Friday, September 09, 2011

It's Only Natural!

If I hadn't recently read the book about the evolution of our eating habits, today would be confessing - with great guilt - that AGAIN have ordered a delivery of food from Tesco (to be delivered today). At least have managed to wait until a week later than usual. The fact we have more than enough food in store to last up to and probably past Christmas (other than milk, eggs etc which could have been brought in by B from Morrisons) seems not to matter. Not even the fact we have visitors next week for several days is an excuse. No - it is just a natural compulsion that I now fully understand as being perfectly normal at this time of year. Thank goodness for that. Anyway - in my defence your honour - its only been a bare 50 years since the advent of supermarkets with seasonal food being available all year round, so this is hardly likely to alter millions of years of autumnal hunter-gathering that is entrenched in my genes.

For the same reason, this is why I find it extremely easy - as regular readers of the earlier years of this blog with remember - to padlock my purse immediately after the Twelve Days of Christmas, and live off my stores for as long as possible (think the early months of 2007 still show how it was done at that time - and for 10 weeks"). Again this is how it always used to be, and presumably will continue to be. Just beware the retail trade also know this.
As said yesterday, AFTER the winter solstice (or Christmastide as we know it now) we begin using up our stores, ending up with spring-cleaning our nests, and then begin all over again. So what do retailers tempt us with in the early months? Probably new products to engage that side of our 'needs'. Next January we will find out.

Another reason that I ordered more stores this month (well, 21st century common sense and recession also plays a part ) is that I had nearly £20 of money (points vouchers) that could be deducted from my bill, and almost ALL the items ordered were 'long-shelf life' and on offer, Bogofs, etc. So hopefully my bill should be AT LEAST half the amount I would normally expect to have paid. More on this tomorrow when I've had a chance to see the statement.
No doubt more food will be ordered between now and December, but probably not every month, and who knows - maybe I can fight my genes and be sensible. Having tried this several time 'at the wrong time of year', have to say it really makes me feel very insecure when I don't do what is 'natural', and even if I stay away from the supermarket - as you know - then tend to use my savings buying a stock of 'quality' meat/fish for our freezer - even though there is absolutely no reason for me to need the extra food at that time.

Every day now a squirrel runs along the top of the wall alongside our house and garden. Always at the same time, and I can watch it as I sit here and write. Around this time of year its activity is far more feverish. It runs along to the bit of fence where it can leap down to next door and pick up peanuts our neighbour throws down for it, and then jumps back on the fence and runs along to a different spot each time to bury the nuts. During the winter then see it running and collecting one at a time and sitting on the wall, holding the nut between its paws and eating it. If it can't find nuts, it digs up our smaller spring bulbs to eat.
This creature too (like many others) also has the seasonal genetic compulsion to store food for the lean times, so who am I to go against this very sensible and natural desire in the human race.

There will always be people who do not have this need to hunt for food. This can be because thousands of years ago when hunters became farmers, there was more time to do other things than just find food. After all, farming meant it food was practically on your doorstep. So this gave time for the brain to think of other things to do -like creating something. As women mainly stayed at home and continued the old way of preparing and cooking food for their family, they didn't change so much. Even so, genes are inherited from both mother AND father, and as some people still tend to be more food-orientated, others prefer to do something else. Feel that myself must have come from a long line of cooks.

Gardening (a domestic version of 'farming') is also another 'genetic' thing. Often people have an urge to grow things, but never have the ground, so instead they fill their house with pot-plants. Others don't bother with growing anything at all. Today, those who grow fresh produce to eat will satisfy this 'autumnal urge' by harvesting and preserving their home-grown in both old and new ways (the new includies freezing), and probably they don't have the same compulsion to supermarket shop because they are still filling their larder.shelves
Perhaps if our garden had been more fruitful this year, this would have kept my purse more tightly closed.

One good thing. We had our gas bill yesterday (the 'lekky' will probably arrive today/tomorrow), and because two previous ones had been estimated (the last being read properly), we now have overpaid (by monthly D.D.) just over £100. Not that this makes much difference as they now have doubled our monthly payment to allow for the increase in fuel prices. Mind you - earlier this year they reduced it by 2/3rds for some reason, so even with this increase (and probably the credit helps) we now will be more than in recent months, but a good £20 less per month than we did last year. Let us hope the electricity bill does not come up with too many horrors (it is normally low anyway and doesn't change whatever the weather conditions, which is more than you can say for the gas central heating last snowy winter).

Am having slight difficulty with logging on to this site. Apparently it needs to be updated to a new 'interface' and left as it is could 'get problems'. However, will continue (if it lets me) until my daughter can take a look at the site for me, as she is very computer literate and will sort it out for me, and before she leaves will make sure I can still keep 'blogging'. During their visit (and a day or two before) will be taking time off from writing so this coming Sunday will be the last blog until Saturday when I hope to be back sitting here again chatting to you all.

