able to eat less than some leaner people and still not lose weight. Come a major disaster when food is in very short supply, we would be the ones who survived the longest and probably the only ones who survive at all. All we would have to hope is that cannabilism wouldn't rear its ugly head for we might then find ourselves fleeing from those skinny people with their cauldrons at the ready.

Could not sleep last night for ages. Eventually did nod off and had a real nightmare. Can only put this down to having eaten some cheese later in the evening. In the past eating cheese late has nearly always ended up giving me nightmares. The reason why I ate cheese last night was the attention paid to a recent comment. Silly me - always believing what I am told.
In future will not trust a word that doesn't come from a book. And even then not always. Hope at least readers believe what is written in this posting to be true (I have no control over comments).

Thinking of what to write next, and looking out of the window for inspiration, see a dove flying into the cordyline again. Yesterday a dove was seen sitting on a branch of the apple tree (which is next to the cordyline) with a twig in its beak. So nest building has begun somewhere, and as I keep seeing one or t'other of the pair of doves flying in and out of the 'cordy', seems this is where they have chosen to build their home. Perhaps of no interest to readers other than it does show that we are moving away from the winter and slowly into spring. Today there is blue sky, sunshine and - well, the birds are busy!

For some reason yesterday felt very tired (was also late finishing my blog again, and for this apologise - have already said I write far too much) and had not the slightest interest in doing any cooking. Or anything at all for that matter. Persuaded Beloved to order a home-delivery from an excellent curry house for an early meal, and this we both enjoyed. Today for supper think it will be cold ham, corned beef, cold turkey with cooked (cold) beetroot, Waldorf salad, maybe a coleslaw, and a jacket potato. That's easy enough. Norma the Hair will be here this afternoon (my usual appointment having to be changed), and so won't have time to do any preparations for 'hot-cooking'. Will possibly make a Bread Pudding using some of those dried out 'rusks' (a baking disaster mentioned a week or so ago that eventually turned out to have a use) or maybe make something similar using those Pannetonne crumbs. This is best when it has several hours soaking before being baked, so can prepare it before lunch (crumbs in bowl, a large egg beaten with half a pint of milk, then poured over the crumbs and left to soak).

What was depressed me most yesterday was the spanner in my works that Fate threw at me. Probably my fault for mentioning Fate yesterday. It wanted to show me it was still boss.
Things started to go downhill when B first discovered that no newspaper had been delivered, so when going to the newsagents to fetch one, he found the shop had been broken into during the night, and had other things on its mind than selling and delivering papers. Driving to another newsagents this also had no papers due to the above bringing in extra custom. B then endingeup buying the paper at Morrisons's.
With B, being in a supermarket is like releasing a child in a toy shop. To cut a long story short, food was brought home. B now has his double cream and more butter, he brought some bread (to save me baking), and some bacon. Several yogurts for his 'evening' snacks. To be fair, B he phoned me from the supermarket to find out if there was anything I wanted and I did ask for a bottle of the tomato ketchup that was being advertised at half price at that store, but in the end B coudn't find these so brought home a giant plastic bottle of ketchup instead. Probably several other things as well 'that were needed' but have not yet found out what (he will have hidden them in the fridge). None of this really matters at all other that I feel this has blown my Challenge right out of the window.

At least if the food brought in is not touched until tomorrow (or even later - for we still have some of the original butter left, and some squirty cream and am not planning to put ketchup on anything), this means that a full five weeks will have passed without needing to purchase any food (not even milk - and we still have a couple of cartons of UHT left), so like to feel that at least have proved that it is possible to eat well for a month without going out to the shops.

Last at least a month is nearer the truth, for although we have been eating fish, there still remains a freezer drawer full of assorted. We have pork mince, lamb shank, sausages, chicken portions (various) and a pork tenderloin as yet untouched in the 'meat' freezer drawer. There are still some frozen packs of cooked sliced ham, beef and turkey, plus boxes of frozen cooked pulses (red beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas....). Add to these frozen peas, beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and red cabbage and we are not short of veggies. There is also a box of rhubarb. In the fridge there is a cauliflower, white cabbage, carrots, half a butternut squash, and half a head of celery, three bell peppers (assorted colours), and a couple of packs of beetroot in vacuum packs. A pack of half a dozen tomatoes and some grapes. Oranges, kiwi fruit and apples are in the fruit bowl, so enough 'fresh' fruit and vegetables to last days if not weeks. And don't forget the onions - still plenty of those left despite using them nearly every day (well did start with a lot).

