Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Does Size Matter?

A short blog today as woke late. Was having a lovely dream that I wish could have continued. Something about a group of people having to make themselves a Brave New World. Every family would be given the same amount of land, a detached cottage with thatched roof (probably built of mud or 'cobs'), each rooms exactly the same size. Big families would have more bedrooms but no room could be knocked into another to make a larger one. It was important that every one was equal. All skills would be put to use, and could be traded in some way,and we would have our own 'village shops' etc, where we could sell our own produce. Don't think money came into it, everything was more on a barter system.
Some families would specialise on keeping livestock, others growing produce, etc. When I woke we hadn't even started building the houses, but it did sound a good idea. Only wish!!

Must press on or time will be up before I've even started. So replies to comments and then probably no time for more - have to wait and see.
Will check to see if I can find a gooseberry chutney recipe for you Alison, and if so will post it up tomorrow, along with other 'useful' gooseberry recipes. This fruit freezes well (no need to do anything but bag up), and this also helps it break down a bit when thawing, which shortens the cooking time when making preserves etc.
Not sure how old your freezer is, but if it still works, it should be worth taking with you when you move. Beloved got rid of our big chest freezer (still in full working order at 40 years old, although the paintwork was a bit 'rubbed'), as he wanted to buy an American style-freezer. He also got rid of our fridge (a true 'retro' one as it was nearly 50 years old), and although the new combination had a much larger fridge space, the freezer didn't hold THAT much due to the motor being housed in part of it. This is why we have had to buy another chest freezer recently, and although there are only two of us, even now feel we ought to have bought a larger one. Anyone growing their own produce, buying in bulk etc needs the largest freezer their house/shed/garage can hold.

Your comment re buying plum tomatoes Susan G has reminded me to mention that if you have a town market, usually late on Saturday's (they often start packing up around 4.00pm) you can often buy 'fresh' produce that won't keep well over the weekend (berries, tomatoes, mushrooms etc) for almost give-away prices. The vendors would rather sell them for pennies than have to throw them out.

Thanks Aileen for your list of good crops grown in your garden. It's when I read 'broad beans' or figs etc) that my heart sinks. Seems that all the crops growing well for readers are the ones that Beloved really dislikes eating. Can't say I'm that fond of them either, so shouldn't really moan about him. The produce we enjoy most we don't seem able to grow. But at least all info on good crops is useful info, for at least we know what will grow well - and if we like it, and if it is expensive to buy, then go for it.

With school starting soon, this means the summer holiday season is just about at an end, and as you say Sairy, visitors to seaside resorts are now drifting away. Suppose there have been plenty here, but never got around to scooting along the prom to see them (only viewed from the car). The problem with 'prom-scooting' is that even though the 'walk-way' is very wide, families with small children walk side-by-side taking up most of the path, and a straight scoot along is almost impossible.
The only thing with Morecambe (and most coastal resorts I suppose) is that most of the shops on the seafront will now close down (except for a few at the weekend), so it will seem very dead.

If you mean Hest Bank Hotel/Inn gillibob, that too is one of our favourite 'eateries'. Great value for money with good-sized servings of quality food and very professional presentation. We live in Bare, only five minutes drive away from Hest Bank.

Wen who says much the same as others re Blackpool. It is not what it was, and it seems as the years go by, most of our resorts are becoming less and less attractive, certainly to us older ones who can remember 'how things used to be'. Now it seems it is all burger bars, chippies, the smell of cooking, very noisy 'arcades' with slot-machines etc, and even noisier fun fairs. Yes, we had SOME of that before, but only a few, and it seemed to be the sand and beaches we went for not the amusements (although to a child, now and again these were a bit of a treat). Is it me or did the summers be 'normal' in those days. Do know we always took our holidays late June early July and the sun always seemed to shine then.

Isn't it funny how we - living on an island - often believe the coast is too far to travel except for a holiday. They say none of us are more than 60 miles away from the sea, and to an inland American or European, this is as near as dammit to living on the coast. The larger the country the further people are prepared to travel for 'a day out'.
Remember an old friend of mine - who lives in Australia - telling me she often drove to her daughter's to have morning coffee with her ( drive of 150 miles!!!). And some American neighbours - living in England for a year's Sabbatical - mentioned to me at 10.00am one morning they were about to drive off to see Cornwall 'for the day'. True, we were living in Leicestershire at the time, but Cornwall! That was much too far to go for a day out. A week's holiday perhaps, but probably two weeks 'as it was so far'. As with anything when it comes to size - it's all relative.
So is Oxfordshire too far from the coast for a day out Sue15cat? Not really when you think about it. Perhaps we - as a nation - feel that a day trip doesn't count. The further afield we go the more it feels like a holiday, so possibly why so many travel abroad. Seeking the sun has to be a good reason, but am sure young children would be far more contented making sandcastles on our beaches than any Benidorm has to offer. But there again fond memories of the wonderful (then) clean and huge sand dunes at Hemsby (Norfolk) where we had our holidays pre-war (and once after) , and Sheringham (in the 50s and 60s with our children) have spoiled me. Brighton with a teenage girl friend (stayed with her grandparents) suited us at that age, and Cornwall (again with children in 60s and 70s) also memorable and unspoiled. So again, old age is adding tarnish to what I now see, and things will never be as good as they were. No doubt my parents, grandparents and all my ancestors said much the same thing.

Time has caught up with me. No food news as B had a thawed out chilli con carne for his supper with a salad. I had porridge for breakfast, jacket potato for lunch, salad and tuna for supper and because I ate too much, have now put back 3 lbs! So only a nibble or two must pass my lips today.

Tomorrow should have more time for writing, so will catch up with recipes then. Norma the Hair will be arriving in half an hour, so must go and clear a space for her dryer. Hope to meet up with you all again tomorrow. See you then.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Never What we Expect.

Yesterday turned out to be not as expected (like spending the day cooking). Beloved returned from the sailing club, even before I'd finished writing my blog (too windy to sail), so as it was a reasonably fair, but cloudy day, he suggested we went out for a drive. He is suggesting this a lot recently, so who am I to refuse, although I nearly did, the urge to cook having already come over me. "Where would you like to go?" asked B. I thought about visiting a couple of places in Cumbria where they had a good write-up re Farmers Markets, but too far up for me to feel it was worth a trip that day. Instead said "Blackpool!" (it just came into my head). Never been there to the best of my knowledge, so thought it worth a look. So off we went.

My choice was the longer, scenic route which led us through very different countryside than around Morecambe. Drop me there blindfold and I would have sworn it was the Fens. The land very flat and what looked liked dykes running in parallel lines across the terrine. Just loved it.
We drove past a field in which were both dark brown and plain white curly fleeced animals that I first thought were llamas, but a sign a mile further up the road said 'alpaca stud farm' so think that was what they were. Then down came the rain. And how it rained! However, as we drove into the outskirts of Blackpool (without any sight of the Tower - had it fallen down?), the rain eased off a bit.

Far be it from me to criticise (as if I do), but both B and myself were shocked with what we saw. Possibly better areas that we didn't see, but the drive through to the seafront was full of the shabbiest retail properties we've ever seen, most of them 'eateries', of the burger, fish 'n chips, Chinese take-away type. Lots of graffiti as well as peeling paintwork.
We eventually caught sight of Blackpool Tower about three streets away from it and I was sadly disappointed. Viewed from Barrow (through binoculars) it looked as high as the Eiffel Tower - and this was what I expected to see. But it was quite short, a bit stumpy with a lump on the top (which I think was a viewing area). It also looked rusty, but B said that was the colour it had been painted.

We first drove up the north side of the prom, north past zillions of hotels, not a sight of the famous beach due to a wall in front of which was the tram-way (even the trams looked more like buses, we saw only one of the 'old-type').
Was hoping to see Norbrek Hydro where my grandfather spent his honeymoon with his third wife (his first wife was my maternal grandma), but didn't go up far enough. We then drove down along the South shore, again no sign of the beach due to the wall and other buildings, but did see a lot of big waves, surf etc at the sides of the piers. We also passed the Tower entrance (covered in banners and a few parked cars stuck in front of the doors, which also spoiled 'the look'. At least was able to imagine my grandfather walkng past it (am sure it was built by that time - 1931), so had a feeling of 'family memories from the past'.
The 'Golden Mile' was again full of 'eateries' plus the usual fun fairs and gift shops, all sadly 'tacky'. We turned off after we had passed the fun fair (at least that look exciting but it didn't look as though many people were there that day, despite the pavements being thronged with holidaymakers all stuffing their faces with burgers, ice-creams etc). People just wandered up and down, nobody really 'doing anything', but then it was hardly the weather, so good for them to venture outdoors at all.

We saw all the 'lights' strung across the road, only they hadn't yet been switched on, and quite honestly don't think we will bother to go and see them once lit, as we had thought of doing. They didn't look impressive at all. But then they wouldn't if not lit I suppose. Still miles of lghts, so don't let my jaundiced view put anyone off.
We were both bitterly disappointed with Blackpool, as it was not what we expected (and after all we are too old to feel the pleasure that the young would get from the place) , but very pleased that we had seen it at all, and extremely surprised at how large the town/suburbia was. All I can say is the famous Blackpool isn't a patch on Morecambe which I now look on with much more favour, being clean, tidy and although not having as much down-market 'entertainment' as Blackpool, is a much better resort in my opinion, being also closer to the lakes, and most of our 'eateries' are way above those we saw yesterday.
Although B and I were complaining about the place on the drive back, had to remind him that when we were younger we would have enjoyed much of what was there. Myself remember well walking along Brighton pier eating freshly fried ring doughnuts, and wearing a Kiss Me Quick Hat, loving every minute of it. I was 17 at the time!

We returned home via a much speedier route (motorways), and the rain began pelting down and it was hard to see even with the wipers furiously wiping it off the windscreen. As it was around 3.00pm, and we hadn't yet had anything to eat, B suggested we stop off and have a meal - this saving me cooking any supper. We decided (near Garstang) to take the road to Glasson, so stopped off at The Stork to have a bite to eat (B dropping me right at the door before parking to save me getting soaked). The place was packed, but managed to get a seat. B chose a main course chicken meal, I had a vegetarian"roast beetroot, grilled courgettes and aubergines with herbs and mixed leaf salad. Plus vinagrette dressing. I chose a half portion, andwhen it arrived it looked as large as B's. Unfortunately what I thought would be a hot dish, turned out to be a cold salad, but it tasted wonderful. By that time was feeling a bit chilly (outside was really wintry weather), so both B and finished th meal with 'Cape Brandy Pudding' (B had his with cream, I had mine with custard), this being a 'light version of Sticky Toffee Pudding'. The owner of The Stork is South African, so that is where the 'Cape' came from, but couldn't taste any brandy in it. To me it WAS Sticky.T.P. but without the rich caramel sauce. At least the pud was very hot, and so was my custard. Have to say 'eating out' was another unexpected treat, so all in all had a very good day.