As ever, thanks for comments. Pleased you thought the apple recipes looked good Alison. Also Minimiser Deb was happy to have a dessert type recipe that can be cooked in a pan/griddle (always useful for camping). Will see if I can find other sweet 'griddle type' recipes and post them up another day. Don't forget that steamed puddings can also be cooked over a camp fire (more rapidly when using small individual pots than one larger one) which could be directly over the heat or in a steamer placed over a pan of vegetables or 'stew' that might be cooking at the same time.

Not sure what type of bulb my Beloved uses for the kitchen lights Les, will ask him and next time he can replace with LED if there are any that fit. He tends always to buy only the cheapest of anything, which is not always a good idea.
A good idea Sairy to use only the lights in the kitchen we need. All through the summer have managed with only three over the main kitchen area and one in front of the back door, now the room is getting darker (mainly due to cloud and of course lack of windows) and the usual feeling that when we have visitors (not family, more friends and neighbours) it looks better - and easier to work - if the kitchen is properly lit. As a central light with several bulbs looks better when all bulbs work. We always notice the one that doesn't.
But if any bulbs do stop working in the kitchen over the main area, it IS a good idea to replace with a working bulb from another part of the room that doesn't really matter. Also will look as though the kitchen has areas that can be lit separately.

You are getting good crops from your garden Sairy, and envy you your ripening tomatoes. Which variety do you grow? Myself have found that the 'Tumbler' did very well early on, but has recently seemed to have given up. The tomatoes were plentiful and ripened easily. The larger and plum tomatoes have had less fruits, and are very slow in ripening. Having said that, there is usually enough (two large and six or so small ones) to pick to last several days before going and picking more. In previous years (in Leeds) would have many and great trusses of tomatoes ripening that were enough to freeze, cook and eat raw - also give away. Here a lot of the flowers haven't set, even though I used to tap the branches every day to help the pollen float around, and flies etc used to be in the greenhouse.

Yesterday made a big batch of Jalfrezi Beef Curry for the freezer, and for B's supper he had egg, sausages, mini beefburgers, chips and peas. Myself had a brunch of toast (with naughty damson jam), and supper of sausage, a mini-burger, a very few chips and peas. Have to say that I found supper almost tasteless - as food seems to be these days, and now that I've read that taste buds disappear as we grow old, feel that I'm now destined to eating very boring meals. Only the highly spiced would give me any satisfaction, and these now cannot be eaten as it gives me indigestion. Sweet things are still pleasant to eat, but being diabetic.... It's not easy growing old. Thankfully (or maybe not) the storage of food has nothing to do (much) with the eating - this part I leave to my Beloved and any visitors that step through our door, so at least I can 'create' a meal that will satisfy part of my genetic makeup (both my dad and mum were good at making things and I seem to have a natural instinct to follow in their footsteps).

Flicking through 'More For Your Money', suddenly came across this dessert recipe is made with marrow (or very large courgettes). Because the book is based on 'do-it-yourself' (as far as possible) there is even a suggestion of using home-made marshmallows, and stock sugar syrup,so will give these recipes also.
Orange Marrow Delight: serves 4
1 small marrow (or end of a large one)
8 oz (225ml) sugar syrup
1 tblsp honey or golden syrup (opt)
2 oranges
2 oz (50g) brown sugar
2 oz (50g) home-made marshmallows
Peel and core the marrow. Cut the flesh into cubes and put in a pan with the sugar syrup and honey, adding a little water to cover (only if necessary) and simmer gently until the marrow has softened. Drain, cool and reserve the liquid.
Peel the oranges, removing as much pith as possible, then slice the fruit thinly, and cut each slice in half.
Arrange the marrow in a shallow baking dish, top with the orange slices and pour over 2 tbls of the syrup left from cooking the marrow. Sprinkle with brown sugar then bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the marshmallows on top and then put under a grill until the top is lightly browned.

sugar syrup:
2 lbs sugar
1 1/4 pints of water
Put the sugar and water into a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Swirl the pan to help dissolve the sugar, this prevents crystals reforming after cooling (as can happen when stirred with a spoon). Bring to the boil and simmer for 4 minutes, then leave to cool and pour into clean, sterilized jars. Cover and store in a cool place (pref the fridge although it normally keeps well anyway). Use for sorbets, fruit salads, soft drinks, desserts (as above recipe) and for making candied peel.