What we are/were running short of was mainly the butter and cream (B now having bought some) and it was getting a bit of a chore to continually bake bread, so in a way was grateful he brought in both a toasting and a medium loaf, but also have enough 'mixes' to last a month or more so could have managed. We still have half a dozen baking potatoes (each large enough to feed two), but had run out of the baby 'new' potatoes. Do have a tub of instant potato which is always useful.
We were low on cheese, although still enough Stilton to keep B happy, and half a pack of very strong cheddar. A pack of Boursin cheese, and a pack of cream cheese still untouched. Some mozzarella stored in oil, and Parmesan to grate. What is even more important, there are still half a dozen eggs in the fridge.

Unlike a similar Challenge begun at the end of 2006, this time there was no doorstep delivery of milk, eggs, butter, cheese, cream, creme fraiche, yogurts and potatoes to rely on, but then that Challenge was more to do seeing how long £250 worth of stores (which included all bought from the milkman) would last. So feel that now having no milkman, this Challenge was - at times - more difficult.

With plenty of 'basics' - rice, pasta, couscous, etc, there is no reason why good meals could not still not be served over several more weeks. And there is still canned food on the shelf - fruit, tuna, sardines, salmon, baked beans, sweetcorn, chopped and plum tomatoes. The last can of corned beef will be opened today, but some sliced and frozen for later use.
So it is hardly as though we are running out of food altogether. Perhaps I should just jot down how much was spent yesterday and pay for that out of the money already saved. Then carry on regardless.
But is it worth carrying on with the Challenge, or do you think the point I was trying to make has been well and truly proved? Would appreciate your comments re this.

Will finish now as want to watch the repeat of Nigel Slater's Simple Suppers on IPlayer. Have already seen this, but he is very watchable and having a slight glimpse of his veggie burgers (or whatever they were) feel they would eat well served with the Cold Meat Platter this evening. So need to know how to make

Hope the sun is shining today on all of you, and as sunshine is guaranteed to bring smiles to our faces, we should all enjoy our day, and hope that you will return to me again tomorrow.

Monday, January 25, 2010

All Adds Up...

Returning to the 'making and baking', have come across a cake recipe that has vegetables and fruit as part of the ingredients. We are used to eating carrot cake (aka Passion cake), and some of us may have tried making a cake using beetroot. It does seem that certain vegetables work well when used in cakes, and so there is no reason why this recipe could not be adapted and an assortment of vegetables (beetroot, carrot, parsnips etc) used when making just the one cake. A good way perhaps to get children to eat them? As long as the total weight of fruit and veg remain the same as given in the recipe, feel free to experiment.

Apple, Parsnip and Syrup cake: serves 8
6 oz (175g) butter
9 oz (250g) demerara sugar
4 fl oz (100g) golden or maple syrup
3 large eggs
9 oz (250g) self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mixed spice
5 oz (150g) grated peeled parsnips
4 oz (100g) grated peeled carrots
1 eating apple, peeled, cored and grated
2 oz walnuts or pecan nuts, chopped
zest and juice of 1 small orange
filling: 250g tub cream cheese or mascarpone...
...beaten with 3 tblsp maple or golden syrup
Put the butter, sugar and syrup into a pan and heat gently until dissolved. Pour into a bowl and cool slightly before whisking in the eggs. Sift together the flour, baking powder and spice, then stir this into the mixture, followed by the grated vegetables and apple, then stir in the nuts and orange zest and juice.
Divide this between two greased and base-lined 8" (20cm) sandwich tins and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 25 - 30 minutes or until the surface springs back when lightly pressed.
Cool the cakes in the tins fpr a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely. Carefully remove base paper and when ready to serve, mix the filling ingredients and spread this over one cake, and cover with the second to 'sandwich' the two together. Looks good dusted with icing sugar before serving.

Came across a cross between a salad and a salad dressing recipe that is almost 'from the store-cupboard' if you count home-grown herbs being part of this. If the herbs are grown on the windowsill then this may be able to be made during the colder months of the year. Otherwise wait until later. This salad is particularly good eaten with grilled or roasted fish.
Salsa Verde: serves 4
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tblsp red wine vinegar
4 tblsp olive oil (pref extra virgin)
salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 tblsp capers
1 tblsp pickled gherkins
3 anchovy fillets
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley (leaves only)
1 small handful fresh basil leaves
1 small handful fresh mint leaves
First make a dressing by putting the mustard into a bowl and blend in the vinegar. Slowly stir in the olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Finely chop the remaining ingredients together and then mix these into the dressing. Serve with fish.

