Saturday, July 23, 2011

We Can Make Things Better!

Firstly, replying to the one comment sent. Hope you manage to make a loaf that is slightly more suitable for sarnies Les. As to freezing these, anything that can be frozen successfully can be used for sarnie fillings, such as cooked meats (ham, beef, chicken, turkey, corned beef, meat pastes etc) as long as the meats have not previously beenfrozen then thawed. Canned fish (tuna, salmon, sardines, pilchardsetc), cheese (solid or cream cheese) can all be made up into sarnies that will freeze. Ketchup, brown sauce, pickle, horseradish sauce, mint sauce etc can also be added to the fillings and frozen. It is believed that hardboiled eggs do not freeze well, but readers have said that when finely chopped and bound with may0 (aka egg mayonnaise) they can be frozen. Haven't tried this myself but it sounds feasible. .
Any foods that contain a fair amount of water (cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes...) should not be frozen as they turn soggy once thawed, but can be taken to add to a sarnie, or eaten as a 'side'.
The sarnies can be taken to work straight from the freezer - this helps to keep any other foods in the lunch-box cool on a warm day, or can be thawed overnight in the fridge - whichever you prefer.

As to using Tesco's delivery service. Personally I've had no problem with them. In all the years I've been with this store, only twice has an item been missing. Phoning their customer services to let them know, the cost was then deducted from my payment.
Generally, all their fresh produce is very fresh, and certainly seems to keep well. There is a place to tick for each item of 'fresh' where you can request the packer to be more selective (for instance when buying loose parsnips - not in a pack - I ask they be large ones, and they always are). When it comes to not being able to send what has been asked for, they send a substitution - this is shown at the top of the statement which the driver hands to me first so they can be found and returned if I wish. Sometimes the subs are more expensive (and better) than the ones ordered, but then I get charged only the price of the cheaper (called 'price match') so that's always a pleasure.
The chilled and frozen foods are delivered last so that they don't hang around the kitchen whilst the rest of the stuff in unloaded. You can choose to have everything delivered in bags or loose. I prefer the bags as it would take AGES for each item to be taken out of the several boxes - in any case the bags are saved and returned to th driver when he next delivers.

The Tesco site is easy enough to understand, and I tend to placing my order on a Friday or Saturday, for a Tuesday delivery (this being the most convenient for me). This gives me time to add something to the 'basket' that I have forgotten, and also delete items that really didn't need but was tempted a the time (the best and only way I can keep within my budget). Make sure the foods that are on offer are still available on the date of delivery - some only last a week, others last a month or more. The site will let you know when read down the 'shopping basket' list if items are out of 'offer' on your chosen delivery date - giving you a chance to change the date if you wish. Other items ordered may not be on offer when you entered them into your 'basket', but maybe on offer the week of delivery - you will only be charged the offer price. Sunday is perhaps the best day to begin ordering as it starts a new week of offers.

If you particularly wish for one brand (of - say - baked beans), then type in the brand name as well as the product, then you will probably be shown a short list (sometimes very short). If you just type in 'baked beans' then you may will get pages of different brands and varieties. If you can be bothered and not too particularly then it is always worth seeing as much of the range as possible, with a speedy scroll down to find those that are on offer.

Also there are boxes that can be clicked that will show only foods that are on offer that week. If buying the same foods regularly, these are saved for you under 'favourites', so you just click on that, then the ones you want (or delete the ones you have no future interest in). Normally I don't bother with that, just write my list in the 'express box' and click 'go' and each item comes up in turn (but we have to click on the name of the next on the list which is above the list of each item you've asked to see.

Another good thing is that whatever the price charged, unless sold by the pack, the contents of each product is shown as price per 100g (or kg), so easy to work out the cheapest size to buy (such as instant coffee where the smaller jars SOMETIMES work out cheaper per g than the larger ones.

You know me - computer illiterate, so if I find the Tesco site easy to sort out, then certainly you won't find it a problem Les. One query though - some of their print is very tiny and I find hardly readable. Steve set up my site so that the print is larger, but don't myself know whether it is possible to scroll over tiny print to just highlight these and make them larger. Is there a way to do this Les, without disrupting everything else?

One other query whilst we are having our 'chat'. We have a small TV that worked perfectly until we went digital. Apparently it needs a Scart lead or something and a digital box to get it to work, and we don't really want to be bothered. Am wondering if it would work without the need of an aerial, just by plugging it into an electrical socked, to be used just as a 'screen' to show DVDs? It can then be viewed from any room. If so, could then buy (or ask for a gift) boxed sets of programmes that I'd love to watch (and keep watching) that are rarely shown now on TV.

Back to Tesco (sorry, I got distracted). Certainly, if you have any cause to complain about your order or their service, then always phone their Customer Services (number on statement and also on site) to tell them. They have always been very helpful. Having said that, I've not had deliveries from any other supermarkets, but when the top supermarkets are judged, Tesco have come out top for delivery and quality of fresh foods etc.

