Saturday, November 19, 2011

Catch-up Saturday

Rose let this morning - it is now 8.30 and haven't even time to make myself a cup of coffee. Brought in a glass of milk instead so that I could take my pills (sitting in a container by the comp so I never forget) and as now done that am all yours!

Thanks Cheesepare for your comment. Can imagine you wallowing in your bath surrounded by candles. Unfortunately now we have never used the bath in our new apartment as it is very big (and how lovely it would be to have a long, long, soak), and mindful of the water needed (we have a water meter) we use the shower cubicle instead. However - for anyone who still does spend an hour (or two) in the bath as a way to get away from the family rat-race, having bubbles floating on top DOES give a form of insulation, so the water stays hotter for longer. When I didn't use bubble bath I was forever letting out some water then topping up with more hot. Got really clever at this - holding the plug chair between my toes to lift it to let water out, then letting the plug drop back (the 'suction' pulled it back in place) then turning on the hot tap with my other foot to top up with water again. By the time I got out I was often shrivelled up like a prune!!

Those dual microwaves sound really worth having. We have only the 'basic' kind with four settings - the lowest being defrost (Low) the other two also intermittent but the power on more often, and then full power (High). It suits my needs. If younger, no doubt I would buy more 'appliances' (like a pressure cooker, Remoska, 'sous-vide', halogen cooker, chip pan than uses only a tablespoon of oil, vacuum sealer for bags etc, but with only two of us 'oldies' in the family and often only cooking a full meal for one have to ask myself - is it worth it?).

Buying a bacon joint and then slicing it yourself to get bacon 'rashers' is a great idea. I will look into this - price comparisons etc and have a go myself, and as I have a slicing machine this should make it simple enough to cut rashers to the thinness that we like - the thinner they are the more rapidly they crisp up. My Beloved loves 'crispy' (bacon, crackling...) which is strange as he is often asking me to blend foods together as he is rather partial to what I call 'baby food. Men can be strange creatures.

My new site is already half way there, want to get it up and running early in the new year and all recipes will have a photo with it. Am not working with as I wish it to be more 'professional' but with a new company run by young folk who are hoping to build up a business (and good for them). The site is aimed to be more like a 'cheffy' site in layout, but still simple enough to look 'acceptable' to everyone. Once set up, it can always be changed/altered if anyone wishes it to contain more info etc.

Am hoping (and only an idea at the moment) that the site will carry items that can be purchased, maybe calendars that have photos and recipes of my dishes, or aprons (have my own idea of what is needed there) or maybe even a new cookery books (desk-top publishing) all at prices that people can afford. The site will also carry advertisements, mainly to pay for the cost of setting up the site (which is amazingly low considering the amount of work done by others).
But it is still in the 'planning' process, and will let everyone know when it is up and running.

If most of those unemployed folk had to do 'volunteer' work as part of their 'benefits' then that would - as you say minimiser deb - be a very good way of getting the work routine back into lives. In any case nobody should be given money for doing nothing. Fine if a worker has paid in tax and national insurance in earlier years, but to start life off by paying nothing then expecting hand-outs is just plain unfair. Voluntary work would - at least - mean people are giving something back to the community and possibly help others. We need to become a lot less selfish and self-centred before this nation is able to get back on its feet and stand proud again.

Do hope your neck/shoulder is now less painful Urbanfarmgirl. It sounded like whip-lash (if the bump wasn't your fault but bad enough to prevent you working - you could claim compensation, although litigation is yet another thing that has crossed the pond (apparently a way of life in the US) and in a roundabout way causes more trouble than it is worth. Any money paid out via insurance means they put the rates up for everyone the following year.
Myself also baked bread yesterday. Beloved had brought in a couple of loaves (one a 'toastie' the other 'medium') and we both find that bought bread is so awful compared to home-made it is just not worth eating. Luckily I do have a bread-maker (although still make only the dough and finish it off in the oven),
Problem is home-made bread is so nice it lasts a short time. B eats more of it than he would if it was bought, so a loaf needs baking (normally) once every two days. Perhaps if I divided the dough into 2 x 1lb tins instead of baking in a 2lb tin it might last longer as the slices would be smaller.

Don't know if readers agree, but 'medium sliced' bread these days seems to be getting thicker and thicker slices. Each worth using for toast, but too thick for sarnies. The toasting bread can be mega-thick (according to type) and if B's brought in one of these sometimes I've cut through one slice to make two thin slices when wishing to make a sarnie. A long time ago we were able to buy 'thin sliced' bread. Why not now? Probably because 'medium' gives less slices to the loaf, and that means we have to buy more bread more often.

Thanks Wen for explaining about the deliberate mistake the Amish make when 'piecing' together their quilts. Love to see (on TV) programmes where we see people sitting round a huge frame or table where they work together on one quilt. Are there any small 'cottage industries' today where people get together to work on something and then able to sell it. Am a great fan of 'community life', and would probably have been happy living in a commune - as long as I was head-cook (and not the 'bottle washer'). Perhaps also having the care of chickens as well (last night my dream was all about keeping hens and collecting eggs, no wonder I stayed asleep longer than I should - I was enjoying my dream and didn't want to wake).