As so often when reading through a recipe such as the above, always wonder - due to the amount of 'ingredients' - whether it could be turned into a 'dip' if everything was whizzed together in a blender or food processor. Or if too slack, this puree could make a 'pouring' sauce to go over pasta. Often I feel we should experiment more, using the same ingredients but preparing them or presenting them differently. It is so easy to get stuck in the rut of making the same dish in the same way when - with a little imagination - we could make an improvement. Or maybe not. But at least we should take the trouble to find out.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Weekend Starts Here

Well, this week went quickly. Today will have a quick check of the larder to find out whether there will be a need to bring in a few provisions or whether we can still manage on what there is. There is certainly enough in the kitchen to keep us fed and watered for many days yet, a lot depends upon whether B will miss his 'treats' (double cream etc) too much. Is it worth him being miserable just because I wish to prove a point?

Yesterday, as B was going out to the social (sailing) club at 9.00pm, and able to eat something there if he wished, he 'made do' with scrambled eggs on toast for his supper, and also ate the larger of the two trifles made for him earlier that day made with canned fruit cocktail, sponge cake, jelly etc. Not a true trifle as it didn't have any custard (or sherry), but did end up with a good helping of 'squirty' cream on top, B seemed happy with that. Still one trifle left to eat.

For my own supper, thoroughly heated the remains of the previous day's chicken casserole (B had eaten all the chicken so it was mainly sauce with carrots in it) and added some quick-cook pasta that itself had been cooked in the chicken stock made from the skin/bones left after removing the flesh from the chicken quarter. As the pasta took up most of the stock, tipped the lot into the pan of sauce and simmered down until thickened again. This made a really good supper for me.

It was quite amusing when I began to eat. The food was very hot, so I blew on the spoonful before putting it into my mouth (as you do), and this made the piece of penne lying on top turn into a 'pan pipe' for as I blew across the diagonal end of, it played a note. So spent a happy few minutes blowing on quite a few spoonfuls to see if I could 'play a tune'. "Little things please little minds" do I hear you say?

Today will probably serve Beloved the satay sauce (from a batch made last week and frozen) adding the jumbo prawns from the freezer (that were bought on offer), and served with boiled rice. Think he will enjoy that.

Thanks for your comments. My Beloved does not wear after-shave Catherine D, as he has a beard and moustache and it gets trimmed only occasionally, so that has to be discounted as causing my allergy. As this problem arose only after I left hospital a few years ago and having to take a goodly number of pills, it might have something to do with this, although as the allergy tends to flare up fairly regularly (like once every two weeks, sometimes only a little bit, and rarely as bad as the other day - and this in itself, find peculiar). Have noticed other things such as a rash on my wrist or arms, appearing the day before my face swells, and sometimes on the same day, and sometimes the rash without the facial swellings. Apparently this is called 'hives' and tied up with some allergies, and this can be caused by stress. Maybe B coming back made me slightly stressed - after all I had had 10 days of feeling fully relaxed.
So far this stress seems to be the only thing that is tied up with the allergy, and it probably isn't even that causing the problem.
If there is another bad reaction Ciao, will get B to take me straight to the surgery to ask for an EPI pen as you suggested - just in case. Maybe then, someone will take me seriously.

Have to say that when I read SweeterRita's recent comments about onions (just prior to my face beginning to swell), have now realised this did raise my stress levels which stayed with me after comments from readers of this site who had - it seemed - believed what they read (as did myself initially).

Thanks to Mark's checking it out the origins of the above comment, have myself taken time to checked on various other sites and it does seem this comment (on onions) - and others of a similar nature - seem to have all originated in the USA. Apparently there are many gullible people (according to B I am very gullible and often very naive at times - and tend to agree with him) who really do believe the 'facts' that arrive in their mailbox, these being nothing more than cleverly written 'urban legends' sent purely to mislead people, but who believe what they receive is true and that others should also be warned. Often these are forwarded to many people at the same time, so always wise to ignore mail that comes in with F/W in front of it. It will never be mail written personally to you.

