Sunday, June 05, 2011

Weekends for Working?

Whether we go 'out' to work, or stay at home, often the weekends can be our busiest time. Certainly if the weather is good we are out in the garden tending our plants, sowing and growing new ones - especially in these days, foods we can eat.
Often this is the only time that bread-winners can find to shop, let alone catch up with the housework. Not surprising that 'ready-meals' have become almost essential in some homes. Myself tend to spend each Saturday cooking (mainly because there is nothing much but sport on TV), and yesterday was even busier as I had to fit in garden work as well. Believe me - was quite exhausted come evening. Not that I did much (compared to some), age being the culprit.

Yesterday being such a glorious sunny day, expect all readers were busy as no comments were sent it. Watching a repeat of 'Have I Got News For You', Richard Madeley mentioned a 'tidal' clock he had bought. Best thing ever. He had 'twittered' about it. When the others asked why, he said he 'twittered' several times a day, and as that day nothing much had happened, he had to find something to 'twitter' about. Adding that he had a received a lot of response: people twittering him to ask what the tide was at that particular moment (reply, "just going out ") and again later ("just coming in)". It appears that people just love to 'twitter' about every aspect of their lifestyle, and have to say that although I feel this is a complete waste of time, and who cares what folk are doing anyway, am almost doing the same thing when I write this blog.
But then I remember the pleasure I got from reading Nella Last's books. It did give me a true feeling of what her domestic life was like in those days, her personal diary, so perhaps mine is a bit more useful than a 'twitter'. At least it has recipes and other food facts that might (or might n0t) help save those pennies.

Yesterday it was Cold Meat Platter served to B (with lettuce - incidentally the label said it came from Shropshire, so no fears there), tomatoes (still on the vine so probably not personally handled) and the last of a red bell pepper (sliced), plus some vacuum packed beetroot. The last of the roast beef was sliced (and eaten) the last of the cooked ham eaten (am thawing out the third 'buy 3 gammon for £10) to cook another today. Cooked sausages to go with, and in the end didn't make a quiche. Decided to experiment (dangerous!) and make a little pork pie, only not with pork - with some of the cooked chicken scraps.

Having discovered a small pack of short pastry scraps in the fridge, decided to use these (then if it went wrong - as if it would! - there wouldn't be that much 'waste'). Rolled it out thinly, cracks appeared in the bottom because I had pushed the pastry into the mould with my fingers, so had to gather it together again and re-roll. Pushed it in used a ball of pastry saved for the lid. This does help to prevent splits in pastry.
Blitzed half the chicken scraps with the last (fairly lean) rasher of bacon, and one shallot, plus half a tsp of dried mixed herbs and a good pinch of black pepper. Decided it looked a bit 'dry' so mixed in some frozen redcurrants. Pressed into the lined tin it was exactly the right amount. Covered with a pastry lid and baked for about 40 minutes, removed from the oven and poured some melted red-currant jelly into the hole in the lid 'to fill the gap'. Didn't seem many gaps, so after cooling, popped it into the fridge to 'set'.
It cut beautifully, but barely any jelly to see as had forgotten that cooked meat doesn't shrink. Raw meat does.
The flavour was very good, but the filling WAS dry, so if another is made will either include some fat or add jellied stock to the filling instead of adding it later. Cranberry sauce could be used instead of redcurrant jelly, chicken certainly needing added flavour. Perhaps adding the meat from one skinned sausage would have improved it. Well, yes I know it would. Next time maybe.

Baked a white loaf yesterday as B had eaten three-quarters of the 2 lb granary one started the day earlier. Well, he said he likes home-made bread, but if he keeps on like this, he will go through four large 'home-bakes' as week (normally one 'bought' loaf lasts him seven days).

Once the baking was done, decided to go into the garden and pot up my plants, but before that gathered up a few 'compressed pulp' egg cartons - the plan being to soak them and then use them as liners for hanging baskets. For some reason decided to read the printing on a recent one. The lid clearly stated "One Dozen Large Free-Range Eggs". On the underside of the lid it gave nutritional advice (useful I suppose), and also allergy advice. Very useful to those with allergies. This one said: caution: contains eggs. Now, why did we have to be told that? Wasn't the info on the lid clear enough? Or does the EU think we are all simpletons?

Sometimes am beginning to fear for our education. Seems a lot of youngsters (and many adults) still can't read. Perhaps there should be a way to give a verbal warning when lids are lifted. I mean we shouldn't discriminate between those that can read and those that can't can we?

