Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Always Something New To Learn.

Spent most of yesterday with my head stuck in an Indian cook-book. Didn't even realise it has been raining all day - just goes to show how engrossed I can be when it comes to food. Have now sorted out what curries I will offer to the social club (as well as all the 'sides'), so will type that out today and see if they approve. The total price per head certainly won't be more than £1.50, but the number I need to cook for depends much upon weather conditions as if there is a howling gale (or even heavy snow - and with our weather this is just as probably as very sunny weather), this could put paid to the Open Day of sailing. But am sure the local members will still have their curry meal. As long as I know by three days before the meal ( the long-term forecast giving the next few days weather conditions) all should be find.

Got so excited about it all yesterday, by the end of the evening almost felt as though I was going to have a panic attack. Took me ages to fall asleep once in bed, but this morning - now I know all that remains is to buy the necessary and then throw it all together, from now on it should be plain sailing (and no pun intended despite the venue).

Noticed the Lidl pans that B will be giving me will not be on sale until April 16th, so hope they will have them, I feel 'safer' when everything I need is under my roof in good time to allow for time to finding alternatives. Doubt there will be a rush on the large size pans, even those are a bit too big for bulk cooking family meals. Maybe B could go in this week and order them in advance.
Even so, still have plenty of large metal bowls that could be used to hold the hot curries, so as the saying goes 'any port in a storm' (heck! Looks like my posting from now until after the event will be littered with nautical sayings - so be warned!).

Close reading of the above mentioned cook-book added more to my 'culinary knowledge'. You know how we are all advised to cut as much salt out of our diet as possible (due to it causing a rise in blood pressure), was delighted to read (in the chapter on salt) the book said "rock salt (and this does mean 'rock' not 'sea salt') does not increase the sodium content of blood unlike ordinary salt, it is highly recommended for patients with high blood pressure or those on a low-salt diet. It is also a sure cure for flatulence and heartburn."

Have to say I'd never heard this before, believing all salt to be 'bad for us'. Yet on the rare occasions I add salt I've always used rock (or sea) salt as only a VERY few crystals are needed to give the salty flavour often essential with some foods (such as eggs), far less of this coarse salt being used than the normal table salt. This doesn't seem to affect my personal blood pressure, but then maybe I've been lucky. Anyone on a salt-restricted diet should ask their doc (or practice nurse etc), if there is real truth in the above. I can't believe this info is printed in the book if it is not true, and if it is then this is good news.

When I reached the pages covering the various types of rice (and I didn't realise how many different types of rice there were used in Indian cookery - or for that matter, different flours...) discovered another useful 'tip'. This was only mentioned on the Basmati page, so whether this is the same with all types of rice I don't know, but certainly the Basmati where it says:..."Kanji is the liquid left after boiling rice and is high-energy nourishment given to patients recovering from influenza, colds and coughs. Rice cooked with a few mung beans is the best food for people with sluggish digestion."
(Also discovered that my spelling of that onion fritter was incorrect in a previous blog - it should have been 'bhaji NOt bajhi'. Apologies for this - so why didn't 'spellcheck' tell me?).

I once shared half a day with a well known Indian chef - we took turns to give demonstrations. In our 'rest period' we chatted about Indian food and he told me that rice (esp Basmati) is best when several years old - too new and it is too 'sticky' when cooked. He chooses the rice for his restaurants by going to the wholesalers, taking a handful of rice from a sack and holding it tightly in his fist for 15 minutes. If - after that time - the grains still run free then the rice is old enough to use. If the grains stick together, then the rice is too 'young'.

The Indian cook-book confirms this by saying "...good Basmati is left to mature in controlled conditions for up to 10 years. Old rice cooks better and remains fluffy, whereas new rice becomes sticky when cooked. The only way to know whether rice is old is to ask, but most brands of packaged rice are suitable". My friendly Indian chef told me that he recommends Tilda rice as the best brand to buy.

As ever, thanks for your comments. As Les mentioned, the now reduced-down cola does taste rather salty, but much of this can be removed if I dilute it back to the full amount and then add a potato to the water and boil for a few minutes (the potato absorbs much of the salt), then remove, strain and cool before popping in the next gammon. Should at least be able to use the cola three times before it becomes too salty (of course if rock salt had been used in curing, then I wouldn't need to be so concerned).

Your mention of seeking a 'tortilla press' Les, reminded me that this is one 'gadget' that I myself would like to own. If you know who sells them (at a price I can afford) let me know. Am surprised that Lakeland don't sell them.

Your mention of the high cost of lamb in the US Lisa makes me wonder, especially if you have local sheep farms. What do they do with their meat?
Perhaps you are thinking that it is the small lambs that are butchered and sold as 'lamb'. Most 'lamb' sold here is almost always teenage if not adult, and as long as it is no older than one year it can be called 'lamb'. Up to two years of age it is called 'hogget' (or is it hoggit?). In its third year it then becomes 'mutton'.