Deliberately sending an 'urban legend' in the hope it will be believed may be fun to those who forward them, but myself feel so concerned about the problems that might be caused if any appear on this site that I am asking readers not to send any 'info' that they may have received from another source unless from an authentic (and British) publication, and even then make sure the 'facts' have been thoroughly checked.
There are very tight rules in this country as to what is safe to eat and what is safe to use as packaging and plenty has been published about this (even though we might not agree with all of it - like the suggestion of banning butter for instance), so feel we should be able to sleep safely in our beds without having to worry too much about life over here. As to what goes on in America - knowing that many manufacturers over there pull no punches when it comes manipulating facts and figures to help raise their profits - well that's another matter. Let them sort their own problems out.

Going slightly astray here - the knowledge that Kraft have bought Cadbury's is causing some national concern. Again an American conglomerate (is that the word?) that allegedly may stop marketing some Cadbury products. Why, why, why cannot we keep such a national treasure as this company to ourselves? The answer of course is money - money in the share-holders pockets, and for the purchasers it is a profitable company. It is said (again allegedly) the take-over means jobs will be lost. Kraft probably don't care, after all they are not here, they are 'over there'.
When you come to think of it, not a lot of big companies in this country ARE British owned anymore. Not even Harrods. We are a little nation, possibly of little importance to the Big Boys, and when it come to losing money we will be the first to go. So what can the future hold for us?

Sorry if I seem to have gone a bit over the top re all the above, but the integrity of this site is very important to me and feel that readers should be able to trust everything that is written not just by me, but also those who send in comments. Obviously if we hear of something that might be worth knowing about, then we can pass on the knowledge if we wish, after it has been thoroughly checked out. We should also be able to share our thoughts on certain things (as I often do) even though these may not be correct (Kraft may be a caring company for all I know).

Only fair to say that myself may have been inadvertently at fault from time to time when have quoted from newspapers who themselves give only half the facts, and not all of these have turned out to be true. But at least published in reputable papers, not from an unknown source. We should not dismiss everything we read, for much might important to us in the culinary and financial world, just as long as when we pass it on, we state where it has come from, then let readers draw their own conclusions.

Obviously it is Saturday for am in one of my serious moods again, but now that I have the above off my chest, can lower my stress levels and return to the Goode life and all its culinary peculiarities.

Tomorrow hope to be back on form, but in the interim would like to hear your views on what has been discussed today. No doubt there will be US readers feverishly making a dough dolly that looks like me (Michelin tyre man would be a good resemblance) to stick pins into it. Perhaps I am too parochial, too British, too concerned about keeping the status quo in this country to turn a blind eye to what I feel is going wrong. You tell me.
Looking forward to loadsa comments. Hope they are of a kindly nature... can do without more stress.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Writing on the Wall (or packet)

Was reading the ingredients on the back of a couple of the ketchup sachets. They each had different ones (one well-known brand said 126g tomato to each 100g of the made product - does this mean the tomatoes are reduced down?), the other gave water as its main ingredient followed by sugar syrup then tomato paste instead of 'real tomatoes. Yet this tasted better than the quality one. However different the ingredients to make the ketchup, they both ended up with exactly the same nutritional listing (that are now printed on packs of everything).

Nutritional listings are interesting. However we feel about the difference in flavour between the stores own-brand and a similar branded product, when reading the tin or packet, usually there is no difference in the nutritional value (having checked umpteen different cans of baked beans can vouch for this), so by buying a cheaper product we can still provide the same food value and have more money left in the purse. If we go down that road of "oh, I only like the flavour of so-and-so and will eat no other", then we shouldn't complain if we suddenly find our money has run out. There are times that I feel we eat more like kings - sometimes even better. Just because we want to.

To save money, we need to have a modicum of common-sense. There is just as much protein in the flesh of the cheaper cuts of beef (not including the fat) as there is in the expensive fillet. So why spend more if we don't have to? There are also other sources of animal protein that are not as expensive, and still nutritious but whether we would wish to eat them is another matter.

All parts of an animal (other than the obvious) contain protein, the 'pre-formed' meat products that we all despise must also have some nutritional value which - when processed into edible form - is increased by adding other ingredients. It makes me wonder whether some pet foods contain more nutrition (per 100g) than many of the foods that we buy to eat ourselves. Worth checking labels to find out.

