Sunday, August 21, 2011

Trade Secrets

After keeping away from all things culinary - apart from making myself a mound of tuna sarnies (for comfort eating) and then ten minutes late evening making B's Chicken Strogonoff (fry thin strips of chicken breast in butter/oil, with sliced mushrooms. Add a tblsp white wine (having no sherry), and a teaspoon soft green peppercorns, when cooked poured over quarter pint of double cream, heated through and served with a Lemon and Rosemary 2-minutes microwave rice) - that was the only time I ventured into the kitchen. Didn't even clear up the jam jars from the floor.

It was surprising (for me) how traumatised I was due to the freezer frosting up so badly. Think it was one of the very few occasions in my life when I felt helpless (although the problem was not that difficult to solve - and when younger probably could have sorted it myself). Needed a day to put my mind back in order, and pleased to say that today feel tons better. Beloved is not sailing today, so will be taking all the empty jars to the bottle bank at the tip.
Decided yesterday to move the big table in the conservatory to the other side, so that anyone sitting there can face the garden instead of a brick wall. This will be useful when our guests are here as the dining room will be used as a second bedroom when the need arrives (otherwise used in the normal way as a dining room/study). Beloved likes the idea, so hopefully that will mean we don't have to put the huge and very heavy light oak table in here (this dark panelled room) and get rid of the oval 'Regency' table that fits in to the decor, much better, and is much more easily moved to fit in the futons or inflatable mattresses.

Thanks for your comments and sympathy in my recent predicament.
Your mention of the same thing happening to you Sue15cat when your son replaced ice-cream in the freezer reminded me of the time that Beloved used to help himself from several different flavours of ice-cream from the chest-freezer in Leeds (he liked ice-cream so much he wanted a bowl of it every day. Came down one morning to find three huge tubs of ice-cream on TOP of the freezer, all melted of course. These had been bought the day before, put in the freezer and he had - as usual - helped himself when I had gone to bed, taken (presumably) a couple of scoops from each, then wandered into the living room to eat, completely forgetting to put the tubs back in the freezer. I was so cross that I said that I wasn't going to buy him any more ice-cream again. At least I didn't for about a year, so hope that taught him a lesson.
Will be giving a bit of info today about iron-rich foods.

Was it you Aileen who was starting the gardening year by building up some raised beds? However you have grown your plants, they certainly seemed to have done well. With so much 'reader interest' in growing our own produce, think the national interest and TV programmes urging us to do this, is really working.

The older I get the more I like to take a day or two off cooking, and as Woozy feel the same, am pleased I'm not alone in this. This is where a freezer does come in useful with a supply of ready-prepared meals etc.
Roasted vegetables are one of our favourites, my favourite selection is both white and red onions cut into wedges, with chunks of bright red and yellow bell peppers. A green bell pepper (mainly for the colour), chunks of parsnips, butternut squash and (sometimes) courgettes. Garlic cloves with their skins still on roast down to become very sweet with little garlic flavour. Sometimes add a few par-cooked small potatoes, and towards the end some cherry tomatoes (still on the vine) and a few oil-brushed mushrooms.
Have not yet thought of adding slices of bacon on top, and this should really improve the flavour.

Your mention of bacon bits Urbanfarmgirl has reminded me that when I bought a pack of bacon offcuts some many years back, froze some of them. This worked well, but only for about a month as bacon seems to turn 'rancid' in flavour if frozen for too long. You didn't mention freezing yours, but thought it worth a mention in case someone else is thinking about it. As it keeps fairly well in a container in the fridge, might as well store it there.
Hadn't heard of the potato variety 'Winston', but the idea of leaving 'first earlies' in the ground for longer is a good idea. When it comes to some produce, the heavier the weight the better, so by leaving potatoes in the ground as long as possible before lifting for the winter, should mean a much heavier crop.

It was great to hear how you managed to reduce your food budget by 25% Polly, all through using a lot of your stores, and with food still in store not yet used up, your budget is still decreasing. So very well done!
Unfortunately much fresh produce is dearer than foods with a longer shelf life, and frozen foods and tinned fruit can be a cheaper way to get our vitamins, so worth buying these when 'on offer' to see us through hard times.

