Monday, September 19, 2011

Taste of Things to Come

A thank you to all who wrote in while this blog was 'off the air'. Our daughter and S.I.L. managed to sail at time arranged which happened to be in the 'eye of the storm', so not too blustery a crossing. They decided to stay an extra day with us before moving on to stay with our grandson. A good(e) time was had by all, me mainly in the kitchen cooking my little heart out in the hope of pleasing all who ate around the table. Have to say the new 'dining' table in the conservatory worked a treat - so convenient to the kitchen as it is at one end, also the table large/long enough to load up with plenty of food so that everyone cna help themselves (or pass the dishes around).

The weather was fairly good, with Thursday being one of the best days of this year with lovely autumnal sunshine. I've never seen the Bay look so beautiful late afternoon - the low sun lighting up the Lakeland hills, and all seemed close enough to touch. This followed by a wonderful sunset.
Following day it was cloudy and rained off an on. In the Lakes (where our family went for the day, it apparently poured down all day). Still - all in all - feel they had a really lovely time.

Have learned a few new 'tricks' with the computer, and also how to make better use of my camera, so hopefully more foodie pics will soon be appearing on this site. More importantly have been given the name of a small and new company who sets up websites for people (the professional sort, not basic 'blogging', and almost certainly will be starting a new site dealing purely with cost-cutting recipes, leaving this site for my 'ramblings' and recipes requested by readers. How the new site will work has yet to be sorted, so it could take months before it gets going, but will let you know if and when it does.

This week has again given us more doom and gloom when it comes to the nation (and European) affairs. Thank goodness we still have our own currency as there is a danger the euro will collapse. If it does, so might be the end of the EU (and maybe we should be thankful for that).
Then we here about ballots for strikes, big ones if the ballot goes the wrong way. Also another increase in electricity charges. We hear also that food prices have risen over the past year with an average household having to spend more than £300 a year to keep their standard of eating much the same.

The late arrival of the trade mag last week didn't really matter as there wasn't much in it worth giving a mention. This week's (arrived yesterday) had more to comment on, but as ever - nothing really good. What is apparent is that despite continually rising prices, the trade seems to expect that everyone has enough money to buy the 'readies' and particularly snacks and 'food-on-the go'. A supplement to the mag this week dealing with these says:
"Consumer habits are constantly changing because of the economic climate - we're all facing increased pressures, be it time or financial, and the pace of life is faster and the general work life balance poorer. This has inevitably resulted in the growth of the food-on-the-go market. The trend for all-day grazing has become more prominent, affordable treats have become a way to brighten up the working day or evening at home, and the vast range on snacks on offer has resulted in them often being used as a meal replacement - particularly for lunch. We believe this is a trend set to continue".

Reading the whole supplement - packed with all the new varieties, details and adverts of the new 'snacks' to soon appear on my shelves, have to say that even I am tempted. For I too love 'snacking', and cannot wait to buy a large tub of Pringles new sausage and bacon flavoured.

The mention that these new flavours and products fulfil our insatiable appetite for seeking something new to eat - and "consumers continue to explore...searching out new flavours...." proves the point that the trade is taking advantage of this ancient instinct of ours as mentioned recently in an earlier posting. This makes it even harder to keep our purses tightly padlocked.
Possibly our need to 'comfort-eat' due to the stress and pressures of today's recession, is also behind this encouragement to keep us snacking. But at least we should be able to make/bake enough ourselves without having to resort to buying something to nibble at.

What does concern me is reading trade 'comments' such as: "that, being affordable, crisps are a treat that people don't have to forfeit, however tough times get". As B recently brought me a bag of crisps - slightly larger than normal - but not THAT big, and the price 70p (!!!) printed on the pack, myself knowing that a main course for one could easily be made for that money, makes me wonder whether the trade's 'affordable' is different to mine. Or does everyone else have more money that I have to spend on food?

Here have to give a mention to that wonderful site that I was showing my daughter. We came across a page with all the recipes listed (and shown in pics - click on and then you get the recipe), but not only that, it gave loads of info on each such as how much it costs to make just one portion, and with so many working out as less than 10p, it behoves every reader to take a look just to prove how it isn't THAT difficult to feed a family of four on no more that £25 a week.

Oh, yes. Another little bit of nonsense (as far as I'm concerned) is Aunt Bessie's new frozen Yorkshire puddings each looking like a round-ended canoe so one sausage will fit neatly inside each and their rsp will be £1.69p for six). Apparently another company is now making oblong beef burgers specially shaped to fit into ciabatta or baguette breads (rsp £2 - £3 for a pack of three burgers).

Returning to the 'snacks'. Expect to see lots of new shapes and spicy flavours with crisps, tortillas, popcorn, nuts, dips, jerky, soft and hard cheeses.... and am only thankful I order my groceries on-line so can avoid them all, for just KNOW I would grab a pack or ten whilst passing down the 'snacking' aisles.

Gave another shake to my head when I read about a product called 'Breakfast in Bread': frozen, ready to bake, bread-based snacks with fillings such as cheese and ham, spicy chicken, cheese and onion, as well as sweeter fillings. Why go to the bother if they have to be baked anyway - why not use the time to cook a full traditional 'English' ? Or - for a lighter breakfast: scrambled eggs on toast? Or cheese and ham on toast?

For those who enjoy drinking tea made from tea leaves (rather than tea 'dust' used in tea-bags) will now be able to enjoy the leaves packed in a cube-shaped tea-bag. It has to be quality tea of course as the price tag is £7.50p for a bag containing just eight tea-bags. However, each bag makes one pot, and can be used three times. Suppose how much a cuppa will cost depends upon how many one pot will fill.