If we lived in the Third World we would not be so fussy about the food we are given to eat, and be glad of finding anything to eat at all. Are we becoming too picky, and believe that all foods we eat should be as organic and 'natural' as possible? Possibly these are 'healthier', but not necessarily. There could be a time of disaster when we could be feverishly gathering snails from the garden to give us some form of protein (they eat these in France so not THAT dreadful a suggestion). Wonder if anyone ate snails during war-time? On reading about those days they seemed to miss a lot of chances to improve their meals.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Planting an Idea

What to keep in a small store cupboard? Suggest foods that are used regularly. Ideally buy one to use, and one to store, then when you use the first, buy a replacement so you will always have at least one in stock. If storing more than a couple, put new stock at the back so they are used in order of purchase.
Some foods used quite often, such as baked beans and canned tomatoes can be bought as a four-pack, so you can start with more than one to help build up stocks.

Start by working out what you might be needing if unable to go out to shop. Being snowed up (or ill) is usually when we rely most on stored food. Usually during the colder weather, cans of soup (especially the chunky ones) are almost as good as a meal in themselves. Some 'thinner; soups are ideal for using as a base (gravy) when cooking meat or chicken, such as oxtail soup or cream of chicken/mushroom/celery. Cuppa soups also are a good standby for soup or 'gravy'.

Keep a can or two of new potatoes, and a tub or packet of instant potato. Although myself have never bought canned vegetables (other than beans and tomatoes) maybe a can of peas or carrots could find a place on your shelf. Plum tomatoes have more flavour than the chopped, and easy enough to chop ourselves.

A few cans of fruit are also worth keeping in store, for this way we can then still get some of our 5 a day (canned vegetables and baked beans also count, potatoes don't).

It is always worth buying several cans of tuna, sardines, pilchards, and salmon, for not only are they high in omega 3 oils (or most of them are), they also have a very long shelf life.

As to meat, myself rarely buy other than corned beef, but on the odd occasion Spam. A cooked ham can also be bought in tins, and some brands of canned meatballs are quite good.

Longlife milk is a must, also dried milk. Cartons of orange juice also good for storing (counts as part of the 5 a day), but with all 'drinkables' it is important to keep an eye on the use-by/best before date. Most keep only up to 6 months, but a week or so longer would do no harm. In fact with all foods bought to store it is best not to keep them for a rainy day, but as I said above, keep using them in the normal way and in the correct order, and keep replacing them, this way they never get a chance to reach the end of their shelf-life, yet still there will be a cupboard of stores available to be used when going out to shop is not an option. Use the cupboard as a working larder, not as a store-cupboard where food is hoarded 'just in case'.

Rice (various), sugar (various), pasta (various) all keep well and worth buying in bulk to draw upon when needed. A couple or so packs of bread mix might also be useful, certainly plain and self-raising flour plus raising agents to bake all sorts of things, including soda bread.

Dried pulses (various beans and also lentils) also worth keeping, but the older the bean the longer it takes to cook, so these are best used within a year. Once cooked they can then be stored for several months in the freezer.

Often a whole of a can is used when half could have been saved. Corned beef is an example. I always buy the larger tins because they work out cheaper (by weight). Normally we open a tin, cut off what is to be eaten, then the rest goes into the fridge for B and myself to make sarnies later (or may be made into corned beef hash). During a money-saving Challenge my last remaining tin of corned beef will be chilled (makes it easy to cut thinner slices), and the remaining slices will be interleaved and frozen to use for (hopefully) two further meals (as part of a Cold Meat Platter). When having to rely on stores only, cook or use half a can, decant and chill or freeze the remainder to use later. Or cook just half a carrot, half an onion. Not normally necessary, but in time of 'crisis' such as the Challenge, being snowed in, no money left in the purse etc, we should all be able to eke out our rations to make them last a lot longer.

Happened to see the following in the paper yesterday, for as we share our ideas and thoughts - felt this Native American saying was very appropriate. Will return again as usual tomorrow.

"Don't walk behind me; I may not lead,
Don't walk in front of me: I may not follow.
Walk beside me that we may be as one."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Nothing Daunted, Nothing Gained...

Sally's Beetroot and Beef Casserole: serves 6 - 8
1 lb (450g) cooked beetroot, cubed
zest and juice of 1 orange
2 cloves garlic, crushed
half pint water
2 lbs (900g) braising steak, cubed
butter and oil
1 dessp ground ginger
1 tblsp plain flour
Put the beetroot, zest and juice of the orange, the garlic and water into a blender or food processor, and blitz until a puree. Then put into a pan and heat to a simmer.
Melt a little butter in a pan with a little oil, and when hot add the steak (best to do in batches) and stir until browned. Stir in the ginger and the flour, then add the beetroot puree. Put into a casserole, cover and cook at 140C, 275F, gas 1 for 2 - 3 hours or until the meat is tender.
(Hope this is correct Sally, am guessing at the number it serves - based on the amount of meat - and if I have made a fatal error with the ingredients or method, then let us know a.s.a.p).

