Monday, February 06, 2012

The Deep Mdwinter!!

Was amazed yesterday when I watched the news on TV. Snow almost everywhere, disrupting transport, flights etc. Here in Morecambe we had none. Are we fortunate or not? Obviously the answer is yes, but I still have a childlike love of seeing the snow fall, with now the pensioner's pleasure of being able to snuggle up and keep warm indoors and just look at it through the windows with no need to step outside.
In Leeds used to work in a room with a small window that had a long mirror right across a side wall and could see much more of the the outside world reflected through this. Many times felt it was being like the Lady of Shallot (isn't shallot one of the onion family? Apologies if spelt her name incorrectly. And isn't 'spelt' a grain? Should I have said 'spelled'? No wonder foreigners find the English language hard to understand/speak/write. Even I have difficulty.

This reminds me of when we had some German students to stay with us. They had a book giving words with present and past tenses. I was reading it out loud and when it came to 'wind and wound' (as meaning 'wind the wool' and 'the wool has been wound') mistakenly took it as 'wind and wound' (as in 'the wind is blowing' and 'wound' as in 'wounded my leg'!), it was the Germans who had to explain it was me that had - in this instance - got it wrong.

Frugal Queen finds minestrone soup virtually a meal in itself, and a big potful can keep us going for several days (save a lot of time - just thoroughly heat up what is needed each day). Forgot to mention that with my recent batch had included the brisket 'shavings' gathered up when slicing the cooked joint (then stored in the freezer). These made the soup a 'real meal' in a bowl. One thing though, despite all the veggies, meat, stock cube, canned tomatoes etc, felt the soup lacked flavour. Tried adding pepper, helped but not a lot. Decided then to add a very little sea salt and that really DID help. Still not QUITE right, so added a couple of teaspoons of sugar and then it was perfect. Tasted as good as Baxter's minestrone soup - and as this is what I was aiming for felt very pleased.

A good dash of soy sauce would have added saltiness as well as 'beefing' up the flavour, but unfortunately didn't think of this until all the soup had been eaten. Despite health warnings about not using salt when cooking, just a pinch of salt really does make a huge difference to the flavour of a dish and when this can serve six or more, then it could mean a very few salt crystals eaten per person. Concern re health is more about adding too much salt to food - like shaking spoonfuls of it over fried chips, or the amount contained in packets of potato crisps. Sea or rock salt is 'healthier' for us than the fine table salt as it is much easier to control the amount used.
It is known that we should always cook pasta in salted water (often fairly heavily salted) as this improves the flavour (also raising the boiling point of water slightly). The salt tends to remain in the water, very little being taken up by the pasta, so always worth doing.

A welcome and hugs to Carol (CT/USA - does CT stand for Cincinatti, this I believe in Ohio?). Not quite sure how the dollar compares with our ££s at the moment but it does sound as though there are some good bargains when it comes to eggs.
Have checked back and fortunately an earlier posting on this site I've managed to keep in (had to edit previous years drastically due to shortage of space). Go to Archives and look up September '07, then scroll down to the 14th and you will find a list of many foods/ingredients that can be substituted for eggs when baking.

As to the query re worth buying dried egg. Possibly if you compare the price as against 'fresh' eggs, but remembering the war years when a lot of dried egg was used, can't say I'd like to use it. Surely it must have improved over the years. Maybe a reader could let us know.

A wise warning minimiser deb, re the thicker loo rolls. Just prior to us moving here, and before we signed the papers, we were told our drains were overflowing, including some sewer contents.
As we were purchasing only the ground floor of a house, the 'upstairs' had residents, and we assumed (rightly or wrongly) that their water etc flowed into the same drains.
However, we asked that it would be cleared before we moved. This was done, and we were told the problem was caused by fat lining the pipes and 'baby wipes' and thick loo paper had also caused the blockage.
We should never empty fat from pans and dishes down the pipes, even if mixed with hot water and detergent. As soon as it hits the cold pipes it congeals and sets. We always let fat set and then gather it up with newspaper and put it in our waste bin. The runny oils are poured into a container and taken to the tip where it has a special collection point.

