Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's a 'snip'.

Interesting the Cambridge is a city without a cathedral, Sairy. Wonder if that has anything to do with it being a university town, and does the same apply to Oxford? As to Brighton and Hove Susan G, (once two towns built side by side so now counted as one presumably), with the Prince Regent having a palace in Brighton, possibly this also made a difference.
However looking up 'city status' on the Internet clarified the situation somewhat. It was Henry VIII that first gave city status to (I think) six towns, and after that it was only towns with cathedrals that could be called a city until more recent times when - due to vast growth of buildings and population, now most large towns are called cities. However - these cannot be called a city unless decreed by the reigning monarch.

Replying to a previous comment Urbanfarmgirl, you mentioned that many people you meet don't cook their meals. Suppose that is the way of the world today. As we now buy our clothes instead of cutting the material out and sewing them up ourselves, and buy our 'woollies' instead of knitting them, and even buy our fruit and veggies without growing them in our gardens, then hardly surprising we have also stopped cooking. As ever - as long as there is someone else to do the job for us (without too much expense) it seems that we are prepared to work, work, work to get enough money to do just that. And end up exhausted and stressed because of it. Thing is, none of the 'ready-made' is necessarily as good as the home-made, so why pay more for it? Suppose saving time has to fit in somewhere.

Perhaps if we worked less hours we might go back to using more of the old skills. Maybe the current financial crisis will mean more people work less hours (or lose jobs altogether) and hopefully turn back to 'making do' and being a lot more self-sufficient. As this is a very satisfying way to live (lots of fun), we should never feel 'deprived' if we have to make 'sacrifices', for so much more can be gained when this happens.

Am puzzled Les. What are those 'little white boards' you mentioned that can do with a good polish of WD40? For the life of me cannot think what they are.

Regarding the reprinting of my 3 BBC books, the only way this is likely is if enough people write to the publishers and ask for this to happen. Their premises have moved and I think taken over by a large publishing company called 'Random House' (BBC books being an 'imprint' of theirs), but if you look inside a recently published BBC cookery book, no doubt it will give the details (address) etc of the publishers inside on a fly-leaf.

Know what you mean Eileen. However good my intentions (and presumably yours), if we see a bargain we can't let it go by. With food of course - nothing gets wasted (or shouldn't), so every penny spent buying a bargain means less money need be spent later.

In this country Lisa, a 'yard' is a very small paved and fenced area at the back of (usually) a terraced house, and houses the dustbins and maybe a shed. In the old days the outside lavatory (we call it 'loo') and coal-house was also at the side of the yard. Believe - in America - a 'yard' is the term for a garden, but then are the gardens in America the same as ours? A garden to us is normally a grass lawn (square, round or any shape) surrounded by flower beds containing perennial plants and bushes. Most gardens have rose bushes (although ours does not - so must plant some), and possibly larger trees. Until recently (unless the garden was large enough) few people grew fruit and vegetables, but now many of the flower borders and some lawns have been given over to growing produce. When gardens are small (like ours) we often make do with a tiny lawn, some gravel paths and several containers to hold flowers. Other containers or special 'sacks' grow vegetables (in my case tomatoes, courgettes, potatoes and salads).

An English garden usually has flowers most of the year round. Starting in spring with winter jasmine, followed by snowdrops, crocus, daffodils, tulips, lily of the valley, hellebore. Then primroses/primulas, pansies. Low growing plants such as the many shades of Aubretia smothering stone walls, are a joy to see, as are the wonderful azaleas and rhododendrons. In our garden we have large flowering shrubs such as Rose of Sharon, and Hydrangeas. Magnolia bushes and varieties of clematis that flower at different times of the year, and we are also lucky to have a wisteria.

There are countless varieties of flowering perennials - of which we have many, yet don't know all the names, and wish very much the old 'cottage' garden would come back into fashion with its Sweet Williams, Pinks, Canterbury Bells, Hollyhocks, Michaelmas Daisies etc. All these I remember my Dad growing (amongst other things - he was a great gardener), and rarely see these nowadays.

It would be interesting to know what is normally grown in American gardens, although - being such a large country - it is bound to differ according to the climate.