Disaster after disaster yesterday in the Goode kitchen. The muesli loaf never did rise, so in the end turned it out (by then the muesli had soaked up any liquid and was an almost solid block), and at least it 'looked' good, albeit unbaked. So decided to cut it into slices (it made 20) and give these a quick bake to see if they would end up like a type of 'biscotti', in which case I then intended masking them in melted chocolate to make 'muesli bars'. Yes, they baked beautifully, but after 15 minutes in a hot oven, then left in a cooling oven, ended up tooth-breakingly rigid. Felt I'd invented a new and healthy type of dog biscuit.

As the saying goes, "Nothing daunted, nothing gained", so my next move was to put a couple of bars into a small dish and cover them with milk to see what happened. This morning checked it out and the bars had softened to the stage of being more like a bowl of milk-soaked muesli. A quick sample and decided the flavour was too 'bready', but would certainly work if the bars had been soaked in beaten egg and milk, then later cooked as a B & B pudding. This will be done today, after adding a little sugar and cinnamon. Tomorrow you will find out if this HAS worked.

Suppose in a way my 'muesli/bread bars' had turned out to be what they used to call 'hard tack' - a form of ship's biscuit, where extremely hard and dried out biscuits were carried on board to later soak up and eat as a form of porridge. So am storing the surplus muesli bars, and - if successful - will use them to make more B & B pudding, or could even grind them back down to almost powder and add them to the next batch of muesli, use for coating fish cakes or use to thicken a casserole. Whatever - they will not be thrown away. I don't do throw away.

My confidence yesterday was at an all time low. Just hate it when things go wrong, but having said that, it is useful to discover that a disaster can still be turned around, and maybe not giving up is what has brought us out of the caves and into the domestic kitchens of today. Not that I am 100% sure that this has done us any favours. Life would have been so much easier when now and again some hulk or another would drag us into their cave by our hair, and 'afterwards' all we had to do was go and pick more berries. With no pots, there would be washing up to do. With no clothes (other than animal skins) no laundry to do. The men brought home the meat, skin it to make new clothes (and would cook the meat for us). Personally, I'd be quite content with that (at least for a while).

In the newspaper yesterday there was a short article about the rising price of jams and marmalades. This is due to the soaring price of sugar, fruits and also the cost of glass. Because of this fewer preserves are bought these days.
We home-cooks should think hard about this, keep an eye on sugar prices, maybe buy some now ready to make preserves later in the year. In the spring plant soft fruits (raspberries, black-currants, red-currants, gooseberries, blackberries....) in the garden (or containers) and save all the jars and lids that become empty over the weeks, giving them a good wash and keep reusing them to pot up our own preserves.

There was also a double-page feature about organic meat and how in some instances these animals were handled in a very inhumane way at the abbatoir before being killed and sometime during the killing process, when they were left too long after stunning and had begun to revive again. Hidden cameras were fitted into an abbatoir that only dealt with organic meats, and the findings were horrific. Animals that are not 'organically' reared are usually treated better.
This is not to say all organic animals are badly treated when it comes to slaughter, but the findings came from what was believed to be a reputable abbatoir, and it is not the only one where this happens. Since the findings, many of the staff have been sacked, but we should always be aware that because some meat can be bought as 'organic', it is not necessarily well cared for in every sense.
We might be able to tell if an animal has been scared before being killed, because this fright will case the muscles to contract and when cooked and eaten, the meat will seem tougher than it should be. A butcher might say it is more to do with the cooking than the slaughter as to the toughness of the meat, and they maybe right. But it is 'food for thought'. Or am I making stupid assumptions?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

One Thing Leads to Another...

During the afternoon, after finding my crumpet rings, decided to make some 'pikelets' using a yeast-based recipe. Basically the recipe is the same as for making white bread but adding more liquid. There are two crumpet/pikelet recipes on this site, one is on 24th Feb. '07, the other on 30th Oct, also '07, although I cheated a bit and used a pack of bread mix (which contains the salt, sugar and some dried milk) and just added the yeast, a little less of the milk and more of the water.

