Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Week Moves On...

Yesterday Beloved fancied fish and chips (from the 'chippie') for his supper, so in a way this saved me having to cook for him, but I also had a portion then wished I hadn't for am finding this (bought) meal now far too greasy for my digestion. also the chips were soggy (as usual) which is strange as the fish batter does stay very crisp (only now the fish is not the huge chunky fillets of cod or haddock but a much thinner fillet of 'flaky' fish that I don't really care for).
Oh for those days when chips were fried in beef dripping that stayed wonderful crunchy when brought home wrapped in newspaper. Today the polystyrene packaging 'steams' the chips and they are just not the same any more. So today I have a 'digestive hangover', and think my meals will be nothing but salad for the next few days.

As B was watching footie last night I came in here and jotted down the comments, but can't now remember whether Bets is a new 'reader' or not, but if so very welcome. Like me, Bets seems to have 'creative urges', so perhaps this is common to all who like to make things. I do remember (when young) starting to embroider things like tablecloths and tray cloths that had the same pattern at each corner, but after doing one corner got bored and then began to do another, ending up with a pile of partly stitched table linen. My mother used to get so cross with me when I did this. Sewing and knitting I enjoyed doing, but not always the same things, so this is perhaps why painting picture and particularly cooking (this also being a 'creative art') I find more enjoyable.

A big thank you to Lisa for giving such a wide variety of Mexican dishes that Les could make for his hot/cold buffet. My own thoughts had not gone further than chilli con carne (not true Mexican, more Tex-Mex), quesidillas, enchiladas/burritos/fajitas, and guacamole. Possibly chicken mole (chicken cooked with chocolate - or is that a South American dish?).

Not sure about the Mexican Fried Ice Cream, but do remember serving a similar 'pud' to our children. At one time we could buy big oblong blocks of ice-cream to keep in the freezer, this more solid than the 'soft-scoop' so often sold today. A home-made ice-cream frozen in a shallow tray would be even better for this goes very hard, and for this dish, the harder the better.
A square of this ice-cream would be wrapped in a ready-made pancake to make a 'parcel' (ice-cream in the centre of the pancake, bottom folded up, sides to middle then folded over until fully wrapped) this immediately put onto a slotted spoon (folded side of the pancake face down) and placed in a deep fat fryer and cooked for a few seconds until the pancake was hot and crisp. It was then served and another then cooked in the same way. Possibly more could be fried at any one time when placed face-down on the mesh basket that comes with some deep-fat fryers (or in a large frying pan with deep enough oil to just about cover, turning once). The pancake gives the ice-cream enough 'insulation' whilst it is being fried, this makes it fun to eat as the outside is crisp and hot while the 'filling' has stayed cold and still frozen enough to stay solid.

Certainly agree with what you say Marjorie, only the very best beef - well reared and well hung - is the most tender (compared to beef of lesser quality), although much depends upon the cut as to how long they need to be cooked to be tender. Quality fillet steak is so tender it can be minced and eaten raw. Ox-tail, shin beef etc, needs much longer cooking time or we could be chewing on it for ever.
We have always been advised - when carving a cooked joint of beef (of whatever quality) - to always carve across the grain as this makes the slices more 'tender' (and easier to eat). Have myself (mistakenly) cut half of a piece of fillet steak into strips (for a strogonoff) in the wrong direction and it was much 'chewier' than the remaining piece that I cut correctly across the grain (I kept them separate to see if there was a difference, and there certainly was).
But as I always say - we should save when we can and use this money to buy the best quality meat we can then afford, for poor quality meat has nothing going for it other than possibly protein content. Myself relish the flavour that quality meat has, and because of this less can be used especially in casseroles where none of this taste is lost. So in a way no more expensive than using more of the cheaper stuff.

At the moment most of my spare time is spent trying to finalise the 'arrangement' of my new website, if my hair wasn't already white I'd be discovering new grey hairs every day. Why is it I can write this blog so freely, yet get 'writer's cramp with a vengeance when it comes to writing the introduction to the new site? Am sure I'll get it right soon. At least I've now discovered how to send photos to the 'website team', this means I can now keep cooking new dishes and taking new photos. Some of these you'll have to go to the new site to see, but many you've already seen in the past. This new site is just a collection of recipes that are the easiest and speediest ever to make. Also most being exceedingly inexpensive. More later, once it is there to be seen by all.

