Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Just taking time to thank all of you who have sent their best wishes. Our daughter is being well looked after in hospital, and is having many tests to find the cause of the problems she has been having over the past few months (which rapidly accelerated last weekend). She is a little better today, and we hope by the end of the week to see a vast improvement, but still cause for concern. Until then, my mind cannot concentrate on writing up my daily blog, but will - hopefully - soon be returning.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Family Matters

Up early enough to write a message. Unfortunately, our eldest daughter (who has been ill for many weeks) had a turn for the worse yesterday and was rushed to hospital late evening. To cut a long story short, she seems OK but is being kept in for further tests. As you will appreciate, this means she takes priority, and so when my blog appears again depends upon circs. It could be that I will be back posting again tomorrow, but if not - you will know why.
Thanks for the comments. Will try to find some cucumber recipes for you Eileen, and - if the news is go0d - may find time to write something up re this later today. Otherwise, back a.s.a.p.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Good News for Consumers

Thanks for comments. As gillibob has had problems also with blogger - probably they are having another of their 'wobblies'.
Hope your headache is now better Woozy, and Lisa A - it was your mention of Clam Chowder Soup that let me to believe you live in the US. We don't have that here (or at least I've never seen it on supermarket shelves).
Pleased the polytunnel info was useful Urbanfarmgirl, do let us know is you are able to keep harvesting the crops (now to be sown) throughout the winter.

Your mention of plum and blackcurrants was timely Alison, for much time was spent in one of my dreams last night gathering blackcurrants! Why I dreamed about those I don't know.

Having had my bread machine for must be well over 10 years now Les, it's not 'new to me', and did come with a very comprehensive instruction book. Still think I will stick to using it just to make bread dough (although various kinds). Normally the 'workings' of machines I don't find interesting, although suddenly I have good hooked on the programmes 'How It Is Made' (on Quest). The other night it was showing how they made both the tubes (containers) and also the stacking 'crisps' (aka 'Pringles' et al). Very interesting. Seems the 'crisps' are made with 2 parts dried potato, one part water, then rolled out to a dough and cut into thin ovals which are then shaped and fried. A lot more than that in the prog, but basically it was the 'makings' that interested me. Quite a lot of those programmes are to do with food, others with crafts (such as saddle making, or making bagpipes...), but am even interested in those dealing with machinery - like jet engines!

Didn't do much cooking yesterday, but did pack all the over-night slow-cooked beef rib trim and shin beef into various boxes. Although I had added only one pint of water to the beef, ended up with one and a half pints of really good and thick (lots of meaty flakes) of beef stock. This also packed into smallish containers, now all in the freezer.
This is the good thing about cooking meat in liquid, there is no waste at all, unlike when roasting in the oven where the end weight is a lot less than when it started - due to evaporation of liquids etc. The meat is also very tender and moist when slow-cooked, so much my favourite way of cooking meat now. Not that I can afford a large joint any more.
This time ,when I cook one of the briskets, will slather the top with some clarified beef dripping in the hope this will gather up the meat juices as it melts and be somewhat similar to the beef dripping that comes from a 'roast'.

Did try to melt the Hokey-Pokey down yesterday, popping it into the oven as it heated up (I was about to bake another loaf). It did melt down, but left it in too long as it burnt. All that can be done with it now is to crush it up, dissolve in a very little water, and then use as gravy browning. But am not going to bother with that. As the cost of the sugar and syrup was not much more than 10p (I was only making a little bit), think this is one thing that will end up being binned. Oh, the shame!

For supper, thawed out some spag.bol.meat sauce that had been made a few weeks ago, which Beloved ate with pasta penne and salad, plus Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top. Myself had the salad, with dressing and a small bit of Parmesan sprinkled over, with a bit of the meat sauce at the side. No pasta as was avoiding carbos. Luckily this has meant my weight is practically on the stone, so am hoping today that can get below it as tomorrow is the 'weigh-in' at the surgery.

Now to consumer news. The trade mag seemed to concentrate more on 'green issues' this week - which were the more eco-friendly stores, such as those who use rain water to flush their loos etc. However, there was some light at the end of our gloomy food-price tunnel which may brighten the lives of some of our readers, and I feel this may continue until at least Christmas as the stores really need our custom. what happens after that remains to be seen.

Here are some quotes:
"Tesco was this week dramatically forced to reveal plans for a £500m price offensive, as details leaked of its strategy to hit back at rivals who have seized the initiative on price.
Following a week of speculation, the supermarket announced that the prices of more than 3,000 products would be slashed from Monday, with many more to follow in what it pledged was an 'indefinite' battle." Tesco revealed it would be cutting the price of bread, fruit, vegetables, and a host of other staple goods. Mid-priced own-label products would be pitched at up to 50% cheaper than other brands.

However this 'Big Price Drop' will also see the end to its double-points on its Clubcard loyalty scheme from the end of October (but this does give us a few weeks to stock up at the lower prices). But then we can't expect everything.

Another store came back with "this is classic smoke an mirrors - giving with one hand and taking with the other. Removing double points will save Tesco £350m." It does seem though that now all the stores will be forced into matching the lower food prices. So we should now be able to rub our hands will glee.

A small column that mentions TV was critical about the new series "Real Food Family Cook-off", and said "it was just plain bad". Not that I saw it, but what I read I was not impressed by the sound of it. Did any reader's watch it? If so, give us your opinion.

Good news for those who care about chicken welfare. Morrison's are introducing improved lifestyle for all its chicken standards in a bid to make higher-welfare poultry more affordable for mainstream shoppers.
Under the new standards, being launched next week (think this now means this week), chickens will be housed in barns with better lighting and be given perches, toys and pecker blocks. Despite these improvements, retail prices will remain the same.

Eblex (think this is something to do with meat promotion) is looking to tempt shoppers to buy more beef and lamb this autumn with a promotion offering shoppers vouchers and prizes. Under the Come Dine 4 Free campaign, shoppers can win a £100 shopping voucher every day for a three-week period when they enter an on-pack code at simplybeefandlamb.co.uk. In addition consumers can win smart pads (what are those?) if they email in details of a successful meal prepared with Red Tractor beef or lamb.
This promotion will run on different dates in four of the mults until November and there will be leaflets at meat counters and stickers on packs of Red Tractor meat.
Without forcing anyone to buy meat when they wouldn't normally, IF you do so, then perhaps worth choosing Red Tractor packs and enter the comp. Someone has to win. Could be you.

Dairy commodities prices are on the way down! Due to a weaker consumer demand after month of record high prices, leading to an increase in supplies. Just goes to show that when we (en masse) stop buying, this always brings the price back down.

The rest of the mag concerns itself with pages on 'sports drinks', and as these have no interest to me, assume this could be said of the readers of this blog. What do energy drinks contain that we cannot get in another cheaper form? And do we really need them?

As have had my usual phone call from Gill this morning (delaying me by an hour), this means - due to other commitments - now have to wind up for today.
Tomorrow - being my visit to the surgery, thankfully early - my blog will be a bit later than normal, but hope to get it published between 11.00 and noon. Much depends upon whether Beloved wishes us to drive elsewhere before returning home, so if (again) a blog is missing, this time it will be my fault and I will be back again on Tuesday. But log on tomorrow late morning just in case I've managed to find time to write to you.

Looks like we are going to have an Indian Summer next week, and there was me thinking winter was almost here. A lot of the trees have already shed their leaves - last year it was November before this happened. So what sort of winter we will have remains to be seen. Everything is pointing to an early and very cold one, but then nothing seems as certain as it used to be in the 'old days'. Could be we have a really warm (but very wet and windy) winter. Given a choice, think I prefer the cold.

Hope to meet up with you again tomorrow, if so - see you then.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


It appears that yesterday's blog didn't get published. Not sure what happened, but when completed it wouldn't publish, had to sign in again, then went to draft (where it still was) then published from there - which it appeared to do, then - after reading Woozy's comment - discovered today it HADN'T published and neither was it still in draft - so I can't now post it.

Will try today's posting as done so far, and - if it does publish - will then continue (so if reading within the next few seconds - come back to read the rest).
Yes, it did! So far, so good. Will now give my missing replies that didn't get published yesterday.

A welcome to Lisa A who is a new 'commenteer', and possibly lives in America/Canada? Regarding the use of tomato soup (other than for making baked beans), it is also good as a substitute for passata (sieved tomatoes) when making a sauce for a pasta dish, or adding to bolognese sauce etc. Blended half and half with well flavoured home-made chicken stock, tomato soup this then makes an excellent 'Chicato Soup' which is almost home-made.

Sounds as though you have now built up a good stock of stores Scarlet which could last you several months. Do let us know how you get on working your way through them. It can be a bit alarming when the shelves begin to empty, but as long as there is some food in store, you should be able to keep going for quite a while. It really boils down to whether you wish to eat to the level you already have been doing, or prepared to make some changes. Often I find that HAVING to use only what I've got brings my little grey cells back into action and the meals tend to improve, not get worse.

We too used up our food store Alison, when we moved, so had to live on take-aways or 'eat out' for several weeks (due mainly to our buyers putting back the date of signing the final papers) and the same when we arrived in Morecambe as it was at least a week before we went to the supermarket. All that was brought with us was rice, some home-made preserves, and think a couple of cans of MaMade!

Have not yet received that comment of your that seems to have gone missing minimiser deb. In the light of my missing posting, perhaps blogger is playing up again.

Gave a very detailed list yesterday of the foods served to our guests Susan G. today is a slightly shorter version. The day of arrival Tuesday, supper was had Butter Chicken Curry, plus a smaller and hotter vegetable curry (made at the last minute as we had an extra and unexpected guest). Also made onion bhajis and raita to go with, plus all the usual side dishes: bananas, hardboiled eggs, coconut, mango chutney, lime pickle, and poppadums. Added to these were some veggie pakoras (brought by the extra guest).
Wednesday the meal was Turkey roast, roast and mashed spuds, with stuffing, sausages, Yorkshire Pudding (by request), four veggies, and gravy.
Thursday we all ate out at a local Chinese restaurant. Friday's meal began with a starter of fish cakes (a trial batch for 'testing'), followed by Cold Meat Platter (h.c.ham and turkey, Spam, corned beef, sausages) with different salads, plus home-made quiche and pork pie, jacket potatoes and chips (to order).

Cannot remember the order of puddings, but do remember serving flambeed bananas, apple and blackberry crumble, and ice-cream.
Family left on Saturday morning.

Great idea to limit yourself to £5 when buying Xmas gifts Susan, in a way this makes it a great deal more fun as then we get the pleasure of hunting for them. Charity shops and car-boots are very good places to get the best value for the money, especially if the gift is for someone who 'collects' things. Remember a very good friend of mine collected letter openers and I found a really lovely one for sale for 10p at a car boot. She was over the moon when she got it. It is not the cost that counts, it is the time we put into seeking or making a gift that really shows how much we care.

Woozy, if you go to Archives and look up September 2007, then scroll down to 14th, you will find a posting listing quite a number of substitutes for eggs when cooking. Hope this will help to answer your query.

