Saturday, October 08, 2011

Another weekend to do things with...

Not sure where I am at the moment, but getting there slowly. We had a welcome visit from our daughter who had a friend staying with her so baked another batch of scones to eat with butter, jam and cream when they arrived for coffee. Our daughter looks so much happier now she is back at home, she has had some results from the lumbar puncture, and her doctor is trying to get her an earlier appointment to see a specialist/consultant (the original appointment being sometime this coming December!!).

The scones still failed my Shirley test, just wish I could get them to be flatter on top and higher. I USED to make quite good scones, but obviously not recently. Perhaps my raising agents are too old and need new stock.

My daughter noticed the (now) very tall and chewed Romanesco plant which again this year has not produced what it should. After she and friend left, they called back and gave B (who answered the door) a 'proper' Romanesco for me that they must have seen on sale. It is far too beautiful to cook and eat, I can't stop looking at it. Nature has some wonderfully creative moments.

Loads of comments came in yesterday, and grateful thanks for these. Two gave me the full rhyme for the magpies (so nothing unpleasant to happen when it comes to seeing seven thank goodness). Also thanks for all your good wishes for our daughter.

You bought some good bargains Woozy. I really must start shopping in-store and probably save more money than shopping on-line (only I do get easily tempted when actually IN the shops). As to using breast of lamb, did give some recipes recently for this - and if there is not much meat on the bones, probably better to cut them into ribs, par-boil them then drain and coat with sticky glaze and finish them off in the oven in the same way we would make pork spare ribs (as eaten with a Chinese meal). However, have included a recipe today that might be able to make use of the breast meat (if you can remove it from the bones). Don't worry about the amount being correct - as with most meat, use what you have. Even a small amount can be enough to give a recognisable flavour.

Eileen too got some great bargains from (was it?) Morrisons. Can't wait to go shopping there again. Perhaps next week.
The 'tapenade spread' bread dough (rolled up like a Swiss roll) sounded a lovely idea. Suppose it could also have been cut into thick slices and baked cut sides up like Chelsea buns. Please let us know what it tasted like.
By the way, never realised it before, but have recently learned that black olives are not ripened green olives. Olives are always green, the black colour is given them by soaking them in the ink from an octopus (or is it squid?). I quite liked black olives until I knew that. So another thing strict vegetarians and especially vegans have to avoid eating.

Not sure whether birds are ALWAYS God's messengers Julie, but do believe they can foretell some events. I always get a shudder when I hear a solitary crow cawing on a roof close by. Do remember (several times) when really unhappy, maybe due to a family death, when I sort of prayed that I would be given a sign that they were still OK and happy, and "please could you send me a butterfly so that I know you've heard me", and - lo and behold - a butterfly would always fly over the high hedge and dance in front of me before it flew away. And this around the time when butterflies were few and far between.

Pleased that your tomatoes are now ripening Urbanfarmgirl. All of ours have now been safely gathered in, and also all have been eaten. Can't say they had much flavour, but certainly a bit more than the supermarket ones which have virtually no flavour at all.

Have never heard of the chillies you gave names to Lisa. Over here we are more familiar with the ones called 'jalapeno' and the very hot (to us Brits at least) ' Scotch Bonnet'. There are others on sale - both fresh and dried - that have longish thin pods, both red and green, which we recognise have having some heat, but not even sure if they are named.
Usually, when adding chillis (on any variety) to a dish, we use the type and amount that suits our personal taste, so you could do the same. I don't think the variety really matters - it is up to the cook's choice.

As to lamb, have heard before that lamb is not eaten much in America. Over here it is as popular (if not more) than beef. But then we rear a lot of sheep on our hills and salt marshes (also importing lamb from New Zealand!)
Having watched (more than once as a favourite film) "Brokeback Mountain", am surprised that - seeing the thousands of sheep - that lamb is not so widely available in the US.

