Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Give Me Space!

Am beginning to worry about myself. Yesterday - with a fairly sunny day set to stay - set off with Norris to take my prescription into the chemist. Beloved asked me to "bring me a brightly coloured comb, like orange, so that I can find it easily as I can't see the dark ones at the bottom of my bag".
At the chemist there were loads of black and brown combs, but luckily discovered there were a few dark red ones and - Yippee! - just one orange one left. Was so pleased. On my return gave it to B who didn't look pleased as he said "now I've got two orange combs". Is it me or is it B that can't seem to get things right? Was sure he meant me to buy an orange comb, but knowing B he probably meant as he'd already got one, he wanted another bright one like the orange one he had, but possibly a yellow one. But to know that I needed to be told. Not that it matters anyway. He's got a brightly coloured comb which is what he asked for so now he has two he is less likely to misplace either. Why do I fret over such petty matters?

You remember how yesterday was muttering about my freezers being full to bursting. So what did I do? Go into the butchers to see if he wanted more rosemary (he didn't at that time) and whilst there bought two lambs' kidneys (65p each) so that I could make several steak and kidney pies for B. Not a problem as regards size (if wishing to freeze the kidneys), but then asked the price of breast of lamb, and was shown one that I know could be made into four portions and would only cost me £1.21p so bought that too. At the moment these are in the fridge waiting to be either cooked/frozen today. Asked B to eat up the remaining ice-cream (small amount in a very large box) so that I had a bit of space in the freezer to put cooked/raw foods.

It gets worse. After my 'shopping spree' and return home, Glasson Smokehouse phoned to say they were having a delivery of fresh salmon that morning at a very good price, so Beloved ordered one and told them we would be collecting it in about an hour. Very luckily I had to make a phone call before we left, and immediately I put the phone down, the Smokehouse phoned to say they had made a mistake and the fish wouldn't arrive until later that day so would phone us when it did. If I hadn't made the call, we'd have already left and had a wasted journey.
During the afternoon the Smokehouse rang to let us know it would be Tuesday (today) the fish would now be delivered to them, so hopefully it will and we will be able to collect it later this morning or early afternoon. But then have to find room in the Boris (the other freezer is packed full) to put THAT as well.

Considering I suffer from claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), I seem now to have a fear of empty spaces when it comes to shelves, packing book shelves, wardrobe shelves (I store other things in wardrobes than clothes), larder shelves, fridge and freezer shelves, and every cupboard and drawer in our home . When we lived in a larger house used to have 'collections' of things as well. Downsizing got rid of most but still have a problem when it comes to 'minimalising'.

When Beloved asked what was for supper (I was sitting in the greenhouse at the time) I laughingly said "something from the freezer to make room". Later went into the kitchen to discover B had take a box of Lamb Rogan Josh from Boris and begun to defrost it. This meal I'd made recently to go with other curries to make a Thali at our (planned) dinner party. So now I'll have to make another one. But at least now have a few more inches of space free.

Although had asked B to finish off his ice-cream and also use up the last of the berry juice saved from the Summer Puds, because there was a ripe nectarine in the fruit bowl and a ripe Kiwi decided to make a fresh fruit salad with these fruits adding apple, orange, some halved grapes and the handful of raspberries just picked. Made quite enough for two. Silly me told B that as he'd "now got ice-cream with fruit coulis, AND fruit salad and cream, he didn't have to eat it all, as I'd eat what was left". At which he replied, smacking his lips "sounds good, and doubt there will be any left". So he did eat the lot. Not even leaving me a crumb from my master's table. My own fault of course, nothing stopping me dividing the fruit salad between two bowls and marking one with my name, but it has come to the point that B now thinks ALL the food in the house is his for the taking. Asking doesn't come into it. Feel that a lot of this comes from him being the youngest child in a family of six (five of them boys) where his older siblings tended to grab most of the food and he only got the left-overs or the bits they didn't want. So any 'threat' by me of wishing to eat some of the food made for Beloved instantly makes him grab the whole lot, even if he isn't hungry.

