Friday, October 14, 2011

Continuing the Chat...

Many thanks to all those who wrote to say they didn't mind if my blog was published late, just keep on with the chat (or words like that). A new name cropped up: B&B Brugge (so welcome) who appeared to think yesterday's blog was excellent. Hope he/she wasn't having a laugh as I consider all my blogs to be hardly worth reading at all. Even took a look back to see 'wot I wrote' (as can never remember), and didn't find it interesting (at least to me) at all. Probably because most of it I've already said before in similar vein.

My main reply today is to Lisa, her comment made me realise how our countries differ in so many ways. In fact the 'out back' is probably more an Australian name (or is that 'in the bush'?). Here we ARE much the same as you. Outside the 'built-up areas' we call it 'living in the country'. We also say 'living in the sticks' if accommodation is sited well away from others - much in the same way as you said. We don't really have any reason to go further than that as - unlike the larger continents - there is never THAT many miles between one property and another.
Now - when it comes to built up areas. In the past the UK was originally just a lot of little villages (other than a very few ancient towns such as London, York etc (built to be a township by the Romans). Even now we can drive through towns and define the original 'village' areas as we go through - usually by seeing the old stone or brick walls that still remain around the gardens. We see different areas of architecture that show when the Georgian, Victorian, and Edwardian houses were built (and most still remain). The towns expand as more people begin to live there, so around the nucleus more modern houses are built (and many look quite out of place.
To get an idea, the smallest collection of cottages (nothing else) is usually called a 'hamlet'. A village proper always has a church (some have spires, some have towers according to the region) and almost always a pub (often more than one of these), and - in the past - a village shop or two (although sadly now the latter are disappearing due to the supermarkets taking custom - even if you have to drive 20 miles to get there!). Then a larger village would grow and become a town, certainly a church, probably a lot of pubs and also many shops. In rural areas these would be called a 'market town' (as probably cattle markets and farmers' markets would be held there. Two towns close by would still be considered separate by people living there, but due to new property being built between the two are often lumped together - this I believe is given the title as a 'conurbation'. Over here Leeds/Bradford is an example. As is Lancaster/Morecambe. If I'm right, the Los Angeles/Beverley Hills/Hollywood is something similar. Once separate, now 'lumped together'.

Greater Manchester and Birmingham - like London - are an example of how many quite large towns have now become one. But however large a town is - it can only be called a 'city' if it has a cathedral, and not every cathedral city is large.
A very large town/city - such as London (and probably Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds....) is now often called a 'metropolis'. Almost every district in London (Soho, Greenwich, Chiswick, Chelsea, Hammersmith, Eltham, Blackheath, Shepherd's Bush, Acton... and the many others others, all were originally villages and small townships, many still retaining their identity within the melting pot.

To prevent our country ending up a mass of buildings, linking one village/town to another, outside each large 'conurbation' (and sometimes between them) we now have a 'green belt' where no building is allowed. To house more people, we now build 'high-rise' property - a bit like mini-skyscrapers up to ten stories high which give living accommodation on one floor - which we call 'flats' (sometimes apartments) - a bit like the US 'condos'?
These are ugly, we don't like high rise anything much, it spoils our view of the more 'traditional', but suppose we grudgingly have to accept some to keep our green fields intact. The London 'Gherkin' is quite attractive but not a lot else (at least to me).

Watched Joanna Lumley's 'Greek Odyssey' yesterday evening. Myself have much interest in ancient cultures, particularly Roman, Greek and Egyptian. All those antiquities and the country is almost on its knees re finance at the moment. Perhaps the reason why is that they don't seem to rate money very highly. It showed one of several night clubs where people now throw flowers as a sign of appreciation to the dancers/singers (in the old day they threw plates, but this is now forbidden as people used to get hurt). Apparently it costs a king's ransom to buy a tray of flower to throw - and it was said that people would pay as much for the flowers as it would cost to buy a car - and that just on one night!!! When asked why, a man replied (in so many words) "why worry about money, we live to enjoy the moment, and tomorrow can look after itself".
You could say we are getting a bit this way ourselves since credit cards came on the scene. Spend, spend, spend and then have a mountainous bill to pay at the end - most only being now afford to pay the interest, which means the balance still remains to be paid. If we could only all live within our means and be satisfied with what we have, then things could be so much better (sounds contrary but think you know what I mean).

