Thursday, December 08, 2011

Finding The Time

A group thanks to Elaine, minimiser deb, and Eileen for their pleasing comments re my 'outburst' yesterday on a things non culinary. Was expecting a lot of flak. One day will surely upset someone enough for them to give me a rollicking. Maybe I should keep my mouth shut (or fingers tied together) so that my thoughts won't get 'onto paper'.

Loved your suggestions re mini-loaves Eileen. Am looking forward to trying them. Was going to yesterday, but 'never found the time'. Of course I had loads of spare time - just spent it reading! And yes - about food.
A food mag arrived yesterday (an annual sub. is my personal present to myself) and it gave a list of all the necessary foods needed to make the Christmas Dinner (recipes in the mag). My goodness me, do they think we are made of money? If I can find time (ha, ha) I will try to cost out as accurately as possible how much the ingredients cost. The bronze Norfolk turkey (think it might be free-range) was down as 5.5kg plus (11lb plus). "That'll feed 10 easily" I said to Beloved who was also interested in the list (I showed it to him so he could see how much more a festive meal COULD have cost him if he was married to someone else and he had to foot the bill). Then I looked at the recipes and they were to feed 8! Once demonstrated a (really good) Christmas Dinner plus home-made mincepies, sweets etc, at Pebble Mill (on Pebble Mill at One) that cost not a lot more than £10!!! Michael Smith (well known chef in those days, now deceased) was also on the programme and he was very impressed. After that we worked together several times. He was a lovely man and we 'clicked'. Hope older readers still remember him.

Suppose the Christmas meal should be slightly OTT, but even though we stuff the turkey, we shouldn't stuff our tums until almost bursting. We may have more variety on the plate than on a normal day, but smaller amounts of each, so overall the meal needn't (or shouldn't) cost much more than if we were serving a large chicken with all the trimmings.
Never can understand how people can eat Christmas Pudding after the main course. By then we are full. If we intend eating pudding, then at least we should serve ourselves (or be served)smaller portions of the main meal.
Feel I'm sounding more and more like Mrs. Scrooge.

We have a new member joining our flock, so welcome and group hugs to Christine K who is requesting a recipe for making pastry. Don't think I'm the right person to ask as I'm hopeless at making pastry and although always buy ready-made puff pastry (as do many chefs), also buy the ready-made short pastry.
However can give the recipe for short pastry. This is simply plain flour and half its weight in fat. The fat usually being butter, or a blend of lard and butter (some cooks use lard only when making pastry for savoury pies). Rub the butter into the flour with fingertips (people with cold hands are supposed to make better pastry) OR freeze the fat then grate it into the flour (this keeps it cold and away from warm fingers).
Stir a little chilled water into the flour/fat mixture until it just holds together, then gather it together to form a ball, then wrap and chill for at least half an hour (this gives the gluten in the flour a chance to start 'working'). Don't knead the pastry to 'bring it together' as the gluten then overworks and the pastry will become tough.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface/pastry board, and flour the rolling pin as well. Don't use too much pressure as you roll, but just keep rolling gently until the thickness/thinness you require.

When baking pastry 'blind', roll out to allow extra pastry to hang over the sides of the tin. This extra pastry helps to prevent the pastry shrinking in the tin - which often happens if trimmed before baking. Either trim off after the initial baking, or fill the tin with whatever (quiche etc) and continue baking then trim off once the cooking is done. No need to waste trimmings - if removed after the initial 'blind bake', they can be sprinkled with grated cheese and popped back into the oven until the cheese has melted, or if fully baked (the pastry by then will be dark golden, once cooled they can be crushed and stored as 'crumbs' to which sugar can be added with a bit of melted butter and used for the base of cheesecakes etc.

Do have recipes for making Rough Puff and Flaky Pastry (similar to puff), also Choux Pastry if you want them Christine. Also for a 'sweet' shortcrust pastry (although I find the 'normal' is suitable for almost every dish that needs shortcrust, sweet or savoury).

