Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Comfort Eating

Sadly, no comments have arrived, and there was me getting up early enough to allow time for both replies AND a chat. But there you go. Maybe tomorrow....

Took the advice and ate 'proper' meals yesterday, and certainly my body warmed up. Hands no longer cold, not even cold this morning. Problem is, I've gained another 2 lbs! Keep this up and by the end of the week will be a stone heavier. And there was me trying desperately to lose weight.

The only way to lose weight is to eat less than we need, for then the body has to burn up some of it's surplus to both give us energy and keep our body at the temperature it is supposed to be. This can sometimes cause out extremeties (feet and hands) feeling cold as it is our internal temperature that is the most important.

It was because the weather yesterday started of so cloudy and cool that I decided to cook a beef casserole for our supper. Had already cooked ox cheek to tender in the slow cooker, and had frozen it with some of its gravy (enriched with red wine), so it was a matter of sauting some onions, carrots, parsnips and potato in the frying pan, adding the gravy, topping it with one pack of the thawed meat and then let it simmer until the veggies were tender and the stock well reduced. Later added a little more water and a teaspoon of Bisto gravy granules to make a thicker 'sauce'. Cooked some (frozen) Brussels sprouts to go with the 'stew', deciding not to bother with Yorkshire Puddings, and served it up. Myself had less meat (only because I didn't want it - there were enough meat juices in the gravy), but plenty of vegetables.

Of course by that time the sun had decided to shine, the clouds disappearing and a stew/casserole was not really the right meal to serve, but myself still felt cold, and once I began eating, almost instantly my body began to warm up - which I have to say was very pleasant, so for the first time for months felt quite comfortable when sitting in my chair. My hands too became warm again. So - having had one round of tuna sarnie for lunch, a small bowl of 'stew' for supper, and later a small bit of Lancashire cheese with some grapes, ate an amount of what anyone else would feel would be 'about right' for the day. Far too much for me apparently, so now have no choice but go back to eating much less, which means a return to feeling cold, as need to lose about one stone before my next weigh-in at the end of September, or the nurse will throw a wobbly (part of that stone includes weight gained because I've recently followed advice and been eating 'properly'). It would be a pity for me to fall by the wayside now, after I've been doing so well.

Must give the ox cheek a mention. This is one of the 'cheaper cuts' and so needs long slow cooking, but it has an exceptionally rich flavour, and when cooked in water/stock to which some red wine has been added, ends up tasting like venison. I cook it in the whole piece, then - when cooled down - slice it fairly thickly to pack away (enough for several portions) in its gravy to freeze. When dishing up yesterday, served B's slices of ox cheek at the side of his (large) oval plate, with the sprouts the other side, and the spuds, carrots, onions, and parsnips piled up in the centre. The rich, thick gravy was served separately in a small jug. Myself had the veggies together in a 'breakfast bowl', with a few tiny scraps of the meat and some gravy poured over the lot.
Beloved said the meat was so tender and tasty it was worth a mention, with the plea to serve it again.

There are some readers I know who buy some of Donald Russell's 'braising meat' offers, and - instead of thawing and cooking only when needed - it's really worth doing what I do. I thaw out two or three different cuts at the same time (say braising steak, beef rib trim, shin beef etc), then put them together in my slow cooker with onions and plenty of water to cook slowly overnight. Next day removing all that are tender (or allowing longer cooking time if necessary (some cuts take longer than others). Then sort, cool and pack away each under their name (shin, braising etc - n0t mixed) with some of the gravy.

To the remaining gravy in the pot, add more thawed meat - possibly stewing steak or ox-tail, and continue cooking on Low for several hours. Repeat the above (cooling, and freezing with a bit of the gravy). Finally thaw the ox cheek and add to the pot with more water, and a glass of red wine, then let this cook for hours until tender.
By the time all the meats have been cooked in the same liquid, then removed, the remaining stock/gravy at the end is so rich and thick (shreds of meat floating in it) it can add 'meat' to a casserole without even the need to add meat as we know it. Worth calling it 'free meat'. This liquid is frozen separately as 'rich, beef stock', and VERY useful for adding to dishes such as spag bol, chilli, beef casseroles, Cottage Pie et al, and using as the base of soup.

We don't have to order a delivery of frozen meat. Our butcher could also supply us with a mixture of the less expensive 'stewing cuts', which we could start cooking as soon as we return home, keeping the rest in the fridge to add the next day, or even over two days according to how much you wish to cook at any one time. Yet - having priced D.R's offers against my butcher's normal prices, there is little difference (if any), and the quality of D.R. wins hands down, and - dare I say - cannot be beaten? So you can guess where my loyalties lie.
But wherever you buy your beef, it is well worth cooking more than one type of 'stewing beef' in the same stock, to gain the concentrated beef flavour, which itself is worth £££s due to being able to be used in the place of meat in various dishes. As I think I've just said.

Did a bit more tidying up yesterday in the conservatory/kitchen. Watched The Great British Cook Off" on TV during the evening. Quite enjoy seeing how - when following the same recipe - each contestant ends up with something a little different. Late afternoon (because the 'stew/casserole was looking after itself on the hob) found time to watch 'Daily Cook's Challenge', with one of my favourite cooks ( Brian Turner) as one of the chefs. Loved the way both chefs managed to make great dishes when they had only 50p to spend, although Brian T's was a bit of a cheat as he used a fair amount of butter (which was one of the four 'free' products from AWT's 'larder' as was flour - B.T. making banana filled pancakes with a plum and jam sauce). The other chef made a spaghetti dish with a tomato based sauce. Certainly proving it is possible to make a good meal even with only a few pennies to spend.