Although not having any real interest (or knowledge) in politics, feel myself that when the nation controlled our infrastructure (or whatever it is called), such as owning the gas, electricity, rail, coal-mines etc, then prices remained relatively lower (compared with income) than today. Once these were sold, then the fat cats bought shares and wanted more money by way of dividends, so prices rose - and continue to rise. We have only to see how the gas/electricity/petrol companies keep charging us more when often they are able to purchase the fuel for less cost than previously. Same with supermarkets. Food prices keep rising (possibly due to production costs and crop failures) but if the stores can still make so much profit, then surely they could cut prices still further and just make a smaller profit. Just as long as no losses are made then everyone should be happy.
There are times when I think the communist system had the right idea. Not that I am a 'red', just believe that the people should come first. All should be equal and if we work harder then we should be able to earn more, not just pocket thousands by sitting back and being a share-holder. But then - as so always happens - some of us are more equal than others.
Many of today's 'inventions' were almost given to us by the inventors who hadn't a thought of making money from them. Such as the man who thought up the 'cat's eyes' in the roads. Am sure we don't grudge anyone making money from a great idea, but all too often others take over (if not patented) and become millionaires on the back of others who have done all the work.
Obviously this is now leading to another swarm of bees coming from my bonnet shaped like a hive, so had better puff a smoke screen out to calm myself down. And I don't even smoke! Perhaps a cup of coffee will do the trick. Or maybe turning my thoughts to food. That's a good(e) idea!

My thoughts are again returning to Kale, this because it is one of the most nutritious of 'greens' and it makes good sense to eat it as often as we can for if we eat all the 'right foods' to keep our body healthy, this could lead us to eating less of the 'bad things', and this also helps us save money.
Here are some interesting facts: Kale was a very important vegetable in the old 'domestic economy' as it helped keep cottagers alive at the back end of winter. Always choose young kale leaves as the old can be too strongly flavoured and bitter. Tender young leaves are very tasty and can have many uses for the cook. Really young tender kale can be eaten raw, with a mixed leaf salad or one its own with a lemony dressing.
Best used as soon as possible after picking, kale can also be kept in a plastic bag for up to three days in the fridge - longer storing will increase the bitterness of the leaves. Kale can also be chopped, put into freezer bags and frozen.

In season from autumn to spring, kale is improved with some frost. Harvest like broccoli. Top leavees first, then young leaves from the sides. To prepare for cooking, trim off all stringy stalks, then wash leaves and thinly slice or prepare as recipe requires.
to boil kale: chop or thinly slice leaves, add boiling water to come half-way up the leaves, add seasoning to taste, and simmer for 2 - 3 minutes until tender, then drain and serve with a knob of butter.
steamed kale: prepare leaves as for boiling, then place in a steamer above boiling water and steam for 2 - 3 minutes. Add butter when serving.

For those who wish to grow-their-own, good varieties of curly-leaf kale are Nero di Toscana and Cavolo Nero, which has a lovely peppery taste and can be used as a substitute for Savoy cabbage. Redbor has pretty red leaves and ideal for cut-and-come-again use.

Here is a recipe for a classic Italian and very substantial soup - a main course in its own right and very easy to make. Any type of kale will do although Cavolo Nero is recommended. Myself suggest that almost any cooked beans would also do (beans are beans are beans as far as I'm concerned). 'Ordinary' toasting bread can be used as long as it is the right shape/size to fit into the dishes used, but - being an Italian dish - of course Ciabatta is suggested. We could also use slices of French 'stick' or baguette.
Ribolitta: serves 4
1 x 400g can cannellini beans, drained and mashed
3 tblsp olive oil
3 ribs celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 - 3 cloves garlic (to taste) chopped
11 oz (300g) kale, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
3 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
boiling water
salt and pepper
4 thick round or oval slices bread (pref ciabatta)
Heat 2 tblsp of the oil in a large pan over medium heat and fry the celery, carrots and onions for about 10 minutes or until beginning to soften and become tinged with gold. Add the garlic towards the end of this cooking time.
When the veggies are ready, add the kale, tomatoes and 2 tblsp of the parsley with enough boiling water to cover. Add seasoning to taste, give a stir then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the mashed beans, and - if the soup is too thick for your liking - add a little more boiling water to thin it down. Bring back to the simmer and add more seasoning if required.
Drizzle the reserved tablespoon of oil over the slices of bread and toast until golden. Spoon the soup into four individual bowls, placing a slice of toast on the top of each and garnish with the remaining parsley.

