Friday, January 27, 2012

What To Make Next?

Late start this morning due to flu symptoms hitting me yesterday. Aches in all bones, suddenly feverishly hot, then shivering with cold. Really felt bad so took myself off early to bed once B had his supper (Pukka pie with green string beans). Had a bad night, took me ages to get to sleep, but did eventually and this morning seem fine again, although a bit weak. Thank goodness I had the flu jab as almost certainly this prevented me from getting full blast symptoms.

Firstly must reply to Les who seems to think that there was no posting on Wednesday with no comment from me as to say why. I certainly didn't miss a day, so checked my drafts/postings/veiw blog to make sure a publication hadn't failed, and all were then.
What might have led Les to believe Wed. was missing was because I started this late Tuesday night, finishing it early Wednesday to make sure it was posted before Norma arrived. Blogger tend to show the date/time the posting was started, not the date of publications. Even so, having already published Tuesdays, So Les, if you are one of those who checks the date rather than whether each posting is a new one, then forget the dates in future and concentrate on what's published. It's one posting per day unless otherwise notified, although it could be if the comp/broadband gets a wobbly, I can't then post, although would always ask Steve and/or Eileen that day to post up the reason why.

It must be very hard for you living on a very low income Suzi. This makes me all the more furious when reading about those who won't work seeming to gain more benefits. Most of the supermarkets and discount stores are now selling 50p bags of fresh fruit and veg, and am hoping these might work out to your advantage, but it is always worth finding out if each item was bought speparately (one carrot, one onion, one potato etc) these would work out cheaper. Has anyone ever done this?
If you can possibly shop at the major stores around 7.00pm at night, they have lots of fresh produce they sell off really cheaply.

Hearing that Lynne has overspent on heating, she might be interested to know that when we lived in Leeds our domestic dual-fuel bill (gas and electricity) we paid through 'Staywarm', who then did (and probably still do) a lower tariff for people over a certain age, and this is based on how many bedrooms in the property. Even if only one bedroom is used, the full number still counts. The price was set for the full year, paid off monthly by direct debit, and regardless of how much fuel was used, so in a cold spell we could turn up the heat
However, although there was no debit to pay at the end of the year when a lot of fuel had been used, the annual charge was then increased slightly the following year. As this was still way below what we'd have to pay another supplier, and with no worry as to whether we could afford to keep warm or not, we stayed with Staywarm until we moved to Morecambe.

When we moved here we had to stay with British Gas (used by a previous occupant) as Staywarm told us we were back to them immediately, we'd have to wait for a while before we could, but even though now we have only one bedroom we have decided to stay with British gas, as it now costs less than it did in Leeds (but we did have four bedrooms in Leeds, Staywarm charges there were then more than we would be paying here). We will go back to Staywarm if fuel prices rise much further although almost certainly we will have to pay a 'leaving charge' to B.G. if we switch.

Am pleased you found the biscuit recipe a success Lynne. Was the choc. jelly cake the one that was supposed to end up like 'Jaffa cakes'? Possibly cooking a sponge cake separately, then splitting in in half and sandwiching together with a slab of set jelly before cutting into circles, each then dipped into melted chocolate to fully coat would work better. Any cake/jelly left over could be used as the base of a trifle.

Myself began soaking a pack of haricot beans yesterday, they are now ready to strain and fast boil, and my suggestion to Alison (who nearly burned hers) myself will transfer them to the slow cooker with some tomato juice and other 'flavourings' to hopefully end up with a large batch of baked beans. They could also be cooked in a slow oven until tender. This saves constantly checking the pan when cooked on the hob as often too much liquid evaporates which then can cause the beans to dry and burn.
Some cooks/chefs push a large circle of greaseproof paper/baking parchment into the pan to fit closely on top of what is being cooked, and before fitting on the lid, this helps to prevent them losing too much steam. Another way is to make a stiff 'dough' of flour and water, roll it into a strip and place it round the rim of a pan, pressing the lid into it to fit, this causes an almost air-tight seal, and again prevents the loss of steam, but the pan needs to be placed on the lowest heat to barely simmer.

