Monday, July 25, 2011

Getting it Sorted

Sorry about the problem with yesterday's publication. It appears it did get published after all, but with wide gaps between paragraphs. Don't know why that happened. When I pressed 'published' the comp just 'froze'. Left it for ages and it still was 'stuck', so in the end had to switch it off. When going back to read the blog it showed nothing new had been published that day and the 'draft' showed only the first couple of paras. Scrolled down as far as poss - nothing appeared, so assumed the rest had been wiped out. Hence the additional few words I added to the draft which did publish. It came up on 'view blog' so knew that was OK but could read nothing else so didn't scroll down further to check.
Perhaps the prob was with my comp, not blogger. But if so this shouldn't have cause such wide gaps. If the same thing happens today (or another day), if I haven't signed off in the usual way, then scroll down to check if there is something else lower down.

At least don't have to write it out all again, not that I had thought of anything else to write about today due to this. So it will be just thoughts as they come into my mind.

Watched Hugh F.W's cookery repeat on one of the digi channels. Coincidentally he was discussing 'lunchbox food', all home-made of course, and very inspiring. Also three ways to make a cheese sarnie (three different cooks sampling each others) again making my mouth water. His ideas for different hummous also will be used in the Goode kitchen.
There was a bit in the trade mag as to how people are now buying a lot more mackerel thanks to H.F.W's promotion of these, followed by saying H.F.W was concerned that if people bought too much mackerel this would limit the stocks in the sea. Like any 'sustained' fish - leading to shortages and higher prices.

Plenty more that could have been repeated about 'lunchbox food' as read in the trade mag. Seems that even breakfast foods (such as porridge) are now being packed for those who have an early start at the office. Almost any of the foods that H.F.W demonstrated that can be made at home seem available in small packs to buy to add to your lunchbox. Some bread is now being marketed as 'sandwich wraps' and 'sandwich thins' so at least this might show the return of thin-sliced bread, and if at the same price as the 'medium' this should then give us more slices per loaf. At least one silver lining to a cloud.

Thanks Les for telling me about zooming in and out using the control key (took me ages to find it!!) and the mouse. Tried it and it works. Just hope I can remember what to do when next needed. At one time I wanted to know how to add 'accents' to certain letters in French, German and other 'foreign' words. But soon forgotten. Know I have to use the number pad at the side of the keyboard, but not sure which other key has to be used with them. Appreciate a reminder. Must keep a little note-book to write things down that need remembering.

Thanks also for the other comments. Seems that reduced items can be found in supermarkets at varying times and days of the weeks. Usually late afternoons at the end of the week and perhaps early on a Monday. Thus is the one problem with on-line shopping, although we can still get plenty of 'offers', there are no foods sent that are close enough to 'use-by' date to warrant a reduction, although have to say I have more than once had an item requested in the normal way, but is being discontinued and sold to me at an incredibly low price. Remember once ordering a good variety of olives. Think I was only charged 5p for the can (the rsp being something like £1.50).

Regarding Les' comment re the yeast/salt when making bread. Although salt does affect yeast, as long as the ingredients are added to the flour and then worked together - without being left to stand for any length of time - doubt it matters very much. After all - there is salt included in bought bread mixes with also the yeast (all we have to add is liquid). Some mixes have the yeast wrapped separately. So maybe it is more the balance of yeast to salt that matters most.

The mention of the food that Gill brings (as 'freebies' ) being used to make meals while she is here, is not really practical. Although she does give me several items that she thinks I can find a use for (taken from the 'reduction shelf' in the supermarket), these are usually really strange thinks like Yam flour, and packets of Polish Beetroot soup, and other 'ethnic' products that I really have to read up on before I find a use for them.
The other foods she brings are what she says she will eat herself - perhaps different fruits for breakfast - and other items that need to be kept in the fridge, but she rarely eats any of them and always takes them back with her. Dare say I could use some of them, but have - up till now - that had not occurred to be, as always thought of them as 'hers' not 'mine'.

Did very well yesterday regarding tidying up. Very little to do today other than more cooking. Having cooked a double sized fruit cake - in a deep, oblong tray - will be able to feed it with a bit of booze and then wrap half to keep for later months. Doubt it will be allowed to be stored until Christmas, but as time moves so fast these days, maybe B will forget we have it and be satisfied with munching his way through the half that will be available from tomorrow onwards.

Don't really know why I fret so much about all the 'convenience' foods on the market. We are all free to buy what we want when we want. It's just that as prices continue to rise, more and more new 'expensive for what we get' products keep appearing on the shelves. I can't get the cheese 'sticks' out of my mind. Expecting people to buy packs of 20g of cheese when it is obviously so much cheaper if we bought the cheese in a block and cut this amount off ourselves. Or bottled water when tap water is (almost) free. Honestly believe that the younger folk (that means anyone aged 40 or less), are so brainwashed into believing that they don't now need to know how to prepare any foods 'from scratch', so they never get the chance to realise that it can be SO much cheaper when they do it themselves. Maybe they have grown up in a home where their mother didn't cook either, and that cooking is something so 'old fashioned' that it is not needed to be done these days.

Understandable in a way because with other necessary parts of our domestic life, we tend to now always buy rather than make. In my youth 'woollies' were always hand-knitted or crocheted, and a 'little lady round the corner' would run up a dress for my mother from material she had bought.
Even in the '60's, myself would knit all the children's (and B's) jumpers, and pullovers, and certainly make the baby clothes, and also the dresses for the girls as they grew older. Also making my own clothes. Obviously did buy clothes (often from a mail order catalogue because it spread the cost over 20 weeks), but remember well my teenage daughter several long dresses for her to wear when dancing. By then had bought a knitting machine as it took far longer to knit adult sized 'woollies' by hand than it did for the children. Bit it still worked out cheaper than buying the ready-made over the counter.

The most sewing I do these days is either a bit of embroidery or running up cushion covers on the sewing machine. Maybe a bit of patchwork and turning up the hems and gathering in the waists of my clothes now that I have lost so much weight. Would never dream of buying new clothes when the 'old' ones still have plenty of life left in them. If I was younger perhaps. But that was then and this is now. Money can normally be spent only once, and it's up to us to make sure that what we buy will give us the best return. Food comes high on that list, and even then we have to make the right decisions. Choosing spend our money on one expensive ingredient makes little sense when we can spend the same buying several cheaper foods that together could probably make more than one complete meal for the whole family. Not that I am suggesting we should always buy the cheapest of everything. Ideally, keep a balance - spending less on some things (maybe growing our own salads for instance), then use the money saved to buy something that really does need to be 'quality'. You will not be surprised I'm thinking about purchasing the best meats. Not as daft as it sounds - the better the age and quality of the meat (braising/stewing cuts being the cheapest), the better and more pronounced the flavour, so we don't need to use as much of it as a recipe might suggest.

Yesterday gave the fridge side of Boris a good sort-out. Seem to have accumulated several tubs of cream cheese (most of them low-fat) and so far unopened. Pleased to see all had a use-by date was towards the end of this year - September being the earliest. Didn't realise these had such a long 'shelf-life'.
There were a few very dried-up pieces of hard cheese at the back of one of the shelves. Will be able to grate these up using the smallest grater to make a 'Parmesan' type of fine cheese to sprinkle over pasta and add to other dishes. Certainly will have more flavour than Parmesan - as never have found this to be worth its money when it comes to 'taste'.

Because Gill arrives mid morning tomorrow, prefer to start my chores as soon as possible, so am taking a week of writing my blog to enable me to concentrate on my friend (and her needs!). Will be checking my emails every day and if any reader does have an urgent query, will find time to reply to it. Otherwise will be absent from your screens until a week from today.
Take this time off (from reading the blog) and deliberately use it do something 'useful. Myself start today by filling a few containers with soil and sowing more radish and beetroot seeds, plus another tray of Mixed Salad Leaves. Won't take more than 15 minutes to do the lot (estimating that's probably how long it takes to read this blog), and when grown these should save me £££s. So hope that when I return, you too will be able to show us all just how the time saved has proved profitable. Almost talking myself out of writing this blog just to give you extra time to 'play with'.

Enjoy your week, and am already looking forward to next Monday when 'I'll be back!'. See you then.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Reviewing the Situation

Pleased to know that our small TV set will take DVD discs without the need for an aerial. Although Les, it doesn't already have any DVD equipment fitted to it. Know that Scart leads are not expensive, neither are digi boxes but we don't really NEED another TV to watch - there are few new programmes on these days to make TV worth watching at all. Having a DVD means that if either of us is confined to bed or wishes to watch DVDs (we have LOADS of these that came free with our newspaper), then we have the opportunity. Also it makes use of the small TV.

Regarding your bread Les. Some bread machines ask that we put the yeast in first, the flour second and the water last, others need it the other way round, or maybe sugar in one corner, yeast in another, salt in another etc. Always use the instructions that came with the machine. Can't myself see why it matters for as soon as switched on the paddle mixes the lot together anyway, but possibly if set on a time to bake later, then it would be important or the yeast may start working before it should.

Problem with blogger again. It did not publish my blog and the rest that was written was not saved in draft. Only the above saved. Hopefully this will publish, and have to catch up with the rest tomorrow.

You got some great bargains Stephanie from Sainsbury and Tesco. Is Saturday the best time to find the bargains in the supermarkets? Presumably late afternoon?

Lovely to hear that you are now gathering produce from your garden Urbanfarmgirl. It really does give a good feeling knowing you are eating what you have grown yourself, let alone the financial saving it makes.

News from the trade mag this week is that "sugar prices are set to increase as EU production and rocketing global prices". If I read it correctly, new deliveries arrive in October, so this should see the start of higher prices (although the supermarkets may still squeeze their own margins (for a while). Those who make preserves would be wise to stock up with sugar now. Kept in dry conditions, sugar keeps for virtually ever.

Higher sugar prices means sugar products: jam, marmalade, cakes, biscuits, sweet drinks, chocolate, ice-cream... will probably also rise in price.

