Thursday, July 21, 2011

Even More for Our Money

Am feeling very smug this morning. Decided to make a batch of orange and ginger marmalade before I began this blog. Used a thin-cut Marmade as a base and - as usual - made it with 2 x 1kg bags of sugar and one pint of water instead of the (lesser) recommended amount. This way it makes a extra jar (still setting perfectly). This time though, as I had a carton of orange juice in the fridge (slightly past it's date), decided to use some of this instead of the water. Then once mixed with the MaMade and sugar felt that there would now be even more pectin in it, so slung in an extra quarter pint of water, but no extra sugar. Chopped crystallised ginger was added, and a spoon of ginger extract to give it a bit more flavour. All this seems to have worked.
The marmalade is now potted up, sealed and labelled.

As I always keep empty jars that are suitable to use again for home-made preserves, gave them the usual wash and rinse, then heated them in the oven to sterilise them, meanwhile boiling the lids in a pan of water on the hob for the same purpose. As I needed to make another batch of Greek yogurt today, decided to boil enough water to use for the EasyYo thermos, and sterilise the lids in this at the same time. That worked too.
So now it is not even 8.00am, already have made 8 pots of marmalade, and one litre of Greek Yogurt. Also made myself a cup of coffee, Beloved still in the Land of Nod.

Yesterday filled 10 jars (varying sizes) with the Summer Fruits Jam that I began making as soon as Norma left. These jars too filled, sealed and labelled by noon. Silly me made myself an egg mayo sarnie with wholemeal bread, and the carbos (as ever) made me sleepy, so fell asleep after watching the news, and didn't stir again until mid-afternoon when it was time for me to start thinking about B's supper. Decided to make him a big Prawn Cocktail as he enjoyed the last one. Easy enough, but a bit 'fiddly' as I like to finely dice some red and yellow bell pepper, plus a Peppadew to add to the shredded lettuce, then layer them with prawns that have been folded into some Marie Rose Sauce (my version is made from equal amounts of salad cream, tomato ketchup, a dash of Tabasco and a dash of Worcestershire sauce). Sprinkled chopped peppers and cooked prawns (without sauce) on the top.

Of course this wasn't enough for B, so after eating his meal at the kitchen table, he then waltzed into the living room with a plate of toast and beef dripping. Then later went to get his lottery ticket and brought back some chocolate and crisps to work his way through the rest of the evening. For all I know he may have made himself more snacks, I had gone into the other room to sort out some things, and then went to bed.

Today am hoping B will settle for Chilli Con Carne as there is a home-made 'ready-meal' in the fridge that can easily be thawed and reheated. The Greek yogurt should be ready (and chilled) by then. He likes a dollop of that on top of anything hot and spicy.
An alternative meal could be the Indian 'Butter Chicken' - another meal that B loves, but this would need to be made from scratch (easy enough as I use ready-made sauce from a jar), but making extra I can then, freeze the surplus, so - when Gill comes (she loves curry) - this, together with a couple or three other curries (Lamb Rogan Josh, Beef Madras or a Jalfrezi etc) could make a 'Thali'. This is just a different way of serving an assortment of curries to guests. With a Thali, every person is given a large platter (or tray) holding very small dishes, each containing different curry, plus another of rice, raita, and a poppadum or naan bread.
Yes, think that will be the easiest option, as less to do next week when Gill is here.

Other countries have similar versions of serving a selection of foods on one plate. At the moment can only remember a Greek dish (not even sure of the name - is it Slouvaki?). Beloved had it when we ate at a Greek restaurant some months ago. Another huge platter, filled with all sorts of things, but the 'expensive' bit was only a couple of skewers of cooked chicken (and not much of that either). The rest was a dish of hummus, a couple or so pitta breads, a bowl of salad, and am sure he had a few chips as well (and as I said - all on the one plate). Why chips AND pitta bread? Because they are filling and don't cost much. But it looked a lot, and did take time to eat, and the longer we take eating, the more satisfied we feel. So if you want to spend less but make it appear you haven't, then serve a lot of low-cost foods on the same platter as one - more expensive -burger. Or something like that.

As ever - thanks for your comments. Possibly you might find Morecambe a good place to retire to Lynn, as you are familiar with the area. And - not living too far away - you will also be able to keep in regular touch with your friends. The worst thing I've found since moving, is that my friends are too far away to visit for just a day, and as we have only one bedroom, almost impossible to put more than one up at a time, and most do not wish to sleep on a futon. Even our family visit rarely now for the same reason. Having four bedrooms in our old house, we could have a family gathering at Xmas, and also many visits from them during the year. Don't think when they persuaded us to move here, they realised how much I would miss seeing them.