During the war even the shiny Isal loo paper wasn't available, everyone had to cut up squares of newspaper (we used the Radio Times), thread the corners with string and hang them up in the bathroom (or outside loo - not everyone had a bathroom in those days) and use these instead. They must have disintegrated easily or these too would have blocked up the drains. It was some years before the softer loo rolls came onto the market, and what a luxury they were.

Can you imagine what it was like in those deep midwinter days, thick snow/frost everywhere and having to put on your overcoat and dash down the path to the outside loo. Probably only a candle to give light. At least didn't need to take a book to read, we read the newspaper cuttings hanging by our sides.
Even I can remember having a chamber pot under my bed and using it each night to save going out and freezing half to death. Youngsters today have no idea what a luxurious life they have today compared to their great-grandparents.

The requests for photographs of my various desserts have been noted, and will take the shots during the making and also the completion. These won't be shown until after the event, this being (I think) either the 24th or 25th this month. So probably it will be the day after the pics are published.

B had a lamb shank for his supper, and again I halved the small 'new' potatoes and put them round the meat to cook rather than cook them separately. This really does work well. All I had to do then was cook frozen peas in the microwave for 4 minutes before serving with the spuds and lamb. The lamb is frozen in gravy (and once taken from the vacuum packed cooked from frozen), although as this often dries up during the cooking, I always add a couple of tablespoons of red wine - or water - to the container to keep the meat moist, the steam also helping to cook the spuds). A particularly easy meal to make as it takes virtually no time at all to put the shank into the dish, cover and cook (for 1 hour 15 minutes), cooking the peas hardly counts.

Myself had some peas, the very last of the white cabbage (shredded and steamed) both added to the final small serving of minestrone soup. Extremely satisfying.

Checked the Approved Foods site yesterday and there were one or two items I found very tempting and very, very cheap. However, decided against placing an order this time as probably would not normally have bought the foods then on offer and anyway it is the fresh foods that I need, those still in the larder will keep us going for some weeks if not months.
Even having said that, discovering I had a fair amount of frozen veggies (peas, string beans, Brussels Sprouts, sweetcorn, broccoli...) and still half a basket full of onions and a butternut squash still unused, feel it is only white cabbage, carrots, parsnips and potatoes that need be bought. Maybe another head of celery and some colourful bell peppers, but these shouldn't be too expensive. Certainly no need to put an order on-line and have the big delivery I was planning.

I'd even made a big shopping list out for delivery, and once completed, then felt almost disgusted. Did I really need all that? At the moment I seem to have completely lost all the pleasure previously gained when shopping for food on-line. This 'retail therapy' no longer is working for me. My fun now seems to come from using up what I've got, and only that, and allowing for topping up with milk, eggs, butter... fresh fruit etc, as and when necessary - aiming to spend no more than £10 a week on these in any case, it just might be that it will be many months before I on-line order and Tesco delivers to me again. By then am hoping they will have offered me so much money off my next order 'to return to shopping with them again', and together with money-off vouchers still not used, it might almost be worth it.
So, for the moment, if I keep the shopping list short and fully explained, then B will manage to bring in the very few things needed from Morrison's.

There really is nothing as satisfying as downing a bowl 'chunky' soup on the coldest days of the year (as is happening now). A bit of spice also helps to warm us up, so this next recipe works on both counts. Keep a big chunk of root ginger in the freezer where it can be grated from frozen and returned to the freezer to grate again, many times. Alternatively keep a jar of stem ginger in the larder (or even a jar of crystallised ginger) for chopping and adding to a savoury dish. Ground ginger doesn't work as well, but better than no ginger at all.
Let us hope most of the ingredients for this soup are already in your larder, freezer or veggie basket. Well, they are in mine - which is why this recipe is being given. A mistake perhaps to assume everyone eats the same foods as we Goodes do, but there you go....