Asda is back in first place for the cheapest shopping basket, although considering what the 33 items are each week (the same for all the stores, but different each week) don't take much notice when I see that one supermarket was close because it gave a massive saving of £1.37 on a shower gel, which dramatically brought down the total cost of their 'basket'.

Shower gel does not appear often in my shopping basket, neither (all on this weeks 'list') does Ardennes pate, bagels, dishwasher tablets, eclairs, peppered steak slice, Hobnobs, pomegranate, salami, sweet potatoes, squash, and Kettle chips. Other things such as milk, onions, corn flakes, ketchup, bread and a few other things are pretty standard, but in no way do I think the full list represents what people normally buy. Or is it me that lives on another planet?

A re-vamped soup will appear on the shelves - the vegetable soup containing from 50% and 70% vegetables. Am wondering what the remaining percentage is made from. Certainly not good stock for it is an 'instant' (dry) soup.

All-Bran is now to target younger women rather than "the elderly with digestive problems". Ah bless, never realised they were caring for us pensioners before. Anyway it's now going to "re-positioned as an 'everyday digestive breakfast solution' for women aged 35 and over". Makes it sound really tempting doesn't it?

Personally feel that All-Bran is - and has always been - an excellent cereal, so not trying to put off anyone buying it. It's just to show how many manufacturers come up with new ideas to try and secure more sales.

Another little gimmick is that one major supermarket is now siting its wine aisle next to the fresh produce to "capitalise on the rise in popularity of scratch cooking and dining at home". What do they mean by "scratch cooking?" I asked myself, thinking 'itchiness'. Oh, yes - they must mean cooking from scratch. So that's becoming a new and popular way to cook is it? Oddly enough, it probably is. It's only us 'oldies' who seemed to continue cooking this way. But at least it's making a come-back.

Beef prices still to remain high for the foreseeable future, according the latest forecasts. At the moment still rising according to another. Where will it all end?

Part of this week's trade mag is given over to the advertising and promotions to do with the Olympics. No interest to me, so skipped reading that for the moment. What DID interest me was the feature on the 'lunchbox'. Sales of 'lunchbox' foods continually rise and "convenience and enjoyment have overtaken health as reasons behind lunchbox consumption, prompting brands to target adult consumers with innovative new products and formats.'

I grieves me to read that "adult consumers are also buying into the more traditional pre-packed sandwich meat section, which is worth more than £1.5bn in value and growing by 5.9% year-on-year" (the pre-packed part giving me the grief). Surely people could make sarnies to take to work instead of buying them.

Worth noting that "corned beef is showing value decline, but turkey, ham and pork have standout performances....and there is a trend to smaller pack sizes for cooked meats". Doubt very much that the price of packed cooked meats will be lowered in proportion. Another proof that if we cook/slice/freeze our own ham, turkey, beef and slice chilled corned beef from tins - to use for sarnies - we can save a fortune.

In order of highest first, the percentage of cooked meats, sandwiches, fruit, cooked meats, crisps, cheese in lunchboxes has risen. Salads just 1%, and canned fish, yogurts and cakes, biscuits, chocolate has gone down.

Of course a few new products are advertised. We can now buy Spam Sticks to either be oven-baked or eaten cold - these "to target lunchboxes and sharing occasions".

Considering our tap water is pure enough to drink, why on earth anyone would pay 49p a small bottle for 'spring water' to put in a child's lunchbox. Surely they would prefer fruit juice diluted with water? But then the manufacturers "noticed a gap in the market for a 100% lunchbox-compliant product appealing to children and adults alike". Mind you, the label has Bob the Builder on it so it is bound to tempt the small-fry.

Unfortunately not all plastic bottles can be re-used or I'd be tempted to suggest buy one of the above, then once emptied, fill the bottle with tap water - bet the child would not notice the difference.

Here's another lunch-box foodie that should make us think twice - or even thrice. Aimed at small families (and lunchboxes) a pack of 6 x 20g cheddar cheese portions can be bought for £1.49p rsp. OK, a fun picture on the front that will attract both adults and children and marketed because "Parents want to provide their child with a healthy snack that they will actually want to eat, while children want something fun". Nothing wrong with that, but the way I see it, this 'lunchbox' cheese works out at around £1.50p for 120g (that's not much more than 4 oz total). Certainly would be cheaper to buy the same cheese in a block and cut it into 20g portions yourself. Work out the difference in cost for yourself.

There are always people who can afford to buy rather than do anything themselves, but many who buy often don't realise just how much more we pay for something that has been prepared by someone else. Always we should remember that all the overheads incl. packaging and advertising all have to be accounted for when manufacturing any product, and the price we pay includes this. Why pay good money for something we can't eat? The more we can do or make for ourselves, the less money we need to spend.

As I don't go 'out' to work, it is easy enough for me to say this. Others may feel that if they can earn £5 (or more) an hour over a full working week there is no time to prepare meals from scratch, and the money they earn will pay for 'someone else to do it for them'. Nothing wrong with that either, it's just there are times - such as the above - when it is just as easy to cut a slice of cheese from a block than buy it ready packed.

Manufacturers are always out to try and make us pay for something that is easy enough to do ourselves. Remember the little jars of raw (shelled) eggs that used to be on sale 'to save us breaking an egg'. People actually began to buy this product, until they realised how silly all this was and reverted back to buying shelled eggs, resulting to the 'new product' soon disappearing from our shelves. Myself (in the past) have been tempted many times by 'new' products, and after tasting them (then comparing costs if home-made) wished I hadn't. Can't now remember what they were, but none have been worth buying.

Whether with food, kitchen appliances or any other DIY 'stuff', there is always something new. I would LOVE to have a machine that 'vacuum seals', or one of those 'all in one gadgets that does EVERYTHING - from mixing, stirring, blending, steaming, frying, baking, roasting...). But I've managed for half a century of cooking without the need, so suppose I can last out the rest of my life without them. It's not as though they will improve my cooking. They are just there to save time.

Once we save too much time, feel that cooking can become rather impersonal. To sling everything into an appliance and it does everything for you makes me begin to feel obsolete. I prefer to handle food (with forks, tongs, and fingers) throughout the stages of cooking, then I keep control. Also like the aromas that waft up when a lid is removed or the oven door is opened.

The way I save time is - as said before - by pre-weighing ingredients (flour, sugar, fats etc) and bagging them up to save time when baking for instance. Still have the pleasure of mixing them together without the boring part. It's surprising how much time preparing foods/ingredients can take. Jamie Oliver could never make his meals in 30 minutes without all the 'prep' being done first.

Busy day today - baking, tidying up, more tidying up, more baking, and even more tidying up! Only tomorrow and Tuesday morning to get the place spick and span before Gill arrives. Have to sort out both sides of Boris to make more room in case Gill comes loaded with food from her fridge (as she always does) - believing it won't keep for the few days until her return - then she doesn't eat it and takes most of it back home with her again!).

Another glorious day by the look of it, so really MUST try and grab half an hour sitting on the garden bench. Never did get around to it yesterday. Discovered the tall tomato plants in the greenhouse were toppling over with the weight of the tomatoes, so had to put in more poles and tie them back up. Plenty of toms on the plants but all green (with the exception of the 'Tumbler' which tends to ripen faster than the rest). Gill doesn't like raw tomatoes (but will eat 'cooked' toms when in meals), so don't really need that many while she is here.

Not yet 8.30 but will take my leave as every minute counts. With luck could get most of the 'tidying' finished by today, leaving with with tomorrow to do the final cooking. B will be out having a late sail this afternoon, so his supper will almost certainly be cold meat and salad waiting on his return. As B got his own supper yesterday (as he was also out during late afternoon) think this was tongue sarnies, something on toast, and more sarnies of something followed by packets of crisps and bars of chocolate. Not particularly healthy eating, but once in a while won't hurt I suppose. He eats well enough other days.

Next week - with Gill here - will probably take a few days off from writing my blog to enable me to spend all my time with her (she really gets annoyed when I sit and write my blog - in any case, she may decide she prefers to sleep in here rather than in the other room), but will be back tomorrow and Tuesday as per usual, then returning the following Monday (unless Gill decides not to visit after all - in which case I will let you know).

Until tomorrow - make the most of today and hope you find time to drop me a line. TTFN.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

We Can Make Things Better!

Firstly, replying to the one comment sent. Hope you manage to make a loaf that is slightly more suitable for sarnies Les. As to freezing these, anything that can be frozen successfully can be used for sarnie fillings, such as cooked meats (ham, beef, chicken, turkey, corned beef, meat pastes etc) as long as the meats have not previously beenfrozen then thawed. Canned fish (tuna, salmon, sardines, pilchardsetc), cheese (solid or cream cheese) can all be made up into sarnies that will freeze. Ketchup, brown sauce, pickle, horseradish sauce, mint sauce etc can also be added to the fillings and frozen. It is believed that hardboiled eggs do not freeze well, but readers have said that when finely chopped and bound with may0 (aka egg mayonnaise) they can be frozen. Haven't tried this myself but it sounds feasible. .
Any foods that contain a fair amount of water (cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes...) should not be frozen as they turn soggy once thawed, but can be taken to add to a sarnie, or eaten as a 'side'.
The sarnies can be taken to work straight from the freezer - this helps to keep any other foods in the lunch-box cool on a warm day, or can be thawed overnight in the fridge - whichever you prefer.

As to using Tesco's delivery service. Personally I've had no problem with them. In all the years I've been with this store, only twice has an item been missing. Phoning their customer services to let them know, the cost was then deducted from my payment.
Generally, all their fresh produce is very fresh, and certainly seems to keep well. There is a place to tick for each item of 'fresh' where you can request the packer to be more selective (for instance when buying loose parsnips - not in a pack - I ask they be large ones, and they always are). When it comes to not being able to send what has been asked for, they send a substitution - this is shown at the top of the statement which the driver hands to me first so they can be found and returned if I wish. Sometimes the subs are more expensive (and better) than the ones ordered, but then I get charged only the price of the cheaper (called 'price match') so that's always a pleasure.
The chilled and frozen foods are delivered last so that they don't hang around the kitchen whilst the rest of the stuff in unloaded. You can choose to have everything delivered in bags or loose. I prefer the bags as it would take AGES for each item to be taken out of the several boxes - in any case the bags are saved and returned to th driver when he next delivers.

