Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Don't Wait to Start. Begin Now!

Three hours ago I got up and - silly me - decided to go back to bed for half an hour. My fault for putting my fleece blanket under the duvet instead of on top. I was so snugly warm that I just didn't want to get up even if it was late. Grabbing a few more minutes didn't help as I then fell asleep and began several 'days' of dreaming all in the space of a couple or so hours. Funny how often months of 'dream-time' can be packed in a few very few 'real-life' minutes,

Believe that lots of veggies can be grow quite successfully on the window sill, or in larger outdoor window boxes. Certainly herbs can be, but myself have 'trialled' string beans and it worked well.
We have to welcome Willow (with our group hugs) and thank her for telling us that mange-tout can be grown in this way. Like the idea of letting them trail down, so they could be grown in containers on top of a shed or garage ? Always supposing they can be reached for easy watering/feeding.

It was only the other day Lynn, that I mentioned to B how lucky we are not to have to go to the cinema to watch films any more. Years ago we had to wait up to ten years before they were allowed to be shown on TV, now it is only a very few months. Must be some 20 - 25 years since I last went to the cinema (think it was to see Jaws or Earthquake, the latter with 'Sensurround' which made it very scary).
Although I expect the new cinemas are (perhaps) more comfortable, I bet it costs a lot to watch a film, and believe the sweets, popcorn sold there are highly priced. Oh for those days when the 'girl with the tray' used to appear during a film break and stand at the bottom of the auditorium selling tubs of ice-cream each with a little wooden spoon.
The other night watched a film (something about Henry), this set in the post-war years, and in that we saw the interior of a cinema with the girl selling ice-creams. I was (almost) shocked to see the films being shown (On The Town etc) were the ones B and I went to see, and it was hard to believe that the costumes and schooling and all things domestic were so different then as now. All so very 'old-fashioned'. It was like looking back at real history, not at my own life-time.
Being pensioners, we are even luckier than most as we are now exempt from having to pay the TV licence. As long as there is a pensioner in the house (maybe living with their children) the licence is free for all who live there.

Did the same as you this year Lynn, sowed some dried peas (from a pack bought at the supermarket, meant for soaking and cooking). These I grew in the green house and they did grow easily and gave wonderful 'pea-shoots' to add to salads. One or two shoots grew a flower or two which then gave a pod of peas, but I used those when very young and they were very similar to mange-tout, tasting very sweet.

As you say gillibob, the 'Sweet 'n Sour' Chinese dish (given yesterday) is a good one to use up bits and bobs. Most Oriental meals are very inexpensive to make, probably because 'affluence' was not part of the culture, and people often had to exist on what they could grow or forage for. Tiny scraps of meat (from a poultry carcase?) would be added to vegetables in a stir-fry, and quite a lot of fish was eaten. And eggs, so they did get their protein one way or the other. Rice was the staple carbohydrate although they did use noodles as well. Strangely milk products are never (or rarely) eaten in the Orient.

That Salmon Chowder sounded good Lisa. Chowder is very much an American dish, but the recipes for this have made their way into our cook books and mags over the past few years. At one time we could buy several varieties of (Campbells) condensed soups. Even remember buying a 'smoked salmon' flavoured one. But never heard of a condensed cheese soup. Only three condensed soups seem now to be sold, chicken, mushroom and forgotten the other. These are useful (still condensed) to use blended with a little cooked chicken (scraps again) or sliced or chopped button mushrooms to use as filling for vol-au-vents. Used to fold in scraps of smoked salmon to the condensed salmon to give another flavoured filling.