Our next door neighbour spends half her year in Barbados where she owns some property she lets as holiday homes, living in the 'main house' herself during the winter months. What it is to have money! Not that I am envious, her way of life is not mine. However, she has told me of some of the foods eaten 'over there', and there is one dish that would work quite well in the UK as we have the ingredients.

In the 17th century, many Scottish folk were exiled in Barbados, and to keep their traditional Hogmanay festivities going they had to re-invent the Haggis, then served on New Year's Eve. As time passed the 'haggis' then began to be eaten at Christmas (served with either ham or roast chicken), and the name changed to 'jug-jug' (don't ask me why).
One of the main ingredients is pigeon peas, and although these can be bought in the UK no doubt we could substitute marrowfat peas? Readers might be able to make suggestions re this. But to keep the dish as authentic as possible am giving the Barbados version and you can make your own substitutions.
This is a dish that doesn't HAVE to be served at Christmas or New Year, and am including it because it uses small amounts of cooked cold pork (or ham) and corned beef - to feed up to 10 - that many readers may already have in their fridge (as I do at the moment). Even millet is in a jar in my larder, but possibly another grain - such as ground rice or cornmeal could be used instead.
The end result seems to be not a million miles away from 'meat loaf' and worth a try (or should I say 'trial') using half the given quantities to serve to the normal sized family.

Barbados Haggis: Jug-Jug: serves 8 - 10
4 oz (100g) lean cooked pork or ham
4 oz (100g) corned beef
1 lb (500g) cooked pigeon peas (see above)
2 onions, roughly chopped
handful fresh parsley, chopped,
3 ribs celery (with leaves), chopped
pinch thyme (fresh or dried)
2 spring onions, roughly chopped
2 oz (50g) ground millet (see above)
salt and pepper
2 oz (50g) butter
Chop the pork and corned beef into large cubes, put these into a saucepan with enough water to cover and add the cooked peas. Bring to the boil, simmer for 5 minutes then strain and reserve cooking liquid. Set the meats and peas to one side, put the cooking liquid back into the pan with the onions, parsley, celery, thyme, spring onions, and the ground millet. Add seasoning to taste and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and stir-simmer for 15 minutes.
Put the meat and pea mix through a mincer or blitz in a food processor/blender then add this to the other ingredients (in the saucepan). Stir to combine then simmer over very low heat for a further 25 minutes - by which time the 'jug-jug' should be stiff and fairly dry (so make sure it doesn't burn on the base of the pan).
Mix in half the butter then spoon out (traditionally in a heap) onto a heated serving dish, then spread over the rest of the butter and serve great spoonfuls with the chosen roast meat/poultry and other vegetables if you wish.

The other day Beloved mentioned that we have a full bottle of port wine in our dining room. Can't say I've noticed, but then I haven't been running around with the duster in here for the past few months (yes I'm that bad!!). The problem - B says - is that once the bottle is opened, the port then has to be drunk within a few days as - unlike sherry - it doesn't 'keep well' once the air has got to it.
Normally, port is a wine we serve after a meal - maybe with Stilton cheese, and almost always when we have guests, so the bottle normally is emptied in double quick time. But now B want to start drinking it (having bought some Stilton specially) and I've now to work out how else I can use the wine up. Some (of course) will be frozen in ice-cube trays to add to later sweet or savoury dishes, but for those who might be drinking port this coming Christmas/New Year, here are a few other suggestions on how to use the surplus.

The first is a very traditional and Victorian dish - served any time of the year but particularly good at Christmas. Remember this is for adults only!

Port Wine Jelly: serves 4 - 6
3 tblsp gelatine crystals
1 pint (600ml) port wine (red not tawny)
juice of 1 small lemon
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
good pinch grated nutmeg
good pinch ground cinnamon
Put approx 5 fl oz (150ml) of the port into a saucepan with all the lemon juice. Sprinkle over the gelatine crystals and leave to stand for a few minutes for the crystals to swell and soften, then add another quarter of the port, the sugar and spices and heat gently, stirring to dissolve the gelatine, and when nearly - but NOT - boiling, and all the gelatine has been dissolved, strain through a fine sieve or (even better) a muslin-line sieve - this will then give a really clear jelly. Allow to cool before stirring in the remaining port, then pour into a wetted jelly mould and leave in a cold place or fridge to set. Unmould by placing the container in very hot water for just a few seconds only (it helps to pull back the edges round the rim back with the finger), then cover with a plate, turn it over, give a shake and the jelly should unmould itself. If it doesn't, then put it back into hot water again for a few more seconds.
tip: if wishing to unmould a jelly exactly on the centre of a platter, then first run water over the plate and the jelly can then be easily 'slid' around to settle where you wish it to be.

Just love this next 'dish' called 'Rabanadas' - this being is a Brazilian version of Eggy Bread. Would make a great 'dessert' when entertaining if you have frozen cubes of port that need using up. The remaining ingredients are cheap enough. This should also work with other fortified wine or even diluted spirits such as rum (so worth experimenting - it could be fun!!). The French bread is more likely to be from a baguette rather than a French stick, but English bread (pref home-made) should work just as well.

