Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What It All Boils Down To...

Apples store quite well when kept cold Urbanfarmgirl. Either in an outhouse/garage (best wrap each separately, or at least keep them from touching each other (one bad apple then rots the rest), or store in the fridge. Ideally peel, slice or dice and freeze ready to make pies etc.
Some varieties of apples will store for longer than others, cooking apples for example. 'Eaters' tend to soften more rapidly, but - as mentioned above - will keep longer in the fridge.

Don't apologise for 'rambling' Elaine, I always love to read readers comments esp. when lengthy, it's like having the old-fashioned letter dropped through the letter box. People these days tend to send emails to each other and my friend Gill and I used to write to each other at least once or even twice a week (my letters often 18 pages long!), but now - as she phones me each Sunday (her call is free for one hour), we 'chat' instead, and I miss her letters.
Envy you your Rayburn esp. as you have almost free fuel. Am sure it would be far less expensive to run a wood-burning or multi-fuel stove that burns almost anything), than pay for gas central heating and to heat the gas hob and electric oven. The only electricity then needed would be for lights, the fridge/freezer, TV, comp, and the pump for the heating. Probably a second-hand small Rayburn wouldn't cost more than one year's 'normal' fuel costs, ever after this could mean at least £1000 a year saved.

Seems you are getting the same weather as us Lisa. Apparently a lot of England (maybe Scotland also) was foggy the last couple of days with several airports having to close for a while. Noticed we still have a fog 'warning' on the TV forecast, but it is patchy, no-one quite sure where the fog will be, but at least here in Morecambe it is still clear.
Never did go out with Norris yesterday as was busy making a giant fruit cake (half of that to be cut up to ice to make small cakes to sell at a charity stall this coming Sunday). Wanted to drizzle some brandy over it last night to make it 'boozily' moist, but discovered there was no brandy in my kitchen cupboard (B's used it when he cooks his flambeed bananas). Decided to use rum instead (knew I had half a bottle), but guess what! Only about a tablespoon left in that bottle as B used the rest when he cooks his flambeed bananas!!! This means today he will have to go to the supermarket to buy more (and he will expect me to pay for it).

Loved hearing about the Amish Lisa. We too loved 'Little House on the Prairie' (wish they would repeat both that AND The Waltons). Thought of you last night when I watched a repeat of 'Steven Fry in America' (this time driving the length of the Mississipi river). Unfortunately not enough of the 'domestics' shown (the only bit I like to watch). His trip began in New Orleans, then along (was it Route 60?) calling in at a famous prison (famous to the US, never heard of it here) where the men - once in - were never released again. Massive place covering hundreds of acres which the prisoners farmed. Grew all their own food.

Then we saw a man cooking some fish (or something) at the side of the big river, looked like it had sandy beaches where he sat, no buildings could be seen but then we only saw one direction (across the river). Driving through the state it was noticeable how flat it was (but then most of the US seems to be flat, flat, flat according to many films we watch. Although there is some magnificent scenery in other parts, the long drive up to the hotel in 'The Shining' is one I always remember).
That's all that was deemed needed to be shown of Mississipi state for then S.Fry was driving through Missouri, again seemingly nothing but flat country, think that was where there were some derelict buildings that layabouts lived in, then Fry moved on to (was it?) Iowa (or maybe that was where the tramps were, eventually he ended up at the source of the river. It would have been much more interesting to see more towns, although there was one en route that seemed to be nothing but a meditation centre for those interested in the Hari Krishna 'religion'. Maybe that was in Missouri.

The prices that you gave us Lisa inspired me to check the prices we pay for the same (I used Tesco's on-line prices as of this morning).
Don't know the conversion between US dollar ($) and our English pound (£) but am sure you will have some idea. The prices shown were in kg, and as one kg is ALMOST the same as 2 lbs (plus a couple or so ounces), am giving 'our' prices per pound (NOT kg) to make it easier for you to make comparisons.

Lamb here has risen dramatically in price over the past weeks, and obviously varies according to quality and whether bought from a butcher. Supermarket prices are normally the lowest and Tesco are selling a leg of lamb for around £4.20p per lb. Lamb mince (you call this 'ground' meat) is around £3.20 per lb.
Turkeys also vary in price according to quality and whether they are fresh or frozen, but the ones listed are frozen: Turkey Crown (that's just the two breasts on the bone) £8.00. Turkey leg £2.44p. A whole turkey (to feed 8 - 10) is £28.00 (if comparing weights this is given as £5.19kg - approx £2.50 lb).
Only a few venison cuts were shown, the diced (for casseroles) is about £7 per lb. and 2 venison steaks (on offer at half price this week) for £4.42 total.