My 'best friend' Gill (who lives in Leicester) used to stay with us at least 5 times a year (often more) when we lived in Leeds - but am lucky if she comes twice a year since we have moved. She doesn't really like to drive the distance, and twice has had to cancel a visit (to keep me company when B was away) due to the snow. At least she is managing the trip next week. So will have to make the most of it.
Other Leeds (and Leicester) friends who I used to see often, now are either too old, or too ill to wish to take the lengthy journey, so we just keep in touch by writing to each other. It's not the same.

Other than that, Morecambe really is a pleasant place to live, and - as Eileen says - the scenery is magnificent. Thanks for the details of forthcoming events Eileen, am looking forward to the firework display (let's hope it doesn't rain).
Am giving some suggestions for using blackcurrants later in this blog.

For several years my parents rented the same house in Sheringham, where the back garden led to steps that went down to the prom. So a sea view from all the back windows. The houses were very large - loads of bedrooms, and just as well for my parents, B and I and our four children all stayed there together for three weeks (possibly a month), although B returned home after 2 weeks as he had to go back to work.
The last year we were there the house was already booked, so we stayed in another rented property where the garden backed onto the railway line. It was only a little line, and not sure if the steam trains ran along it. But - as you say Woozy - Sheringham is a lovely place, and hopefully still unspoiled. Always loved to see the many houses where the walls were built from the flint pebbles on the beach. If you remember 'Whelk Coppers' (now I believe a hotel or B & B) our 'holiday home' was only a few yards away from that along the front.

Thanks Mrs. Meaney for reminding us to make sure our freezer doors are shut tight. 'Boris' two doors both have 'bleeper's that remind us if a door has been left ajar, but when nearly closed this doesn't work. Think it was last year I went into the freezer to find something and everything was covered in ice-crystals. I yelled for B to say the freezer had broken, and he said it hadn't, it was because he had put in a tub of ice-cream he had bought and couldn't find room for it so it stuck out a bit so the door wouldn't shut properly. He though it didn't matter - the motor still kept the freezer cold enough (never mind the cost of electricity!!), but I was rather cross and asked him to be sure the door was always tightly shut after that.

Another time we sat in the living room and I could hear a regular bleep (with a few seconds in between), B said it was a van in the street reversing, but it didn't stop. Then he said he thought it was the cordless phone in the other room letting us know it needed recharging. In the end I got up to find out what it was and discovered the fridge door wide open. B had gone into get something and 'forgotten' to shut the door. Men!

As you say MimsyS, when we stop shopping regularly at a supermarket, they pull out all their stops to get our custom back again. So in a way we can also pull their strings. For what it's worth, had an email today to say Tesco have some 'Buy one get TWO free' offers on at the moment. Not sure for how long, and there are not a lot (most not needed), but Fisherman's Pie, and one type of Oven Chips are 'three for one' offers, so probably worth buying if you would normally buy them anyway.

Now for recipes using blackcurrants. Firstly - these fruits freeze exceptionally well, thawing as though they were fresh. They are also good mixed with other soft fruits (raspberries, strawberries, redcurrants etc) to make Summer Pudding (and as this freezes well worth making a few individual Summer Puds to eat during the winter months).
It's also worth cooking some of the blackcurrants down with a bit of sugar and water to then blend and rub though a sieve to make a puree (aka 'coulis'). This can then be frozen in small containers to use for several dishes.

Don't use the plum cake recipe Eileen, as the one given today is better suited to the blackcurrants. This cake can be eaten hot or cold, and especially good served as a hot pudding served with cream or custard.
Blackcurrant Cake: makes 6 - 8 slices
4 oz (100g) butter
6 oz (175g) caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
half tsp vanilla extract
7 oz (200g) self-raising flour
pinch salt
3 fl oz (75ml) milk
7 oz (200g) blackcurrants
1 tblsp demerara sugar
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg - a little at a time, with the vanilla. Fold in the flour and salt. Add milk and mix together thoroughly, then fold in the blackcurrants.
Spoon into a greased and lined 8" (20cm) baking tin, sprinkle with demerara sugar and bake at 180C, 350G, gas 4 for 45 minutes (or until a skewer inserted comes out clean). Cool slightly before turning out onto a cake airer.