Day before yesterday tried to make a batch of Hokey-Pokey (similar to Cinder Toffee) and probably because I used demerara sugar instead of the white caster sugar, it didn't work. Now I am left with a block of firm 'toffee' that is stick and starting to get a bit 'runny' at the edges. Am hoping it can be melted down with a bit of water and then used for something else.

Supper the other night was a mixture of 'oddments' from the freezer: mini-burgers, chicken pakoras and something that I thought were small chicken Kievs. Planned to serve these with a good salad, tomatoes and oven chips. The Kievs turned out to be battered fish (oops), so ended up calling the dish 'surf 'n turf', and so got away with it. Have to say, having had a taste of everything myself - it did work.

The meat delivery came yesterday, and fortunately managed to find enough room in both Boris and Maurice to accomodate most of it. Thawed out the beef rib trim and shin beef so that they could be cooked together in the slow-cooker (which they are doing at the moment). Having the meat already cooked (this will then be frozen) will shorten the time when it comes to making future casseroles etc. Also will give me plenty of well flavoured stock to freeze to make gravy, add to other dishes etc.

As I bought two packs of the "Braising meat and Mince offer", I worked out the cost of the meat per serving that I would get from the full amount (including the free meat balls), and it worked out to well under £1 per head, and this being cautious with the two briskets. Cooked, and sliced cold - brisket will give quite a few more portions than if eaten carved 'hot' as a 'roast beef dinner' (costed as 'hot). Considering this is QUALITY meat of the best order, am extremely pleased with this particular offer.

Believe you have a polytunnel Urbanfarmgirl, and the following caught my eye yesterday which might be of interest: "polytunnels are an ideal situation to keep hardy crops, such as corn salad, winter lettuce, and spinach, productive all winter. A variety of summer herbs will also remain productive through the winter, parsley and celery do well and can be picked repeatedly, so don't pull them up. Mint, chives and marjoram will also grow through the winter with some protection."

"Still time to plant in October (with some protection - polytunnel, greenhouse or cloches) crops such as lettuce, spinach, corn salad, rocket, and spring onions such as 'White Lisbon' (winter hardy). They will grow slowly, but quicken with the first warm days of early spring.
Oriental brassicas grow well in polytunnels, with varieties such as 'Mizuna' and 'Mibuna' able to be sown all year round. Many have dual purpose - pick young as a salad leaf, or grow on to cook. 'Komatsuma' is a good example and a has a lovely sweet flavour when eaten raw."

For readers who grow their own tomatoes and have discovered a variety that has great flavour, then here is the way to save your own seed to 'grow your own' next year.
"Choose really ripe fruits. Remove seeds and rinse them in a sieve under cold running water, rubbing them against the sieve to remove the gel. Spread the seeds out on kitchen paper and leave to dry. Then pack away seeds AND (dry) paper towel until spring, then you can 'sow' the paper towel with the seeds attached.
Find out more details in our Seed Saving Guidelines on http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/ ."

No reason why we couldn't save seeds from ripe bought tomatoes if lucky enough to find a variety that has a flavour. Certainly we can save seeds from bought butternut squash, melon, marrow, capsicums and bell peppers, as have myself proved they will grow when planted the following year. As have dried beans and peas bought from supermarkets to soak, cook, and eat. In years past have grown apple trees from pips (although these didn't bear fruit as I believe it needed to be grafted onto another stock), also grown numerous avocado stones into 'house plants', and lemon and orange pips will also grow (as will almost any ripe fruit 'pips' or 'stones' - although not always guaranteed to end up giving fruit).

A bit hesitant to write more today as fear it might disappear again, so will shortly finish with a few thoughts about the store wars about to commence. Tesco will be cutting prices this coming week (if what I read is correct) in an attempt to outdo the other major stores. Presumably the others will follow. This because (allegedly) consumers are cutting down on how much they spend. The stores are not quite sure whether customers are buying less food than they used to, or buying as much as before but instead purchasing only foods that are on offer. Either way all stores' profits are going down. So this could prove interesting to see what happens next, and almost certainly what is done will be advantageous to us.

Beloved has just brought in the latest issue of the trade mag for me, so will wind up this posting for today, then sit down and have a good read so that tomorrow I can reveal more 'trade secrets'. Hope you'll be back to find them out. If so, see you then (and fingers crossed this gets published).

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Simple Life

Only one comment to reply to (where has everyone else gone?).
Why do I buy Premium Bonds when money is of no importance? asks Les of me. Not that what I do with my money is any one's business, but for those who feel it is - firstly, the interest rate is so low in the bank that it makes little difference where the money is put these days, and certainly the pleasure of hoping to find a cheque for £25 popped through the letter box now and again (as is happening) makes it a lot more fun.

The reason why I would like to win enough money is so it can be given to family, to charity, maybe even buy a caravan or narrow boat so that friends and family can have free holidays (having appreciated being given free holidays when we couldn't afford it, know how much this can mean). As the balance of money still stays with NSI no loss to me, but at least others will gain. If the money was not 'invested' in this way and my savings are spent to 'improve my life' short-term, the money will then soon be gone, and so will end up worse off in the long run. Personally hope to leave money to be shared by our children when I've popped my clogs, as my parents did, and most people do, so the Bond balance makes this secure - with the very good chance of 'Ernie' smiling on me from time to time.

Small winnings of £25 (have had five so far from Ernie) either go to charity or pay for my DR meat or other 'bulk buys', and also help to pay for b.day gifts. Which does help a LOT, for in the paper the other day it said that pensioners with State Pension as their income have only £24 a week to cover ALL costs. Not sure if that meant one person, as B and I have a little more basic State Pension than that (£34 a week) which was enough to cover all our payments, but with the extra deducted by direct debit now each month (caused by higher fuel prices), will now have start tightening our belts another notch.

Seems that pensioners are now being forced to give up buying new clothes, and not taking holidays or going to the pictures etc. Is that deprivation? Haven't myself had a holiday for over 10 years, hardly even buy new clothes as have enough 'old' ones to adapt if necessary (as long as I've just one set of 'good clothes' to wear at important functions, then am happy wearing what I've already got). Also not been to the cinema for a good 20 years or so. Why bother when we can watch almost new films on the small screen in our living room without the bother of breathing in other peoples germs and continually irritated by the rustle of their crisp and sweet bags (or even chat) in our ears? Maybe our life is far too simple viewed by someone else who expects a lot more out of life, but me - I'm glad I'm still alive with books to read, cooking to occupy me, TV to watch and the occasional outing in the car (to save petrol B tends to use his bike - an old one but 'free' - to get around locally, and when raining he uses his free bus pass). At least we have no mortgage, and some savings in the bank (therefore we can't claim pension credits), so are a great deal more fortunate than some.

Seems teabags are not what I thought they were (like bags of tea- 'dust' sold cheaply). True, many bags contain the fragments (aka dust) of tea, and in the past they were filled with the 'cheap stuff', but nowadays it seems the more expensive bags contain real leaves, but only broken parts of leaves. The cheaper brands are still 'dust'. My memories are of these cheaper bags, and as I now don't drink tea (unless green tea) probably out of date. There seems to be little difference now in the price of some bags v whole tea leaves. Mind you, if I bought my favourite tea: Twinings English Breakfast and Earl Grey in leaf form would be paying more than the fairly well-known brands of 'quality' bags. And get a better tasting tea because of it as the full leaves ALWAYS make a better tea than their broken siblings in bags.

With no requests for recipes am having to come up with some suggestions, and of my own, taking the season into account (it is the autumnal Equinox at the moment, so does that mean the clocks go back this coming weekend or do we have to wait a week or two?).

Came across this recipe that can be used to spread on morning toast in place of butter (that alone will save a few pennies). It doesn't have a long shelf life, but will keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. As well as toast, use this spread on bread (again sans butter) with Cheddar cheese to make a sarnie, or use instead of pickle or chutney with cold meats, a Ploughman's lunch etc. Use lesser amount of spice if you wish to use it as a spread for toast, use the full amount if you wish to turn it into a spicier spread/pickle.
Orchard Spread: makes about 2 lbs (1kg)
a good lb (500g) cooking apples, peeled, cored, chopped
9 oz (250g) ready to eat dried pears
9 oz (250g) ready to eat dried apricots or peaches
12 fl oz (360ml) apple juice
4 fl oz (120ml) water
half to one tsp ground mixed spice (see above)
2 tsp lemon juice (or to taste)
Place the apples, pears, apricots/peaches, spice and water into a heavy-based saucepan. Place over high heat and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low then leave to simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the fruit has reduced to a pulp and no liquid is visible on the surface. Stir frequently to prevent the mixture sticking to the base of the pan.
When the fruit is ready, remove pan from heat and allow contents to cool slightly. Taste, then if you prefer a sweeter 'spread', fold in lemon juice to taste. When to your satisfaction, tip mixture into a liquidiser/blender or food processor and blitz down to make a thick puree.
Leave to cool completely before serving, but keep covered and chilled in the fridge where it will keep for 2 - 3 weeks.
variations: replace dried pears with additional dried apricots/peaches and use orange juice instead of apple juice. Omit the spice and add a vanilla pod to the mixture while it cooks.
OR replace the dried pears and apricots/peaches with 500g prunes, and use orange juice instead of apple juice. Omit the spice and instead add seeds from 3 cardomom pods.

Yesterday gave a mention of frozen yogurt, now apparently becoming as popular as ice-cream. So here is a 'proper' recipe on how to make one version, but as it is very adaptable, feel free to use your choice of berries and flavourings. This one is based on raspberries - either fresh or frozen can be used - and for those who are concerned with calorie intake, Greek-style yogurt, although rich and creamy-tasting, has only around 17 cals per level tablespoon while double cream has 67 for the same amount!
Rasberry Fro-Yo: serves 8
1 lb (450g) raspberries, fresh or frozen
4 tblsp raspberry jam
2 tblsp rosewater
500g Greek-style yogurt
3 tblsp icing sugar, or to taste
Put the berries into a pan with the jam, then warm over low heat for about 5 minutes or until the raspberries are pulpy, and give this a frequent stir to help it on its way.
When ready, pour the lot into a sieve placed over a bowl and rub/press through using a wooden spoon, leaving the pips behind. Add the rosewater to the puree in the bowl, then whisk in the yogurt until the mixture is smooth. Taste and stir in icing sugar to the sweetness you require.
If you have an ice-cream machine, spoon the mixture into this and churn for approx 1 hour or until solid.
If no machine, pour mixture directly into a large freezerproof container and freeze for 1 hour or until set around the edges, then remove from freezer, beat until smooth, and return to freezer. After 30 minutes repeat the beating, and repeat several times more until the frozen yogurt has a smooth consistency. Leave it to freeze for 1 hour further before eating OR when storing longer, remove to the fridge for 20 minutes to allow it to soften slightly and make it easier to serve (always returning the remainder to the freezer if not using up).

