Monday, April 23, 2012

What's Next?

Took a load of photos, none of which are particularly interesting other than being examples of 'how to make the most of'...! Due to the fact I'd had a long day on Saturday (started cooking at 5.00am non-stop right through until, then an hour for packing into the boxes/car, then off to the venue, when there made sure the hotplates were on, food laid out, samosas/bhajis put in the oven to heat up, then the naan bread,) just took one pic at the venue - this below showing the 'extras' to go on the plates of rice (or naan) and curry served from the hatch. Then was able to have my first proper relaxing sit of the day.

More detailed pictures follow, but the display below shows some of the samosas on a hot plate at the left, a salad at the middle back with another hotplate with more samosas and spiced doughnuts, in front of these a bowl of lentil dhal on a hotplate, at the side a basket of poppadums, then you see a bowl of raita, in front of that a bowl of mango chutney, and finally - on the right the onion bhajis on another hotplate. It doesn't look a lot, but there was more in the kitchen to refill as necessary, and considering the diners would already have plenty of curry/rice on their plates not a lot of room left for much else (although this didn't stop them piling their plates sky high I noticed!)

The next pic shows a closer view of some of the onion bhajis, which stayed quite crisp even when cold, and would have eaten well like that, but decided to heat them up again in the oven, uncovered.Next pic. shows some of the samosas that were made with the very thinly rolled out puff pastry that I used as I'd run out of filo. I tried frying one but it didn't really work, so baked the rest in the oven, and I ate a small 'taster' and much preferred the puff pastry coating to the filo (which itself it good anyway). But to make them like this the pastry does need to be rolled out as thin as possible, and then have another go at rolling it even thinner! They reheated well.Below you can see the other samosas make using the filo. Also the little spicy 'doughnuts'. The latter should have been larger (the pack said it made 18), but I made the dough balls small and stuck the end of a wooden spoon through the centre to make the hole, and made about 30 of these. They were good dipped into a spoon of Raita.

I didn't take any photos of the sweets, they'd already been packed in 10 boxes to be given out to each table after the main meal. You've already seen the photos of some previously made, the remaining sweets were made later, these being stuffed dates, no-soak apricots dipped in melted chocolate (this then set), some lemon Turkish delight I had that I cut diagonally across (dipping the cut side into icing sugar), and to save me cooking had bought a cheap pack of own-brand Fig rolls, and cut each of the across into three 'slices'. Put two of everything into each paper-lined box and they looked very good. Despite them being very sweet, it seemed everyone ate most of them (gave the 'left-overs' to Eileen to take home).

This next lot of photos might be boring, but to me essential to show savings that can be made. The first pic being a plate of cauliflower. Not the florets (we all know what they look like) but the inner ribs from those outer leaves that are around the 'head' when we buy them (from the supermarket). I cut away the green bits, then cut the ribs into chunks. Also cut some chunks from the main core. All this from one large cauliflower. Experience has shown me that these pieces of cauli (that most people throw away) have loads of flavour and cook down to tender and as far as I was concerned these 'bulked up' the veggie curry nicely.
The vegetable curry was made from chunks of new potatoes (being waxy these don't collapse when cooking a length of time), sweet potatoes, courgettes, red bell peppers, cauliflower (florets and 'chunks'), onions (of course), and also added cooked chickpeas. Decided not to use the butternut squash as there was plenty made. Added crumbled Paneer cheese when reheating, plus green string beans.
Behind the plate of 'cauli-chunks' you can see a bowl of chunks of chicken cut from the thighs once skinned and bones.

We now see some of the chicken thighs before being boned and skinned. It took me some time to bone them once the skin was removed, also had to trim off excess fat. These were bought in (3)packs of eight, and although was intending to chuck away skins/bones, decided to put these into a pan with the tops and tails of the carrots and the tops and tails and outer layer of onions, plus a celery stump I had in the fridge, and with a couple of bay leaves and covered with water simmered this for an hour to discover it made a great and 'free' chicken stock that set to a firm jelly. It just shows that just chicken bones from the joints are worth saving (who needs a whole carcase?). The stock had a good layer of chicken fat on top once cooled (this from the fat in the skins) that again is very useful as it can be used for frying or when making pastry for a chicken pie. Onions were needed in plenty and I was lucky in this past week being able to get two bags of cooking onions for £2 (total). You can see the amount of onions from just one bag (didn't need to use the second, there was enough for the curries AND bhajis). The two red onions I added to the big tray as these would be needed for the salad.
Have to say it took me some time to peel all the onions and then cut in half and finely slice. Don't know why I didn't used the food processor to slice them, but did it all by hand. In some ways this sitting down to prepare veg myself find very therapeutic. Having said that, the amount of prep involved to get everything ready took HOURS (over a week), the actual assembly took very few minutes.Made about 40 naan bread (forget to take a photo of these) and these were very good, only the 'servers' at the venue forgot to keep them covered after removing from the oven (where I'd put them between layers of wet greaseproof to keep them soft) so they dried out. Even though not my fault I was a bit annoyed about that. However, only found about five left in the kitchen at the end of the evening, so they'd probably dried out more by then.

