Saturday, July 02, 2011

Fingers Crossed

Blogger seemed to stick on the 'sign-in' page, so thought today it might be throwing another wobbly, but eventually it let me in. Let us hope it also let's me publish.

Thanks for comments. Woozy, regarding the difference between 'rubbing in' and 'creaming' when baking . The former method tends to be used when making a 'heavier' product, such as pastry, biscuits, scones, crumbles... Creaming the fat and sugar together gives a much lighter texture, as does whisking in egg. The longer we can whisk the fat and sugar together the better - some chefs say at least 5 minutes as it really should be very light and fluffy, and almost white in colour. The flour then being FOLDED in lightly, so the trapped air doesn't escape.
Longer whisking also breaks down the sugar - which is why caster sugar is usually recommended rather than granulated which would take even longer.

The fat used can also make a difference. For ages I used butter when making cakes (mainly for flavour) but have changed to Stork as this does seem to improve the texture and the sandwich cakes rise higher. My daughter makes the lightest of cakes (also with Stork), but uses the 'chuck-it-all-in' method where she just whisks the lot together (think in her food processor). But when I try that, my cakes still aren't as light as hers. Seems - like pastry - some cooks are better at making and baking than others.

Intrigued by the idea of whisking the flour/raising agents/spices together instead of sieving. What's with washing the sieve? I keep one just for sifting flour. A good bang on the side of the bowl and most of the flour has gone anyway, and a quick rub over with a clean tea-cloth gets rid of the rest.
When beating some things, always use clean beaters for (say) egg whites and then carry on using the same beaters to beat cream etc. No need to wash in between. Can't do it the other way round though.
Making your own peanut butter is also a good idea, but if you didn't wash the salt from the peanuts you might the 'butter' over-salty.

Wholewheat (wholemeal/brown) flour absorbs more water/liquid than white, and possibly the strong white flour does also. Maybe 'rubbing' fat into flour coats flour a bit so it doesn't absorb (therefore need) as much liquid. Ending up with a 'dryer' product. Am not a scientist, so don't really know the whys and wherefores, but this probably is what happens.

Thanks Kelsing for the 'cake-pops' suggestion as a way to use up muffin crumbs. Reminded me of some sort of 'cakes' we used to make using stale (plain cake). Think we moistened it with orange juice and then formed it into cones. Were they called 'jumbles'? Am sure someone will remember.

Yesterday didn't do any 'proper' cooking. Sat and sprigged a big bowl of red-currants and then put them in a container to freeze, then discovered B had bought himself some ice-cream, the tub taking up most of the space I had left for the currants and some ice-cream I intended making. Told him before - if there was a space it was meant to be there, so please don't fill it. Mentioned it again yesterday, adding that at least it has now saved me the chore of making him some ice-cream (he loves my soft-scoop), so his loss and no skin off my nose etc. and in future no point in making him any treats if he won't leave me space to freeze it. Will that work I wonder? Only as long as he remembers I said it - which is all of two hours max.

Although most of the redcurrants were sprigged, did save some attractive little clusters to use as garnish. There are more currants still on the bush and these can be frozen on their stems as these are to be used to make redcurrant jelly, the fruit and stems can be cooked together as only the strained juice needed. Why bother to sprig when we don't need to?

A few redcurrants were yesterday put into a serving bowl along with somesaved in a bowl, sliced strawberries, slices of green and red apple (skins left on), a sliced kiwi fruit and the segments from two oranges. The juice from the oranges kept the apples from discolouring (saved me squeezing a lemon). Also added some grapes - these I halved to make them look more - and together this made a lovely fruit salad, enough for three good portions (Beloved eating two of them), served with the 'strawberry and cream' f;avpired EasyYo yogurt.
Also made a pineapple jelly which is still waiting to be eaten. My intention was to use the third portion of fruit with jelly to make a trifle but too late! Jelly and cream alone make a nice pud. Maybe I will indulge.
Sometimes I add a little Canderel (sugar substitute powder) to a fruit flavoured EasyYo and use a little less water. This turns it into a thick and tasty 'dessert' in its own right. A healthy one at that.

Had a really good day yesterday when eating. Not one problem with digestion at all. Yet I ate loads. Had an avocado (when B wasn't looking - he likes those and will eat mine if given a chance) with a can of tuna for lunch, followed by a banana muffin (still quite fresh after a few days). Later had a bowl of fruit salad, and later still a salad with some watercress, mushrooms, beetroot, tomato and the last of the corned beef. Certainly feel all the better for eating 'properly' for a change (mind you this has caused me to put 2 lbs back on again). '

Beloved's supper was corned beef, two fried eggs, three largish fried mushrooms, a pile of oven chips, plus some watercress. He opened a new jar of English mustard from the larder because he didn't like the whole-grain I had left on the table, not even bothering with the jar of English mustard already opened that is ALWAYS kept with the little vinegar pourer and the spare salt and pepper. So now we have two jars opened, not that these should go 'off'. With B, what he can't see in front of him we don't have. So go and open a new one.
B later left for the sailing (social club) where no doubt he 'snacked'. Heard him come in late, and get himself more to eat before sitting down and watching TV.