Traditionally made with jam, this recipe uses fresh raspberries, but - as ever - another fruit could be used according to season (such as chopped fresh apricots and apricot jam). Another difference to the standard recipe is the 'custard' this time chocolate flavoured.
Raspberry Queen of Puddings: serves 4
3 eggs
3 oz (75g) caster sugar
10 fl oz (300ml) semi-skimmed milk
2 tblsp cocoa powder
2 oz (50g) fresh breadcrumbs
2 tblsp redcurrant jelly
5 oz (150g) raspberries
few flaked almonds (opt)
Break one egg into a bowl. Separate the remaining 2 eggs, adding their yolks to the whole egg (in the bowl) and setting aside the whites to later make meringue.
To the whole egg plus yolks add one third of the sugar and whisk together until blended. Put the milk with the cocoa into a pan and heat to just beginning to simmer, then remove from heat, whisk into the egg mixture, then fold in the breadcrumbs. Leave to stand for about half an hour to allow the breadcrumbs to absorb some of the liquid, then pour the mixture into a shallow baking dish and bake at 160C, 325F, gas 3 for 30 minutes or until set.
Meanwhile, melt the redcurrant jelly in a pan, then add the berries and crush with the back of a spoon so they break up and mix into the melted jelly. Simmer for 2 minutes then set aside to cool.
When the pudding is cooked, whisk the reserved egg whites until stiff, then whisk in the remaining sugar until the meringue is glossy. Spoon the raspberry 'sauce' over the top of the pudding and cover with the meringue, piling it up and 'peaking' it. Sprinkle almonds on top (if using).
Bake for approx 15 minutes or until the meringue is pale gold, then serve immediately.

Day before yesterday, decided to experiment to see if I could find an easy way to make baked beans that resembled the ones bought in a can, and not Boston Baked beans (which is a bit more complicated and tastes different).
Weights and measures I find fiddly at times, so decided to empty a 500g pack of pinto beans into a measuring jug (these being only mall dried beans I had - haricot would have been more authentic). These came exactly up to the pint level which was useful, for I then could work out exactly how much water they would absorb. Put the beans into a large bowl and added 3 pints of water, and left them overnight to soak. Next day (this being yesterday) discovered the beans had absorbed much of the water but still enough left to use for cooking, so tipped the lot into the pan, brought it to a fast boil, gave it 10 minutes (to remove toxins - I also removed the scum that has risen to the surface) then reduced heat to a simmer, put on the lid and left the beans to slowly cook for about an hour. By then they were tender and just about all the water had been absorbed - this meant one pack of beans had just about quadrupled their weight).

To the beans in the pan added 1 tblsp dark muscovado sugar and one can of cheapo tomato soup plus 1 heaped teaspoon paprika pepper. This was simmered until the liquid had reduced by half. Gave it a taste - not as sweet as I liked, so added a tablespoon of golden syrup, and then it was almost perfect. Maybe not quite as good as Heinz, but certainly better than many of the cheaper brands I've tasted (and quite liked). Not sure how many 'cansful' were made, but taking into account the final weight of the soaked and cooked beans, plus the soup and sugar/syrup must have ended up with at least 5 'cans' worth for probably no more than £1 - AND the 'cans' would have been full to the brim with beans as my version ended up with a lot less sauce - just enough to thickly coat each bean.

Probably no one will bother to make baked beans (for they are still cheap enough to buy), but knowing the easy way might prove useful in the future as there are many recipes that use baked beans that would take the home-baked far better than the more liquid canned beans. So always worth keeping a pack of dried beans in the larder, although these should be cooked within the b/b date as the older they get the longer they take to cook (too old and they never soften), but can always be frozen once cooked, drained and cooled - preferably in small bags - then later turned into baked beans as and when needed.

Using pinto beans seemed to make no difference to the end flavour, for generally a bean is a bean is a bean, so either use the traditional haricot to make baked beans, or instead use cannellini beans, pinto beans, or something similar. But not the red kidney beans - they just wouldn't look right. Butter beans are too large.

Supper yesterday was 'shared' (sort of) by both B and me. Chose to make a Thai green prawn curry, so began with frying some finely chopped onion, red bell pepper and the last three chestnut mushrooms in a pan with a little oil and butter, then tipped in a jar of the curry sauce. Whilst cooking, emptied a pack of Tesco's 10p noodles (now 11p), into a pan, covered with boiling water and cooked for 2 minutes before draining. Then drained and tipped this into a bowl and topped it with some of the curry sauce (that was for my supper). To the remainder in the pan added half a pint of small frozen (thawed) prawns, and whilst they were heating through, 'cooked' a pack of 2 minute Lemon and Rosemary rice in the microwave for B. Rice on plate, sauce and prawns poured over. We both enjoyed our similar (but different) meal.

Looks like being a better day today, but have decided not to go to the farmers' market as really don't need any food. If we could all realise that most of the time we have enough food at home to make a meal, why is it that we still feel we need to go out and buy more? Am not including foods that store, but how so often we are inclined to go out and buy something to cook/serve that very day. Always when I go down to our local shopping parade come back with something I didn't really need. But wanted to buy at that time. Am I a shopaholic? Probably so - but at least have controlled that now to buying food - which is always used, unlike another lipstick or pair of ear-rings (as used to buy when in my teenage years - and still have some now very old lipsticks that have rarely - if ever - been used. What a waste of money!).

Suppose - when it comes to 'disposable income' (this means money left over after all the bills and running costs have been paid), we should be free to spend it on what we wish. Somehow though, we never seem to be encouraged to save most of it. Which is why the nation and most of its inhabitants is now in the state it is.
It just doesn't' seem fair that those who spent their lives being frugal are now expected to pay for everything, whilst those who have frittered away all their pennies are propped up by the state who continues paying for their upkeep.

Enough for today or I'll start to feel even more gloomy. Life is for enjoying, and with my comfort zone being mainly in the kitchen will now retire then and see if I can come up with something interesting to eat. If so, you will hear about it tomorrow.
Do hope my 'regulars' will starting chatting to me again for I miss your comments. Also love to hear from readers who are 'lurking' but have not yet written in. All queries and recipe requests will be gladly received as they give me a chance to write something useful.
Join me again tomorrow to find out what's new in the Goode life. See you then.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

More Food for Thought

Short blog today due to rising late - this because I was deep in a dream where I had won £1,000,ooo on Ernie, and want' that thrilled due to I'm not happy with money to spend (unless properly earned). Woke up just after I had said to B "now I don't need to have to have my shoes repaired, as can afford to buy a new pair now". Says a lot about my life at least.

Thanks to Les for his wise words, and also to Sairy re her comment on tea leaves. Never realised that teabags were more expensive than tea leaves, or maybe much has to do with the brand, for teabags are made from the tea 'dust' rather than quality leaves. Worth using the used tea leaves to sprinkled over carpets and rugs, then brush in and then brushed out again (or vacuum) as they clean away all the grime (as was done in the old days by servants), saving the expensive of buying carpet cleaning materials.

With Norma the Hair coming in just over an hour, have only time to give some more details from the dairy supplement of the trade mag that came late. Worth knowing about as some relate to the way the trade feels we should think.
"So often in dairy, it's not the consumers palate that changes, but the way in wish people wish to consume familiar products. Take pouring yogurt, which is cited as an innovation that responded to the trend of eating yogurt with cereal."

Later I read "A huge percentage of new product's don't work....In the dairy category in particular, there's a habit factor with consumers - they buy what they're used to buying".
Seems as though this is not always the case - if so why bring in unnecessary idea from America? "sliced and grated cheese commanded a huge section of the US cheese fixture long before it began to gain traction in the UK." and "I think this area will grow as people buy into those products on a more regular basis". Could it be the flavour of US cheese is really dreadful compared to our own national cheeses, and the only way they can eat their cheese is in small amounts when added to something else?

An interesting article about the 'soft cheese' categories (Philadelphia type). One brand (Kerry Foods) has launched a mature Cheddar spread as a versatile snack as well as an ingredient in cooking. "The packaging has been developed to be microwavable, which means it can be heated up and eaten hot, for example as a fondue" (I presume this means the contents are eaten hot, not the packaging itself. In which case the package could be saved when empty, cleaned and used as a microwavable container for other things).
Philadelphia efforts in the UK have focused on savoury varients such as sun-dried tomato and basil, and grilled peppers - Kraft is tipped to launch sweet flavours. In Germany, Kraft already offers chocolate and honey varieties. Primula is launching a new range of Cheddar spreads which can be used as an alternative to butter or margarine on bread.

A big article of flavoured milk did not impress me, especially when my eye caught "...although flavoured milk contains more sugar and therefore more calories than plain milk, scientific studies show the nutritional benefits children get from milk outweigh the harm done by added sugar". Jamie Oliver quest to improve school dinners in the US included a stunt in which he filled a bus with sand to show how much sugar was consumed by school children through flavoured milk. This drink is a bigger part of the US dairy market than in the UK (so far), but it does make you think.
Obviously we should encourage our children to drink milk, and by all means flavour it as naturally as we can - aren't we already doing this when we make them fruit 'smoothies'? Do we need chocolate milk, fudge brownie or cookie dough in the range of commercial flavours? Personally feel little harm would be done if we coloured milk ourselves using a touch of 'safe' food colourings - which we use when colouring cake icing anyway.

Goodness me, yet another demographic to 'target' is those who live alone, this time apparently they don't buy a 250g pack of butter because it is too much. They probably don't buy it because eating it is bad for their cholesterol. In the fridge butter keeps long enough, but obviously the manufacturers believed it would 'help' if butter was packed in 50g blocks - each selling for 50p. That's 1p per gram. Convert that to the 250g packs and that would make it £2.50??? Cheaper to buy the larger block anyway?
This idea failed of course and was withdrawn from sale, but tried again selling six x 50g packs for £1.95 (still dearer than buying a whole block - and considering more was bought when the idea was to buy less - what's the point?) and this idea also failed and was withdrawn from the market.

Quite a bit written about 'fro-yo', the trade name for frozen yogurt that is now 'a new contender on the British high street'. Taken a long time, for I remember taking our two eldest children on a three-day trip to show them the sights of London, and more than once we went into Harrods to sit at a little 'bar' to eat some of their frozen yogurts, at that time 'new' to this country. This must have been in the early to mid '70's.

Not sure how commercial frozen yogurt is made - maybe just freezing flavoured yogurt with nothing else added. Do know that by folding equal quantities of yogurt into Italian meringue makes a really lovely 'fro-yo', but will try freezing 'just yogurt' and see what happens to that. Feel it might end up very hard, and start to 'split' when left to thaw. But always worth a try.

Quite a lot written about unflavoured milk, also butter (did you know we can now buy butter with honey so that we can spread both on toast without having to buy a jar of honey?). Mostly about brands, prices and how the price of milk is kept as low as possible (to bring us into the store no doubt - and then buy other things), and the price of butter is continually rising. Plenty also on cheese - mainly the way that there are so many different brands of Cheddar. Plenty also on adding flavour to cheeses, but this is something we can sort out for ourselves.