In this country, if living in a fairly rural area, it is not unknown for people to buy a very cheap live lamb (perhaps one its mother didn't want), rear it on a bottle, then let it graze their orchard (or small paddock - initially to save mowing the grass). The idea then is have it sheared every year and sell the fleece (or spin it to knit up), and sooner or later (if you can face the slaughter of a now 'family pet') it is usually taken to the abattoir and to give the owner then a year's supply of lamb, jointed up, to put in the freezer (very, VERY much cheaper than butcher's lamb of course), so who knows - we may find keeping sheep/rabbits/goats/a pig/chickens... is something some of us start doing again to supplement our 'meat' diet - as did our forebears in the not so distant Second World War.

Think this curry cook-in will see the start of a busier than normal cookery year for me as have also been asked to 'make things' (cakes, preserves, biscuits etc) for various charity sales and Jubilee celebrations. So my cup of happiness is fast filling up.

Gratified that you are still using the barbecue sauce of mine from The Goode Kitchen Alison. Not sure where the copies are of my books (only had one of each and all falling to bits, not from constant use, but the cheaper paper/bindings they had to use because I insisted the price charged for all books was kept low. Maybe a mistake?).

Quite a few recipes can stand the use of strong plain flour instead of the normal (lighter) plain 'cake' flour Jane. Extra strong flour - the "00" - is always recommended to use when making fresh pasta from scratch, although have to say I've made pasta successfully using 'ordinary' plain flour.
The two remaining Yorkshire Puddings (B could only eat two with his roast beef) stayed on the kitchen table over-night, and remained crisp. I suggested (after he'd eaten his supper last night) he tried heating the Yorkies before eating with golden syrup (like his mother used to serve for a 'pudding') and he said he'd already done that. Heated them up in the microwave and said they warmed up but were still nice and crisp. Will have to try this myself as the 'easy-mix' does make good Y.Puds, and I could make smaller ones (like 'Aunt Bessie's - and the same amount of batter based on the one egg should make at least 9 small ones) and try freezing these to re-heat later. All I need is more freezer space. Should have bought a big chest freezer instead of the four-drawer smaller one a couple of years ago. Mind you, SURELY the freezer side of 'Boris' (our big American-style, wardrobe size a fridge-freezer) plus the newer waist-high four-drawer freezer should be large enough to hold enough food for just the two of us? Of course - but then I have this compulsion to store food for that rainy day that will inevitably come. Until then have to 'pretend' it has, use up what I've got, then start building up stocks again.

Maybe like alcoholics, gamblers, 'druggies', I've got a problem. Is there such an organization called 'Supermarket-Shopper's Anonymous' that can save me from my addiction? But then do I want to be saved? At the moment No! Self-control is what I really need, and I'm getting there slowly.
(Mind you, having this 'curry meal' means I will need to order some ingredients for this, and if I get these from Tesco can claim the £5 off voucher from my next order - if this is over £40 which it can be - the club are paying anyway!!).

Thanks also to Eileen for her comment. Liked the idea of having seed potatoes instead of a choccy Easter egg.
Will really have to do more with my own garden this year. As I was sitting in my chair yesterday, lifted my head from the Indian cook-book to rest my eyes for a mo, and noticed a passerby looking back at our garden as she walked along the pavement. Wondered what had caught her eye so went to the window to look out and it was probably the bed full of daffodils in the centre of the small lawn there. Not only that there were two big bushes of yellow forsythia in bloom, a big bush of 'flowering currant' (is that the name?), and several more shrubs in bloom (in colours of pink, yellow, lilac etc. (names not known or forgotten). The garden must look pretty from the pavement, but I never see it at all because the window is too high to anything but the taller shrubs in the border against our front wall. Soon the front (and much of the back garden) will be full of bluebells, so really MUST find somewhere to sit and enjoy the pleasure of it all.

Am hoping all the rain we had yesterday carried on over all the UK (especially as it continued toll rain fairly heavily throughout the night). This might help towards some of the drought in the other parts of the country, although not enough to be of much help topping up the reservoirs. Very dry ground soaks up the first 'watering', and continues to do so until saturated before any then drains off into rivers etc. So possibly months of steady rain before a hose-pipe ban is lifted. Not that many would need to use hose-pipes in the garden once it does start to rain. We just have to remember that one or two (or more) night's rainfall does not mean we can then go back to taking a shower twice a day.
At least, here in the northwest we do not have this problem (almost wish we did). It would be nice to have several months without having rain. We have been lucky recently, but now back to the usual rain one day, sunny the next. It's not that bad as it seems usual in Morecambe for rain to fall at night and/or during the morning, and then the sun shines and we have an afternoon of glorious weather. By then our household chores should be done and we get the chance to go out and sit out and soak up the Vit.D we all need.

This morning began with the rainclouds disappearing and then blue sky, but now more clouds keep popping up. These are white fluffy 'cottonwool balls' in appearance, and don't think this means rain. It's quite windy, so think I'll remain indoors today.

