Thursday, August 04, 2011


Made a mistake the other day when I wrote about the price of bantam eggs. Said they were being sold in supermarkets for £1.49p for six. Re-read the article about them yesterday and was horrified to find that the price was £1.59p for FOUR bantam eggs. More money and less eggs than first said. Which makes it near as dammit 40p for each egg!!!. Considering they are smaller than hen's eggs (and even the large organic are cheaper than the bantam's), who would be silly enough to buy them?
Myself being limited in the amount I have to spend, usually buy the free-range hens eggs, but have to admit - when on a 'cooking for the freezer and friends' spree, sometimes buy the cheaper eggs that can often work out less than 10p each.

Interesting comments to reply to. Kathryn, the next time your mother turns her nose up at something, point out to her (in the nicest way) that at least you have been fortunate to find a great deal of happiness with your achievements, and sorry that her life - with so much more - still seems to make her discontented. She might find helping out in a charity shop might give her more fulfilment. Said something similar to my mother (not mentioning the charity bit as she was housebound at the time) and it did shut her up - for a while. It is a fact that some people can never find happiness, always wishing for something they don't have, and never being glad for what they already have. Am afraid my B is like that. It's just the way they are. Perhaps, between my mother and B, this has made me far more aware that it is what we do with our lives that matter, rather than waiting for what we want to fall in our lap - and then wishing it was something better. Life would be a bit boring if we were all the same.
Never let people like that depress you Kathryn, feel sorry for them instead. They can't help it, and any criticism almost certainly comes from the envy they have for the happiness you have that they have never been able to achieve. They also tend to believe than anyone who is happy is not taking life seriously enough. Just because they don't understand what happiness really is. And doubt they ever will.

A welcome with our usual group hug to Rachel Webber who has recently discovered this blog (often wonder how this happens as it does not seem to come up on 'foodie' lists). Myself do like to watch Nigella, and she does write a good book. With me being a 'cost-cutter' it is her bottomless purse that I find a bit offputting.
Have been lent a book by Rabbi Blue, and he too writes well, and believe most of us like to read a cookbook that has anecdotes along with recipes, rather than just recipes alone.

The problem Woozy with what seems like 'the simple approach' when it comes to watching TV cookery progs and chefs is that always the programme is 'fine tuned', right down to every word spoken. Because I've been there, done that, can say that someone runs through the whole thing with a stopwatch and every movement and word is timed. It is the professionals like Nigel Slater that can make the whole thing seem as though we are a fly on the wall, and appear he is just working off the cuff without any camera there and it just happens that he gets everything accomplished without rushing. Not that he isn't the man he seems, think most TV cooks are who they appear to be, but it is always clever editing to make things look as though done without a break. If only one camera is used (and this often happens), then every time the camera shows a close-up of a pan/ a knife chopping/a plant in the garden/the finished dish on a plate, this is usually taken at another time (and sometimes on another day). Often there needs to be at least three different shots taken of the same action. The 'full frontal' (body behind unit, with food in front etc), then close-up of chopping food, then close-up of food being slid into pan, then food simmering in pan, between which would be close-up of face talking or hand stirring foods, then all edited together to make a seamless movement of start to finish of meal. Next time you watch a cookery prog, see how many different shots there are.

Was sorry to hear that 'The Good Cook' is a kitchen 'set', it looked so 'real'. Nigella's kitchen was also a 'set'. At least 'The Goode Kitchen' was filmed in my own kitchen in Leeds (although many believed it was filmed in a studio), and fortunate that we had two cameras instead of one - this it helped as having two presenters meant extra actions needed filming. Plus two scripts that each of us had to learn and remember - and half the time one or other made a mistake (as we had two scripts to learn each day of filming) so often one or the other of us forgot what we had to say (or had already said) and had to do it all again.

Back to comments. Agree Woozy that Delia is a bit 'headmistressy', and although do watch her programmes, there is not a lot that I didn't already know (by this time of my life this should be expected) and in general her recipes work well although myself have found more than one of her recipes has the oven temp or timing completely wrong. This could be a printer's error (and surprising how often this happens), but at least this makes me feel good about myself and errors.
Your use of courgettes sound very appetising. Find that when small they do eat well raw. Myself love them cut into thick strips to dunk into dips.