The Tesco site is easy enough to understand, and I tend to placing my order on a Friday or Saturday, for a Tuesday delivery (this being the most convenient for me). This gives me time to add something to the 'basket' that I have forgotten, and also delete items that really didn't need but was tempted a the time (the best and only way I can keep within my budget). Make sure the foods that are on offer are still available on the date of delivery - some only last a week, others last a month or more. The site will let you know when read down the 'shopping basket' list if items are out of 'offer' on your chosen delivery date - giving you a chance to change the date if you wish. Other items ordered may not be on offer when you entered them into your 'basket', but maybe on offer the week of delivery - you will only be charged the offer price. Sunday is perhaps the best day to begin ordering as it starts a new week of offers.

If you particularly wish for one brand (of - say - baked beans), then type in the brand name as well as the product, then you will probably be shown a short list (sometimes very short). If you just type in 'baked beans' then you may will get pages of different brands and varieties. If you can be bothered and not too particularly then it is always worth seeing as much of the range as possible, with a speedy scroll down to find those that are on offer.

Also there are boxes that can be clicked that will show only foods that are on offer that week. If buying the same foods regularly, these are saved for you under 'favourites', so you just click on that, then the ones you want (or delete the ones you have no future interest in). Normally I don't bother with that, just write my list in the 'express box' and click 'go' and each item comes up in turn (but we have to click on the name of the next on the list which is above the list of each item you've asked to see.

Another good thing is that whatever the price charged, unless sold by the pack, the contents of each product is shown as price per 100g (or kg), so easy to work out the cheapest size to buy (such as instant coffee where the smaller jars SOMETIMES work out cheaper per g than the larger ones.

You know me - computer illiterate, so if I find the Tesco site easy to sort out, then certainly you won't find it a problem Les. One query though - some of their print is very tiny and I find hardly readable. Steve set up my site so that the print is larger, but don't myself know whether it is possible to scroll over tiny print to just highlight these and make them larger. Is there a way to do this Les, without disrupting everything else?

One other query whilst we are having our 'chat'. We have a small TV that worked perfectly until we went digital. Apparently it needs a Scart lead or something and a digital box to get it to work, and we don't really want to be bothered. Am wondering if it would work without the need of an aerial, just by plugging it into an electrical socked, to be used just as a 'screen' to show DVDs? It can then be viewed from any room. If so, could then buy (or ask for a gift) boxed sets of programmes that I'd love to watch (and keep watching) that are rarely shown now on TV.

Back to Tesco (sorry, I got distracted). Certainly, if you have any cause to complain about your order or their service, then always phone their Customer Services (number on statement and also on site) to tell them. They have always been very helpful. Having said that, I've not had deliveries from any other supermarkets, but when the top supermarkets are judged, Tesco have come out top for delivery and quality of fresh foods etc.

Nearly forgot. You mentioned washing clothes by hand. These never do seem to come out as clean as when done in a machine. Much of this has more to do with rinsing than the washing I think. It is never easy to wring out all the dirty water by hand, even with several rinses.
My suggestion is to soak the washing overnight in as hot as water as it can take, plus the detergent already dissolved into it. The next day wring it out - rinse, and then wash by hand in the normal way.
Have read that 'cottons' (such as socks, a teatowel etc), can be washing in the microwave - just put them in a bowl with the water and detergent and 'wash' on High until the water boils. Just make sure what is being washed is able to be boiled, and only 'wash' a small amount at a time.

Yesterday managed to move 'stuff' around the larder and clear a deep shelf across the end and fill it full of the recently made jam and marmalade. Looks very impressive. Beloved was given a jar of each of the marmalade to start (both had lids that didn't fit properly). When handing them to him, he asked "Why two of the same", and I replied "Do they look the same"? He said "Yes, but they are not the same colour". So he needed it spelling out: "The pale yellow one is Lemon and Lime, and the orange is Orange and Ginger" I said, adding "read the label if you can't remember". Goodness me, what is the matter with the man. He will soon be believing black is white.

Also yesterday put some dried fruit in a bowl with the last of the orange juice from the carton to soak overnight so that I can bake a 'Boil and Bake' fruit cake today. "What's that for?" asked B when he saw the fruit soaking. "It's soaking ready for me to make another fruit cake tomorrow " I replied. "Is that a fruit cake baking in the oven" said B pointing to the loaf of bread in there that was clearly visible through the glass door and obviously a loaf. "No" I said "that's bread". "Well, you said ANOTHER fruit cake, and thought you meant that" was B's response.
"Meant another since the last one made, the last one made being a plain cake" I sighed. Beloved makes me sigh a lot. Next time I make something won't even mention the word 'another', he gets very confused unless details are kept to the minimum.

Did a large wash yesterday, taking the easy way and drying it on airers in the very warm conservatory - the sun shining in there late afternoon (B was out and although he normally hangs the washing outside for me it's easier for me to sit and put the washing on the airer rather than carry it all out to the garden, hang it on the line, then dash out to fetch it when it starts to rain (again!). Been there, done that, had to dry the T-shirt because this happens.

Still picking tomatoes, pea-shoots and tiny pea pods. Loads of flowers on all the courgette plants but haven't checked their sex. Normally too many male flowers, but eventually the females will appear. Must remember that courgette flowers can be picked and dipped into batter to fry as a 'food' in their own right. Even better when the flowers are stuffed before frying.

Below you see a photo of an empty 'Value pack Mushroom' box that had a little (previously used) compost put into it, and a very seeds (from the hundreds in the pack) of Mixed Salad Leaves sown on top (covered by a very light dusting of more compost). The easiest way to keep the soil moist is to snip round the sides/corners of the container with scissors, then place the box inside another (same type or slightly larger) that contains water. Another (same-size) box is inverted over the top to make a mini- greenhouse to get them started, then once partly grown, the top is removed and they grow on to maturity on the windowsill. The ones below are about a month old, and ready for use. No point in leaving them longer or they will go to seed (although always worth leaving one of each type so that their seeds can be saved and ever after no more need be bought).

The above shows at least seven different varieties of salad leaves, and certainly enough for four good helpings - probably a lot more if a little shredded iceberg lettuce was also included. The seeds used for the above were free with a certain mag, only a tiny packet but enough to grow AT LEAST four tubs of the above. Even if a full size packet of seeds were bought (this enough to give continual salads for a twelvemonth), this alone would cost much less than just ONE bag of salad leaves as sold in the supermarket.
We not only save a heck of a lot of money when we grow our own, but as straight from plant to plate, it couldn't be fresher. So - if we are looking for something better than bought - it's up to us to provide it ourselves.

Think we are in for a good weekend weatherwise. Hope to grab an hour in the garden topping up my tan. But still a lot to do indoors. Being a Saturday not a lot on TV, so that gives me more freedom I suppose. Do want to watch the repeat of The Good Cook (having missed both this week and last week's episodes) - this on after Saturday Kitchen this morning. Once today's recipes are given, will then start my days work - taking the half hour off to watch TV and have my 'brunch' at the same time. After that - more work.

Recipes today are 'one-pot', for several reasons. Firstly cheaper to cook on the hob than use the oven. Using one pot (can be served directly from this if you wish), saves a lot of washing up. Also - when it comes to curries, saves cooking the rice separately. If cooking for small numbers, then worth making extra as the surplus can be frozen to reheat later.

First recipe is a curry made with prawns. Can be frozen but only if the prawns have not been previously frozen. One or two Peppadews could be used instead of the chilli pepper.
TIP: if you haven't a lid for your frying pan, cut a thick piece of cardboard to very slightly wider than the top of the pan. Closely cover this with a double (large) sheet of kitchen foil, twisting the corners to the centre of thee 'top' of the lid to make a 'handle'. If wiped clean after use it can be used many times. Lakeland sell a 'non-stick' foil that is really easy to wipe clean.

Prawn Pilau: serves 4
1 tsp sunflower oil
2 tblsp mild curry paste (suggest Korma)
1 small onion, chopped
10 oz (300g) long-grain rice (pref basmati)
1.25 pints (700ml) chicken stock
5 oz (150g) cooked peeled prawns (see above)
half pint frozen peas
1 red chilli pepper, deseeded and chopped
Put the oil in a wide and deepish frying pan and add the onion. Stir-fry for 4 minutes then stir in the curry paste and fry for a further couple of minutes. Add the rice, stock, give another stir then bring to the boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 12 - 15 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Stir in the prawns, peas and chilli and simmer for 4 - 5 minutes. Fluff rice grains up with a fork then serve.
This can be frozen.

This next dish is from Turkey, in many ways similar to a Moroccan 'tagine' which is served with couscous. This recipe is made with rice. Tender lamb is used (fillet suggested) but cold lamb from a roast could also be used. As ever - use only the amount of lamb you have (or can afford), and make up any shortfall with the remaining ingredients. Although you can make the stock using a stock cube and boiling water, remember that a wonderful lamb stock can be made from 'free' lamb bones from the butcher.
One-Pot Turkish Lamb: serves 4
1 tblsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
1 tsp ground cumin
1 lb (450g) lean lamb (pref fillet) cubed
9 oz (250g) long-grain rice (pref basmati)
12 fl oz (500ml) very hot lamb or vegetable stock
8 no-soak dried apricots, halved
salt and pepper
1 tblsp toasted flaked almonds or pine-nuts
1 tblsp roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
Put the oil in a large frying pan, then add the onion, cinnamon and cumin. Fry until the the onion it starting to turn gold, then raise the heat, add the lamb - frying until this too changes colour - then stir in the rice. Stir-fry for one minute, then add the hot stock, apricots and seasoning to taste. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 12 or so minutes (long-grain rice takes longer than basmati) until the rice is tender and the stock absorbed. Fold in the toasted nuts and mint and serve.
This can be frozen.