After a couple of hours in a warmish place, the batter had risen and bubbles appeared on the top, so began cooking the crumpets in the (greased) rings placed in a large frying pan. They rose beautifully, and really looked very much like the ones we buy, only slightly smaller. After making 8, thought they reminded me very much of deep, thick Scotch Pancakes (aka drop scones), so took out some batter and thinned this down with more milk (or did I use water, cannot now remember). This was then poured by the spoon directly onto the pan base as you do when making drop scones, and they cooked perfectly, just flipping them over when the bubbles burst on the surface and the top was dry. These were put on a cake airer and covered with a cloth as they were cooked, and even after a few hours were still soft and moist. They ate the same (spread with butter) as a drop scone, but not quite a sweet. If a different flour (buckwheat)had been used, because of the yeast, these little pancakes would be called 'blinis'. So - all in all - quite a successful trial batch of both pikelets and 'blinis'. Both of which can be, and some have been, frozen.

Still having a good amount of batter left, decided to try turning this into a muesli loaf, thickening it by pouring in some of the last muesli in B's tin, but even then the mixture remained sticky. Added a little more flour, still sticky, so not quite sure what to do next, put the lot into a greased and floured 2 lb loaf tin, covered it and put into a warm place to rise. By bed-time there had been about half-an inch rise. By this morning, about another half inch (for overnight the heating was not on). and still a long way to go before the dough even peeps over the top of the pan. So now have put the oven on really low, covered the dough and put the tin into the oven to see what happens.
Despite the amount of muesli added (too much apparently), the remaining yeast in the batter should still have the ability to rise (as long as the mixture is kept warm), but will take a great deal longer as the balance is now incorrect. Also the muesli may have soaked up too much of the liquid in the original batter, so it may end up a disaster after all. But you know me, never throw away anything if it can be turned into something. So today it could well be the dough has more liquid, more yeast and even more flour added and start again.

'Ready-to bake' bread mixes (just add the yeast that comes with the pack, and some water), can be made even 'cheaper', for as mentioned above, there is enough yeast to raise even more flour than that given. In the past used to buy bread mixes, then add half as much again of strong plain flour, and extra liquid as needed. It did take longer for the bread to rise, but rise it did. Other than making bread from scratch, this is one way to make the cost of a pack of mix go that much further. Have never done this when using a bread machine because the rising time is fixed. Best only to experiment when making bread by hand.

Was reading the other day about eating to keep warm. Apparently it doesn't matter if the food we eat is hot or cold, for although there is a feeling of warmth gained from a hot drink, this is soon lost, and our bodies gain energy when digesting solid food. Digestion = energy = heat, and digestion has nothing to do with the temperature of the food. So crunching on raw cold veggies will make the body's digestive system work harder than when drinking a warm liquid. So there you go. Will tell B this when he returns, maybe then he will see the sense of leaving his soup 'chunky' during the colder weather.
Personally, find a hot mug of cuppa soup is far more comforting than a plate of salad at the moment. Nevertheless, an interesting fact, and possibly we can keep ourselves warmer if we eat little and often, rather than having one large meal a day.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Every Crumb Counts

You would all have laughed at me yesterday afternoon. Was checking a cupboard to see if there was room to put the new wine glasses B had bought, and discovered a 500g pack of 'exotic bean mix'. Not THAT exotic, but plenty of variety of dried beans. On the pack it said 'blackeyed beans, red kidney beans, alubia beans, Dutch brown beans, baby lima beans, butterbeans, and haricot beans". The amounts in descending order, the blackeyed beans being the most. So what did Shirley do? Empty the pack onto a large flat plate and sort them all out into individual piles. It took exactly an hour to do this, and the amount seemed to increase as I worked through them, couldn't believe they once fitted into one small pack. But in every case, there were enough individual varieties to use (one at a time) for at least one meal.

When B saw me doing this - and still doing it when he returned from a trip to buy the lagging - he laughed, but could see the sense of it, for had I cooked the beans together (as they were meant to be) all that would have happened would have been a large mixture of 'mixed beans' that would probably have been frozen and later giving a dressing and eaten as a 'bean salad'. Quite boring really. For the moment, each variety of beans has been put into small glass jars, and will be stored in the larder, to be used as and when needed.

Not only that, but took one bean of each variety, laid them well apart on a double thickness of wet kitchen paper, more wet paper over, put this onto a shallow dish, covered in foil and placed on a warm shelf over a radiator. In the hope they one or two (or all) will sprout, and then can think about growing my own!!!