A comment from 'M' (otherwise Anonymous) has entered my mail box. Not sure if you are already a 'commenteer', or new to our page - if the latter, then very welcome.
Your query re meat in mincemeat. In medieval times it was very common for meat and fruit to be eaten together. Maybe this was an idea brought back by the Crusaders, for today Middle Eastern dishes often are made with both meat and fruit - a 'tagine' for example, usually made with dried apricots or dates and lamb. Also the sweeter spices (cinnamon) often used in the savoury dish.
Perhaps we never got the taste for mixing meat and fruit together, or maybe someone once ran out of meat and decided to bake the 'pies' using just the fruits and the other ingredients. At one time these 'pies' were small and oval shaped called 'coffyns'. Now they are - traditionally - always made in a round shape.
I've never tried adding meat to a mince-pie and would never wish to. Also have not yet found a recipe that tells us how to make them the old-fashioned way, but possibly there is one out there in the ether that can be gathered up via the Internet.

Yesterday had quite an interesting day in the Goode kitchen. Still sorting out my larder shelves came across packet of Lemon Pie Filling (past its b.b.date but who cares?), so having a bit of left-over pastry in the fridge, blind-baked a short-crust case. Whilst sorting out my veggie drawer for bits and bobs to make soup, discovered half a dozen lemons that were getting to the 'soft' stage, so needed using (fresher lemons have been cling-film wrapped and will stay in the drawer and keep well for then next 3 - 4 months. Squeezed a couple of lemons to add the juice to the liquid before making up the mix, The empty shells then put into a freezer bag and frozen (to later make candied peel along with the saved orange shells).
Would you believe I even saved six lemon pips and sowed them in a pot of soil, watered with warm water, and this then put into a large poly-bag and stood on a kitchen shelf immediately over a radiator (this in the hope of confusing the pips and making them believe they are in a hot country and so will start to grow). If they do grow, then that's a couple or so gifts sorted for later next year. Will also grow avocado stones to give as gifts. They make good house plants even if they don't bear fruit.

Even though my intentions was to start 'living off what's in store' seems like I can't wait for January to begin this challenge, have to start right now. Perhaps it is something that is called 'mindset' that is making me take notice of what can be made use of, rather than normally discarding (like the lemon pips/shells), as obviously my mind is now firmly set on making the most of what I have. Just goes to show there no point in waiting to start a challenge. Start now and don't look back!

When asked if he wanted his dessert to be 'Tarte au Citron' (lemon pie to you and me) or Lemon Meringue Pie (same but with meringue on top) he opted for the former. This has now left me with two egg whites, and today am planning to use up the remaining soft lemons to make lemon curd, so should be able to save another two whites, so can then make a couple of boxes of soft-scoop ice-cream, already have some cream that needs using up, also some EasyYo yogurt, and together hope to make at least two flavours of ice-cream.

Decided to make a pan of Scotch Broth for B's supper (he loved the Baxter's canned version), so read the label on the one can left in the larder and it was the usual carrots, celery, onion, potato, cooked in lamb stock. As there was tub of (home-made) lamb stock made from some free bones, decided to use this. Another ingredient was marrowfat peas, and again 'cheated' by adding a tub of not-quite mushy peas made from some dried/soaked marrowfats that were (fortunately) sitting on top of the tub of lamb stock in the freezer, so no need to hunt for it. Had forgotten I'd got it anyway.
The other main ingredient to this soup was pearl barley, and of course I'd got that in the larder, so just added a bit more water and let it all simmer away until very soft. It made a big panful. I had a small bowl of soup for lunch, and when I went to get some later than evening for my supper, there was only a small bowlful left. This meant that B (who is allowed to help himself) must have eaten two large bowlsful, and this meant he liked it. Which is all that matters.
For afters (and twice more during the evening) he worked his way through the 8" 'tarte au citron', initially saying it was a bit 'sharp' (due probably to the lemon juice I added, although I did add extra sugar). I suggested he tried it with cream, and this he said made it perfect. Well, it would wouldn't it. Cream with everything is B's idea of heaven. And mine!