Although we think of a pilaf as a 'curry dish' (well I did before I knew better), this does not mean it always contains spices. The name means rice is an ingredient. So this final one-pot rice dish should suit everyone - curry haters and vegetarians included. As with the above recipes, this dish can also be frozen once made, but as they are all relatively speedy to cook, myself prefer to make them from scratch.
Despite asparagus being an ingredient, we can easily omit this and substitute a cheaper green vegetable such as tiny broccoli florets, chopped string beans, and mange-tout (the pods give a visual attraction, can also include the loose peas as given). Alternatively - if you have asparagus, used the tips for one dish, then cut the tender part of their stems into chunks and use for this dish.
If you wish for a bit more colour, add some diced red and/or yellow bell pepper, and use a yellow courgette instead of a green one.
Green Vegetable Pilaf: serves 4
1 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
10 oz (300g) long grain rice (pref basmati)
1.25 pints (700ml) vegetable stock
4 oz (100g) asparagus, cut into chunks (see above)
large 'handful' of peas (frozen or fresh)
large 'handful' of broad beans, fresh or frozen
1 courgette, sliced
small bunch fresh dill (or other chosen herb) chopped
Put the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion until softened (takes about 5 minutes). Stir in the rice, cook for one minute than add the stock. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the rice is almost tender (al dente). Put the vegetables on top of the rice (so they will cook in the steam), then cover and cook for a further 2 minutes. Then turn off the heat and leave to stand for 2 minutes. Remove cover, stir in the dill or chosen herbs, and serve. (If freezing, omit the herbs and add these when ready to serve).

Time for me to take my leave. Hope you all can enjoy the spell of good weather we are forecast this weekend, and for those 'growing your own' - Happy Harvesting. Always good to hear from those of you who are now gaining the benefit of garden produce - this helps to inspire others to do the same.
The only way these days to improve our life is to take the reins. Do as much as we can ourselves (to make sure), but delegate whenever possible. It needn't be ALWAYS us that does everything. Just as long as we keep our eye on the ball.
School holidays means that children often need something to keep them away from the computers, so a good time to start teaching them how to cook and also 'grow their own'. Start with quick-growing seeds such as mustard and cress (on damp kitchen paper on the windowsill). Get a flower pot and plant a few radish, beetroot or spring onion seeds to grow on the windowsill. Plant a tray of Mixed Salad Leaves. At this time of year the seeds sprout within days, so children will see new growth every day and this keeps their interest. They are more likely also to eat what they have grown themselves.

Hope you'll join me tomorrow, and - if so - see you then.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Simple Needn't be Boring.

Having watched one or two of the four-part 'live' series on The Great British Weather, have now begun to understand why our weather is so peculiar - on average raining every other day and not always in the same place at the same time.
Toronto is having a heatwave at the moment, and Moira is having to think chilly thoughts to keep cool. Not so silly as it sounds, for the other day when we had a really warm day, was watching a programme about drilling for oil in the Arctic. So much snow, blizzards and people wrapped up with several layers of insulation that only their eyes were visible that it made both B and I FEEL cold and we started shivering.

When in Leeds we used to have a cheap plastic insert (that looked like coal) that we could fit into our empty grate. It had a red bulb inside that - when switched on - would warm up enough to turn a set of blades that we placed on top of the bulb. This gave the effect of flames 'flickering' and it really did make us fee warmer. So a lot of what we think/see can affect how we feel.
Wonder if anyone sells CDs of a roaring fire that can be played on TV so we can pretend we are looking at a 'real' fire instead of wasting time watching yet another repeat.
When the weather here is very hot and humid, I quite often take one of those oil-filled packs kept in the freezer(for rapidly chilling bottles of wine ) and slide it over one of my wrists. Before freezers we used to run cold water over our wrists to help cool our blood down, and the packs work in much the same way - but faster.

The only problem with freezers is that they have running costs, which are low enough as long as they are kept fully stocked. When we had a large chest freezer use to pack the empty space with a blanket or even a spare duvet. It's good to know that canny shopping and thrifty cooking will save more than enough to cover the running costs.

Regarding packing and thawing of foods Moira. Always use 'freezer bags' or containers, and remove as much a air as possible (to prevent crystals forming over the food). Sometimes I pre-wrap some meats (chicken breasts etc) tightly in a thin plastic (called 'layering tissue') before bagging up, still trying to keep out as much air from the covering bag. Don't wrap proteins in cling-film, use only products that are recommended.

On the market at the moment are vacuum pumps/bags and also machines to remove air, and if I had a large chest freezer would buy one of the machines (the food once sealed in the bag can be frozen/or cooked as 'boil in the bag'). Vacuum packing is said to prolong its life (whether frozen or fresh).
Myself have found that when wrapping chunky salmon fillets tightly in kitchen foil to exclude all air, this seems to keep them in perfect condition. Have also wrapped slices of Walker's Pork Pie (the best pork pie in our opinion - Gill sometimes brings us one when she visits, they are sold in Walker's shops in Leicestershire), tightly in foil - these too thaw out almost as good as when 'fresh'.

Leaving cooked (sliced) meat in its wrapper to thaw and it will come out rather 'wet'. Best way is to remove from the wrapper, leave on a plate to thaw, separating the slices when able to without tearing, and any moisture should soon evaporate. If concerned about hygiene, then cover loosely with muslin or one of those mesh covers to keep flies off food.

As we really don't know what the immediate future has to offer - the newspapers seem to lead us to think things can only get worse, certainly regarding food and fuel prices - it does make sense to stock up now so that we can at least aim to get through the winter months without too much stress. We should always remember that we normally eat far too much. Or perhaps spend more than we need on the little we may eat. There's is usually a way we can save. sent an email about a 'two for one shelf' they now have. Suppose this is another term for BOGOF'. It would be more helpful if each item was sold at half-price (much the same thing), instead of ending up with two. Taking a look at just one page, there is very little that appeals to me. Maybe the cheese, and certainly the broccoli, but not sending B out for just those. The idea (of course) is to tempt us to go into the store and buy other products not on offer. But if intending to shop this week, worth checking to see if your supermarket has some 'useful' items that can be stored/frozen, that might mean you needn't pay full price for something else.

The correct foods to eat during the cold winter months are the ones nature has provided for this very purpose. To help keep us warm. These are those high in carbos, and certain vegetables that have the right vitamins to 'cure a cold'. All are probably - still - the cheapest foods on sale: grains, dried/canned pulses, root vegetables, onions, potatoes etc. Chunky soups are more filling and satisfying that the creamier ones, and when made with good rich meat stock (chicken or beef) made from 'free' bones, we get even more nourishment.
But it's not winter yet, so will chat more about warming meals after the clock goes back.

Had not heard of a double-paddle bread machine before Les, and am presuming this makes a loaf that has more of a 'proper' shape than the 'upright' loaves made in the conventional machines. The basic home-made loaf DOES make exceedingly good toast, but a bit dry for sarnies, and making a loaf using milk (or add dried milk powder to the flour) makes a softer crumb, also adding a knob of butter or lard. Try this and let us know how you get on.

However much we try to be frugal, we can still turn the simplest of foods into something more interesting. It helps to have a few of the more unusual ingredients, but not always necessary if we take the original suggestion then improvise.

This first is a very unusual way to served spinach, and although this recipe uses baby spinach leaves, any soft and deep green salad leaves such as rocket, watercress or lamb's lettuce could be used instead. Formed into 'towers' this dish is meant to be served with chicken or salmon. Instead of the sesame seeds, finely chopped almonds or walnuts, pumpkin or sunflower seeds can be toasted and used instead. Definitely one to serve when entertaining.
Japanese style Spinach: serves 4
1 lb (450g) fresh baby spinach leaves
2 tblsp soy sauce (pref light soy)
2 tblsp water
1 tblsp sesame seeds
pinch sea or rock salt
Blanch the spinach in boiling water for 15 seconds. Drain immediately and place in a colander under running cold water for a couple of seconds. Squeeze out excess water by hand. What started as a lot of spinach has now 'cooked down' to the size of a tennis ball.
Put the spinach in a bowl mix the soy sauce and water together and pour this over the spinach. Mix well and leave to get completely cold.
Meanwhile toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan until they begin to p0p, then remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Drain the spinach, again squeezing out excess liquid with your hands. Form into a log shape about 1.5" (4cm) dia, squeezing to make it compact. Then - using a sharp knife - slice across into four cylinders.
Sprinkle tops with the toasted sesame seeds and a few grains of salt, then plate up individually with chosen meat.

Pasta 'ribbon' noodles are expensive when bought in different colours. So why not use the cheaper 'white' ones and cook vegetable 'strips' to resemble pasta. Cheaper, healthier, and - with the courgette season about here - also a seasonal dish. Use either green courgettes, or one green and one yellow. a herb or walnut flavoured oil can be used instead of garlic if you prefer. This dish can be made using either fresh or dried cooked pasta.
Tagliatelle with Veggie Ribbons: serves 4
2 courgettes
2 carrots
9 oz (250g) fresh tagliatelle
4 tblsp garlic flavoured olive oil
salt and pepper
Using a potato or 'Y' shaped vegetable peeler, cut the courgettes and carrots into long thin ribbons, then cook these in a pan of salted boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain and set aside.
Cook the tagliatelle according to pack instructions, drain and return to the pan. Add the vegetable ribbons, the flavoured oil and seasoning to taste and toss over medium to high heat until everything is glistening with oil. Serve immediately.