The trade magazine is immensely helpful to me for it proves to me just how much we are being 'manipulated' by the various manufacturers and stores to get us to buy their wares. A loose page ad for coffee highlighted this as it showed a set of shelves with the various types of coffee displayed at the right height according to what they want to sell the most. The coffee beans on the top shelf, because if you bought beans only then they can be placed away from the rest. The cheapest coffee on the lowest shelf - and the premium and instant that gave the most profit on the middle shelves where our eyes would first light on them and - presumably - look no further.
It is true, especially when in a rush and with no shopping list to work with, we tend to pick something from the shelves at waist height. We see this all the time in TV progs where they show people shopping. How many reach up to the top shelf or bend down to the lower ones. Perhaps in a film it looks 'neater' this way to buy from a middle shelf, and maybe in documentaries the food has been placed there for the filming, but it's worth making us think a bit harder about how we shop at speed, and why we choose what we do.

Made a couple of steak and kidney pies yesterday (put the cooked braising steak and chopped up kidneys with some cooked potatoes in gravy to reheat, and baked the puff pastry topping - to fit the top of the pie dish - separately to keep it crisp). The second pie filling is in the dish, which has been bagged up and the uncooked pie lid packed separately to freeze and cook another day.
Plenty of gravy left from the crock-pot so also freezing that to add to a casserole etc. (or maybe heat and drink as soup).

Yesterday also ordered TWO of the Donald Russell 'braising beef and mince" pack that was on offer. The last one (same variety of meats) was good value, with of course excellent quality meat. This time the 36 free meat balls that came with one pack (I checked I would get another with the second pack - which I would), could mean a extra 12 portions (meatballs in tomato sauce with pasta). These will be delivered Friday, and again will be gaining an extra and large (free) container in which to plant winter flowering pansies, or some winter salads to grow in the greenhouse.

The weather is cloudy with threat of rain, and rather windy. Does not bode well for our daughter's trip back over the Irish Sea (this probably tomorrow), but she is not bothered as any delay doesn't matter on a return trip as it did when coming here. They say the weather will be fine tomorrow, so hope to have a scoot out on Norris, and did intend dropping in at the Farmer's Market, but as I don't need any fresh produce at the moment (and no money in my purse once I have paid Norma) perhaps not a good idea. Almost wishing my dream had come true after all, then I can start up my own 'Farm Shop' selling to the public at rock-bottom prices.

Seems our economy is on the down again, and said to get worse. Did hear one politician say it would be as bad as during last war (or was that also in a dream?). We older folk can remember those days and also the aftermath so have memories of how to manage and knowing that we can. So anyone younger - don't be too concerned. All we need to do is bring back some of the old skills: cooking, handicrafts etc, and believe me - we can cope. No problem.

It really makes me cross. Mega-cross when I think about how we give our money to the bank to keep in safe custody, yet get only half a percent interest back, yet the same bank lend OUR money to someone else and charge them 19% for doing so. If I won millions on the Lottery would set up my own bank and lend at a rate that people could afford to pay back. Like pay 4% to put money in my bank, and charge 5% max for borrowing money. I would make 1% profit and think how much that could add up to with plenty of lenders and borrowers. The banks must be rolling in money. So where it is all now when we need it? Probably in the fat cat's pockets.

Back to normality and striving to exist. Not a hard task at the moment, but as Norma will be here shortly, have to dash. Hope to meet up with you again tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

More Chat, Chuntney's and Consumer Interests

Spent a few minutes yesterday preparing more 4 oz (100g) bags of s.r. flour ready for baking, as have used a fair amount over the last week, making two giant light fruit cakes (the first B demolished within a very few days - so made another yesterday), and various other things. As the 'prepped' bags of flour and sugar are 'dry goods' their bags can be re-used many times. Today must weigh out and bag up more sugar - probably have to whizz some up in the liquidiser to make caster from granulated to save me buying it 'ready-made'.

By request made some fish cakes for our visitors. Having tried some quality ones (these were not cheap!), decided to copy the idea of using several different fish and gently mix the flakes with the potato, rather than mashing it altogether. After poaching one fillet each of smoked haddock, salmon and 'white fish' in milk, removed skin and flaked the fish, then made up a batch of instant potato with the milk used for poaching - this adding more 'fish flavour'. Used instant because it freezes so well.
The recommended amount of fish to potato is half and half, but this time used a little more fish, adding a good handful of freshly gathered and finely chopped parsley, plus some ground black pepper. It made 7 good sized (by this I mean thick) fish cakes, which were then chilled and then dipped in egg and dried breadcrumbs. Three were fried as a 'starter for each', the rest frozen.

Having decided to make a three-cheese quiche to go with a Cold Meat Platter, also decided to make a pork pie as I had some short-crust pastry left. This too worked well, and for once the chicken stock didn't seep through the pastry, so the pie filling (which shrinks during cooking), had a good layer of well-set savoury jelly all round it.

This week is our local Farmers Market, and - if I finish my blog in time - hope to have a quick trip down there to see what fresh produce is available, and will buy some but only if the price is right. My decision to have a veggie box delivery every second week seems to have been scuppered. Went on to the site that formerly said they delivered in this area, and now it seems they don't.

It was good to have some comments to reply to today - so here goes:
Only if I get permission to give the name of the company that is setting up a web-site for me will I be able to give their details Les. It is a very new company, just starting up, so myself wish to see if they 'come up with the goods', also they cannot handle too many orders at this time. Slowly, slowly catchee monkey.

Good to hear your house sale has gone through Alison, and wish you well with your move. It will take some time to get a phone line in (although if you notify BT before you move believe that they don't charge for re-fitting a new line). Also getting your broadband set up will not be your first priority, but do hope it won't be too long before you are again sending in comments.
Very well done for making all those preserves. Just remember to take them with you!

No chance of me stopping 'rambling' T.Mills as can't stop. Our daughter's OH and I (when alone together)couldn't stop talking, and this has to be because both of us have no-one to talk to during the daylight hours, and with our own OH's, they have been with others all day (even B goes out and chats for hours with his s sailing buddies several days a week) and so want a quiet time when returning home.
When I asked B why he doesn't want to talk to me, he says it's because I keep on interrupting him. Probably I do, because when asked a question that requires a very short answer, he usually takes half an hour to get to the point, and I then try to short-cut and hurry him up so I can give my response. Then he isn't interested in my point of view.
You - my dear readers - are my captive audience and no way can you interrupt me whilst I'm in full flow. Hence the pages of 'rambling'.

Watched one of my favourite films again last night (if you can call it that) - The Shining. Have to say Jack Nicholson has the most evil eyes I've ever seen, and one man I would NOT like to be married to. It is the initial shots in the film that I find most enthralling, where the main character drives over vast areas of America (think it is supposed to be Colorado at the end) to have his interview. What a country for scenery. Admittedly there was one tiny bit which reminded me of a place in Yorkshire, but in this country more mini than maxi.
What also came to mind was that it isn't THAT long since America was colonised, and it took about a century before they got themselves in large enough numbers to start building towns, the roads being mainly 'dirt' ones. And now the millions of miles of good roads that have been built over the thousands of miles in the US connecting one town and one coast to another, the railroads, and now the huge cities and skyscrapers. How could it all be done in such short a time? Beloved said most was not built by the Americans themselves initially, but by the cheap labour brought in from other countries: Ireland, China etc. Did read that a lot of Native Americans were used for labour for they were so sure-footed they could walk across the sky-high girders when building sky-scrapers without fear of falling.

Came across another recipe for a tasty chutney - this made with store-cupboard ingredients. This is the good thing about kitchen cupboards/larder/pantry, usually they have all the ingredients to make quite a lot of different things without even needing to 'shop'.
As with many recipes, it is possible to change an ingredient slightly to make a slight difference to flavour and texture. Sugar for instance. The one in this recipe is a light brown, but a blend of white granulated with a very little dark muscovado could give a similar result. Use the vinegar as given, or instead use white wine vinegar (or even the clear distilled malt - but this will then give a stronger taste). Use ground herbs instead of whole, or raisins instead of sultanas. Use less garlic if you are not that keen (but do use some). The amount of salt could be reduced, but it is probably there as a 'preservative', so don't cut it down too much (or make a smaller amount of chutney and don't store it for too long).
Apricot Chutney: makes about 1 ltr (1.75 pints)
1 x 500g pack (16 oz) no-soak apricots
1 tsp whole coriander seeds
9 oz (250g) light brown sugar
16 fl oz (600ml) cider vinegar
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablspoons finely grated root ginger
2 - 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tsp salt
half tsp cayenne (or hot paprika) pepper
grated zest and juice of 1 medium orange
Chop the apricots into small chunks, then give them a rinse in cold water. Drain well and put into a large pan. Take a small frying pan or saucepan and 'dry-heat', then add the coriander seeds and keep shaking the pan until they begin to burst, then remove and grind down in a pestle and mortar. If using ground coriander just 'dry-roast' for a few minutes. Add to the apricots with the remaining ingredients, then place over low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved, then when it begins to simmer, cover and cook for about an hour (maybe less) until the apricots and onions are tender. Don't cook for too long or the chutney will end up too thick - it needs to be more like a chunky jam, which will thicken as it cools down. If still too runny, then boil up again and cook for 15 or so minutes longer.
Pot up into warm, sterilized jars, and seal immediately. Keep for one month before using. This eats well with roast pork, cooked ham, pork pies, sausages (in other words anything made with pork), and also goes very well with a strong Cheddar.

This next chutney is not made from dried 'pantry ingredients', but from fresh, but those that I hope many readers have to hand anyway (and grow their own). This is a traditional chutney made to accompany an Indian curry, so does not store as our traditional chutneys, but will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge and should be served at room temperature.
Piyaz Ki Chutney (onion chutney): serves 4
4 large onions, chopped
2 tsp garlic, crushed
5 oz (150g) mint leaves, chopped
10 oz (300g) coriander leaves, chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
salt to taste
Put all the ingredients in a food processor/blender, and start grinding down, adding a little water to bring it to a smooth thick puree. Pour into a bowl, cover and store in the fridge. Give a good stir before serving at room temperature.

This next is an Indian pickle "that goes with anything, and also makes an unusual sandwich spread" (if blitzed down to make it spreadable no doubt). A spicier version of our trad. Piccalilli, but won't keep as long. Asafoetida is a common ingredient in Indian cookery, and - on its own - has a strong smell of rotten eggs, but when mixed in small amounts with other ingredients, really enhances their flavour. Often fried before adding to other ingredients (as this calms down its rather overpowering smell) it is hardly worth buying asafoetida unless you cook a lot of Indian food, so - at a pinch (excuse the pun) it could be omitted from this pickle.
Subzion Ka Achar (quick vegetable pickle): serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
good pinch asafoetida (see above)
5 oz (150g) carrots, cut into strips
5 oz (150g) French (string) beans, cut in half
5 oz (150g) cauliflower florets
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp sugar
salt to taste
4 tsp lemon juice
Heat the oil in a small pan and add the mustard seeds. When they start to snap, crackle and pop, add the fenugreek seeds and fry until these turn dark. Remove, cool and grind down coarsely.
Put the remaining ingredients into a bowl, add the fried and ground seeds and mix everything together well.
Store in airtight bottles (Kilner jar type), keep in the fridge and use within a month.