Sorry to read Susan G and Caio that your comments have not been coming through. At least the problem now seems solved. So look forward to hearing more from you in the near future.

Polly has also been harvesting the last of her bean and tomato crops. Myself sowed a string bean seed in a flower pot (from a pack bought recently to sow next year). It has been growing on the conservatory windowsill and there are several beans on it almost ready to pick, so look forward to a better crop next year when the seeds will be sown into big veggie sacks.

Most recipes for potted shrimps are the same Susan G, and although I absolutely love fresh cooked and peeled brown shrimps, am not keen on them 'potted' for some reason. Even though the potted Morecambe Bay shrimps are renowned, still prefer them 'au naturel'.

Some recipes add just freshly ground nutmeg and a pinch of cayenne, others may add a couple of blades of mace, but it is these spices that give the potted shrimps their flavour. Here is how to prepare them...
Potted Shrimps:
4 oz (100g) butter
pinch cayenne pepper
2 blades of mace (opt)
a good grind of nutmeg (to taste)
1 pint peeled brown shrimps
extra melted butter (pref clarified) for coating
Put the butter in a saucepan with the cayenne, mace (if using) an nutmeg. When the butter has melted, stir in the shrimps and let them heat through (but do not boil) for a couple of minutes, then remove blade mace (if using) and spoon the shrimps into six small ramekin dishes. Pour the remaining butter in the pan over them, giving each dish a tap to get rid of any air bubbles. The shrimps need to be covered with the butter, so it may be necessary to melt a little more and pour this on top to seal.
If you wish to freeze potted shrimps, then probably best to pot them up in small plastic tubs (similar to the ones they are sold in).

At least the trade mag has arrived today. They said they sent it last week and almost certainly B put it on top of the papers that he later took to the tip later that day, as hunt as I may, I couldn't find it. But there you go!
Will need to sit and read the mag before I report on what's new in the consumer world, so today will do that and let you know all the secrets tomorrow.

We had take-away fish 'n chips last night. B went and bought them from a different place than usual, and I was not pleased for the fish was (I am sure) NOT haddock as it didn't have the lovely thick white flakes that I love, and the batter was over-cooked and too crispy (although I normally like crispy). The chips - as ever - were soggy, but at least I didn't have to cook it. Even though I love cooking, it is just nice to have on or two days a month when the meal is prepared by someone else. How I wish B would cook a meal for me, even if only once a month. He does (very rarely) throw something together for himself, but forgets I exist at those times.

When we don't feel like cooking - but still have to - then a quickly made dish is the one to choose. So try this one for size. Chicken livers are incredibly cheap (less than 50p pack from the supermarket - two packs should be enough to feed four). On the other hand - if you have left-over cooked sausages, these can be sliced and used instead of the livers - OR as well as.
In a recent prog saw an Italian chef giving a very good 'preparation' tip re cooking pasta. When the pasta has got to ALMOST 'al dente', remove from the heat, drain (but do not rinse), then spread out onto a baking sheet and sprinkle olive oil on top, giving the sheet a good shake so the pasta gets coated with the oil (this prevents it sticking together). When ready to finish off a dish, plunge the pasta back into boiling water and give it 2 minutes cooking and it will be ready to use/serve.
Chicken Liver and Mustardy Pasta: serves 4
14 oz (400g) short pasta shapes (fusilli. penne, macaroni etc)
salt and pepper
1 tsp olive oil
1 onion (pref red) thinly sliced
9 oz (250g) approx, chicken livers, roughly chopped
4 tblsp white wine
2 tblsp creme fraiche (or Greek yogurt)
1 tblsp wholegrain mustard
1 - 2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
Cook the pasta as per packet instructions (see tip above). Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion over low heat until softened, then add the chicken livers and cook for 5 minutes (don't overcook, they should still have a touch of pink in the centre). Add the wine and simmer for a further minute.
Remove from heat and stir in the creme fraiche/yogurt, mustard. Remove 2 tblsp of the cooking water from the pasta pan and add this to the liver/mustard mixture. Add seasoning to taste, then drain the pasta, returning it to its pan, and pour over the chicken liver 'sauce', add the parsley, give it a stir then serve.