Here is another kale-based soup. Chorizo gives a really lovely flavour, but dare say we can improvise by adding already-cooked pork sausage and adding plenty of garlic and paprika pepper to the pan to 'pretend' it is Chorizo.
Spicy Kale Soup: serves 4
2 onions, finely chopped
3 tblsp olive oil
2 - 4 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
4 oz (100g) chorizo sausage, diced
4 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 pints (1.2 ltrs) chicken stock
salt and pepper
11 oz (300g) kale, finely shredded
Put the onions and oil in a pan over low heat. Place on lid and allow to 'sweat' for a few minutes until they are soft but not coloured.
Stir in the garlic, chorizo and potatoes and saute for a further 5 minutes before adding the stock and seasoning to taste. Bring to the boil then add the kale and cook for a further 5 minutes. Give a final stir and serve hot.

My eye was caught by this next recipe because it contains anchovies. Having spoken to Eileen recently, know she has bought both kale AND anchovies, and possibly her feta might take the place of the mozzarella. So this is one for you Eileen, but am sure other readers will also love to give it a try.
Pasta with Kale and Anchovies: serves 4
14 oz (400g) spaghetti
3 tblsp olive oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped
6 canned anchovies, chopped
2 chillis, de-seeded and chopped
5 plum tomatoes, chopped
salt and pepper
11 oz (300g) kale
1 ball Mozzarella, broken into small pieces
Cook the pasta as per pkt instructions, then drain, toss with 1 tblsp of the oil and keep warm.
Put the remaining oil in a pan and fry the garlic, anchovies and chillis over medium heat for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes and seasoning to taste. Stir-fry for 5 minutes.
Blanch the kale, then drain and add to pan and continue cooking for a further 3 minutes. Stir in the pieces of Mozzarella, then remove from heat. Add the warm pasta, gently mix together and serve.

Don't' know if any of you watch 'No Taste Like Home' (ITV 4.00pm) each weekday afternoon, but I find it interesting, mainly because all the dishes are 'traditional family' and have been cooked and served through many generations. As always, dishes such as these are (generally) very economical - as in older days people could not afford to make expensive meals, using mainly foods of the region and many that could be 'foraged'. For once am quite liking Gino d'Campo (or whatever his name is), as he has stopped throwing wobblies (he can sulk for England - or should that be Italy - when he competes with another chef and loses!), and is now giving many useful tips. Have to fit in making B's supper to fit in with this programme as don't want to miss it.

Yesterday cooked two pork chops (without the bone) for B's supper, with roasted veg, small new potatoes and mushrooms. Also thickly sliced a peeled and cored cooking apple and fried these rings in butter as a sort of 'firm apple sauce' to go with the pork.
Played around quite a bit with the meal. Started by preparing the veg. Used the last bits of red, green and yellow bell peppers (the rest being used for dishes in previous days), peeled and quartered red and white onions, cut a chunk from butternut squash and cut that into chunks, also peeled and cut up a parsnip. The aim being that all the bits were much the same size. Put into a bowl and drizzled with olive oil they sat on the kitchen table until 5.00.
Meanwhile had boiled some tiny (whole) new potatoes, and picked out six of the largest chestnut mushrooms, removing their stalks. I melted some butter in a frying pan and part-cooked the mushrooms in this (gill side up), putting a small knob of butter in the middle of each ready to finish them off in the oven.
When ready to cook, put the veggies into a shallow baking tray and into the oven at 200C, and then began frying the pork chops in the butter that remained in the pan after frying the mushrooms. Gave them 5 minutes on each side, then set aside so that I could 'fry' the cooked potatoes for a few minutes..
Meanwhile, gave the roasting veggies a stir - they were beginning to soften, and added the potatoes, plonking the two chops on top, and also putting the metal plate containing the mushrooms on the shelf underneath. After about 10 minutes everything was ready. Possibly the chops were a bit over-cooked (dry!), but then I have never been able to cook any chops properly. Not too back with lamb or beef as they can be left a bit 'pink' in the middle, but pork does need to be cooked through.
Anyway, served the meal by putting the apple onto on end of a warmed oval (and large) plate, the pork placed on top, the veggies and potatoes in the centre and four mushrooms at the other end. Myself had just the roast veggies with a couple of mushrooms.