Took a second look at a recent trade mag that arrived later (so was not commented on when it should have been). As a recent poll has shown that 50% of consumers never buy cottage cheese, and only 6% buying it regularly., so this product is being 're-designed' to move it out of 'it's mythical cottage and up consumer's streets'. So look out for a variety of flavour cottage cheese soon to come on supermarket shelves.

One article - I presume it is true or it wouldn't be in print - cause me some shock, horror. I quote:
"With the European commission investing £2.65m in a project to promote eating insects, it seems the hunt for novel sources of meaty protein to feed a growing world population has gone into overdrive. Grasshoppers and related creepy crawlies, it appears, are untapped sources of healthy, edible protein. Indeed the community has asked the FSA to investigate the ways to popularise insects as a menu option".
Not only that..."Artificial meat is currently being 'grown', 'cultivated' or 'reared' (not sure what the appropriate term is) in the laboratory. Made by multiplying stem cells from farm animals, so far this creation is described by promoters as "muscle-like strips of tissue". It's appearance is grey apparently, because this fake meat has no blood or iron. Nobody has a clue what it tastes like as it is currently being grown using fetal serum, which might be dangerous to humans, so sampling is banned"

Then I read...."squirrel has been talked up as the new right-on, free-ranging, health-promoting meat". The article finishes by saying "....with their pedigree as a time-honoured Asian snack, insects wouldn't have to meet the EU's novel food regulations, and almost anything meaty tastes good when cooked with liberal amounts of soy sauce, lemongrass, chilli and ginger".
Give another couple of generations and who knows what will be eaten? Have to say reading the above makes me almost glad to be old enough not to be able to wait to find out.

Have to give a mention to the fact that the babyfood has grown faster than any other product on the take-home food market, with sales rocketing by 60% over the past four years. "We're seeing more exotic recipes coming through at a higher price than more mainstream brands" says one company spokesman.
Sales of babyfood, drink and milk total £500m, and for the life of me cannot see why so many mothers (working or stay at home) prefer to spend loadsa money buying babyfood when it is SO simple to make with many foods home-cooked for the family meal - then frozen away in tiny containers (ice-cube trays etc) to thaw and reheat when needed.

When it comes to the unfavourable exchange rate with sterling v euros, the price of Swiss cheese will be rising fast. So if you enjoy using Gruyere and Emmental et al, then perhaps worth buying some now before it becomes too expensive. Or - like me - stick to the good English cheeses that we know and love.

A seafood company is launching a new range of 'seafood meal kits', starting with Malayan King Prawn Laksa, Kerala Seafood Curry, Sweet Thai Chilli Prawns, and Catalan Fish Stew. The rsp will normally be £5.99 a pack (which contains fresh seafood, prepared fresh vegetables and a sauce in separate compartments to be stir-fried to create a meal for two people in five - six minutes). These packs (from 7 Sept in some Sainsbury stores) should still be able to be found at the lower introductory price of £4.99p. The idea is great, but as ever - am sure we could buy the same quantity of 'fresh' fish and vegetables cheaper (and prepare them ourselves) and almost certainly buy small packs of the sauces also on sale separately. If the rsp pack price works out at £3 per portion, making the home-made version should end up virtually the same (and take no longer to cook once prepared) but end up far, far cheaper.

Ah, bless. Another little trick to 'save us rinsing used tea leaves out of tea-pot spouts' (who uses tea-leaves anyway these days?). Premier Tea has introduced a Magic Tea Wand A range of teas that includes blends, flavours, and pure loose whole leaf teas, packaged in individual wand-shaped aluminium foil infusers which acts as teabag, strainer and spoon, all in one. And they only cost £5 for 12 sticks. Barely more than 40p a cup!!! Personally, I'll stick to the bog-standard tea-bag use a mug and keep the cost of my cuppa down to the minimum.

The supplement that came with the mag-that-arrived-late was everything to do with milk. Have yet to read this fully, my eye caught only by the introduction of 'coloured and flavoured milk' as one of the new kids on the block. In my day used to add a spoon of Nesquick which served the same purpose.
If there is more of interest on the dairy front will give this a mention tomorrow.

Time for me now to go and start making steak and kidney pies with the braising steak/kidneys that have been slow-cooking in the crock-pot during last night. Have been using up most of our stock of Donald Russel meat offers over the last few months so today will be taking advantage (again) of their braising meat pack (minced meat, beef rib trim, brisket, shin beef, etc, plus loadsa free meat balls) that is currently on offer until the 2nd October. One great advantage of their delivery service (free with this offer) is the frozen meats come in fairly large and strong polystyrene boxes which make good 'cool boxes' to bring home frozen food in the boot of the car (or take on holiday when self-catering), and also look very similar to ceramic 'sinks' placed in the garden to hold a variety of flowering plants, and also make good containers to grow vegetables.

As ever, eleven o'clock has been reached and passed - blame me for rising late due to a good dream I did not wish to wake from. The blog will be shorter tomorrow due to it being Norma the Hair day, so hope I wake early enough to at least write something worth reading. Hope you can join me then. Have a good day.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Taste of Things to Come

A thank you to all who wrote in while this blog was 'off the air'. Our daughter and S.I.L. managed to sail at time arranged which happened to be in the 'eye of the storm', so not too blustery a crossing. They decided to stay an extra day with us before moving on to stay with our grandson. A good(e) time was had by all, me mainly in the kitchen cooking my little heart out in the hope of pleasing all who ate around the table. Have to say the new 'dining' table in the conservatory worked a treat - so convenient to the kitchen as it is at one end, also the table large/long enough to load up with plenty of food so that everyone cna help themselves (or pass the dishes around).

The weather was fairly good, with Thursday being one of the best days of this year with lovely autumnal sunshine. I've never seen the Bay look so beautiful late afternoon - the low sun lighting up the Lakeland hills, and all seemed close enough to touch. This followed by a wonderful sunset.
Following day it was cloudy and rained off an on. In the Lakes (where our family went for the day, it apparently poured down all day). Still - all in all - feel they had a really lovely time.

Have learned a few new 'tricks' with the computer, and also how to make better use of my camera, so hopefully more foodie pics will soon be appearing on this site. More importantly have been given the name of a small and new company who sets up websites for people (the professional sort, not basic 'blogging', and almost certainly will be starting a new site dealing purely with cost-cutting recipes, leaving this site for my 'ramblings' and recipes requested by readers. How the new site will work has yet to be sorted, so it could take months before it gets going, but will let you know if and when it does.

This week has again given us more doom and gloom when it comes to the nation (and European) affairs. Thank goodness we still have our own currency as there is a danger the euro will collapse. If it does, so might be the end of the EU (and maybe we should be thankful for that).
Then we here about ballots for strikes, big ones if the ballot goes the wrong way. Also another increase in electricity charges. We hear also that food prices have risen over the past year with an average household having to spend more than £300 a year to keep their standard of eating much the same.

The late arrival of the trade mag last week didn't really matter as there wasn't much in it worth giving a mention. This week's (arrived yesterday) had more to comment on, but as ever - nothing really good. What is apparent is that despite continually rising prices, the trade seems to expect that everyone has enough money to buy the 'readies' and particularly snacks and 'food-on-the go'. A supplement to the mag this week dealing with these says:
"Consumer habits are constantly changing because of the economic climate - we're all facing increased pressures, be it time or financial, and the pace of life is faster and the general work life balance poorer. This has inevitably resulted in the growth of the food-on-the-go market. The trend for all-day grazing has become more prominent, affordable treats have become a way to brighten up the working day or evening at home, and the vast range on snacks on offer has resulted in them often being used as a meal replacement - particularly for lunch. We believe this is a trend set to continue".

Reading the whole supplement - packed with all the new varieties, details and adverts of the new 'snacks' to soon appear on my shelves, have to say that even I am tempted. For I too love 'snacking', and cannot wait to buy a large tub of Pringles new sausage and bacon flavoured.

The mention that these new flavours and products fulfil our insatiable appetite for seeking something new to eat - and "consumers continue to explore...searching out new flavours...." proves the point that the trade is taking advantage of this ancient instinct of ours as mentioned recently in an earlier posting. This makes it even harder to keep our purses tightly padlocked.
Possibly our need to 'comfort-eat' due to the stress and pressures of today's recession, is also behind this encouragement to keep us snacking. But at least we should be able to make/bake enough ourselves without having to resort to buying something to nibble at.

What does concern me is reading trade 'comments' such as: "that, being affordable, crisps are a treat that people don't have to forfeit, however tough times get". As B recently brought me a bag of crisps - slightly larger than normal - but not THAT big, and the price 70p (!!!) printed on the pack, myself knowing that a main course for one could easily be made for that money, makes me wonder whether the trade's 'affordable' is different to mine. Or does everyone else have more money that I have to spend on food?

Here have to give a mention to that wonderful site www.cheap-family-recipes.org.uk that I was showing my daughter. We came across a page with all the recipes listed (and shown in pics - click on and then you get the recipe), but not only that, it gave loads of info on each such as how much it costs to make just one portion, and with so many working out as less than 10p, it behoves every reader to take a look just to prove how it isn't THAT difficult to feed a family of four on no more that £25 a week.

Oh, yes. Another little bit of nonsense (as far as I'm concerned) is Aunt Bessie's new frozen Yorkshire puddings each looking like a round-ended canoe so one sausage will fit neatly inside each and their rsp will be £1.69p for six). Apparently another company is now making oblong beef burgers specially shaped to fit into ciabatta or baguette breads (rsp £2 - £3 for a pack of three burgers).

Returning to the 'snacks'. Expect to see lots of new shapes and spicy flavours with crisps, tortillas, popcorn, nuts, dips, jerky, soft and hard cheeses.... and am only thankful I order my groceries on-line so can avoid them all, for just KNOW I would grab a pack or ten whilst passing down the 'snacking' aisles.

Gave another shake to my head when I read about a product called 'Breakfast in Bread': frozen, ready to bake, bread-based snacks with fillings such as cheese and ham, spicy chicken, cheese and onion, as well as sweeter fillings. Why go to the bother if they have to be baked anyway - why not use the time to cook a full traditional 'English' ? Or - for a lighter breakfast: scrambled eggs on toast? Or cheese and ham on toast?

For those who enjoy drinking tea made from tea leaves (rather than tea 'dust' used in tea-bags) will now be able to enjoy the leaves packed in a cube-shaped tea-bag. It has to be quality tea of course as the price tag is £7.50p for a bag containing just eight tea-bags. However, each bag makes one pot, and can be used three times. Suppose how much a cuppa will cost depends upon how many one pot will fill.