This next recipe is also a fairly quick one to cook. Slightly spicy but still mild, the 'heat' can be increased by adding some extra hot paprika, chilli powder, cayenne or harissa.
The vegetables can be varied and - at this time 0f the year - use butternut squash, pumpkin, swede, parsnip, as well as (or instead of) some of those suggested.
It saves time if extra stock is used, some being boiled and used to soak the couscous whilst the rest is used to cook the veggies, then both will be ready for serving at the same time.
Couscous with Spicy Vegetables: serves 6
1.75 pints (1 ltr) chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp paprika pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
3 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 carrots cut into large dice
1 white turnip, peeled and chopped
2 courgettes, chopped
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
11 oz (300g) couscous
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained and heated through
salt and pepper
Put the stock into a large saucepan with the paprika and cumin and bring to the boil, then add the potatoes, carrots and turnip and boil for 7 minutes, then add the courgettes and cook for a further 8 minutes (or until the veggies are just tender). Fold in the tomatoes to heat through. Then drain veggies (reserving liquid) and keep warm.
Put the couscous into a bowl and pouring over the reserved (boiling) stock - it should cover the couscous by at least an inch), cover and leave for 15 minutes for the liquid to be absorbed, then fluff up the couscous with a fork, stir in the heated chickpeas and pile the cooked veggies on the top. Serve immediately.

Here is a recipe that would normally use stewing lamb that has had as much fat and gristle removed as possible, and the flesh cut into bite-sized pieces. The barley 'bulks' out the dish, adding good flavour and also helps to thicken the sauce. A perfect dish for a cold autumnal (or winter) day.
Lamb Casserole with Carrots and Barley: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 lb (450g) stewing lamb (see above)
2 onions, sliced
1 lb (450g) carrots, sliced
4 ribs celery, sliced
2 - 3 tblsp pearl barley
stock or water
salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a flame-proof casserole and add the prepared lamb, stir-frying until it is browned all over, then add the vegetables and fry these for a couple or so minutes before stirring in the pearl barley. Add enough stock or water to cover, plus seasoning to taste, then cover and either simmer gently on the hob or cook in a slow oven (150C, 300F, gas 2) for 1 - 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender. Check during the cooking and if necessary, add a little more stock/water. When ready, serve immediately with jacket or mashed potatoes and your choice of green vegetables.

Beloved was due to have his flu jab this morning, he has just popped his head through the door to say he forgot (but only by half-an hour so he may be in time to tag onto the end of the queue). Even I forgot to remind him (normally he relies on me to remind him about everything - as it saves him the trouble I suppose), but then he is a big boy now and time he should start remembering things for himself. We were going together, in which case I would have made sure we got there, but (luckily for me) the diabetic nurse gave me my jab when at the surgery last Monday.

After a day or two of terrible weather, yesterday suddenly decided to dramatically improve and although colder, we had blue skies, little white fluffy clouds and sunshine most of the morning and all afternoon. Today it is back to being windy, cloudy and grey skies again. Snow has been forecast for parts of Scotland and the high hills in the north of England, but will believe that when I see it. It is incredible to think that just over a week ago we were all sweltering in the type of heat and weather that Brits go abroad to try and reach. But how lovely it was while it lasted. Nearly a whole week!

Must now go and try and think up some sort of dish that can use the Romanesco (and probably take a photo of it before it is cut up to be cooked, then I can keep admiring it). Being Saturday (nothing much on TV) will probably spend much of the day baking cakes etc. There are worse things to do.

Hope to meet up with you all again tomorrow. Don't work too hard, the weekend should be for relaxing (I suppose), but also a good time to do some cooking. Let me know how you get on.