One or two more recipes today - again using store-cupboard ingredients. The first turns cornflakes into a crunchy topping that can be served with ice-cream or as with stewed fruits (or both). Instead of melting the butter/honey in the microwave, this can be done in a large saucepan on the hob (or in the oven as it is heating up).
Honey-Nut Crunch: serves 4 as a 'topping'
knob of butter
2 tblsp runny honey
2 oz (50g) cornflakes
1 oz (25g) flaked toasted almonds
Put the butter and honey into a large bowl and microwave for 30 seconds or until melted together. Add the cornflakes and almonds and toss well together.
Spread onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for about 5 minutes or until the cornflakes turn a rich golden colour, then remove and leave to cool (during this time the cornflakes will crisp up again). Best serve freshly made and still warm with ice-cream etc.

Next recipe is for a 'pudding' meant to be eaten warm (served with cream or ice-cream), but just as good cut into wedges and served like 'cake' with a cup of tea. In a way it's a cross between a treacle tart and an almond macaroon (not sure why as it doesn't use either of these ingredients).
Coconut Flan: serves 8
1 tsp cinnamon
6 oz (175g) desiccated coconut
8 oz (225g) caster sugar
5 fl oz (150ml) water
1 x 500 block sweet short-crust pastry
1 egg, beaten
1 oz (25g) butter, melted
Put the cinnamon, coconut, sugar and water into a pan over low heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often to help dissolve the sugar, then set aside to cool.
Roll out the pastry to a size large enough to line a 9" (23cm) flan tin with a little overlapping the rim (this prevents the pastry shrinking below the rim as it cooks). Line with paper and beans and bake 'blind' for 15 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6. Then remove beans and paper, and return to oven to bake for a further 5 minutes. Then carefully trim away the overlapping pastry by sliding a knife carefully round the rim.
Beat the egg and melted butter into the cooled coconut mixture, then spoon this into the pastry case and level the surface. Bake for 25 minutes or until the coconut is pale gold. Serve warm as a pud or cold for teatime.

EasyYo now make a coconut flavoured yogurt that we can make at home, so that could be used instead of making this from scratch. If you don't have EasyYo equipment, you will find this dessert has almost the same flavour. Ideally top with 'tropical fruits' (these can be bought in cans, or you can use kiwi, pineapple, banana, grapes, and orange segments - or any combination).
Coconut 'Cream': serves 4
1 x 50g sachet coconut cream
2 fl oz (50ml) boiling water
1 x 500g tub Greek yogurt
3 oz (75g) icing sugar, sifted
'tropical fruits' of your choice (see above)
Dissolve the coconut cream in the boiling water, then leave to cool. Put the yogurt into a mixing bowl with the sugar then fold together. Slowly add the coconut liquid and mix until combined. Spoon into individual dessert bowls (pref glass ones) and place in the fridge to chill until ready to serve.
Cut the chosen fruit into even sized chunks and spoon on top of the Coconut 'Creams' when ready to serve.

The weather here has turned from good to bad. Yesterday it was blowing half a gale, and with the wind from the east, bitterly cold it felt. We had to put the heating on again during the day. Seems as though the drought areas have had good rainfall, but apparently not enough to do much good. From what was said on the news, we have to wait until next winter to see if that brings enough rain (and snow) to bring things back to normal. If we have another dry winter (like this last one) then the hosepipe ban (and maybe worse) will continue.
How odd it is for the British Isles to be surrounded by so much water (aka sea), and none of it we seem to be able to pipe across the country to use for domestic purposes (like flushing loos etc). Or even remove the salts etc (as done in so many desert areas of this globe) to make it able to be drunk by animals (or humans) and used for watering crops etc. Probably because in the past we had so much rain (and often too much) that we never needed to even think this far ahead.

Nature has a way of balancing itself out, so what's the betting we will be having a very wet autumn and winter and that will then cause us to complaining about our wet weather again instead of being grateful we then take showers every day instead of every other day (or once a week!).

