Tuesday, September 20, 2011

More Chat, Chuntney's and Consumer Interests

Spent a few minutes yesterday preparing more 4 oz (100g) bags of s.r. flour ready for baking, as have used a fair amount over the last week, making two giant light fruit cakes (the first B demolished within a very few days - so made another yesterday), and various other things. As the 'prepped' bags of flour and sugar are 'dry goods' their bags can be re-used many times. Today must weigh out and bag up more sugar - probably have to whizz some up in the liquidiser to make caster from granulated to save me buying it 'ready-made'.

By request made some fish cakes for our visitors. Having tried some quality ones (these were not cheap!), decided to copy the idea of using several different fish and gently mix the flakes with the potato, rather than mashing it altogether. After poaching one fillet each of smoked haddock, salmon and 'white fish' in milk, removed skin and flaked the fish, then made up a batch of instant potato with the milk used for poaching - this adding more 'fish flavour'. Used instant because it freezes so well.
The recommended amount of fish to potato is half and half, but this time used a little more fish, adding a good handful of freshly gathered and finely chopped parsley, plus some ground black pepper. It made 7 good sized (by this I mean thick) fish cakes, which were then chilled and then dipped in egg and dried breadcrumbs. Three were fried as a 'starter for each', the rest frozen.

Having decided to make a three-cheese quiche to go with a Cold Meat Platter, also decided to make a pork pie as I had some short-crust pastry left. This too worked well, and for once the chicken stock didn't seep through the pastry, so the pie filling (which shrinks during cooking), had a good layer of well-set savoury jelly all round it.

This week is our local Farmers Market, and - if I finish my blog in time - hope to have a quick trip down there to see what fresh produce is available, and will buy some but only if the price is right. My decision to have a veggie box delivery every second week seems to have been scuppered. Went on to the site that formerly said they delivered in this area, and now it seems they don't.

It was good to have some comments to reply to today - so here goes:
Only if I get permission to give the name of the company that is setting up a web-site for me will I be able to give their details Les. It is a very new company, just starting up, so myself wish to see if they 'come up with the goods', also they cannot handle too many orders at this time. Slowly, slowly catchee monkey.

Good to hear your house sale has gone through Alison, and wish you well with your move. It will take some time to get a phone line in (although if you notify BT before you move believe that they don't charge for re-fitting a new line). Also getting your broadband set up will not be your first priority, but do hope it won't be too long before you are again sending in comments.
Very well done for making all those preserves. Just remember to take them with you!

No chance of me stopping 'rambling' T.Mills as can't stop. Our daughter's OH and I (when alone together)couldn't stop talking, and this has to be because both of us have no-one to talk to during the daylight hours, and with our own OH's, they have been with others all day (even B goes out and chats for hours with his s sailing buddies several days a week) and so want a quiet time when returning home.
When I asked B why he doesn't want to talk to me, he says it's because I keep on interrupting him. Probably I do, because when asked a question that requires a very short answer, he usually takes half an hour to get to the point, and I then try to short-cut and hurry him up so I can give my response. Then he isn't interested in my point of view.
You - my dear readers - are my captive audience and no way can you interrupt me whilst I'm in full flow. Hence the pages of 'rambling'.

Watched one of my favourite films again last night (if you can call it that) - The Shining. Have to say Jack Nicholson has the most evil eyes I've ever seen, and one man I would NOT like to be married to. It is the initial shots in the film that I find most enthralling, where the main character drives over vast areas of America (think it is supposed to be Colorado at the end) to have his interview. What a country for scenery. Admittedly there was one tiny bit which reminded me of a place in Yorkshire, but in this country more mini than maxi.
What also came to mind was that it isn't THAT long since America was colonised, and it took about a century before they got themselves in large enough numbers to start building towns, the roads being mainly 'dirt' ones. And now the millions of miles of good roads that have been built over the thousands of miles in the US connecting one town and one coast to another, the railroads, and now the huge cities and skyscrapers. How could it all be done in such short a time? Beloved said most was not built by the Americans themselves initially, but by the cheap labour brought in from other countries: Ireland, China etc. Did read that a lot of Native Americans were used for labour for they were so sure-footed they could walk across the sky-high girders when building sky-scrapers without fear of falling.