Sorting out a pack of mixed beans was quite enjoyable, almost as good as doing a jigsaw, and possibly something that will keep little hands busy while children are off school. So worth going out and buying a pack. That is, if you can get out.
There are similar packs of 'soup mix' which has assorted beans, rice, pearl barley, lentils included, and this takes even more time to work through. But either packs are a useful mixture if you live alone and wish to have more of a choice without having to buy a whole pack of each. And also have the patience to sort them.

Another 'chore' was clearing up the paper that had been wrapped around the Pannetone. This 'cake' had been eaten during the Twelve Days and was now finished, but a lot of bits of the Pannetone had stuck to the paper, and so I painstakingly peeled the paper from it, and some of what I thought was paper, turned out to be the firmer outside of the cake, so ended up with a pile of large crumbs, quite enough to make a two-portion B & B pudding. These crumbs have been put into a container and will be stored in the freezer until needed.
Anyone else would have just gathered up the paper and thrown it into the bin. Shirley saves every last little crumb. What am I like?

One very annoying thing was when the last pack of stewing steak was taken from the freezer to defrost (to make a big casserole that would be frozen into little ones), and discovered it was minced steak. So had some minced after all. This meant the other day had used the last of the chunks of stewing steak to make the chilli. But meat is meat is meat. Does it really matter? At least can cook up some savoury mince that can then be frozen and later turned into spag.bol or chilli again. Maybe even a biriyani.

Have enough joints of chicken to make a casserole if it is a casserole that B desires, but as he will be leaving here in just one hour, won't have to be concerned about that for at least 10 days. Unless of course Gill comes to visit after all. Won't know until later today.

Other things to do are make marmalade and bread, putting together a new batch of muesli, making more Sticky Toffee Pudding and soft-scoop ice-cream for the freezer, making some Greek yogurt (from EasyYo), and make a fruit cake. Also cook and pack up some individual cooked 'ready-meals', and other things I cannot now remember. Maybe even cook some of those beans!
We were running out of cheese biscuits, so said to B that I would make some while he was away. "Can you make cheese biscuits?" he asked. Many times he has eaten home-made, but probably because I hadn't said they were, believed them to always have been bought.

Last night watched the final episode of Kill it, Cook it, Eat it, where the programme dealt with the cooking and eating offal, not just the offal we are used to (liver, kidney's, tongue etc) but the parts we might normally avoid such as pigs snout and ears (went into brawn), and other unmentionables. When animals kill each other, it is the 'offal' that is eaten first as these contain the most nourishment.
When Beloved was born at home, his umbilical cord was not tied correctly, and he lost some blood through leakage. The doctor told his mother to give him raw liver to suck on to help replace the iron he had lost I suppose. Not that B remembers that part, but he has always loved eating liver.

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.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Doing Without

Much has been written about seed viability, and there are differing opinions as to how long the seeds will last, and after reading through several lists see they generally agree on the minimum time the most common vegetable seeds will stay fully viable - and to this you can add several more years (a lot more according to some recommendations). The viability will decrease the older the seed. Some veggies seeds such as Parsnip have a very short 'shelf' life so should be grown using fresh seed. On the other hand Pepper seeds at the toddler age should still grow when almost teenage. The number at the sides of the list below is the minimum seed age (in years) before you need even start wondering if they will still grow or not.
Beans 3
Basil 8
Beetroot 4
Broccoli 3
Cabbage 3
Carrots 3
Cauliflower 5
Celery 2
Coriander 2
Cucumber 5
Lettuce 5
Melons 5
Onions 1
Parsley 3
Parsnips 1
Peas 3
Peppers 4
Pumpkins 4
Radishes 5
Sage 3
Sweetcorn 2
Squash 4
Thyme 3
Tomatoes 4
Turnips 5

To test old seeds, sprinkle as many as can be spared (at least 20) over a few layers of damp kitchen paper, keeping the seeds well apart, then roll up and place in a container (to prevent drying out) and keep in a warm place for about a week, then unroll and check to see if any have begun to sprout. If not, roll up, keep damp and warm and wait a further week, by then a few should have sprouted. If none, you might as well discard the lot.
It is all a matter of percentage. If out of 20 seeds, only 5 have sprouted, then generally no more than 25% of remaining seeds will grow. Having said that, it is recommended that 100 seeds are checked for viability to find the true percentage of growth, but often we don't get that many seeds in a packet in the first place.

Once we grow our own produce, it is very easy to save our own seeds so we don't really need to bother about age. On the other hand, a pack of lettuce seeds might contain 500, so if intending to grow each to maturity, not all will be used the first year of purchase. So just as well they can be kept for a long time.
Hope the above has been of some help.