Thankfully, this week Tesco was the store that had the cheapest shopping basket, and for once, without having one item that undercut the others by several pounds. Still plenty of items in this week's basket that would not end up in mine, such as Cadbury's Chocolate Eclairs, Rose wine, Baby Bedtime Bath, mango, Nimble bread, Quorn mini savoury eggs, Red Bull (beer?), and a few others. Tesco also ran the most promotions (20) their savings on the basket being £1.76p as against Waitrose (minus 7p).

Each week the trade mag gives so much information that is useful to us 'consumer's, but certainly depressing to me for it is always all about 'what's new', and the ways just about every manufacturer, producer and store is out to get our money. What was once a normal shopping experience to buy food to cook the family's meals for a week, has now turned into 'forget the meals, let us provide them all for you, plus a lot more besides". And, "all we want is for you to have plenty of treats while the depression lasts'. And most of us fall for it. Now and again. At times of weakness.

If we have to find pleasure by working our way through endless bags of bought 'snacks', then there has to be something wrong with our lives. More pleasure can be found making our own 'nibbles' (if nibbles we have to have), so why not not make a start? Here are a few suggestions (some naughty, but nice).

This first is a good way to use up stale (Madeira-type) cake crumbs. By adding chopped walnuts, dried apricots, sultanas or raisins, grated orange zest, desiccated coconut etc, you can change the flavours, and a few drops of vanilla, almond essence, or rum/whisky etc, can also improve the end product.
Chocolate Truffles: makes 16
4 oz (100g) plain or milk chocolate
3 fl oz (75g) condensed milk
4 oz (100g) cake crumbs
2 oz (50g) ground almonds
4 oz (100g) icing sugar
cocoa powder/icing sugar for coating
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. When fully melted, stir in the remaining ingredients, then roll the mixture into small balls. Put on a plate and chill in the fridge until set. When firm, roll in cocoa or icing sugar (or do half in one, half in the other). These will keep in the fridge for a week.

This next recipe is one given before, but by adding a little chilli powder, cumin, or any other spice you wish to each batch, or maybe even finely grated Parmesan, you can end up with different flavours. Blending a little tomato puree into the liquid will also add colour and flavour. The basic recipe is given, you can then experiment. If you have only salted butter, then use half a tsp of salt. Celery salt/garlic salt could be used instead to give yet another flavour.
Nachos: makes about 5 dozen
9 oz (250g) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tblsp unsalted butter
4 fl oz (100ml) semi-skimmed milk (warmed)
oil for frying
paprika (opt)
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt (with any spices if used). Stir in the milk and leave to stand for 15 minutes.
Divide mixture into 12, then roll out each very thinly into circles, cutting each into four or five triangles. Shallow fry a few at a time for 3 minutes on each side, then drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle unflavoured cooked nachos with paprika. Store in an airtight container.

More substantial than a crisp, but still has the same 'crunch' appeal, these are made from pitta bread (white or wholemeal). The basic recipe is given here, but the bread could be spread lightly with Marmite, or sprinkled with Parmesan (or spices) before being baked, to give a selection of flavours. Bake the trimmings as well as the circles as these can be used for 'dips' (as can the circles).
Pitta 'Crisps': makes 12
1 pitta bread
1 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
First prepare a baking sheet by spreading the surface with the oil mixed with the garlic.
Split open the pitta along one long edge to open up to make two flat halves. Place these with the insides face down, and cut into rounds with a 1 1/4" (3cm) scone cutter. Place the rounds on the prepared baking sheet, they can touch but not over-lap, and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for about 15 minutes or until crisp and golden. Cool on a cake airer, then store in an air-tight container where they should keep for several days. Eat the flavoured ones as 'nibbles', or use with dips, or spread each with a meat or fish paste (aka pate), and serve as canapes.

Next recipe is for an Indian 'crunch', and with the recipe stating that once made it can be stored in an airtight jar for up to 3 months (use as required), could be a useful nibble to keep in the larder.
Cornflake Chiwda (cornflake crunchie):
1 1/4lb (600g) cornflakes
6 tblsp pine nuts
4 tblsp chopped dates
5 oz (150g) salted crisps, crushed
6 tblsp cashew nuts
2 tblsp sunflower oil
large pinch asafoetida
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
half tsp dried cumin
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
Mix the cornflakes, pine nuts, dates, crisps and cashew nuts together.
Put the oil in a frying pan and add the spices. Fry for a couple of minutes, then pour over the cornflake mixture. Mix well then put into a large bag with the sugar and salt and shake gently to blend all the ingredients. Store in an airtight jar/tin.

There are other easy 'nibbles' we could make. Crispy bacon, crispy fried onions, parsnip 'crisps', garlic croutons, cheese straws, all far cheaper than any similar on sale. So - if we feel the need to treat ourselves (and others), then at least make sure we are doing it the cheapest and healthiest way possible. It can even take less time than trawling a supermarket to find something to tempt us.

With that thought, will leave you today and myself try and catch up with all that should have been done last week. Certainly now have a few empty places in the fridge and freezer due to my family's healthy appetites, and am very pleased, as now have room to make/bake and store/freeze for the coming colder weather.

It was SO good having more than just my Beloved to feed. How I wish it was like it all the time. Still, soon be October when our planned curry dinner (for hopefully six - or more) is due to happen. Can't wait.

With the leaves on the trees already changing colour, it could be we are in for an early start to the winter weather. The nights are drawing in and in a few weeks the hour will be going back from BST to GMT, then it really will feel like summer is far behind (what summer?). Even so - this gives us a chance to start eating those slow-cooked suppers again, and nothing better than coming in from work to an aroma of casserole meeting us as we walk in through the kitchen door.

Until tomorrow. Hope you all enjoy your day, and will meet up with those of you who can find the time to 'drop in for a 'coffee-read' tomorrow. See you then.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Due to extended family visit, slight delay in returning to this site. Should be back on Monday.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Replying to comments etc.

Just a quickie to give replies to comments received since yesterday.
Thanks Les for both yours, and planning to half watch the Hospital prog on food on iPlayer whilst clearing up the room here ready to turn into a bedroom this morning.
Also for your conversions from NZ $ to English pounds.

Checked the prices of Mango chutney (at Tesco's) Polly, and they have three/four different varieties, the cheapest being a 'Cofresh' mango chutney at 89p for 340g (25p 100g). The other brands vary in sizes, and working on their price per 100g ( from 41p - 47p per 100g) all more expensive.

The conversion to pounds of the NZ $ has shown me that your large cauliflower Leerling would have cost us around £2.50 which is slightly dearer than our very large cauliflowers, but it always depends upon the store, some of the discounts sell their veggies cheaper than the large supermarkets.

Noticed your comment was sent via an earlier posting comment box minimiser deb. Not a problem for me for all new comments I receive directly into my email box, but readers would only be able to pick up the most recent when reading the last postings, unless referring back to another for some reason.
Have myself made hard cheese (from doorstep milk when it used to be delivered in Leeds), but as it takes a gallon (8 pints) of milk to make 1 lb cheese, and weeks before it is ready to eat, after the one attempt didn't feel it was worth the trouble, especially as it was cheaper to buy cheese anyway.

Normally cheese would be made with milk fresh from the cow, so not even sure whether it would be possible to make hard cheese from the homogenised milk on sale today. Channel Island milk would need the cream siphoning off before the milk is use, and anyway is too expensive a milk.
The Cheddar-type (1) is probably the simplest of cheeses to make. Rennet should not be confused with rennet essence - which is weaker and normally sold for making junket. It is essential that rennet should be stored under cool and dark conditions, and not used stale.
Having said that, I have used the rennet essence (doubling the amount stated) and was able to press the drained curds firmly enough to turn them into a 'hard' cheese (following the Cheddar (1) recipe). Didn't taste like Cheddar, had huge holes in it (like a Swiss cheese), but edible and as it was made from doorstep milk - still of the type where the cream rose to the top of the bottle.

The most important factors in ripening cheeses are the temperature and humidity, plus the importance of gentle handling of the initial curds. If roughly handled during cutting and stirring, excessive loss of fat will take place, reducing the yield and quality of the cheese.
For general purposes, store the cheese at a temperature of 55F - 60F. Above that ripening will be accelerated, and too high will lead to excessive moisture being evaporated end up with a very dry cheese. There are no disadvantages of storing at a lower temperature, apart from the cheese taking far longer to ripen.
A high degree of humidity encourages mould, a low humidity leads to cracking of the rind and excessive loss of weight. Some varieties of pressed cheeses are best ripened in a humidity of around 85%.
Shelving in the ripening and storage room must be kept dry and clean, and it is necessary to turn cheese during the early stages of ripening to prevent softening of the ends.

However, if anyone feels inclined to have a go, here are basic ways to make a few different types of cheese.
farmhouse gorgonzola:
warm 6 gallons of milk to blood heat; add a tablespoon of rennet and stir well. Cover and leave to set for 15 or so minutes then break up the curds with (clean) hands. Leave to settle then pour off the whey.
Mix 2 tblsp dairy salt and 1 tblsp oatmeal with the curd. Line a press with muslin and press in the curd,altering positions of press as cheese sinks. Leave in press for 3 days. Remove from muslin and place on wooden board. Keep for 2 months to ripen, turning occasionally.

wensleydale cheese:
heat the milk to 90F. Add 2 teaspoons of rennet to 9 gallons of milk. Pour into curd trays and when it sets break it up with a cheese-breaker or palette knife, then let it stand for 30 minutes. Remove the whey they place the curds in a muslin cloth, tie up and leave to drip for one hour. Crumble the drained cheese into a mould with the hands (not too finely) and leave to stand for 12 hours. Return the cheese to a clean cheese-cloth (muslin), return to mould, weight and press. Next day turn the cheese in the mould and press again. At night, take the cheese from the mould and put into brine (to make brine bring enough water - to cover the cheese - to the boil, and add salt until the liquid will float a (fresh) egg. When the brine is cold add the cheese.
An 8lb cheese should be left in the brine for 3 days and turned night and morning. When taken out of the brine, put on the storing shelf and turn every day until dry.

cheddar-type cheese (1):
for a cheese of 2.5 lbs take 3 gallons of hand-skimmed milk from three consecutive milkings (i.e. 1 gallon from each). Warm to 80F and add half tsp plus 3 drops of rennet per gallon, stirring well into the milk.
When set, cut curds into large dice with a long-bladed knife. Warm it again slowly until the whey rises well, then gently bale off the whey - this can be done with a cup. Add 1 tblsp coarse salt to the curd and with a skimmer or shallow scoop put into the top of a steamer (the one with the holes) that has been lined with muslin. On top of this place a cake tin pierced with holes (a size to fit in the steamer) and set a heavy flat-iron in the centre of the cake tin, or another suitable weight wrapped in kitchen paper or clean cloth. Leave overnight for the whey to drain away.
Next morning remove cheese from steamer, wrap in a clean cloth and place between two boards with the weight on top. Drying it with a rough cloth, rub the cheese with salt and then once more rub with a cloth to dry. After the fourth day, bind the cheese tightly round with a strip of calico or bandage to prevent it becoming too flat under the weight. Leave bandage on until the cheese has matured.

cheddar-type (2):
heat milk to 90F. Add 1 teaspoon rennet (diluted with 3 times its own amount with warm water) to 3 gallons of milk. Deep stir for 2 minutes, then top stir until set - to keep the cream from rising. Leave for 1 hour, then cut with a carving knife into small quarter to half-inch cubes. Stir gently for one hour, gradually raising the temperature to 106F - this is done by removing some of the whey, heating this to 120F, then returning it to the curd. Repeat this 3 or 4 times until the required temp. of 106F is reached, then gently pour off the whey, crumble up the curd and add 1 oz salt to every 2 gallons of milk. Put into a coarse cloth in the mould with a 1 cwt (1 hundredweight) pressure. In the evening turn into a piece of muslin and put back into the mould and press again. Next day, remove cheese and grease it. Bandage and put in a room to ripen. Turn daily until ready for use. It can be eaten at 3 - 4 weeks old.