When we drove back into Bare, there appeared not to have been a drop of rain. Even the seats in our garden were bone dry, so there you go. Morecambe is the place to holiday/live after all!

Now, on to your comments. If the small plums were dark purple Deb, they might have been damsons. If the blueberries were wild they might have been bilberries or sloes. But beware of berries unless you know what they are, deadly nightshade berries look very edible but is also very poisonous.

Thanks so much for telling us about your best crops Woozy. Had bought a pack of petit pois seeds the last time I was at Barton Grange and will be planting them next year. These also freeze well. Good to hear the Desiree spuds crop well. Parsnips are best left in the ground until later in the year, and not pulled until after the first frosts as this is said to 'sweeten them'.

Not sure whether we have been unlucky with our soil Ali, but here in Morecambe our autumn fruiting raspberries have not done as well as expected. Wish now I'd planted the summer ones, as these usually bear well and spread easily, so after a very few years we got enormous crops. The advantage with autumn rasps is that when planted in early spring, they will bear fruit the same year. Summer rasps you have two wait a year to let them get established before they bear fruit.

A welcome to Athyn who is a new commenteer, and not seemingly able to get her comments published, although one (obviously) did manage to come through. Not sure what the problem is Athyn, but keep trying as we hope to hear from you again.

Had an email yesterday from our daughter in Ireland who will be visiting with her husband in mid-September, so will take three days off from writing my blog whilst they are here (as this room will be turned into a 'guest bedroom'), but will let you know a couple or so days before this happens. Meanwhile will keep happily tapping the keyboard to keep myself, and possibly a few of you interested in the culinaries.

Another cabbage recipe begins today's collection as it sounds really tasty. The cabbage suggested is the Savoy or 'pointu' (suppose this means 'pointed type') but a crispy white would also be as good, just not look quite as pretty as the lighter green variety. As smoked haddock is one of my favourite fish to eat, might even cook this for tonight's supper for both of us (as already have all the makings).
Smoked Haddock with Cabbage: serves 4
1 Savoy cabbage
1 1/2 lb smoked haddock fillet
half pint (300ml) milk
half an onion, sliced
2 bay leaves
4 peppercorns
half a lemon, sliced
juice of half a lemon
2 oz (50g) butter
2 tblsp wholegrain mustard
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
8 halved and grilled tomatoes (for serving)
Slice the cabbage in half, remove central core and any thick ribs, then shred the leaves finely. Cook in a pan of salted water (or steam over the water) for about 10 minutes or until just tender. Leave in pan (or steamer) until needed, then drain and rinse with cold water, drain again.
Meanwhile, put the haddock in a deep frying pan (or large shallow saucepan) with the milk, onion and bay leaves. Slice half the lemon and add this with the peppercorns, then bring to the simmer, cover and poach for about 8 minutes or until the fish flakes easily. Then remove from heat and leave to stand until needed.
Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the drained cabbage, cook for a couple of minutes, tossing from time to time so the cabbage is coated with the butter and heated through. Stir in the mustard and add more seasoning to taste, then put into a warmed serving dish.
Drain the haddock, remove skin and divide the fish into four pieces, place on top of the cabbage with some onions rings. Pour over the lemon juice, then sprinkle with parsley. Serve hot with grilled tomatoes.

As have never been able to make a pickle up to the standard of Branston, tend to have only two home-made 'favourites', one being a beetroot and apple pickle (this has been published previously), and a really lovely colourful one made with sweetcorn and cabbage, the recipe for the latter is being given today. Instead of using fresh corn (from the cob), use frozen corn kernels - or as I do sometimes - use canned and drained sweetcorn kernels. The weight of corn is more estimated than needs to be accurate. Half a small white cabbage is about the right amount to use if you can't be bothered with weighing.
This relish could be made in December as it would make a colourful and tasty addition to the other 'home-mades' we put in the Christmas Hampers we cooks make as gifts.
Sweetcorn and Pepper Relish: makes a good 2 lb (1kg)
6 large corn cobs
10 oz (275g) white cabbage, very finely shredded
1 large (or 2 small) onions, very finely sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeds removed, flesh finely chopped
16 fl oz (475ml) white malt vinegar
7 oz (200g) granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tblsp plain flour
1 - 2 tsps made mustard (pref Dijon)
half tsp turmeric
Cook corn cobs in boiling water for 2 minutes, the drain. Cool slightly then - using a sharp knife - strip the corn from the cobs. Put these kernels into a pan with the cabbage and onion. Add all but two tablespoons of the vinegar (reserve this) to the veggies along with the sugar. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolve, then simmer for 15 minutes before adding the finely diced bell pepper. Simmer for a further 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, blend the salt, flour, mustard and turmeric with the reserved vinegar to make a smooth paste, then stir this into the cooked vegetables and bring back to the boil. Simmer for 2 minutes until the mixture has thickened, then spoon into hot, sterilized jars, cover and seal with vinegar proof lids. Store in a cool dark place and use within 6 months of making. Once opened, keep in the fridge and use within 2 months.

With our summer causing slow ripening of tomatoes, and many readers growing plum tomatoes, this next recipe will then be ideal, as the tomatoes used need to be slightly unripe (but red) or at least very firm. Don't be tempted to use canned plum toms as they will be far too soft.
As "this unusual summer jam is rarely available commercially", if any is discovered on sale it would almost certainly be very expensive due to its 'rarity', so perfect to make at home both for own use and another addition to the 'food hamper as stored in a cool dry place it will keep for several months.
Plum Tomato Jam: fills 2 - 3 x 1 lb (450g) jam jars
2lb 4 oz (1kg) firm red plum tomatoes
4 oz (100g) whole blanched almonds
1 lb 4 oz (500g) sugar
5 fl oz (150ml) - half pint (300ml) water
8 whole cloves
Remove skins from tomatoes, then place the tomatoes in a heavy pan and cover with the sugar. Leave overnight to help draw out some of the juices, the add the smaller amount of water. The tomatoes should be fairly juicy, if not add more water (but no more than the maximum).
Place over low heat and stir gently with a wooden spoon until the sugar has completely dissolved (takes about 10 minutes), then bring to the boil and boil for a few minutes, removing any froth that rises to the surface, then reduce the heat and stir in the almonds and cloves.
Simmer gently for half an hour, giving regular stirs to prevent the mixture sticking to the base of the pan (which would then burn and ruin the flavour). Remove from heart and leave the jam in the pan to cool before spooning into sterilized jars. Seal and store in a cool dry place.

One more addition to our larder shelves/Christmas hamper is this lighter in colour - but still very fruity - mincemeat. A useful way to use up fallings from the apple tree (once the bruised bits and maggots have been removed!). Unlike some mincemeat recipea, this one does not need cooking. Once made and bottled, this mincemeat will keep for up to year. Store in the fridge when opened and use within a month.
Spiced Apple Mincemeat: makes approx 4 lb/1.8kg
1 lb 4 oz (500g) sharp apples, peeled, cored, finely chopped
4 oz (100g) no-soak apricots, coarsely chopped
2 lb (900g) dried mixed fruit
4 oz (100g) whole blanched almonds, chopped
6 oz (175g) shredded beef (or veg) suet
8 oz (225g dark mucovado sugar
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tsp ground cinnamon
half tsp freshly grated nutmeg
half tsp ground ginger
4 fl oz (120ml) brandy
Put the apples, apricots, dried fruit, almonds, suet and sugar into a large (non-metallic) bowl and mix together until thoroughly combined. Add the orange and lemon zests and juices, the three spices and the brandy and mix together well, then cover, put in a cool place and leave for 2 days, stirring once or twice a day.
Spoon mixture into cool, sterilized jars, pressing down well to remove all air that might be trapped. Cover and seal. Store n a cool dark place for at least a month before using (unopened up to a year). Once opened store in the fridge and use within a month.

And that's it for today. The one thing about our summer (what summer?) coming to an end, the instinct to harvest and make preserves is now taking over, and with September arriving in a couple of days, we cooks can look forward to autumn and gain far more pleasure out of the cooler days than those who prefer to buy the second-rate rather than make their own. From this time on, our thoughts will turn to making, baking, preserving and whatever culinary delights come to mind. As Spring is for spring-cleaning. Autumn is for cooks (and I know which of the two I prefer the most!),

Hope you will be able to join me again tomorrow - already looking forward to it, and today has barely begun. But the kitchen is calling me. TTFN.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Value for Money

Before I continue with the remaining trade news must first reply to comments, and pleased to read that several of you are finding the trade 'secrets' a bit more than interesting. All inside information can help us guard ourselves from having our strings pulled by the stores, as can so easily happen.

What a magnificent crop of onions and shallots you managed to grow this year Scarlet. For interest, checked Tesco's prices for both, and the large 'loose' onions are 99p EACH!!!. Smaller 'cooking onions' (lesser grade) are £1.20 a bag (usually contains nine), and shallots are £3.35 a kg. Very approximate conversions to metrics (2 lb = 1kg), means your 66lb onions (if large ) would have cost you £33 to buy, and 16 lbs shallots to (say) £25. Meaning for a £2.80 layout you have managed to save approx £55!!!
Your mention of finding that it is cheaper to buy 2 x 100g jars of coffee than 1 x 200g does occur from time to time,, but always worth checking all sizes (some come in 300g plus) as now and again one or another is on offer. With anything, always check the price per 100g or kg, as this makes it easier to work out the one that is best value AT THE TIME.

We all like to grow different veg, but to get the most for our money next year it would be worth concentrating on fruit and vegetables (esp veggies) that give us the most for our money, so as this year's crops are now being harvested, it would be good to hear from all you gardeners as to how much money has been saved on the various crops sown, and we can then c0ncentrate on sowing the 'best of the money-saving' bunch next year.