The lamb 'hocks' mentioned (bought from a small Tesco) sound very much like the lamb 'shanks' that I buy (also from Tesco) for £5 for two. Perhaps they cost a £1 more in the smaller branches, or maybe the price has now risen - they have been £5 for seemingly years, even though the price of lamb has risen considerably over that time.

That plan of yours to provide packed lunches for your daughter's friends sounds a lovely idea Lisa. Soup, stews and curries especially sound good (for winter meals), and probably cheaper to make than the sarnies and fresh fruit, so perhaps you could do soup one day, sarnie and fruit another, and on the third the stew or curry. It might be each day you could then afford to include one piece of fruit (or even a fruit pie) to eat for 'afters'. A recipe has been included today that you might find useful. If the ingredients are too expensive you might be able to adapt it in some way.

Pleased you found the 'tenting' method of baking bread works (makes for a softer crust and moister crumb). Don't know why it took me so long to find out this would work.

Did notice the request Julie, from Superscrimpers for more people to become involved in their programme. In fact did contact them even though they were only (at that time) needing groups of friends who would get together to be taught a new skill. I sent them a few hints and tips that they could use if they wished, without me needing to take part. Did receive an automated reply of thanks. From then on have to wait and see if they make use any, or come back to me re this.

With the success of the biscuits, and hopefully the same for yesterday's cakes, today sees further recipes from the same stable. These based on shortbread. Although am giving the recipes as should be made, the lemon bar one sounds a lot like making lemon curd then letting it 'cook' on the top of the cake until thickened (while the base finishes off cooking beneath). Another recipe uses jam sandwiched between shortbread as it cooks, so my suggestion is, if you have already-made lemon curd, then sandwich this between the shortbread instead of putting it on top where it might then go a step too far and burn. Different flavoured jams could be used for the jam slice. So plenty of choice.

The topping for the 'Nut squares' uses bought Carnation caramel. We can make this ourselves by simmering a tin of condensed milk for 3 hours (making sure the tin is always covered by water), then leave it to cool completely before opening. If we covered the shortbread with this caramel, then topped it with melted chocolate and allowed to set, it is then called 'Millionaire's Shortbread'. So this is yet another variation on the ones given.

The basic recipe can be cooked with no additions as 'shortbread' if you wish. This will probably take approx 20- 25 minutes to bake at 200C, 400F, gas 4 but at this heat will make it slightly crisper and more golden than traditional shortbread. If you wish it to be lighter in colour and more 'tender', then cook at a lower temperature.
Note that the timings for the variations can differ.

basic shortbread base:
6 oz (175g) plain flour
2 oz (50g) ground rice
3 oz (85g) caster sugar
5 oz (140g) butter, chilled and diced
1 tblsp milk
Put the flour, ground rice, sugar and butter into a bowl and rub together until like breadcrumbs (you could blitz the lot in a food processor if you wish). Using a knife, mix in the milk, then tip the lot into a lined 8" or 9" (20 or 23cm) shallow baking tin and gently press down to even the surface. Then follow the method given for the variations.

strawberry slice: makes 9 - 12
1 x basic shortbread mix
8 tblsp strawberry jam, slightly warmed
2 tsp caster sugar
Make the shortbread mixture as above recipe but tip only three-quarters of the mix into the prepared tin. Press down evenly, then bake at 200C etc for 15 - 20 minutes until golden and slightly crisp. Spread the jam on top then sprinkle/crumble over the remaining shortbread mix, then bake for a further 5 - 10 minutes more until the topping is also golden. Sprinkle over the sugar, leave to cool in the tin then cut into 9 squares or 12 oblongs.

lemon curd bars:
as for the jam bars, but split the mixture, bake one half or 12 - 15 minutes until golden, then top with lemon curd, then sprinkle the remaining mix on top to cover, pressing down very lightly and continue to cook for a further 10 or so minutes.
Alternatively make from scratch using the following recipe.