Ordered two packs of grapes with the last grocery order. Told B that because he never left me any but the over-ripe, turning mouldy grapes he didn't want, one box was for me, one for him. He is rapidly working his way through 'his' box, and so far I haven't started mine, but knowing me will probably relent when he starts giving me his 'pleading look', and give him half anyway. Am a fool to myself.

Lovely lot of comments arrived yesterday, so best reply to these before I ramble on further.
Took a look at thepioneerwoman.com website Witchy Witch, and see what you mean. It certainly has enough photos to show every step of the way when making a dish. Useful to a novice cook, but for me the pictures were too large and too many, but the idea is sound so will probably move in that direction when it comes to 'explaining' how to make something. Thanks for letting me know.

Oh Alison, how lucky you are to live fairly near to Hugh F.W and Martin Clunes, not to mention Lesley Walters, et al. Must be something about that region that brings celebs living there. And to actually SPEAK to Martin C. He does sound a really nice man, through and through.

Jen has met Dawn French. Lucky girl. And Susan G (like me) likes David Jason. He was great in 'A Touch of Frost' but also loved watching him in 'Only Fools and Horses' (now recently repeated), and 'Darling Buds of May'. He has appeared in two other dramas, think one was about a care-taker or something at a boy's college (the name 'Porterhouse Blue' comes to mind), the other was to do with a haunted submarine.

Susan G. has a glut of Victoria Plums. The best thing to do at this moment is to stone them and the freeze so they can be used later. If no room in the freezer then make plum jam, plum pies etc (or even dry them off in a low oven when they then turn into prunes).

Woozy is also suffering from gluts, and is asking for more unusual recipes to use up courgettes, tomatoes and onions. As to the query whether potato cakes will freeze, they should do, but always best to dry off as much moisture as you can from the spuds before mashing to avoid water crystals forming when frozen. Adding flour and/or egg will probably help hold them together, and frying them whilst still partially frozen also helps to prevent them breaking in the pan (a problem with some savoury 'cakes'), as the outside of the crisps up to give a firm coating before they become too soft in the centre.

What a lovely crop of potatoes you seem to have Urbanfarmgirl, and one huge spud to boot. Do you know what variety it is? Some potatoes grow larger than others, some give bigger crops than others. Useful to know for next year's planting.

There are very few veg.box deliveries in our neck of the woods Sairy, but will check the one you mentioned to see if they have an outlet here. Morecambe seems ignored when it comes to many firms that do 'home deliveries', am still finding it difficult to cope without a doorstep delivery of milk (plus cheese, creme fraiche, yogurt, eggs, butter, cream, potatoes, fresh orange juice et al that our milkman left on our step).

As Ciao's Busy Lizzies have also died, possibly it is the weather and the time of year for them to do this. Did notice (when scooting past yesterday) the big hanging baskets at our local pub were still full of flowering petunias. So next year will probably give B.L's a miss and go for petunias again. The few pansies we have are flourishing, that is something I suppose. Also the lobelia gets better and better, so these are also a 'must' for next year.

Went and trimmed more leaves from the tomatoes yesterday and was pleased to find quite a lot of small green tomatoes that had been hidden in the undergrowth. Many beginning now to ripen as they get the full heat of the sun. So don't despair Stephanie, your tomatoes still have time to fruit. My courgettes are also mainly male flowers but if anything like last year, the females will suddenly appear and then you will be knee deep in courgettes. The few that have grown have been eaten by slugs apart from one very strange-looking one that started off as a yellow courgette, then suddenly ballooned out to a green striped ball (larger than a tennis ball) at the stem base. It is growing larger by the day and am leaving it on the bush to see what happens. Don't know why I grow courgettes anyway as don't really like them other than when tiny and eaten raw in dips.

Marrow, being watery, is not the easiest of veggies to find a good recipe for. Some have recently been put on this site, although probably blogger has deleted them due to space, but as recent once have not been 'saved' (our firstborn usually does this for me when he is here, but he hasn't been here recently) not sure if I can bring them back. If not will repeat them, some being given today.