Myself have not grown enough to give us big yields, but do know that redcurrants and raspherries are good 'money-savers'. Our rhubarb should be, but either our soil is not conducive to growing rhubarb (as it was in Leeds), or we bought the wrong varieties. The oak-leafed 'cut and come again' lettuce is also saving me much money, as are the year round supply of Mixed Salad Leaves. Not sure about the tomatoes, although still plenty on the vines, so possibly they will break even, and should certainly save money next year when all tomato plants will be grown from seeds. Herbs grown from seed too are 'paying their way', especially the parsley (both flat-leaf and curly).

We can see from Scarlet's comment that onions are very 'profitable' when it come to growing our own, snf from 50 and still's.... comment she also had a good crop, so a good idea for us all to so try to find space to grow these next year. Possibly they will grown in some of my deepish Donald Russell polystyrene delivery boxes (when filled with compost) as these have been used for growing courgettes this year, the plants huge, but all the fruits eaten by the slugs!
So please, keep letting us know of your best crops, so that we can all make sure we grow the ones that save us the most money. It would also help to know what variety is grown as some are more prolific than others, also different in flavour/colour/size.

What an amazing buy Kathryn, 5 lbs ripe strawberries for 1 lb. If still time, puree some and freesze to later make a coulis/sauce, or use for jam. Do have some rose syrup myself, but so far have only used it to flavour ice-cream/Turkish Delight/rose petal jam. A little added to yogurt/rice pudding/panna cotta would add a lovely flavour. Also cakes, and especially the icing on the cake.
Do hope you are now feeling much better and back on track again. Was beginning to worry about you.

What terrible weather you have had in Toronto Margie. Let us hope it has now 'blown over' and things get back to normal. Was interested in reading the 'fixings' your friend makes to freeze. What a good idea. Not sure whether the onions/carrots would work unless blanched. Possibly if only intended to be frozen for less than a month, otherwise unpleasant things can happen to unblanched veggies. Have seen bags of frozen 'casserole vegetables' in the uupermarkets, these being chunks of carrot, swede (and quite honestly not sure what else - but worth looking to find out), these bigger pieces of veggies would be easy to blanch and then able to be used in a slow cooker as they are already 'part-cooked' - as well as in the normal way.

The mention of grated veggies reminded me of Saturday's cook-in when I took several carrots from the fridge and chopped them into chunks, peeled and cut 3 onions into quarters, chopped up the last few inches of a head of celery, and put half in the food processor with about 8 small mushrooms (that needed using up), and whizzed them into 'crumbs'. Repeated with the remaining veg and the last of my mushrooms, and then sauteed the lot in a little butter/oil in my largest frying pan. These to be the base of a meat sauce destined to turn into spag.bol and chilli con carne. Even without the meat, the dark gills of the mushrooms made the mixture look as though the meat was already mixed in.
After sauteeing, the veggies were put into a saucepan and a pack of minced beef was fried off in the frying pan, then when ready, the veggies were stirred back in, with a can of (cheap) tomato soup), some beef stock and a dash of both Worcestershire and HP sauce, then covered and left to simmer for a couple of hourse (one hour would have been long enough, but the longer the better in my opinion.
When most of the liquid had been absorbed, spooned about 2/3rds into a saucepan, poured a glass of wine over the remaining meat sauce in the pan, boiled it up, then set it aside to cool slightly before decanting into three individual portion boxes ready to freeze. One saved in the fridge B's supper on Sunday.
To the reserved mixture in the saucepan, added a tablespoon of tomato puree, a teaspoon of sugar, a quarter pint of water and the remaining third of packet of 'Hot Chilli Sauce Mix'. Stirred together and simmered the 'meat sauce' thickened beautifully, and all that was needed then was to stir in the drained and rinsed contents of a can of red kidney beans. This 'chill con carne' then was enough to fill another three individual boxes.

Now I've got myself up to date, will continue with the trade news....
Farmers' Markets have been as badly hit by the recession as many food outlets. Soaring rents have forced many traders to look further afield for places to store their food and it's worth noting that at least one London market held as a monthly event has now converted to a weekly market because "we always wanted to go weekly, as this is how we buy our food". Does this mean their warehouse remained empty three weeks each month, or did it store certain veggies for longer periods (those with a long 'shelf-life', such as carrots, potatoes, white cabbage, onions etc?). Me being Miss Naive, always thought that Farmer's Markets sold produce that was harvested in the wee small hours of the morning of the market, and so 'fresh as fresh'.

There has certainly been a slow down in sales in the current economic market, but this might be for many reasons, perhaps because many people are now growing their own produce, or supermarket produce is cheaper.
One good thing about a Farmers' Markets is the ambience. "Possibly more about a ' destination and experience' rather than a regular weekly shop....with many markets offering a strong foodservice element, which allows customers to consume as well as buy short, make they make shopping more fun".
But the final sentence in the article says it all... "charm alone won't pay the bills".

Food buffs who will be in the London Area between 4 - 6th September will be interested to know there is a Speciality and Fine Food Fair held at London Olympia at that time. This is to bring new products to the eye of food businesses/ stores etc, but am sure would also be open to the public.
Check on for more information. The ad says 'free expert advice and tp chef demos. 1000's of new products and am sure plenty of samples to try. My mouth is watering at the thought. Of course most of the products will be beyond the budget of the thrifty. But nice to dream.

Another 'column' caught my eye. This time the reporter was commenting on 'Twitter'. Apparently 30% of people check their Twitter account before they've even got out of bed in the morning. This seemed unbelieveable, but sniggering to his office workers "can anyone believe this>", 30% of the people there stuck their hands up.
Seems that the 'age profile' split for (office?) tweeters was 0% for all over the age of 30 and about 75% for those under.
The reporter continues..."Like Facebook, I can see it's another useful tool for companies looking to get short, targeted messages to customers and consumers.....but who'd really want to know what a great restaurant I'd been to for lunch or that I'd just seen Cheryl Cole in Tesco?"

It is true that a lot of the 'twitterati' twitter on about nothing interesting at all, and although I feel twittering is time wasted, surely I am doing the same thing myself with this blog. So must really try and write 'things of interest' and less of 'what we ate yesterday'. It'll be difficult, but will try.

Final comment from the trade mag is a mention that according to 99p Stores, "Hartlepool is the nation's most downmarket town based on its low sales of middle-class staples such as sun-dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and pomegranate juice". That really puts me in my place. Am now officially lower-class. However, did like the sting in the tail at the end of the article that said "it would surely be unfair to suggest that the true mark of a 'posh town' is the absence of a 99p Store."

Having been fortunate in the past (mainly through playing bridge, but also through certain culinary activities) to be invited to 'upper class homes', being me, food was often introduced into the conversation, and can tell you that 'middle-class staples' are usually considered to be too expensive for upperclass eating. They much prefer eating the good old-fashioned 'farmhouse -style' meals. True, they do occasionally eat game (but usually shot by their own fair hands) and they do grow a lot of their own produce as most have 'walled gardens', but as I've said before, I (and the rest of the bridge four) may serve two kinds of tea from silver pots , but when invited alone to visit 'casually' during a morning, was almost always given tea in a mug made with a tea-bag, with the bag carefully saved so the lady of the manor can use it again (maybe with the second bag saved from her mug) to make herself another cuppa during the day. These little money-saving tips are quite openly shared with me. The wealthy take a pride in being mega-thrifty, because it costs so much to keep their houses in order and they need to save every penny. Sometimes they wear their overcoats indoors during severe winters because they cannot afford to heat all the house, and often rely on only just log fires (these giving warmth only to those who sit closest to it).

Seems today, both the lower (working) class and the upperclass have a great deal more in common that we think. Certainly it helps to know that when I'm struggling to make ends meet, I know of many titled ladies who are doing exactly the same, and so - for a few minutes - can role play I'm one of them.

Being very interested in 'domestic history' have come to realise that throughout the centuries, servants saved more money than it cost to have them. Gardeners would grow all the fruit and veg needed for all the occupants of the house (and how fresh would that be?). Cooks too knew every way to make the most of the food they had, the best going to the 'top table' with leftover or cheaper cuts feeding the staff. Not only that all the jams, preserves, pickles, and other foods that would store would be made. Very little 'convenience' foods bought. Some estates had rivers or ponds that provided fish, others had farmland that would grow cereal crops that could be milled to make flour. Hens, cows, pigs, sheep, for eggs, milk and meat products.

All bed linen would be repaired as it got worn. Even in my day have stitched 'sides to middle' when the sheets wore out in the centre. Woollen socks would always be darned. Cuffs and elbows on quality country jackets would always have leather trims or patches stitched on when they started fraying. Why buy new if the old was able to be repaired?
Even household furnishings were kept until almost falling to bits. No new carpets every few years, use the ones that had been their a couple of centuries. Flaking paintwork and faded wallpaper was all part of the charm. Anything 'new' stood out like a sore thumb. Nothing ever seems to be thrown away. A moral there somewhere?
Today - in some of the smaller - dare I say working class - homes (and the older the house the more 'natural' it looks) this style has returned and called 'shabby chic'. Rag rugs and patchwork quilts made from scraps fit in beautifully in a home such as this. So - if we wish - it is very simple to live in the style that we like to imagine we should have been born to.

Moving on to the culinaries. Today's recipes are centred round cabbage (and yes expect the Queen eats cabbage now and again - probably home-grown in Windsor Great Park, but then cabbage is cabbage....).
We start with a slightly different recipe for coleslaw. Obviously the easy way to make this is just mix together finely shredded cabbage, carrot and onion, and bind together with mayo. But it can be improved. Try this one for size. Use less mayo and more yogurt (half and half of each) if you prefer.
More than Coleslaw: serves 4 - 6
half a small white cabbage, finely shredded
2 carrots, finely grated
1 onion, finely grated
2 oz (50g) sultanas
5 fl oz (150ml) mayonnaise
2 tblsp natural yogurt
juice of half a small lemon
1 tsp caster sugar
salt and pepper to taste
Mix the vegetables and sultanas together. Fold the remaining ingredients together and combine thoroughly with the veggies.

Stuffed cabbage leaves is an old fashioned dish, and one my mother found worked well during war-time when she had to make the meat ration go as far as possible. This recipe uses more meat that she was able to, but if you wish to use less, use more of the remaining ingredients.
Stuffed Cabbage: serves 4
12 large cabbage leaves
1 tblsp olive oil
12 oz (350g) lean minced steak
1 onion, grated
5 oz (150g) cooked long-grain rice
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 tblsp tomato puree
salt and pepper
1 pint (600ml) vegetable stock)
14 fl oz (400ml) tomato 'pizza type' sauce
Remove the tough central stalk from the cabbage leaves, then blanch for 2 minutes in boiling water. Drain and refresh under cold running water, then drain and pat dry with a kitchen towel.
Stir-fry the mat in the oil over medium-high heat until browned, then add the onion, rice, herbs, tomato puree and seasoning with 5 fl oz (150ml) of the stock. Cook for 5 or so minutes until the stock has been absorbed.
Divide the mixture between the cabbage leaves (about 1 tblsp in the centre of each leaf) then roll up, folding the sides in to make a 'package'. Place side by side in a casserole (they need to fit snugly together). Bring the remaining stock to the boil and pour over so the rolls are half covered. Cover and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 45 minutes, then remove stuffed leaves with a slotted spoon and serve with hot tomato sauce.