Nearly forgot. You mentioned washing clothes by hand. These never do seem to come out as clean as when done in a machine. Much of this has more to do with rinsing than the washing I think. It is never easy to wring out all the dirty water by hand, even with several rinses.
My suggestion is to soak the washing overnight in as hot as water as it can take, plus the detergent already dissolved into it. The next day wring it out - rinse, and then wash by hand in the normal way.
Have read that 'cottons' (such as socks, a teatowel etc), can be washing in the microwave - just put them in a bowl with the water and detergent and 'wash' on High until the water boils. Just make sure what is being washed is able to be boiled, and only 'wash' a small amount at a time.

Yesterday managed to move 'stuff' around the larder and clear a deep shelf across the end and fill it full of the recently made jam and marmalade. Looks very impressive. Beloved was given a jar of each of the marmalade to start (both had lids that didn't fit properly). When handing them to him, he asked "Why two of the same", and I replied "Do they look the same"? He said "Yes, but they are not the same colour". So he needed it spelling out: "The pale yellow one is Lemon and Lime, and the orange is Orange and Ginger" I said, adding "read the label if you can't remember". Goodness me, what is the matter with the man. He will soon be believing black is white.

Also yesterday put some dried fruit in a bowl with the last of the orange juice from the carton to soak overnight so that I can bake a 'Boil and Bake' fruit cake today. "What's that for?" asked B when he saw the fruit soaking. "It's soaking ready for me to make another fruit cake tomorrow " I replied. "Is that a fruit cake baking in the oven" said B pointing to the loaf of bread in there that was clearly visible through the glass door and obviously a loaf. "No" I said "that's bread". "Well, you said ANOTHER fruit cake, and thought you meant that" was B's response.
"Meant another since the last one made, the last one made being a plain cake" I sighed. Beloved makes me sigh a lot. Next time I make something won't even mention the word 'another', he gets very confused unless details are kept to the minimum.

Did a large wash yesterday, taking the easy way and drying it on airers in the very warm conservatory - the sun shining in there late afternoon (B was out and although he normally hangs the washing outside for me it's easier for me to sit and put the washing on the airer rather than carry it all out to the garden, hang it on the line, then dash out to fetch it when it starts to rain (again!). Been there, done that, had to dry the T-shirt because this happens.

Still picking tomatoes, pea-shoots and tiny pea pods. Loads of flowers on all the courgette plants but haven't checked their sex. Normally too many male flowers, but eventually the females will appear. Must remember that courgette flowers can be picked and dipped into batter to fry as a 'food' in their own right. Even better when the flowers are stuffed before frying.

Below you see a photo of an empty 'Value pack Mushroom' box that had a little (previously used) compost put into it, and a very seeds (from the hundreds in the pack) of Mixed Salad Leaves sown on top (covered by a very light dusting of more compost). The easiest way to keep the soil moist is to snip round the sides/corners of the container with scissors, then place the box inside another (same type or slightly larger) that contains water. Another (same-size) box is inverted over the top to make a mini- greenhouse to get them started, then once partly grown, the top is removed and they grow on to maturity on the windowsill. The ones below are about a month old, and ready for use. No point in leaving them longer or they will go to seed (although always worth leaving one of each type so that their seeds can be saved and ever after no more need be bought).

The above shows at least seven different varieties of salad leaves, and certainly enough for four good helpings - probably a lot more if a little shredded iceberg lettuce was also included. The seeds used for the above were free with a certain mag, only a tiny packet but enough to grow AT LEAST four tubs of the above. Even if a full size packet of seeds were bought (this enough to give continual salads for a twelvemonth), this alone would cost much less than just ONE bag of salad leaves as sold in the supermarket.
We not only save a heck of a lot of money when we grow our own, but as straight from plant to plate, it couldn't be fresher. So - if we are looking for something better than bought - it's up to us to provide it ourselves.

Think we are in for a good weekend weatherwise. Hope to grab an hour in the garden topping up my tan. But still a lot to do indoors. Being a Saturday not a lot on TV, so that gives me more freedom I suppose. Do want to watch the repeat of The Good Cook (having missed both this week and last week's episodes) - this on after Saturday Kitchen this morning. Once today's recipes are given, will then start my days work - taking the half hour off to watch TV and have my 'brunch' at the same time. After that - more work.

Recipes today are 'one-pot', for several reasons. Firstly cheaper to cook on the hob than use the oven. Using one pot (can be served directly from this if you wish), saves a lot of washing up. Also - when it comes to curries, saves cooking the rice separately. If cooking for small numbers, then worth making extra as the surplus can be frozen to reheat later.