Once tried making 'marrow rum' with some success. If I remember correctly, the top of the marrow is cut off, the seeds removed and the space filled with dark brown sugar. The lid then put back on, the marrow shoved down one leg of a clean pair of tights (or stocking), then hung in the airing cupboard over a bowl. Eventually the sugar dissolves into the flesh and the resulting liquid drips down into the bowl to make 'rum'. Worth looking up the correct way to make this on the Internet.

When it comes to using up a glut of tomatoes, one of the better ways is to 'sun-dry' them using a low oven in place of the sun. These have a much more intense flavour than when eaten raw, and can then be stored in jars of oil (also frozen). Onions, properly stored, should keep through the winter, but for a more unusual 'dish' worth using some to make onion 'marmalade'.
Courgettes will freeze (best to first slice and lightly fry before freezing), but tend to be a bit 'soggy' when thawed due to their high water content.

Today am giving a few recipes that are slightly more unusual and make use of some of the 'gluts' that we are getting at the moment, beginning with courgettes.

This first dish uses two colours of courgette, but one green and a bit of yellow butternut squash could be used instead. The 'refried beans' are basically cooked mashed red kidney beans, fried with a few spices (check recipe on the Internet if you wish the beans to have an authentic flavour.
Vegetable Quesadillas: makes 4
1 tsp sunflower oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small green courgette, finely chopped
1 small yellow courgette, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1 x 400g can (or 11 oz) refried beans (see above)
8 flour tortillas (pref wholemeal)
2 oz (50g) Cheddar cheese, grated
Put the oil into a large frying pan, wiping it over so it greases the base, then heat over medium-high. Add the onions, courgettes and garlic and cook gently, stirring occasionally, for 7 minutes or until the veggies are tender.
Spread the beans evenly over each tortilla, then spread the veggies on half of them, sprinkling over the cheese. Top with the remaining tortillas, the bean-spread side face down. These are now called 'quesadillas'.
Place one quesadilla in the frying pan, cover and cook for five minutes, turning once - or until heated through. Repeat with remaining quesadillas. Cut into wedges to serve. Good eaten with a bowl of tomato salsa for dipping the wedges into.

Although this next is somewhat similar to a pasta sauce, worth including as it is speedily made using the microwave, has few ingredients (mainly courgettes and tomatoes). Although canned tomatoes are in this recipe, no reason why fresh peeled and chopped tomatoes cannot be used. Likewise use home-cooked red kidney beans (these freeze well).
Mediterranean Courgettes: serves 4
1 courgette, cut into 1/2" (1 cm) pieces
2 lb (900g) canned plum tomatoes
1 lb (450g) canned red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
half tsp ground black pepper
Put all the ingredients (including the tomato juices) into a microwavable bowl, then cook on High for 5 - 7 minutes, stirring once, until the courgette is tender and slightly crisp. Serve with pasta or rice.

This next dish is again a sauce but this time intended to be served with meatballs. As it is made with both courgettes and tomatoes might be useful to those with the gluts. Use fresh tomatoes instead of canned if you have a glut. Omit the meatballs and serve with just pasta if you wish.
Tomatoes and Courgettes with Meatballs: serves 4
approx 1 lb (450g) meatballs of your choice
1 tblsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 - 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
3 courgettes, halved lengthways, then sliced
1 lb (450g) canned plum tomatoes, cut in half
1 lb (450g) canned chopped tomatoes
half tsp sugar
2 tblsp grated Parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper
handful chopped fresh basil leaves
Fry the meatballs in the oil over medium heat for 5 minutes or until browned all over, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
To the fat in the pan add the onion and fry for five minutes or until tender, then stir in the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes before adding the courgettes, the cut plum tomatoes (with its juice), the chopped tomatoes, sugar and Parmesan. Season to taste then add the meatballs. Heat until boiling, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the basil when ready to serve. Good eaten with warm crusty bread or pasta of your choice.