A simple dish that many remember as served with cold Turkey on Boxing Day, but all too often forgotten about the rest of the year. This can be made with any left-over 'greens' such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage etc.
Bubble and Squeak: serves 4
9 oz (250g) cooked cabbage, chopped or shredded
12 oz (350g) mashed potato
salt and pepper
1 oz (25g) butter
1 tblsp sunflower oil
Mix together the cabbage and potato and season to taste. Put the butter and oil in a pan, and when hot plonk the mash in the pan, spreading it evenly like a thick pancake. Fry over medium heat until the underside has turned golden and crisp, then flip it over to brown the other side. It doesn't matter if the mixture breaks up when turned, it actually tastes better and becomes more crispy if turned and broken several times before the final browning and flattening of the underside.
If you wish, the mixture could be made into several individual flattened ' cakes' these being easier to turn, but it's not the traditional way of cooking.

This next dish is a one-pot 'rustic' winter supper dish that eats well served with either rice, pasta or other 'grain'. The recipe suggests using Puy lentils, as they have a fuller flavour, but myself tend to use the normal red or green lentils.
Cabbage and Lentil Casserole: serves 4
4 rashers lean back bacon, chopped
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
9 oz (250g) lentils (see above)
1 green cabbage, shredded
2 carrots, diced
7 oz (half a 400g can) chopped tomatoes
2 tsp tomato puree
1 pint (600ml) vegetable stock
salt and pepper
Fry the bacon in the oil for a couple of minutes, then stir in the onion and fry for a further 3 minutes. Add the lentils and cabbage and stir together. Cook for a couple of minutes then add the carrots, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and stock, add seasoning to taste. Give a final stir then cover and simmer for 40 minutes. Have a taste, add more seasoning if necessary, then serve.

Served with crusty bread, this classic soup is a meal in a bowl. Some recipes include a little minced beef, a meatless version is much the same but is then called 'Minestra'. A very good dish to use bacon scraps, almost any sort of cooked dried beans. Any firm centre cabbage could be used. Sometimes oddments of broken pasta are also added. We could even included a sliced cooked sausage. Almost certainly a 'peasant' dish that was made from 'what we have', and so feel free to adapt according to your personal circumstances.
Minestrone Soup: serves 4 - 8
1 onion, chopped
2 - 3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
2 tblsp olive oil
half a Savoy cabbage, shredded
1 x 400g can (14 oz) borlotti beans (or similar)
1 x 400g can (14 oz) chopped tomatoes
1 tblsp tomato puree
2 pints (1.2 litrs) vegetable stock
salt and pepper
4 tblsp pesto for garnishing (opt)
4 - 8 tblsp grated Parmesan (for garnshing)
Fry the onion, bacon, carrots and celery in the oil over medium heat until softened (but not coloured) then stir in the garlic and fry for a further couple of minutes before adding the cabbage, drained and rinsed beans, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and stock. Stir well to combine, then bring to the simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Add seasoning to taste, then serve, garnishing each bowl with a drizzle of pesto (opt) and Parmesan chese.

Final recipe today is for a stir-fry. This can be part of a Chinese meal or served as a side-dish with any meat of your choice.
Stir-fried Cabbage: serves 4
4 oz (100g) cashew nuts
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 tblsp sesame oil
9 oz (250g) white or green cabbage, finely shredded
1 large carrot, thinly sliced or coarsely grated
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or crushed
2 tblsp soy sauce
juice of 1 lime
black pepper
Stir fry the cashew nuts in the sunflower oil until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
Add the sesame oil to the pan and when really hot, stir-fry the cabbage and carrot for 2 minutes, then add the garlic and fry for a further minute. Pour in the soy sauce, lime juice and season with pepper, and stir-fry for a couple or so minutes until the veggies are just tender. Fold in the cashew nuts and serve.

Can't leave today without a final mention of yesterday. Our son was late arriving due to heavy traffic delaying him, and was only able to stop a couple of hours as he had another appointment, but it was very good to see him. Beloved had managed to fit the 'sliders' under the legs of the table in the conservatory, so this made it much easier for 'the lads' to slide the very heavy table over the carpet to the opposite side of the space. This has made conservatory look much larger and realised this was because one long side of the table now overhangs the wide window ledge, which means that we have gained a few more inches of 'width' to the space. It looks really good, and as I also moved things around in the kitchen a bit, the table in the kitchen is now my 'work space', and have moved my knife stand and food processor onto it, so the necessary is to hand without me having to get up from my chair what I need. Although the table is now almost clear, when working on it it will (as ever) get rapidly littered, so it's good to have a clear table in the conservatory to eat our meals. The table in the room I'm in at the moment (our dining room cum study) is normally only used when we have guests and 'dine in'.

Beloved has now gone off to the sailing club (being a holiday they are sailing today - if not too windy), so should have most of the day here alone and can't wait to start cooking in my 'almost newly arranged' kitchen.
So off I go and leave you with my wishes that you all manage to have a lovely day despite whatever the British climate throws at us. Looking forward to hearing from you, but even if you don't wish to comment, please join me again tomorrow. See you then.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Trade Secrets

With a flying visit from our son today, have 'things to do', so today's blog will be shorter than usual. Even Gill's hour-long Sunday phone call to me will have to be curtailed (she won't like that!). Two comments to reply to - followed by 'trade chat', and hopefully have time for a few recipes.

Not sure what type of cabbage you wish to use Urbanfarmgirl, but am assuming as this is coming up to autumn, it will be either the 'firm head', the 'drumhead' conical or ball cabbages with pale or green leaves, or the large white or pale green 'winter cabbages'. The latter, if left intact with only the outer leaves removed will - if stored cling-wrapped or in a plastic bag (with a few holes) - for several weeks, longer if in the fridge.
Firm cabbage leaves can be chopped and frozen in lidded containers or bags and will be fine for use in soups, stews or casseroles.
The recipes given (today or tomorrow) will be cabbage based.

Glad you found that Lakeland sell the lemon marmade 'concentrate' (similar to MaMade) Wen. Gill brought me four cans when she recently came to visit, but have yet to use one. Loved the idea of adding Limoncello as have half a bottle lurking in the larder (use spirits, liqueurs only for cooking - this way they then last years!).

Now for trade news. There was a 'Christmas' supplement with it this week highlighting the best products to tempt us. Seems the new kid on the block is selling slightly larger packs of crisps, biscuits, sweets etc at - of course - a more than slightly larger price than the standard pack, as meant for 'sharing'. The mag says "Christmas remains the biggest seasonal opportunity of the year for confectionary.....and sharing also increases as consumers pick up boxed chocolates at the last minute to share with friends and family at festive get-togethers." A page or two later it says "An important trend we expect to perform well again this year is the continued rel vance of the Sharing category, 70% of chocolate is eaten with others at Christmas time.....making this a lucrative sales opportunity."
"There are four key reasons that shoppers make seasonal confectionary purchases, these include: Seasonal Thank you (gift boxes), Big Family Sharing (large tubs), Stocking Fillers (tube formats), and a Little Piece of Christmas (seasonal self-eat treats).
With this in mind feel that we could save ourselves considerable pennies if we make a lot of our own 'sweet treats', so recipes will be given closer to Christmas.

It doesn't have to be sweet things. "Goose and Duck Fats "are always in high demand during the festive season...and with impulse buying is high at this time of year, retailers can maximise the benefits of this by tactically dual merchandising near related fresh products, such as potatoes". Tempted we may be, but be strong, that's all I can say.

Now to general trade news. "Shoppers continue to desert the organic aisles in their droves - even though there are more products on supermarket shelves for them to choose from". No mention of a reason other than "the mults do not cater for customer demand". Myself feel the reason we don't buy is because the prices charged for all 'organics' is too high for us to cope with in this time of recession and - as another article says "consumers are increasingly looking for value products and organic is seen in some categories as an unnecessary expense".
There are one or two mentions of new organic products on the market, one for organic honey caught my eye. Considering honey comes from nectar gathered by bees, how is it possible for the bees to choose between organically grown flowers and the rest?

"The price of onions is reaching eye-watering levels, following an exceptionally poor growing season in New Zealand......and of 41 onion products on sale in the big four supermarkets this week, 24 have gone up in price over the past 12 months, and 14 are now at least 20% more expensive than they were a year ago. Only five are now cheaper.
Red onions have been hit particularly hard by price inflation - of the 17 red onions products in our basket, 12 have gone up in price over the past year. A pack of 3 red onions being 50% more expensive across Tesco, Asda, and Sainsbury's now than it was this time last year, at £1.27 compared with 85p.
Only Morrisons has held steady on the price of the red 0nion three-pack and is still selling for 69p. However, its loose red onions have risen 23%". (Much the same in other stores).

"The situation is no better for brown onions....and across the multiples the price of 1 kg of loose brown onions has risen an average of 13.2%."
Thankfully, the article goes on to say that "prices were likely to come down again once the British main crop is in 'full swing', although with onions it is too early to tell until the crop is safely in store as adverse weather at harvest can dramatically affect saleable yield".

As one who uses onions in almost every savoury dish made (the more onions the better) have now something else to keep an eye on re prices.

Morrison's have taken over from Asda as having the cheapest basket this week, their basket costing £54.35p compared to Asda's £54.47p, Waitrose being the highest priced at £62.92 for the same items. But - as ever - don't let the totals fool you. The reason why Morrisons won this week is because of their promotion of Haagen-Dazs ice-cream they they were selling for £2.07p, whereas the remaining four stores all sold it at the full price of £4.15p! Which shows that by reducing just one item when the rest don't makes a whole mockery of who has the cheapest basket.
Again this week the basket seems to hold far too many foods that would never see the light of day in a thrifty shoppers' basket(in other words mine), such as Bird's Eye Potato Waffles, Bonne Maman conserve, Brussels Pate, Budweiser, Dill, Eclairs, Edam slices, Haagen Dazs ice-cream, Herbal Hair conditioner, Home-price cook-in sauce, John West Light Lunch, Lindt Excellence, Scotch Pancakes. There are times I feel some that I'm on a different planet when it comes to 'shopping for food'.