Our daughter was telling us about a workman she had been speaking to. He was needing to drill a hole in the centre of a tile and had asked her for a compass as he didn't know where the exact middle was. Have to admit my education is very sparse when it comes to geometry, so would have no idea how to use a compass to find out the middle (my first thought was why was it necessary to find out which corner faced North? See how thick I am). But at least did know (as my daughter explained to the man) all you have is to draw a diagonal line from corner to corner, in both directions, and where they cross - that's the middle. Could it be that education is now becoming too complex, and there are easier - and more obvious ways - to find an answer? Seems that with technology we are losing the art of thinking for ourselves. We 'old folk' can tot up a column of figures fasting that tapping them into a calculator. In our day learning to read was essential, as was learning to spell correctly. Nowadays almost anything goes. Even the quality newspaper editors don't take enough care to read the copy through before printing and we see printed 'fur' tree (fir tree), 'lettice' ('lettuce'), recieve instead of receive etc....I could go on.
But does learning to speak or write correctly really matter? Or even be educated? Once I would have thought so, but now feel that as long as we are able to learn enough and do what needs to be done, that should get us through. Perhaps not when trying to get certain jobs, but if we managed to become 'civilised' and get as far as this 21st century after thousands of years of barely any - what we now call - 'education', then that has to say something about our ability to cope with what life throws at us. In the old days much wealth came to canny ones only because of all the hard work done for them by those who were mainly illiterate. Or am I being unfair? Some 'nobs' today still seem as thick as two short planks (even after a public school education).
It is up to us 'artisans' to hold the country together. If, of course, we are allowed to.

At the moment, the way the country is at the moment, it feels that as 'every Englishman's home is his castle', we should pull up our drawbridges and our thoughts and actions stay firmly within our home. Do the best for our family, bring back the 'old ways', grow our own produce, cook our own food, knit our own jumpers (spin our own wool if necessary (gather sheep's wool caught in barbed wire, brush it out into strands and roll into a thin sausage, push a stick into a potato, fasten the wool to the top of the stick, and then start spinning the potato/stick round, stretching the wool as you go. Eventually ending up with a ball of wool that has wrapped itself round the stick).
We can share gluts with our neighbours and forage the countryside for free food when we can. We can also share hints and tips via various money-saving and craft blogs.

'But it all takes so much time', is usually what seems to be the excuse. Washing and polishing the car takes time, spending an hour making ourselves 'look good' takes time, watching TV takes time, and playing computer games takes time. Even shopping in the supermarket takes time. So how can we find time to garden and cook?
Easy - reduce the time spent on the 'non-essentials' (do we always have to wash the car, beautify ouselves, watch TV and 'twitter' our little heads off?). Order our groceries online and have them delivered and we can use the 'shopping in store' time to spend on cooking the food. In summer, get up an hour earlier (myself always work better - and faster - during the earlier hours of each day).

True this doesn't work for everyone, some people have more than one job to make ends meet, but it seems that the busier someone is, the more work they seem able to cope with. Possibly genetically, some people are 'givers' and 'workers, others being 'idlers' and 'takers'. Unfortunately the 'idlers and takers' are usually one and the same and generally contented with their lot ("why do anything when there is always someone else to do it for me"). Not like the 'workers and givers, also one and the same, who although happy to do as much as they can for everyone, eventually end up feeling used and abused. But we all have our place to play in the great scheme of things, and if we can't give and take, there would be no equilibrium.

Obviously am wearing my philosophical hat on today. First time for a week or two, so had perhaps better change this for a chef's hat, or at least my cook's apron and get on to the more interesting part of surviving - like eating!

Porridge oats are still fairly inexpensive considering they have good nutritional value. So today am giving some ideas from a pre-decimal booklet published by Quaker Oats. As 'Quaker' also produced macaroni, this might also have a mention. All recipes serve 4 unless otherwise stated.

First recipe is given the name: 'Scottish Croutons', but to me seem far more like 'dumplings'. Certainly work making to either top soup or even a casserole - and for the latter I would include a pinch of dried herbs.
Scottish 'Croutons':
2 oz (50g) porridge oat
salt and pepper to taste
pinch baking powder
half ounce (12g) shredded suet
cold water to mix
Mix dry ingredients together and bind with cold water to make a fairly stiff dough. Form into small balls. Drop into fast boiling salted water and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve, floating on top of soup.

Next recipe is for 'fish stuffing', and almost any whole fish can be stuffed with this. If using flat fish (such as plaice) spread the stuffing over the fillet, then roll up and bake.
Fish Stuffing:
2 oz (50g) porridge oats
a rounded tblsp shredded suet
2 tsp chopped fresh parsley
grated rind of half a lemon
pinch mixed dried herbs
salt and pepper to taste
beaten egg to bind
Mix everything together and use as required.