The following recipe can be made with either a very large courgette or a small marrow. As these are good eaten with either a cheese or tomato sauce, this a good way to help use up surplus tomatoes and also any scraps left over after slicing home-cooked ham.
Stuffed Marrow 'Pots': serves 2 - 4
1 short thick marrow (approx 2 lb/1kg)
3 oz (75g) butter
2 oz (50g) mushrooms, chopped
4 oz (100g) lean cooked ham, diced
2 tsp finely chopped fresh parsley
pinch dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper
1 - 2 tblsp fresh white breadcrumbs
Wash and dry the marrow and cut into rings 1 1.2" - 2" thick. Remove peel unless the marrow is young and still tender. Spoon out the seeds. Butter a large shallow ovenproof dish thoroughly and arrange the marrow rings in a single layer.
Heat 1 oz (25g) of the butter in a frying pan over low-medium heat and fry the mushrooms and ham for 2 minutes, then add the parsley and dried herbs with seasoning to taste. Stir in enough breadcrumbs to bind the stuffing together.
Lightly season the marrow rings with salt and pepper before filling their centres with the stuffing. Dot the tops with the remaining butter and cover the dish tightly with foil to allow the marrow to cook in its own steam. Bake for 45 minutes at 190C, 375F, gas 5 or until the rings are tender. Take the dish to table and serve immediately with a hot cheese or tomato sauce.

Because marrow has such a high water content, it loses the little flavour and firmness it has when steamed or cooked in water. However, much of this can be preserved by cooking the marrow in butter then casseroled with plenty of fresh herbs to give even more flavour (suggestion is to use mint, parsley, tarragon, and chives). This dish eats well with grilled fish and meats. Although not a million miles away from the recipe above, it is different enough to be worth adding to this 'collection'.
Marrow Casserole: serves 4 - 6
1 young marrow (approx 2 lb/1kg)
2 oz (50g) butter
2 - 3 tblsp mixed and finely chopped fresh herbs
salt and pepper
Cut the marrow into 1" thick slices, then peel. Remove seeds and cut the flesh into chunks. Butter an ovenproof dish thoroughly, then place in the marrow with the butter cut into small pieces, then sprinkle over the chopped herbs. Season with salt and pepper.
Cover dish with foil and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about half an hour or until the marrow is just tender, but make sure not to overcook. Serve immediately.

Although a recipe for marrow jam was given recently, it may have been deleted as is the way of 'blogger.com'. So here it is again. Finely diced preserved or crystallised ginger can be added to give it more flavour if you wish. To make sure of a good set with any jam made with fruit low in pectin, use Jam Sugar as this contains pectin.
Marrow Jam: makes approx 10 lbs
8 lb marrow
rind and juice of 4 lemons
6 lb sugar
Peel the marrow and remove pith and seeds. Dice the flesh - this should now weigh approx 6 lbs. Put into a steamer and cook until just tender. Do not overcook.
Put the cooked marrow into a bowl with the sugar, lemon rind and juice, then cover and leave to stand for 24 hours. Tip into a preserving pan and bring to the boil over low heat. When the sugar has dissolved, raise the heat to medium and continue cooking until the marrow is transparent and the syrup thick. Pot up in the usual way.

Final recipe today is for a classic onion soup which is a great one to make on a chilly day and perfect for me as we always have a big basket of assorted onions sitting on top of the washing machine, not to mention plenty of really good home-made beef stock in the freezer. Although usmg beef stock is traditional, chicken stock could be used instead.
For a dish such as this it is worth buying (or making) one of those long French 'sticks', then slicing it to freeze ready to use for this recipe or for making garlic bread. Even if starting off with fresh bread, there is often too much on a 'stick', so always slice/freeze the surplus. You can always later turn it into breadcrumbs if you need to. Gruyere cheese is used as it melts easily, but you could use Cheddar.
Instead of using the oven to crisp up the bread it could instead be spread with butter and toasted under the grill, the cheese then added and heated until melted. An alternative way of serving is to first put the soup into individual bowls, then float the 'toasted cheese' slices on top.
French Onion Soup: serves 4
1 lb (450g) onions, thinly sliced
2 oz (50g) butter
2 pints beef or chicken stock
good pinch of salt
1 oz (25g) plain flour
5 fl oz (150ml) cold water
4 slices French bread approx half inch thick
4 oz (100g) Gruyere cheese, grated
Melt half the butter in a large saucepan and add the onions. Cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes or until the onions have softened and become transparent. Remove lid and continue cooking the onions, stirring occasionally, until they have turned a golden brown. Stir in the stock and add the salt, replace lid and bring to the boil. Simmer the soup for 30 minutes.
Mix the flour with the water until smooth, then add this to the soup, stirring until it comes back to the boil. Simmer for 2 - 3 minutes until the liquid has thickened, then remove from heat.
Meanwhile, butter both sides of each slice of bread, and sprinkle half of the cheese on top of each slice. Bake the bread at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until the bread is crisp and the cheese melted. Put a slice of bread in each of four individual soup bowls and pour over the onion soup. Serve with remaining cheese scattered on top.