Rabanadas: serves 4
3 tblsp caster sugar
5 fl oz (150ml) port wine
8 slices French bread (see above)
2 eggs
2 oz (50g) butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Put 1 tbls of the sugar into a jug with the port wine. Place the sliced bread in one layer onto a shallow dish then pour over the sweetened port. Leave to soak for a few minutes.
Meanwhile beat the eggs then pour these into another shallow dish. When the bread has soaked up all the wine, dip each slice into the egg - making sure both sides are coated.
Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat then fry the 'eggy bread' on both sides until golden and crisp. Keep warm whilst frying the remaining slices (if they won't all fit in the pan at the same time).
Serve on a warmed platter. Mix the remaining sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle this over the top.

Another traditional English sauce is 'the Cumberland' - normally served with roast lamb at any time of the year, but especially good with hot ham served at Christmas. Believe it is also often served with venison, but then I'm not really in the financial league of eating the latter. Ham or lamb yes. Venison, so far a no-no. Anyway it would only be my Beloved it would be served to and why should he always have the treats? If he's nice to me maybe one day I will buy him venison and then what's the betting he wouldn't think it was THAT good. So am not even going to bother.
However, making B Cumberland sauce is something I would be doing. It would go well with the lamb shank that he is fond of (he had one yesterday). The recipe below makes a fairly large amount, and although it can be stored in the fridge for a while, would suggest making a smaller amount for a smaller family gathering.
Most of us now buy 'made' mustard (although I still do keep a tin of mustard powder - always useful), so use 1 - 2 tsp of this instead of the powder, and it needs to be the hot English mustard, not the milder Dijon or whole-grain..

Cumberland Sauce: makes approx 16 fl oz/475ml
1 orange
4 tblsp port (or could be red wine)
1 lb (500g) red-currant jelly
juice of half a small lemon
2 tsp dry mustard powder
If you have a 'zester' then use this to peel the orange rind into tiny strips. If not peel the orange and remove all the pith from the peel then cut the peel into fine strips. Squeeze the orange and reserve all the juice.
Put the port (or red wine) and the orange peel strips into a small saucepan and heat to boiling, then reduce heat and stir in the redcurrant jelly until this has completely dissolved. In a small bowl, mix together the orange and lemon juice with the mustard powder then stir this into the port and redcurrant mixture. Season to taste with a little salt. This sauce can be served hot or cold.

Beloved has brought in this week's trade mag which arrived today. The cover has caught my eye with its 'Ocado is streets ahead of its competitors' (not much good for me, as Orcado don't deliver in our neck of the woods). Also, "sweet prices set to rise again as gelatine cost hikes hit". Is that 'grocery-speak' for rising prices. Perhaps rising sweet prices is - for once - a good thing as it might help to cut down on eating sweets - thus (hopefully) reducing obesity in children (and adults).
Oh dear, don't like this one: "Miniscoff gets ready to heat up kids ready meal market". On the other hand "Frozen fish makes a comeback s shopper shun pricey chilled" might prove advantageous for us consumers. Will be giving the mag the 'full read' today and give more details on the above (and other things) tomorrow.

Due to a late start think it would be best for me to wind up for today (have my own life to get on with - STILL haven't made the Christmas cake and planning to do this today). Hope you can all find time to join me again tomorrow and also make the most of the wonderful weather we are having at the moment.

Our supplementary fuel payment reminder (for pensioners) arrived yesterday. Thought we were going to receive £150, but apparently not so. We are given £100 this time - but am grateful anyway. Better this than none at all. At least Ernie came up trumps again, so have an unexpected £25 to play with. It was December last year that I transferred most of my savings into Premium Bonds (because the interest given now came into pennies not pounds) and so far have had six x £25 'Ernie' payments since then. So well worth doing. However, don't all rush to change - 'Ernie' is a gamble after all. I've just been fortunate. Next year could possibly 'earn' nothing. On the other hand - win thousands. Just have to wait and see.

One thing though, having worked out how much B has spent on the Lottery since it began, have myself 'spent' far less on Premium Bonds and 'won' far more in one year than B ever has with the Lottery over ten years or so.
People are most impressed when I tell them every year I've won £250 or so on the Lottery (now called 'L0tt0') and it's guaranteed. They plead with me to tell them the secret of winning - and all it is that the Lottery money stays in my bank instead of buying a ticket. In other words I don't 'waste' the £250 (being almost sure of no return), so count 'keeping' the money as my 'winnings'. In a way that has a certain amount of sense behind it. Others may wish to spend in the faint hope of winning - and of course some do, but only the more fortunate. It's all down to luck, and myself don't wish to rely on that. We should all be able to make our own fortune (and this doesn't have always to be money) when we go about it the right way.

Wasn't I about to say my farewells for the day. Just shows how my mind rambles when I begin to relax after writing up recipes. I'll soon be talking to myself (B already has been muttering to himself for years - he doesn't think I hear him). MUST go. TTFN (for younger readers this is a war-time shortform of 'ta, ta for now').