Fingers crossed you don't get a third 'electric' going wrong Ciao. So far nothing else has broken down in the Goode household, but there is still time. Or perhaps I could include this comp that shut down the other day and wouldn't work (until I pressed a button under the screen). After a few more wobblies it decided to work properly again. Yes, think that must be it, for all our 'appliances' that went 'wrong', none broke down completely, just needed sorting out (other than the kettle which B did manage to break whilst 'sorting out'). That's a relief, no won't need to worry about something else happening.

It must be horrendous to have a freezer break down just before Xmas, as happened to SusanG last year. The one good thing about chest freezer is the food in there stays frozen for far longer than one with a front-opening door, due to cold air falling, so if the lid is not raised, the insulation in a chest freezer keeps in the cold. A broken but full chest freezer can keep food frozen for several days (at least four) without any of it thawing. But the lid needs to be kept shut.
The motor on our huge chest freezer in Leeds broke down after about 15 years, and we were able to have a new one fitted at much less cost than purchasing a new freezer. This was still working when B decided to get rid of it and buy an American style fridge-freezer instead. Mind you, with just two of us, a 14 cu.ft freezer was far too large. Most of the time it was half-empty, and almost impossible to remove any food from the bottom without falling in head-first.

The trade magazine was slightly more positive this week, although still plenty of gloomy predictions.
Approved Foods (that many readers buy from) has made a loss over the last year, even though it has never been busing trading, but they have now moved into a large warehouse where so they can improve the speed of getting out orders. Approved Foods "now buys 60% of its supplies from big brands which helps them to avoid sending stock to landfill or seeing it on the grey market. We only sell directly to the public and can de-identify the product".
This company receives 5,000 - 10,000 orders each month for its ambient goods, with an average spend of £35."

The 'Home Bargains' web-site (possibly only in some areas) - normally selling non-foods, have now moved into selling some foods on-line. Mentioning this only because of their comment: "hoping to tempt people to add treats to their baskets when shopping for higher-value items". It's always worth knowing the different ways how the retailers pull our strings, and reasons why.

Apparently orange juice prices will fall after the bumper crops forecast for the 2011/2012 season, but due to processing, it will take longer for us to see lower prices on the shelves. If they ever do fall. I am getting so cynical these days, don't believe anything will reduce in price. Perhaps the best we can hope for is for some foods to remain stable in price whilst the rest go up.

Asda again are top of the list for the lowest priced 'shopping basket'. But again only because they were selling Ben and Jerry's Ice-Cream for £1.80p compared to the other stores where the price ranged from £2.22p to £4.49p. Tesco came a pretty close second with several products being cheaper than Asda.
As ever, there were several products this week that most thrifty shoppers would only (if ever) purchase, such as John West's dressed crab, Guinness draught, Parma ham, Port Salut cheese...with Dairy Milk Caramel bar, Jammie Dodgers, and garlic baguettes also not be included in my personal basket.
Waitrose was the most expensive basket (£62.72p above Asda's £51.13p for the same items), and have just noticed a footnote to a side column which says "on 6th August, two of the Morrison's products selected were incorrect and so, therefore, were the prices. Its basket should have cost £54.76, putting it in second rather than third place". Which just goes to show we can't always believe what we read at any one time.

Another article is headed by "Bakers urged to put 'real bread' mark on additive-free loaves". At the moment apparently there is only one mainstream bread band (Vogel's) that would qualify for this mark. Loved the comment by Sustain's project officer who said "No artificial additives are necessary in breadmaking, so we're encouraging people to phase them out." (so why include them anyway I ask myself - probably to keep the bread 'fresher' for longer is probably the answer).

