Saturday, August 06, 2011

Enjoy Your Day

After a rainy start to yesterday, the skies suddenly cleared and out came the sun. Decided to prune back some of our huge rosemary bush and take the cuttings to the butcher, so hopped onto Norris's lap and scooted off. Requested B not to go out before I got back (to save me taking the backdoor key), and have to say was very tempted to stay out a LONG time so that he had a taste of what I went through the other day. But didn't, and had a thoroughly good time in a very few minutes. Spoke to LOADS of people on route, and the butcher was SO pleased with the herb. Told him I'd take more next week. Hope he will later let me have some freebies (meaty bones etc). But will bide my time before I ask.

After returning home went and sat in the sun. Can't believe how brown I'm getting. Never as dark as this even when two weeks in the sun in Tunisia (and that after 6 sessions on a sun-bed to get a starting tan). Surprisingly, none of it is peeling (which usually happens with me). Plenty of white spots under the tan - sort of back to front freckles I suppose. However - having a tan makes me feel good.

Decided for yesterday's supper to cook half the belly pork (purchased a couple of days ago, the remaining half now put in the freezer) and attempted scoring the skin with a very sharp knife. Could hardly make an impression (next time will take the butcher's offer of scoring it for me). Did manage to make small incisions at the edge of the skin, then decided to try and cut it after cooking. Poured boiling water over the skin (because I read this should be done), then ground plenty of rock-salt over it, put it in a low oven and cooked it for a good four hours before removing the skin - which was then able to be easily cut into strips with scissors. The meat was left to 'rest', the oven turned up to 180C to crisp the still soft skin, and more by luck than judgement, this (according to B) worked. The meat was sliced, covered and although still warm was returned to the oven with a little pan juices poured over to heat up). Beloved said the crackling was crisp and crunchy (he ate the lot), the meat beautifully tender (he ate it all), and eaten with potatoes, carrots and some caramelised apple was - as far as he was concerned - a lovely meal and please can he have it again.

While the meat and veggies were cooking, went and filled four good-sized flower pots with compost, brought them indoors and in one re-potted a recently bought sage plant that was getting pot-bound. Filled the now empty, smaller sage pot with more compost and in this sowed some basil seeds (different variety to the one already growing). Sowed more flat-leafed parsley seeds, a few French bean seeds, and some spinach (to eat in baby leaf with salads etc). Also did a load of washing and hung it out to dry.

So yesterday turned out to be a very good(e) day for me. For those interested, Beloved spent the day doing one (or two) of the many jigsaws that Gill had brought for us. Later in the afternoon he went for a short bike ride to get an appetite for his supper. Later in the evening he went to the social club. Alright for some! Mind you, he did return at 11.30pm instead of the normal 12.30 because "there was nobody there interesting to talk to", what he meant was there was nobody there who was interested enough to listen to him. Like me tapping away at my blog, B also talks non-stop for hours and hours and hours to anyone who is prepared to listen. He talks boats, I just talk - about anything. Yes, I know it should be only about food. Soree!

Thanks for your comments. Good to hear that the ex-bat hens are now in good health and happy Eileen. If I kept hens would be getting ex-bats to at least give them a life they can enjoy. These hens are the Warren breed which is one of the heaviest layers (the reason why they are used commercially), so your daughter should still be getting several eggs a week even during the winter (although not necessarily every day).

Believe minimiser deb is a new 'commenteer', so welcome and hope to hear from you again. Both she and Sairy were commenting on my outburst re vegans, and thank you both for your explanations. Decided myself to read up on the internet about the vegan way of life. It certainly is specific as to the do's and don'ts of what has to be avoided. Strangely nothing was said about eating produce grown in manured land, or about avoiding reading books that had been bound using animal glue. Perhaps 'those that decide what we should do or not do' felt that giving out this information might be going a step too far. Who wants to give up reading books? Or eating fresh veggies?