Yesterday gave some recipe using courgettes, and today am continuing this theme, but using the adult courgettes, that we call 'marrows'. When ready to harvest, large marrows will store well for months. Remember how I once kept one on top of our kitchen cupboard where it turned from two shades of stripey green to (eventually) green and yellow stripes. We ate it around February/March if I remember.

Because a large courgette is not a million miles away from a small marrow, either could be used in these recipes, the first being a way to turn marrow into an all-in-one supper dish, but could also be a side dish to serve with cooked hot or cold meats. To serve more that the amount shown, use a larger marrow and slightly more of the other ingredients.
If a recipe doesn't say whether the marrow should be peeled or not, this is because young marrow skin usually soft enough to become tender when cooked. A good test is to gently press your fingernail into the marrow skin, and if it doesn't split easily, then too tough so needs peeling.
Cheese Topped Marrow: serves 2 - 3
1 small marrow (approx 1 lb 10 oz/750g)
2 oz (50g) butter
1 - 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
salt and pepper
4 oz (100g) Cheddar cheese, grated
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
2 oz (50g) breadcrumbs
Peel the marrow only if necessary (see above tip), then slice and fry in half the butter in a shallow heat-proof pan or casserole over medium heat for 5 minutes, then stir n the garlic and seasoning to taste. Lower heat then continue cooking for a further 5 - 10 minutes or until the marrow is tender and turning gold.
Sprinkle half the cheese and half the parsley into the pan and gently stir these in.
Mix the breadcrumbs with the remaining parsley and cheese, adding more seasoning to taste. Melt the remaining butter and fold this into the crumb mixture, then spoon this on top of the marrow, place under a pre-heated grill (not too close to the heat) and grill for a few minutes until the topping is golden. Serve hot.

Marrow Soup: serves 4
1 marrow (approx 2lb/1kg)
1 onion
2 oz (50g) butter
2 tsp plain flour
15 fl oz (450ml) milk
15 fl oz (450ml) vegetable stock
good pinch ground nutmeg
good pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
Peel, remove seeds, and chop the marrow flesh. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat and 'sweat' the onion for about 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in the flour, cook for 2 minutes, then gradually stir in the milk and bring to the simmer to form a thin sauce. Add the prepared marrow, the veg. stock and the spices with seasoning to taste, stir well then bring to the simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool for 10 minutes, then blitz contents of the pan in a blender/processor. Return to the pan and reheat, adding more seasoning if necessary. Good served with garlic bread or garlic croutons.

This next dish is a good way to make a little meat go further, and see no reason why other minced meats could not be used such as pork, chicken, turkey etc as these also don't take too long to cook. Unless using minced 'steak', cheaper minced beef usually takes longer to cook, so allow for this when initially frying the meat.
Meat 'n Marrow Bake: serves 4
1 onion
4 tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 marrow, approx 2 lb/1kg
12 oz (350g) lamb mince
14 fl oz (400ml) tomato passata
1 tblsp chopped fresh marjoram/oregano
salt and pepper
14 fl oz (400ml) white sauce
pinch ground nutmeg
1 egg
9 oz (250g) Ricotta or curd cheese
3 oz (75g) grated Parmesan cheese
Put half the oil in a frying pan over low heat, and 'sweat' the onion until softened, stirring in the garlic during the last minute or so, then - using a slotted spoon - remove to a plate and set aside.
Cut the marrow into quarter inch (0.5cm) thick slices. Add remaining oil to that still in the pan, and over medium heat, fry the marrow for a few minutes each side until just beginning to turn golden. Remove from pan using a slotted spoon, continue until all the marrow has been lightly fried.
To the oil in the pan add the minced meat and fry for a few minutes until browned, stirring to make sure it is all coloured, then return the onion/garlic to the pan, add the tomato passata, herb and season to taste.
Spoon half the mixture into greased oven-proof dish, then lay half the marrow slices on top. Add a little more seasoning, then repeat with further layers.
Put the white sauce into a bowl with the nutmeg, egg, Ricotta and half the Parmesan, and beat together. Spoon this over the top of the meat/marrow and level the surface. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan over the top and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for good 30 minutes, or until bubbling and browned. Serve immediately.

Final recipe is one taken from an old 'farmhouse cookery' book, and probably the chutney that my mother used to make. Which, I have to say, was rather nice. The old imperial weights only given, so hope that younger readers will be able to convert to the metrics.
Marrow Chutney:
4 lbs marrow
8 oz pickling onions
6 cloves
1 1/2 lbs granulated sugar
half oz turmeric
9 chillies
2 oz ground ginger
2 oz mustard powder
2 pints vinegar
Peel and deseed the marrow and cut the flesh into (approx) half-inch cubes. Lay these over a dish and sprinkle with some salt. Leave overnight then drain and rinse.
Put the other ingredients into a saucepan and boil for 10 minutes then add the marrow and boil for half an hour or until tender. Then put into (hot, sterilized) jars, seal and store.

An early finish due to this being Norma the Hair day, so will love you and leave you in the hope you enjoy your day. Here at least the weather seems to be improving, the clouds beginning to disappear, and plenty of blue sky peeping through. Although the clouds are moving fairly fast from the south, at ground level not a leaf is stirring, - oh, spoke too soon, one bush is now beginning to wave at me, and now the rest of the foliage is now following suit, but as I write, has stopped again. Whether I get to have a sit outside later this morning remains to be seen.
Reading the paper yesterday apparently we all need to soak up plenty of sunshine as we need the Vitamin D it gives us. The older we are the more we need it to prevent weakening bones or something. Twenty minutes a day of sun on our skin is more than enough, so have already had my fair share on the days when I've ventured out. But worth topping it up to keep my bones strong enough to last the winter out.

Here I go, rambling on again and I don't have the TIME! So 'bye for now, and hope that at least a couple of you will send in a comment. I miss you when you don't come and 'chat'. So, until tomorrow....and see you then.