Was interested to hear that you are now turning from vegetarian to vegan Lynn. Have always understood the reasons behind being a vegetarian, but never quite grasped the reasons behind being a vegan. What I can't get my head around is the way vegans won't having anything to do with a product that comes from any source that has a living creature involved. Even forbidding the eating of honey.
The way I look at things is that all hens will continue to lay eggs whether we feel they should or not, so it seems a bit of a waste not to eat the unfertilised ones - for by doing this we do no harm to the hens themselves.
Do vegans have to avoid reading books because they all hardbacks are bound with glue made from animal by-products? And surely there is no sensible reason why they cannot use soap because it contains lanolin made from sheep's fleece. Even wild sheep naturally lose their fleece each year and by manually shearing sheep it makes life much more comfortable for them (think of the tics and maggots they would have to endure if their fleece stayed on).
The fleece then being not necessary to the sheep, then why not use the lanolin from it AND spin the fleece to make wool for garments we can wear? Using these 'by-products' does any harm at all to the sheep - removing the fleece in the first place makes life even better for them. Or am I just missing some important issue here? If we avoid animal products, then perhaps better not to allow the animals to live at all.
Yet every creature on this earth has a rightful place in the balance of nature, and think we all agree that nature has made provision for us humans with not just herbage to fuel our body, but also the 'gifts' giving freely by other living creatures. Who are we to decide we know better? Especially when killing animals is not always necessary. It's just a pity we humans haven't discovered yet why we have been put here in the first place, because when it comes to the balance of nature, if the human race was wiped out, the rest would continue carrying on quite happily without us. So we must have a reason to be. Time perhaps that we were told. Food for thought.

Whatever foods we choose to eat, when it comes to certain foods (and non-foods), today it seems it is almost impossible to know what can be eaten or used when so many things can be 'contaminated' by animal products. Even wine uses a by-product of meat to clear it, and whatever my personal opinions, deeply admire those dedicated to take a stand against what they believe to be wrong, but - being me - always trying to keep an open mind, still tend to find the one fly in the ointment that shouldn't be there. Allow me that.

Wish myself I could be a vegetarian, and several times have tried going down this road, but always ended up anaemic (despite eating 'all the right things') then told by the doc to return to eating meat (esp liver) if I had no moral reason against doing so, and it is true, once I began eating meat again then I begin to feel much better and stronger. Possibly there are some of us who DO need to eat meat. Others can manage without it. Certainly it would be financially better for us if we could.

Yesterday the plan was that I would take myself off with Norris to go and get some money from the cashpoint as my last pennies had gone to pay Norma the Hair. The intention was to go out on B's return from the RNLI shop (he comes back at 1.30). When he hadn't returned by 3.00pm I began to get worried esp as he had gone on his bike (without wearing his helmet - and he also hadn't taken his mobile phone with him - not that he keeps it turned on). I couldn't find any telephone number for the shop either in the directory or on-line.

Decided to get out Norris and go to the shop to see if they knew anything, but the lift-up garage door stuck and despite how hard I tugged I couldn't open it. Anyway, B had left his keys at home and if I went out and he came back he couldn't get into the house (not that I cared about that - let him wait!).
So had to return indoors and hunt through the directory to find out hospital numbers to ring and see if he had been admitted in an accident, and whilst doing so B strolled in through the kitchen door. Apparently he had called in at the boat house on his way home and stayed there to help a mate repair a boat!! It is always the same with B. He does what he wants when he wants never thinking there is someone at worrying about him because he has disappeared. HE knows he is alright, and that's all that matters. Readers will remember him doing the same thing last year when he went 'missing' on a boat trip in the Med for three weeks without contacting me (when he had said he would return home after two weeks). I'm fed up with constantly worrying about him having an accident and he is fine. Yet - if I go out (all through our marriage) without him, if I don't get back within a few minutes of the time I said I would he really gets very angry with me as he said he thought I'd had an accident! He just doesn't like me doing what I want when I want, that's the truth. One rule for one, one for another. It was ever thus.