The other day mentioned the 'convenience meal' Beanfeast. Now it's not like me to push anything convenient, but just for once do find (at least) their Mexican Chilli (their Spag. Bol is also good) a very good substitute for something similar made with meat. Not only does the TVP (textured vegetable protein) feel like meat in the mouth, myself find it fools me that it really is 'the real thing'.
Reason why I'm suggesting we try this particular product (we can make the same thing from scratch but it would take longer - the pack contains all the flavourings and only needs 1 pint water), is that it costs 89p and makes enough to serve 2. By adding extra red beans to the chilli, and a can of chopped tomatoes to the spag.bol, we can extend it to make 2 really good helpings, or 3 smaller ones.
If we made either of the above as 'stuffing/topping' for a large jacket potato, the above (when made up) would serve at least four - maybe six - people as a 'light supper'. Perfect for teenagers who always seem to want to scoff something. Including the spud, one portion (for four) would then cost not much more than 25p - 35p each (the higher amount allowing for adding half a can of red beans or chopped tomatoes), and even cheaper for six. That's what I call a cheap meal, and satisfying with it.

The weather is absolutely AWFUL at the moment. Howling gale, very cold and raining. Beloved has just 'popped out for a moment' as it is now high tide and he wants to see the sea throwing itself onto the rocks. Have to say the Bay is usually so calm (sheltered) that we're lucky to see a crested wave, let alone any spray. It's only when the weather is rough we realise we really DO live by the sea (the rest of the time the Bay seems more like a flat lake that regularly empties and fills itself, leaving dangerous quicksands when the tide is out). We can't even go for a paddle for fear of sinking.
Morecambe does have a few very tiny and safe sandy beaches tucked into corners along the prom, and think the sand there has been imported, which is a bit of a laugh considering the Bay is nine miles across and all sand. But there is sand and there is sand! In one or two areas there are still to be seen half submerged small ships and even a Land Rover (belonging to those fated cockle-pickers that drowned) sucked down into the shifting sands.

We had our electricity statement yesterday - that also in credit, but not as much credit as we have with the gas. Seems we spent a whole 70p (shock, horror, but also ha, ha) this last quarter than the quarter before. At first thought this might have been because I'd used the oven more (which I have been doing recently), and then we'd bought a new freezer last year so the running costs of that would of course add to the bill. Then remembered the cost of electricity had gone up anyway, so seems that we have managed to come out of the price hikes (both gas and the 'leccy') without having to pay much more. We also get a £15 discount because we "dual fuel" with the same company.
Much depends upon the weather this winter, as to how much fuel we will be using when/if the temperature drops, but will worry about that later. Said to B yesterday, "I'm not going to end my days = as my mother did - huddled in front of the electric fire, only one bar switched on wearing an overcoat". In those days my mum didn't have central heating. But she did have enough money in the bank to be able to afford to have two bars switched on. She was just so used to saving money that she saw no point in wasting it on herself.
Feel I too have her approach to life. Although not wearing an overcoat (don't even own one, the only coat I have is a 'fleece' that was given to me by a friend - but it does keep me warm), I COULD wear cardigans (but choose not to - they are a nuisance when cooking) and instead cover myself with a 'snuggle' (the type with sleeves, only don't use the sleeves - these also annoy me) and on top of that my patchwork quilt. Maybe even cuddling a hot-water bottle as well. Together these keep me beautifully warm during my early afternoon's TV watch (B usually out at the gym or birdwatching - and as the heating comes on at 3.00pm the room has warmed up by the time he returns).