A mention was given to a programme to be shown on the Discovery Channel, Real Time, Monday, this is called Extreme Couponing, and is back to shadow the savings slaves who live and die by the money-off vouchers . Believe it is US orientated as we Brits are more bashful about cashing in on the 'freeconomy', but if you can receive this Channel, then perhaps worth a look.

Heinz beans are changing their label and instead of 'Beanz' the label will now read Heinz, with the words "1 0f your 5 a day" above a picture of a few baked beans .

A slightly complicated article which I've only had time to speed-read, but it does seem that Tesco (and probably other stores) will now be selling milk at £1 for four pints, but only certain brands.

Sales of branded Cheddar have taken a serious hit as cash-strapped shoppers increasingly look to own-label products to manage price inflation. However, there are still quality brands available on offer at comparable prices, so worth buying (and possibly freezing) when you see them.

The price of minced beef is soaring as "supermarkets have hiked up the price of value-tier beef mince by up to 25% since the same time last year". Reading that "farmers have changed their cattle rearing cycles to maximise profits and mitigate the higher cost of feed.....and this year, more cattle are being kept back to feed up in expectation of rising beef prices", doesn't bode well for the price of beef in the future. So perhaps sensible if we buy now - while the price is right - and freeze as much as we can.

Unfortunately time has caught up with me, so will have to hold over the remainder of trade news (not a lot left) and also cabbage recipes which I hoped I'd have time to post up today. Apologies for this, but tomorrow they will be printed.

We had a thunderstorm last night, and almost hail falling a few moments ago, so not sure what the weekend weather will turn out to be - doesn't look promising here in Morecambe. Hope you all fare better, but still find time to join me again tomorrow. See you then.
p.s. the flipping 'spell check' has failed, so more apolgies for any missed errors.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

So What's New?

A late start again today, so don't expect too many 'rambles' today as only just learned that our firstborn will be visiting us on Sunday, and B had told me he has 'got his days' mixed up (again!!) and will be out 'doing things' with the sailing club, today, Sunday and also Monday. Not that I mind, it is always easier to get on with things when I have the place to myself. At least B will be returning when I phone him to say our son has arrived - as this will only be a fleeting visit. Am talking the opportunity to have an extra man to help move the heavy table to the window side of the conservatory, as just B and me would find it a lot more difficult (you wouldn't believe how heavy it is).

The trade mag has arrived this morning, and after a quick flick through have decided to read it thoroughly before giving any news in depth for there seems a lot going on that we should know about. Must just mention an article that caught my eye about a new jam (and because of the ingredients am thinking that my Beloved would love it spread on toast). Called 'Bacon Jam', and made with smoked bacon, onion, coffee and whisky is said to be "more versatile than ketchup....great on toast, with cheese, as a sauce, dip or ingredient".
This jam - which sold out straight away after in-store sampling will be launched next month via the Virtual Farmers Market, which will supply stores in London. Distribution arrangements for the rest of the country are still being finalised.
Now - before we all leap to buy a jar of this Bacon Jam described as "sweet, sticky, meaty and delicious" (which am sure it is), its rsp is given as £3.79 a jar! Possibly, in London, people have more money to spend. Up north - we are a lot thriftier. But as it this jam is yet another 'new product' to appear on our shelves - and for once, something completely different, thought you might like to be one of the first to hear about it.
Rest of trade news will be given tomorrow (and as the cover gave a mention of some of the contents and the words "end of the Farmers Markets" caught my eye) feel that this week we will have been given plenty of food for thought.

To your comments....
Thanks Susan G for reminding us of the 'Open a Can Grill' recipe. Had completely forgotten about it. Scrolled down Feb. 2010 postings and discovered it was in the early days of that month (was it 3rd or 4th?). The good thing about having to start at the top of each month when clicking on Archives, is that more recipes are discovered as we scroll down to find the one we want, and have tried to keep some of the best (and cheapest) ones in, editing out the 'not so necessary'.

Hadn't heard of the prog. 'Kings of Pastry' Lizzie. Not seen it mentioned in any of the TV channels we an get (but we only have Freeview). If on a Sky channel, then wouldn't get the chance to watch it.

The cost of the lemon curd tart Woozy would be cost of pastry (if you make your own you can work that out), plus the cost of the mock lemon curd (which I estimate would be between 30p - 50p, this mainly depending upon the price of the egg used). The whole thing working out at under £1.
Yesterday saw a recipe for Lemon Tart that - after cooling - had blackberries scattered on top. then liberally sprinkled with sugar. But also liked your suggestion of sprinkling over grated chocolate.

Thanks Mark for your warning about shopping around for cheaper insurance. Gill once mentioned to me how she had received her renewal notice and saw how her car insurance had risen (as they do) and she 'shopped around' and found one much cheaper, so rang her insurance company to cancel, telling them the reason why, and they immediately reduced her insurance down to match the lower one. This just shows how much we are being 'conned' into paying more than we need to. Seems that - more than ever, during this recession - companies are desperate to keep our custom, so always worth seeing if they will do a deal before moving to pastures new.

Missed watching Jamie Oliver's programme about summer cooking Urbanfarmgirl. Think I felt it was now too late in the summer to be of much interest, and probably something on another channel at that time that we found more interesting viewing.
Yesterday watched most of 'Come Dine With Me' (this time set in Spain) due to the 'write-up' and it didn't disappoint! My goodness me, what a monster 'that' man was! Only those who viewed it will know what I mean, but hope there will be a repeat for those who missed it. Well worth watching!

In the Goode kitchen not a lot was done as I had another bout of feeling very cold, so tucked myself up under two cuddle blankets with a hot water bottle. Beloved had a corned beef omelette (his choice), so was able to make that for himself (well, he has to learn to fend for himself sooner than later, there is no guarantee I'll always be around to do it for him). Today will be having a 'cook-in' as intending to make a bulk batch of meat sauce, some of which will be used to make spag.bol or lasagne, the rest used to make a chilli con carne, and these can be boxed up into individual meals that can easily be re-heated for B's suppers. Also want to cook some stewing steak and kidney overnight in the slow cooker ready to later make steak and kidney pies.

The weather is very up and down. Poured with rain last night, today has begun sunny but clouds building up, so feel we will not be in for a fine day today - the weekend forecast looks as though we will have some improvement over the Bank Holiday.

As a busy weekend lies ahead of me, and - because I got up late again - will have to take my leave for today and will be back again tomorrow with 'trade news' and replies to any queries you may have sent me in the meantime. Enjoy your holiday weekend, and hope you find time to join me again tomorrow.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Good Food on the Cheap

Are we having a late summer I ask myself? Yesterday was another beautiful day, so trotted outside with my 'brunch' (tuna, lettuce and tomato sarnies), and sat in the sun. It is noticeable how the sun is not as high in the sky as it used to be, our large apple tree now shading more of the garden. B went out for his usual bike ride, and on return suggested we went out for a drive again. The intention was to go to a trout farm on the way back so B could 'catch' a trout for his supper. We first went through Silverdale (a very beautiful part of this region) ending up at Leighton Moss (RSPB bird centre). Saw loads of woodland birds, and persuaded B to buy two bird seed thingys to hang from our trees so we could watch the birds feeding from our conservatory . He did buy one, but instead of the second bought a bird box (which will have to be placed on a wall, not visible from the conservatory.
On the return home (via a different route) we ended up in Carnforth, heading home, and I mentioned the trout but 'oh, dear' B had forgotten all about it. Well, there is always another day.

Watching someone on TV catching sea-fish yesterday, it crossed my mind again to take this up as a hobby, if i can get past the picking up wriggling worms and sticking them onto a fish hook (also removing the hook from the mouth of a fish (should I be lucky enough to catch one). If this was taken up as a hobby, it would put paid to my desire to turn Buddhist as no creatures can be deliberately harmed.

Back to birds. After watching the birds flying back and forth from the feeders, it crossed my mind that once we have removed the plastic cover from the greenhouse for the winter, we could bring the metal frame to the centre of the garden (visible from the conservatory!!!) and hang bags of peanuts, fat balls etc from the cross bars. If I decided not to use it as a greenhouse again (it is really too small), could sit it against one of the fences, grow either clematis and rambling roses up it (or runner beans and any other climbing vegetables), get B to fix a bench inside and use it as a mini 'summerhouse'.

For ease, decided to thaw out the remaining sliced cooked turkey, also thawed then cooked some sausages, and we both had these with watercress that needed using up, the last of an ice-berg lettuce, some (vacuum packed) cooked beetroot, a third of a yellow bell pepper (diced), and my own salad had a little Caesar Salad Dressing (B not wanting his dressed).
During the morning had collected a few fallen apples, and pulled about ten sticks of Rhubarb which were so thin and weedy that were hardly worth using, but they did add some flavour to the apple and rhubarb crumble that I was intending to make, only just cooked the chopped fruit in the microwave with some sugar and a little water until just tender, then suggested to B he ate that warm with double cream poured over. Saved the cost of the crumble, and B remarked on how good it tasted. Sometimes I think we add more to a dish (whether sweet or savoury) just because it is 'traditional', when it can often taste just as good without the 'trimmings'. Every penny saved "is a penny earned" as the saying goes.

As you say Woozy, the Farmers' Markets are more expensive than (say) supermarket prices. Being that everything is 'fresh', expect this is why we are expected to pay more, and it would make more sense to lower their charges, for they would then find they would sell out as more people flock to buy. Maybe they sell out anyway. I don't know, but all the time we now see 'home-made' jams, marmalade, pickles , cakes, biscuits etc, on sale at very high prices, and people buy them because they believe they are far better than any other (presumably not realising they could make the same themselves for about a tenth of the asking price). There are also enough people around with enough money who don't want or need to bother to make anything themselves. At least readers of this site who make their own, grow their own are the lucky ones. Dare I say the winners?

As to not being able to make Lemon Meringue Pie (because an OK doesn't like meringue), we could always use the lemon filling to fill 'jam tarts', or make it into a large Lemon Pie in its own right (without the topping of meringue).

Having only recently begun using your polytunnel Urbanfarmgirl, you will probably find you will be able to grow veggies throughout the winter in yours. Certainly 'salads' such as rocket, lamb's lettuce grow better in cooler conditions, and with a bit of cover should grow all through the winter. American 'Land cress' is another worth growing (we used to grow this in Leeds and without any protection), this tastes (and looks a bit) like watercress.