Have to say the mango chutney was (although I say it myself) absolutely gorgeous. When made (in my slow-cooker) it did taste a bit 'vinegary', but OK. The recipe used said 'store for at least a week before using' and as I'd made it early the previous Saturday, it was a few hours over the week and when I spooned it into the dish had a taste and there was no vinegar flavour left at all. It was just absolutely wonderful. Was surprised to see it all went, so will now be making more for our own use.

The salad was really quite good. I'd finely shredded, then diced an iceberg lettuce, to this was added two seeded and finely diced cucumbers, ditto red bell peppers, celery, red onion, and all tossed together. I could have added a little sugar to help bring out flavours, also some desiccated coconut, but didn't (well if truth be told - forgot), but it looked good and ate well with the curryies. The Raita was just home-made Greek yogurt with skinned and seeded cucumber cut into tiny chunks, with a little sugar added).

When the serving started I watched to see how it all went, and was alarmed to see how the first few (men of course!!) seemed to be helping themselves to more than one of everything. But the ladies were more controlled and other than the lamb curry being more popular than the chicken (and I'd made more chicken because I thought this would be the other way round), and as several people had come for 'seconds' both the meat curries ran out with about six people left to serve (these being the club 'committee' who were doing the serving of the food and at the bar), but fortunately I'd also taken a 'back-up' of Beef Jalfrezi, cooked in our slow cooker and plugged in to keep hot whilst there, so that saved the day. The only thing left was a small amount of vegetable curry and some rice (plus a few naan), plus a little beef Jalfrezi.

I couldn't face eating anything myself during the evening (as I'd been 'tasting' all day), although did managed to work my way through a small tub of 'Bombay Mix' that I'd made up for diners to nibble as they sat down to wait for the meal. As I said to Eileen, "I just fancy a Spam sandwich", and when I got home made myself one (well a couple actually) and thoroughly enjoyed it. By then so wide awake that I stayed up until 4.00am, then went to bed, only to be wakened by B at 8.45am 'ready for when Gill phones'. After her call, I went into the living room, sat down and promptly fell asleep until lunch-time, then got myself a cut of coffee, then napped again during the afternoon. By the evening was wide awake so watched lots of food progs. on More 4 (is it?) after B went to bed (Hugh F.W. and Heston B et al), and then I watched 'Father Ted' and again went to bed at 4.00am. But this morning am about back to normal. Just don't expect me to chat about curry for a while.

Thanks for your recommendations for where to eat in Cumbria Campfire. Pleased you thought the sweets looked good, and as they were 'Indian' inspired were supposed to be very sweet and sticky. Have to say they were very 'moreish'.

Am so sorry your holiday in Scarborough was so wet Jane. Especially after all the drought they've had in that region. Your mention of wishing you'd taken some things with you (for cooking purposes) has reminded me of the caravan holidays we took with the children many years ago. Almost all the 'equipment' provided was of the poorest kind (probably because anything better would have been taken by 'visitors'). So the knives and scissors were blunt, the tin-openers would barely work, the salt wouldn't flow (because sea air is so damp), and most of the (very few) pans were dented an 'wobbly'. I very quickly learned to take my own knives, scissors, tin-opener and sometimes an extra pan (plus dry salt and pepper), along with the 'necessary' foods to get us started. Our daughter came with us once, bringing her own choice of 'starter' canned foods etc, and we discovered we'd both chosen exactly the same things (cans of baked beans, chopped tomatoes, soups, tuna.... to name but a few!).

The loaf shown in a previous blog was the normal 2lb size, it just looks bigger than if cooked fully in the breadmaker as it was baked in an oblong loaf tin. The loaves baked in the machine come out more of an 'oblong square' if you know what I mean. When sliced these are too big to fit into our toaster, the reason why I prefer to bake bread in the oven in a loaf tin.

Well, that's about it for today. Sorry no shots of the actual curries, but we all know what they look like and have to say I very nearly forgot to take any photos because I was that busy (so am thankful I did remember). When costing it out, unbelievably the total for all the ingredients used came to a few pence under £60. Well under the £1.50 per head limit I'd set to feed 50. Just shows that when we are prepared to make as much as we can ourselves, it really does save a LOT of money.

Today I'll now have to start to put everything away, and probably re-organise the kitchen this week as I really must find room to put my new casserole pots and try and find somewhere to put my magnetic knife rack and get B to put up hooks to hang many utensils (that are normally kept in drawers or stuck in jars - and these take up too much space on the top of the units). I've so many bit and pieces regularly used, and often they are put back (and not by me) in the wrong place. I had to hunt for AGES to find some table salt on Saturday, and finally found it in the living room where B had sprinkled it over a slug (and of course left the salt there and not put it back). Also with B being out all Saturday, I had to keep doing the washing up throughout the day (and what a lot of it there was!). Am I glad it is now all over and a new week has begun.

Must thank Eileen for her nice words. Hope she really did enjoy the meal and was not just being kind. There are times I doubt my ability to cook well. Especially at times like the above.

Am looking forward to your comments, and getting back to the routine 'chat' tomorrow. See you then.