Another invasive fruit fly is due to arrive on our shores, possibly brought in with punnets of imported fruit, but whatever the cause, the spotted wing drosophilia has already made its way to France and experts predict it will reach the UK soon. This species bores through fruit that ripening on the tree, lays its eggs and the larvae burrow their way through the fruit before hatching. To prevent this, fruit has to be sprayed more frequently, and more time has to be left after spraying ripening fruit before harvesting.
Damage to strawberry, bush, cane and stone fruits has been recorded in other countries, but there is a warning that grapes, apples and pears could also be adversely affected. Which doesn't bode well for both the commercial and garden crops. So perhaps we had better make the most of what we have while we still have it.

But to cheer us up, here is a really good bit of news. "A report claims to have identified a 28% increase over 24 months, in the proportion of primary school-age children eating their five-a-day, following participation in the Food for Life Partnership programme."

Much of the trade mag this week is again covering the problems caused to stores by the recently riots, the main 'focus on food' being - this week - rice and noodles. The 'ready-to-eat' formats are growing in both sectors, and it does seem that most of us these days prefer the quick route rather than cook from scratch (myself included I'm ashamed to say).
Rice is holding its own among rival carbohydrate, while plain noodles are struggling to keep their head above water (if you'll excuse the pun).
Much has to do with what meals we choose to cook, as one spokesman says: "Pasta, for example, is an Italian dish, but so embedded in the English culture that most people eat it. It's the same with rice, you can have it with pretty much any protein you want, or just as a side dish - whereas noodles, even though they have increased in popularity over recent years, are still not as big.....and about 28% of occasions when consumers have a stir-fry they use rice. Noodles are used on only 10% of occasions, which really shows there seems to be a lack of awareness about plain noodles."

This is true, as although I like noodles with Chinese meals, and even though they are very much cheaper than rice (remember the Tesco 10p packs of noodles, maybe they still do them, I have several in my larder), still tend to serve rice (and the 2 minute microwave rice at that). Why on earth I do this as I have a lot of rice in the larder, always used to cook it from scratch (soak it in cold water for several hours, and it then takes only about five minutes boil to become tender). Beloved who occasionally will attempt to make himself a meal, insists on using the microwave rice as he then doesn't have to bother to 'cook' it. So that's why it now has become almost a staple in our larder.
Would bulk-cook rice to freeze if I wasn't so paranoid about pre-cooked rice (when not cooled rapidly) being the cause of food poisoning when re-heating. If cooking rice to freeze, ideally lay the rice out in a very shallow layer on baking sheets or something, waft cold air over them (by flapping with a piece of card if necessary), then chill in the fridge a.s.a.p. then bag up and freeze again a.s.a.p. The bacteria peculiar to rice - unlike most food bacterias - is not killed when reheated, even when boiled. Having said that, we never hear of many people being ill after eating re-heated rice (although this might be the cause of some 'gyppy' tummies after eating a take-away). But worth giving the warning.

One final mention about the ubiquitous sarnie. To encourage us to still purchase the ready-made and NOT make it far cheaper at home, there is now a 'long-lasting sandwich' which has a shelf life of two weeks (or two years depending upon which newspaper you read). Myself prefer to make sarnies with a freezable filling, and then then have a 'frozen shelf-life' of as long as you wish (although pref not more than a couple of months).

With Gill phoning in half an hour, will give a bit of info about iron-rich foods. Doubt really there are 'special iron-rich' recipes anyway, as once we know what foods contain this, we should easily be able to introduce them to recipes of our own choice.

vegetarian sources of iron:
curry powder, ground ginger, seaweed, fortified breakfast cereals, lentils, cocoa powder, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, soya beans, soya mince, dried peaches, haricot beans, red kidney beans, cashew nuts, pot barley, couscous, bulgar wheat, dried apricots, dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, brown rice, baked beans in tomato sauce, broccoli.
Using cast-iron pots for cooking is also recommended.

non-veg. sources of iron:
chicken livers, lambs' liver, other offal and all red meats.

All sources of iron should be eaten with foods rich in Vitamin C as this aids the body to absorb iron. So a glass of orange juice with breakfast eggs is a good start to the day.

With that will love you and leave you so that this can be published before Gill's phone call (which will delay me for an hour). Want to sort the kitchen out today, so that next week will be back on track. Hope you will all enjoy today and join me again tomorrow. See you then.