Thankfully, this week Tesco was the store that had the cheapest shopping basket, and for once, without having one item that undercut the others by several pounds. Still plenty of items in this week's basket that would not end up in mine, such as Cadbury's Chocolate Eclairs, Rose wine, Baby Bedtime Bath, mango, Nimble bread, Quorn mini savoury eggs, Red Bull (beer?), and a few others. Tesco also ran the most promotions (20) their savings on the basket being £1.76p as against Waitrose (minus 7p).

Each week the trade mag gives so much information that is useful to us 'consumer's, but certainly depressing to me for it is always all about 'what's new', and the ways just about every manufacturer, producer and store is out to get our money. What was once a normal shopping experience to buy food to cook the family's meals for a week, has now turned into 'forget the meals, let us provide them all for you, plus a lot more besides". And, "all we want is for you to have plenty of treats while the depression lasts'. And most of us fall for it. Now and again. At times of weakness.

If we have to find pleasure by working our way through endless bags of bought 'snacks', then there has to be something wrong with our lives. More pleasure can be found making our own 'nibbles' (if nibbles we have to have), so why not not make a start? Here are a few suggestions (some naughty, but nice).

This first is a good way to use up stale (Madeira-type) cake crumbs. By adding chopped walnuts, dried apricots, sultanas or raisins, grated orange zest, desiccated coconut etc, you can change the flavours, and a few drops of vanilla, almond essence, or rum/whisky etc, can also improve the end product.
Chocolate Truffles: makes 16
4 oz (100g) plain or milk chocolate
3 fl oz (75g) condensed milk
4 oz (100g) cake crumbs
2 oz (50g) ground almonds
4 oz (100g) icing sugar
cocoa powder/icing sugar for coating
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. When fully melted, stir in the remaining ingredients, then roll the mixture into small balls. Put on a plate and chill in the fridge until set. When firm, roll in cocoa or icing sugar (or do half in one, half in the other). These will keep in the fridge for a week.

This next recipe is one given before, but by adding a little chilli powder, cumin, or any other spice you wish to each batch, or maybe even finely grated Parmesan, you can end up with different flavours. Blending a little tomato puree into the liquid will also add colour and flavour. The basic recipe is given, you can then experiment. If you have only salted butter, then use half a tsp of salt. Celery salt/garlic salt could be used instead to give yet another flavour.
Nachos: makes about 5 dozen
9 oz (250g) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tblsp unsalted butter
4 fl oz (100ml) semi-skimmed milk (warmed)
oil for frying
paprika (opt)
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt (with any spices if used). Stir in the milk and leave to stand for 15 minutes.
Divide mixture into 12, then roll out each very thinly into circles, cutting each into four or five triangles. Shallow fry a few at a time for 3 minutes on each side, then drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle unflavoured cooked nachos with paprika. Store in an airtight container.

More substantial than a crisp, but still has the same 'crunch' appeal, these are made from pitta bread (white or wholemeal). The basic recipe is given here, but the bread could be spread lightly with Marmite, or sprinkled with Parmesan (or spices) before being baked, to give a selection of flavours. Bake the trimmings as well as the circles as these can be used for 'dips' (as can the circles).
Pitta 'Crisps': makes 12
1 pitta bread
1 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
First prepare a baking sheet by spreading the surface with the oil mixed with the garlic.
Split open the pitta along one long edge to open up to make two flat halves. Place these with the insides face down, and cut into rounds with a 1 1/4" (3cm) scone cutter. Place the rounds on the prepared baking sheet, they can touch but not over-lap, and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about 15 minutes or until crisp and golden. Cool on a cake airer, then store in an air-tight container where they should keep for several days. Eat the flavoured ones as 'nibbles', or use with dips, or spread each with a meat or fish paste (aka pate), and serve as canapes.

Next recipe is for an Indian 'crunch', and with the recipe stating that once made it can be stored in an airtight jar for up to 3 months (use as required), could be a useful nibble to keep in the larder.
Cornflake Chiwda (cornflake crunchie):
1 1/4lb (600g) cornflakes
6 tblsp pine nuts
4 tblsp chopped dates
5 oz (150g) salted crisps, crushed
6 tblsp cashew nuts
2 tblsp sunflower oil
large pinch asafoetida
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
half tsp dried cumin
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
Mix the cornflakes, pine nuts, dates, crisps and cashew nuts together.
Put the oil in a frying pan and add the spices. Fry for a couple of minutes, then pour over the cornflake mixture. Mix well then put into a large bag with the sugar and salt and shake gently to blend all the ingredients. Store in an airtight jar/tin.

There are other easy 'nibbles' we could make. Crispy bacon, crispy fried onions, parsnip 'crisps', garlic croutons, cheese straws, all far cheaper than any similar on sale. So - if we feel the need to treat ourselves (and others), then at least make sure we are doing it the cheapest and healthiest way possible. It can even take less time than trawling a supermarket to find something to tempt us.

With that thought, will leave you today and myself try and catch up with all that should have been done last week. Certainly now have a few empty places in the fridge and freezer due to my family's healthy appetites, and am very pleased, as now have room to make/bake and store/freeze for the coming colder weather.

It was SO good having more than just my Beloved to feed. How I wish it was like it all the time. Still, soon be October when our planned curry dinner (for hopefully six - or more) is due to happen. Can't wait.

With the leaves on the trees already changing colour, it could be we are in for an early start to the winter weather. The nights are drawing in and in a few weeks the hour will be going back from BST to GMT, then it really will feel like summer is far behind (what summer?). Even so - this gives us a chance to start eating those slow-cooked suppers again, and nothing better than coming in from work to an aroma of casserole meeting us as we walk in through the kitchen door.

Until tomorrow. Hope you all enjoy your day, and will meet up with those of you who can find the time to 'drop in for a 'coffee-read' tomorrow. See you then.