It seems that every day now there is something on the radio/TV or in the newspapers about yet another 'rule' that deprives us of the pleasures we used to have in the past. Seems now we cannot do anything because 'someone' at 'elf and safety say we shouldn't. Food hygiene is now so strict (in some instance rightly so) that we can no longer sell quality home-made produce (unless for charity, and not always then). Many small manufacturers have had to close down after generations of providing some of the best food out there, purely because the EU (or whoever) have said they need new equipment to conform to their regulations.

We hear about people being left to drown because the 'rules' say that only specially trained people can venture into water that is deeper than ankle height. So it is left for the untrained 'public' to wade in and do the rescue while the police and firemen et al have to stand at the water's edge and watch.
Window cleaners now are not allowed to climb ladders to reach upper windows, so now we see them vainly trying to clean windows (and not very successfully) using a scraper at the top of a very, very long pole. Not so difficult on two storey houses, but what about the taller ones?

It has to be said that many people still break rules. From this very window I can see several men climbing up a roof replacing tiles and none of them wearing a safely helmet, or any sort of harness. There is scaffolding, but easy enough for one to slip down and slide between the horizontal bars of the scaffolding and fall to the ground.

As B so often says to me 'who makes these rules, and who is the one who signs the paper to set them in motion'?. It has got to the point when it really seems that some quango is sitting there saying "what else can we stop people doing?" Time now for a lot of these 'rules' to be abolished and let us get back to enjoying our lives in full as we used to be 'allowed' to do. The only way we can learn to keep out of trouble is to find out the hard way. Far better for a child to have fun knocking conkers from a tree (now not allowed in case one falls on someones head), and play the conker's game (without wearing a safety helmet and goggles) as WE used to do.

One of my early memories is a wartime rule where we were told (forbidden if you like) never to scuffle through piles of dried leaves in the autumn (as most children - and adults - loved to do). This because of the threat of hidden explosives that a dreaded German spy might have placed there. So I went through most of my childhood years never enjoying this 'scuffle'. I was much older before I 'dare' do this again, and have to say thoroughly enjoyed kicking up the leaves with my feet. Suppose now it is 'illegal' again as we would be accused of 'littering' the streets with leaves.
Yes, litter! We read of some poor woman who was arrested for littering because her child threw a crust from the pram (rapidly picked up by a pigeon before she could pick it up), yet a couple of police admit to avoiding confronting a group of yobbos who were throwing numerous empty cans and part empty cartons of take-away food on the pavement "because there were more of them than of us".
Just wish the government, the EU (or whoever) and the rest of the quangos would leave us alone to get along with our lives in whatever way we wish, and if we have to pay for the consequences of stupid behaviour, then so be it. I want the old ways to find enjoyment put back in our lives.

It's surprising how - all of a sudden - we are now being encouraged to begin home-cooking again, when you consider all the dangers that are in our kitchens. Super sharp knives that we can cut ourselves with, the danger of boiling water and steam scalding us, naked flames on a gas hob, oil left to heat up that would then burst into flames (and burn the house down). Not to mention hot drop-down oven doors that can burn arms when touched (and how often this happens to me, my oven being too highly placed and I have to reach up and over the door to pull out heavy pots). We have also to consider the foods not stored correctly and that might be eaten when 'gone off' and cause us some gastric problems (even poisoning).

Seems that whatever we do within the confines of our own homes (and garden) then perhaps no-one really cares, but once we step out onto the street we then fall prey to all the many rules and regs that stupid people have thought up, and it has to be said that quite a few of these cause more problems than they try to prevent.

Looks like today is one of my 'moaning days', but am sure you all agree that this country is not what it used to be, and going downhill fast. All I can say is thank goodness I am old enough to remember those 'good old days, and good old ways', and not have a long future ahead of me living in this 'Big Brother' society that we now have. And yet, firmly believing in reincarnation (or one sort or another), then maybe I will have to live (again) in a future I'd rather not think about. The only thing we can do is try and make it better while we are alive now. Any suggestions?

With that thought will love you and leave you for yet another day. I cannot believe that this time last week I was so busy. Time moves fast the older we get. So make the most of what you have. Hope you will all join me again tomorrow - see you then.