Sunday, February 12, 2012

Not a Day for Rambling

Exactly one hour before Gill's phone call, so MUST get this written and published before then. No time for my usual 'ramblings' today, so will reply to comments then straight on to 'trade secrets'.

It was when I stopped buying potatoes in the '70's, as the price rocketed, probably due to crop failure or more likely lorry drivers strike (maybe both), and so began using rice and pasta instead as a 'savoury' (unusual in those days), that I realised how bland was the flavour of potatoes. We'd just been used to eating them as our 'staple' food, serving them with every meal.

Once the price came back down, have never since served plain boiled spuds, unless the baby 'new' ones, but these always in their skins. So Alison, if you have gone off potatoes, try again following one or other of the following suggestions.
Jacket spuds taste better than boiled, but some varieties are better than others. Roast potatoes, chips and mashed are also 'tasty'.
The best flavoured 'mash' is to cook the potatoes in their skins in the microwave, then when cooked slice in half and scoop out all (or most) of the flesh. The skins can be saved/frozen, then sprayed with oil and crisped up in the oven as 'dippers', or filled back with flavoured 'mash'.
Using 'jacket's' for mash means you avoid lumps. The flesh mashes beautifully.
When mashing potato I always add a lump of butter and a little cream (opt), then season well with (a little) salt and plenty of pepper. Then probably add grated cheese or a spoon of made mustard. Chopped herbs too can be added. Or maybe some crispy fried onions or crushed crispy bacon.

Potatoes are good for us (if you ignore the butter and cream) and if we also eat the skins we get all the vitamins and fibre. As this means they are also very 'filling' (aka satisfying), they do make a cheap meal in their own right, even with the additional ingredients/toppings.

Read the other day Campfire that Woman's Weekly is still being published. Why don't you write to them about the article they published many years back (giving the approx date) about food prices and ask them if they'd consider publishing another showing today's prices (and comparisons). Magazines like readers to make suggestions, sometimes the editors get a mental block when it comes to features.
The £24 to feed four for a week I believe was in the Family Circle, this published in the '80's I think. I did have a copy, I also have a copy of my four books, but they all seem to have disappeared, so can't refer to them. Think they may have been lent to someone, but whenever I do that, hardly ever are the 'lends' returned, and I really should write down who I lend to and what or there is no way of requesting them back. Not that I really need 'wot I wrote'. Life moves on, food habits change, prices rise, butter is good for us again... always another day to start chatting about something new when it comes to food.

Think another name for French Fries is 'String chips' (or something like). Thought these might also be called 'game chips', but at the back of my mind believe these are thinly sliced and fried potato that end up looking like potato crisps. Beloved likes thin oven chips (not as thin as 'fries') and fairly well browned - a bit too 'crispy' for me. Myself prefer the more chunky chips, but none are as good as the home-made fried in dripping. Not that I deep-fry anything any more (or very rarely).

Good to hear from you Eileen and pleased your foot is improving. You definitely deserve a treat so 'good on yer' for having a Chinese take-away delivered. We have some good C.T'aways in Morecambe. Because the one close to where we live was shut the other week, B went to the Honey Tree and as well as buying the same meal he would have bought from the other place, it was still the same price, but added to that he also given a free bag of gorgeous huge prawn crackers, a free (big) orange and a couple of fortune cookies. So whether it was because we were a new 'take-away' customer (although fairly regular as 'diners' there), or they give these 'freebies' anyway, think from now on we will buy our take-away from the Honey Tree.

Quite a lot in the trade mag this week worth a mention, so will give some today and the rest tomorrow.
The first article that caught my eye was about muesli. Seems that "raw material prices are edging perilously close to a record high".
Many readers of this blog probably make up their own muesli (as I do) but reading that the price of muesli ingredients have gone up by 56% over the past few years worries me a bit. Some light at the end of the tunnel when I read that it is the whey powder (up by 35.7%), hazelnuts (up by 32.6%), and almond (up by 38.6%) that helps me for these could be omitted from home-made muesli and something similar but cheaper put in their place.
The good news is that wheat, skimmed milk powder and raisins have become cheaper, although unfortunately oats (the very base of muesli) being in 'increased demand' have risen by 4.2% year on year - and expected to continue.

Wholesale prices are not normally my concern, but if they go up then eventually the point of sale price will rise, so perhaps worth knowing that bad weather and poor harvest have sent peanut prices skyward, up 85% y-o-y and expected to stay high until the next round of harvesting in the second half of this year.
There are shortfalls in pepper productions with black pepper up by50.9% y-o-y, also expected to stay high as demands exceeds supply.
The only reductions on the short list given are cashew nuts, desiccated coconut, honey, and dried apricots. Well, as these can be used when making muesli we now know what to avoid and what to use to keep our own 'manufacturing costs' down.

An article containing 'store-speak' that made me smile. "In times like these, consumers often swap healthy choices for food that's better for their wallets. But are they actually looking for familiar, comforting choices within food-to-go (FTG) - or the (cheaper) uninspiring sandwiches, all that's available on a shoestring?"
We are then told that Waitrose launched its 'lettuce wrap - costing £3.50" last year, even amid economic turmoil. The article says "consumers mostly shop for FTG on auto-pilot and with an average budget of less than £3. But it's a common misconception that cash-strapped consumers always take the safe option. We believe they want to be inspired, regardless of budget."
I don't think so. Inspired possibly, but always within our budget, not regardless. Anyway who wants to pay over £3 for a lettuce 'wrap'? We can make our own wonderful packed lunches for half (or even a quarter) of that. So hope we all do.

Time left for only one more from the mag. This to do with Booth's (the North West family owned chain). They have instructed their buyers to find forgotten foods so we can get them back onto our plates. So we may well be seeing such delights as Lyth Valley damsons, Formby asparagus, double curd Lancashire cheese, and true York ham in their stores in the future.
As they say "slowly but surely, one product at a time, marvellous foods that are part of our food culture are being revived. If we don't eat them and celebrated them, we'll lose them".
Just let us hope we can still afford them.

Sorry this is a shorter blog, but - as ever - got up late due to my wish to continue dreaming. Better publish now so you have something to read this morning. In any case need some of the morning left for my own culinary activities.

Was amazed to see photos in the paper of how Britain is almost halted by the snow. We still haven't had any. Black ice being the worst and this for only one day (Eileen fell foul to it).
Staying indoors, other than feeling cold when the c.h. isn't on, one day is much like the other.
At least most of us can stay indoors today as it is the weekend (unless of course going to church, and not a lot of people do that these days it seems with congregations of only a handful in some places). Wherever you are, whatever you do, make sure you enjoy it. TTFN.