Have chosen parsnips as the 'vegetable of the day'. A really useful crop if we grow them ourselves as they can be left in the ground all winter to be dug up as needed. Anyway, it is said they always taste better after the frosts have arrived. When really bad weather is threatened, when the ground will be too iced up to dig, some parsnips can be dug up, allowed to dry as-is, the dirt then removed with a soft brush. Don't wash them. Remove the leaves about an inch above the crown and store in a box in dry compost or sand and keep in a dry place outdoors such as a shed or garage where they should keep well until March.

Young, slender parsnips can be topped and tailed and cooked in their skins, but older parsnips will need peeling and the central core should be removed (as this takes far longer to soften than does the outer parts). However, there is still a lot of flavour left in the core and peelings, so they can be saved and added to other vegetables when making a vegetable stock.

Many vegetables these days are used as an ingredient when cake-making. Most of us have eaten Carrot Cake (aka Passion Cake), and recipes for cakes made with Beetroot have been given on this site. Also - if I remember correctly - one made with courgettes. Today I give a cake recipe that uses Parsnips.

Parsnip Sponge Cake: serves 10 slices
6 oz (175g) butter
9 oz (250g) soft brown sugar
4 fl oz (100ml) runny honey
3 large eggs, beaten
9 oz (250g) self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
half tsp ground cinnamon (opt)
9 oz (250g) parsnips, peeled and grated
1 eating apple, peeled and grated
zest and juice of 1 orange
Put butter, sugar and honey into a small pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from heat to cool slightly.
Pour the melted mixture into a bowl then mix in the eggs. Sift the flour with the baking powder and spice(s), and also fold this into the mix. Finally, stir in the grated parsnips and apple, the orange juice and zest.
Spoon the mixture into two greased and lined 8" (20cm) sandwich tins, levelling the surface, and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 25 - 30 minutes or until a skewer stuck in the centre comes out clean.
Cool the cakes in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack to become quite cold. Spread chosen filling over one cake and sandwich together by placing the second cake on top. Sift icing sugar over the top if you wish.

Here is a good 'filling' to make for this cake (also makes a good 'topping' for Carrot Cake).
Cream Cheese Icing:
8 oz (225g) cream cheese
1 oz (25g) butter, softened
5 oz (150g) icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
juice of half an orange (or 1 lemon)
Beat together the cream cheese and butter, then fold in the icing sugar. Add the vanilla and enough citrus juice to make it a spreadable consistency - but not runny. Then use as required.

When it comes to parsnip soup, some like it hot - and others don't, so am giving two recipes in the hope that most of you will find at least one to your satisfaction (and maybe both).

Spiced Parsnip Soup: serves 4
4 large parsnips (about 2 lb/900g), trimmed and chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 oz (50g) butter
2 tsp curry powder
1 pint (600ml) chicken stock
1 pint (6ooml) milk
salt and pepper
Put the parsnips and onions in a saucepan with the butter and fry over medium heat for 5 minutes or until softened, then stir in the curry powder and cook for a further minute. Add the stock and milk with seasoning to taste, then bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Cool slightly, then pour into a blender or food processor (or use a hand blender in the saucepan). Blitz until smooth, then reheat, adding more seasoning if necessary, and serve hot.

Parsnip and Apple Soup: serves 4
4 large parsnips (as above weight)
1 large cooking apple
1 oz (25g) butter
2 pints (1.2 litrs) chicken stock
3 fresh sage leaves
2 cloves (or pinch dried cloves)
4 fl oz (100ml) cream
salt and pepper
Follow the above recipe by frying the parsnips and apple in the butter for 5 minutes, then add the stock, sage leaves and cloves (if using ground cloves, stir this into the parsnips to fry for 1 minute before adding the stock). Cover pan and simmer for 20 minutes, then cool slightly. Remove sage leaves and whole cloves and blitz (as above recipe) until smooth. Replace in the pan, fold in the cream, add seasoning to taste and reheat.

As Gill will be phoning me this morning instead of tomorrow, had better make sure this is published before 9.00am or I will never manage to do all the things planned for today (like tidying the kitchen and then baking). My kitchen table is completely covered by bits and bobs that need returning to the larder, my units have numerous empty and cleaned glass jars saved for future preserves (need to find a home for the jars too), and the hob needs a good clean.

So that's it for today. Looks like being a sunny day, so hope it will be for you too. Do drop in again to have a 'virtual' coffee with me as per usual tomorrow. Look forward to seeing you then.