Did read about another group of people who eat only raw food. Claiming this way is healthier than foods that are cooked. Do they know it has now been proved that tomatoes are better for us when cooked, and also we gain more nutrients from cooked carrots than raw ones@ Probably the same goes for other vegetables, and have heard that potatoes should never be eaten raw - only when cooked. As I said yesterday, there really should be no Black and White when it comes to religion, dietary 'laws' etc. and to have to live by stringent rules that means we have to check back to make sure everything we eat comes within what someone else says is allowed seems to be a life not worth living. Yet, we all have morals and principles, and all power to the elbow of those who stick to them. Me, I'm just weak. A diabetic who (sometimes) eats cake. So who am I to judge?
And that's my final word on the matter. Unless of course you wish to continue the debate. Please don't or I'll never stop trying to give you my side of the argument. That's the trouble with me. Like to prove I'm always right (which of course, often I'm not).

Thanks Mrs. Meaney for letting me know you enjoy my ramblings. Not sure how long you have been a reader, but hope you manage to keep up with the daily diary as blogger remove most of the earlier ones of each month (due to their length). Have managed to bring many of the missing ones back in short form, usually only recipes, hints and tips, and to bring back most of these have to edit out past 'chat'.

The other day was delighted to find that I'd lost nearly a stone since last checking. Thought it might be the extra water pills taken, and also returning to the high-protein diet. Not only the weight loss, but felt really 'thin' as well. Sadly, when checking next day in the hope I'd lost another 1lb or two, discovered the floor mat had got under the corner of the scales and this has caused a false reading. I hadn't lost a stone at all - in fact I had lost only a lb!! Oh, the disappointment. Even so, the thin feeling did stay with me, which is something I suppose.

Yesterday decided to eat some of my fruit cake as it was a good day and had got past caring. Ate three big slices during the day - enjoying every mouthful - and what do I find? Today the scales read a 2 lb weight loss and no mat near enough to distort them. So my day begins well.

Think will give B liver, bacon, cabbage and potatoes for his supper as tomorrow sailing starts late afternoon which means he won't return until late evening. Because of this B says not to get him any supper on Sunday, he'll get his own. If the weather is good today/over the weekend will go out for another scoot as am now finding this enjoyable. A lot is to do with my weight loss as Norris can now trundle along at fast speed (still within allowed limits when someone is watching - faster when nobody is around), and with less weight Norris finds it far easier to bump up and down kerbs without an almighty crash at the back-end when a high kerb is attempted (there are two extra small wheels at the back which make this sound, there to prevent Norris turning somersaults).

See it has been raining, but now stopped which means that by lunch-time then sun may be out again. Whether this happens elsewhere don't know, but in Morecambe it nearly always clears by mid-day with a sunny afternoon. At least the humidity is now down to 62deg, that's 9 lower than this time yesterday.

So - what do I chat about now? Nothing else of interest worth mentioning (mind you that's never stopped me in the past), so perhaps a few recipes could come in useful. The ones chosen today come from a farmhouse cookbook printed during World War II, so because farmer's wives had more access to produce than those who lived in towns, these are less restrictive compared to other wartime recipes, Also farmer's wives were naturally thrifty - as you will discover.
Myself find these next recipes well worth making (or at least considering) although feel that the storage time should be taken with a pinch of salt. If in doubt, freeze what you've made so that it CAN be used much later.
On the other hand, with fridges being in almost every household today (unlike the war years) foods when chilled should keep longer.

This recipe for salad cream is said to keep for 12 months. Not sure I believe that, but worth making to keep chilled in the fridge for (say) a month?
Salad Cream:
1 tblsp mustard powder
1 tblsp sugar
1 tsp plain flour
half tsp salt
2 eggs
4 fl oz (110ml) vinegar
Mix together the mustard, sugar, flour and salt, then blend in the eggs and vinegar. Stand the bowl in boiling water and keep stirring until the mixture thickens. Allow to get cold then add cream (or milk) to bring it to the required thickness.

Nasturtium Sauce:
2 pints nasturtium flowers, pressed down
2 pints vinegar
4 shallots, crushed
3 cloves
half tsp salt
half tsp cayenne pepper
1 tblsp soy sauce
Put the flowers in a bowl and set to one side. Put the remaining ingredients into a pan. Simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile heat/sterilise one or two large jars and put in the flower. Pour the hot liquid on top then cover and leave for 2 months, then strain and store in sterilised and sealed bottles.