lemon bars: makes 12 - 15
1 x basic shortbread mix
zest and juice of 4 lemons
3 eggs
7 oz (200g) caster sugar
1 oz (25g) flour
icing sugar to dust
Put the basic mix into a lined tin (size as above), pressing down gently, then bake for 15 - 20 minutes at 200C for 15 - 20 minutes, then remove from oven and lower the heat down to 180C, 350F, gas 4.
Mix together the lemon juice and eggs, then sieve into a bowl containing the sugar, flour and lemon zest. Whisk until fully combined, then pour this over the shortbread base, returning it to the oven. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes until the top is just set, then leave to cool in the tin. Dust with icing sugar, the cut into slices.

caramel nut squares: makes 12
1 x basic shortbread mix
9 oz (250g) mixed nuts, roughly chopped
11 oz (300g) caramel (see above)
3 tblsp flour
1 - 2 tblsp sunflower or pumpkin seeds (opt)
Make up the shortbread mix, pressing it into a lined tin (size as above), pressing it down evenly as before, and baking at 200C for 15 - 20 minutes until golden. Remove tin and reduce oven temperature to 180C. Mix together the nuts, caramel and flour then spread this evenly over the base, scattering top with seeds (if using), then return to oven and bake for a further 8 - 10 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin before slicing.

Final recipe today is for a baked cheesecake. Good and healthy so as this could be one that Lisa may wish to make to pop into those packed lunches, am also giving US cup measurements.
Yogurt and Honey Cheesecake: serves 8
4 oz (100g/1 cup) digestive or ginger biscuits, crushed
2 oz (50g/half cup) flaked almonds, toasted
3 oz (73g/6 tblsp) butter, melted
9 fl oz (250ml/1 cup) Greek yogurt
1 lb 10oz (750g/3 cups) cream cheese or mascarpone
2 eggs
zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
9 fl oz (250ml/1 cup) runny honey
Crush the biscuits and almonds together, then mix with the butter. Press into the bottom of a deep 9"(23cm) dish (either a cake tin, baking dish or roasting dish). Bake at 170C, 325F, gas 3
for 10 minutes until crisp.
Meanwhile, mash together the yogurt and the cheese, then whisk in the eggs. Fold in the citrus zests and most of the honey (reserving about 2 - 3 tblsp).
Spoon this on top of the biscuit base, cover loosely with foil and bake for one hour, then remove foil and cook for a further 15 minutes until the top is pale gold and firm with just a hint of a wobble in the centre. Leave to cool in the tin. Then chill in the fridge (where it can be kept for up to 2 days). To serve, drizzle over the remaining honey and serve with fresh fruit.

Despite a late start, still seemed to have managed to write up something 'useful'. Let us hope so anyway. Can't believe it is Friday already, how the weeks seem to fly by. We have spring flowers now in bloom in the garden, and am hoping they will survive during the cold spell forecast for this weekend. But the days are lengthening and on a clear-sky day, it is beginning to get light at 7.30am.
I've often wondered what it is like in a large country, such as the US, where they have 'time zones'. Are they in straight lines, going right through a house? If so it could be an hour later in one room than the next. Probably the zones deviate so they curve right round a town. But it can't be easy, it could be you leave one town to go to work and arrive almost an hour before you started.

At least in the British Isles and all of Ireland, the time is the same even though the sun rises on the west coast of Ireland almost an hour and a half later than the east coast of England. But then this means they seem to have longer days than we do (their sunset over a good hour later).

Time now for me to go and fast-boil my beans. This reminds me - don't ever soak your beans then leave them a day or two before boiling, as they start to ferment (even when kept in the fridge). Fast boil them for 10 minutes as soon as fully soaked, then reduce heat and cook them slowly in whichever way you prefer (and easiest to you). Given long enough time, and an initial 15 minutes fast boil, they should then cook on to tender using a hay-box. One way to save fuel.
Would a thermos work as well I wonder? Bet Les would know.

Although many of you are busy over the weekend, do hope you will find time to drop me a line, or at least read this blog (or eventually catch up). Just love hearing from you, and as many as possible. So keep those comments coming. Enjoy your day, tomorrow will be back as normal. Hope to see you then.