Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Always Something to Plan For

Up early this morning due to having my (regular and now early) hair appointment. Had a nightmare last night (unusual for me) must have been the cheese I ate for supper. Good excuse not to go to sleep again for quite often a dream (good or bad) will continue once I have fallen asleep again.

Next few day will be busy as will be making jam and marmalade and baking cakes and biscuits for a charity stall this coming weekend. At least it's nice to have a good reason to cook. Suppose I could have just given the money instead of making and baking, but am hoping that 'home-made' will bring pleasure as well as raising (maybe even more) money.

Thanks to heleng (a new 'commenteer'? If so very welcome) for giving her version of fishcakes. Not sure whether tuna is (now) cheaper than some canned salmon as it seems to have gone up in price, and salmon now down in price. But - as ever - some brands cost more than others. Think canned pilchards (weight for weight) are the best value and, as they are canned in tomato sauce, this can take the place of ketchup. As ever - my suggestion is to make the fish cakes in the most economical way possible, without giving up too much 'quality'. Fresh (chopped) parsley really does 'lift' the flavour of fishcakes making the cheapest-to-make taste like the most expensive-to-buy.
Although best if we use the same weight of fish to potatoes, we can use half (or even less) fish and make up the shortfall by adding finely chopped cooked beetroot. This makes for really tasty fishcakes that are a lovely 'pink' colour.

Interesting about your 'spending plan' Alison. Think we all spend more on food some months than others, and these days much of it is because we take advantage of offers to help build up stocks in our larders that we can live on during 'lean times' (so then we spend less, or - if we've been really thrifty - spend nothing at all!).
Myself find it easy to keep to a food budget as I always order the bulk of food on-line. Doesn't matter what I end up with in my virtual 'basket' (always too much), for if the total comes to more than I would normally spend (I try never to go beyond that), then I scroll down the items ordered and delete all those I don't really NEED. This also helps me keep below my ceiling 'allowance', and with all the reductions shown on the statement could find I end up spending up to £30 LESS than the money I 'allowed' myself to spend.

It's debatable whether shopping on-line saves money, or whether in-store shopping can work out cheaper. Much is to do with self-control. Shopping in-store we at least have the chance to buy really low priced foods that are on the 'reduced' shelf, but then with so much food surrounding us we are also easily tempted to buy something we didn't intend. On-line shopping we have much more control. No real 'reductions' as the shelf-life of delivered fresh produce is normally good, but still able to take advantage of 'offers', and these are more easily seen on the comp screen than having to spend a longer time hunting for them in the store.

Pleased you were able to see Morecambe on your TV Margie. If the weather is warm I do scoot along the prom (it can be bitterly cold at times), but at the moment tend to move around the shopping area more (fun to window shop). The Midland Hotel was finished several months ago (almost 2 years ago I think). A bit disappointing inside as it is not as Art Deco as it used to be, but still magnificent. One of the 'Poirot' series was part filmed in the Midland.
We once went - with friends - into the Midland to have morning coffee. An experience. Very expensive. Would love to have afternoon tea there, but the price is puts me off, so not done that so far.

Are you a new reader Mary? If so welcome. If not, then welcome back. Very few people bother to celebrate Twelfth Night these days, but myself always believe that if there is a time to celebrate then we should do so.
Interestingly Twelfth Night (5th Jan) is the day before Twelfth Day and celebrates the occasion of the Three Wise Men visiting the infant Jesus. It also celebrates the last day of Christmas and traditionally a time of merry-making.

As mentioned previously, decorations should be removed by Twelfth Night - but if not they then have to remain in place for the rest of the year or bad luck will befall you. Must be my 'genetic memory' that has led me to leave a couple or so decorations in place since last Christmas. Obviously didn't want to tempt Fate!

As with most festivities, we can merry-make in any way we choose, although there may be traditional games. No doubt the Internet will give a mention to these. Food can also be varied, but a 'Wassail Cup' or eggnog is a traditional drink. Also a Yorkshire 'Standing Pie'. But the one food that HAS to be served is the Galette du Rois (King's Cake).

There are many recipes for Kings' Cake, according to regions, countries etc. This (again traditionally) always had a bean in the cake, and the person finding it in their slice was then King for the Night and everyone had to obey his or her wishes. Another tradition is to place a gold (paper or card) crown on top of the cake, this being placed on the head of the person who is 'King', and who will then wear it throughout the festivities. Nowadays a whole (shelled) almond is placed in the cake as more edible than a dried bean. Make sure that everyone knows it is there to avoid choking on it (for this reason it's a wonder elf and safety haven't banned this cake - or maybe they already have). The easiest and most economical recipe for this cake is as follows:

Galette du Rois:
2 oz (50g) butter, softened
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tblsp rum
2 oz (50g) ground almonds
1 x 500g pack puff pastry
beaten egg (to glaze)
1 whole (shelled) almond
icing sugar
golden crown (opt)
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg yolk and rum. Stir in the ground almonds.
Cut the pastry in half and roll each into a 10" dia circle (is that 25cm?). Roll out the trimming into narrow strips and place these round the top rim of one circle (wet the pastry so it sticks to the other). Fill the centre with the above filling and push the almond in anywhere you like (but not in the centre). Brush the pastry rim with water and then cover the 'cake' with the remaining circle of pastry. Seal the edges by crimping together with the prongs of a fork. Traditionally the pastry lid is lightly scored with the tip of a sharp knife in circles (ever decreasing circles if you like), or it could be criss-crossed to make squares if you prefer. Brush pastry with beaten egg then bake at 220C, 425F, gas 7 for 30 minutes, then dust top with icing sugar and bake for a further 5 - 10 minutes or until the sugar has melted.
Remove from oven and serve hot or cold with the 'golden crown' on top.