First recipe is a curry made with prawns. Can be frozen but only if the prawns have not been previously frozen. One or two Peppadews could be used instead of the chilli pepper.
TIP: if you haven't a lid for your frying pan, cut a thick piece of cardboard to very slightly wider than the top of the pan. Closely cover this with a double (large) sheet of kitchen foil, twisting the corners to the centre of thee 'top' of the lid to make a 'handle'. If wiped clean after use it can be used many times. Lakeland sell a 'non-stick' foil that is really easy to wipe clean.

Prawn Pilau: serves 4
1 tsp sunflower oil
2 tblsp mild curry paste (suggest Korma)
1 small onion, chopped
10 oz (300g) long-grain rice (pref basmati)
1.25 pints (700ml) chicken stock
5 oz (150g) cooked peeled prawns (see above)
half pint frozen peas
1 red chilli pepper, deseeded and chopped
Put the oil in a wide and deepish frying pan and add the onion. Stir-fry for 4 minutes then stir in the curry paste and fry for a further couple of minutes. Add the rice, stock, give another stir then bring to the boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 12 - 15 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Stir in the prawns, peas and chilli and simmer for 4 - 5 minutes. Fluff rice grains up with a fork then serve.
This can be frozen.

This next dish is from Turkey, in many ways similar to a Moroccan 'tagine' which is served with couscous. This recipe is made with rice. Tender lamb is used (fillet suggested) but cold lamb from a roast could also be used. As ever - use only the amount of lamb you have (or can afford), and make up any shortfall with the remaining ingredients. Although you can make the stock using a stock cube and boiling water, remember that a wonderful lamb stock can be made from 'free' lamb bones from the butcher.
One-Pot Turkish Lamb: serves 4
1 tblsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
1 tsp ground cumin
1 lb (450g) lean lamb (pref fillet) cubed
9 oz (250g) long-grain rice (pref basmati)
12 fl oz (500ml) very hot lamb or vegetable stock
8 no-soak dried apricots, halved
salt and pepper
1 tblsp toasted flaked almonds or pine-nuts
1 tblsp roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
Put the oil in a large frying pan, then add the onion, cinnamon and cumin. Fry until the the onion it starting to turn gold, then raise the heat, add the lamb - frying until this too changes colour - then stir in the rice. Stir-fry for one minute, then add the hot stock, apricots and seasoning to taste. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 12 or so minutes (long-grain rice takes longer than basmati) until the rice is tender and the stock absorbed. Fold in the toasted nuts and mint and serve.
This can be frozen.

Although we think of a pilaf as a 'curry dish' (well I did before I knew better), this does not mean it always contains spices. The name means rice is an ingredient. So this final one-pot rice dish should suit everyone - curry haters and vegetarians included. As with the above recipes, this dish can also be frozen once made, but as they are all relatively speedy to cook, myself prefer to make them from scratch.
Despite asparagus being an ingredient, we can easily omit this and substitute a cheaper green vegetable such as tiny broccoli florets, chopped string beans, and mange-tout (the pods give a visual attraction, can also include the loose peas as given). Alternatively - if you have asparagus, used the tips for one dish, then cut the tender part of their stems into chunks and use for this dish.
If you wish for a bit more colour, add some diced red and/or yellow bell pepper, and use a yellow courgette instead of a green one.
Green Vegetable Pilaf: serves 4
1 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
10 oz (300g) long grain rice (pref basmati)
1.25 pints (700ml) vegetable stock
4 oz (100g) asparagus, cut into chunks (see above)
large 'handful' of peas (frozen or fresh)
large 'handful' of broad beans, fresh or frozen
1 courgette, sliced
small bunch fresh dill (or other chosen herb) chopped
Put the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion until softened (takes about 5 minutes). Stir in the rice, cook for one minute than add the stock. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the rice is almost tender (al dente). Put the vegetables on top of the rice (so they will cook in the steam), then cover and cook for a further 2 minutes. Then turn off the heat and leave to stand for 2 minutes. Remove cover, stir in the dill or chosen herbs, and serve. (If freezing, omit the herbs and add these when ready to serve).

Time for me to take my leave. Hope you all can enjoy the spell of good weather we are forecast this weekend, and for those 'growing your own' - Happy Harvesting. Always good to hear from those of you who are now gaining the benefit of garden produce - this helps to inspire others to do the same.
The only way these days to improve our life is to take the reins. Do as much as we can ourselves (to make sure), but delegate whenever possible. It needn't be ALWAYS us that does everything. Just as long as we keep our eye on the ball.
School holidays means that children often need something to keep them away from the computers, so a good time to start teaching them how to cook and also 'grow their own'. Start with quick-growing seeds such as mustard and cress (on damp kitchen paper on the windowsill). Get a flower pot and plant a few radish, beetroot or spring onion seeds to grow on the windowsill. Plant a tray of Mixed Salad Leaves. At this time of year the seeds sprout within days, so children will see new growth every day and this keeps their interest. They are more likely also to eat what they have grown themselves.

Hope you'll join me tomorrow, and - if so - see you then.