The addition of garden 'fleece' thrown over some of the more tender 'tunnel' plants would help protect them and you could probably grow even more varieties.

Don't apologise for ranting on Polly, I blow my top regularly on this site. Gets it out of our system, and certain issues are always worth a mention. As you say, there seem to be more and more thefts from shops these days.
Many years ago remember when pushing a trolley down a narrow passage at the side of Safeways, a young man suddenly appeared before me, clutching a full plastic carrier bag, running like mad, followed by a male store assistant. I instantly realised the man has stolen something, and could easily have swung my trolley across the path to block his path, but didn't. It was one of those times when everything seemed to go into slow motion, and I can even now remember the haunted look on the man's face, as if he NEEDED the meat to feed his family (as it turned out this was what he had stolen, for he dropped the bag just after passing me, and vaulted over a fence into someones back garden). Maybe he had planned to sell it elsewhere to get some money to buy other food (or maybe even drugs). It was just the look on his face that has stayed with me ever since.

This of course is no excuse, but when there is little money for food, and no knowledge of home-cooking to make what we have go even further, seeing supermarkets packed with obscene amounts of food doesn't really help. There is far to much variety of food on sale these days, and we can see (through the trade mag) more and more new and unnecessary products are being introduced each week.

In some ways our 'benefit' system also doesn't really help, because this leads to being able to 'exist' without the incentive (and to some n0 need) to find any employment. In the 'old days' you either got a job, even sweeping streets, or just about starve. No-one sat around waiting for 'hand-outs' as so often seems to happen these days. No need to worry if another child comes along for this will mean even more money 'coming in'.

There are people who genuinely have to live on benefits, and usually hate having to do so. But there are thousands (millions?) who won't even bother to look for work, or find a reason why they can't. They have that chip on their shoulder about the 'them and us divide' and see no reason why they shouldn't have a share of the good life without paying for it. Hence the recent thefts during the riots when many stole huge TV's and designer gear, jewellery etc, and very few stole food.

Now you see what's happened. I'm mouthing off again about the way the world is today, and nothing I can do about it. Let's change the subject.

Not sure of the weight of the breast of lamb you bought Polly, but it was much more expensive than mine. As to making dripping from its fat. Doubt it's even worth it, as rendered down lamb fat does not taste as good as beef and pork 'dripping'. If you want to make dripping, just put the fat in a small roasting tin in a moderate to hot oven and let it sit there until most of the fat has melted and is 'runny' in the pan and the remaining fat is crisp (this crispy fat B loves to eat when sprinkled with salt)

One of my 'signature' dishes (which has been published in several mags in the past) is 'breast of lamb with cabbage', and because this is a very unappetising name for a dish, always call it 'poitrine d'agneau au chou' which (I hope) means the same thing, but in French. Give any dish a French name and it lifts it to gourmet level don't you think? Here is the recipe. Do try it, for it is very, very tasty.
Poitrine d'agneau au Chou': feeds 4
1 small white cabbage, finely shredded
1 tsp sunflower oil
2 oz (50g) bacon scraps
1 large onion, finely chopped or sliced
4 oz (100g) porridge oats
1 breast of lamb, cut into ribs
zest and juice of 1 large or 2 small lemons
black pepper
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
Steam the cabbage until tender. Meanwhile, fry the onion and bacon in the oil until the onions are tender and the bacon has released its fat and become slightly crisp. Stir this - with the oils from the pan - into the cabbage, then fold in the oats and lemon zest and juice, adding pepper to taste. Spread this mixture over the base of a greased, shallow oven-proof dish, place the lamb ribs on top, fat side up, sprinkle with a little more pepper then bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 until the lamb is tender and the fat crispy. Sprinkle the top with chopped parsley and serve.

This next recipe makes use of those cheapo packs of Chinese noodles (were 10p at Tesco, maybe still are), and almost any 'chunky' fish could be used (cod, haddock, coley, salmon....). The chilli adds 'bite' to this dish, a Peppadew I find even better, but omit this if you don't wish the dish to be too spicy, or use Thai sweet chilli sauce instead of the vinegar and soy.
Lakeland do a range of 'non-stick' foil, parchment lined foil, and other very useful baking aids, so worth using one of these to make this 'meal in a bag'. Otherwise use baking parchment or foil. This method of cooking 'steams' the food and also keeps the oven clean.
If using the noodles mentioned above, use the chicken flavouring that comes with the pack to make the stock, but if you have it - use home-made chicken stock.
Baked-in-a-Bag Fish with Noodles: serves 4
2oog quick cook Chinese noodles (see above)
4 skinless chunky fish fillets (see above)
1 small bunch spring onions, trimmed and sliced
1 red chilli, seeds removed and sliced (see above)
half pint (300ml) hot chicken stock
2 tblsp white wine vinegar
2 tblsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
Pour boiling water over the noodles and leave to stand a few minutes before draining (they will cook in the bag). If using ordinary noodles, cook until just tender. Drain and rinse under cold water, then drain again.
Take four large squares of baking parchment or kitchen foil and fold up the sides to make sort of 'box', then divide the noodles between each, placing them in the 'box'. Sit a fish fillet on top, then sprinkle over the spring onions (including their sliced green leaves).
Mix together the stock, vinegar, soy sauce and oil and pour this over the fish. Fold the sides of the parcel over, and also fold up the ends to enclose the filling and prevent leakages, then bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 15 - 20 minutes (depending upon the thickness of the fish).
To serve: put each 'bag' on a plate and let the diner unwrap and eat directly from the package.

Final recipe today is another that makes good use of those cheap noodles. Fresh fish is used in this recipe, but cooked chicken scraps picked from a carcase could be used instead, also canned salmon or tuna. Thawed cooked prawns go well with this dish, so 'a bit of this, a bit of that' can together make a very tasty meal/
Oriental Soup with Noodles: serves 4
2 tsp sunflower oil
3 tblsp Thai red curry paste
2 x 165ml cans coconut milk
1 pint (6ooml) chicken stock
2 skinless chunky fish fillets (see above)
7 oz (200g) dried egg noodles
1 tblsp fish sauce
juice of 1 lime (or lemon)
finely sliced spring onions, or Peppadew for garnish
Put the oil in a frying pan and stir in the curry paste. Fry for a couple of minutes, then stir in the coconut milk and stock. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for five minutes, then add the fish. Cover and 'poach' for five minutes until just cooked (if using canned fish or chicken/prawns just re-heat).
Meanwhile, cook the noodles as per packet instructions, then drain. Divide between four soup bowls and place the fish on top. Add the fish sauce and citrus juice to the liquid in the pan and pour this over the food in the bowl. Garnish with spring onions, Peppadew if you wish. Serve immediately.

Having risen late today, find the time has moved on faster than wished for, so will wind up now and wish you all good day. The weather is again wall-to-wall blue sky (well almost) so will make myself another brunch and go out and 'have a sit' with a cook book in the hope of finding inspiration. Hope you can join me again tomorrow. See you then.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Want or Need?

Today is the local Farmers' Market, held about half a mile from where we live. Each month mean to go, and really intended to this month, but when the time comes always have to ask myself "do I need anything?", the answer being normally "No!".
It would good to buy some seasonal fruits - plums etc, but we still have loads of jam on the shelves, so plums are not a necessity. Plenty of blackberries now in the freezer (filched from those packs of frozen summer fruits), Apples beginning to fall from the tree, autumn raspberries still producing, not to mention a few pears soon needing to be harvested. Even our small garden is helping us stock up.
With plenty of root vegetables in the fridge, and a big basket of onions, plus salads, cauli, white cabbage and Chinese Leaves, don't really NEED anything. Wanting to buy something from the F.Market is a different matter. I'd love to go, just to see what they are selling, but then KNOW I will buy something I don't need, so should I, shouldn't I.
It's a gorgeous morning, not a cloud in the sky, so perhaps worth a scoot down on Norris, just for the ride. Me, being me, won't decide until I've written up today's blog, and then will have to see how I feel. Luckily don't have much money in my purse (think about £10) so at least controlled in the spending direction.

Before I move on to replying to comments and a few more recipes, had an email yesterday from an agent about a new cookery programme. Have the chance to have an on-line 'chat' with Valentine Warner (this not of interest to me) but his forthcoming programme am hoping I'll be free to watch (if no footie match on that evening as happened yesterday). The programme is a tw0-parter called "Valentine Warner Eats the Sixties", and will be on UKTV's "Yesterday" channel (Freeview 12/Sky 537/Virgin 203) on Wednesday 12th and 19th October (not sure if the time was given).
The foods we used to eat in the sixties will be demonstrated and talked about, such as Prawn Cocktail, Black Forest Gateau, fondues, and Vesta curries etc. Also amention of TV cooks of that era - the Queen Bee being Fanny Cradock. It certainly will take me back, for it was in the sixties that my interest in cooking (with the help of Fanny C's weekly 'partwork') took off.

Thanks for your words Les. Probably eating too few calories (but deliberately( is the reason why I do feel cold. I eat less to help me lose weight (as suggested by the doc). Also have to avoid eating fats if at all possible (as they wish me to lower my already normal cholesterol). Sugar is out due to diabetes, so probably quite normal for me to feel colder than most. Eating three meals a day would not work with me as once food passes my mouth tend to want more - although it depends what it is of course. So try to confine myself to a brunch and then an early supper (again with the permission of the diabetic nurse). As losing weight will help to reduce blood pressure and also diabetes, this has to be the prime target in my life at the moment.

At least yesterday, decided to bring out my quilted cuddle blanket again and pop this over the top of the light 'fleece' one that I've been sitting with these past days. Couldn't believe what a difference the two together made, I was as warm as toast. So that is one problem solved.

Do both arm and leg exercises whilst sitting in my chair Susan G, but doubt they burn off enough cals to make much difference, although probably help my circulation.