There is something lovely about roasted vegetables. For one thing the colour range can be wonderful, making the dish very appetising to look at, and as all veg are cut to the same size (good sized chunks), each can be eaten separately so with each mouthful we can get a variety of flavours.

With some good mushroom flavoured olive oil and butter saved from yesterday, will probably be using this to cook a mushroom strogonoff for B's supper tonight. Instead of serving with rice, will probably spoon the strogonoff onto slices of toasted bread. Makes a change.

Have to say that the chestnut mushrooms are the nearest thing to eating meat in the veggie world. Other than the texture you would think you were eating real meat. At least, that is how it seemed to me yesterday. Chestnut mushrooms are very solid and firm and seem to keep for a much longer time in the fridge than do the ordinary white mushrooms we normally use (which are very soft anyway and go softer each day they are kept)The larger chestnut mushrooms are called portabello, and these are even 'meatier' than the large field mushrooms I used to use (finely sliced) to 'stretch' the very small amount of fillet beef used when making a beef strogonoff as the meat juices in the pan were absorbed by the mushrooms making them taste much the same as the beef. But today there will be no meat in this dish at all.

As mushrooms are not the cheapest of ingredients, and all too often binned (but not by me) if left too long before being eaten, a good money-saver is to buy one of the 'value boxes' (by weight cheaper than buying in smaller quantities - alternatively it is usually possible to buy mushrooms at a town market on a Saturday where they almost give them away (as they won't keep over the weekend), then we could dry some of the mushrooms. Dried mushrooms are expensive to buy but easy to dry them ourselves and once dried (and kept airtight) will keep for up to two years. Use them to enrich stews, sauces, soups, and many other dishes. I have given these details before, but due to the current economic 'recession/depression' feel that we need to keep reminding ourselves AND using every which way we can to save money and still end up with what we need (or even want - which is not quite the same thing).

Here are three ways to dry mushrooms;
Using a needle and strong thread, string them up and hang above a stove or in a warm place (over a c.h.radiator etc, or airing cupboard) for 2 weeks or until they feel thoroughly dry.
Or, slice and arrange on a cake rack in a single layer and leave above a radiator, stove or airing cupboard for serveral days until thoroughly dry.
Or, slice and arrange on a cake rack in a single layer and place in a cool oven (no more than 140C, gas 1) for 6 -10 hours (or overnight) until dry.
Store dried mushrooms in airtight jars, but check regularly to see they remain dry. They can either be soaked in hot water for 15 - 30 minutes to bring them back to 'normal', or added directly to soups and stews whilst still dry.

Good heavens, is that the time, there I go, rambling again. Apologies. Looks like being a bit better weather today, but will not be venturing out. Haven't been out with Norris for ages - missed that recent Indian summer as all the week was spend visiting our daughter in hospital. Maybe this weekend, maybe next week. Being a fair-weather 'scooter rider' it all depends upon the weather. Cold I can cope with. Rain and wind keep me indoors.
But whatever - hope you all have a good day, and an even better weekend. Also find time to meet up with me again tomorrow. And if you are still logging on Kathryn, please let us know how you are getting on. Last time you wrote your pills had been changed and you weren't feeling too happy. Miss your comments, they were always very readable. Bye for now...