My husband (not worthy of the name Beloved at the moment) eventually managed to open the garage door so off I went with Norris - fortunately passing my neighbour so stopped for a chat and arranged for her and her husband to come to a small dinner party as she loves curry (will be inviting you too Eileen when I know the date - always supposing you eat curry, but as I can't - due to my dyspepsia, we can always eat something different). So that cheered me up a LOT. I do love cooking for people.

Despite being a very warm and humid day yesterday (humidity was 72 deg on the gauge), it was quite chilly in the shade, but enough sunlight to keep me comfortable as I scooted along wearing short sleeves. After getting the cash then called in at the butchers. Bought a big piece of belly pork to cut up and freeze (am determined to get the crackling crisp - never having got it right so far). This cut of pork had risen in price from £1.31 lb a week or so ago to £1.52 lb but compared to other cuts of all meat - that was CHEAP. Saw some small pieces of fillet steak on sale and asked the price. The butcher weighed me two (each about half the size of a man's palm and barely enough to feed one) and said the two came to £7!!. So told him to put them back. Did buy some lamb's liver. That was around £1.30 per lb, but this gave enough to make three good meals for B.
All the cuts/joints etc of all meats are chalked up on a board at the butchers, so it makes it easy to find the meat that is cheap enough that I can afford. Which - as the price continues to rise - is hardly any. Roll on the next offer from Donald Russell. These I find are well worth the money because of the quality. A little quality meat can go a lot further than a lesser grade - even if that is good by normal standards.

Quality meat doesn't always have to be expensive. Recently make some excellent lamb stock from a large pack of frozen bones that came free with my last D R order. If you remember a goodly amount of lamb flesh was able to be removed from the bones (this 'mince' at the moment stored in the freezer).
This recipe from the 18th century will be perfect for using both the 'free' lamb and the chunky bits of ham (also frozen) that had been saved when I sliced up the home-cooked gammon.
Lample Pie: serves 4
6 oz (175g) cooked lamb
4 oz (100g) cooked ham or bacon
6 oz (175g) cooking apples (peeled and sliced)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
pinch dried rosemary and sage
half pint (300ml) chicken stock
1 tblsp tomato paste/puree
5 oz (150g) shortcrust pastry
egg or milk to glaze
Mince the lamb and ham (or bacon) and arrange in layers with the apple and onion in a buttered pie dish (approx 7"), sprinkling each layer with the seasoning and herbs. Mix the stock with the tomato paste and pour over the lamb etc. Roll out the pastry to a size to cover the pie dish and wetting the rim, press the wet side down on the dish to seal the edges firmly. Cut a hole or slit in the middle of the pie to allow steam to escape. Brush the surface of the pastry with beaten egg or milk, then bake at 230C, 450F, gas 8 for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 180C, 350F, gas 4 and cook for a further 20 minutes. Serve hot with green vegetables or cold with a salad.

It is perhaps worth the mention (again) that although the original recipe suggests including potatoes served with the vegetables, myself see no reason why they need be as the pastry provides the carbohydrates. All too often we serve spuds with many dishes just because they are our 'staple' food. Now that we have become used to ethnic dishes that use other carbos, we can forget all about potatoes for a while. Even so - how often do we see people order curry and rice AND chips. Or any sort of pastry covered pie AND potatoes.
Potatoes are becoming more expensive and often it can be cheaper to serve another carbohydrate such as pasta, couscous, burgul wheat, semolina, pastry, bread.... so when it comes to carbos, no need to overegg the pudding. If you get my drift.

Here is a different way to make a sarnie turn into a hot bite to eat with a salad, perfect for a light lunch or supper dish.
Salmon Eggy Bread: serves 4
8 slices white bread
2 oz (50g) butter
1 x 200g can (approx 7 oz) red salmon
2 oz (50g) cream cheese
1 tblsp grated Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
1 egg
1 tblsp milk
paprika pepper
oil for frying
Drain the salmon, removing any dark skin and bones. Put the flesh into a bowl with the cream cheese and grated Cheddar and mash together with a fork. Season generously with pepper and a pinch of salt.
Spread the mixture thickly on half the bread, then cover with remaining slices to make 'sarnies' - pressing them firmly to hold together.
Beat together the egg and milk with some salt and pepper and a pinch of paprika. Dip both sides of the sarnies in this then fry in shallow hot oil until crisp and golden, turning once. Drain on kitchen paper (works best if the paper is crumpled), then serve immediately with a crisp green salad.