Always have thought that yellow courgettes taste better than the green Woozy (slugs also seem to agree with this), so don't know why I bother to grow the green at all. Their bright colour too adds so much to a dish.
Although I don't always weight myself daily, when finding I have gained weight, then tend to keep a daily check until it falls again. It is normal for weight to fluctuate by one or two pounds (mainly due to water retention) and have read we all hold around 7 lbs of 'disposable'' weight in our bodies due to the food eaten over the last 24 hours (or longer).
A 2 lb gain doesn't bother me, but if I check the next day and shows another gain, and then next day another (as is happening at the moment) this is showing me that eating 'normally' (even small amount) is not working. I'm just one of those very cheap models to run. Hardly need any food to keep me alive, especially now I am not so active as I used to be.
We were still in the days of wartime rationing when I was lucky enough to be able to play tennis almost every afternoon for hours and hours (seemed to have dry summers around that time), and then table tennis in the evening (the tennis club being the other side of the road where we lived), and hardly seemed to eat anything, but my weight stayed stable, even then was 'strong-boned', but certainly not fat. Other times would cycle or walk for miles. At that time my measurements were 35.25.37. Being almost six feet tall, looked slim enough, but with 'good, child-bearing hips' (which proved to be true as having our babies was as easy as shelling peas).

Any curtailment of exercise, then I immediately gain weight, even if I don't eat much. So now its very difficult for me to lose weight at all, and only if I eat hardly anything, although what I do eat is nutritionally good food, and - it has to be said - eating more of the very expensive protein and cutting out the cheaper carbos (Atkins diet) is the one that works best for me. But only stay on that for a short time to avoid the problems that would eventually occur. At least it gives me a kick start.

Oh Scarlet, you must have been devastated when you discovered your allotment had been stripped of most of its fruit by thieves. Let us hope they were lads who were so deprived of their 'five a day' that the urge was too great, although probably they intended selling their 'proceeds' to others.
Were other allotments also 'burgled'? It does seem today this is becoming very common. Why buy when you can steal?
Perhaps time for us to take a re-think. With an allotment grow only the foods that are less appealing, and also less visible, like 'greens' and root crops, and grow the soft fruits and similar in our gardens. We would all have more money if everyone was law abiding and we didn't have to insure ourselves against loss due to theft etc.
As it is, the worse things get, and the more claims that come in (as with the recent riots), the insurance companies then raise their prices to ensure they keep in profit. It doesn't matter if we have never had a car claim in our lives, even allowing for this discount - the price eventually increases.

How lovely to have a polytunnel Urbanfarmgirl. Was watching part of Hairy Bikers yesterday and the chef they were working with went into his 'tunnel' to gather what he needed and he said it kept him in fresh produce for 10 months of the year. Do you find the same with yours?

Thanks for the dietary tips and eating fibre Polly. This is something I try to do. Your mention of eating potato skins (for their fibre), reminds me how so many people leave the skins from their 'jackets' on the sid of the plate, eating only the flesh. To me, the skin is the tastiest bit. Give me a bowl of hot baked 'skins' and a bit of butter and salt and I'd be in seventh heaven.
As with all vegetables, the vitamins like just under the skin of root veg (or in the outermost and darker leaves), so I rarely peel, just give a scrub and then cook. When I do peel, aim to remove as thin a layer as possible, and often these peelings are put into a pan with others to cook down to make vegetable stock (some vitamins being soluble in water, so never throw the cooking water away if you can use it in soups etc).

Today's recipes are what I call 'thrifty', in that they use less ingredients than 'normal' recipes. This doesn't mean they don't taste so good. Just slightly different. As these come from a collection of old 'farmhouse' recipes, it would be good to bring them back to get a taste of the past. Especially at this 'harvest time'.

The first recipe is an economical way to make shortbread, quickly made and keeps well in a tin. It is necessary to use moist brown sugar as the normal white doesn't work. As so often happens with recipes of this type, a measure is used instead of weighing. A breakfast cup hold probably about the same (or a little less) than a standard mug (which is 8 fl oz).
If you have a processor, the ingredients could be whizzed together until just 'crumbly', it shouldn't go as far as fine crumbs.
Ginger Shortbread:
2 breakfast cups flour
1 breakfast cup moist brown sugar
8 oz (225g) butter
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
Mix all the dry ingredients together, then work in the butter until the whole becomes crumbly. Tip this onto a well-greased dripping tin (a Swiss roll tin would be OK), and spread into an even layer. Bake in a moderate oven (180C, 350F, gas 4) for about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly, then cut into fingers and carefully lift and place on a cake-airer to cool. Store in airtight tins.

This next 'cake' is unusual, and myself would probably make it using up scraps of shortcrust pastry saved from previous 'rollings'. If you have only a small amount of pastry that needs using up, just use that and make less of the 'filling''. No reason why you couldn't save some of this filling, keep in the fridge and then spread it on toast (as we do with Nutella), or as 'icing' on a cake.
Chocolate Targets:
approx 12 oz (350g) shortcrust pastry
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
1 oz (25g) cocoa powder
2 oz (50g) butter, softened
Cream together the sugar, cocoa and butter. Roll out the pastry into a 12" x 9" strip, and spread the creamed mixture on top. Roll up like a Swiss roll, wetting the last edge to seal it in place. Cut into 12 slices and lay flat side up on a baking tin. Bake for about 20 minutes in a moderate (180C...) oven.

This next recipe is rather like a flat fruit pie, but given the name of 'Fruit Cakes', as meant to be eaten as a 'cake'. Different soft fruits could be used according to your personal 'harvest'. The recipe starts off by making pastry, but you could use ready-made and roll in the sugar. It doesn't say how thinly the pastry should be rolled, but considering the amount it is supposed to make, am presuming this is 'roll thinly'. Read the recipe then you 'll get the idea.
Fruit 'Cakes': makes 16 pieces
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
4 oz (112g) butter or lard
1 tsp sugar
8 oz (225g) raisins
8 oz (225g) rhubarb
1 cupful sugar
piece of butter size of a walnut
First put the raisins and rhubarb into a small pan with the cup of sugar and butter and cook gently until softened. Leave to cool.
Rub the butter into the flour and tsp of sugar and make into a stiff paste with a little water. Roll out, divide into two and place one half on a shallow baking tin. Spread with the fruit mixture and place the remaining half of pastry on top.
Brush with milk and bake for half a hour in a brisk oven (200C, 400F, gas 6). When cool, sprinkle with sugar and cut into 16 pieces.

Even though lemon curd is one of the lovelies of 'spreads', it can be expensive to make. For a much cheaper version, here is a recipe that am sure will fill plenty of culinary uses where lemon curd is called for, possibly also worth using as a filling for a Lemon Meringue Pie.
Mock Lemon Curd:
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teacupful of water
1 teacupful of granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp cornflour
1 small piece of butter or margarine
Put the lemon zest into a saucepan with the water, sugar, and butter. Heat gently and when the sugar has dissolved bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes. Blend the cornflour with the lemon juice and stir this into the pan and cook for a couple or so minutes longer to thicken. Remove from heat, leave to cool slightly, then mix in the egg, return to the heat for a short time to cook the egg, but do not boil or the egg will curdle. Pour into a pot, cover and keep in the fridge. Best eaten within a few days.

Next recipe is for "a filling equally as nice as lemon cheese". Both this and the next recipe are based on marrow - perfect for this time of year. No doubt very large courgettes could be used in the same way.
Marrow Cream:
2 lbs (1kg) marrow
2 lbs (1kg) gran. sugar
4 oz (112g) butter
zest and juice of 2 large lemons
Peel the marrow, remove seed, cut the flesh into chunks and boil/steam until quite soft. Strain well, put the flesh into a saucepan and mash to a pulp, then work in the butter, sugar and zest and juice of the lemons. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 45 minutes. Use this as you would lemon cheese/lemon curd.

The amounts needed for this recipe depend entirely on the weight of the marrow, so will give the recipe as printed then you can sort it out for yourself. Worth making as there is not much difference in texture between marrow and pineapple, so you can fool yourself (and everyone else) into believe all pineapple and no marrow has been used. Am pretty sure the words "without syrup" means the weight of the marrow without the 'syrup' formed from its juices and sugar, and not the syrup from the can of pineapple. But it could be vice versa.
Marrow and Pineapple Jam:
"Peel a marrow, remove seeds, cut the flesh into small pieces (the size of pineapple chunks), weigh, and to each 1 lb (450g) marrow add 12 oz (350g) sugar. Put into a stone jar (suggest a glass bowl) and leave overnight. Next day add pineapple chunks - 1 small tin to each 2 lb (1kg) marrow (without the syrup). Cut the chunks into 3 - 4 pieces, then boil for a couple of hours or until the chunks are soft and the jam sets. Bottle up and store in the normal way for jam.

Yesterday - perhaps because he wanted to watch the footie, Beloved said he'd get his own supper, choosing bacon, eggs and beans (with maybe a salad - didn't watch him make it). He brought me in the remaining half a can of beans for my supper. Gee, thanks! (at least he'd decanted them into a bowl) Later, because the footie was becoming too one-sided B allowed me back into the living room to watch most of the prog about Buddhism. Almost inspired me to try this religion as one not yet attempted.

What a glorious day it's turning out to be. Should I go to the F. Market? Or should I spend an hour in the garden sunning myself. Think the latter as it will prove less expensive. No point in window shopping where food is concerned. There is always next month.

Noticed in our local paper there is a day train-trip up to Oban (via a scenic route through part of Scotland) in mid-October, leaving about and returning late evening. Am sorely tempted, although would prefer the first-class as it give more leg (and hip) room for me. Is it worth paying £25 more for the comfort? Buffet is included. If only the weather could be guaranteed to be good on the day, all the lovely autumnal colours. Have to have a think about it.

Time to wind up for today, have a wander outside, wave a leg or two up and down (for exercise), and maybe even scoot out with Norris for a bit this afternoon. Who needs Scotland when Morecambe is bathed in sunshine?
Looking forward to meeting up with your all again tomorrow and hearing your news. See you then.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Comfort Eating

Sadly, no comments have arrived, and there was me getting up early enough to allow time for both replies AND a chat. But there you go. Maybe tomorrow....

Took the advice and ate 'proper' meals yesterday, and certainly my body warmed up. Hands no longer cold, not even cold this morning. Problem is, I've gained another 2 lbs! Keep this up and by the end of the week will be a stone heavier. And there was me trying desperately to lose weight.

The only way to lose weight is to eat less than we need, for then the body has to burn up some of it's surplus to both give us energy and keep our body at the temperature it is supposed to be. This can sometimes cause out extremeties (feet and hands) feeling cold as it is our internal temperature that is the most important.