Pity that Andy Murray lost yesterday, although fully expected it due to his opponent (Nadal) being number one. Was hoping he wouldn't meet him until the finals. Just wish the match could have gone to five sets. The last time the UK had a winner was Virginia Wade in the year of the Queen's Coronation, so it would be especially good if Andy could win in the Queen's Jubilee Year - this being 2012. Quite a year for the nation considering we will also be hosting the Olympics. Let us hope the weather stays fair.

Today being Saturday, very little on TV anyway, and have now lost interest in tennis due to the above. In the days of Bjorn Borg, McEnroe etc, would be glued to the set for hours. But in those days played a lot of tennis myself, so hardly surprising I was interested in watching. The only active sport I can manage these days is the occasional game of table-tennis. Did once think about taking up golf - it was just those long walks between holes that put me off the idea. Nowadays it is playing bridge, chess or doing sudoku/crosswords that keep my brain from withering up. Since moving have not played bridge/chess anyway.

Watched (on Freeview 33 - which is ITV plus 1 hour), Alan Titchmarsh's gardening prog. Such a lot can be achieved in a small garden, and was VERY impressed by all the produce that could be grown on a small balcony. Think there was a mention of 50 kg (total) of different veggies harvested over the year. Believe also there was a mention of £500 being saved by growing food normally bought. The man was also fully self-sufficient in salads. So worth taking a look at the repeat via their website, and maybe making even more use of the space we ourselves maybe lucky enough to have.

Alan T. showed how rolls of sedum could be laid on top of a shed to give a more pleasant look to a garden. Thought at the time that the roof space could have been put to better use growing salads or something. Feel that next year - as food prices continue to rise - a lot more of us will be 'growing our own'.

This weekend sees me doing another 'stock-take' of fridge and freezer (mainly fridge). Need to find out how much can be used from the freezer just to give me room to store more. We still haven't bought another (small) freezer, and am hesitating as this will only lead me to buy 'more to store', even though it might save me money by doing so, and would still have the running costs of the second freezer to allow for. Too many 'odds and ends' in the freezer at the moment, so will try and get rid of some (still think I have bay leaves brought when we moved from Leeds - and as now have two bay trees growing in pots, hardly think I need to keep any in the freezer, but can't bear to throw them away - how silly is that?). Also have a bag of pine nuts. Could perhaps make a 'herby' pesto using the last of the watercress with some mint and parsley blitzed together with oil, the nuts and a bit of garlic paste. Then probably have to freeze that as it won't keep THAT long in the fridge. The more I take out from the freezer, the more seems to end up being put back in.

Yesterday tried very hard to remove the base from the (cleaned) can of tuna, as was hoping to make those 'cheffy' rings that they use to build 'towers' of food on plates. But no way could I get the can opener to grip, the bases now all seem to have slightly sloping edges whereas before we use to be able to open a can from either end. Suppose I could still line the tin with pastry to use for baking small pies or something, but feel I have enough baking tins to suit most purposes without having to make more.
In the 'old days' used to press all types of tin containers into service. The big round or square sweet tins (usually bought at Christmas) when greased and lined (and outsides protected by brown paper) can be used to bake really good fruit cakes. Probably plain cakes too.
Long meat tins (we could buy luncheon meat in long tins in those days) baked good bread - of the Blackpool Roll type). Some tins - label removed - can be used to hold small plant pots. Green Giant Sweetcorn comes in tins with ridges round the sides that look quite attractive when painted.

The trade mag has not arrived today. Despite ordering it about 6 weeks ago, we've had it only delivered once - this being last Saturday. Bit of a waste of time. The newsagent said the publishers were not reliable. It can be read on line (but only by subscription), and is it really worth it? Far more in the mag about how the stores are competing against each other, and ways on how to keep our custom, and telling us about more and more new products to shortly appear on their shelves that they think we need (but don't), than any really 'useful' information for the likes of us.

Even the listings to show us how the 33 items in a shopping basket differed in price compared to stores, doesn't really help us 'customers', when we normally purchase only half the products anyway. Each week appears to show different items in the basket, so we are no better off. Also prices fluctuate depending upon the store, so certain foods are cheaper in one than in another, and vice versa. It's only the full total that the stores are compared upon (and mainly because of the cheaper alcohol and chocolates than in 'proper' foodstuffs). Admittedly have had only two of the mags to compare (one given me free by the newsagent, the next weeks delivered through the door and paid for), but enough for me to see not enough info given to be of much help to me. Beloved will have a word with the newsagent today to see what is going on, and then will make a decision as to whether to cancel or not.
However good my intentions, it always seems as though something is always lying there to put a spanner in my works. If not the trade mag, then it's blogger. But I will grit my teeth and persevere.