Believed to have originated in Germany in the 14th century, Stollen became the Christmas 'bread' of that region. (Italy has Pannetone). So, as I came across a gluten-free recipe for Stollen yesterday, although a bit too close to Christmas for cooking in comfort, thought it was worth giving as there are several gluten-intolerant readers of this site, and it is a little speedier to make than using the (traditional) yeast-based dough.
Stollen is normally made using a spiced and fruity bread dough that has been rolled around a thick strip of marzipan before being baked. The marzipan in this version is chopped up, although possibly it could be made keeping the marzipan in one piece running through.
As myself don't normally use pistachios or pecans (too expensive) other nuts could be used (almonds, walnuts....). Instead of dried fruit as given, use (total weight) of mixed dried fruit, any candied peel included will give extra flavour. As ever, use the recipe as a guide, and make your own version.

Gluten-free Stollen: makes 1 large loaf
9 oz (250g) gluten-free self-raising flour
3 tsp gluten-free baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
3 large eggs, beaten
3 oz (75g) butter, melted and cooled
10 fl oz (300ml) soured cream or yogurt
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz (50g) pistachio nuts, chopped
2 oz (50g) pecan nuts, chopped
zest of 1 large orange
7 oz (200g) marzipan, cut into small cubes
3 oz (75g) each sultanas and raisins
icing sugar for dusting
Sift the flour, baking powder and spices together into a large mixing bowl. Mix in the eggs, a bare 4 tblsp of the melted butter, the soured cream, and the sugar. then stir in the vanilla, orange zest, nuts, marzipan, and dried fruit.
Tip the mixture onto a lightly floured board and also flour your hands for the mixture will be a bit sticky. Form the 'dough' into the traditional long, oval shape, and place onto a large baking tray that has been lined with baking parchment. If necessary, push it back into shape.
Bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 40 - 50 minutes until the top is golden and the dough cooked through (if browning too quickly, tent foil over the top - shiny side up to reflect away the heat).
When cooked, leave on the tin but immediately brush the surface with the remaining melted butter, then dust with icing sugar. The sugar is absorbed by the butter which will then form a crusty sweet topping as the Stollen cools. Once firm enough to remove from tin, finish cooling on a cake airer.

Although the Christmas turkey has still not graced the table, it could be that some folk have already cooked it, sliced and frozen in gravy to just re-heat on the day (something I have done in the past and it does save a lot of time and gives more oven space), even made gravy from the carcase. But some time or another we will have 'left-over' turkey that needs using up, and probably even some cranberry sauce and a bit of cream. So here is a recipe to make individual pies (or one large one if you wish) using up these 'oddments'. It will make 8 mini-pies, the suggestion is serve two minis per person. However, as they can be served warm or cold - and could also be made even smaller (tart tins instead of muffin tins) they would be perfect 'buffet' foods. If interested then make sure you keep a copy of this recipe to use later (blogger doesn't keep the earlier posting each month although I can retrieve them through 'draft'), although it is so simple, probably easy enough to remember.

Turkey and Cranberry Pies: makes 8 (to serve 4)
1 x 425g pack ready-rolled shortcrust pastry
9 oz (250g) shredded cooked turkey 'scraps'
6 tblsp creme fraiche or double cream
6 - 8 tblsp cranberry sauce
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
Lay the pastry on a floured board and cut 8 x 10cm circles, and 8 x 9cm circles (for lids). You may need to re-roll the trimmings to have enough pastry to make the lids. Push the larger circles into 8 of the 'holes' in a muffin tin.
Mix together the turkey, creme fraiche and cranberry sauce with seasoning to taste and spoon this into the pastry 'cases'. Brush the edges of the pastry with egg and cover each with its pastry lid, sealing the edges together. Place in the fridge to chill for half an hour.
Make a slit in the top to allow steam to escape, brush the lids with more egg, and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 25 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden. Can be served warm or cold.

As my plan this week is to do as much as possible in the time left each morning, will finish early again. Tomorrow is a bit 'iffy'. If I get up early enough will write a short blog, as Norma the Hair arrives at 9.00am. After than have to wait for my groceries to be delivered, then have to put the chilled, frozen and produce away (the tins can wait until later), so it might be I find I haven't time to write at all tomorrow (for some reason dislike writing in the afternoon/evening). All I can say is wait and see. If not tomorrow, will be back again as usual on Thursday. See you when I see you!