This next dish is what we could call 'a satisfying salad'. Makes a great lunch, packed for work or eaten at home, especially when eaten with granary bread (warmed if possible).
Infusing the basil leaves in the hot oil brings out much more of its wonderful aromatic flavour. Instead of using canned mixed beans, if you have home-cooked beans in the freezer, then mix your own selection, including some chickpeas (or only chickpeas if that's all you have). If you wish you could include a few stoned black or green olives, or maybe some chunks of red or yellow bell pepper. Another seasonal dish as it is made with the small cherry tomatoes that I hope many readers are now growing.
Tomato, Bean and Fried Basil Salad: serves 4
half pint (15g) basil leaves
5 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
11 oz (300g) cherry tomatoes, halved
salt and pepper
1 x 400g (14oz) mixed beans, drained and rinsed
Reserve one third of the basil leaves, tearing the remainder into small pieces. Pour the oil into a pan, adding the basil, and heat gently for 1 minute or until the basil sizzles and begins to change colour.
Place the tomatoes and beans in a bowl, pour over the basil oil and add seasoning to taste. Toss gently together then cover and leave to marinate at room temperature for up to 10 minutes. Serve sprinkled with the remaining basil leaves.

This next is a true storecupboard dish, so a recipe worth keeping to use during lean times when we have to live off what we have. Don't know how long olives store once a jar is opened, but they can always be frozen.
As we like our dishes to have 'eye appeal' the chosen pasta is 'bows' (aka farfalle), but another pasta shape could be used instead. If you have fresh oregano/marjoram then add to the passata to give even more flavour.
Farfalle with Tuna: serves 4
14 oz (400g) dried farfalle (see above)
1 pint (600ml) tomato passata
leaves from a sprig of oregano (opt)
1 x 175g (6oz) can tuna
8 black olives, stoned and sliced into rings
salt and pepper
Cook the pasta in lightly salted water as per instructions on the pack (when draining, reserve 4 tblsp of the cooking liquid). Heat the passata in another pan and add the olives (and herbs if using). Drain the tuna and flake with a fork. Drain pasta thoroughly over a bowl. Fold the tuna into the passata with 4 tblsp of the pasta water, adding seasoning to taste.
Tip the pasta into a warmed serving bowl, pour the tuna sauce over, tossing lightly to mix and serve immediately.

This recipe is a way of using up those scraps of puff pastry we may have. If placed on top of each other then rolled again, this keeps the layers in order, and can also be re-frozen to use later. 'Layered' pastry scraps should then make this good-looking Danish-style pastry to serve with tea or coffee, but even if scrunched up it should still taste good. Who cares what things look like when we are the only ones seeing them. Lakeland sell a 'spray egg glaze' which has a good shelf life and less expensive than breaking into a whole egg to use for glazing.
Cinnamon Pastry Wheels: makes about a dozen
1 oz (25g) caster sugar (plus a bit extra)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 - 5 oz (125g) puff pastry
beaten egg to glaze (see above)
Mix the sugar and cinnamon together. Roll out the pastry to an 8" x 4" oblong and sprinkle top with HALF the spiced sugar, then press this into the pastry with the rolling pin (making the oblong an inch wider in both directions). Brush with beaten egg, then sprinkle the remaining spiced sugar over that.
Loosely roll the pastry up from the narrow end, brushing the end edge with egg so that it it secured in place, then - using a sharp knife - cut into thin slices and place on a greased baking sheet - leaving room to spread - and bake for 10 minutes at 22oC, 425F, gas 7 until golden and crisp. Sprinkle with a little sugar, then cool on a cake airer.

Final recipe is for an iced dessert. As it contains no cream or eggs is both economical and reasonably healthy (if you ignore the sugar). An ideal dish to make when we have plums, damsons or cherries to use up. It can also be made with apricots, peaches or similar fruits. An even cheaper 'water ice' (posh name 'granita) can be made using sweetened black coffee and nothing else. Caster sugar is used as it dissolves fairly quickly, but the cheaper granulated can be used instead. The syrup can be made days in advance if you wish, then kept in the fridge.
Damson Water Ice: serves 6
1.2 lbs (500g) damsons, washed
15 fl oz (450ml) water
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
Put the damsons in a pan with 5 fl oz (150ml) water, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the fruit is tender. In another pan put the remaining 10 fl oz water and sugar and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then pour this syrup into a bowl and leave to get cold before chilling.
Break up the cooked damsons using a wooden spoon and remove as many stones as you can see, then pour the fruit and liquid into a sieve. Press the fruit firmly through leaving just the skins and the odd stone that may have been missed.
Mix the damson puree and the sugar syrup together and pour into a plastic container. Freeze for a couple or so hours until firm around the edge and mushy in the centre, then - using a fork - break it up and mix it together. Repeat every hour or so for 6 hours to break up the ice crystals.
Spoon into tall serving glasses or bowls/dishes and serve with thin crisp biscuits such as 'tuiles' or ice-cream wafers.

Yesterday completed the last of my marmalades - this time using a Lemon Mamade to which I added the zest and juice of 4 limes plus a bit of extra water to dilute the extra pectin to fill one more jar, so over the two days (and only 2 hours max labour) have ended up with at least 8 jars Summer Fruits jam, 9 jars of Orange and Ginger, and 9 jars of Lemon and Lime marmalade. All I need now is find some place to store them!

Mentioned to Beloved (who was after opening a jar of the new jam) that we still had several jars of damson jam made last year that I hoped he would eat. "But it has stones in" he said (not QUITE true, he happened to find the only stone I missed in a jar he had opened). Told him there were no stones, and then he said "Don't like lumps of fruit or skins. Can't you just puree all fruits before making jam?" Told him the whole reason I left most fruit intact (such as red and blackcurrants, raspberries - but do cut up strawberries) is that with every mouthful of jam each piece of fruit retains its own flavour so makes it even more pleasant to eat.
If B wants pureed jam, then might as well buy the cheap stuff from the supermarket. Bet he'd notice the difference in flavour though.
My Beloved is very strange when it comes to how he likes to eat his food. If he had his way everything would be put in the liquidiser and turned into a puree or even soup. It's not as though his teeth cause him problems when eating, he can chomp on an apple easily enough, he just seems to like 'baby food'. When his meals are served in the normal way, he spends a lot of time chopping it up into tiny little bits (especially spaghetti - am quite ashamed the staff see him do this when we eat out at an Italian restaurant) - and this irritates me. Probably one reason why I prefer to eat my meals at a different time and in a different place.

Back to the preserves. Especially marmalades, and yes B, I did chop the ginger very finely before stirring it into the orange MaMade - and I bet he'll now moan because they are not big enough).
In the 'old days' it seemed that preserves were always in 1lb and 2lb jars. Not so today - most preserves are in 12oz jars and many in 8 oz or even LESS. Seems the smaller the jar the more we pay (by weight) for the contents. Considering how expensive this 'home-made quality' is to buy, the profit alone on my home- made (if to be sold) must be AT LEAST £1 per jar. £25 profit for two hours work. Not bad! If turning it into a business, and working eight hours a day, five days a week, that comes to a minimum of £500 a week (and probably even more if the sugar could be bought at wholesale price). Just shows how we cooks are worth our weight in gold.

Could it be that in the future, there will be a lot more 'bartering'. We swap our gluts for someone elses - and each saving money by doing so. "What is one man's waste is an other man's treasure" as the saying goes. In days long past (Roman times I think) salt was so highly regarded it was given instead of money as a 'wage' (the name 'salary' comes from this). So we should respect our foods, especially those home-grown and home cooked, for perhaps sooner than later they will be worth far more than we think.

Did make Beloved the Butter Chicken for his supper - served with Pilau rice and a dollop of Greek yogurt which was also made yesterday (early enough to yog and chill by supper time). Half the Butter Chicken saved then frozen late last night.
Today HAVE to sort out the larder (to find room for the preserves) and also both sides of Boris (to enable me to find room to make and freeze ice-cream desserts, samosas, and countless other things to freeze/chill ready for Gill's visit). And have the house to tidy up as well. Not that Gill minds a mess - she's used to my untidy ways and quite enjoys helping me clear up for this usually means she can return home with bags of stuff I don't need any more and that she can use herself or pass on to charity shops.
As Gill nearly always comes loaded with bags of old cookbooks thrown out by her charity warehouse (where she works voluntarily one half-day a week), plus other things she thinks I'd like (especially really reduced items of - often ethnic - foods that she picked up at the supermarket). Still have not found a use for Yam flour (and another similar but forgotten the name) that she brought me on previous visits.
It's only fair Gill returns home with her own selection of 'goodies'. Certainly some jars of jam and marmalade, lemon curd and freshly baked loaf and a quiche. Maybe even some cheese.

Not sure about what to make B for supper - he's had lamb, beef, prawns, chicken, cold meats already this week - so perhaps liver, bacon, cabbage and potatoes will be different enough today to satisfy him. It will be the last of the liver which means buying more. But as Gill doesn't like to eat it - this can wait until she has returned home, and by then should have room in the freezer to store it. Oh, I don't know, seems that all I do now is keeping an eye on what is in store, making sure any is replaced when it runs out, planning what meals to make each day from what there is, preparing as much as possible that can be used later (either pre-weighed dry indgredients, or preserving foods - yesterday was wondering whether to pickle some of the shallots recently bought. Ditto pickling some of the freshest eggs).

Although I do try to give suitable recipes the following day after a query, very occasionally I might miss a comment, so please remind me if there has not been the reply you were hoping for within a couple of days of sending the request.
Thankfully the weekend is almost here - giving me three full days and two half days to get everything sorted before Gill arrives (noon next Tues). Should give me time if I start right now. But will still be back first thing tomorrow and hope to see you then.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Even More for Our Money

Am feeling very smug this morning. Decided to make a batch of orange and ginger marmalade before I began this blog. Used a thin-cut Marmade as a base and - as usual - made it with 2 x 1kg bags of sugar and one pint of water instead of the (lesser) recommended amount. This way it makes a extra jar (still setting perfectly). This time though, as I had a carton of orange juice in the fridge (slightly past it's date), decided to use some of this instead of the water. Then once mixed with the MaMade and sugar felt that there would now be even more pectin in it, so slung in an extra quarter pint of water, but no extra sugar. Chopped crystallised ginger was added, and a spoon of ginger extract to give it a bit more flavour. All this seems to have worked.
The marmalade is now potted up, sealed and labelled.