The US 'average budget' for food at $600 a month sounds an enormous amount, but then I suppose this depends upon the rate of exchange when converted to English £££s. And of course how much we pay is based on earnings. America may pay more per house than we do over here. You do very well on spending not much more than half that.
Not sure what the 'average' spend is for similar families in the UK. The ones we see on TV seem to spend around £150 per WEEK to feed four. Many readers I know can feed their family well for far less (often spending no more than £100 a MONTH). As always, the more we can grow or make ourselves, the less we have to pay.

The basic budget we work to always relates to money earned. Some countries pay more for the same work than do others. Have no idea now how much people earn over here, but believe the 'basic' (aka lowest) rate of pay is about £5.50 an hour. The state pension that B and I receive is just under £1,000 per lunar month (once every four weeks). We can pay all our bills with this, plus presents and holidays, gifts, subscriptions, money for charities etc. etc, not to mention food - with occasionally some money left over at the end of the month, so the one month of the year when we get TWO payments is like winning the Lottery.

Still replying to Lisa, myself would think 'ketchup' could be considered a 'vegetable'. Makes more sense than calling a pizza a 'veggie'. In fact tomato ketchup is recommended as 'good eating' as it is made with cooked tomatoes, and tomatoes that have been cooked are far better for us (medically) than raw tomatoes. So seems it's 'healthy' to eat ketchup, canned tomatoes, tomato soup, tomato puree.... And there was me preferring to eat them raw.

If a gas hob causes food to stick. the flame is probably slightly too high, especially if pans have thin bases. Even my lowest flame 'simmers' too rapidly for me. 'Simmering' is meant to be just below boiling point, the surface of the liquid just giving a little 'glug' (AWT calls it a 'burb') now and then. To get the heat down to this level I need to use a diffuser mat over the flame and under the pan, and often need two (I have different types) one sitting on top of the other.

Another way to prevent food sticking to pans is to get some of that thick 'non-stick' material that is sold for lining baking tins. Sometimes called 'Magic Carpet' and wonderful for baking biscuits as they don't get too crispy underneath. Normally sold in rolls so we can cut it to fit the size of tins we have, have seen it now advertised sold in circles to fit into pans. A good way to 'fry' an egg without using oil. We can cut circles from a sheet if we already have one. As nothing sticks to it, all it needs is a good wipe down after using (or wash if meat has been cooked on it), and can be re-used. I've had some that has lasted for years.

What is anoille sausage? Never heard of it before. Normally make cranberry sauce (relish) myself. Perhaps the US version is different, but the simplest way is to simmer cranberries in orange juice (add a little orange zest if you want a stronger flavour) until the cranberries 'pop' (this means they are cooked), then mash them up slightly (adding sugar if you wish), and store in the fridge for a couple or so days (or freeze) until ready to serve with the turkey.

Did you mean THIS coming Friday to put up your Christmas Tree Lisa? Traditionally - in Britain, the tree is put up and decorated on Christmas Eve, although most people now have trees in their windows (or corner of the room) decorated and with lights at least a week (sometimes two weeks) before Christmas. In the old days all trees were 'real' trees, and so once indoors shed their needles quite rapidly, so this was probably why they were left until the last minute to bring indoors. Although many now choose to use artificial trees, so suppose they can be 'put up' any time. We have to remember that it was only since Prince Albert introduced the Christmas Tree to this country (also Christmas cards) that we have been using them. Probably - in Germany - they had been used for many centuries before. I wouldn't know. Until then we 'decked our halls with boughs of holly' (and mistletoe).

Another tradition is that all Christmas decorations (tree, lights, cards, holly, ivy, mistletoe and paper chains etc) HAVE to be taken down by Twelfth Night. This day itself having its own festivities and special foods, although few people bother with that side, but all do clear away all signs of Christmas - as leaving them up is VERY bad luck!