The day is starting off dull but hope it improves as I intend pruning our extremely large rosemary bush and taking most of the cuttings to the butcher who will give them out to his customers who buy lamb from him. Well that's my intention, the butcher grateful for the thought, so am hoping for more free chicken carcases and beef fat (to make dripping) when I next make the request - because then 'will owe me one'. Method in my madness. If I have enough courgettes ripening at the same time will also give him some of those for his 'outside shop' vegetable display. Who knows - with all my generosity he might even give me some sausages for 'nowt.

Final recipe coming up. This one for gardeners who have too many lettuces they can use at any one time in salads. Although no peas are used in this recipe, they do eat well with lettuce, so some pea-pods or peas can be included if you have them to spare. Chilled lettuce soup is very refreshing on a hot summer's day.
Lettuce Soup: serves 4 - 6
8 oz (225g) lettuce leaves
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 oz (100g) butter
15 fl oz (425ml) chicken stock
black pepper, caster sugar, grated nutmeg
15 fl oz (425ml) milk
1 - 2 egg yolks
2 tblsp single cream
croutons for serving
Wash the leaves thoroughly and blanch in boiling water for 4 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Drain again then chop the leaves.
Melt the butter in a pan and fry the onion until softened, then add the lettuce - a little at a time. Stir-fry for one minute then add the stock and bring to the boil. Add salt and pepper, sugar and nutmeg to taste.
Allow the soup to cool slightly, then liquidise (or rub through a sieve). Return the puree to the pan and add the milk and reheat gently. Simmer for five minutes.
Meanwhile lightly beat the eggs and cream together. Remove the soup from the heat, let it cool down for 1 minute then spoon a little of the soup into the eggs/cream and blend together, then stir this into the remaining soup. Return to the heat, stirring continuously until the soup thickens BUT BY NO MEANS LET IT BOIL or the egg will 'scramble'.
To serve hot, ladle into soup bowls and scatter croutons on top, then serve immediately. To serve cold, allow soup to cool then chill in the fridge before serving to be eaten with freshly fried hot croutons or warm crusty bread.

Not sure what B's supper will be today. Despite his inconsideration yesterday, he was served up Butter Chicken curry with rice for his supper (but as the curry came out of the freezer and only needed reheating and I cheated using a 2 minute micro-wave rice it wasn't as though I slaved away over a hot stove making his meal as usual). He was supposed to have the remaining half of the Tiramasu made previously but discovered he had eaten the lot in one go!! So he had to buy his own ice-cream, me not feeling in the mood to make some for him after what he did!

Despite my feeling hurt, B will be given the choice of liver, bacon, cabbage and potatoes (and despite how it sounds, he really enjoys this), or maybe a Paella (having seen Rick Stein make one yesterday) - in which case can add the can of cooked mussels that Gill brought (to the chicken, white fish, prawns, peas, bell peppers, chicken stock and saffron rice). Does he deserve it? The answer is NO! But then why deprive myself the pleasure of cooking? Might just manage to eat some of either myself (but not the mussels).

Oh heck, it's raining! At least I gave the tomatoes plenty of water last night so won't need to venture out to water them today. More and more fruits appearing but still all green - even the large ones. No doubt they will all ripen at the same time, but can freeze some of course, though doubt they will get that far for I eat tomatoes like others eat sweets.

Looks like the day will be spent in my comfort zone (kitchen and larder) where I can happily poddle around making things. Or at least thinking about it. It might be a good idea to chop up some mint and freeze it in ice-cube trays ready for the winter for it is now almost past its best, and I do miss the taste of fresh mint. Could do the same with other fresh herbs as 'fresh' always does seem to taste better than 'dried'. Bay leaves being the exception. Some chefs prefer to use dried ones. But this doesn't apply to me as there are always fresh bay leaves that can be picked from the bush (brought indoors before the first frosts then kept in the conservatory through the winter). Has anyone grown a lemon tree? It would be wonderful to pick a fresh lemon when needed. Our conservatory would be an ideal place to grow one, but would like a variety where the fruit is reasonably large. Some photos of citrus trees show the fruits as quite small.

Looking forward to you all meeting up with me again tomorrow for our 'coffee break'. See you then.