As I always keep empty jars that are suitable to use again for home-made preserves, gave them the usual wash and rinse, then heated them in the oven to sterilise them, meanwhile boiling the lids in a pan of water on the hob for the same purpose. As I needed to make another batch of Greek yogurt today, decided to boil enough water to use for the EasyYo thermos, and sterilise the lids in this at the same time. That worked too.
So now it is not even 8.00am, already have made 8 pots of marmalade, and one litre of Greek Yogurt. Also made myself a cup of coffee, Beloved still in the Land of Nod.

Yesterday filled 10 jars (varying sizes) with the Summer Fruits Jam that I began making as soon as Norma left. These jars too filled, sealed and labelled by noon. Silly me made myself an egg mayo sarnie with wholemeal bread, and the carbos (as ever) made me sleepy, so fell asleep after watching the news, and didn't stir again until mid-afternoon when it was time for me to start thinking about B's supper. Decided to make him a big Prawn Cocktail as he enjoyed the last one. Easy enough, but a bit 'fiddly' as I like to finely dice some red and yellow bell pepper, plus a Peppadew to add to the shredded lettuce, then layer them with prawns that have been folded into some Marie Rose Sauce (my version is made from equal amounts of salad cream, tomato ketchup, a dash of Tabasco and a dash of Worcestershire sauce). Sprinkled chopped peppers and cooked prawns (without sauce) on the top.

Of course this wasn't enough for B, so after eating his meal at the kitchen table, he then waltzed into the living room with a plate of toast and beef dripping. Then later went to get his lottery ticket and brought back some chocolate and crisps to work his way through the rest of the evening. For all I know he may have made himself more snacks, I had gone into the other room to sort out some things, and then went to bed.

Today am hoping B will settle for Chilli Con Carne as there is a home-made 'ready-meal' in the fridge that can easily be thawed and reheated. The Greek yogurt should be ready (and chilled) by then. He likes a dollop of that on top of anything hot and spicy.
An alternative meal could be the Indian 'Butter Chicken' - another meal that B loves, but this would need to be made from scratch (easy enough as I use ready-made sauce from a jar), but making extra I can then, freeze the surplus, so - when Gill comes (she loves curry) - this, together with a couple or three other curries (Lamb Rogan Josh, Beef Madras or a Jalfrezi etc) could make a 'Thali'. This is just a different way of serving an assortment of curries to guests. With a Thali, every person is given a large platter (or tray) holding very small dishes, each containing different curry, plus another of rice, raita, and a poppadum or naan bread.
Yes, think that will be the easiest option, as less to do next week when Gill is here.

Other countries have similar versions of serving a selection of foods on one plate. At the moment can only remember a Greek dish (not even sure of the name - is it Slouvaki?). Beloved had it when we ate at a Greek restaurant some months ago. Another huge platter, filled with all sorts of things, but the 'expensive' bit was only a couple of skewers of cooked chicken (and not much of that either). The rest was a dish of hummus, a couple or so pitta breads, a bowl of salad, and am sure he had a few chips as well (and as I said - all on the one plate). Why chips AND pitta bread? Because they are filling and don't cost much. But it looked a lot, and did take time to eat, and the longer we take eating, the more satisfied we feel. So if you want to spend less but make it appear you haven't, then serve a lot of low-cost foods on the same platter as one - more expensive -burger. Or something like that.

As ever - thanks for your comments. Possibly you might find Morecambe a good place to retire to Lynn, as you are familiar with the area. And - not living too far away - you will also be able to keep in regular touch with your friends. The worst thing I've found since moving, is that my friends are too far away to visit for just a day, and as we have only one bedroom, almost impossible to put more than one up at a time, and most do not wish to sleep on a futon. Even our family visit rarely now for the same reason. Having four bedrooms in our old house, we could have a family gathering at Xmas, and also many visits from them during the year. Don't think when they persuaded us to move here, they realised how much I would miss seeing them.

My 'best friend' Gill (who lives in Leicester) used to stay with us at least 5 times a year (often more) when we lived in Leeds - but am lucky if she comes twice a year since we have moved. She doesn't really like to drive the distance, and twice has had to cancel a visit (to keep me company when B was away) due to the snow. At least she is managing the trip next week. So will have to make the most of it.
Other Leeds (and Leicester) friends who I used to see often, now are either too old, or too ill to wish to take the lengthy journey, so we just keep in touch by writing to each other. It's not the same.

Other than that, Morecambe really is a pleasant place to live, and - as Eileen says - the scenery is magnificent. Thanks for the details of forthcoming events Eileen, am looking forward to the firework display (let's hope it doesn't rain).
Am giving some suggestions for using blackcurrants later in this blog.

For several years my parents rented the same house in Sheringham, where the back garden led to steps that went down to the prom. So a sea view from all the back windows. The houses were very large - loads of bedrooms, and just as well for my parents, B and I and our four children all stayed there together for three weeks (possibly a month), although B returned home after 2 weeks as he had to go back to work.
The last year we were there the house was already booked, so we stayed in another rented property where the garden backed onto the railway line. It was only a little line, and not sure if the steam trains ran along it. But - as you say Woozy - Sheringham is a lovely place, and hopefully still unspoiled. Always loved to see the many houses where the walls were built from the flint pebbles on the beach. If you remember 'Whelk Coppers' (now I believe a hotel or B & B) our 'holiday home' was only a few yards away from that along the front.

Thanks Mrs. Meaney for reminding us to make sure our freezer doors are shut tight. 'Boris' two doors both have 'bleeper's that remind us if a door has been left ajar, but when nearly closed this doesn't work. Think it was last year I went into the freezer to find something and everything was covered in ice-crystals. I yelled for B to say the freezer had broken, and he said it hadn't, it was because he had put in a tub of ice-cream he had bought and couldn't find room for it so it stuck out a bit so the door wouldn't shut properly. He though it didn't matter - the motor still kept the freezer cold enough (never mind the cost of electricity!!), but I was rather cross and asked him to be sure the door was always tightly shut after that.

Another time we sat in the living room and I could hear a regular bleep (with a few seconds in between), B said it was a van in the street reversing, but it didn't stop. Then he said he thought it was the cordless phone in the other room letting us know it needed recharging. In the end I got up to find out what it was and discovered the fridge door wide open. B had gone into get something and 'forgotten' to shut the door. Men!

As you say MimsyS, when we stop shopping regularly at a supermarket, they pull out all their stops to get our custom back again. So in a way we can also pull their strings. For what it's worth, had an email today to say Tesco have some 'Buy one get TWO free' offers on at the moment. Not sure for how long, and there are not a lot (most not needed), but Fisherman's Pie, and one type of Oven Chips are 'three for one' offers, so probably worth buying if you would normally buy them anyway.

Now for recipes using blackcurrants. Firstly - these fruits freeze exceptionally well, thawing as though they were fresh. They are also good mixed with other soft fruits (raspberries, strawberries, redcurrants etc) to make Summer Pudding (and as this freezes well worth making a few individual Summer Puds to eat during the winter months).
It's also worth cooking some of the blackcurrants down with a bit of sugar and water to then blend and rub though a sieve to make a puree (aka 'coulis'). This can then be frozen in small containers to use for several dishes.

Don't use the plum cake recipe Eileen, as the one given today is better suited to the blackcurrants. This cake can be eaten hot or cold, and especially good served as a hot pudding served with cream or custard.
Blackcurrant Cake: makes 6 - 8 slices
4 oz (100g) butter
6 oz (175g) caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
half tsp vanilla extract
7 oz (200g) self-raising flour
pinch salt
3 fl oz (75ml) milk
7 oz (200g) blackcurrants
1 tblsp demerara sugar
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg - a little at a time, with the vanilla. Fold in the flour and salt. Add milk and mix together thoroughly, then fold in the blackcurrants.
Spoon into a greased and lined 8" (20cm) baking tin, sprinkle with demerara sugar and bake at 180C, 350G, gas 4 for 45 minutes (or until a skewer inserted comes out clean). Cool slightly before turning out onto a cake airer.

This next is worth making both for adults and children. Worth buying lolly moulds to make these, but am sure something could be improvised to make lolly 'shapes'. Perhaps a small plastic (recycled) carton divided in the centre by a strip of foil/cling film would make two 'lollies' (sticking a lolly stick into each half).
Blackcurrant Yogurt Lollies: makes 12
14 oz (400g) blackcurrants
3 - 4 fl oz (100ml) water
6 oz (175g) caster sugar
17 fl oz (500ml) Greek yogurt
Put the blackcurrants, water and sugar in a pan over gentle heat, and simmer until the currants are at 'bursting point'. Leave to cool, then puree in a blender then press through a sieve to remove skins and seeds.
Fold the puree and the yogurt together. If not sweet enough add a little icing sugar to taste.
Pour into 12 lolly moulds and freeze. They will take at about 4 hours to become solid enough to eat in the hand.

Not the classic way of making ice-cream, but this quick and easy version tastes lovely. As - as so often happens with home-made ice-cream - it becomes very hard once frozen, bring to room temperature for a few minutes to allow it to soften slightly to make it easier to scoop, or freeze in individual containers, so the right amount only is ready to take from the freezer, and this should become softer more rapidly. As made without sugar, this is lower in calories than 'normal' ice-cream. If too 'sharp', then a sugar substitute could be added.
Easy Peasy Blackcurrant Ice-cream: serves 6
9 fl oz (275ml) whipping cream
11 oz (300g) blackcurrant puree
juice of half a lemon
Whip the cream and stir in the fruit puree and lemon juice. Sp0on into a cling-film lined 1lb (500g) loaf tin, covering top with the film, and freeze for several hours or until firm. It can then be removed from the tin, still wrapped in the cling-film and then put into a freezer bag or container to store.
Leave at room temperature for 15 minute before slicing.