Yesterday spent a fair amount of time in the kitchen, mainly making the Christmas cake. Used triple the amount of ingredients, this making a huge bowful, and did make the 'easy' version using the 'boil and bake' recipe - adding a few other ingredients to make it more 'festive'. Was lucky in being able use my big, oblong 'double-lined' tin (bought from Lakeland when they were selling them cheaply). Expensive even then for a 'baking tin' but PERFECT for cakes as the 'outsides' now don't cook faster than the middle. The tin is in two parts, one being an outer 'shell' with a slightly smaller one that fits inside - held together with catches at either end. Both tins can be used independently, and also one can be inverted to fit over the top of the other to make a 'lidded' tin.
The 'triple' cake mixture filled the tin (greased and lined with parchment, and making sure there was a 'collar' up the sides), and so the cake itself - as well as being lengthy, is also deep - which is a very good thing. Happy with it as large enough to make one square cake for us and several small 'individual' ones for the charity stall. If only I had the 'booze'. But that can be sorted today.

Didn't - after all - go out on Norris yesterday although the weather was lovely in the morning. Later in the day it rained! As well as making the cake decided to do a load of washing, and although the washing machine is better than it was (after a couple of squirts of WD40) it still sticks at the start and also at the finish (it will carry on spinning non-stop). So still feel I need to 'hover' in case it gets a wobbly half-way through again, anyway need to be there to push the right buttons as and when necessary.

Decided not to cook liver for B last night and instead chose to make him a Thai Prawn Curry. Discovered I had no Thai Green Chilli/Curry Paste, so had to use the Red version (which is hotter). However it turned out very well. SO speedy to make - all I needed to do was fry a finely sliced onion in a little butter, stir in some Thai paste, then add some coconut milk. Simmer for a few minutes until thickened, then fold in some (frozen and thawed) small cooked prawns. This was served with Thai Sweet Chilli Rice (2 minutes in the microwave).
For B's pleasure also threw in some finely chopped crystallised ginger, and suggested he stir a little double cream into the curry to tone down the heat - which he did. Said he enjoyed it so much he'd like me to make it for him again. To which I replied it was so easy to make he could easily do it himself. He was happy with that. This would then leave me more time to sit and watch cookery progs on TV (why do they always put them on at the time we home-cooks would be beavering away in our kitchens? Or is it that most people now have a TV in their kitchen AS WELL as in their living room, bedroom and maybe even in the bathroom?).

Some people seem unable to give up watching TV even for a few days. We have had visitors who have brought a small TV with them (or even BOUGHT one whilst staying here) because there wasn't one in their bedroom). Nothing wrong with that I suppose, myself would hate to miss my 'soaps', but having given up listening to The Archers after decades (due to me being in hospital) can honestly say have never really missed it. TV, radio is nothing more than 'habit'. There was radio (which we called the 'wireless') when I was a child (and the set used to take ages to 'warm up'), and think my parents bought a TV (ever such a small screen in those days AND only in black and white) to watch the Coronation of our Queen in 1953). We spent our free time reading or playing card and board games. Other times my mother would be busy knitting or crocheting (and reading), my Dad would do woodwork or gardening, and I'd be painting pictures, reading a lot of books, and doing quite a bit of embroidery and knitting. Plus helping my dad in the garden. Didn't do much cooking as it was wartime and food being rationed, there was none to practise with. Our hands never seemed to be idle in those days, which is more than can be said for today's world.

The TV series on the Amish world begins this Thursday evening (think on Channel 4 or might be ITV). There was a lovely article in the paper by one of the British girls who went to stay with several Amish families during the series. She had been brought up by loving parents who over-indulged her, so she never had to lift a finger, and was bought all the 'necessaries' of teenage life of today (including the use of a car). She had never needed to make her bed or cooked a meal or did any housework. Quite a culture shock when she joined the Amish. However, she seemed to take to their lifestyle like a duck to water, and after returning home continued being 'domesticated' to the surprise of her mother who expected this to be a short-term thing. The girl realised what a good life the Amish have, and how she had enjoyed their strict routine and was hoping to get a job to earn enough so she could go and visit them again.

Sometimes we watch programmes where some really bullish teenagers almost completely out of control are then sent to an American 'boot camp' where they really have to undergo hardship i the outdoors to try and get them to revalue their own lives and make some improvement. It usually works, but think the more gentle Amish way would work even better. Suppose it depends how bad the youngsters are at the start. Some just won't 'listen and learn' unless the situation is hard enough to force them to.

Although many recipes have been given on this site for fish-cakes, as gluten-free dishes are being requested am including another today. What we should ALL remember is that even though a dish is 'recommended' as suitable for a certain diet or way of life: vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, low-fat etc, this doesn't meat these are only suitable for those on the diet. We should ALL be able to eat them, and often these are even tastier than the 'normal' recipe.