Most festivals have 'traditional foods' served on the special day. This next recipe should normally be served at Easter (then called Simnel Tart), but if we use mincemeat instead of the mixed fruits, then it would be perfect for Christmas and would save making a lot of individual mince pies. Even so, the Easter version would be good any time of the year. The basic recipe is given, but by including grated apple we can then reduce the amount of dried fruit.

Festive Flan: serves 4
7 oz (200g mixed dried fruit) see above
zest and juice of 1 tangerine or small orange
375g puff pastry (pref ready-rolled)
3 tblsp apricot jam
7 oz marzipan, grated
Put the dried fruit, zest and juice of the chosen orange into a bowl and leave to stand for an hour until the fruit has absorbed most of the juice. If necessary roll the pastry thinly to cover the base of a Swiss roll tin. Mark a finger width border around the edges with a knife, then brush the jam over the pastry, keeping within the border. Chill for 15 minutes (or longer if you wish).
Drain the fruit, then fold in the grated marzipan and spread this evenly over the jam. Bake at 220C, 425G, gas 7 for 20 minutes or so or until the pastry is risen and golden. Best served hot with whipped cream, creme fraiche, or a scoop of ice-cream.

If we buy fresh chicken to joint up ourselves (cheaper than buying the joints/breasts separately and we gain the carcase to make stock) we have the wings to 'use up'. On their own, chicken wings (with the usual veg and water) make a very good stock even without the rest of the carcase. But also - if plump enough - they can also make very good eating.
Freeze chicken wings until you have enough to make stock or to make the following recipe (all you need then are a few storecupboard ingredients. If using English (made) mustard use only 1 rounded teaspoon.
Sticky Chicken Wings: serves 4
2 tblsp soy sauce
1 tblsp honey
1 tblsp olive oil
1 tsp tomato puree (or ketchup)
1 tblsp Dijon mustard (see above)
8 - 12 (dep. on size) chicken wings
Mix together all the ingredients except the chicken wings to make a marinade. Put the chicking wings into a bowl and pour the marinade over, turning the chickens so they they are coated all over. Cover and leave for 30 minutes at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.
To cook: put the chicken in a shallow roasting tin, spooning over any marinade that is left in the bowl, then cook at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 15 - 20 minutes or so, turning occasionally and basting with any marinade that is 'loose' in the pan. When ready, the chicken should be tender with a shiny glaze. Can be eaten hot or cold.

Final recipe today is a one-portion variation of the Kedgeree. The basic recipe is given to eat as-is or by adding some cooked and flaked smoked haddock, kippers, or smoked mackerel (or even canned salmon or sardines) this can turn from a light lunch/supper dish to a much more substantial 'main meal'. As microwave rice is more expensive than cooking 'raw' rice, either ignore the cost (as I sometimes do just for speed) or pre-cook long-grain rice to 'al dente' (it will carry on cooking when added to this dish).

Spicy Rice with Poached Egg: serves one
1 tsp oil
1 small onion (or shallot) chopped
half green or red bell pepper, chopped
1 x 250g pack microwave rice (pref pilau)
2 oz (50g) frozen prawns
1 tsp curry powder or curry paste
7 fl oz (200ml) hot water
1 egg
Heat the oil and fry the onion and bell pepper for 6 or so minutes until softened and starting to brown. Add the rice, frozen peas and curry powder and stir-fry for a further minute. Add the water and simmer for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, have ready a small saucepan of simmering water, and when the rice mixture is almost ready, poach the egg. Serve the rice with the egg on top.

Did I mention that Norris and I went out for a scoot yesterday? The rain kept off (sun came out once I had returned home), but very chilly. Noticed the local pub was putting a huge Christmas tree in its car park, the lights there but not yet on. Bit early, but there you go.
Only went down to the local shops to collect cash from the cash machine, then fell by the wayside and went into the deli part of the butcher and bought some cheese for both B and me, and a few thin sliced of chorizo (for me). Plus a steak pie for B's supper, re-heated and served with green string beans - didn't serve spuds as the pastry was the 'carbohydrate'. B had the second of his trifles for his pudding. Later he made himself more snacks. Naturally. Myself ate cheese, chorizo, baby tomatoes, cheese biscuits. Not a well balanced meal but nevertheless enjoyed as easy to nibble whilst watching TV! Didn't get any florists wire as it meant crossing the road, and plenty of time to go for that later (or get B to call in for some). Have to get my making marathon out of the way before I start making decorations.

Have to love you and leave you as things to do before Norma arrives. Hope you will join me again tomorrow. Enjoy your day and keep warm and dry.