As expected, it is now very windy and the forecast is not good for the time of my daughter and S.I.L's trip here, so almost certainly there will be a delay. However, if I do what has to be done today, then might be able to find time to write up this weeks trade secrets tomorrow (if we ever get the mag - the newsagent says 'it has been delayed'). Just suggest you log on to this site once or twice this week to see if I've had time to write. If not, should be back next Saturday 0r possibly Sunday/Monday. Am in the lap of the weather gods here, so expect me back when you see me is all I can say. Hope you miss me, as I will surely be missing you.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Slowly Does It

Trade mag has not yet been delivered, so if I make this a fairly short blog will hopefully find time to return again tomorrow to give you this week's trade secrets. Looks like the family ferry trip from Ireland (late Monday night) may be delayed anyway due to adverse weather conditions.

Will almost certainly be having a trial run of the veg box scheme once my stocks of 'fresh' have almost gone, which no doubt will be more expensive than supermarket supplies, but as it will stop me shopping at the supermarket for quite a long time, it will be worth the experiment. Before then might give our local farmer's market a try (fourth Thursday in each month) - at least will take a look to see what they have and check prices on the 22nd of this month.

Was fairly lucky this recent Tesco delivery as their cauliflowers were Bogof, so got two medium sized ones for 84p for the two. Their larger ones are very expensive and have found even at normal price that two smaller work out cheaper (by weight) than buying one large.

I too write on plastic bags/boxes using a marker pen minimiser deb, it washes off easily, so can keep using the boxes if not the bags again. A good idea to make our own mango chutney - never thought about it (a couple of recipes that I've found are included today).

Alison loves making preserves, but finds it takes time, am giving some recipes (one for mango chutney) that can be made in a slow cooker (so no need to stand over it and keep stirring), and another for the same made in a traditional way - which might be the recipe Deb uses. Also one that needs no cooking at all.

Have yet to find out if I can watch James Martin's prog on iPlayer (re the NHS food) Polly, but it does seem that their allowance of £3.49 per person per day should be ample, working on the principle that it is costs less (per head) to feed one than two. So multiply the numbers that need to be fed in hospital, and the budget should go a lot, lot further. Suppose in hospital the amount of calories can be reduced due to lack of exercise, but the food should be nutritious and - above all - look and taste appetising, but even that shouldn't make a meal cost a lot.

We have a new reader from (apparently) New Zealand, so welcome to Leesling with our usual group hugs. Am not planning to eat the udon noodles for a few days/weeks (the date on the pack to use is December), but will give readers my opinion when we do, so watch this space. Do agree they are very much more expensive than the usual noodles - my 300g pack costing £1.48p), not sure what that converts to in NZ $.

B has popped his head through the door - he is off early today sailing due to tide times. No trade mag, so unless we get it tomorrow, trade secrets will have to be revealed next weekend.

Meanwhile, here are some more recipes. The first three are made using a slow-cooker. As well as serving with curries, mango chutney can be served with cold or grilled poultry and meats, or blended into Coronation chicken, and also a teaspoonful blended into creme fraiche or Greek yogurt, with a teaspoonful of mild curry paste makes a great dip. The second chutney is especially good to liven up cold roast turkey after Christmas (or Thanksgiving). Third chutney makes use of garden produce, and very good eaten with all full-flavoured cheeses, white or 'blue'.

Mango Chutney: makes 1 lb (450g)
3 firm mangoes, peeled, stoned, flesh cut into small chunks
4 fl oz (120ml) cider vinegar
7 oz (200g) light muscovado sugar
1 jalapeno chilli, split
1" (2.5cm) piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped or crushed
5 cardomom pods, bruised
1 bay leaf
half tsp salt
Put the chopped mango into the cooking pot and add the cider vinegar, stir to combine then put on the lid and cook on High for 2 hours, giving it a stir after one hour.
When the 2 hours are up, add the rest of the ingredients, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved, then cover and cook for 2 hours. Remove lid and let the mixture cook for a further hour (uncovered) or until the chutney has reduced to a thick consistency and no excess liquid remains. During this final hour, the chutney should be stirred every fifteen minutes.
Remove the bay leaf and chilli, then spoon the chutney into hot, sterilized jars and seal. Store for at least a week before eating, and use within a year.

Sweet and Hot dried fruit Chutney: makes 3 lb 6 oz (1.5kg)
12 oz (350g) no-soak apricots, roughly chopped
8 oz (225g) dried stoned dates or prunes, roughly chopped
8 oz (225g) dried figs, chopped
2 oz (50g) candied peel, chopped
5 oz (150g) raisins
2 oz (50g) dried cranberries or dried cherries
3 fl oz (75ml) cranberry or apple juice
half pint (300ml) cider vinegar
8 oz (225g) caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
Put all the dried fruits into the cooking pot and pour over the cranberry (or apple) juice. Cover and cook on Low for 1 hour, or until the fruit has absorbed most of the juice.
Add the cider vinegar and sugar, then switch the slow-cooker to High and stir until the sugar has dissolved, then cover and cook on High for 2 hours or until the fruit is very soft and the chutney fairly thick (it will continue thickening as it cooks further). Stir in the lemon zest, the spices and salt, then cook UNCOVERED, for 30 minutues until most of the liquid has been taken up. Spoon into hot sterilized jars, cover and seal. Store in a cool, dark place and open within 10 months of making. Once opened and stored in the fridge it will keep for up to 2 months longer.

Beetroot, Apple and Onion Chutney: makes 3 lb (1.4kg)
half pint (300ml) malt vinegar
7 oz (200g) gran. sugar
12 oz (350g) raw beetroot, thinly peeled, grated and chopped
12 oz (350g) eating apples, peeled, cored and chopped
8 oz (225g) red onions, very finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
zest of 2 oranges
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp salt
6 oz (175g) chopped dates
Put the vinegar and sugar into the cooking pot, cover and cook on High until steaming hot. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved, then stir in the all the ingredients except the dates. When fully mixed together, recover and cook for 4 - 5 hours, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are tender. Add the dates and cook for a further hour until the mixture is very thick - again stirring once or twice to prevnt the chutney catching on the base of the pot. Pot up as recipes above and store in a cool, dark place. Open within 5 months of making, then store in the fridge and use within 1 month.

Here is another recipe for mango chutney that is cooked on the hob.
Sweet Mango Chutney: makes 4 1/2 lb (2.25kg)
4 lb (2kg) yellow mangoes, peeled, stoned and sliced
9 oz (250g) cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
8 oz (250g) onions, chopped
4 oz (100g) raisins,
1 pint (600ml) distilled (clear 'white') vinegar
13 oz (375g) demerara sugar
1 tblsp ground ginger
2 - 3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp grated nutmeg
half tsp salt
Put all ingredients into a preserving pan and bring to the boil. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for bout 1 1/2 hours or until no excess liquid remains and the mixture is thick. Pot up in the normal way, covering immediately with airtight and vinegar-proof lids. Store for 2 - 3 months before eating.

Finally, for those who wish to speed things up, here is a recipe for chutney that needs no cooking and can be made at any time of the year.
No need to cook Chutney: makes 6 1/2 lb (3.25kg)
1 lb (500g) onions
1 lb (500g) cooking apples, cored
1 lb (500g) sultanas
1 lb (500g) stoned dates
1 lb (500g) soft brown sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp salt
half tsp pepper
1 pint (600ml) malt vinegar
Mince the onions, apples, sultanas and dates and mix together in a large bowl. Stir in the rest of the ingredients until well combined, then cover and leave for 24 hours, stirring from time to time to make sure the flavours are well blended.
Spoon into pre-heated sterilized jars and cover immediately with vinegar-proof lids. Store for 2 - 3 months before eating.

Will be back tomorrow in the hope to be able to share trade secrets, if the mag hasn't arrived, will at least be able to reply to comments and maybe give a few more recipes for pickles or relishes (or anything else you might prefer), so hope to hear from you. After that, will be taking the rest of the week off to spend time with the family etc., returning to chat with you again on Saturday. Unless weather conditions means the visit is postponed. Will have to wait and see. TTFN.

Spellcheck has failed so apologies for any mistakes.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What Next?

With the comfortable feeling that 'all is now gathered in, am now turning my thoughts to the pickles, preserves, mincemeat and long-keeping fruit cakes to bring a little joy to our lives during the winter months.
Also have discovered today (via the Internet) that there is an organic veggie box scheme that delivers in our area, not just fruit and veg, but also other basic groceries incl. eggs, so might well decide that enough is enough as far as the supermarkets go, and when I need to start buying fresh produce again - will try the veg.box scheme.
Sooner or later will be needing to top up the cans of baked beans etc, but if I wait long enough (say three months) then Tesco will be back giving me more 'cash' (redeemable vouchers to spend on food), to tempt me back. Could be a win some, win some situation for a while.

Given that now everyone will probably have stocked up their shelves with 'basics', the stores are now loading their shelves with the next 'search and you will find' delights - this time foods, decoration and gifts for Christmas. They never miss a trick. One of the latest gimmicks (not necessarily confined to supermarkets) is to have a good offer with either "limited supply", or "buy now before stocks run out", and - because we are so afraid of missing something 'good', we fall for it and buy, often if we don't really need it. The thought of Mrs Next Door having something we've missed out on is almost too hard to bear. We can always blame our DNA.

Thankfully, confined to the house as I am most days, am not in contact with such temptations. So live my life in more the 'old fashioned way', my only vice (if you can call it that), is overloading my larder shelves. But as you know, this has proved to reduce my monthly food budget, and at least twice a year we are able to live off the stores for several weeks at a time (and could be for much longer if necessary). So must be doing something right.

Although everyone's food purchases will be different, there might be interest in what was delivered to our door this week. Firstly the promotional savings plus the points vouchers came to nearly £35, which was almost a third off the total charge. This pleased me very much.
The only frozen food bought was oven chips. The eggs I'd ordered (box of 9 mixed weight) were not available, so was sent a substitution of a dozen free range medium eggs for the same price as the original order (Tesco's 'price match') - which pleased me even further.