No bread-crumbs or flour are included in the recipe below, and although some could be used to coat the cakes before frying, any gluten-free grain such as cornmeal/polenta, rice flour etc could be used for this purpose instead. Although fine semolina is often used as a 'coating' for rissoles, roast spuds etc, this is a coarse 'wheat flour' so not for the gluten-intolerant.
Have chosen canned salmon for these fish cakes, but canned tuna/sardines/pilchard could be used instead. Alternatively use flaked cooked fish that you might have 'left-over'. Ideally, use the same weight of fish as potato, so when using canned fish (drained) base the amount of spuds on that.
It isn't necessary to remove skin and bones from the canned fish, although the fish cakes look better if no dark skin is included. However, the bones have loads of calcium and soft enough to be mashed so should always be included.

Fish Cakes: makes 4
7 oz (2oog) mashed potato (can be leftovers)
1 x 200g can red or pink salmon (see above)
2 spring onions or 1 shallot, finely sliced...
... and /or 1 tblsp chopped fresh parsley (opt)
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
breadcrumbs or cornmeal etc for coating (see above)
oil for frying
lemon juice
Put the potato, flaked fish, sp.onions/shallot, parsley (if using) in a bowl with HALF the egg. Add seasoning to taste, then divide into four and roll each into a ball then flatten to make a fish cake. Dip each into the remaining egg and coat with chosen crumbs or grain. Chill for 10 minutes in the fridge (they will then be less likely to break up when frying).
Shallow fry for 3 - 4 minutes on either side until deeply golden (don't turn too soon, the crisper they are the more likely they will be to hold their shape).
Drain on kitchen paper. Serve with mayonnaise that has been mixed with a little lemon juice.

A 'tortilla' can mean - depending upon the country - a type of omelette or a 'flat bread'. Here are a couple of Mexican-based dishes that use the 'bread' tortilla, and it doesn't matter whether the flour or cornmeal tortillas are used so suitable for most diets.

First recipe is a 'quesadilla' - the Mexican version of our 'sandwich' I suppose. Myself normally make these using only grated cheese as a 'filling'. This version uses more ingredients, the chicken I would use would be the remnants torn from a cooked carcase. If you like it 'hot' then use a chilli of your choice, otherwise use strips of the sweeter red bell pepper.

Chicken Quesadillas: serves 2
4 tortillas (flour or cornmeal)
half pint (or less) cooked chicken 'scraps'
1 small red onion, finely sliced
few baby spinach/ rocket. or coriander leaves etc
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped (see above)
2 oz (50g) grated hard cheese (Cheddar etc)
Start by dry-heating a non-stick frying pan, then place in one tortilla. Scatter half the chicken over this and top with half the onion, chosen leaves and cheese. Cover with the second tortilla. When the bottom tortilla is nicely browned underneath, flip over (hold together with a fish slice or your hand to avoid spilling the filling). When browned enough, serve. Repeat to make the second quesadilla. Serve, cut into wedges, with a crisp green salad, some soured cream/mayo/yogurt and - if you have some - a spicy tomato salsa or relish.

Second recipe is for 'fajitas'. Again use either the flour tortilla or the corn tortilla. The chicken (again) can be cooked chicken 'scraps'. Intended to be hot and spicy, this may be too much for some, so a milder version of chilli powder can be made by blending together cayenne pepper and ground cumin (to your taste). Paprika powder has slightly less heat than cayenne so you may prefer to use this.

Spicy Chicken Fajitas: serves 2
1 tblsp olive oil
approx half pint cooked chicken 'scraps'
2 tsp hot chilli powder (see above)
1 onion, halved then thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
8 green 'string' beans
1 x 4oog can chopped tomatoes
2 - 4 soft tortillas (flour or cornbased)
sour cream for serving.
Put the oil in a frying pan, then add the chilli powder and cook for 1 minute. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until softened. Stir in the canned tomatoes, then add the green beans and the chicken and cook for 10 or so minutes.
Warm the tortillas, then divide the mixture in the pan between them, spooning it into the centre, then roll up. Serve with dollops of sour cream.

The weather today is dull but still dry, so think I'll now grab the opportunity to take Norris for his 'walkies', and scoot down to the shops (takes only 5 minutes at walking pace). Can't see a leaf moving, so obviously no wind (yet!). Hope you will all be able to join me again tomorrow, so will finish with my usual 'see you then'. Have a good day.