Admittedly this next recipe uses a packet of mushroom soup (no doubt a couple of 'mushroom cuppa so' would be today's substitute), but a better alternative would be to use a can of mushroom soup - in which case omit the water from the recipe. It was the macaroni and tinned tuna that caught my eye (always in my storecupboard). The 'Oat Crunchies' - in those days - must have been a breakfast cereal, much like Cornflakes. As I always keep some wheatflakes in my larder (to add, lightly crushed, to home-made muesli) would use that instead. Alternatively use crushed potato crisps (flavour of your choice as long as it goes with the tuna).
Mushroom Macaroni with Tuna:
8 oz (225g) macaroni
1 x 7oz (200g) can tuna, drained and flaked
1 pack mushroom soup (see above)
a good pint (600ml +) water
1 tsp curry powder
few Oat Krunchies (see above)
1 oz (25g) butter
Cook macaroni as directed. Rinse under cold water and drain well. Arrange layers of macaroni and tuna in a greased casserole. Make up the soup with water (or use a good pint of canned soup), adding curry powder. Pour over the macaroni/tuna. Cover with the 'Krunchies' and dot with butter. Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Often we serve cauliflower just as-is, pureed, or with cheese sauce as a dish in its own right. The booklet has come up with a different presentation, and one I find quite appealing. Certainly different. See what you think.
Cauliflower Surprise:
1 cauliflower
2 hard-boiled eggs
1 can condensed tomato soup
1 oz (25g) porridge oats
Trim cauliflower and hollow out the base of the stem. Cook whole in boiling salted water for 30 minutes, then remove and drain well. Cut a circle out from the centre of the cauliflower and chop the pieces that have been removed. To these add one of the hard-boiled eggs that has also been chopped. Mix some of the tomato soup with the oats (adding a little hot water if too thick) and bring to the boil, stirring continuously. Then add this to the chopped egg/cauli mixture.
Place the hollowed out cauliflower on a serving dish and fill centre with the mixture, pour remaining (hot) tomato soup (dilute slightly if necessary) around the cauliflower and garnish with wedges of the remaining egg. Serve immediately.

Like the look of this next dish as it is a sort of Scotch Egg but without using sausage meat. A variation also given that doesn't even use eggs!
St. Patrick's Eggs:
2 hard-boiled eggs (shelled)
15 oz (425g) mashed potatoes
1 large carrot (0r 2 medium) grated
1 onion, grated
1 oz (25g) porridge oats
half tblsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
crushed Oat Krunchies (or cornflakes/crisps/dried crumbs
fat for frying
Mix together the potatoes, carrot, onion, oats, and parsley, adding plenty of seasoning. Flour the eggs and mould the potato mixture around each, coating with crushed Krunchies. Fry in (pref deep) hot fat until golden brown. Drain well and cut in half. Serve hot or cold.
variation: omit eggs. Add 4 oz chopped nuts to potato mixture, form into balls and fry as above. Serve hot or cold.

Final oat recipe today (but if you wish for more there are still plenty in the booklet - just ask), is for a 'Quaker Crisp' that am sure would be perfect to use when making muesli. Or even eat as a 'nibble'.
Oat Crisp:
8 oz (225g) porridge oats
4 oz (11o g) demerara sugar
3 oz (75g) margarine
Melt margarine and sugar together in a sauce pan. Tip in the oats and mix together thoroughly. Spread over a shallow baking tin but DO NOT press or pack down. Place in a moderate oven 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 10 - 15 minutes until golden brown. Toss with a fork to make crumbs (if you wish break up into larger chunks). Leave to cool then store in an air-tight container.

Had a busy time in the garden yesterday, potting up several tubs with Busy Lizzies, transplanting toms into larger pots (my 'Tumbler' already has green fruits appearing). Sowed more 'cut and come again' lettuce, some dill and parsley, and today have to finish planting out the last of the bedding plants (Beloved had bought about 100 instead of the couple of dozen asked for - so we should have a good display, mind you I had to pay for most of them). Beloved has agreed to eat the last of the cold meats left from yesterday, so that means no supper has to be cooked, although still intend making that malt loaf if I can find time. Also have to write up another online grocery order, it now being a full month since the last one, not that we need a lot but wish to be in time to claim the extra 'free' £13 (this on top of the £10 worth of points). Am sure I can find a few gaps on the shelves that need filling.

Although there is no blue sky today, the weather is still warm and only a small breeze, so this afternoon will be spent in the garden. See it is already past 12, so the afternoon has officially begun. Seem to finish by blog later each day - although Gill with her hour-long Sunday call had interrupted my flow, and by now would have (normally) finished.
Hope you all have a useful and productive day - or even take the chance to just relax in the sun. Nothing wrong with lying back and thinking of England - by this I mean the best life we can make for ourselves while England goes to the dogs. But whatever - enjoy your day as I intend to enjoy mine. Hopefully, we'll meet up again tomorrow. Share a few more thoughts perhaps. TTFN (that's 'old-speak' for 'ta ta for now').