Interestingly (or not!) the other day, after the hot water bottle had cooled down, shoved it behind me, so my back could catch the last of the heat. Could hardly feel it as it was around 'blood heat' by then, but kept it there for several hours, covered it with the quilt when I went to make B's supper, then - as it was still warmish - replaced it behind me as I watched more TV during the evening. By bed-time the 'hottie' was still as warm as when I placed it behind me - due entirely to my body heat warming the bottle instead of the bottle warming me (well both really).
This made me think (you know what happens when I start thinking...), wondering how much fuel (gas or electricity) would be needed to heat water up to the temperature in the 'hottie' at that time, and keep it at that temperature for hours. The food we eat is our 'fuel', and then I wondered whether the amount of food we need to eat to continually keep our temperature at 'blood-heat' would cost us more than other forms of heating water? All to do with calorie intake I suppose (a calorie is a measure of heat). Has anyone ever worked out how many calories equal one therm of gas, or the amount needed to keep water at blood heat. If anyone has bet it would be Les.

Recently have seen TV chefs preparing and serving scallops with black pudding and crispy bacon. As have three scallops and three slices of black pud in the freezer, bacon in the fridge, think this will make a very good supper for B tonight, as 3 scallops are hardly worth serving on their own.
Think it was one of the Masterchefs who served the above on a bed of 'Colcannon', and I could also do this as this then turns a 'starter' into much more of a main course. The whole dish is mega-easy to put together, yet it seemed to be classed as 'gourmet'. Mind you the king scallops were not cheap (although managed to buy a pack of frozen at reduced price at the Smokehouse - and by hook or by crook have made them go as far as possible, the three are the last ones left to be thawed out).

There's been a good series on BBC 2 about a team of ladies learning to bake bread together, and although have managed only to see half of each episode (and missed the last altogether) am hoping to be able to watch the missing bits on iPlayer (if the comp will let me - it's got the wobblies at the moment).

Even though I had a free evening last night - due to a footie match on TV - ended up staying in my chair, reading and then nodding off. Once the match had finished we watched a film, followed by another film, and by then I was wide awakes, so when B went to bed I stayed up and watched something else. Hardly worth going to bed at all, but I did eventually and at least was able then to fall fast asleep. Sometimes my mind starts 'thinking' once my head hits the pillow and I can be awake for an hour (or more) before I eventually drift off. Then I dream.

As time is moving on, just one recipe today. This is a variation of 'Bubble and Squeak' -traditionally made with left-over spuds and sprouts mashed together then fried to be served with cold turkey on Boxing Day. But its a great recipe to serve at any time of the year, especially this more 'upmarket' version that uses parsnips instead of potatoes (but potatoes could also be included if you wish). If wishing to make from scratch, use raw veg and pre-cook them before assembling this dish. This can be eaten alone as a supper dish to serve four, or will serve up to eight as a 'side-dish' (to accompany hot or cold meats etc).

Spiced Bubble and Squeak: serves 4 - 8
1 lb (5oog) parsnips, cooked
9 oz (250g) cooked cabbage or sprouts, shredded
3 oz (75g) frozen peas, cooked
juice of half a lemon
2 oz (50g) butter
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
salt and pepper to taste
Mash the parsnips with the lemon juice and half the butter. Add the remaining ingredients (other than the saved butter) and mix well together.
Melt the 1 oz (25g) butter in a large frying pan and when hot add the parsnip mixture, pressing it down flat to almost fill the pan. Fry until crispy golden underneath, then turn with a fish slice to cook the other side. It may break up - and if so all to the good as it can be turned/broken/turned/broken as much as you like - each time it crisps up even more, the crispiness then inside the 'pancake' as well as under and over. When to your satisfaction, slide onto a plate and serve cut into wedges.
Alternatively form into small 'cakes' and crisply fry just the tops and bottoms without breaking them up.

And that's it for today. With a howling wind outside, seeing the plastic greenhouse almost taking off, feel that I'd be more comfortable in the kitchen (it has no windows other than at one end of the long 'L' (these being in the conservatory), so can't see the what is happening outdoors, or might go into the sitting room (warmer as warmed by the c.h. - although this has now switched off) and do my usual sudoku, and couple of crosswords.

Things to do anyway - as long as I can stir my stumps and get on with them - so best take my leave of you and hope to accomplish enough to give me something 'useful' to chat about tomorrow. See you then? Hope so.