It was because the weather yesterday started of so cloudy and cool that I decided to cook a beef casserole for our supper. Had already cooked ox cheek to tender in the slow cooker, and had frozen it with some of its gravy (enriched with red wine), so it was a matter of sauting some onions, carrots, parsnips and potato in the frying pan, adding the gravy, topping it with one pack of the thawed meat and then let it simmer until the veggies were tender and the stock well reduced. Later added a little more water and a teaspoon of Bisto gravy granules to make a thicker 'sauce'. Cooked some (frozen) Brussels sprouts to go with the 'stew', deciding not to bother with Yorkshire Puddings, and served it up. Myself had less meat (only because I didn't want it - there were enough meat juices in the gravy), but plenty of vegetables.

Of course by that time the sun had decided to shine, the clouds disappearing and a stew/casserole was not really the right meal to serve, but myself still felt cold, and once I began eating, almost instantly my body began to warm up - which I have to say was very pleasant, so for the first time for months felt quite comfortable when sitting in my chair. My hands too became warm again. So - having had one round of tuna sarnie for lunch, a small bowl of 'stew' for supper, and later a small bit of Lancashire cheese with some grapes, ate an amount of what anyone else would feel would be 'about right' for the day. Far too much for me apparently, so now have no choice but go back to eating much less, which means a return to feeling cold, as need to lose about one stone before my next weigh-in at the end of September, or the nurse will throw a wobbly (part of that stone includes weight gained because I've recently followed advice and been eating 'properly'). It would be a pity for me to fall by the wayside now, after I've been doing so well.

Must give the ox cheek a mention. This is one of the 'cheaper cuts' and so needs long slow cooking, but it has an exceptionally rich flavour, and when cooked in water/stock to which some red wine has been added, ends up tasting like venison. I cook it in the whole piece, then - when cooled down - slice it fairly thickly to pack away (enough for several portions) in its gravy to freeze. When dishing up yesterday, served B's slices of ox cheek at the side of his (large) oval plate, with the sprouts the other side, and the spuds, carrots, onions, and parsnips piled up in the centre. The rich, thick gravy was served separately in a small jug. Myself had the veggies together in a 'breakfast bowl', with a few tiny scraps of the meat and some gravy poured over the lot.
Beloved said the meat was so tender and tasty it was worth a mention, with the plea to serve it again.

There are some readers I know who buy some of Donald Russell's 'braising meat' offers, and - instead of thawing and cooking only when needed - it's really worth doing what I do. I thaw out two or three different cuts at the same time (say braising steak, beef rib trim, shin beef etc), then put them together in my slow cooker with onions and plenty of water to cook slowly overnight. Next day removing all that are tender (or allowing longer cooking time if necessary (some cuts take longer than others). Then sort, cool and pack away each under their name (shin, braising etc - n0t mixed) with some of the gravy.

To the remaining gravy in the pot, add more thawed meat - possibly stewing steak or ox-tail, and continue cooking on Low for several hours. Repeat the above (cooling, and freezing with a bit of the gravy). Finally thaw the ox cheek and add to the pot with more water, and a glass of red wine, then let this cook for hours until tender.
By the time all the meats have been cooked in the same liquid, then removed, the remaining stock/gravy at the end is so rich and thick (shreds of meat floating in it) it can add 'meat' to a casserole without even the need to add meat as we know it. Worth calling it 'free meat'. This liquid is frozen separately as 'rich, beef stock', and VERY useful for adding to dishes such as spag bol, chilli, beef casseroles, Cottage Pie et al, and using as the base of soup.

We don't have to order a delivery of frozen meat. Our butcher could also supply us with a mixture of the less expensive 'stewing cuts', which we could start cooking as soon as we return home, keeping the rest in the fridge to add the next day, or even over two days according to how much you wish to cook at any one time. Yet - having priced D.R's offers against my butcher's normal prices, there is little difference (if any), and the quality of D.R. wins hands down, and - dare I say - cannot be beaten? So you can guess where my loyalties lie.
But wherever you buy your beef, it is well worth cooking more than one type of 'stewing beef' in the same stock, to gain the concentrated beef flavour, which itself is worth £££s due to being able to be used in the place of meat in various dishes. As I think I've just said.

Did a bit more tidying up yesterday in the conservatory/kitchen. Watched The Great British Cook Off" on TV during the evening. Quite enjoy seeing how - when following the same recipe - each contestant ends up with something a little different. Late afternoon (because the 'stew/casserole was looking after itself on the hob) found time to watch 'Daily Cook's Challenge', with one of my favourite cooks ( Brian Turner) as one of the chefs. Loved the way both chefs managed to make great dishes when they had only 50p to spend, although Brian T's was a bit of a cheat as he used a fair amount of butter (which was one of the four 'free' products from AWT's 'larder' as was flour - B.T. making banana filled pancakes with a plum and jam sauce). The other chef made a spaghetti dish with a tomato based sauce. Certainly proving it is possible to make a good meal even with only a few pennies to spend.

Yesterday gave some recipe using courgettes, and today am continuing this theme, but using the adult courgettes, that we call 'marrows'. When ready to harvest, large marrows will store well for months. Remember how I once kept one on top of our kitchen cupboard where it turned from two shades of stripey green to (eventually) green and yellow stripes. We ate it around February/March if I remember.

Because a large courgette is not a million miles away from a small marrow, either could be used in these recipes, the first being a way to turn marrow into an all-in-one supper dish, but could also be a side dish to serve with cooked hot or cold meats. To serve more that the amount shown, use a larger marrow and slightly more of the other ingredients.
If a recipe doesn't say whether the marrow should be peeled or not, this is because young marrow skin usually soft enough to become tender when cooked. A good test is to gently press your fingernail into the marrow skin, and if it doesn't split easily, then too tough so needs peeling.
Cheese Topped Marrow: serves 2 - 3
1 small marrow (approx 1 lb 10 oz/750g)
2 oz (50g) butter
1 - 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
salt and pepper
4 oz (100g) Cheddar cheese, grated
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
2 oz (50g) breadcrumbs
Peel the marrow only if necessary (see above tip), then slice and fry in half the butter in a shallow heat-proof pan or casserole over medium heat for 5 minutes, then stir n the garlic and seasoning to taste. Lower heat then continue cooking for a further 5 - 10 minutes or until the marrow is tender and turning gold.
Sprinkle half the cheese and half the parsley into the pan and gently stir these in.
Mix the breadcrumbs with the remaining parsley and cheese, adding more seasoning to taste. Melt the remaining butter and fold this into the crumb mixture, then spoon this on top of the marrow, place under a pre-heated grill (not too close to the heat) and grill for a few minutes until the topping is golden. Serve hot.

Marrow Soup: serves 4
1 marrow (approx 2lb/1kg)
1 onion
2 oz (50g) butter
2 tsp plain flour
15 fl oz (450ml) milk
15 fl oz (450ml) vegetable stock
good pinch ground nutmeg
good pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
Peel, remove seeds, and chop the marrow flesh. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat and 'sweat' the onion for about 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in the flour, cook for 2 minutes, then gradually stir in the milk and bring to the simmer to form a thin sauce. Add the prepared marrow, the veg. stock and the spices with seasoning to taste, stir well then bring to the simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool for 10 minutes, then blitz contents of the pan in a blender/processor. Return to the pan and reheat, adding more seasoning if necessary. Good served with garlic bread or garlic croutons.

This next dish is a good way to make a little meat go further, and see no reason why other minced meats could not be used such as pork, chicken, turkey etc as these also don't take too long to cook. Unless using minced 'steak', cheaper minced beef usually takes longer to cook, so allow for this when initially frying the meat.
Meat 'n Marrow Bake: serves 4
1 onion
4 tblsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 marrow, approx 2 lb/1kg
12 oz (350g) lamb mince
14 fl oz (400ml) tomato passata
1 tblsp chopped fresh marjoram/oregano
salt and pepper
14 fl oz (400ml) white sauce
pinch ground nutmeg
1 egg
9 oz (250g) Ricotta or curd cheese
3 oz (75g) grated Parmesan cheese
Put half the oil in a frying pan over low heat, and 'sweat' the onion until softened, stirring in the garlic during the last minute or so, then - using a slotted spoon - remove to a plate and set aside.
Cut the marrow into quarter inch (0.5cm) thick slices. Add remaining oil to that still in the pan, and over medium heat, fry the marrow for a few minutes each side until just beginning to turn golden. Remove from pan using a slotted spoon, continue until all the marrow has been lightly fried.
To the oil in the pan add the minced meat and fry for a few minutes until browned, stirring to make sure it is all coloured, then return the onion/garlic to the pan, add the tomato passata, herb and season to taste.
Spoon half the mixture into greased oven-proof dish, then lay half the marrow slices on top. Add a little more seasoning, then repeat with further layers.
Put the white sauce into a bowl with the nutmeg, egg, Ricotta and half the Parmesan, and beat together. Spoon this over the top of the meat/marrow and level the surface. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan over the top and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for good 30 minutes, or until bubbling and browned. Serve immediately.

Final recipe is one taken from an old 'farmhouse cookery' book, and probably the chutney that my mother used to make. Which, I have to say, was rather nice. The old imperial weights only given, so hope that younger readers will be able to convert to the metrics.
Marrow Chutney:
4 lbs marrow
8 oz pickling onions
6 cloves
1 1/2 lbs granulated sugar
half oz turmeric
9 chillies
2 oz ground ginger
2 oz mustard powder
2 pints vinegar
Peel and deseed the marrow and cut the flesh into (approx) half-inch cubes. Lay these over a dish and sprinkle with some salt. Leave overnight then drain and rinse.
Put the other ingredients into a saucepan and boil for 10 minutes then add the marrow and boil for half an hour or until tender. Then put into (hot, sterilized) jars, seal and store.

An early finish due to this being Norma the Hair day, so will love you and leave you in the hope you enjoy your day. Here at least the weather seems to be improving, the clouds beginning to disappear, and plenty of blue sky peeping through. Although the clouds are moving fairly fast from the south, at ground level not a leaf is stirring, - oh, spoke too soon, one bush is now beginning to wave at me, and now the rest of the foliage is now following suit, but as I write, has stopped again. Whether I get to have a sit outside later this morning remains to be seen.
Reading the paper yesterday apparently we all need to soak up plenty of sunshine as we need the Vitamin D it gives us. The older we are the more we need it to prevent weakening bones or something. Twenty minutes a day of sun on our skin is more than enough, so have already had my fair share on the days when I've ventured out. But worth topping it up to keep my bones strong enough to last the winter out.

Here I go, rambling on again and I don't have the TIME! So 'bye for now, and hope that at least a couple of you will send in a comment. I miss you when you don't come and 'chat'. So, until tomorrow....and see you then.