Spicy Indian Soup: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp finely grated root ginger (see above)
1 clove garlic, crushed (opt)
1 tblsp garam masala (or curry paste)
1.5 pints (850ml) vegetable stock
2 large carrots, diced
1 x 400g chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 oz (100g) frozen string beans, chopped OR...
... instead use frozen peas, or a mixture
Heat the oil in a saucepan then add the onion and ginger, fry for 3 - 4 minutes then stir in the garam masala and garlic, then fry for a further minute. Stir in the stock and carrots.
Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer (uncovered) for 10 minutes, then add most of the chickpeas. Using a stick blender, whizz the soup down to thicken, then add the remaining chickpeas, the beans and/or peas (if using). Bring back to the simmer and cook for a further three minutes. Serve hot with naan bread or chunks of crusty granary bread.

As chocolate is good 'comfort food', and dark chocolate actually good for us, think you will like this next recipe, especially as it contains no eggs!!!
You can either serve the cake hot as a pudding, using the glaze as a 'sauce', or - as intended - leave the cake to get cold then top with the glaze as an 'icing' before serving.

Eggless Chocolate Cake: serves 10
3 oz (75g) butter, melted
2 tblsp golden syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
11 fl oz (300ml) boiling water
11 oz (300g) self-raising flour
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
1 oz (25g) cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
chocolate glaze:
4 oz (100g) dark chocolate, chopped
3 tblsp water
3 tblsp golden syrup
Put the butter, syrup and vanilla into a heatproof bowl and add the boiling water. Whisk with a fork to combine.
Using another bowl sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa and bicarb., then to this add the liquid mix. Stir together until smooth and lump-free, then - using a spatula - tip/scrape the mixture into a greased and lined 8" (20cm) cake tin.
Bake for 50 - 55 minutes at 170C, 325F, gas 3 until the cake is risen and springy to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the glaze by putting the chocolate into a glass bowl with the water and syrup. Microwave on High for 30 seconds until the chocolate has melted, then mix together until smooth. Alternatively put the chocolate and syrup into a bowl over a pan of simmering water and heat until melted.
Leave to cool then pour over the cake before serving.

Final recipe today is not really a dish for cold mornings, but a way to have an almost instant breakfast without having to cook the 'porridge'. It could also work as a dessert for a packed lunch. Whatever way we choose to eat it, oats are especially good for us as they help lower our cholesterol. Don't just keep porridge oats for hot winter 'brekkies', eat them all year round.
If you wish to eat this dish 'hot', then microwave the soaked oats on High for a couple of minutes, leave to stand then microwave for a further minute before adding the fruits. The fruits can be any soft berries you wish. You could even add chopped canned fruit. Yet another way to serve some of our five-a-day.

Fruits Oats: serves 2
5 fl oz (150ml) milk, any sort
4 oz (100g) porridge oats
2 - 3 no-soak dried apricots, chopped
1 tblsp raspberries
handful blueberries or blackberries etc
1 tsp each sunflower and sesame seeds
1 apple (opt)
yogurt to serve
Put the milk, oats, and apricots in a non-metallic bowl, cover and leave in a cool place to soak overnight. Next day fold in the berries and seeds, grate the apple (if using) and stir this in. Serve with a dollop of yogurt.

Am planning a bit of a 'cook-in' this morning, hoping to use up more of my 'dry goods' (this means cakes, biscuits, pies etc). These should help fill B's endless pit of a stomach. Probably I'll indulge a bit too.

What began as a day with blue skies and high drifts of white clouds is now not sure what it will do. Turning a bit cloudier, although clouds still high. In our neck of the woods we expect temperatures of plus 5C, the rest of the country probably in the minuses. So maybe we will get away with a winter with no snow here in Morecambe. Still, a scoot down to the prom and we can view the snow covering the Lakeland hills just across the bay. Looks so pretty, even at a distance. Not sure what it is like there. Have you had snow CP?

Whatever the weather, enjoy your day as best you can, and hope you can all join me again tomorrow. TTFN.