Looks like being a lovely day today. Wall to wall sun and not a breath of wind. Beloved said he might take me out for a drive today (which would be nice - it is weeks since I went out - other than once on Norris), but am also hoping to spend time in the garden. It was this weekend last year when we had our neighbourhood barbecue. Hoping to have another later this year - once I have got my strength back. No son or Gill to help us with it this year, maybe not even our daughter (she hasn't been well), so it won't be quite so easy this time. But am sure (with good advance planning) something can be arranged. It's SO nice when we can all get together and have a feast - al fresco or otherwise.

We have a very large bush of rosemary (already growing here when we moved to Morecambe). It badly needs cutting back, and although the rosemary leaves can be dried, a very good way to use the rather dry stems is to use them as 'kebab' skewers (they can be soaked in water if you wish). Thread cubed lamb or chicken along the rosemary stems (leave a few of the leaves at the top if you wish), or even skewer sausages in the same way (or just vegetables to 'roast') and then barbecue them. This way we can gain an additional flavour to what is being cooked. These prunings can also be thrown onto the coals to give a herby flavoured smokey smell when 'barbieing' chicken or fish.

When looking through cookbooks and cookery mags these days have reached the point when almost every one shows dishes that I really can't afford to make. Was it only last year that we bought a whole salmon for £10? Yet now it is at least twice the price and so now never graces our table (unless in a Fish Pie Mix), although do have a pack of frozen fresh salmon pieces bought last year and still not used.

There are recipes for guinea fowl, venison, duck, quail, spatchcock chicken, fillet and T.bone steaks, not to mention whole joints (lamb, beef, veal, pork...). Salmon, turbot, scallops, trout, sea bass... . It's so frustrating knowing now that although I could (very occasionally) afford one, a complete waste of money as weight for weight the cheaper (lean) cuts are just as nutritious as the very expensive. We now have to consider the financial differences between 'eating to live' and of 'living to eat'. Should I really be that selective about what I buy? Is it fair to deprive my B of his favourite scallops just because I prefer to serve him other meals (that are far less expensive) that he appears to enjoy just as much?
It's like being on a diet, when you are not 'allowed' to eat something, then you crave for it all the more. Have to keep reminding myself that there are umpteen foods still cheap enough to buy, that we can use to make wonderful meals. So perhaps I should concentrate on these more and stop thinking about 'what can't afford'.
Everyone else is in the same boat.

At times like this have to think positive. Life can't be that bad if we now are able to serve home-made bread, jams, lemon curd, marmalade, preserves and pickles to our families. Give them home-made yogurt, ice-cream and countless yummy desserts, cakes, biscuits, scones etc...all without it costing us very much (certainly a LOT less than if bought). And what about the home-made stocks, soups....not to mention all the freshest produce possible grown in our own garden/balcony/windowsill. Even Michelin starred restaurants cannot top all that in one go. If anything at all, we are proving we can do better. So let's keep up cooking 'a la Grandmere', and enjoy the moment.

See that a new cookery series is to start soon (next week around 2.00pm not sure what channel) where we get an insight into how to cook more professionally (presentation etc). Could prove useful. Also another series (think at 7.30pm not sure which channel), where chefs go around the country using foods that are locally grown within a 10 mile area of where they are cooking. Useful when it covers the area we live. Neither appear to be concerned with saving money, but there is always something new we can learn.

We should all cook with locally grown/reared produce when we can, or should I say when we can afford to? For some reason - and perhaps because it is 'local' and 'fresh', and we know its origins, we are then asked to pay more than the supermarket 'similars' that come from much further afield. In this time of recession there isn't a hope in hell that I will pay more if I can still pay less. The moral issue is hard to keep when someone has a big family to feed on a small budget. As in days gone by - it is the wealthy who can afford to eat the best quality - the rest of us have to cope on what there is. Yet - considering what I've already said (many, many times), if we make as much as we can ourselves (be our own 'manufacturer/producer' if you like) then we should save enough money to at least buy quality meat (on offer from a good butcher). And our home-mades being superior to the average on the supermarket shelves, this too makes them 'quality'. Keep feeling the need to remind everyone of this (including myself). So apologies for constantly repeating.

Realise that I'm returning to the 'rambling', in other words just writing the thoughts that keep entering my head, and not really worth reading I suppose, so had better wend my way to see if today will prove financially fruitful. As I've gone off cooking, will not be surprised if the kitchen doesn't see much of me today. We do need another loaf of bread, but really feel it is me that should bake it this time. But if B insists - then I won't be reminding him to do this that or the other along the way. If Nero fiddled while Rome burned, then nothing wrong with me twiddling my fingers while B's bread burns! Sometimes have to be cruel to be kind.

Hope you all have the good weather we are having in Morecambe, and - if you can find the time - manage to enjoy the warmth outdoors. We can always cook early first thing and late evening, and lie out in the noon-day sun like every Englishman (sorry 'person') is supposed to do.
Please meet up with me again tomorrow when I hope to have something more useful to write about. See you then.