Came across another recipe for a tasty chutney - this made with store-cupboard ingredients. This is the good thing about kitchen cupboards/larder/pantry, usually they have all the ingredients to make quite a lot of different things without even needing to 'shop'.
As with many recipes, it is possible to change an ingredient slightly to make a slight difference to flavour and texture. Sugar for instance. The one in this recipe is a light brown, but a blend of white granulated with a very little dark muscovado could give a similar result. Use the vinegar as given, or instead use white wine vinegar (or even the clear distilled malt - but this will then give a stronger taste). Use ground herbs instead of whole, or raisins instead of sultanas. Use less garlic if you are not that keen (but do use some). The amount of salt could be reduced, but it is probably there as a 'preservative', so don't cut it down too much (or make a smaller amount of chutney and don't store it for too long).
Apricot Chutney: makes about 1 ltr (1.75 pints)
1 x 500g pack (16 oz) no-soak apricots
1 tsp whole coriander seeds
9 oz (250g) light brown sugar
16 fl oz (600ml) cider vinegar
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablspoons finely grated root ginger
2 - 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tsp salt
half tsp cayenne (or hot paprika) pepper
grated zest and juice of 1 medium orange
Chop the apricots into small chunks, then give them a rinse in cold water. Drain well and put into a large pan. Take a small frying pan or saucepan and 'dry-heat', then add the coriander seeds and keep shaking the pan until they begin to burst, then remove and grind down in a pestle and mortar. If using ground coriander just 'dry-roast' for a few minutes. Add to the apricots with the remaining ingredients, then place over low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved, then when it begins to simmer, cover and cook for about an hour (maybe less) until the apricots and onions are tender. Don't cook for too long or the chutney will end up too thick - it needs to be more like a chunky jam, which will thicken as it cools down. If still too runny, then boil up again and cook for 15 or so minutes longer.
Pot up into warm, sterilized jars, and seal immediately. Keep for one month before using. This eats well with roast pork, cooked ham, pork pies, sausages (in other words anything made with pork), and also goes very well with a strong Cheddar.

This next chutney is not made from dried 'pantry ingredients', but from fresh, but those that I hope many readers have to hand anyway (and grow their own). This is a traditional chutney made to accompany an Indian curry, so does not store as our traditional chutneys, but will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge and should be served at room temperature.
Piyaz Ki Chutney (onion chutney): serves 4
4 large onions, chopped
2 tsp garlic, crushed
5 oz (150g) mint leaves, chopped
10 oz (300g) coriander leaves, chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
salt to taste
Put all the ingredients in a food processor/blender, and start grinding down, adding a little water to bring it to a smooth thick puree. Pour into a bowl, cover and store in the fridge. Give a good stir before serving at room temperature.

This next is an Indian pickle "that goes with anything, and also makes an unusual sandwich spread" (if blitzed down to make it spreadable no doubt). A spicier version of our trad. Piccalilli, but won't keep as long. Asafoetida is a common ingredient in Indian cookery, and - on its own - has a strong smell of rotten eggs, but when mixed in small amounts with other ingredients, really enhances their flavour. Often fried before adding to other ingredients (as this calms down its rather overpowering smell) it is hardly worth buying asafoetida unless you cook a lot of Indian food, so - at a pinch (excuse the pun) it could be omitted from this pickle.
Subzion Ka Achar (quick vegetable pickle): serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
good pinch asafoetida (see above)
5 oz (150g) carrots, cut into strips
5 oz (150g) French (string) beans, cut in half
5 oz (150g) cauliflower florets
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp sugar
salt to taste
4 tsp lemon juice
Heat the oil in a small pan and add the mustard seeds. When they start to snap, crackle and pop, add the fenugreek seeds and fry until these turn dark. Remove, cool and grind down coarsely.
Put the remaining ingredients into a bowl, add the fried and ground seeds and mix everything together well.
Store in airtight bottles (Kilner jar type), keep in the fridge and use within a month.

Took a second look at a recent trade mag that arrived later (so was not commented on when it should have been). As a recent poll has shown that 50% of consumers never buy cottage cheese, and only 6% buying it regularly., so this product is being 're-designed' to move it out of 'it's mythical cottage and up consumer's streets'. So look out for a variety of flavour cottage cheese soon to come on supermarket shelves.