2 egg whites
2 oz (50g) sugar
1 sachet gelatine
red/pink food colouring (opt)
icing sugar
Beat the egg white and sugar together in a bowl standing over simmering water. Dissolve the gelatine in a very little tepid water, then beat this into the egg whites/meringue. If you wish divide into two equal portions, leave on as-is (white) and add beat a little food colouring into the other.
Put the mixture in a shallow baking tin and spread to an even layer. Leave to set then cut into squares or shapes using very small cutters that have been dipped in icing sugar. Remove shapes and toss in icing sugar to coat, then leave on a wire rack until the surfaces are quite dry. Store in poly bags or airtight containers.

This next recipe is a continuation of the marshmallow one. When we lived in Leicestershire, these 'snowballs' were made at a local factory for sale in the stores, and we could often buy 'mis-shapes' for very few pence. My Beloved LOVED them, so this is why - when we moved to Leeds - I had to keep making them to keep him happy.
Make the marshmallow mixture as above, but instead of spreading it flat in a tin, leave it in the bowl until set. Have ready a bowl of melted chocolate and a container holding desiccated coconut. Scoop out the marshmallow using a large spoon (a soup spoon gives a good shape), impaling one at a time on a fork, then quickly coat all over with melted chocolate and sprinkle with the coconut. These can be stored in the fridge for several days, but also freeze well (in a rigid container as they are easily squashed).

Final recipes today use a frying pan or griddle (aka 'bakestone'). The first is for a type of bread that would be useful to make when camping as the pan/griddle should never be too hot, or the dough will scorch instead of baking through thoroughly and evenly. The 'plank' is not wood, but is a Welsh name given to a bakestone. The second recipe is another type of small 'cake'.

The yeast used in this old farmhouse recipe for bread would almost certainly be fresh yeast, but a sachet of the powdered instant yeast we use more often today should still work. However, the instructions are for making the yeast 'froth' in the old-fashioned way, so adapt the recipe accordingly. The type of flour is not specified, but would certainly be plain flour, and possibly strong plain (bread) flour.
As this recipe is virtually the same as when making a normal bread dough, possibly a 'bread mix' could be used (useful when camping), and worth experimenting cooking a small amount of dough in a frying pan on the hob when next making bread to bake in the oven.
Plank Bread:
2 lbs flour
1 oz yeast
1 oz lard
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 breakfastcup tepid milk and water
Warm the flour and put into a warm bowl. Rub in the lard. Put the yeast into a jug with the sugar and mix in the milk and water. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the liquid. Mix to a soft dough, then cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place to rise for an hour, then mould into a large, flat cake, kneading and pressing with the hands towards the sides. When shaped it should not be more than 1 1/4" inch thick.
Leave to rise for 15 minutes then place carefully on the pre-heated, but not too hot 'plank' (aka bakestone) which is already over the fire, and bake for 20 minutes on one side, then turn and bake for a further 20 minutes on the other side.

Welsh Cakes: makes about 20
2 oz (50g) butter
2 oz (50g) lard
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
3 os (75g) sugar
pinch of salt
2 oz (50g) raisins or currants
1 tsp mixed spice
1 egg
1 tblsp milk
Blend the butter and lard together, then work into the flour with the sugar and salt. Add the fruit and spice and mix into a pastry-like dough with the egg and milk. Roll out to about 1/4" (5mm) thick and cut into rounds. Dry heat a frying pan over medium heat for five minutes, then rub surface with lard. Place on as many cakes as will fit on the pan (allowing a little room inbetween) and cook for 4 - 5 minutes on each side. Eat warm or cold with butter, or sprinkled with sugar.

Friday again, how fast the time seems to fly by. They do say the older we are the quicker time goes, and this does seem to be true. Can remember when a school day of hated lessons seemed to take longer than a week (or even month).
Please join me again tomorrow, when I can reveal whether my purchases were worth getting after all. Sunday - if the trade mag has arrived - will be giving more retails 'secrets'. 'Watchdog' on BBC1 last night were showing the way that many foods now are being sold at the same price as before BUT with smaller weights. Something that was mentioned in the trade mag last week and so was able to share that info with you last Sunday. It's quite fun when WE know well before the media tells everyone else.
Regarding the slightly smaller tins of chocolates (11 choccies less than previously for the same money), at the moment, more than one supermarket is selling the tins (and possibly the original larger ones as 'old stock') at half-price at the moment. So worth buying now ready for the festive season. Myself use the empty tins for storing biscuits or cakes, and even (when greased and lined) have used them as baking tins.

To make it easy to remove a decorated or fragile cake from a deep tin, stand the cake on the lid and place the deep base over to cover. Just remember to stick a note on it to remind everyone (including yourself) that the tin must not be turned the right way up!!!

Am rambling on again. Must go. See you tomorrow.