Instead of making ice-cream, why not make a sorbet. True, this does use sugar, but it doesn't use cream. Win some lose some. Taste the mixture before adding the syrup and - if a little too tart - add a little more sugar more before freezing.
Blackcurrant Sorbet: serves 6
1.2 lb (500g) blackcurrants
5 fl oz (150ml) water
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
7 fl oz (200ml) water
1 egg white
Put the blackcurrants into a pan with the 5 fl oz water, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the fruit is soft and 'bursting'. Cool, then puree in a food processor or blender, then rub through a sieve to collect the smooth liquid.
Using another pan, put in the 7 fl oz water and stir in the sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Pour into a heat-proof bowl, then cool and chill.
To make the sorbet, fold together the blackcurrant puree and sugar syrup, then pour into a container and freeze until 'mushy'. Lightly whisk the egg white until just frothy. Put the sorbet into a food processor and process (or whisk with a fork) until smooth, then return to container and stir in the egg white. Freeze for at least 4 hours, or until firm before serving. If set solid, then it will probably need to be transferred to a fridge for about 15 minutes (NOT at room temperature) to make it easier to scoop and serve.

Next dish is a cross between a cheesecake and a 'fool'. Any fruit 'coulis' (pureed and sieved soft fruits) could be used. The biscuit crumbs could be layered between spoons of the 'cheese ripple' if you prefer, finishing with crumbs.
Blackcurrant Ripple: serves 4
half pint (300ml) whipping cream
5 oz (150g) cream cheese
2 tblsp icing sugar
4 digestive biscuits, crushed
7 fl oz (200ml) blackcurrant coulis
Whip cream to soft peaks, then beat in the cream cheese and sugar. Stir in the crushed biscuits, then gently fold in the coulis to give a rippled effect. Spoon into individual glasses. Chill for 15 minutes before serving.

Blackcurrant cordial makes a very soothing hot drink when we have a cold or sore throat. Once made and bottled it will keep several weeks in the fridge, but for longer storing freeze in small containers. The amount of sugar needed is dependent upon the weight of blackcurrants.
To make the cordial, start off by making the black currant juice by simmering 1 tblsp water and 1 tblsp sugar for each 4 oz (125g) fruit. When the currants begin to burst and the juices begin to flow, remove from heat then press through a sieve to gather all the juice (and remove skins and pips).
Blackcurrant Cordial:
Blackcurrant juice (see above)
To every pint (600ml) of warm juice, add 1 lb (450g) caster sugar and stir over very low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Then bring to the boil and immediately remove from heat and allow to cool then bottle. Store in the fridge where it will keep for several weeks. Dilute with water to make a refreshing drink. Or down a spoonful undiluted to help cure a cold.

And that is it for today. Looks like many of us will now be rolling up our sleeves and starting to make and bake, freeze and whatever so we have loads of lovely things to eat during the chilly winter months. Makes you feel the cold weather is (almost) worth looking forward to.

Looking forward to meeting up with you again tomorrow. Don't let me down. I need your company! See you then.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

One Busy Day...

Have to say that yesterday turned out quite busy, and in some way productive. Even before I had written the last word of my blog yesterday and published, B called to say the Tesco delivery van was here - half an hour before the arranged 2 hour time slot. Same thing happened last time. Anyway - did a quick 'publish', then dashed to the kitchen to empty the bags (so that the delivery man could take away most of them). Then faced with putting away (as rapidly as possible) the frozen foods. Sensibly these (and the 'chilled') are always the last bags taken from the van's refrigerated section, so didn't have to sort through all the bags to find them.

Suffice to say our new freezer was barely large enough to take it all! That really surprised me, but of course (me 'doing a B') didn't realise that the very deep bottom drawer wasn't as big as expected due to the motor being behind it. Managed to fit it all in, other than the loaves of bread intended to be frozen. And absolutely no room in Boris to freeze the Sticky Pud and several tubs of ice-cream I had planned making yesterday.

However one really good discovery happened because of this problem. I sat and pondered what to do, and decided I would thaw the frozen 'summer fruits' bought, and make jam with them (that was why I bought them in the first place, planning to make the jam later in the year adding our own raspberries.
As these fruits were packed in deep boxes they did take up a lot of freezer space, and had bought three as on offer (3 boxes for £5) - each containing 1lb/450g.

When I opened the first box immediately noticed it was a mixture of blackberries,raspberries, red and black currants. The blackberries were an enormous size, and I decided to save these from the first box so they could be bagged up, kept in the freezer to add to apple pies made during the winter. Believe it or not there were 36 blackberries in the box (the same amount in all the boxes as it happened), so removed all and they are now in small bags in the freezer. Also they are so large that each can be chopped in half so they will look more when cooked.

This is the important bit... Regular readers may remember that when we moved here to Morecambe I was complaining bitterly that we no longer had blackberries in our garden that we could pick for free. True, there are plenty of blackberry bushes around the local countryside, but we found the fruits very tiny, and hardly worth picking, most of them being along roadsides that had a lot of traffic, so fume loaded. So ended up buying them from the supermarket. In the autumn of 2009 the blackberries worked out at 5p EACH! Same last year, and am pretty sure the price won't go down this.

So - faced with 108 frozen blackberries (each larger than those bought - mentioned above), an costing them at 5p each this came to an incredible £5.40p. Couldn't believe it, Double checked, then asked B to check and he came up with the same total. So had I BOUGHT the blackberries (as the fruits on their own) already had saved 40p, and because of their size must have gained extra weight.
Theoretically, I had now the blackberries and 'paid' less for them, leaving me with the rest of the frozen fruits that then had 'cost' me nothing at all. Well - of course I did pay £5 for the lot, but hope you understand my reasoning as to why it had turned out to be a very good buy.
As our own blackberries (planted last year) have really only just begun to establish themselves, this year would certainly have needed to buy more, so now I don't need to.

The frozen remaining frozen fruits were weighed, some home-grown (frozen) redcurrants added, and at least half of the strawberries (which I chopped) bought from Barton Grange (B and I ate the rest). Together the lot added up to 4lbs weight. Put into a large bowl with 4lbs sugar, these have been left overnight and today will be boiled together to make 'Summer Fruit Jam'. The cheapest 'good' jam we can buy these days is costly (the current price being a 340g jar (is that 12 oz?) for £1. And that's when on offer!!
Another proof that home-made is best.
Almost certainly, as it is Norma the Hair day today, will leave it to this afternoon to make the jam AND also the marmalade, so that will make enough for enough to last him the full year and beyond (there are still 10 jars of jam left from last year (mostly Damson). Leaving some to be given away. Proof, I hope, that it need only take a few hours to make a year's supply of many things.

You may be interested, you may not be (but I'll tell you anyway), the frozen foods bought were Oven chips; whole green beans (have bought seeds so from now on will grown our own); broccoli florets; garden peas and petit pois; lamb shanks (still great value at £5 for two considering they are already cooked in mint gravy); kipper fillets, packs of large and small cooked prawns; Summer fruits; and 2 packs of chicken livers. The latter a very worthwhile buy as they are only 43p a 225g/8oz pack. When it comes to meat protein, how cheap is that! One pack is enough for two people, and would also make several servings of chicken liver pate.
Also bought a 'turkey breast roast'. This came in a round shape (looking like a small gammon), weight 1lb, and cost £2.50p. The idea behind this is that it will be roasted, then sliced and frozen to serve with other sliced home-cooked meats (ham, beef...). Far cheaper than buying ready-cooked turkey or chicken in packs.

Although not really as good as our local butcher's sausages, B likes a certain brand that can be bought from the supermarket, and at a special price if 3 packs were bought, did buy 3. Opened the packs, then bagged the bangers up into bags - four in each, and froze those to 'keep us going' for the next few months.

Had to smile when Beloved said to me "think this lot should last a month, so don't order anything else from Tesco for a while". A MONTH! As I said to my dear Beloved, "this is meant to last until Christmas". Starting as I mean to go on, thawed a rump steak for B, which was pan fried and served with oven chips, battered onion rings, and some string beans (all came out of Boris). Strawberries and cream to follow.
Shortly after B got himself a tongue sandwich, and later he ate half a Vienetta he had bought himself. As ever - his main meal not being quite enough to satisfy him.
As normal, when faced with all that food, myself ate a 'lighter meal', consisting of an egg mayo sarnie (as I needed to use up some eggs, and hard-boiling them seemed the easiest option). Still some left so will probably use that to make another sarnie for lunch.
Will probably thaw out a ready-meal for B's supper tonight (just to gain a little more space in Boris).

Anyway - my grocery bill showed a saving of over £24 due to promotional savings/offers, and using points vouchers. So again my bill was down compared to this time last year.
Having just about stocked up enough to turn my larder, 'Boris' and 'Maurice' into the equivalent of a country grocers, can now begin to play both 'shop-keeper' and 'customer'. Bet your bottom dollar that when Tesco find I have stopped sending in a monthly order, they will do as they did previously - offer me £10 to start shopping with them again. If I wait even longer - the offer will probably go up. So another way to gain a bit more money (or spend less depending upon how you look at it) - become a 'missing' regular.

Even with the time that had to be taken trying to make space in Boris, preparing the fruits for jam etc, still managed to clear the rubbish from the conservatory (this mainly partly filled boxes that B had thrown torn up cardboard into - why he has to fill several boxes and not just on defeats me). Stamped my foot and asked B to take it all to the tip (along with all the excess packaging from the grocery delivery.
Sowed more seeds in pots and these are now arranged on the conservatory windowsill, covered with half lemonade bottles as a mini-greenhouse (even though it is summer, at the moment chilly). More seeds will be sown outdoors this week. Then - with any luck , and a bit more warmth - should manage to have enough fresh 'free' foods to harvest this summer and autumn, that should save a considerable amount of money.