One article - I presume it is true or it wouldn't be in print - cause me some shock, horror. I quote:
"With the European commission investing £2.65m in a project to promote eating insects, it seems the hunt for novel sources of meaty protein to feed a growing world population has gone into overdrive. Grasshoppers and related creepy crawlies, it appears, are untapped sources of healthy, edible protein. Indeed the community has asked the FSA to investigate the ways to popularise insects as a menu option".
Not only that..."Artificial meat is currently being 'grown', 'cultivated' or 'reared' (not sure what the appropriate term is) in the laboratory. Made by multiplying stem cells from farm animals, so far this creation is described by promoters as "muscle-like strips of tissue". It's appearance is grey apparently, because this fake meat has no blood or iron. Nobody has a clue what it tastes like as it is currently being grown using fetal serum, which might be dangerous to humans, so sampling is banned"

Then I read...."squirrel has been talked up as the new right-on, free-ranging, health-promoting meat". The article finishes by saying "....with their pedigree as a time-honoured Asian snack, insects wouldn't have to meet the EU's novel food regulations, and almost anything meaty tastes good when cooked with liberal amounts of soy sauce, lemongrass, chilli and ginger".
Give another couple of generations and who knows what will be eaten? Have to say reading the above makes me almost glad to be old enough not to be able to wait to find out.

Have to give a mention to the fact that the babyfood has grown faster than any other product on the take-home food market, with sales rocketing by 60% over the past four years. "We're seeing more exotic recipes coming through at a higher price than more mainstream brands" says one company spokesman.
Sales of babyfood, drink and milk total £500m, and for the life of me cannot see why so many mothers (working or stay at home) prefer to spend loadsa money buying babyfood when it is SO simple to make with many foods home-cooked for the family meal - then frozen away in tiny containers (ice-cube trays etc) to thaw and reheat when needed.

When it comes to the unfavourable exchange rate with sterling v euros, the price of Swiss cheese will be rising fast. So if you enjoy using Gruyere and Emmental et al, then perhaps worth buying some now before it becomes too expensive. Or - like me - stick to the good English cheeses that we know and love.

A seafood company is launching a new range of 'seafood meal kits', starting with Malayan King Prawn Laksa, Kerala Seafood Curry, Sweet Thai Chilli Prawns, and Catalan Fish Stew. The rsp will normally be £5.99 a pack (which contains fresh seafood, prepared fresh vegetables and a sauce in separate compartments to be stir-fried to create a meal for two people in five - six minutes). These packs (from 7 Sept in some Sainsbury stores) should still be able to be found at the lower introductory price of £4.99p. The idea is great, but as ever - am sure we could buy the same quantity of 'fresh' fish and vegetables cheaper (and prepare them ourselves) and almost certainly buy small packs of the sauces also on sale separately. If the rsp pack price works out at £3 per portion, making the home-made version should end up virtually the same (and take no longer to cook once prepared) but end up far, far cheaper.

Ah, bless. Another little trick to 'save us rinsing used tea leaves out of tea-pot spouts' (who uses tea-leaves anyway these days?). Premier Tea has introduced a Magic Tea Wand A range of teas that includes blends, flavours, and pure loose whole leaf teas, packaged in individual wand-shaped aluminium foil infusers which acts as teabag, strainer and spoon, all in one. And they only cost £5 for 12 sticks. Barely more than 40p a cup!!! Personally, I'll stick to the bog-standard tea-bag use a mug and keep the cost of my cuppa down to the minimum.

The supplement that came with the mag-that-arrived-late was everything to do with milk. Have yet to read this fully, my eye caught only by the introduction of 'coloured and flavoured milk' as one of the new kids on the block. In my day used to add a spoon of Nesquick which served the same purpose.
If there is more of interest on the dairy front will give this a mention tomorrow.

Time for me now to go and start making steak and kidney pies with the braising steak/kidneys that have been slow-cooking in the crock-pot during last night. Have been using up most of our stock of Donald Russel meat offers over the last few months so today will be taking advantage (again) of their braising meat pack (minced meat, beef rib trim, brisket, shin beef, etc, plus loadsa free meat balls) that is currently on offer until the 2nd October. One great advantage of their delivery service (free with this offer) is the frozen meats come in fairly large and strong polystyrene boxes which make good 'cool boxes' to bring home frozen food in the boot of the car (or take on holiday when self-catering), and also look very similar to ceramic 'sinks' placed in the garden to hold a variety of flowering plants, and also make good containers to grow vegetables.

As ever, eleven o'clock has been reached and passed - blame me for rising late due to a good dream I did not wish to wake from. The blog will be shorter tomorrow due to it being Norma the Hair day, so hope I wake early enough to at least write something worth reading. Hope you can join me then. Have a good day.