Not sure what to get for B's supper today. Something 'meaty' I expect as made him Prawn Cocktail for his meal yesterday as had a couple of ripe avocados that needed using up (and now have their stones to plant - more saving!).
As B likes his meals to be larger than anyone else, needed to 'pad out' his Prawn Cocktail and also give it a bit of 'oomph' (it can be a bit bland).
What I did was line a good-sized 'individual' serving bowl with crisp iceberg lettuce leaves, and then fill this up to and overflowing with various things....such as shredded lettuce, diced yellow red and yellow bell peppers, two or three finely diced red Peppadew (these give a nice 'kick' to the dish), plenty of cooked and shelled prawns (this time large 'tigers', so most were chopped and mixed with Marie-Rose sauce, a few 'biggies' left to hang over the rim of the dish as decoration). The avocado was scooped out of its shell and drizzled with lemon juice, then the lot layered over the salad leaves, finishing with a sprinkle of the diced peppers and a few 'flakes' of avocado, with a drizzle of the last M.R. sauce, and finally garnished with the big prawns (hanging round the sides).
The Marie-Rose sauce I make myself, very simply this is just equal amounts of Heinz tomato ketchup and Heinz salad cream (or I sometimes use Hellman's mayo), with a few drops of Tabasco and a shake of black pepper. Then I taste and if necessary add more salad cream/mayo (or even double cream) according to the strength of flavour or colour I wish for (I don't like it TOO dark).

Decided yesterday to treat myself (having thawed out a whole pack of prawns anyway and had a second avocado), so made myself the same meal, with more salad and less prawns, but this time just mixed up together, higgledy piggledy in one bowl, but it looked just as good, and was (I have to day) very tasty. B said he liked his, and did I hear a 'thank you' as well? If so - this is the first 'thanks' that I've ever heard come from his mouth (and not just to me), he is forever going on about how children today never say 'please and thank you', as we were all taught to say in 'our day'. Yet, for some reason he (now) never does. I always say 'thanks' to B when he brings me my coffee, he says I don't need to thank him, but can't help it, it is an automatic (almost 'programmed' I suppose) response.

Good manners were always drilled into me as a child. Even to this day I find myself (again automatically) apologising to a hedge when I've tripped over and fallen onto it. Or a telegraph pole when I've walked into it my mistake (my mind and eyes elsewhere). Done this many times.
Not sure if it gives any comfort, but still say 'sorry' when I've trodden on a slug or snail by accident, although tend to ignore the occasional ant - and I do swat flies without showing any sign of sorrow at all.

A recent comment (was this from Lisa?) hoping for suggestions for using split peas. Have discovered a spicy dish normally made with lamb but equally as good using chicken - as shown in the following recipe. Red lentils could be substituted for the split peas, but as the peas are cheaper, then why use anything more expensive?
If you have no fresh tomatoes (these too can be expensive) use canned chopped tomatoes.
Chicken Koresh: serves 4
2 oz (50g) split peas
3 tblsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 lb (450g) boneless chicken thighs
17 fl oz (500ml) chicken stock
1 tsp ground turmeric
half tsp ground cinnamon
grating fresh nutmeg
2 aubergines (US 'eggplants') roughly diced
8 - 10 ripe tomatoes, diced
1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tblsp dried mint
salt and pepper
fresh mint leaves for garnish
boiled rice for serving.
Put the split peas in a bowl and add cold water to cover by at least an inch. Leave to soak for at least 4 hours, then drain well.
Heat a little of the oil in a pan, add two-thirds of the onions and fry for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the chicken and fry until golden on all sides, then add the drained peas, the stock, and the three spices. Cook over low-medium heat for 40 minutes until the split peas are tender.
About 15 minutes before the above is cooked, heat the remaining oil in another pan, add the aubergines and remaining onions and cook until lightly browned, then stir in the tomatoes, garlic and mint with seasoning to taste and heat through.
When ready to serve, stir the aubergine mixture into the chicken and chickpea 'stew'. Garnish with fresh mint leaves and serve with boiled rice.

Almost certainly it will be cheaper to make mango chutney rather than buying it ready-made in bottles, and having discovered a recipe for this just about have time (if I do it tomorrow) to make for the 'curry meal' as quite an amount of chutney needs to be served (any left over can be stored anyway).
Mango Chutney:
2 lb (900g) mangoes, halved, peeled and stoned
half tsp salt (pref rock salt)
half pint (300ml) distilled (white) malt vinegar
7 oz (200g) demerara sugar
9 oz (250g) cooking apples, peeled and cored
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp ground ginger
Slice the mango into chunks and place in a non-metallic bowl with the salt and set aside.
Put the vinegar and sugar into a preserving pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Meanwhile roughly chop the apple flesh.
When the vinegar is ready, add the apples, mangoes, onion, garlic and ginger, bring slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for about an hour, stirring frequently towards the end of the time to prevent it sticking to the bottom of the pan. When reduced to a thick consistency and no excess liquid remains, spoon into hot, sterilized jars, cover and seal.
Store in a cool, dark place and allow to mature for at least two weeks before eating.
Use within one year of making, and once opened store in the fridge and use within 3 months.

Heavens! Is that the time? This means no more 'chat' as have to get on with preparing something for supper. Tomorrow is Norma day, so it will probably be after 10.00m before I start my blog, unless of course I get up early. Either way I will be back and hope to 'meet up' with you then. TTFN.