Seems only a week ago that I felt desperately tired and could barely walk from the kitchen into the living room. Now I seem to have developed endless energy, and am beginning to believe that depression had set in as recently seemed to have had no goal or challenge, and now we've got the freezer, this has given me a new lease of life. Desserts, ready-meals all sorts of things made that can be frozen. All I need now is to find the space (think I've said THAT before). Also a sudden interest in growing more produce. Plus the rising fuel prices and other details that have proved we are below the poverty line, and this alone is a challenge to prove SOMETHING can still be done to turn these around to our advantage.

Had an email sent to me with details embargoed until today so couldn't mention it before. Apparently there are 4 million Brits who are prepared to pass off ready made food as their own.
Three-quarters of us cut corners, either cooking in one pan or using things like pre-chopped garlic/ginger.
Two million admit to cooking only frozen foods.
The full (and lengthy) article can be found on and, as they say, cutting corners is no bad thing. Few of us have the time to be bothered with making everything from scratch.

Although the above is primarily to promote certain 'prepared for you' foods, I myself - as you know - am quite happy to use a jar of curry sauce, or open a sachet of something (although HAVE stopped buying cuppa soups). We could say that cans of baked beans and chopped tomatoes are 'prepared' for us, certainly most of us use custard powder instead of making custard the 'correct way' (even James Martin prefers custard made from the powder) so let's realise that as we are now in the 21st century, we should allow some 'pre-prepareds'' onto our larder shelves. As long as the main ingredients of a home-cooked meal (the meat, fish, and most vegetables are 'fresh' - even if some ARE frozen because these are usually 'fresher' than most that are on sale), and we don't take the easier route of buying, heating and serving a full 'ready-meal' (for that matter who on earth would WANT to pretend these were home-made? I'd be ashamed), we should take advantage of being able to save those few precious minutes.

Your comments Kathryn, reminded me of when we first had our own house. I was continually moving the furniture round, and it made my husband so cross. Think perhaps we like to be able to walk almost blindfold to our favourite chair and throw ourselves into it, and when it isn't where we think it is - we begin to feel very insecure. Maybe its a girly thing. We don't mind when things change - men like things to stay the way they have always been.
Agree that Crabtree and Evelyn products are very good. B always used to buy one or two of their aftershaves(and think still has some as they do last a long time - but now he doesn't shave anyway so only dabs a drop behindh is ear when he is going to the social). I too like their perfume. My most favourite aftershave is Royall Lime (correct spelling), which was worn by a friend of ours who lived in Bermuda (where it is made), is very 'posh', very expensive, and he brought some for Beloved as a gift. Think possibly it can still be bought at Harrods but no-where else. Am sure mega-expensive, but Crabtree and Evelyn do a similar citrus one.

Expensive loo paper usually have more sheets to the roll, so again not as expensive as might first seem. At one time the number of sheets used to be on the packs of all, but not sure if this still happens. Some of the cheaper rolls are made with such thin paper that twice as much is needed at any one time - so again not as money-saving as might first seem.
You've managed to make great savings when it comes to the wine-kits Kathryn, another way we can all serve wine with a meal without breaking the bank.
Sorry you are having to change your pills, but no doubt for a good reason, and hope you soon manage to feel bright-eyed and bushy tailed again. With the school holidays almost upon us, am sure you will be able to relax more and take up more of your hobbies. How is the weaving going? Was it a Herdwick fleece you were given? They were talking about these on TV the other week - apparently the fleece is very coarse and 'suitable only for carpets' the farmer said. He gets paid 10p for each!!!
So weave the wool and knit or crochet yourself a rug. Or several rugs, then sew them together to make a carpet. Perhaps the fleece alone - when thrown on the floor and trampled on - would make a type of 'sheepskin rug' (without the skin bit - but you could glue on a backing).

Wen's comment regarding Kathryn's hobbies gives us food for thought. Yet - have found that (certainly when younger) it is amazing how much can be achieved in a small amount of time when we set our minds to it. Certainly most are not done each and every day, and time spent over the year need not be a lot on each. Take wine-making. Probably enough wine made in a single day to last a year (it tends to look after itself for a week or two at a time before the next thing needs to be done to it). Even when baking bread - hardly any time needs be spent on kneading - the hour or so waiting for the dough to rise is long enough to make a batch of marmalade to last a year.
When the sun shines we can go out and tend our crops, when it rains we can work indoors. We can also stop watching so much TV and use that time for more interesting and useful pursuits. There is always enough time to do most of the things we hope to do. At least from the self-sufficiency side of life.

A welcome and group hugs to Lynn who has just discovered this site. As to how we feel about Morecambe. My husband likes being here. It took me some time as my wish was to retire to Sheringham (due to memories of many years of happy family holidays there - and also love the bracing sea air on the East Coast). It was because of my daughter's wish that we should move to live near here (she lives in Lancaster) so she could 'look after us in our old age'. Bless.
Where we retire to depends much upon what we wish to do once there. When wishing to continue certain activities, then it is necessary to find out if these are available in the area in which we intend moving. With me - unfortunately - cannot now continue playing bridge. Neither do their seem to be any groups that I can join that would suit my 'hobbies' (but have to say limited in that respect due to mobility problems. Am sure there are some in Morecambe but not in our immediate area).
All can suggest is - if you are thinking about moving to Morecambe, then take a weekend break - not just during the summer when it 'appears' to be thriving, but also during the bleaker 'out-of-season' months when many of the shops (on the front) are closed, and there are few people walking about.
Myself find that Morecambe Bay is a bit boring to look at. The tide rapidly comes in, and then almost immediately flows out, leaving the sands visible for what seems like forever. Can't even walk on them as they are unsafe (quicksands), but there are beaches where sand has been 'imported' so that children have a safe place to play.
But this is me - I love to watch the sea, hearing it crashing over the pebbles (as in Sheringham) and smashing against the sea walls on windy days, sending spray over the prom, We are lucky in Morecambe if we see more than a few white horses when the tide is full. True, one day during this last winter the weather was round enough to send sea spray crashing against the prom and even reached across the path to the road, but sadly I missed seeing it.
Having said that, certainly where we live (the eastern edge of Morecambe - called Bare), really is a very pleasant place. Morecambe is joined to Lancaster (no more than 15 minutes drive to the centre), and this is a beautiful (and quite small) town to visit or even live. Very few new buildings built to spoil the charm of the original Georgian ones. Property too (esp in this region) seems considerably cheaper than that in other areas.
Regarding the weather. When rain is forecast in this region, more often than not it means over the Lakeland hills (which can be seen across the bay, nine miles away). Morecambe itself does get rain of course - but not nearly as much as Cumbria, and it has gone on record that Morecambe is the sunniest place in Britain.
We certainly do have lovely weather (at times) and it rather pleasant to drive along the sea-front and to other scenic areas (of which there are many) whilst bathed in glorious sunshine yet see the rain falling heavily the other side of the bay.
This is very much a 'retirement' town, and all facilities bear that in mind. There is quite a lot of free parking along the front (at least on the road-side at our end) whether elderly or not, and free parking (in car-parks) for those displaying a 'blue badge' card. Several supermarkets allow mobility scooters to be used inside, and the food served in many of the smaller cafes is particularly good.

Not sure whether you've lived here all your life Eileen, but what are your thoughts about Morecambe that might help Lynn in making a decision?

Loved the sound of your cook-in in preparation of your mother's visit Woozy. Having her meals cooked for her will be very much enjoyed I am sure. It doesn't matter how much we have cooked for our family in the past, once on our own, few of us feel it is worth bothering any more, so a real treat to have a home0cooked meal again - especially when cooked by someone else.

As time is limited this morning (Norma arriving shortly), have time only to give a few plum recipes today. Will try and give more another day.
Plum Cake: serves 10
5 oz (150g) butter
5 oz (150g) caster sugar
3 eggs
3 oz (75g) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 oz (100g) ground almonds
2 oz (50g) walnut pieces
1.2 lb (500g) plums, stoned and quartered
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs. Sift the flour and baking powder together, and fold this into the creamed mixture with the ground almonds and walnuts.
Spoon mixture into a greased and lined 9" (23cm) cake tin, and scatter the plums on top. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes at 180C, 350F, gas 4 until golden (and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean). Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a cake airer to cool completely.

Although have given this recipe before, it is worth repeating:
Plum Chutney: makes 5 x 400g (14oz) jars
3.5 lb (1.5kg) plums, stoned and halved
1lb 1ooz (750g) onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
5 oz (150g) raisins
1.75 pints (1 ltr) red wine vinegar
1lb 10 oz (759g) soft dark brown sugar
zest and juice of 1 orange
2 sticks cinnamon
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tsp salt
Put the plums into a preserving pan with the onions, garlic, raisins and vinegar. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
Stir in the sugar and when dissolve, add the orange zest and juice, cinnamon, rosemary and salt. Stir well, then simmer gently for an hour or more until very thick (and the spoon leaves a path when drawn across the base of the pan). Remove cinnamon sticks, then pot up into hot, sterilised jars, seal and store.
This is good eaten with cold meats and cheese.

Plum Bread and Butter Pudding: serves 4
1.75lb (800g) plums (stoned)
2 tblsp water
6 slices medium to thin cut white bread
2 oz (50g) butter
2 eggs
4 fl. oz (125ml) cream
1 oz (25g) caster sugar
half tsp ground cinnamon
1 tblsp demerara sugar
Put the plums in a saucepan with the water and simmer until just tender (takes about 10 minutes), then spoon into a baking dish.
Remove crusts from bread, and spread the slices with the butter. Cut each into four triangles and arrange on top of the plums, pressing down lightly.
Beat the eggs, cream, sugar and cinnamon together and pour over the bread. If possible leave for at least 10 minutes so the bread can soak it up. Sprinkle demerara sugar on top, then bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 20 minutes until golden.

That has to be it for today, as later than expected. Hope you find time to join me tomorrow. See you then.