This next is for an unusual chutney made with bananas (who had bananas in war-time I ask myself?). A useful one to make if you have surplus fruit that are going soft. The books says "this is a delicious chutney that can be used at any time", so unlike other chutneys that need time to 'mature' presume it can be eaten almost immediately.
Date and Banana Chutney:
6 bananas cut into slices
1 lb (450g) onions, chopped
8 oz (225g) dates, chopped
half pint (300ml) vinegar
half tsp curry powder
4 oz (100g) crystallised ginger, finely chopped
2 tsp salt
8 oz (225g) black treacle
Put the bananas, onions, and dates in a pan, pour over the vinegar and simmer until tender enough to be mashed (or blitzed in a liquidiser) to a pulp. Stir in the curry powder, ginger, salt and treacle and continue cooking until the chutney has turned a deep brown colour. Then bottle in the usual way.

Next recipe is given because it can be a true 'forager's preserve (only we have to still buy the sugar). As with most jams it has a good twelvemonth shelf life. As the elderberries give it a sharp flavour, this jam could be served with meats (as we do with redcurrant jelly) as well as in sarnies, on toast etc.
Blackberry and Elderberry Jam:
equal quantities of blackberries and elderberries
Place the fruits (stripped from their stalks) together in a preserving pan. Squash down slightly with a potato masher or fork, then heat gently until the juices begin to flow then bring to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes (check they don't dry out - add a very little water if necessary).
Allow 12 oz (350g) sugar to each pound of fruit used, and place this in a oven to get hot before adding to the fruit (this helps it dissolve rapidly), then bring back to the boil and boil for 20 minutes or until setting point has been reached. Pot in hot sterilised jars in the usual way. Seal and store for up to 12 months.

If we have no way of obtaining free fruits and can't really afford to buy them fresh (or even frozen), we can still make a very good jam with the cheaper carrots. Children love it (as long as you don't tell them what it is made from - you could lie and say it is apricot jam, or add one finely chopped no-soak apricot to the carrot jam and you won't then be lying, will you?). This jam has a short shelf life (so store in the fridge), but will keep longer if brandy is added.
The amount of ingredients depends upon the amount of carrot puree that is made once the veggies have been cooked.
Carrot Jam:
flaked almonds
brandy (opt) see above
Wash and clean carrots and cut into small pieces. Put in a pan with as little water as you can get away with and cook until very tender, then rub through a sieve (or blitz in a food processor/liquidiser). Measure the puree. To each pint allow 1 lb (450g) sugar, zest and juice of 1 lemon, half oz (12g) flaked almonds, and - if using - 1 tblsp brandy.
Put the carrot puree, sugar, lemon zest and juice into a preserving pan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved, then raise the heat and boil to setting point. Add the almonds and the brandy. Pot up into sterilised jars in the normal way.

Final recipe is another way to cook a marrow (or overgrown courgette). Don't forget that poached eggs can be cooked in advance, then kept in chilled water in the fridge for a day. To use just slip the egg into very hot water, leave for a minute, then serve. An easy way to save time and also trim the whites neatly before serving.
Allow three slices of marrow to each poached egg. Another way of serving marrow is to dip the slices into a batter, then fry in a pan alongside some rashers of bacon.
Fried Marrow with Poached Eggs:
vegetable marrow
plain flour
beaten egg
poached eggs
Cut the marrow into half-inch slices. Remove rind and seeds. Flour each slice and brush each lightly into beaten egg. Dip into breadcrumbs and fry on both side in hot fat until golden brown. Keep hot while the eggs are poaching (see above to show a way to speed this up).

Beloved has just brought me this week's issue of the grocery trade mag, so will now go and have a close read and tomorrow will let you know the worse to come. Or maybe even some good news. As if!
It's raining again, so looks like Norris will have to stay in the garage for another day. Maybe will sow a few more seeds indoors to keep up my succession of salads, freeze that mint that I meant to do yesterday, certainly have to bake another loaf, and possibly even make a chocolate cake.

As always, sorry to wind up our 'chat', but hoping you are enjoying our 'get together' and so looking forward (as ever) to hearing from even more of you over this weekend. Enjoy the break whatever the weather. Was reminded by Norma (the Hair) it is only four months to Christmas, so perhaps time to start thinking about making culinary moves in that direction. But before then comes autumn - the time to do all our preserving - not to mention Harvest Festivals, Hallow'een, Guy Fawkes.... looks like we cooks are coming up to a busy time. But that's how we like it, don't we?
Please find time to pop in tomorrow and sit atop my computer to dangle your legs whilst my fingers talk back to you. See you then.