Hope that has given some ideas of what to do with our surplus veggies. If I can find more recipes for these they will be given later this week.

Not sure what supper my Beloved will be eating today. Possibly using up the last piece of salmon bought (and frozen) last year. Makes sense to use that before he starts on the new. Certainly his meals from now on will be based on frozen produce as I need more room. As said before, when most foods are frozen 'raw', when removed and thawed and combined with other ingredients, together these (if frozen as a ready-meal) then take up more room that the space taken by the original meats/fish. So anyone who is thinking about cooking in bulk to freeze away in serving sizes, always allow room in your freezer to do this.

My problem always has been I've preferred to always make a meal from scratch rather than squirrel away 'ready-meals' in the freezer, even if home-made, but the older I get and now there is often some cookery prog I wish to watch around 'preparing-for-supper-time', think it will make it easier for me if B can just heat up one of a variety of 'Blue Peter' meals (aka 'one I've made earlier) while I sit with my feet up watching telly. So now have to stop buying so much and start making more. As if I didn't do that already! One day I'll get it right.

When out with Norris yesterday passed by our local pub (the Dog and Partridge), where I noticed a big board outside requesting patrons to book now for their Christmas Dinner. Goodness me, we are now being reminded about Christmas and summer isn't over yet although the weather tends to prove otherwise.
Despite yesterday being sunny with few clouds (I even sat outside for an hour or two topping up my tan), today has begun cloudy with wind and rain, and looks to be staying that way. It is so depressing. The nights are also drawing in, we close our curtains at 9.00pm prompt, but this time next week it could be 8.30pm. Not that I mind that, there is a certain part of me that likes to think about snuggling up under a warm blanket (again watching TV), with the central heating on as well (for the moment will push the increased fuel costs at the back of my mind). The thought of cooking (AND eating) all the lovely casseroles, and other winter meals gives me something else to look forward to. Even hoping it will snow again. At least that will be seasonal, so expected, which is more than we can say for the English summers we are getting at the moment (which seem worse than many winter months).

Can't plan to do much cooking this morning in case the Smokehouse phone and the salmon is ready for us. Beloved could go and fetch it all by himself, but I would enjoy the drive and probably also have a bit more retail therapy buying something else from the shop as well. Not that I need it, but you know me. If there is a bargain to be had then I snap it up. The Smokehouse often have a number of quality 'reduced items' that have a good shelf life. Pity to miss those. Perhaps makes more (financial) sense if I stayed at home and let B collect the fish. Decisions, decisions... On the other hand (I'm now telling myself) can justify spending up to £25 on food due to the 'Ernie' win this month, for this means the food is then 'free'. Probably best to spend it on one of the latest Donald Russell offers as this means then we get oodles of best quality meat for little more than a few pounds more. But first have to make room in the freezer. Haven't I already said that? And for an entirely different reason? Have now come to the decision our new freezer isn't big enough to satisfy my need to 'fill things full. Even buying a giant one, it probably would still not be large enough. Think I need counselling.

Whatever happens today, no doubt you will hear all about it tomorrow, with the hope you will be joining me and look forward to meeting you then.
A reminder: tomorrow is Norma the Hair day, so depending upon the time I get up, the posting tomorrow may be shorter than normal. But will at least write something - unless (as so often happens) blogger throws a wobbly. Fingers crossed all will be well. Enjoy your day.
p.s Blogger has 'failed with response to my spell check due to 'Internal Server Error'. So apologies for any errors I've missed whilst having to do the job myself.