My main purchases were butter (B's Lurpack being reduced so bought enough to last him at least 6 weeks - as well as other butters also on offer - some will be frozen). Also bought a couple of pots of long-life double cream (use-by date around Christmas) as well as B's fresh cream he loves to have poured over all his desserts.
Bought 2 x 12 pack pork sausages (another of B's favourite brand - also on offer) as these will then be packed in threes or fours and frozen.
Because the price was 'right', bought 4 x 4 pack of baked beans as - believe it or not - had completely run out of baked beans due to this being a favourite of mine at the moment. Am planning to make a batch of Boston Baked Beans using dried beans already in the larder, and will freeze these to eat now and then and save opening a can.

Bought some baking potatoes, small (Scottish) new potatoes, and also a bag of King Edwards. For interest worked out the cost per serving (not cost per spud as they were different sizes) and with each variety it came to 10p per serving. A useful thing to know for then we can compare the cost of a different carbo serving such as rice, couscous, quinoa, bulgar wheat, noodles, pasta, and even pastry.
Incidentally, noticed on Tesco's website those packs of 10p noodles have now risen in price. To 11p!! Depending upon what else is served with them, one pack would probably stretch to feed two.

Two loaves of medium bread were bought (only paid for one as this was Bogof), so one has already been put in the freezer, and possibly half the other (our guests like to take sarnies with them when they go out to explore Morecambe and surrounding countryside).
Bought several cans of red kidney beans (Tesco's Value at 16p working out no dearer than cooking the dried myself), as these help - along with veggies/porridge oats etc to 'stretch' minced meat when making chilli con carne.
Several packs (again on offer) of Casserole mixes bought - and yes, they ARE a 'convenience', but cannot myself replicate the flavours myself, and as I've found there is no need to use a whole pack at any one time just for two servings, usually manage to use each pack for two or even three 'makings'.

Bought a few (good brands) of different curry sauces (on offer) and also two tomato ketchup (also on offer) and together these saved me £4.86p. Normally don't need to use a whole jar of curry sauce for one or two servings, so either make a big pan of curry using the whole jar - then freeze as individual meals, or use only some of the sauce and decant the rest from the jar to freeze in small portions to use as and when. So often we use a whole jar/can of something when it really is too much, and as most 'sauces' can be frozen, it's worth making them go as far as possible. Just remember to label everything as it is so easy to forget what is in the box/tub/bag (as I keep finding out because often I don't. Naughty!).

Other foods bought (not mentioned above) were the usual milk, plus butternut squash, red onions (on offer), cauliflower (on offer), celery, mushrooms, streaky bacon, cheese, grapes, kiwi fruits (offer), and a pack of dried split red lentils.... Treats for B were a pack of liquorice allsorts and a pack of black pudding (once opened the surplus slices will be frozen).
Also bought a pack of cheap ballpoint pens (how every many we buy we always seem to lose them), some Udon noodles (as wanted to try them), various non-foods (such as bleach and other cleaning products), a pack of poppadums (for our Oct. planned curry meal), and also a jar of Lime pickle and Mango chutney (for same).
Bought four packs of blackcurrant jelly (30p each) as like to add blackcurrant cordial when making this up to give extra Vit C (is it C?) to help ward off winter colds. Two refill packs of sugar substitute (cheaper than buying as separate packs). Now you see that probably I buy all the wrong things and could do so much better. But that's me, always hoping to give the right advice and never following it myself.

Because Corrie was on later due to a new prog on ITV was able to watch Gardening World last night, and Monty Don recommended we remove all foliage from our tomatoes to allow the fruit to get all the sun (what sun?). Myself am getting thoroughly fed up with my toms and will now remove all the trusses of fruit and bring them into the conservatory to ripen up as and when they are ready. The 'con' certainly catches all the sun from noon to sunset, especially the heat - far warmer than even the greenhouse (which - being plastic - tends to be quite warm but very, very humid - even if the door is rolled up. Perhaps better suited to growing cucumbers.

To your comments.
Pleased to hear that those of you (Susan G et al) who have started to cook your own ham (from a gammon joint) are finding it very rewarding both in flavour, convenience, and of course the amount of money it saves compared to buying sliced ham in packs.

Have myself always found farmshops to be quite expensive gillibob, but perhaps this depends a lot of area and location. Buying bulk amounts of fresh produce would save money, but unless they have a long 'shelf-life', not worth doing with just the two of us (our freezers already bursting at the seams).

Not quite sure I agree with you Urbanfarmgirl re too early to think about Christmas. There are other things than festive food we could be thinking about - such as making our own Christmas Cards/decorations/crackers, or making gifts that we KNOW will be far more useful than any bought from a shop. Car boot sales can be a good source of 'things to give as gifts'.
We have Hallow'een and Guy Fawkes (aka Bonfire night) to work towards before we need to be thinking about what to make/serve/eat over the Twelve Days of Christmas, but even then - with room in our freezer - we could be 'stocking up' the Brussels sprouts, sausages, bread crumbs (for bread sauce and stuffing), and later some made but un-baked mince pies.

Thanks for letting us know the varieties of tomatoes you recommend Sairy, but have to say that having grown 'Shirley' this year, have found this has not thrown off much fruit and what there is has been pretty tasteless. Am pretty sure that the flavour of tomatoes has a lot to do with the soil/compost they have been planted in, and given plenty of tomato food (such as Tomorite). Did feed them, but diluted from an old bottle found in the garage, so maybe it had lost its power. Grown in large pots, they seemed happy enough, but in Leeds grown in large bottomless pots standing on grow bags they did far much better. Will try to do better next year.

According to some weather 'experts', there are signs we will have an early onset of winter. This is due to birds migrating earlier than usual and the abundance of berries this year. It seems very improbable that a plant knows in the spring what the winter weather will turn out to be, so provides extra berries to feed the resident birds. Anyway, I've known years when there have been LOADS of berries followed by a very mild winter.
One thing that could make a difference this year is that the 'jet stream', normally to the north of us, is now directly overhead and this could lead to worsening weather. So maybe birds and creatures can sense this and have either begun to move early to warmer climes, or begun to make an early start stocking up food reserves for the winter. Maybe we too subconsciously sense this, leading to a strong feeling we should do the same (or already doing it).

Recipes today are mainly 'preserves' as this is the right time of year to be making them (remembering also small jars of assorted preserves make a good Christmas gift in their own right).
The first recipe (from a farmhouse cookbook) caught my eye as it said "this chutney will keep for 2 - 3 years and improves with keeping".
Bengal Chutney:
15 large sour apples
1 lb demerara sugar
1 dessertspoon salt
2 oz mustard seed
2 oz ground ginger
half oz cayenne pepper
8 oz raisins
3 pints vinegar
4 oz garlic
4 oz onions
Bake apples down to a pulp, and boil onions until tender in a little water. Add garlic, bring to the boil, skim then put all the ingredients into a preserving pan and boil for 15 minutes. Pot into hot, sterilized jars, and seal with vinegar-proof lids. Store in a cool dark place and leave as long as possible before eating as the flavour improves as it matures.

Another chutney looks worth making as "a little of this, added to meat stews or hashes before dishing up, is delicious. It also makes welcome Christmas presents if put into small fancy jars".
Indian Chutney
3 lb apples, peeled and quartered
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 pints malt vinegar
2 lbs Barbados sugar
1 lb raisins, chopped
8 oz crystallized ginger, finely chopped
half tsp chilli powder
2 tsp dry mustard powder
1 tsp salt
Put apples and onions in a pan with the vinegar and boil to a pulp. Add the rest of the ingredients, mixing well together, then boil for half an hour, stirring often. Pot up in the usual way.

Not sure whether this counts as a 'preserve', but certainly one way to 'keep' blackberries. An easy way to make wine without yeast and all the guff 'n stuff. Just be careful that you use bottles with corks, or if screw-caps, make sure that these are loose for the first few days. We don't want bottles to explode. I give the recipe exactly as it is written...
Blackberry Wine:
Place alternate layers of ripe blackberries and sugar in wide-mouthed jars; and allow to stand for 3 weeks. Then strain off the liquid and bottle; adding a couple or raisins to each bottle. Cork lightly at first and later more tightly. Nothing could be more inexpensive, and the wine will keep in good condition for a year, having the flavour rather like that of good port.

Another interesting recipe is a 'healthy' one, this time made with elderberries (of which there should be plenty 'free' in the countryside for us to gather). Again the recipe is given as from the old book, and particularly enjoyed reading how to test the syrup is ready.
Elder Syrup:
Elderberries have tonic and health-giving qualities, and this syrup makes the most of them.
Take half a gallon (four pints) of elderberry juice and put in a brass pan over a clear but slow fire, adding to it the white of an egg well beaten to a froth.
When it begins to boil, skim it as long as any froth rises; then put to each pint 1 lb of sugar, and boil the whole slowly till it is a perfect syrup; which may be known by dropping a particle on your nail, and if it congeals, it is done enough.
Let it stand; and when cool, put into bottles covered with paper pricked with holes. It will make elderberry wine in winter, and if taken hot is excellent for colds.

One more recipe that can be cooked on a griddle or frying pan. This being a traditional Northumberland farmhouse griddle cake.
Singing Hinny:
12 oz plain flour
2 oz ground rice
2 oz sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 oz lard
3 oz currants
1 tsp salt
quarter pint half milk half cream
Mix together the flour, ground rice, sugar and baking powder. Rub in the lard. Mix in the currants and then the liquid to make a moderately soft dough. Roll out o a quarter inch thick. Prick all over with a fork and bake on a fairly hot griddle until nicely browned on both sides.
This cake is delicious split and buttered and eaten hot.

That's it for today - definitely today will be spent mainly in the kitchen as B will be watching sport on TV. Next week sees the start of a new Hairy Bikers series called 'Meals on Wheels' where we will be learning a lot more about this voluntary service that provides meals for the elderly (and believe that the general public can become involved in this too if they wish to help with the meals).

Am just loving this time of year, now I've come to terms with my DNA. As has recently been discovered. the eggs in the human ovaries which produce the next generation were placed in a baby girl before she was born - provided by its mother, whose own eggs were provided by the grandmother, and who knows how far back this 'egg-sharing' can go. So not surprising that due to my age, my genes have only hereditary memories of 'how our parents/grandparents used to live', with none of the genetic differences/instincts that may have evolved during the last 50 years of so of 'convenience food shopping'. As my mother provided the eggs that are now in my daughters, then they too seemed to enjoy being self-sufficient. Let us hope it continues, generation after generation.

Please join me tomorrow when I hope the trade mag will be delivered (it didn't arrive today). With the weather forecast being dreadful Monday/Tuesday it might mean the ferry from Ireland will be cancelled/postponed, so have to wait and hope our daughter's trip to visit us will still be on. But whatever, will still be writing my blog tomorrow - so see you then.