This next is worth making both for adults and children. Worth buying lolly moulds to make these, but am sure something could be improvised to make lolly 'shapes'. Perhaps a small plastic (recycled) carton divided in the centre by a strip of foil/cling film would make two 'lollies' (sticking a lolly stick into each half).
Blackcurrant Yogurt Lollies: makes 12
14 oz (400g) blackcurrants
3 - 4 fl oz (100ml) water
6 oz (175g) caster sugar
17 fl oz (500ml) Greek yogurt
Put the blackcurrants, water and sugar in a pan over gentle heat, and simmer until the currants are at 'bursting point'. Leave to cool, then puree in a blender then press through a sieve to remove skins and seeds.
Fold the puree and the yogurt together. If not sweet enough add a little icing sugar to taste.
Pour into 12 lolly moulds and freeze. They will take at about 4 hours to become solid enough to eat in the hand.

Not the classic way of making ice-cream, but this quick and easy version tastes lovely. As - as so often happens with home-made ice-cream - it becomes very hard once frozen, bring to room temperature for a few minutes to allow it to soften slightly to make it easier to scoop, or freeze in individual containers, so the right amount only is ready to take from the freezer, and this should become softer more rapidly. As made without sugar, this is lower in calories than 'normal' ice-cream. If too 'sharp', then a sugar substitute could be added.
Easy Peasy Blackcurrant Ice-cream: serves 6
9 fl oz (275ml) whipping cream
11 oz (300g) blackcurrant puree
juice of half a lemon
Whip the cream and stir in the fruit puree and lemon juice. Sp0on into a cling-film lined 1lb (500g) loaf tin, covering top with the film, and freeze for several hours or until firm. It can then be removed from the tin, still wrapped in the cling-film and then put into a freezer bag or container to store.
Leave at room temperature for 15 minute before slicing.

Instead of making ice-cream, why not make a sorbet. True, this does use sugar, but it doesn't use cream. Win some lose some. Taste the mixture before adding the syrup and - if a little too tart - add a little more sugar more before freezing.
Blackcurrant Sorbet: serves 6
1.2 lb (500g) blackcurrants
5 fl oz (150ml) water
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
7 fl oz (200ml) water
1 egg white
Put the blackcurrants into a pan with the 5 fl oz water, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the fruit is soft and 'bursting'. Cool, then puree in a food processor or blender, then rub through a sieve to collect the smooth liquid.
Using another pan, put in the 7 fl oz water and stir in the sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Pour into a heat-proof bowl, then cool and chill.
To make the sorbet, fold together the blackcurrant puree and sugar syrup, then pour into a container and freeze until 'mushy'. Lightly whisk the egg white until just frothy. Put the sorbet into a food processor and process (or whisk with a fork) until smooth, then return to container and stir in the egg white. Freeze for at least 4 hours, or until firm before serving. If set solid, then it will probably need to be transferred to a fridge for about 15 minutes (NOT at room temperature) to make it easier to scoop and serve.

Next dish is a cross between a cheesecake and a 'fool'. Any fruit 'coulis' (pureed and sieved soft fruits) could be used. The biscuit crumbs could be layered between spoons of the 'cheese ripple' if you prefer, finishing with crumbs.
Blackcurrant Ripple: serves 4
half pint (300ml) whipping cream
5 oz (150g) cream cheese
2 tblsp icing sugar
4 digestive biscuits, crushed
7 fl oz (200ml) blackcurrant coulis
Whip cream to soft peaks, then beat in the cream cheese and sugar. Stir in the crushed biscuits, then gently fold in the coulis to give a rippled effect. Spoon into individual glasses. Chill for 15 minutes before serving.

Blackcurrant cordial makes a very soothing hot drink when we have a cold or sore throat. Once made and bottled it will keep several weeks in the fridge, but for longer storing freeze in small containers. The amount of sugar needed is dependent upon the weight of blackcurrants.
To make the cordial, start off by making the black currant juice by simmering 1 tblsp water and 1 tblsp sugar for each 4 oz (125g) fruit. When the currants begin to burst and the juices begin to flow, remove from heat then press through a sieve to gather all the juice (and remove skins and pips).
Blackcurrant Cordial:
Blackcurrant juice (see above)
To every pint (600ml) of warm juice, add 1 lb (450g) caster sugar and stir over very low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Then bring to the boil and immediately remove from heat and allow to cool then bottle. Store in the fridge where it will keep for several weeks. Dilute with water to make a refreshing drink. Or down a spoonful undiluted to help cure a cold.

And that is it for today. Looks like many of us will now be rolling up our sleeves and starting to make and bake, freeze and whatever so we have loads of lovely things to eat during the chilly winter months. Makes you feel the cold weather is (almost) worth looking forward to.

Looking forward to meeting up with you again tomorrow. Don't let me down. I need your company! See you then.